As we’re in the midst of comic con season, with San Diego around the corner, I thought I’d share some effective strategies for selling your merchandise at comic cons.
Last week I read a tweet from someone who was berating the fact that he’d taken 100 copies of his comic to sell on his table and only managed to sell one copy. It’s unfortunately a very common occurrence, but these 5 strategies will help you ensure that you leave the hall smiling and with a much lighter load!
1. Grab attention
This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many comic creators try to leave their table do the talking, and that table only displays one or two items. If you’re sitting in Artists Alley, surrounded by competition, it’s easy to be ignored by the hoards of passers-by.
There are a number of ways to grab people’s attention – either through your actions, or your props.
Props are things like banners and displays behind your table, displaying your artwork, your logo, possibly some testimonials. You can buy displays that roll up for easy transport. You just email your design to the manufacturer, and they’ll send you the display. Type ‘Banner Displays’ or ‘Roll up Banners’ into Google to find local and national stockists.
Just check out this picture of webcomic creator Dawn Griffin’s table at Wizard Comic Con. How difficult is that to ignore?!
Your demeanour is also a powerful tool for attracting people – or for repelling them! Ever walked past a comic creator or a celebrity who was sat down looking miserable because they weren’t selling anything, wondering why they had even bothered showing up?
On the other hand, how easy is it to simply walk past someone who is standing, smiling, and says ‘Good morning’ to you? You at least have to acknowledge them or else risk looking rude. And that acknowledgement is your cue to strike up a conversation.
Over in England, we have a strange ritual called a car boot sale, where you drive to a crowded field and sell your unwanted household stuff to bargain hunters. I go to one a couple of times a year to help tame the mountain of junk in our garage, and I make sure that I stand, smile and say ‘Good Morning’ to everyone that passes. Everyone. Some Neanderthals choose to ignore me and walk past regardless, but I have sold everything from rugs to plates to keep fit equipment to people who would simply have walked past had I not wished them a good day. I never walk away from a car boot sale with less than £150 for 3-4 hours of an enjoyable, sociable experience.
2. Give away freebies
Another effective prop is a tub of sweets on your desk (ideally wrapped sweets so that you don’t put off those obsessed with hygiene!). Just put a clear sign by the tub saying ‘Free Sweets’, and you’ll more than double the number of people passing by. This is especially powerful if your comics appeal to kids. If a child stops their parent at your table to pick up a sweet, this gives you a chance to talk directly to the child about your comic, and hope that ‘pester power’ gains you a sale! Giving away colouring-in sheets of your characters for free also helps to attract kids.
Give away button badges or stickers displaying your characters or logo, and this will act as free advertising for your stall.
Offering things for free utilises the Rule of Reciprocity. In other words, if we are given something by someone for free, we often feel indebted to repay the favour, and this could result in additional sales, easily covering your costs of the freebies.
3. Find a hook
Once you’ve got someone’s attention, start a conversation initially focused on them. Ask them questions such as – Are they’re enjoying the comic con? Have they bought anything interesting so far? What kind of comics do they read? What kind of comics do their kids read? What are their favourite genres? And so on.
The trick is to find a ‘hook’ that will lead you onto your comic or merchandise. For example, if they enjoy sci-fi, talk about the sci-fi elements within your comic. If they’ve already said that they’re interested in that subject, it makes it more difficult for them to then say that they’re not interested. This is the Rule of Consistency in action – we all have a desire to be (and appear to be) consistent with what we’ve already done.
If someone asks you directly what your comic is about, you ideally need to be able to describe it in a couple of sentences (like an Elevator Pitch). Use known, popular, references to form an effective picture in the person’s head, for example ‘The Terminator meets The Big Bang Theory’.
4. Touching leads to buying
A study in 2008 showed that people who touched an item before bidding at auction for it ended up paying more than those who hadn’t touched it. Basically, touching an item forms an ‘ownership’ link in your mind, thus making you more likely to purchase the item.
Encourage people to have a flick through your comics, or pick up and evaluate your merchandise. Don’t try to be pushy with it, else you could jeopardise the sale. Also, it makes people stay longer with you, and the more people you have looking at and picking up your stuff, the more people will be attracted to your table, simply by looking popular.
5. Display a high-ticket item
A high-ticket item is basically a piece of merchandise, or a service, that is so high-priced you don’t expect to sell any of it. So why would you want to offer it? Okay, here goes.
Let’s say you are trying to sell a $3 comic, and that’s all you have for sale. People may question whether or not the comic is worth $3, as they don’t have a frame of reference.
Now, suppose you also offer a signed, limited edition hardback version of the same comic at $25. Suddenly $3 looks like a great deal. Just one or two high-ticket items (which can also be things like full-page sketches or a book of scripts), will help you sell more of your low-priced items. And if you sell a high-ticket item, you’ve earned yourself a nice bonus!
This is a simple marketing strategy used by everyone from McDonalds to electrical stores. Basically, agree to buy item 1 and be offered item 2, or an improved version of item 1, sometimes (but not always) for a reduced price. For example, ‘Do you want fries with that?’ or ‘Buy two, get a third free’.
Here are some examples you could use:
‘Buy 2 comics and get a free head sketch/poster etc.’
‘$3 per comic or two for $5’
‘Regular cover $3. Variant cover $5’
‘Buy any comic and get a mousemat for just $1, saving $2′
Fast food restaurants often just break even on their regular meals. They make their profit on the upsells. Ignore them at your peril.
7. Use scarcity
Research shows that, if something is freely available, humans are less likely to value it than if it were scarce. The very fact that only a low number of something is available makes us want it more. We feel that we have acquired something of value, or we worry that we might regret not buying an item when it is no longer available.
Let’s say that creator #1 has printed 100 copies of his comic to take to a comic con. He displays all 100 copies in a pile on his desk and advertises it for $3.
Meanwhile, creator #2, who has also printed 100 copies of his new comic, only displays one or two copies on his desk and advertises it as a ‘Signed, numbered edition, limited to 100 copies only – $3’.
Chances are, if the comics are of equal quality, creator #2 will have the greater chance of selling out by the end of the comic con, especially if he regularly updates a sign on his desk showing how many copies are remaining.
If you’re attending multiple comic cons, you could sell the same comic, but with a different cover, at each comic con. It may cost you slightly more in printing costs, but you are more likely to sell out if you make it clear that this version of the comic has been created exclusively for that convention, and sign and number each copy.
If you’re going to be selling at a comic con this year, I hope that’s given you some food for thought. Let me know how you get on!
And remember, each comic con is good real-life training to help you sell even more next time.
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To your creative success,
The Comic Academy
Phil Hampton founded The Comic Academy to help comic creators and publishers to build their fanbase and sell their work. Get 32 inspirational articles with hundreds of valuable tips in ‘The Comic Creators Handbook’ – just $5!