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Best Practices for Productive Conversations

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, July 13, 2017
Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017

Update From Business and Creative Services: Best Practices for Productive Conversations

By Liz Gipson

The TNNA summer show is a wrap! I witnessed many great elevator pitches, clever vendor outreach and the development of new partnerships. I also saw a number of botched attempts at getting vendor support or missed opportunities for creative collaboration. Here are some tips to get the results you are looking for at future shows.

Creative Services Types


You are a customer, too. Don't be shy about approaching a vendor with your ideas. The most successful interactions I've witnessed, from being on both sides, is to approach the vendor with some version of this MadLib.


Hi, I'm _________________ (name) and I'm a __________________ (blogger, designer, podcaster)

[Hand vendor your card]. I'd love to talk to you about collaborating on a future project. I’m working on _______________________ (elevator pitch for the new project you want to talk to them about) and I think our businesses would be a good fit. Can you tell me what your policies are for product support and what kind of collaborations have been successful for you in the past? What are your marketing goals over the next year?


I've seen the word “collaboration” and “businesses” be successful for many people. You are stating that you are interested in mutual benefit and that you think of yourself as a creative business, with business being the operative word. Trade shows are about creating sales. “The ask” is not about you. It is about them. Asking what their biggest challenges are will give you good information about how you can solve problems for them.


Track records do matter. If you have successfully worked with another company that resulted in sales, use it as an example. It may take a while to build a few wins. If you are new at this, doing more listening and less talking will help.


Don't forget to ask about cash and carry. This new feature of the show has made it easier for Business and Creative Services (BCS) members to buy products at wholesale prices, but that doesn't mean that every product in their booth is cash and carry.


Every product someone gives you is a lost sale for a vendor. It may also represent future sales due to exposure, but that is not a guarantee. However, once a sale is lost, it is lost.


Attitudes toward product support vary widely. Some companies are willing to give out product freely to anyone they meet, while others need to see you at a show a few times before they will commit to a relationship.


Everyone is entitled to run their business as they see fit. Having these conversations with many vendors will help you find your right fit.


Aggressiveness is not the same as assertiveness. Be polite. 


Vendor Types


There are various types of vendors out there. Some folks give out their product to whoever asks, some offer their product at wholesales and others will offer wholesale prices and reimburse after publication. Have written policies or landing pages, stating your policies around product support. Do what works for you and ask your fellow vendors what they do. 


Spend some time thinking about the business and creative sectors before you come to the show. Think about what you would most like from a future partnership. Do you want more product reviews, pattern support in a new yarn, help with your social media, content for your platforms, content that tells the story of your business or help promoting a contest or campaign? Be specific.


Be ready with hashtags. A quick explanation of a hashtag you want to use will already start generating sales.

Have some small samples that you can give to potential creative partners. The more memorable the better. You want people to post your products on Instagram. 


Be sure to ask your contact if they are a member of TNNA— bonus points for being a BCS member. This is also a way to determine the maturity of their business.


If they are a BCS member, give them something extra special, and tell potential collaborators that you did so. That way if they are interested in getting product they know that their chances may increase by joining and attending BCS meetings and gatherings.


Rudeness never pays dividends. Treat all interactions as if they are a potential sale.


About the Author

Smitten by small looms and big plans, Liz Gipson has been coming to TNNA for the past 15 years in search of new ideas and renewed relationships. Liz hosts, a popular site for weaving know-how. Her latest book, Handwoven Home, was released earlier this year and she just launched an online weaving school where she hosts weave-alongs and classes. To contact Liz, email

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