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10-07-2004, 12:35 PM #1
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Marketing Tips from Successful Crafters
From the feedback I have been getting in the short time since I started TheArtfulCrafter, I've learned that many of my readers are working long and hard at their crafts, but still are having a hard time realizing success.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. There is just too much going on for one person to be able to solve all your problems. However, let's break it down into two parts and then try to apply basic business solutions to each part.
I'm a pretty good cook. I've won awards from my local culinary arts society and have even been invited to give a lesson or two. However, when I try to make a new recipe, especially from some of the most popular food and lifestyle magazines, I am usually very disappointed. Why? In my opinion it is because something is usually missing, either from the ingredients or the instructions.
Now you're saying to yourselves, "what's this got to do with anything?" Well, most crafters are constantly searching books, magazines and web sites for free patterns. Like the "free recipes" noted above, however, I think something is always missing. Simply put, the best crafters are not going to give away their best designs for nothing. Much of what you get for free can be helpful, but only as a starting point.
You would not be reading this article if you weren't interested in selling your craft. Now put yourself in the buyer's position. Is she seeing the exact same craft made over and over again made by different people at the same show? If she is, the only reason she will buy from you is if your price is lowest.
So let's try to do something to differentiate you – to make a common pattern special – to make it you. Oversize it or miniaturize. Use metal instead of wood, or wood instead of plastic. Change the designs slightly to make the craft prettier or more practical. Instead of painting on a design or applying a decal, add a carving or incision that adds texture and dimension. Use your imagination and sense of creativity.
Always use the best materials and methods of manufacture. If you shop carefully, you can get fine supplies either on sale or in the clearance bins. Many online sellers are offering the same supplies you see in the stores for 40% to 50% less. The quality of your materials is one of the first things a buyer will notice. Don't turn her off by using cheap, chintzy materials.
Do the same with your manufacturing methods. Are your seams straight and even? Did you use a nice copper braid, even when glue would do? Is you paint or stain evenly applied and unstreaked? For every craft, there is always some extra little touch that shows you're a pro – that your product is worth more than the guy's at the next table.
These steps might take you a little longer at first, but once you get the rhythm down, you'll find it really adds little to the time and cost of making your craft.
Once you get this far, you face the more daunting problem…
When you are trying to sell a product, you're up against a whole universe of retailers, not all of whom are crafters. There are millions of products for sale in all price ranges in all sorts of different venues. How do you sell yours?
I have said this before, but it is worth repeating: in this age of mass production, where every store in every mall seems to be selling the same thing, people have an appreciation for the unique handmade product that required more than movement down an assembly line. If you followed some of the tips in the first part of this article, you are already a step or two ahead of the field.
So we have to consider how the product is packaged and presented. Can you put it in a nice box? Can you make hang tags explaining how you made it, the materials you used and why it is unique?
Look around any store and notice how the pros package everything from breakfast cereal to TV's. They are trying to get their product to stand out from the competition. They are trying to make it appear different or special whether it is or not. They are trying to draw attention to it by their packaging. Try to do the same thing.
If you are going to display at shows, set up your table in a way that every product is shown off properly. If you have an inventory, just keep one piece on display: hide the rest under the table. Keep you table neat and clean. Talk to prospective customers. Try to get them interested in your craft. Have a handout available with an explanation of the product or your production methods. Have a business card. Be prepared to take and make custom orders.
If you're trying to sell in stores or galleries, depending on the product, wrap it so it doesn't get dirty or worn. Use attractive packaging, decorative ribbons, etc. Make it easy for the store owner to contact you, when necessary.
If you're selling online, make sure you get some good pictures of the craft up. Use the space to explain why your craft is different or better. Plug your offline business and/or website.
If necessary, do as the stores do. Give away a free gift with purchase, hopefully some little trinket you can make or buy
inexpensively. Do a "buy one get the second for half price" deal.
Or bundle complementary products together to create a perceived value greater than the cost of the parts. For example, if you're selling a handmade nutcracker, package it with a can of premium unshelled nuts: if you're selling a ceramic vase add a few silk flowers: if you make a guitar, give away a songbook. You will find you can charge more for a well bundled package than you
could if you were selling each piece individually.
If you want to try eBay or Yahoo online auctions, you will find that you can have the choice of selling in any of numerous different categories. Some of these categories can be quite competitive, others much less so. You might do much better in the less competitive areas. Maybe use Yahoo rather than eBay, or vice versa, if one site is overstocked with what you have to sell and the other isn't. Try Overstock.com. They've just opened a new auction site, where you might get better exposure.
Life is full of challenges but that's what makes it interesting. If you're finding building a successful home-based craft business especially challenging, try some of these techniques. Let me know if they help. The more engaged you become, the more you learn. The more you learn, the greater your chances for success. If in the course of your study and development, you have one of those "ah hah!" moments that gets you past whatever was blocking your success, please write and share them with our readers.
The Artful Crafter
- 10-07-2004, 09:56 PM #2
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Its amazing what you see at craft shows and the very next season, places like Walmart or Dollar store is selling the very same things.
You really do need to have unique items if your going to do well at crafting.
Thanks Sara for the article.
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