Dammit Jim, I’m an Artist not a Marketer!
(My apologies to Star Trek fans.)
Like it or not, you wear a lot of hats. In addition to being the artisan of your craft, you’re the marketer, salesman, planner, purchaser, maintenance, shipping, set-up/breakdown crew, accountant, cleaner … you get the idea. Since products don’t sell themselves, your biggest gains are a result of your marketing and sales activity. There is a marketing mix concept known as the 4Ps, and understanding the marketing mix concept is an important part of understanding what may be happening in your artisan market booth … and in between. The 4Ps are Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. The article linked above goes into more detail to define the 4Ps, so let’s spend more time focusing on the importance of them and how to apply them to your business. Afterall, each business transaction needs to meet the needs of both the customer and you (the seller). When properly understood and utilized, this mix has proven to be a key factor in business success.
One of the biggest challenges in marketing a product is presenting the unique benefits of the product and making it stand out against the competition. For most artisans like yourself this is not a that difficult. Your products are unique in design, quality, craftsmanship, and emotional appeal. Even when selling your workmanship side-by-side with others, your style and creativity is still different from theirs. Therefore, competition plays a lesser role in your selling efforts, because you are not dealing in common, commodity items.
The next challenge is understanding your customers. I’m sure you feel confident that you know them. You spend lots of time with them at marketplaces and get into long, passionate discussions about your craft. But what is the difference between the one that walks away vs. the one that buys your goods? Who is the customer? What do they need? What is the value of the product to them? Are they an enthusiast that will go home and attempt to make it themselves, or are they people that have a true appreciation for your creative gifts? This understanding will ensure that you place, promote and price your products effectively. This is especially important if your desire is to sell more products online, because you don’t have the time to have a conversation or let them hold/sample your product or appreciate the quality or taste.
We can agree that some slight changes to your booth or the marketplaces you attend may result in different results. If your next practical growth opportunity is probably online sales. Afterall, you cannot attend every marketplace event and investing in a storefront is a significant investment, with all of the same challenges of location, advertising, and foot traffic. In the same way that every artisan market and where you are located in each marketplace is different, online promotions and sales are different. How and where you sell online can expose you to a much larger customer base. If your ideal customer is only a small part of the overall population, you need to get in front of many more potential customers.
Here is a simple example, you had an item in your yard sale that was in good condition and a fair price. It sat there all day with hardly any attention. (Except maybe that one person that offered you 10% of your asking price. Really, just for the challenge of finding a bargain and not because they had an appreciation for it. Sorry, I digressed.) After the yard sale, you put it on eBay and it sells for the full asking price, plus shipping. What just happened? You put the product in front of a much larger audience. You sold your product at the largest yard sale in the world! One with the lots of customers, eyeballs (foot traffic), and frankly, an audience ready to make a purchase.
The last consideration is price. Like we said earlier, the purchase is an exchange of value. An exchange of your creative idea, materials, workmanship, and time … for money. Not all customers are the same. Just because one was willing to pay a high price for something doesn’t mean all will feel it is a fair price. (I’ll be honest, I have seen some paintings at markets that were not very good, but had a huge price tag. As a potential customer the price told me that the art was worth more to the artist. Maybe they didn’t really want to part with it.) Sometimes, you need to adjust your prices to see how customers value your product. Consider including price variation in your business plan. (e.g. Are you better off selling 2 for $50 each, or 5 for $40 each?)
A Time for Self-Reflection
Growing your business is a big decision. There are investments, risks, rewards, and sacrifices. Do you want to strike out on your own, or are you happy where you are right now? Will growing demand for your crafts become “work” and take the fun out of it? These are tough questions. It is important to think about what you are considering. There never seems to be a shortage of excuses or reasons to not take risks. At the same time, there is great rewards in being self-employed. To spend all of you time enjoying your creative expressions and blessing others with the quality products you make. If you are going to move ahead, surround yourself with positive thinkers and those that encourage you.
I once heard (probably urban legend) that Walt Disney surrounded himself with people that found solutions not problems. The story is that he once asked for a thousand bees and what they came back with was 995 bees … not an excuse why they couldn’t get the thousand. I can’t say that it is true, but these are Walt Disney quotes:
- “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
- “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
- “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
- “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.”
- “First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.”