Let’s face it, as artisans most of us fail at marketing ourselves and our work. We hope buyers will flock to us out of nowhere and our pieces will magically sell themselves. For some of us the very thought of it fills us with fear and trepidation, so we chose to ignore it. If we do, then we are not hungry enough, or if we are, we choose to scratch out an existence instead—hunting for change between our sofa cushions, eating beans out of a can—and foresee ourselves spending our nights on a car seat. Well, maybe it won’t get to that but we will spend our time wondering why we have few buyers and agonizing over whether or not our work is good enough. This is not the artisan life we want; it is counter-productive and barely surviving.
Without a well-thought-out strategic marketing plan chances are slim you will be successful at making money at your craft. You have to conquer your fear and change your attitude. If you don’t know how to market your items, then it’s time to learn. If you think of it as an extension of the creative process instead of separate from it, then your attitude will change and you might even develop a passion for it. There is nothing like a few sales as a result of your efforts to spur you on. Let’s get busy and see what you can do to get your name and your work out there in front of the buying public.
Who are you?
Let’s start with the basics: building a brand. It is important to communicate who you are and what you’re offering at every possible opportunity. The first step is to create a logo that represents your business. Image is everything, so think it through. Ask for feedback from your family, friends or associates before making a final decision. If you aren’t a whiz at creating graphics seek out someone who is. If that doesn’t work out there are plenty of resources online specifically for creating a personalized logo or to purchase a logo, such as www.logomaid.com. Once you have your logo, put it on everything that will end up in front of a potential buyer: business cards, your website, social media platforms, mailing inserts and any- where else that is appropriate.
If you are not already chatting away on Face- book, G+, Twitter or a blog, get started NOW. You don’t have to manage multiple social media platforms, just pick one and stick to it. You can branch out later. Social media is the single best and most cost effective way to market what you are selling. If you don’t have a business page then create one. Your customers and potential buyers may think your work is great but they don’t necessarily want to hear about your personal life.
Some of us have no problem talking to our friends and family on social media platforms but when it comes to promoting ourselves and our work in a public setting we cringe or claim we have nothing to say. Think again. You do have something to say, lots of it. Remember that it is a conversation, something you do every day. It is a means to create a relationship between you and your customers and potential buyers. If someone likes or follows your page then this is a clear indication they are interested in what you have to say and your work.
Be witty, friendly and informative. Have fun!
Give your fans a reason to check in regularly. Show off your work, post items for sale, share links related to your craft, publish videos or photos of you working in your studio, anything that might spark an interest or start a conversation. A word of warning: don’t go overboard with the sales pitch. Sharing photo after photo of items you have for sale will get to be a bit much for some of your followers. And don’t be on again, off again; be consistent and post regularly. Face- book provides a tool that gives you the ability to schedule posts in advance.
An easy way to expand your fan base and market your items is to collaborate with other artists on a marketing campaign. This can be on social media, print and digital ads, or by doing a show together. Some of you will balk at this idea because it invites the competition into your world. Let’s think about this for a moment. If you have a booth at a show or advertise in a print or digital publication, is the competition not there? Yes, they are. How many shoe stores are in a mall, one or many? Know this: you will achieve more, create more buzz, and spread the word farther and wider by working with a fellow artisan than you can on your own. Forming partnerships with other artisans is a good thing. If I share and you share, then we both win and it feels good.
Newsletters and Digital or Print Publications
Sending out a monthly newsletters to your fan base is a great way to keep everyone informed of what you are up to, what new items you have to offer and what sales or other events you are planning for the future. This is also an opportunity to showcase other artisans’ work. Yes, there it is again, collaboration. There are several free email newsletter services including www.constantcontact.com and www.mailchimp.com. There are those who feel newsletters are intrusive and no one reads them. Remember, these are going out to your fans, those folks who are interested in what you are doing and creating. Most email marketing services let you allow your fans to subscribe and opt out, so they decide if they want your newsletter in their in- box. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that more folks open them, read them and click through to a website than you imagined.
Many of the online and print publications designed specifically for artisans and enthusiasts, such as Metal Clay Magazine, offer reasonably priced advertising space, such as a classified section. Yes, they charge a fee but it is worth the price. If you haven’t included money for marketing in your budget then you need to do so. These publications target a specific demographic: individuals who are interested in your type of craft and likely to buy what you are selling, whether it is a handcrafted piece or a class you are teaching. Don’t be lulled into the idea that all you have to do is promote yourself for free on social media to get the results you want. Remember that not every- one uses social media; it is not the be-all and end- all to getting your name and your items or classes out there in front of the buying public.
Build a Website
You have to drive the traffic you generate from your marketing campaigns somewhere and that should be a website. If you don’t already have a website for selling then you should seriously consider building one or opening a shop on one of the independent online marketplaces. There are plenty to choose from. Do your homework: find out what each has to offer, what tools they provide and the cost to operate an online shop. Ask for recommendations from other artisans. If you aren’t quite ready for a website then at least create a simple blog so you have a landing page for traffic. Without a website or a suitable alternative you will be back where you started.
These are just a few ideas to get you started in the world of marketing. Shake off your fear, get motivated, pick one or two and get started. Bounce ideas off of other artisans and see what you can come up with on your own. Be creative! Remember, you are the key to your success.
CAROL AUGUSTINE I have been an artisan all of my life. From sewing to painting to metal clay jewelry making – if I can see it, touch it, manipulate it, ‘feel it’ or just think about it, I am driven to create something from it, with it, or about it. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my knowledge of working with metal clay and marketing with other artisans. It makes life fun and exciting for me.