10 ways to market what you make
Nobody goes into woodworking because they like marketing. But once you start selling your work, you're automatically involved in it. And everyone in business for themselves finds ways to get their marketing done as painlessly as possible. Here are 10 that have a proven track record.
This is one of the cheapest and most effective marketing tools. Yet it's amazing how many woodworkers show their items at craft shows without displaying business cards.
The quality of your work is key, but you also can use marketing to help word of mouth work better. Make follow-up calls a few weeks after a sale to be sure your customers feel satisfied. Ask for referral letters from happy ones, and leads on others who might want to buy your work. This way, not only can you contact potential buyers by mail, you also put the idea about spreading your name into your existing customers' heads.
Particularly with items that have more artistic than functional appeal, the creator may be as important as the work to customers. Have a graphic designer develop a logo that tells your story. This gives all your other marketing efforts more impact. Use mounted photographs and short, descriptive paragraphs in your booth, on your shop wall, or on a handout to tell how you do your work, how you got into woodworking, and any unusual species of wood or other materials you use.
They cost more to print, but business cards with photos of your work help sell. Develop brochures that show potential customers products they may not have known you make. And a photo album of work you've done for past customers stirs the imaginations of new ones. Often, you can trade a professional photographer's skills for items you've made.
If you sell through retailers, they probably won't want to display your address or phone number for fear customers will buy direct. But you can always put your name and hometown on your work, even on a small tag, to help people remember you.
This doesn't have to be expensive, as long as you use media that target only the types of people likely to buy from you. Depending on what you make, classified ads in your neighborhood paper or Yellow Pages listings may be perfect. Ads in city magazines or weekly entertainment papers can work, too. Even TV isn't out of the question. Check your local cable system for an inexpensive plan that lets you reach audiences to which your work might appeal.
If zoning laws permit, and you live on a busy road, a good sign in front of your house could generate all the business you'll ever need.
For only the cost of your labor and materials, you can donate a piece you built to a charity auction, such as a public television or radio fund-raiser, and get some great advertising in the process.
These kind folks are your best source of future business. Collect names and addresses whenever possible, and a few times a year mail a postcard or note about new products or craft shows you'll be in.
The more unusual your product, the better your chance of getting a feature about yourself in the local newspaper or on TV. Let the media know if you win an award or reach any other milestones. Write and mail a press release about you and what you do, and if possible, include a photograph or two of you and your work.
Remember that no marketing approach is right for everyone, nor should you rely on only one. As in woodworking, experimentation will show you what works best.
Written by: Jack Neff, a Batavia, Ohio, business writer and author of Make Your Woodworking Pay For Itself. Illustrations: Jim Stevenson