Marketing Strategies for Today's ArtisanBy: Charlene Davis
In today’s economy, it’s not easy to develop and maintain a business where an artisan’s services and products are considered luxury items for most people. However, by learning how to diversify marketing strategies you can open your business up to a wider potential for growth.
Networking is one of the most important strategies you can use to promote your business. Of course, this is easier said than done because many artisans have a tendency to keep to themselves and go off on their own. Fortunately, there are several tactics that can be used without taking anyone too far out of their comfort zone or breaking the bank.
Start by simply getting the word out about your product or services by talking to family, friends, co-workers, church members, and members of any organizations or associations you belong to. Encourage them to do the same by offering referral discounts and/or freebies. If you don’t belong to an organization, this would be a good time to join one such as your local chamber of commerce, political affiliation, or art organization such as the Association of Artisan Businesses. You may even want to make yourself available as a speaker to local organizations to "soft-sell” your services or products.
"Social networking” is a huge phenomenon that allows like-minded individuals to connect with one another online and is very essential to the success of your business – especially if you have a website and/or sell products online. Jordanna Petkun, CEO and Founder of Emerge Art Center (http://www.emergeartcenter.com/), feels that it's important for even the least tech-savvy artisans to learn to use internet resources to market their work. "Blogging, linking to blogs, and social networking in general is important for artists today,” she says. "There is a vast amount of free marketing tools out there that can help to develop a brand and secure a portion of the market.” While there are hundreds of applications and networks to choose from, the most popular and widely used today areLinkedIn.com,Facebook.com, andTwitter.com.
Business cards are invaluable marketing tools that are very affordable to produce and should be handed out at every opportunity. They work as little billboards that let people know who you are, what you do, and how to find you. Use them to jot notes on the back for teachers, co-workers, and friends. Leave a few at the dry cleaner or laundromat. Whenever someone asks what you do for a living, hand a couple over while giving a brief description.
Host workshops to teach your craft to industry newcomers or hold an open house during the holidays. You can also network with potential customers by setting up a booth or table at an art show or craft fair while showcasing your work.
Look into local art galleries, craft consignment shops, or space rentals in a craft mall. Take a page out of Anita Crook’s book, the creator and designer of the wildly popular "pouchee®” (http://www.pouchee.com/), who successfully approached store owners to sell her product. "With fear and trembling I faced the ominous store owner with my little pouchees,” she says. "And they loved them! Store after store bought them and I’ve been busy ever since.” The beauty of any of these arrangements is that you don’t have to be present to make the sale.
Press releases are another promotional tool that can be used to announce a new product, website, or tie your business into a local event or holiday. Make the press release newsworthy by including who, what, where, when, and why - topped off with a catchy headline. Send them to local newspapers or take advantage of one of the online press release sites. Forward press releases to blog and website owners to see if they would consider publishing them on their sites.
Take your inner creative genius to a new level by writing articles and submitting them to article directories and complimentary blogs. Beth Crowell of Wilton Artisans (http://www.wiltonartisans.com/) says there are several jewelry and art forums online, as well as print magazines that welcome your suggestions and stories. "After my first article was published on the web, the traffic to my website increased considerably, as did the emails I received from other designers,” she says. Beth also recommends submitting your designs to magazines. "It's free and easy to do,” she says. "And, if accepted, it gives you great exposure.”
Another way to gain exposure is to donate one or more of your products to a charitable auction, which can also be used as a tax write-off. This allows a number of people to see your work up close, so be sure to make business cards and brochures available. Then the folks who are outbid can look you up later.
The bottom line is that no matter how much (or little) you have to spend on marketing, you have a lot of options. Just remember that it’s not an expense – it’s an investment in your future.
Charlene Davis (http://www.cdavisfreelance.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.