Making the Most Out of Artshows, Festivals & Craft Fairs

By: Charlene Davisphoto

With the arrival of sunny skies and warm weather, outdoor festivals and gala events are springing up all across the country. Many artisans prefer to display and sell their work at art shows, craft fairs, and farmers’ markets for exposure and networking opportunities. And often when an artisan participates in the same shows year after year, he or she will develop a following. Some do this year-round on a full-time basis, while others may do it seasonally.

Participating in shows and festivals gives potential customers the opportunity to see your work up close and personal. People develop a better appreciation if they can touch and feel the products. Jancik Arts International (http://www.jancikarts.com/), is a world-renowned artisan studio specializing in stained glass ceiling domes and vertical flat glass for travel and leisure. They typically exhibit in large, national expositions such as the Hospitality Design Expo. Their original stained glass pieces are too large for display purposes; however, show attendees can still view authentic material such as a curved glass panel sample of their stained glass dome product, a small scale 3-D model of one of their infamous ceiling domes, and a sample of their new faux casted glass. Angelique Jackson, Chief Designer and President, says, "It's important to appeal to the aesthetic sensibility of designers (and people) and to present actual product, as they are very tactile driven.”

New exhibitors typically start with local level events sponsored by schools, churches, and community groups. Once you have some experience with setting up booths and are comfortable showing your work, you can move on to bigger festivals and shows in your state or region. After your application to a show or festival has been accepted, the next step is to find out what will be provided and what you need to bring. For outdoor festivals, exhibitors generally supply their own tents or canopies which can be purchased, rented, or borrowed. Depending on what products you are displaying, you will also need to provide dividers or walls to hang pictures on, tables to display jewelry, and/or shelves to showcase pottery or other types of crafts and handiwork.

Before participating in a show or festival, it would be wise to visit a few to see what other artisans are displaying and how their work is exhibited. Constance Mettler, publisher of the Art Fair Calendar (http://www.artfaircalendar.com/) recommends taking lots of notes on the booths you see. "Things you want to look for are types of display equipment such as tent, tables, chairs, walls, weights, lights, and shelving inventory,” she says. "Which booths are getting more attention? What is the pricing on products similar to yours?” Mettler also suggests even when you are exhibiting in a show to set up early, then go out and look over the other booths while taking notes and making plans for your next show.
You will also need to consider how to present your work to its best advantage. You may be in a line with 100 other booths, so think about how to draw visitors’ attention to yours specifically. This tiny little area will essentially be a mini-showroom, so curb appeal is important.

Amy Kalinchuk of Olde Crone's Bewitching Bath Soap (http://www.soapcrone.com/) says that it’s important for vendors to make their displays multi-leveled. "All of my products are rustic and meant to be used, so my display reflects this approach,” she says. Kalinchuk makes clever use of denim and vintage tablecloths, wine boxes, tangerine mini-crates, and baskets to display her handcrafted soap, sugar scrub, body butter, lip balm, and other items.

Often, new exhibitors make the mistake of wanting to show off everything they have, which can be overwhelming if you have a large variety of colors, styles, and shapes. Luanne Udell (www.luannudell.com), designer and sculptor of ancient and tribal art, cautions vendors to leave room for customers to browse around. "A cluttered booth that is overcrowded with stuff will make people nervous,” she warns. "They will not want to come inside your tent for fear they will knock something over.” If possible, keep the sides of your booth open so that people will not feel intimidated about walking around inside.

Barbara Stanton (http://www.barbarastanton.com/) is an artist who specializes in miniature oil paintings and recommends demonstrating your work. "People love to see artists at work,” she says. "With my work, sometimes people don't believe I actually painted something that small unless I'm working on one.” Even if you are not comfortably creative in front of people, you can still set up a small demonstration area that looks like something is in progress.

Stanton also advises exhibitors to pay attention to people coming into their booth, but cautions them not to overwhelm them with a big sales pitch. "Ask them about themselves and what they might be looking for,” she says. "Is this the first time they've been to this show? Do they live in the area? This can help break the ice a little because people generally like to talk about themselves.”

Have a guestbook, notebook, or pre-printed index cards available so that visitors can sign up to receive email or direct mail notifications from you. This gives you the opportunity to keep in touch with existing and potential customers to let them know what shows you will be participating in and/or send out postcards and newsletters alerting them about new products, sales, and discounts.

Get to know your fellow exhibitors. You can learn a lot from someone else who has been in the trenches. Become involved with your Chamber of Commerce and local art associations. Often these organizations provide discounts to members who are registering for a show. Plus they can provide information on upcoming events.

Participating in art shows and craft festivals provides many networking and marketing opportunities. Although this can be a demanding process requiring traveling, setting-up, and surrendering weekends, it can also be a gratifying one.
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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.

Social Networking Benefits

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"Time is money” is an old cliché with a lot of merit because time spent networking online will help your artisan business grow and expand. Social networking (a/k/a social media marketing) is undoubtedly the fastest growing form of online marketing. This low- or no-cost marketing strategy is ideal for building brand awareness for both online and offline businesses that can have a global impact.

Advertising through social media has seen a significant increase over the past few years with business owners spending anywhere from five to twenty hours per week building their networks. Users submit news, photos, videos, and comments to their preferred social networking sites that reflect common interests with other individuals who have similar interests. These forums cultivate relationships of trust and help you become known as an expert in your field, which eventually increases interest and awareness in your artwork, craft, or services.

Jay Rodriguez (http://www.jayrodchicago.com/) specializes in social media marketing and feels that during these tough economic times businesses need affordable options to promote their businesses. Social networking and marketing fits the bill perfectly. "The way I see it, individuals, or sole proprietors such as artisans, are no different than any other business,” he says. "It takes about three months to climb search engines in the most affordable way – free.”

Rodriguez advises linking to your work on your website from such social media sites as LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, Mixx and many others. This not only helps give you exposure, but also improves your site’s ranking with search engines. "The more they see your site linked with other powerful sites, the more credibility it gives you and the higher you get on their engine.”

Of course, the number one benefit of social media marketing is generating exposure for your artisan business. Other benefits include:

• Increased traffic to your website

• Potential joint venture partnership opportunities

• Establishing yourself as an expert in your field

• Growing your contact list

• A rise in search engine rankings

The most significant cost of social networking is the time involved. Discipline and time management skills are necessary to avoid getting sidetracked by the novelty of the sites. It may help to designate a specific time each day or week to participate and interact in online forums. Just remember that it takes time to establish relationships and see the results of your efforts. The end result, however, is worth the time.

There are many social networking sites and forums to choose from. However, the top three that generate the most traffic are: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter is a very popular, free micro-blogging service that allows users to send brief messages (140 characters) or "tweets” that can be viewed by the general public. You can choose to make your tweets viewable by select people only, but this will not help to promote your business.

Your profile and tweets can be keyword optimized for your business, interests, or profession so that others can find you easily. Twitter allows you to add links to your messages, hence, one of the reasons for the increase in search engine rankings. And there are many services that allow you to shorten long URLs such as TinyURL.com and Bit.ly.

Facebook

On Facebook, it all starts with your profile page. You can set it up to reflect your business, interests, and passions. Facebook Groups are a way to build a community around your business or for branding purposes. Once you create your group you can locate individuals or other groups with similar interests to join. You can then broadcast your marketing message to group members. Facebook Pages are another option for small businesses and freelancers to establish an online presence.

LinkedIn

Think of Linked as the Facebook for professionals. It’s a more formal type of social media marketing where new contacts are typically made through an introduction from another member. There is the option of asking someone to be a contact; however, this is not always an effective strategy unless they know you through a group or have an interest in your business.

Whatever networking site you choose - whether its one or two or several – the goal is to increase your visibility by contributing to topics and providing the benefit of your expertise. As with most types of networking, you have to give of yourself before you reap the benefits. Establishing yourself as a trusted professional and valuable contact is the best strategy for procuring business. The best way to do this is by participating with other members and providing helpful tips and advice. Before long people will look at you as an expert and will want to take a closer look at your business.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally 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.

Social Networking Benefits

By: Charlene Davis

Building a Brand

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According to Dr. Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., (cited onhttp://www.brandingstrategyinsider.com/), several factors will contribute to branding and marketing efforts in 2010. He projects that "social networking and exchange of information outside of the brand space will increase.” Websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites will see an increase in marketing one’s business, along with the increased number of social interactions.

Dr. Passikoff predicts: "Look for more websites using Facebook Connect to share information with the friends from those sites. More companies will become members of LinkedIn. Twitter users will spend more money on the Internet than those who don't tweet.”

In today’s uncertain economic conditions, business owners are finding it necessary to become even more creative in order to successfully brand their products and services. Money is tighter in many households due to job loss and/or reduced wages. As a result, consumer expectations are rising as they seek newer and more advanced tools to meet their desire for the latest and best, despite financial limitations.

Dr. Passikoff says, "Conversation and community is all; eBay thrives based on consumer feedback. If consumers trust the community, they will extend trust to the brand.”

A basic business principle has always been that the most successful businesses are those that know how to anticipate their customers’ needs, and then fill them. In some ways, narrowing rather than expanding one’s brand has become the target of today’s marketplace due to conservative spending and meeting the wants and needs of customers who are able to pay.

It is possible to thrive in a seemingly down market. A savvy business person knows and practices the secrets of success, which includes redefining their brand when necessary. Practice these TIPS to keep your brand strong:

1. Create a website that states precisely what your products and services represent, one that is grammatically correct and technically accurate. Your brand should be reflected in your logo and tagline. Make them focused, sincere and "alive” in order to turn your prospect into a consumer.

2. Use various methods of advertising that include newsletters, cards, and/or personal phone calls. As part of your ad budget, select nominal cost items as giveaways that include your branding logo, such as a tote bag given at live events or mailed along with your book.

3. Develop and conduct teleseminar and webinar programs, and use marketing tools like audio/video to promote your presentation. Upload your photo and contact information that's easily visible when watching the promo.

4. Inspire customer interaction by asking questions and posting surveys, open a forum, or invite participation through blogs, again, clearly displaying your branding information.

5. Post customer testimonials, either written or recorded, with or without photos. Personal statements make you and your product or service more REAL.

6. Always provide excellent customer service and excel at what you do.

7. Always over-deliver.

Most business owners use strategies that undergo revisions to meet current trends and speculate about future projections. They remain flexible in their approach to business, because they have learned that building a brand that's sound takes time, attention and care, and that it is absolutely doable.

When you contact truly successful business owners with a high visibility and sound reputation, you find that many are often more than willing to share their trials and tribulations, and that their stories contain similar learning curves. This removes their mystique and gives comfort in stressful or lean times.

A quick search into their history might reveal one or more failures. However, those who become readily recognized as a success frequently become mentors, because they have learned the art of survival and longevity, and they want to share their knowledge, especially with those who may be struggling in business. Having tried and refined sometimes numerous branding techniques, they know first-hand the real secrets of successful branding. Many have written books and articles and give seminars to share the wealth of their knowledge.

Building a brand that works means having an informed, dedicated and disciplined attitude to do your homework until you get it right, and then keep doing it. Brief rest periods are allowed, but if you're successfully doing business, it challenges you every day to exceed what you think are your limits. What are the prospects? The future looks bright.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes 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.

Building a Brand

By: Cynthia Bull

Why You Need a Press Release

Why You Need a Press Release

By: Charlene Davisphoto

One of the most important – and underutilized - publicity tools in a marketing campaign is a press release. Basically, this is a news story about a significant event regarding your artisan business. It can be about a new product or website launch, to announce an art show you are participating in, or tied into a special date such as the holidays. There really is no limit on the reasons for a press release; however, it should be of newsworthy interest to anyone who needs to know about you or what you’re offering. A few benefits of a press release are:

• Promotes your artisan business to a wider audience.
• Shows you are a leader or expert in the artisan industry; specifically your niche.
• Keeps customers and prospects aware of new products or services.
• Allows you to rebrand an old product.
• Online press releases allow for links that help increase your website’s search engine rankings.

Press releases are an excellent way to make important information about your business available to interested readers. If it is a particularly eventful revelation, newswires, websites, and blogs may pick up the feed. However, too many press releases can become annoying like spam emails, so use them wisely and sparingly.


How to Write a Press Release

A press release (also known as a news release) should be written in the style of a news story. This means it should be informative and factual while avoiding peppy sales jargon and superlatives. Provide interesting information that gets straight to the point by letting readers know how this announcement will benefit them. Although you are essentially advertising your business or specialty you want to avoid this type of slant because self-promotion is not considered newsworthy. Ask yourself the following questions when preparing a press release:

1. Who is your target audience?
2. What is your key message to them? In other words, what do you want people to know?
3. How will existing or prospective clients benefit from your product or service?
4. What is your main objective? Increase sales? Enhance your reputation? Bring you or your business more exposure?

An attention-grabbing headline is essential when writing a press release. You only have about three seconds to snag a reader’s interest and this can be accomplished with a compelling title. Follow that up with an engaging opening paragraph that includes the key ingredients below and you have the makings of a successful press release:

WHO is making the release

WHAT is the purpose of the release

WHERE this is taking place

WHEN this will happen

WHY you are writing this release

HOW this news release will benefit the reader

Press releases should be written in the inverted pyramid style. This type of format summarizes the content in the opening paragraph with relevant details to follow in subsequent paragraphs. This will allow for any editing that may occur due to space constraints. For example, if an editor needs to pare down the number of words in a release, they generally work from the bottom up in the process of elimination. So it’s important to keep the main points at the top of the press release for the greatest effect.

Keep the length of the press release to one or two pages – approximately 400-600 words. Be sure to include relevant keywords so it will be optimized for search engines. At the end of the press release you can add a short blurb about you and your business, but no more than two or three lines. Also provide contact information including your name, address, phone number, email address, and website.

Press Release Distribution

For local distribution, put together a list of media contacts including television, radio, newspaper, and relevant community organizations. Again, be sure to add your contact information, including your cell phone number and email address. Journalists work on tight deadlines and if they can’t reach you right away for more details, they may be inclined to drop the story and move on to a more accessible one.

Many online websites offer free press release distribution that works pretty much the same way as article directories. Simply post your press release on the website in the required format and hope that it will get noticed by interested parties.

Other press release distribution websites offer paid services and a wider audience. A combination of both types of services is ideal depending on your budget.

• PRWeb (http://www.prweb.com/) offers various fee-based packages depending on your budget and distribution requirements.

• PR.com (http://www.pr.com/) offers free and paid services for press release distribution.

• MarketWire (http://www.marketwire.com/) is a full-service press release portal.

• OfficialWire (http://www.officialwire.com/) is press release distribution service that offers budget-friendly options.

Your website should also have a media section specifically for press releases. This increases your exposure to search engines and allows visitors to read interesting and newsworthy stories about you.

A well-written press release that is properly distributed can have a positive impact on you and your business. It’s an effective and affordable marketing strategy that you can use again and again to generate interest and increase sales.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally 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.

Steps to Creating a Successful Online Portfolio

Steps to Creating a Successful Online Portfoliophoto
By Marcia Passos Duffy

Artisans are visual people who instinctually know that a picture can be worth a thousand words when trying to sell products. And those pictures, when expertly arranged in an online portfolio, can be worth thousands of dollars in sales – that is, if you have an effective online portfolio.

However, just slapping up random photos of your work does not make for a successful online portfolio. In fact, a poorly designed online portfolio can do more harm than good with the loss of potential customers who click away from your site in frustration.

A good portfolio, however, can make the difference between faltering sales and a successful web presence with robust sales, says Hope Gibbs, founder of Great Handmade Gifts of Arlington, Va., (http://www.greathandmadegifts.com/), an online e-commerce website that sells the art and crafts of more than 60 artists, artists and authors. "[An online portfolio] gets the word out about your work… in this high-tech environment not having an online portfolio is the equivalent of not having a business,” says Gibbs.

How can you make sure that your online portfolio is making a lasting impression that ultimately leads to more sales? Here’s how:

Position Your Portfolio Front and Center

Kate Lister, the co-author of the book, Undress for Success – the Naked Truth about Making Money at Home, says that the success of an online portfolio starts with where it is positioned on a web site. Make it the centerpiece, says Lister. "This is what your customers want to see,” she says. "Don’t make them dig for it.”

You should also make sure the pages load quickly (avoid Flash, JavaScript and HTML frames, which slows loading down). Also avoid any broken page links, spelling and grammar mistakes, extreme political or religious commentary, or, Lister says, "…anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.”

Make Sure Your Photos – and Your Pieces -- are First Rate

Provide good quality photographs of your work in your portfolio. If you are a good photographer and know how to frame a photo and capture the details of your work, you may want to take the shots yourself. But your best bet is to hire the services of a professional photographer, particularly one who is skilled at staging and photographing artisan’s work.

Also make sure that you are displaying your best – and most current – work.

"If you have older pieces that are lower quality or don’t represent your current approach, leave them out,” suggests Tim Aldridge, a San Francisco-based web designer and fine artist who sells his work online.

Don’t crowd your portfolio with every piece you’ve ever done. "Showing every piece will create confusion. Only show your best work and try to group in a series if possible,” says Aldridge. Also link your portfolio with your online shopping cart. "Make it easy for people to either buy online or provide clear information on how they can purchase your work,” he says.

Words Count

Not only can photographs make or break a portfolio, but words are also important. Don’t keep the visitor guessing about what is in the photograph: add descriptive and interesting captions for each photograph. But don’t overdo it.

"Avoid a lengthy analysis of each piece,” says Aldridge, "Let people discover the nuances on their own.”

The goal of your portfolio should be to start a ‘conversation’ with a customer…and to get a phone call or an order. If customers want more detail, give them a forum to ask (either via email, or a chat room, or by phone). Once you have the conversation going, then you can answer all their questions, give as many details you have and share more examples.

Technical Details Also Count

On the technical side, make sure that you – or your Web designer – make the portfolio search engine friendly, suggests Josh Freedman, of Web 1 Marketing (http://www.web1marketing.com/), a Seattle, Wash.-based web marketing company.

* Each piece should have its own web page. Make sure you include descriptive text captions since search engines can’t "read” pictures.

* Use keywords. Make sure that you know the major keywords for your product. For help with keyword ideas visit: Google Keywords:https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Make sure that these keywords are used in your image’s alt tags, caption text, and the page’s title tag (make sure your Web designer does this if you do not know what this means).

* Resize photos for the Web. Digital camera shots are too large for the Web and will slow the process of uploading, says Freedman.
* Use Web traffic reporting. You can use Google Analytics (which is free), or Yahoo! Analytics if you have a Yahoo! store. "What’s key about this is that you can find out so much about what happens when visitors come to your site,” says Philippa Gamse, an internet strategist from Capitola, CA (http://www.websitesthatwin.com/). "If you don't check out this traffic information, and act on it, you can't really know what's happening with your online portfolio, and how effectively it's representing you and promoting your products,” she says.
Include a Call to Action

Even if you have gorgeous pictures, engaging content, and the site is perfectly optimized for the Web, a portfolio will not help your sales if you don’t have one more thing: a call to action with a phone call or email for more information or a free consultation.

Make it easy for the visitor to find all your contact information – including your name, physical address, email and phone number.

Do add your credentials. Put a photo of yourself and a short resume or biography. This is the place to put your awards, certifications, etc. And don’t forget connecting with your customers via social media. Have a YouTube video about a project? Add a link. Do you have followers on Twitter? Have a fan base on FaceBook? Add those links to your contact page.

Treat Your Online Portfolio Seriously

The biggest portfolio mistake, experts agree, is having your portfolio quickly slapped together in an unprofessional manner because it is "just online.” The real selling, you may think, will happen face to face in a retail or consumer show setting.

But this is a mistake that can cost you business. Consider your online portfolio as a virtual showroom for your business – and make it as professional and easy to maneuver as you would your real life showroom and reap the rewards with increased online sales.

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MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state's artisan and business organization, NH Made. Marcia's articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She also publishes two online magazines, Home Office Weekly.com (http://www.homeofficeweekly.com/) and The Heart of New England.com (http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/). Marcia 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.