A goal of reputable business is to project a professional image that describes the nature of the business, its products and/or services, and the people working in it. A goal of a professional image is to maintain the integrity of your brand and build credibility.
Many resources are available to assist businesses with developing the desired image, one that is powerful and describes who and what the business represents. One such resource is the American Management Association (http://www.amanet.org/), which offers courses on how to project a positive professional image with topics that include:
• The importance of image to professional success
• Self-image and external image
• How professional image influences performance and the way others respond to you
• Key elements of image
• Nonverbal communication
Use your favorite Internet search engine with the keywords "professional image” to find resources for just the right image for your business. Many are available that address a variety of business concerns, like:
• Business etiquette for the successful entrepreneur
• Personal image enhancement (how to dress for success)
• Public speaking and presentation development
• Branding and logo creation
• Training to improve productivity and generate new business
When seeking a professional image that best represents you and your business, your products and services and your team, make sure that it appeals to existing and prospective clients, as well as to peers. Dare to compare your image with others in your niche to get the best results for what should be one of your major goals: revenue.
First and foremost, the professional image you select should appeal to you as a consumer. If there is any doubt about you buying your own product or service, then revamping your image is your number one priority, especially before you present it to the world on a website.
To obtain an accurate assessment of your professional image, ask family, friends, colleagues and, yes, strangers for their feedback about your website, particularly regarding its ability to produce a sale. Ask for specific suggestions on how to enhance your image and, when needed, hire expert help to get the desired results.
Assess every aspect of the website, including featuring your company team with profiles and photos. Ask about the relevance of your logo, the effectiveness of all content and testimonials, and the ability to purchase products and services easily via the "buy” links provided. And always remember the guarantee. A strong guarantee is evidence of your good intent to serve your clients honestly. Even if they don’t buy, the important factor here is that the visitors are inspired to buy.
Use a variety of tools to get feedback, like an "Ask Campaign” (http://www.askdatabase.com/). Take a poll or survey your audience on a special aspect of your product. A bona fide feedback technique that works virtually every time is to reward the respondent with a giveaway, like a sample chapter from your book, or give useful tips about your product that feature WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
The more you can tailor your company’s image and define your niche, your potential for increased sources of revenue also increases, especially in today’s blogosphere with social network venues like Facebook and Twitter. A high ratio of professional image to products and services, backed by a solid guarantee and stellar testimonials, shows people that your company is reliable, and often propels them to choose your company over a competitor.
Even when a company alters its statement of purpose or logo over time to better fit its current profile, the importance of branding and having a professional image remains constant, in that it automatically conveys a message to potential consumers. Asking what message you want to send and how accurate it is keeps you in tune with consumer wants and needs. And people tend to buy based on their wants rather than their needs.
Having a great product or service is certainly evidence of business, but it is just one aspect of business. To secure your company’s winning advantage over your competitors, focus on creative business strategies that demonstrate leadership and professionalism, and that maintain integrity and bolster credibility.
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.
"Artisan baking” conjures up memories of strolling down quaint little sidewalks visiting street-corner shops for specialty items such as rich Danish pastries, decorator cakes, decadent cookies and brownies, and sweet loaves of bread with thick, dark crusts.
Unfortunately, due to rapidly advancing technology, as well as increasing demands for convenience foods, artisan bakeries have been gradually replaced by large supermarkets where baked goods are mass produced. However, consumers are coming around full circle and are once again asking for homemade, baked items that are free from chemicals and additives, and are made to suit their personal tastes and dietary restrictions.
Just as the term implies, artisan baking is the hand preparation of small, specialty batches of edible delights. Special attention is given not only to the process, but also to the high-quality ingredients and how they complement one another, unlike their commercial counterparts which are loaded with preservatives for a longer shelf life.
Culinary baking specialists are often compared to master sculptors, although one works with water and flour and the other with marble and clay. An artisan baker’s work is also similar to that of a jewelry crafter, wood carver, or quilt-maker. They all use reliable, preferred materials that are used in combination to create a product designed to delight the senses.
The question that begs to be asked is artisan baking an art or a craft? The answer is: both. Crafting is the process of using a skilled technique to create something that is often considered an expression of art. Whereas, an artist must have the ability to create or "craft” something that is pleasing to the senses.
The following artisan bakers have started successful careers in the industry doing what they love best: baking. Not only do they want to introduce their respective businesses, but they also have invaluable insights to share:
Julia Swensen, Owner and Executive Chef of Julia's Kitchen (http://www.juliaskitchenonline.com/), an artisan catering service, feels strongly about handcrafting every dish she makes for her clients so they can taste the care and attention in each bite. This personalization also gives her a better degree of control over the ingredients used, as well as an acute awareness of the nutritional makeup of each dish.
"We make everything from scratch and handcraft every dish: every sauce, every bun, even the jam and maple butter we serve with our buttermilk biscuits,” Swensen says. "Making everything from scratch ensures that our dishes have an authentic, natural flavor.”
Although word-of-mouth and a strong web presence have been beneficial to her business, Swensen also recommends fellow artisans always keep business cards handy because you never know who you’re going to meet or where you may find the opportunity to leave a few where others can pick them up.
She relates a story about visiting a local cheese store to order a charcuterie plate for a client’s party. Another woman, who overheard what Swensen had ordered, was so impressed that she ordered a duplicate charcuterie plate for herself. As it turns out, the woman was in the market for a new caterer and they exchanged business cards. "Something as simple as going to the cheese store can turn into a potential opportunity for new business,” says Swensen. "Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and talk to people about what you do.”
Formerly a financial analyst, Todd Kelley defines himself as an "accidental” artisan baker because most of his brownie recipes – including the famous "Cookie Brownie” – turned out phenomenally well by accident. "I meant to do one thing yet ended up with something very different; much like my career path,” says Kelley.
Kelley started his business, B.T. Baking (http://www.btbaking.com/), in 2009 after his wife encouraged him to quit his day job and pursue his passion for baking. (Incidentally, the "B.T.” stands for "Better Together,” inspired by Kelley’s endearing relationship with his wife, Kestra.) The business initially started out as a home-based business but grew so quickly they now rent commercial space from a baker.
One of the things that sets Kelley apart from mainstream or commercial bakers are the premium ingredients he uses such as organic eggs, sugar, flour, and chocolate. "Our butter is hormone-free and we source our eggs from local farmers,” says Kelley. "What I'm most proud of is we use Fair Trade chocolate, ensuring small cocoa farmers receive fair prices for their efforts.”
This socially-responsible artisan baker donates one percent of the company’s sales to 1% For the Planet (http://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org/), which is an organization founded by Patagonia that distributes money to causes that support the environment. As committed as he is to selling more of his great brownies, Kelley is incredibly passionate about making people aware of what is in the food they eat and where it comes from. "Too much of what we eat today is not even real food,” he says. "It is over-processed, preservative-laced junk. I want to change that in any way I can.”
Raising the Candy Bar
David Levine, a dot com escapee, and his wife, Melissa, also consider themselves to be socially conscious as the "bar” tenders (as well as the owners and operators) of Raising the Candy Bar (http://www.raisingthecandybar.com/). They are very active in their local. community by hosting LifeSource blood drives, answering the call of an 8000 gumball donation for Make A Wish, donating treats to children who read library books over the summer, and hosting business-after-hours for the different Chambers of Commerce they are involved with. In addition to their numerous contributions, the business’s visibility has been considerably raised in the local and national press.
Raising the Candy Bar – winner of the 2009 Kosherfest New Product Competition – uses only the finest ingredients in their candy and confections. They set themselves apart from the competition by catering to the various niches for chocolate lovers including sugar free, lactose free, kosher, gluten free, organic, and more. "We listen to our clients and then give them what they want,” says Levine. "We don’t try to hard sell them — chocolate should not be a high pressure situation!”
When starting a new business, Levine cautions fellow artisans to implement inventory control: "The biggest mistake we made as a business was during our first year buying too much product from giftware to perishables,” he says. "Once we got this under control we were much more successful.”
New York Bakers
Stan Ginsberg, a Wall Street corporate executive with a background in finance and journalism, launched his business, The New York Bakers (http://www.nybakers.com/) last year. His part-time company specializes in professional and specialty flours for artisan bakers that are not typically available at retail, as well as high-quality home baking equipment and supplies at reasonable prices.
Ginsberg, who considers himself a pretty serious, hobbyist bread baker, started The New York Bakers out of frustration in his ability to get specialized flour and other essentials either (a) at retail or (b) at less-than-exorbitant (i.e., King Arthur) prices.
His business is entirely web-based, so naturally a strong web presence is essential to its success. "To me, the most critical element is identifying the market and the need one intends to serve,” says Ginsberg. "The more specifically one can define both, the easier it is to target that market.”
Ginsberg markets his website primarily by running online ads at other sites such as The Fresh Loaf (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/), a hobbyist bread-baking website. "In addition, I try to contact current customers and identified prospects via email at least monthly,” he says. "I also offer free sourdough starters (no purchase necessary) as a way of generating traffic and building my mailing list.”
Not For Sissies
Over the past ten years, small businesses – including artisans – have accounted for more than 70 percent of jobs across the nation. It’s not easy starting a new business or maintaining an existing one in today’s economy so it’s important to feel passionate about what you’re doing. David Levine says that working in the candy business is a sweet job, but it’s a job nonetheless that requires many hours of hard work, as well as a dedication to excellence. Julia Swensen sums it up by saying, "When you love what you’re doing, you can still wake up on those really hard days and do great work. It makes the bad days okay, and the good days fantastic!”
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.
Artisan Baking is Not for SissiesBy: Charlene Davis
Maintaining a "Success" Attitude in a Down EconomyBy: Marcia Passos Duffy
In this economic atmosphere of doom and gloom it is sometimes hard for solo-working artisans to stay optimistic. And, as if the onslaught of pessimistic news was not bad enough, the down economy may also be affecting your bottom line, which does not help your outlook.
Despite the dire straits we’re in, it is important to rise above the clamor and maintain an attitude of success and optimism. Why? Because the alternative may drag you – and your business down.
Here are some tips from artisans and business coaches on staying on the sunny side:
A Successful Attitude Starts with Being Realistic
While it is trendy today to "think positive thoughts” and believe that by sheer force of will you can stave off failure, a better approach is to look at your situation as realistically as you can, advises Molly Gordon, a master certified coach and facilitator with Authentic Promotion (http://www.authenticpromotion.com/).
Look at how the recession is affecting your business in terms of your bottom line. Talk to an accountant if you must.
"Fighting reality just makes you crazy…accepting it and taking action makes you resilient,” says Gordon.
James Goddard a motivational speaker and author of Freedom for a Day (http://www.freedomforaday.com/) says that looking at the reality of your situation, and realizing that a "down” market is actually a good time to test your mettle may make getting through it easier: "If you can make it through this time period you will excel with ease when we come out the other side,” says Goddard.
This is what Deb Babcock, owner of Blue Sky Pottery in Steamboat Springs, CO, (http://www.dbabcock.etsy.com/) is trying to do. She reminds herself that eventually the economy will pull out of the recession, and every bit of work she does now will pay off when the economy bounces back.
"If I maintain or even increase my presence in the various markets I want to be in…the buyers will remember me first when they are ready to start purchasing again,” Babcock says.
Avoid Desperate Measures
Bailey Earith, a professional fiber artist and owner of Bailey Fiber Art Studio in Knoxville, TN, (http://www.baileyfiberart.com/), says that even in a down economy it is important not appear desperate and maintain a balance in your life.
"Execute your marketing plan for the day, such as, contact five prospects, update your web site, etcetera, then walk away,” Earith says. Don’t panic; instead spend any downtime you have in activities that replenish you, she says.
Harriet Gryszkiewicz, business coach and owner of Mosaic Path,http://www.mosaicpath.com/suggests you use any downtime to your advantage: "Many people hunker down to work even harder, yet this might be your best opportunity to take some time for yourself. Use it to review how you practice your craft, and how you run your business,” says Gryszkiewicz.
Whatever you do, don’t spend any downtime mulling over other the success of other artisan’s businesses, or considering drastic measures such as price cuts, suggests Apryl Mott of New Orleans, LA, who creates wire tree sculptures (http://www.byapryl.com/). "Do what you do the best you can and charge what is fair,” Mott says.
Betsy Capes, founder and president of New York City-based Capes Coaching, Inc.,http://www.capesco.com/, a career planning center for actors, artists and creative professionals, says that it is important not to get scattershot in your business approach or deviate from your business plan in tough times.
"I can't tell you how many artists I have seen over my ten years in this business doing tons of random stuff and hoping that it gets them closer to what they want,” says Cape, saying that it is akin to throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that something sticks. Focus, she says, and keep your eye on what you do best: "Every time I've seen unfocussed actions they only lead to frustration,” she says.
Get Networking, Online and Off
It’s easy to wallow in self pity when sales are down and customers are nowhere to be seen. One way to get out of these doldrums is to get a support system.
"Find people who reflect your values and accomplishments as an artist,” says Gordon. This is especially important when your work isn't selling. "Artists, like others, tend to equate economic success with artistic success. When the two don't match up we need another source of feedback about our work.”
Social media is a good place to start this kind of conversation with your peers if you don’t have a network in place in your city or town.
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.
"I find the age bracket of 30 to 70 are not using (these social media) anywhere near the capacity they should,” says Goddard. The younger generation is claiming market share even in a down economy because of their social networking savvy.
Remember that this is not the time to go at it alone and fly solo. "This is the time to connect,” says Joni Daniels, a management consultant, speaker and author based in Baltimore, MD,http://www.jonidaniels.com/. "Even introverts need to get out and connect to others…many people really do want to help and support you.”
Refresh Your Business
Use any downtime you have to focus on creating success in your business. This could come in the form of:
* Refreshing your artist’s statement
* Putting our regular press releases about shows or new work
* Networking with representatives, licensing agencies, collectors
* Staying visible professionally through associations, trade groups, customers, and contractors
* Writing articles, teaching a class, or speaking to a group
To keep a "success” mindset, stay connected, stay on task, don’t panic, take time for yourself, and don’t make the mistake of blaming the downturn in business on yourself or your work as an artisan. And most importantly, keep in mind that no economic slump lasts forever.
MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshireand is a member of the state's artisan and business a 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.