There's an embarrassment of riches in this city in terms of artistic talent. But few people possess a combination of creative skills and sales acumen. It's not always an easy blend. This is where I hope Wise Daughters can make a difference in 2012.
Since mid-2010, I've been offering workshops on The Art of Selling, to help makers with the often daunting business side of things. It's on the schedule again Jan 18, followed in the coming weeks by The Art of Marketing via Social Media (levels 1 & 2) and then Craft Fair How-To, each presented by crafters with a wealth of understanding in these areas. This cluster of workshops will really help equip handmakers with tools and tips for success in this very tough line of work. One of the most valuable aspects of these workshops, I think, is the chance to get feedback and share ideas with peers, since many of us work in isolation.
I've also decided to move forward with more consulting for crafters. I do quite a lot of it anyway, as part of the process of negotiating with artists who approach the shop, and I enjoy sharing what I've learned over the past 3 years. So I'm offering 30 minutes of free one-on-one consultation with handmakers who want help pricing, packaging and promoting their wares. I'll give you an honest opinion and help you determine where to focus your energy (besides making things). Some people are great at selling themselves, others would rather crawl under a rock. I can't change your disposition, but I can help you improve your written materials, for example, so your message is clear. Then maybe you can get your gregarious best friend to be your front man or woman at shows and sales!
This is a blog post full of obvious advice for handmakers who would like to sell through a shop like Wise Daughters. Obvious, and yet today I have had at least two faux-pas committed that kind of boggle the mind. So here goes. Six simple rules for breaking into retail:
- Take 1 minute to go on my website (or that of any other retailer you want to approach). If you visit www.wisedaughters.com, you'll find a page called "Info for Makers" that tells you what to do. Easy!
- While you're there, please find out my name so you can use it when you email. My name is not "Hi there" and especially not "Hi there!!!"
- Do not send ME an email that tells me how badly you want to get your work into, say, Arts on Queen. Proof-read, please.
- Do not try to promote your product by telling me it's better than what I already carry. Nothing is more off-putting than an artist who disses craft, or other artists' work. And for all you know, that object you're critiquing could well have been made by me!
- Do not pitch stuff made in Poland, China or anywhere else.
- After I've said no, for whatever reason, please do not expect an hour of free consultation about where/how to sell your product. I have a class on that very subject, for which I charge a small fee. There are also lots of other resources at your disposal.
Remember, selling is all about the relationship.
One of the topics I touch on in my Art of Selling workshops is packaging. This in the context of branding, but there are several other important considerations too, like choosing sustainable materials while creating a professional look.
I thought I'd take a minute to share a few really good examples.
1. Melissa of Ladeebee/Vintage Baby Revival has taken the humble luggage tag and turned it into an affordable, simple and eye-catching packaging tool. She also uses them to tag her knitwear, so there is consistency. Look how cute! With very little effort, her product is ready to present as a gift. The only info on the back is her website, which is really all that's required much of the time.
2. Adrianne of Vintage Love needs to go that extra step and put her switch plates in a small plastic bag to keep them clean and to enclose the accompanying screws, but the bag is just the size of the product to keep waste to a minimum. What's fun about this packaging is the language on the back. Adrianne lists ingredients, directions and the following tip: "Sit back relax and enjoy your fresh and funky piece of nostalgia!"
3. Katie of Eclectic Media Artist makes owls so cute they pretty much sell themselves, but if a buyer needs a nudge, this is it: a simple cardboard tag that gives Katie's website and says "(happily) made in Canada." Brilliant. Suddenly the buyer is happy too. Made in Canada is a key message for artisans to share (or Made in Toronto if only locally available).
4. Leila Cools puts her fused glass jewellery on simple cards, but creates a consistent and attractive look by fabricating her own stands for shows and shops. Not only does a retailer like me appreciate a ready-to-go display, but it gives Leila control over her brand. Repeat customers can see at a glance what they want.
The package needs to be an extension of the product in look and feel. Using as few words and as little material as possible, you need to present your brand, make it easy to find you, and tell buyers what they need to know (contents, care, etc.). The extra thought and time that goes into packaging will absolutely pay off.