How to market your craft

 12 April 2012

As a craft-maker, what process of marketing is going to suit your work? Check out five pieces of advice on how, and where, you can market your craft.

Heidi Rhodes is a textile artist.
Heidi Rhodes is a textile artist.

1. You are the brand

The quality of your work, and your personal manner with people, brings lasting value to the experience of buying your work.

Make a coherent message that runs from your finished work to how you deliver it in person, online, in the printed form, in packaging and on your well-designed stand.

  • Appropriate gift packaging, simple care instructions and a brief artist’s statement will help enormously.
  • Get used to writing short press releases on significant developments in your business. Have you won an award or prize? Has your work been given as a gift to an important visitor, celebrity or dignitary? Send a short snappy press release with an image or a photograph to relevant art, general or trade media.
  • If you are promoting a product for Christmas, find out the lead times of the glossy magazines and weekend paper supplements and get your text and a good image into the editorial team in good time.
  • This marketing material should also appear on your website – blog packages are free and easy to use – and update your own posts regularly.

2. Nurture your customers

The process of marketing starts, not with your product, but with your customer. You must understand their needs, and satisfy that need at a profit to you.

The quality of your work, and your personal manner with people, brings lasting value.

Look at your own customer base, capture their details at events and from your website. Develop and maintain a mailing/email list and use it to make regular contact.

For example, to announce a product launch or show you are attending. This is the most valuable marketing tool you can use.

When selling at craft fairs or from your studio, use the opportunity to learn from your customers. Listen carefully to feedback and watch their behaviour in your space.

  • Are they freezing, afraid they’ll break something and keen to go quickly as they feel pressured to buy now that they have ‘disturbed’ you?
  • Or do they like the environment you have created to sell your work and are eager to hear about your process of working?
  • Are they spoiled for choice of gorgeous work, happy that you accept credit cards and have they picked up your brochures to give to their friends?

3. Understand the different routes to market

Some of the best places to show your work will be craft and trade fairs, craft shops and galleries. 

Craft fairs

There are numerous craft events in the UK, and at all times of the year. Origin, run by The Crafts Council, is the traditional fair where the stand is run by the craftsperson. It is one of the most prestigious craft fairs and attracts great media attention, a very loyal collecting customer, a savvy trade buyer as well as a large audience of craftspeople.

Collect, run by The Crafts Council, and Sculptural Object Functional Art (SOFA) New York, Chicago and Sante Fe are unusual fairs in that galleries select their brightest and best. They promote them to the media and a craft-aware public who do not expect to see work for less than £200 (usually a lot more).

Also think about other events that your customer visits: The Chelsea Flower Show has all manner of goods other than wellies and plants. Gardeners like interesting plant pots for their valuable orchids, framed prints and fancy napkins with floral patterns. Handmade jewellery can do very well at bridal fairs as gifts for the bridal party.

Trade fairs

People who buy in quantity (for shops or online distribution) go to trade gift fairs. These buyers read trade magazines and get ezines on trends from periodicals and from fair organisers.

If you want wholesale orders, the buyers will not know you exist unless you are at an event they attend. It may take 3-5 years of seeing you regularly at the event and reading about you, before they order.

Shops and galleries

Selling your work through a gallery has many advantages. The gallery has built up a loyal customer base over time who trust them. They may promote you with a catalogue or solo show with good PR.

This will increase your profile, increase their footfall and increase the likelihood of a return on their investment through sales.

Your part in this relationship is very important. If you decide to give work to the gallery, make sure it is your best work. You are investing in their space and they in you, even though it is on a sale or return basis.

4. Choose the right place for your work

Before committing to an event, fair or shop, try and check it out beforehand:

  • Establish if it is busy
    Are people carrying bags? Is money changing hands? Is your work the right fit?
  • Gather ideas about display
    What clever promotional tools can you adapt to your business?
  • Talk to makers or sales staff
    Many are generous with information and will be happy to help (when they are not busy with a customer).

Also, you should decide what kind of outlet best suits your work and attracts your target buyers.

A textile designer was not selling well through craft outlets, so she repackaged her silk scarves to suit boutiques and fashion counters of department stores. She showed at fashion and accessories fairs and did very well in this gift market.

Handmade wooden and ceramic salad bowls take on a new quality when presented in a high end food outlet alongside aged balsamic vinegar and organic olive oil.

The buyer for these shops may only go to healthy living and gourmet food fairs. Think creatively about positioning yourself at the right fair for your end user.

5. Ensure good quality marketing assets

Photography

Good photography is essential. Select carefully from product and lifestyle shots of your work. Use a professional for the latter, preferably someone with lots of styling experience.

Website

Your website is an extension of you and should reflect your work and also act as your virtual shop window. You should spend as much time considering the user as you would when setting up your stand at a trade fair or choosing your packaging.

Your website is an extension of you and should reflect your work.

Most craftspeople start with a brochure site, which encourages existing customers to find out more about you and where your work is available. Keep the site current, visually strong, fast and easy to use.

If you wish to add online shopping, do your homework fully. Credit card processing may be expensive to set up and many customers need to touch and feel the work before they buy. Make sure your website address is on everything you print or that is printed about you.

Excellent customer service

Be professional at all times. Keep to your agreements and deadlines and communicate clearly and regularly to all your customers.


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