I have not done much felting lately. Instead I have been working on a Nuno Felt Bracelet Kit. Sounds simple enough. I wrote up the instructions over a few days, going back over everything and adding in more and more detail, making thing more clear. That was the easy part. Next I had to take pictures. I don’t have any way of taking pictures of myself felting by myself so I enlisted my son to do the picture taking. He was very patient as I made a bracelet and took notes on my instructions of things I needed to change and add. It this point I am thinking well that was not so bad.
Next was picking out and editing the pictures. I do not know how people do photo editing for a living. It takes for ever and it is booooring. I did eventually get that all done so it was time to send it off to the spelling and grammar police. Now normally I am not a big fan of the spelling and grammar police as I am on of the top ten worst spellers in the world. However when you want to sell something to the public it really should be spelled correctly so you don’t look too bad. Than another friend locked my instructions and took all the meta data off my pictures. I had no idea how to do that. Thank heavens for friends.
Next I think I would like to get the instructions printed. I nearly fainted when I saw the price of colour copies. It was decided that a CD would work very well and cost much less. So next was learning how to burn CDs. It’s not hard but it was time consuming. Good thing there was some good TV to watch while I did that.
Yesterday I spent the day assembling kits. That took way longer than I thought. I will never do well in a sweatshop, I am much to slow. In the end I have lots of kits ready for my next show (Twist http://www.festivaltwist.org/en/ ) I am sure I will not sell them all as I made up 50 but they will be ready for other shows later in the year.
In a few weeks, Cathy (Luvswool) and I are going to attend the Midwest Fiber Fair in Grayslake, IL. I started thinking about what a great opportunity it might be to introduce some people to the Felting and Fiber Forum/Studio. But I didn’t have any business cards.
So, while working on one of my felt projects I decided that if I’m representing a fiber collaborative I should have business cards that reflect that concept.
I pulled out a bunch of prefelt pieces leftover from other projects and piled up a stack of embellishments and went to work. Of course, I forgot to take a picture before I felted them. I used just one layer of prefelt so that it wouldn’t be too thick and proceeded to play with the embellishments using yarn, silk, silk habatoi, silk hankies, sari threads, throwsters waste, silk gauze with sequins and ribbons.
When I finished felting/fulling the pieces, I cut out a business card size plastic piece and cut out the cards while the felt was still wet and soapy. Then I worked the edges some more before rinsing and drying.
After they dried, I steamed and shaped them a little more. Some of them shrank while drying so I did a bit of pulling and stretching.
I didn’t want to sew them on, so I used three different types of glue (Elmers Clear, Sobo and Tacky Glue) to see which would work best, but all worked nicely and didn’t leave any residue. I applied it using a wooden stick so it was evenly covered. The nice thing about the glue was that while it was wet I was able to stretch and manipulate the felt to cover the card. To make sure they stayed put I piled a couple of heavy books on them to let them dry and flatten. I left the organic edges because I like that look.
I’m not sure how people will react to wool business cards, but I think it sends the right message. I’m definitely a fiber enthusiast.
The next time I make more cards I will stick to silk and embellishments that are flatter. While the yarn and ribbon are nice and very textured, it is a bit more bulky. What do you think?
In an effort to evaluate our marketing plan and see if we were meeting our Felt and Fiber Forum Members needs, we conducted a member and guest survey May 20 though 27.
Overall, the results were good in terms of the satisfaction of our members. There are a few things we will be working on to make some improvements to enhance the site and information available to members.
Our first question was “What Brought you to the Felt and Fiber Studio forum/Blog?” Since we are an online community, it was important to know how people find us.
I added invitation to the list on the graph because several comments we had included that as an option we hadn’t offered on the questionnaire.
For those members who found us on an online search, half of the respondents chose “wet felting” as their search criteria, 25% “fiber,” and 25% used “needle felting.” Other comments included — felting, fibre, fleece, and wool roving.
93% of the respondents said they were satisfied with the interaction on the forum. Sometimes was the response for 7%. The comments for “Why not” were, “I don’t feel I have much to contribute to the conversations, but find them interesting” and “I check in occasionally, but not regularly.”
Members (79%) feel valued. 65% feel their interests are well represented. Friendly and helpful members rated 93%. Comments requested more information on spinning, weaving, crochet, etc.
One of the most interesting answers for me was the activities members are looking for on the forum.
Comments included “Mixed media is more interesting to me,” and “online classes.”
Participation would be higher if we were able to give our members more time. 100% of the respondents checked this off. What this tells me is that those regular members somehow make time to visit, while others pop in occasionally when they have a few minutes available. Giveaways and classes were also considerations at 8% each. “A larger membership with increased posts would naturally prompt me to respond more frequently” was a surprising comment for this question. We’d love to have more members participate, if only we could find a way to give them more time!
92% of Forum members also subscribe to the Blog. Again time was mentioned in the comments as to why members did not belong to both.
One of the reasons I wanted to do the survey was to see how we could get our members to help us increase our membership and participation. Here were the results:
Again there is that power of “word of mouth.”
I was also curious how people felt about the lack of advertising since we make an effort to keep the site uncluttered and supportive of the purpose of the forum without compromising the integrity of the site. 71% liked not having advertising. 29% had no opinion. However, the comments were revealing — quality fiber related vendors would be welcome. Others commented that the sponsorship banner was a good idea.
What does all this mean?
Generally, it means for those members who responded, The Felt & Fiber Studio Forum/Blog is doing a good job as a friendly place to share most things fiber enthusiasts care about. The information gives us a few directions to improve or make changes that would benefit our members and, hopefully, engage our current members to help attract new members and other ways such as Search Engine Optimization clues to drive more online traffic our way.
Can we improve? Of course! There are things we will be doing in the future to offer more of what our members want to see and do. In addition, we will provide some material to promote the forum for anyone who wants to help.
In the mean time, keep telling your friends about us and come by often to share what you’ve been working on with us, offer some tips or let us know how we’re doing.
Our thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey!
In our last marketing blog, I used the Felt and Fiber Studio Forum as an example for determining marketing goals towards developing a marketing plan. We discovered the who, what, why, where, how, and when for the plan creating a road map for our plan.
Now it is time to evaluate our plan and see if it meets our needs in terms of our goals. However, before we do that we need to take a look at what is working and what is not.
If your business is humming along just fine, you may wonder if this is really necessary. There is no one right answer. If you are satisfied with how much you’re selling and the way you are marketing and selling, it’s probably not necessary. But what if you want to expand your market? Make more money? Diversify your offerings?
If you were running a restaurant and sales were down, customer complaints up, low tips for staff and few return customers, you’d have a good idea something wasn’t working.
However, in the internet world of marketing for arts and crafts, you don’t have the luxury of easy or obvious measurements of what is working. At a craft or art fair, you can see your competition, compare pricing and quality first hand. It’s easier to see how your products differ on the spot and ask customers what they think.
In our Marketing Strategy for the Felt and Fiber Studio Forum the Driving Action for the goals of the Forum is participation. So, in order to determine how we are doing since we can’t meet face to face, we are asking our members (and blog subscribers) to take a simple ten question Membership Survey so we can evaluate our plan.
What do we want to know? We want to make sure we are serving the needs of our online community in a friendly, giving and nonjudgmental way.
There will also be a link on the Forum under the Business section. Please only fill out one survey. We will not collect any personal information.
I realize some of the people that read the blog, may not be Forum members. So, if you would like to take the survey, please answer the questions applicable and put in the comment section of question number 8 that you are are a blog subscriber. If you read the blog on a reader, please mention that in the same section.
The survey will be available for a week. I will publish the results after I have collected and analyzed the data.
Please feel free to leave any comments here or on the forum. We’re always interested to know how we are doing and what more we can do to help you.
Thank you for taking a few minutes of your time to participate!
Have you thought about what your goal is for your business? To help you incorporate the marketing concepts we’ve previously discussed into a marketing strategy to understand your goal, I am going to use the Felt and Fiber Studio Forum as an example of a business.
Here is a quick recap of our previous marketing concepts blogs:
The six P’s of marketing — Product, Price, Promotion, Placement, Positioning, PR/Publicity and People
Creative/Design (Look and feel) — fiber graphic, easy to navigate (Positioning)
Tone of Voice — casual (Positioning)
Keyword Phrases — Fiber, Nuno Felting, Weaving, Knitting, Dyeing, Needle Felting, Wet Felting, Spinning, Crocheting, Surface Design, Business, Fiber Festivals, Studio Challenges, Wool and Other Fibers, Hand Stitching, Machine Stitching, Fiber Marketplace, General Discussion, Shows and Classes, Take a Stitch Tuesday, Beads/Beading (PR/Publicity and Promotion) — This is how members find us with search words in addition to word of mouth.
Marketing Tactics and Content Strategy –Blog, Facebook, free tutorials, quarterly challenges, quarterly newsletter, welcome email, occasional giveaways, holiday exchange, resources for information, supplies, tools, links to other blogs, resources (Network of People and Promotion)
When — Things to do today, next week (Actions to take)
Blog posts every other day by Moderators or guests (Promotion)
Monitor posts daily, encourage members to post new projects, questions, resources, events
Generally, the goal of the Felt and Fiber Studio Forum is to build a community of fiber enthusiasts who can share their work, ideas, techniques, resources and get information and questions answered in a friendly, caring environment.
The Driving Action for the goals of the Forum are primarily:
Registering to be a member
Like on Facebook
Subscribe to the Studio blog
Participate in conversations and/or challenges on the Forum
This is a road map of the thought process of planning our marketing strategy and understanding our business goals. You can use this as a general guideline to ask yourselves the same questions about your business.
Ready, set….plan! What does your road map look like?
In my last marketing post, I asked “what makes you a loyal customer?” The reason I asked is that it helps you get into the customer mindset when you can understand what your own buying habits are and why.
I answered my own question in a discussion of customer benefits about ebooks on the forum. I consider myself a loyal customer of Lyn and Zed’s ebooks because the books are well written, have easy to understand instructions, a lot of good pictures And the fact I can work at my own pace. When they produce new books, I would likely buy them because I know the quality is good, the price was reasonable, purchase was convenient — immediate download and I was able to contact the seller with questions. All of these things are key benefits to me especially since I’ve purchased ebooks more expensive and less user friendly.
My buying loyalties for groceries are different. I like a good bargain and am loyal to retailers who are conveniently located, offer sales, discounts and coupons, good customer service with liberal return policies.
When buying art, fibers or art supplies, I have an impulse buyers mindset. Although I won’t turn down a coupon, discount or sale. I love this, I have to have it! I’m sure you all know what that is like.
As a business person, you want to cultivate loyal customers. How? It’s all about understanding buying habits, mindsets, benefits and problems. The best way to keep on top of trends is to do a little market research and communicate with your customers and get to know them.
Ask customers why they like the specific product they are buying. Is it for themselves or someone else? If for someone else, who? Starting this conversation will bring more detail because most people love to talk when they like something or someone. Of course, this is easier to do if you are selling face to face at a craft fair or to friends and family.
But if you are selling through a third party like a gift shop or an art gallery, the people who procure your products know this information and will share it with you since it is a benefit to them to keep customers satisfied and popular products coming in. They can also give you an idea why something isn’t selling. It’s not necessarily negative feedback; you may find this is just not the right market for that product.
On the forum discussion, Ruth mentioned all the things she does at her store to keep loyal customers Basically, great customer service was at the heart of it. A few of them —
Shipping at cost
Free gift wrapping
Keeping the inventory fresh and unique
Creating customer oriented events.
She said, “go a little beyond the normal service, people are wowed because the norm is pretty low.”
When communicating with people, don’t underestimate your enthusiasm. When you do what you love it shows through in the attention given to making the item, but your enthusiasm for what you do is contagious! So, is your loyal customers.
If you’re selling online and don’t have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, keep an email list and follow up after the sale. Asking a customer if they are satisfied or if the gift was well received can help reveal trends and keep your customers coming back. Most people will respond to one or two questions. It tells them you value their opinion and want to guarantee their satisfaction. Many retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble follow up with an email after the sale to ask you to rate the product and make comments. Take the marketing hint from companies who spend a lot of money researching these things!
Emails can be used to communicate news about introducing a new product or line, exhibit or fair dates. Email marketing is inexpensive and can result in repeat sales. Of course, e-newsletters and blogs also provide the same benefits.
Posting news and pictures of works in progress also works using social media like Facebook. If I see an item I know one of my friends would like, I can share it on my news feed or send it to that persons news feed. Again word of mouth in the digital age!
Remember less can be more. I say this because if people are busy too much information becomes background noise. So, be selective about what and how often you post or email. Make it newsworthy and friendly.
You may be saying, but I do all this or I’ve tried that and it’s not working. Again, knowing your customer will help you determine where to sell and the best strategies to use. If normal outlets aren’t working, it’s time to get creative to develop better strategies and or find new markets.
Food for thought: Where do my customers go? What do they do?
Every artist who wants to sell their work needs to understand what marketing is and isn’t. Judging from the questions I’ve received, it is a total mystery to most people. I hope to be able to dispel some myths and ideas and help you to understand the basics to so you can devise a plan for your business without losing some of the mystery that marketing offers.
Marketing is not easily defined, because it is multifaceted and is used differently by many companies. The simplest explanation I can give you:
Marketing isan effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs. It is a process of creating and communicating value, understanding your customers and their needs, teaching the customer what the differences are between your product and your competitors, and developing a demand for your products.
My intent is to not overwhelm you. It is a huge subject. I will try to keep discussion to those simple concepts that apply to artists.
So, what about selling?
Selling is the effort to devise tricks and techniques to get people to buy a product.
Marketing supports sales by providing communication, creative work, research, product development, and marketing strategies to name a few services.
There are no formulas or right way to create a marketing plan. Most of you work alone or have a partner. So, marketing and selling must go hand in hand. Yet, they are two separate sets of strategies.
This graphic depicts the different aspects of marketing. It is close to a traditional marketing model. However, as the individual business person you will be wearing all these hats and make decisions about how much time, effort and/or money you will put into each segment. I will address each one of these along our marketing journey.
Marketing is dynamic and changes as customer needs, wants and the marketplace changes. When I first started in marketing there were the four Ps of marketing– Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Today there are at least six.
Product – the items you make to sell
Price– the price you determine based on materials, time, distribution and other costs plus desired profit margin
Promotion – What methods you use to promote your work and the places you will feature it. This has been called the “face” of marketing because it determines how your potential customers will perceive you and your products.
Placement – Where and when you will present your work for sale
Positioning – Each artist should have a unique selling position for their products to distinguish them from competitors. It is a promise to the consumer to provide a particular benefit. For example, M&Ms — Melt in your mouth not in your hands.
PR/Publicity – How you tell people about you and your work using public media
People –For artists, it is your network of friends, family, colleagues, customers and you as a person and artist. This is particularly important when using social media.
Customers are key. Marketers spend a lot of time getting to know their customers– who they are, their age, where they live, what type of lifestyles they have, how they behave in the marketplace, what they like or dislike, the avenues of communication they use, the places they shop, how they shop and their buying preferences. They use this information to formulate their strategies on how to approach the customer. This is obvious in the commercials on TV, magazine and newspaper ads or radio commercials. Or even the ads on social media. Information is constantly being collected to be able to target the consumer. This is another big subject we’ll address later.
Who is your customer?
While these pictures represent stereotypes, they are meant to get you to think more about who your customers are. It may be a combination of types of people depending on what you are selling. For example, fingerless mitts will likely appeal to a younger person who likes to text. For someone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the cold, but enjoys handmade articles a nice heavy woolen scarf may be what they want. An art scarf may be purchased by a socialite or fashionista.
Food for thought: While you are pondering your customers, think about yourself and how you relate to your customers.
We’ll continue our marketing journey soon. I’m looking forward to your comments and insights.