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Communicating with Customers

Communicating with Customers

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.

groceryMy 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 addictionmindset. 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.

women shoppingBut 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
  • Custom orders
  • 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.

excited womanIf 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 emailor 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?

 

 

What is Marketing?

What is Marketing?

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 is an 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.

sale tagSo, 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.

Marketing pie

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.

psProduct – 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.

 fashionista woman w dogsocialitehipster

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.

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