Monday, January 19, 2009

In The Business Of Doing Business (or, Why Be Afraid Of Professionalism?)

To paraphrase an oft-maligned talking Barbie of days gone by, "Business is hard!". Except it isn't. Business boils down to supply and demand, really. See? Easy.

The problem enters in when we, as craftspeople, assume that we can simply make things, list them on a sale site and Bob's Yer Uncle, we're in business. The difficulty with that is it's only one half of the equation -- the supply. Without demand, you're a fish without a bicycle.

The business model I draw from is somewhere between LUSH and BPAL, both luxury item companies who have cleverly convinced thousands and thousands of people that their very pricey smelly stuff is an absolute necessity. I have seen grown, responsible women get behind on their car payments to have the next limited edition item. It's a little different for me, being jewellery, but the principles are the same!

So, without further ado... How To Create Demand.

1. Be The Cool Kid. What group has the most disposable income for small luxury items? 16 - 40. So when you are crafting, keep in mind that your stuff should be desireable to that group. I'm certainly not suggesting you sell your soul to the sparkly Twilight fanclub demons just to make some money, but keeping an eye on the trends is a really good idea simply so you can tweak your sales pitch in that direction.

You don't have to change your craft, just change how you are presenting it. LUSH does this all the time, taking hot pop-culture references and using them to name or market their products, and it works. Use the hot-button words to make your pieces show up in searches, too... using Twilight as an example, is it wrong to name a piece "Bella" at coincidentally the exact time people are using "Bella" as a search term for jewellery? No, it's not wrong. It's smart marketing.

2. Make Items Limited and/or Collectible. We are a covetous bunch of shaved monkeys, aren't we? Nearly all of us collect things, acquiring one of a series only to immediately turn around and focus on grabbing the next. In terms of things that are limited, as well, one only has to observe last-minute bidding wars on eBay that go far over what the item is actually worth to see that when people may miss out on something, they can get a little, um, intense with their spending.

Planned, periodic release of special limited items whets a buyer's appetite and allows you to charge much more than you could for "regular" released items. Consider having seasonal or holiday limited editions of things, particularly ones with design continuity, to take advantage of the human instinct to get-it-before-it's-gone.

3. Sell The Dream. It's great to sell the physical characteristics of your pieces, but a comprehensive list of techniques and materials will be lost on most of your buyers. No, you want to sell them a feeling. A lifestyle. A dream. Will these earrings make them feel like Cleopatra on a barge, floating down the balmy Nile? A vivacious flapper about to sneak into her first speakeasy? A powerful Grecian goddess contemplating taking a mortal lover? Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is a virtuoso at this... she has built her business on blending essential oils together and using descriptions, images and quotations to convince women that wearing that blend will turn them into fantastic otherworldly seductresses far removed from the mundane world. Brava to her!

Figure out how your customers want to feel, want to see themselves as an ideal, and sell them that illusion. Remember that scene in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" at the fair when the girl was trying on all the fabulous paste jewellery? "Who d'you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?" Well, for that brief moment in time... she was. And she felt good.

Don't just sell the metal. Sell the mood.

4. Advertise.... Intelligently. I make mythological fantasy jewellery, sometimes interspersed with pieces drawn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and their ilk. There are some advertising venues that simply aren't appropriate for me... super-modern or Christian venues spring to mind (not condemning either, just being realistic).

I am better served to ask the question, "Who buys mythological jewellery?". Ren Faire people. Roleplayers. Pagans. Horror writer fan sites.... you see where I am going with this. I am best served to go there, where my customer base is, than to advertise willy-nilly and expect my customers to come to me.

5. Use Your Environment. This is a big rule for Ninja, too. Pay attention to holidays; is it near Prom? Valentine's Day? Mother's Day? Many people feel social pressure to buy people gifts on holidays, and jewellery is one of the most popular gifts for such occasions. A gentle reminder in your descriptions or your shop announcement is sometimes all it takes to tip the customer from waffling to spending.

Good businesses are dynamic and responsive to the current economic and social climate -- so keep your eyes and ears open and don't be afraid to use the tools at your disposal. It's okay to be an artist but also be successful and professional! <3 <3 <3 to you all.


  1. This is very interesting! I so agree about targeting your marketing. Thanks for this.

  2. Thank you for these little tips. It's nice to be reminded, and encouraged. I appreciate it.