Artisan markets are more diversified than ever, causing unanticipated difficulties and opportunities for creatives. Where will it all lead?
Artisan markets have been exploding over the last couple years, mainly due to the rapid influx of new entrepreneurs aiming to tap the power of evolving handmade and micro trends. What does that mean for long-time artists and craftspeople who have always been committed to their work, regardless of mass popularity?
In my opinion, recent developments have created an uneasy mixture of sellers who aren't always on the same page with regard to primary life goals and the values associated with them. For example, these two sets of sellers aren't entirely like-minded when it comes to adopting mainstream sales and marketing strategies. And they don't always interact the same way with conventional business advisors, who might not relate personally to the creative lifestyle.
There's also the question of the newest trend, which is for craftspeople to diversify and become business consultants without having had any mainstream business training. This type of consultant might have some insight into how creatives think and work, but might not have had broad enough experience to effectively guide market newbies.
What does this mean for both micro entrepreneurs and self-identified artists and artisans? Small business owners with an entrepreneurial mindset are more likely to connect comfortably with sales and marketing concepts than their art-identified counterparts. If you've started out primarily to make a living, and have intelligently identified artisan markets as the appropriate venue, then all you really need is solid professional advice, helpful tips and some general business coaching to get you going. Whether or not you're successful in the long run will depend on your talents, your determination, the quality of the advice you're getting, and a lot of luck.
Creatives, on the other hand, generally find it more difficult to relate to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, and have a tendency to feel alienated by standard business presentations, marketing strategies and sales concepts. If you're driven to create, if the creative process is your primary (sometimes only) objective, the time spent doing business can be physically and mentally painful. Unfortunately, mainstream business advisors often remain unaware of this disconnect, and will sometimes pound away at conventional methodologies without regard to the effect it might be having on their own clients. In fact, this kind of mismatch won't matter at all to highly income-driven consultants, whose services favor the high-potential, entry-level entrepreneurs who can most easily benefit from their advice.
Success for self-identified creatives will depend primarily on adaptability. Can you stretch your lifestyle to accommodate these alien sales activities? Can you tolerate the time spent talking about the features and benefits of your work (rather than let it just speak for itself)? Are you able to find a balanced spot within yourself where selling can take place while you're also maintaining your own artistic and personal integrity?
The world is definitely changing. It used to be that artists never expected to be famous or even to make a decent living with their work. Craftspeople would simply aim to create a small local following, and would be satisfied with that, even if it meant also holding a regular part-time job to cover monthly expenses. Fame and fortune were entirely unpredictable and unanticipated. The newest market trends offer a tremendous opportunity to break from old habits and expectations, with the potential for significant financial benefits. But is the evolving artisan scene really as beneficial for true artists and artisans as most public observers tend to think? I'm not sure.
What's your opinion? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And browse the blog for more on marketing, social media, copywriting and SEO.
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What makes "sales" different from "marketing"? And how does knowing the difference help you to optimize your business strategies?
A lot of new and smaller sellers tend to confuse the terms sales and marketing, either lumping them together or ignoring the terms altogether. But a failure to grasp the difference could cost you opportunities to gain a larger audience and grow your business.
In the long process of acquiring customers, marketing comes first. This is the stage when you make yourself visible to the marketplace. Marketing plans help you:
Sales comes next. This is the stage when customers are already at a point of sale where they can easily buy your items. They've found your store, have demonstrated some initial interest in what you do, and are looking for additional reasons to purchase.
Note that when customers find you through online searches, they've skipped the marketing stage. They're jumped right to your store and directly into the sales process.
What's Your Goal?
Understanding what stage you're at with customers helps you decide what to say and how to say it. It also helps you pinpoint the best strategies to use for each location where you make contact with buyers.
For example, if you have a product post on Instagram, but the customer can't purchase there, that's a marketing post. Which means your goal is either:
In the first case, you need to provide a way for customers to get to the point of sale and also need to state your goal clearly. "Buy Now."
In the second case, you need to provide a way for customers to remain in touch and need to state that goal in a way that helps customers take action. "Click on the link to learn more." You can also keep them engaged by starting a conversation. "This month's birthstone is the opal. Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry with your birthstone in it?" There are lots of options.
In large companies the distinction between sales and marketing is very clear, since they maintain separate departments for each. The marketing team develops the programs that get the message out into the marketplace, motivating potential customers to learn more and ask questions. Once a customer starts showing an interest in the company's products or services, the sales team takes over.
Does this brief overview give you any ideas for ways you can shift your social media or onsite activities to optimize the selling process? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And check the blog for more tips on marketing, social media, copywriting and SEO.
Marketing isn't a "one size fits all" proposition. Tailor your marketing program to match your specific goals, dreams, and lifestyle.
Are you driven by goals and aspirations that color your entire existence, and cause your personal life to take second place? Or are you an ordinary person with a few big dreams and a love of art that you pursue in your spare time? Are you all-consumed by your artisan life, or do you also have a strong need for family and other pursuits?
The answers to questions like these are essential in determining the right kind of marketing for your business.
What are your business goals? And what are your personal goals? Only after pinning down the answers to these questions can effective planning begin about how to sell your products.
What's Right For You?
Imagine this scenario. You enter an upscale boutique looking for a yellow summer dress for a specialty theme party being given by a friend. You tell the salesperson what you’re looking for, and she responds with, “Oh, but yellow isn’t on trend right now! And with your coloring, you should wear red! Here, try on a few of these gorgeous red dresses. Trust me, red is the way to go this year!"
Sounds very persuasive, but is it actually helpful? Even if you decided that you did, in fact, look better in red, and ended up buying a red dress, what then? You’d be no farther along in your original goal to get a yellow dress for your friend's party. Or you would show up in the wrong clothing.
Why is that salesperson trying to sell you a red dress rather than a yellow one? Maybe the store doesn’t have any yellow dresses right now, or a new batch of red dresses just came in. Possibly the yellow dresses they do have are lower priced, and she's hoping for a bigger sale. Even if she truly believes that red is your best choice, she certainly hasn't factored in your requirements.
Screen Your Consultants
In the same way, it doesn't make sense to accept marketing and sales advice from consultants who are selling “one size fits all” marketing services, or telling you that you need different goals, or asking you to engage in activities that don’t match up with your preferred lifestyle.
Why do many providers try to fit you into a single marketing model, with a fixed program supposedly right for everyone? The answer is: Because it’s easier, it will work for a few people who will be happy with the results,, and—this is the most important point—they might not understand enough about the underlying principles of marketing to be able to tailor programs for individual clients.
It's also possible that services like these are only intended for certain types of businesses that have been identified as the provider's most profitable target market. Which means that you might be seen as a "fringe" client who isn't necessarily expected to benefit.
When looking for help for your business, listen carefully. Has the provider asked you about your goals, your life, your needs and then adjusted accordingly? If yes, that’s a very good first sign that you’ll be getting advice that will be customized for your particular circumstances.
It’s also important to look into the background of the provider to determine if they’re giving you advice based on one experience with a single business, or if they have had experience across a wide range of different kinds of businesses, markets, sellers, and customer types. Do they know for certain which activities in each case led to success, or are they only guessing? Carefully screen in order to get the right help for your business and your life.
Have any of these issues cropped up for you in the past? Feel free to tell us about your experience in a comment. Also check the blog for additional advice, including tips on copywriting, SEO and social media.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
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