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Advice for my new business?

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Blog entry by robbinscabin posted 1172 days ago 1425 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

You all know that hubby and I have recently started our own small business…North Country Rustics. It should come to no surprise to anyone that I consider myself pretty handy. I have marginal art skills, marginal tool skills, a pretty creative mind, and a real desire to “create”. I also boast some pretty good computer skills. Yet I feel completely lost when it comes to really getting my business off the ground. I’ve sold some items but mostly to family and friends…I’d really like to branch out into “real” customers. To do that I’ve created the usual “free” advertisements: Blog, Facebook page, Business Cards, Flyers, and Brochures. But the real question is does any of it really work? Would love your advice on how to grab some real customers. Actually, I’d love any advice at all…Please feel free to share!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics



17 comments so far

View JohnGreco's profile

JohnGreco

283 posts in 1657 days


#1 posted 1172 days ago

Congratulations on taking the leap :) I’ve had great success with my Facebook fan page. First thing to realize is people who are “Liking” an artist’s page is going to expect a different interaction than somebody liking a page like Best Buy or some other big name. As soon as somebody becomes a fan, I send them a personal Thank You through Facebook. That in itself is often met with great remarks from the recipient.

As I see fans who are more engaged, posting comments or ‘liking’ pictures of my work, I will send them friends requests through my personal Facebook account. It helps them get to know me better, and I get to know more about the people who are interested in my work.

The majority of my work is through custom orders, and the majority of those are from Facebook Fans. I hope this helps. best of luck!

-- John

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#2 posted 1172 days ago

Thanks for the Facebook advice… I wasn’t sure how interactive my biz page should be…but I like your ideas. Thanks again!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

View christopheralan's profile

christopheralan

1105 posts in 2322 days


#3 posted 1172 days ago

I have had zero luck with social media. All of my work is from word of mouth. I offer origional, custom work for a fair price and word gets around. When I stopped competing with the CNC, laser engraving, “pro-shops” and raised all of my prices (doubbled in some cases), business doubbled as well. Funny.

I use my website as a gallery mostly, but I still blog, and do tool reviews from time to time. I have been turning a bunch of pens for the last few months and I give out most of them to potential customers. It gives them an example of what I do, and more importantly, it gets people talking. “Wow, nice pen! Where did you get that?” “Oh this? Chris from Project Woodworks gave it to me.” I figure an inexpensive pen kit is well worth it.

I also decline to do a lot of work, based on design but mostly price. It is a gamble, but it often pays off. Customers will ask me to build something for a very low price and I send them to walmart instead. I tell them not to buy from me, because I am very expensive and I will more than likely break their budget. I am not ugly about it, I just let them know that I am not a box-store and they can’t expect to pay box-store prices. I only build things that will last, and that I can pin my reputation to. It is about price vs. value. Sometimes they shell out the cash at that point, and sometimes they go to walmart.

What really kills me though is guys, for example, wouldn’t think twice about blowing a couple hundred bucks on drinks, dancing girls, and cab fair for a night on the town, yet they will have sticker shock if I quote a custom table for $300. Drives me insane. But I digest….

Good luck man! I wish you and yours well!

-- christopheralan http://www.projectwoodworks.com

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#4 posted 1172 days ago

Thanks Chris! I have had a few customers walk away because of price…But like you, I told them if you want a screen door now for 75 bucks I’m sure that Lowes will be happy to help and they will help you again next spring when the screen door didn’t quite make it through our hard winter. If you want something unique and well made…this is my price. I had one guy walk away and then come back when he “reallY” thought about it. I like the pen idea for serious would-be customers…May borrow that idea!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

View jerrells's profile

jerrells

843 posts in 1486 days


#5 posted 1172 days ago

I really like the “pricing” idea everyone talks about. I am not part of the trade market show business so price is not an option. I have set a price that I think is fair and if it is not fair to you – FINE. Also, I feel work of mouth is the best advertising. One satisified customer will tell 10 or more. One dis-satisified customer will tell hundreds. My job is to put pot the best quality product I can and let the market decided.

Best of luck.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View becikeja's profile

becikeja

306 posts in 1415 days


#6 posted 1172 days ago

Interesting comments, It’s amazing how many times artists / craftsmen focus on price as the reason they have or do not have sales. Just like in all business price is part of the negotiation, but is seldom the decision making criteria. Look at a Picasso painting. We all have to agree the price is high. But what about the value? Value is created in each individual by a variety of factors. The value is what determines if someone parts with his money or not. To be honest I wouldn’t give you $20 for a Picasso. It’s just not me. I would prefer to hang a painting my son or daughter made. In fact I actually did that once when my son was in kindergarten. I built a really nice frame for one of his paintings and hung it in the living room. You would be amazed how many people asked where I got it, and who the artist was. Amazing. Back to the Picasso. If the seller marketed to me he would be wasting his time. And there is the key, to positioning any business. You have to market to the right client base. Don’t aim at everyone that has a cabin or a camp, unless you plan to mass produce. Pick a niche and imbed yourself in that niche. If the niche is owners of high end cabins, find a realtor that sells/rents high end cabins, and give them some of your pieces for showing in model sites. Go see some interior designers that specialize in this market, and make sure to price it high and sign your work. Create a mystique about you as an artist. If your niche is the middle income weekend fisherman, you either need a price point that can compete with Bass pro-shops, or something unique to the area. Example: If I am selling to an area that specializes in speckled trout fishing, I wouldn’t try to sell pieces with Bass or sailfish on it. Just some thoughts. Good luck.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#7 posted 1172 days ago

Jerrells~ Love that satisfied/dis-satisfied customer quote! It keeps it all in perspective, doesn’t it?

Becikeja~ I am trying to focus on the “tourists” that we get to this area…mainly because there is no “box” stores anywhere with 25 miles of my little community. We do get summer lake house/camp tourists as well as a lot of Salmon fishing tourists. I’m not charging high prices…usually around $250 a screen door because I know that I’m dealing with a middle income client but as my hubby starts producing more furniture…I’d like the option to “grow” into the higher end clients.

Thanks for all the advice…keep it coming! I love learning from y’all!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

10421 posts in 1608 days


#8 posted 1172 days ago

A good idea would be to target the new home buyers in the area. Its my assumption that when one buys a new home they would be on a mission to “make it their own”, sort of out with the old and in with the new. Let that new custom screen door be their first purchase in upgrading their new home or rental property. Finding them would be fairly easy, there should be a listing of property transactions in the local newspaper. Drop a flyer in the mailbox and you have yourself some very cheap marketing. You could also search the real estate websites for properties that are for sale, just keep an eye on them in your local area. Best of luck to you guys, i really like the style you’re producing.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View christopheralan's profile

christopheralan

1105 posts in 2322 days


#9 posted 1172 days ago

+1 to chrisstef

Awesome idea!

-- christopheralan http://www.projectwoodworks.com

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#10 posted 1172 days ago

That is an awesome idea! I’m loving any and all “cheap” marketing ideas!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

View reggiek's profile

reggiek

2240 posts in 1872 days


#11 posted 1172 days ago

Great ideas so far….another is to join groups online that are interested in your type of work….(i.e…like an antique collecting board for someone refinishing antiques).

Go to trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings, craft and art shows….and network….that is the best selling tool I have seen…pictures on the internet are nice….but when you meet someone, and are able to tell them the particulars of the wood, the working, type of species…etc….it is more seductive than a few views through a camera lens.

The trouble here of course is when do you work? Marketing takes alot of time and energy…that is typically what a bigger company has for an advantage – the ability to manufacture…and to have a sales staff….You can do it….but be prepared to put in the time and the energy to wear the two hats. Small business’ are not for the faint hearted for sure….and are not the be your own boss fantasy that alot of folks dream about.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1775 days


#12 posted 1172 days ago

My $0.02.

You should be open to trying any marketing channel that you think has a reasonable chance of cost-effectively bringing you customers.

BUT … there’s one huge caveat: the sooner you begin tracking your marketing efforts, the sooner you’ll be able to MAKE smart decisions about where TO and NOT TO spend your money.

Small companies tend to do this with a very simple written or verbal “How did you hear about us ?”

Larger companies have much more sophisticated means, including separate phone numbers for each marketing channel, or “promotional codes” for use on a website, or … the infamous “As Seen on TV” ads that tell you to call and ask for Department Q, or … equivalent. Each “Department” represents a different time/channel combination, so they know that Magnum PI, at 8pm, generated the most sales.

Tracking allows you to figure out your Cost To Acquire new customers. You want to drive this as low as possible.

AND/BUT … the customer you already HAVE will ALWAYS be cheaper than getting a new one. Do your level best to make them happy, get more business from them, and give them a discount for referring new business your way.

Even though I’ve never seen a copy, I would probably still suggest a book like “Marketing for Dummies.” You’re smart, and secure … enough that you know what you DON’T know.

Also, is there a chapter of SCORE near you ?? How about the SBA’s website ?

As for tourist business, do the local resorts have those wooden racks that they fill with 250 different brochures, of things to do in your area ?? How about Convention & Visitors Bureau ? In-room book/magazines, for the hotels ?

Always test the zero-cost options. If you have a local free paper that will allow free ads, get a good one running, and KEEP it running.

Best of luck !! As a guy who used to be in commercial real estate, my livelihood depended on the guts, creativity, and tenacity of the small business person. I’ve long admired them !

-- -- Neil

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#13 posted 1172 days ago

WOW!!! What fantastic advice from everyone! I would like customers…but not too many! I’m a tiny shop and need the flexibility of being my own boss so that I can be “MOM” when my daughter with Epilepsy requires my attention.

Love the ideas especially the visitor’s bureau and chamber of commerce meetings. I never would’ve thought of them! Thanks so much everyone!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

View David White's profile

David White

112 posts in 1882 days


#14 posted 1171 days ago

My advice – find and join a local BNI chapter and network like crazy. I have my own IT business and would not have survived were it not for BNI.

-- http://thecraftsmanstudio.com

View robbinscabin's profile

robbinscabin

313 posts in 2089 days


#15 posted 1171 days ago

Thanks for the advice…I’ll look into it!

I’ve gotten so many great ideas from all of you! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the advice!

-- Robbinscabin, www.facebook.com/northcountryrustics

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