One of the most important aspects of having a small business is marketing. If you don’t get word out to people that you exist, there is no way that you will be able to sell what you have to offer.
When I was growing up and attending Southern Illinois University, at one time I had considered marketing and advertising as a major. Even back then I enjoyed all forms of art and I thought it would be a way to incorporate artwork into my daily working life.
However, when attending an orientation that the university offered which gave an overview of the perspective major, the thing I remembered most about the presentation was how cut throat and competitive the advertising industry could be. If the lecturer’s aim was to weed out a certain number of perspective students, than I think he succeeded, as right then and there I changed my mind and decided it wasn’t for me. I knew even back then that I would never have the heart for a job like that.
I am a fan of the show “Mad Men” and I catch it when I am able to do so. It always makes me think back to the days when marketing was run by huge firms such as Leo Bernette in Chicago, which was one of the pinnacle firms at the time I was growing up. It always makes me wonder what my life would have been if I had pursued that avenue. It is kind of fun to think about.
These days however, those of us who own our own small businesses know that marketing is a big part of the equation. No matter how good our final product is, it is important to get the word out and let people know we are here. It reminds me of that old saying “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?” Without letting people know we are here, it doesn’t matter how good we are, we would not succeed. So marketing is the answer to keeping our company growing and healthy.
Last year when we decided to leave one of the large companies that we wholesaled our patterns to, it was very scary for us. After all, the sales generated from the company were probably a third (or more!) of our entire income. Deciding to pull out of their company and no longer sell through them was a huge and scary step for us, and we didn’t make it without much thought and consideration.
But after finding out that our information (as well as the patterns themselves) were compromised, we felt it was no longer in our best interest to continue selling our designs that way, and we felt we were better off selling directly to people to insure that they were getting the product and support that we intended. It was a risk for us to back pedal this way, as we knew that our revenue would (at least initially) be greatly decreased. But we wanted things to be “right” so we took the plunge.
We realized that this meant that in order to make up for this loss of sales, we needed to step up our own marketing and get word out about our existence. While we were already marketing in several directions (here on the blog, through the magazine, on Facebook, etc.) we knew that not only would we have to work harder on those areas, but also find additional ways to get our products out so people knew we were here. While this may have taken some valuable design time away form both Keith and myself, the additional customers it would bring to us would certainly be worth it.
Fortunately, with technology and communication being what they are, it is no longer like the days of Mad Men when people need to depend on hiring advertising agencies to do their marketing for them. I always have the tag line “Knowledge is Power” in my signature and this is one of those times when it really rings true. Knowing different ways you can let the public know about you and your products is an essential beginning to marketing, and can make or break your small business.
What I think I am going to do is take the next few days to discuss several different marketing strategies that small business owners can explore to market their own business effectively and with as small a cost as possible. I am often approached by customers who are just starting out and ask me the best way to market their products and I think a short series talking about a few of the avenues that are available will be very helpful.
I want to emphasize that I am certainly no expert on this process, as I am a “work in progress” myself, but what I like about blogging is that there are often many wonderful readers who contribute to the subject and are willing to post their ideas and thoughts on what has worked for them. I think that by talking ideas over among ourselves, we can come up with some good and solid ways to expand our marketing practices and customer base.
With that said, I invite you to join in with comments and explore some of the different ways that you may have had success with, and also some of those that haven’t worked well for you. That way we will all be able to learn something.
I am not sure how this will work, but I hope that we can all get something out of it. I will check often both here on Lumberjocks.com as well as my blog page on my sheilalandrydesigns.com site and see what you all have to say. For those of you who just want to sit back and read, I hope that this brings forth some information that will help you along as well.
It should be interesting.
Feel free to post comments. I am sure that as a group we can come up with some great ideas.
Happy Thursday! :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"