LumberJocks

Developing a "Presence" (formerly Image) of Yourself and Your Work for Customers.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by Mark A. DeCou posted 2483 days ago 2145 views 2 times favorited 55 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1971 posts in 2908 days


2483 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: mark decou decoustudio wwwdecoustudiocom image development business plan marketing woodworking furniture full time professional presence quality

Update from 12-15-2007:

Skim Readers: I am learning in my computer-based writings, that folks seem to “skim” read, not fully comprehending what I am saying, as they miss details moving quickly down the screen. I haven’t figured out how to stop this, other than to write in shorter sentences, fewer paragraphs, and say nothing extra. I haven’t learned how to do that yet, so in this particular topic, I promise you, that if you skim read, you will get a mixed-understanding of what the discussion is about.

Ok, the word “Image” is hanging people up. I understand, we have all been over-promised and under-delivered on almost anything we buy these days.

Note: I’m not talking about “you,” but the other folks that do “it.” The ones we all hate.

Today, we are convinced wrongly of quality by a “brand”, or “logo”, or sponsorship, etc., and so the word “Image” just isn’t a good word for me to use. I am convinced of that for sure now. So, from now on, please subsitute the word “Image” for my new word “Presence” in all of the text and comments that follow.

My goal here was to make folks think of who they were as professionals, people, and workers. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that one word would push so many people to think that I was describing the promotion of some characteristic of something they are not. You know who told me what was collectible, special, and unique about who I am and what I sell? Customers. Some of them I didn’t even have to ask, just listen. Others, I have asked. After collecting a list of those things, I started to see patterns of the Truth, and learned what my Presence was in the marketplace.

I spent most of my professional life from College until 1997 doing full time marketing and sales work and project management. I learned woodworking as a child from my dad who never sold much of anything. He likes to keep it and give it away. So, I learned marketing in my career first working for major corporations, before I decided to go back to woodworking, and changed careers. I’ve actually spent more time marketing for a living than I have woodworking, so the two life experiences working together have been a help to me. I also love people, even the bad and goofy ones. We all have hang-ups and hang-ins, and fears, and worries, and phobia, and faiths, and it is this “uniqueness” that is our “Presence.”

What is it that makes you unique? That is what I’m trying to get folks to think about.

I did a bad job of communicating that simply by selecting one over used, term…..”Image.” Not any longer, I can learn some things too, and this is another one to add to the long list.

So, here is my new working Definition for this discussion:

Presence: What others know of you, about you, and talk about when discussing you. This is not just your product…but the Truth about you, your business, and your product

If you don’t like some of things people say about you, then only you can change your Presence, by changing those characteristics.

Note: nothing in this new working definition is to be construed as developing a Presence on the basis of a farce, or a made up thing. “You are what you make, and who you are.” in other words. Now, just tell folks that in your marketing materials.

If you are best known for your work, show lots of photos, good photos.

If are you just plain a good looking person and you think people will buy from you on that basis, use your mugshot. That’s what Realtors and Insurance Salespeople do…......which by the way, is something I can’t understand, after looking at all of the photos on their business cards. There is an exception or two, but the rest of us can’t get work on our mug shots.

Ok? Ok.
If you are snooty to clients, they’ll tell others about it. I know this, cause I hear stories about folks that are snooty, or crooked, or underhanded, or always late on delivery, or over-charge what they quoted, or swapped material, or some other bad thing. You also hear this about other people, I am sure of it.

It just happened again to me. I was able to get a large Steak Knife commission project because my name was thrown out to the client by another artist working on the project, after a bad snooty woodworker pooped on them. Good for me, bad for him. If this referring artist that gave out my name felt that I would also poop on them, my name would not have been offered as a substitute. Make sense?

Some some folks I have met just like to be seen as hard-to-handle, or grumpy, or eccentric. If that sells for you, run with it. But, if it isn’t working, try to change your character, see a shrink, or do something to make a life change. See, it is Truth that you are selling, not a falsehood.

I actually hear more bad about other people than I do good. It is that sort of world, and folks talk most about their bad experiences with people. So, take that in consideration, when you are deciding what you want people to talk about…...when they discuss “you.”

If you are good enough at your work, or make things that are already collectible, I think you can be about as bad toward people as you want to be. But, it won’t be those characteristics that others discuss when your name comes up. It will be the bad stuff.

Quality; I Can’t Stand it Any Longer:

What one person things is awesome quality, another of us will look at as amatuer. The definition is about as archaic as it could be. It used to mean, “best I can do.” But, today, it means something else, or nothing at all.

So, when you are describing your work, realize that when you use the term “quality” nobody else knows what you mean by that. So, tell them what you mean, and not try to wrap it up in a single word, that doesn’t mean anything anymore.

I remember being paid to write a new website and brochure for a client once. My question was, “What can I say about your company that makes it unique in the marketplace….the thing that is true about you, that customers are looking for.”

His answer was, “We have great people, quality work, integrity, and fair pricing.”

I say, “Yawn.”

Everyone says that. What is special? Not what you made up, or what you aspire to be, but what is actually right now, this moment, that is special about what you do. If there is nothing, then work on that. If there is something, then run with that, market it, tell it, show it, describe it. Since, then I have never based my marketing help on the person’s own interpretation of what they think is important, or quality. I observe, and figure out what I think is important, and then communicate that to them, and help them communicate that to others.

So, I’m not using the term Image anylonger, the new term I will try is “Presence”.

Once you understand your own presence, and what people like in you, and your work, then you can use that Truth in all your marketing materials, logos, website, business cards, etc., should communicate what that truthful special thing is about you.

Ok, and example, If you use a handplane often in your work, use it in you logo. If you don’t, it isn’t appropriate. See the difference? What happens if someone wants to show up and see your hand planes you use, and you can’t find them, or they are rusted? Message clear? Good.

Please stop telling everyone that you make “Quality” woodworking. Everyone says that. I have yet to meet someone that says, “oh, I just make crap, and people buy it… it’s a great racket.”

Whew, I feel better and can now go back to work
Smile, I’m not upset, just having fun,
Mark

————————————————————————————————————————————————————— And Now back to our Original Text:

For quite some time now, I have been working hard to develop an “image” of myself and my work to communicate with people.

By this definition, I mean that the “Image” is what others will remember about me, after they have either seen my work, been told about me, read something about me, or have met me personally.

In short, I think it all has to go together, whatever avenue they were introduced to me. And, “what” they remember about me is my “Image”.

It is this “Image” consciousness that motivates me to accept commissions for the type of projects I build, live where I live, etc.

This morning, as I was reading through the Business Card debate on the other Forum Topic and I noticed that I worked there at developing the concept of an “image” in my writing.

Also, I have quite a few woodworking friends now that are wanting to jump full time into woodworking, others that want to stay afloat now that they have jumped, and others that want to do different types of work than they have been doing in the past.

I have noticed that in my writings and opinion sharing with these folks, that I also use the terminolgoy, “Developing an Image”.

So, I decided to make it the focus of a forum topic, and see what the other professionals are doing in this regard.

If you have developed and managed an “Image” before, please share your concept and how it is working for you, with the rest of us wannabees. If this is a new concept to you, then share your thoughts also.

Thanks,
Mark DeCou
www.decoustudio.com

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com


55 replies so far

View Don's profile

Don

2598 posts in 2679 days


#1 posted 2482 days ago

Mark, when I think of you I immediately think of a man who is obedient to 1 Cor. 10:31. That’s a pretty good image to have developed, my friend.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://dpb-photography.me/

View john's profile

john

2289 posts in 2884 days


#2 posted 2482 days ago

Hi Mark
I remember about 6 – 8 months ago there was a thread on here about what each person considered themselves as far as being a woodworker or an artist.
Back then i thought of myself as a woodworker more then an artist but ever since i made that statement i have been called an artist a lot more then a woodworker .
It made me realize that what i thought i was projecting to other people wasn’t necessary the same thing they were thinking .
Now i just try to do the best job i can do and hope that people can see it.
As long as they walk away with a positive thought then i am happy.

-- John in Belgrave (Website) http://www.extremebirdhouse.com , http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112698715866

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2817 days


#3 posted 2482 days ago

I’ve had to sleep on this one. It seems tied into your question about heirloom furniture. I guess my gut reaction is just revulsion. I’ve seen so much “image” building I just think of it as a form of lying. I get put off by hearing about quality that is not backed up by reality. Yet it is believed by customers all the same.

That said it is very important to be able to communicate to people….honestly. I’m thinking your work tells a story in such a way that people treasure it. I’m very slow to do any self promotion and it sure hurts my art. So I see the need, but I also hate the idea of becoming a one product craftsman. It seems to be the way of the world, but I’d sure get tired of building just one thing.

I was hoping for more replies, because this is one of my main weak points. Where is the line between promotion of my work and self promotion?

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2663 days


#4 posted 2482 days ago

A couple of good points Dennis. We all would like to be more than the proverbial “one trick pony”. But, I think that what most of us are going for is a “style” of woodworking, rather than the actual noted piece. It would be nice to build a line of furniture that has a style that people can say that it is a DeCou, or a Mitchell creation. Even if you build more than one of the same piece, it does not have to be an exact copy (unless the customer wants that). Rather, the flowing lines, the particular wood, the style of doors, whatever may be the defining thing.

As for the self promotion vs. work, that is probably a fine line. Is it considered promoting the work if you say I use the best materials, do the work by hand, take time and care to match the grains, etc.? I would say yes that is promoting the work. If you say I am the best builder ever to pick up a tool, that would probably fall under self promotion. I think if you focus the statements on the skills and resources that go into your creations, then it is probably promoting your work.

Even after all of that being said, if I could produce rockers like Maloof, I might just be satisfied with being the one trick pony!

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6642 posts in 2482 days


#5 posted 2481 days ago

Hi Guys;

A very interesting topic for sure.

I’ve always tried to provide a professional, knowledable, dependable, and maybe most important of all, a consistant level of quality.

We seem to attract high end work due to the demands I place upon myself and my employees.

I’ve noticed over the past thirty years, clients have labeled me as; “very expensive, but very good”.

I find this to be somewhat insulting. As though I am overcharging for my services. On the flip side of that, since I don’t advertise, when we are recommended by a client to a potential client, the new client is expecting high quality, along with a high price.

Just a couple weeks ago, I had this said to me by a client we did a fair amount of work for. Very nice work, which required a high level of expertise, in both engineering and producing.

He was asking me to do some work over a Holiday weekend, but started out by telling me how expensive I am. In the next sentence, he was asking me to do a fair amount of work for him during that weekend.

I told him no thank you, I was busy.

I sent him an email the following day, letting him know I was insulted by his comment about being too expensive. I pointed out to him, out of the five cars in his driveway, the cheapest one was about $100,000.00. I then asked if the car dealers charged him the same price as a chevy. Or did they charge for the quality he was receiving. I got no respone to this question.

So, the bottom line here is, be true to yourself first. The clients will both promote and label you themselves.

Popeye said it best, “I am what I am”. If someone has a problem with who you are, it’s a bad fit anyway so don’t worry about it.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18614 posts in 2663 days


#6 posted 2481 days ago

ah.. the old “just is” as Frank puts it.

work promotion vs self promotion.
I think the discussions we have had here ALL relate to SELF promotion—- the standards by which one works comes from the “self”... the artistic expressions, the technical skills—are part of “self”. Statements such as “I am the best” are “ego promotion”.

What is the image you want to portray? it is your inner “self”... your strengths and beliefs… integrity, honour… skill.. “master craftsman”. A beautifully made chair is a product until you can “see” the workmanship and the love of the wood that went into it—and THEN it is a piece of wood art, a treasure, an heirloom of today or tomorrow.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View snowdog's profile

snowdog

1127 posts in 2485 days


#7 posted 2480 days ago

Developing an image of yourself (at least your work self) is important. It helps define your direction, as someone said above, the type of work and commissions you agree to. Listen to the people around you and try to build on what feels right. Self promotion is for shallow people in general but there seems to be a line that you have to cross to become categorized as shallow. Each person will have to find that line for him (or her) self.

Lee, why would you be insulted by a customer saying your to expensive when clearly he keeps wanting you to work for him. It seems to me to be high praise, he puts your work in the “must have no latter what the cost” column.

Perception (our own perception and others) creates reality in some respects. It is probably one of the reasons that creating an image of what you want others to see is important.

Well that is my early morning thoughts, ask me again after another coffee.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18614 posts in 2663 days


#8 posted 2480 days ago

know who you are … be who you are .. and others will see you as you are….

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View oscorner's profile

oscorner

4564 posts in 2813 days


#9 posted 2479 days ago

Mark, whenever I see your name on a post the image that pops into my head is all those wonderfully done projects and deep thoughts of yours. I think he is a professional, talented, caring and honest man. Your image has been built, now you just need to live up to it and I know you will.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1971 posts in 2908 days


#10 posted 2478 days ago

Thanks folks, I wasn’t so much meaning to find out what “my” image on lumberjocks was from you, but more what you perceive as your own image management. I appreciate the feed back though, seriously I do. But, I wasn’t really thinking of making this Forum a “talk about Mark” discussion. It is embarrasing you know.

Developing an image is not lying, it is a strategically planned methodology for being the type of business person you want to be. Woodworking businesses are too small to work on a lie, as we will be found out too easy. People deal with us as people, not a corporation.

I had a boss one time that used to say several times a week, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” This was usually when he felt that he needed to make a decision that would hurt a person, but help the bottom line of the company. In my mind, there is no difference, people are who we do business with.

So, what I was really trying to develop here was the strategic thinking that I find most of us woodworkers don’t want to do. Namely, what type of woodworker do you “Want” to be.

This “image” will dictate everything from the type of tools you buy, the shop space you need, the location of your shop, the hours you need to dedicate to the craft, the training you need to buy, the projects you say “yes”, and “no” to, the shows you attend, whether you will have employees, and ultimately, where you will be in this business.

If you take whatever comes along, that people ask you for, you will end up somewhere different than you would have if you had taken the time to figure out what you wanted to build, and head that direction. I know this from experience. I ended up doing drywall and fences, for crying out loud.

What I am finding is that guys that email me who want to do something different with their careers, haven’t yet started any planning, or thinking about how to do it. They haven’t started networking yet, or developing an idea of how they will communicate to the “people” they will be doing business with. They don’t even know yet what type of woodworking they want to do. People will talk about you, what do you want them to tell each other about you and your work. That is the “image” that I was trying to discuss. For some that have emailed me, it is as if hoping it will happen will just make it happen. At least hoping doesn’t work for me much.

There is a long list of sacrifices and expenses that you will need to incur to make it in woodworking, and it will take many years to see your dream develop. The sooner you can figure out where you going, the faster you can get on that path, and avoid the numerous opportunities to take side roads and “Y’s”.

That was my thought on developing an “image”. I didn’t mean for it to come across that this meant anything about marketing a lie, or selling something you are not.

Sorry for the confusion,
Mark

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18614 posts in 2663 days


#11 posted 2478 days ago

the discussion is a good example of figuring out one’s image… take a look at your own style/beliefs etc.

This reminds me of the process on the American/Canadian Idol Series: the young singles are constantly being reminded to “know who they are”—that should be portrayed in the songs they sing, their style of singing, and the clothing that they choose to wear. Everything is part of the image and you can’t portrait it if you don’t know what it is!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1971 posts in 2908 days


#12 posted 2478 days ago

Thanks folks, I wasn’t so much meaning to find out what “my” image on lumberjocks was from you, but more what you perceive as your own image management. I appreciate the feed back though, seriously I do. But, I wasn’t really thinking of making this Forum a “talk about Mark” discussion. It is embarrasing you know.

Developing an image is not lying, it is a strategically planned methodology for being the type of business person you want to be. Woodworking businesses are too small to work on a lie, as we will be found out too easy. People deal with us as people, not a corporation.

I had a boss one time that used to say several times a week, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” This was usually when he felt that he needed to make a decision that would hurt a person, but help the bottom line of the company. In my mind, there is no difference, people are who we do business with.

So, what I was really trying to develop here was the strategic thinking that I find most of us woodworkers don’t want to do. Namely, what type of woodworker do you “Want” to be.

This “image” will dictate everything from the type of tools you buy, the shop space you need, the location of your shop, the hours you need to dedicate to the craft, the training you need to buy, the projects you say “yes”, and “no” to, the shows you attend, whether you will have employees, and ultimately, where you will be in this business.

If you take whatever comes along, that people ask you for, you will end up somewhere different than you would have if you had taken the time to figure out what you wanted to build, and head that direction. I know this from experience. I ended up doing drywall and fences, for crying out loud.

What I am finding is that guys that email me who want to do something different with their careers, haven’t yet started any planning, or thinking about how to do it. They haven’t started networking yet, or developing an idea of how they will communicate to the “people” they will be doing business with. They don’t even know yet what type of woodworking they want to do.

Being a woodworker is a “strange” profession in this world now, and so People will naturally be interested and talked talk about you. What do you want them to tell each other about you and your work? What they talk about is really your “image.”

That is the “image” that I was trying to discuss here. For some that have emailed me, it is as if “hoping” will make it happen. Hoping hasn’t worked for me.

There is a long list of sacrifices and expenses that you will need to incur to make it in professional woodworking, and it will take many years to see your dream develop. The sooner you can figure out where you going, the faster you can get on that path, and avoid the numerous opportunities to take side roads and “Y’s”.

That was my thought on developing an “image”. I didn’t mean for it to come across that this meant anything about marketing a lie, or selling something you are not.

Sorry for the confusion,
Mark

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1971 posts in 2908 days


#13 posted 2478 days ago

Thanks folks, I wasn’t so much meaning to find out what “my” image on lumberjocks was from you, but more what you perceive as your own image management. I appreciate the feed back though, seriously I do. But, I wasn’t really thinking of making this Forum a “talk about Mark” discussion. It is embarrasing you know.

Developing an image is not lying, it is a strategically planned methodology for being the type of business person you want to be. Woodworking businesses are too small to work on a lie, as we will be found out too easy. People deal with us as people, not a corporation.

I had a boss one time that used to say several times a week, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” This was usually when he felt that he needed to make a decision that would hurt a person, but help the bottom line of the company. In my mind, there is no difference, people are who we do business with.

So, what I was really trying to develop here was the strategic thinking that I find most of us woodworkers don’t want to do. Namely, what type of woodworker do you “Want” to be.

This “image” will dictate everything from the type of tools you buy, the shop space you need, the location of your shop, the hours you need to dedicate to the craft, the training you need to buy, the projects you say “yes”, and “no” to, the shows you attend, whether you will have employees, and ultimately, where you will be in this business.

If you take whatever comes along, that people ask you for, you will end up somewhere different than you would have if you had taken the time to figure out what you wanted to build, and head that direction. I know this from experience. I ended up doing drywall and fences, for crying out loud.

What I am finding is that guys that email me who want to do something different with their careers, haven’t yet started any planning, or thinking about how to do it. They haven’t started networking yet, or developing an idea of how they will communicate to the “people” they will be doing business with. They don’t even know yet what type of woodworking they want to do.

Being a woodworker is a “strange” profession in this world now, and so People will naturally be interested and talked talk about you. What do you want them to tell each other about you and your work? What they talk about is really your “image.”

That is the “image” that I was trying to discuss here. For some that have emailed me, it is as if “hoping” will make it happen. Hoping hasn’t worked for me.

There is a long list of sacrifices and expenses that you will need to incur to make it in professional woodworking, and it will take many years to see your dream develop. The sooner you can figure out where you going, the faster you can get on that path, and avoid the numerous opportunities to take side roads and “Y’s”.

That was my thought on developing an “image”. I didn’t mean for it to come across that this meant anything about marketing a lie, or selling something you are not.

Sorry for the confusion,
Mark

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

638 posts in 2636 days


#14 posted 2478 days ago

OK Mark, My image. When people here the name Roger Strautman I want people to think beauty and quality. Carving is a little different animal than woodworking. I promote myself by sharing what I do with pictures in places like here at LJ, going to carving shows, and a few business cards. I don’t go looking for work it usually comes to me by word of mouth. I’m not sure I want this to become full time work because I have a fear that my now hobby will become work and I will loose that passion for it. I also want to make my visions not just something that people think they want. I just want people to smile at the beauty that I produce. Thank Mark!

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4433 posts in 2464 days


#15 posted 2463 days ago

Mark, I just found this and it is kinda late to weigh in on it but here goes. To me image is a developed thing which can include what you do and how you conduct yourself. Many years ago I worked very hard in the cowboy art movement. I met some very interesting and influencial people. Johnny Hampton, one of the founding members of the Cowboy Artists of America, told me one time while going over some of my paintings, ” The problem is that the cowboys call us artists and the artists call us cowboys!” Johnny was a character of vast proportions. He drank hard, played hard and laughed a lot. There may be some one who met him that didn’t like him but not many. We must remember that when we sell art we are also selling ourselves. The people who buy what we produce in all probabilty couldn’t make a brush stroke or glue two sticks together. They quite honestly may only have the ability to make a lot of money. ( I’ve occcasionally wished I could do that instead of this) Through us they are vicariously involved in the art world. This is how they indulge their creative urges. Many of them not only wish to have an object but also a relationship with the artist so that the artist becomes part of the conversation when they show off their lastest “Acquisition”.
So, we wind up with a two sided thing,this “Image”. One being our personna the other our”Opus” or works. Consider, if you will, how we perceive such people as Rembrant, Rodin, Frank Lloyd Wright or Gustave Stickley. Our perception is based not only on the work we’ve seen but also on the history we read about each of them.This combination creates an image in our mind’s eye of that person. If you are a fan of the Green Bros., you not only want to see their work but also want to know them and get inside their minds. In the end we cannot create our own image but we can influence it to a degree. Live as if every moment is being video taped for posterity.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

showing 1 through 15 of 55 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase