Category: Show Business

Low-Budget Dazzle

It takes approximately 1,000 watts of bright white light to illuminate a 10-by-10-foot space and properly knock out the shadows and make the art for sale dazzle. It continues to amaze me that many artists do not utilize this...

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6 Simple Tricks to Make Money and Beat the Economy

Since the financial collapse of October 2008, artists no doubt have been more challenged to sell their work than any time since the Great Depression. The recent financial collapse was a low blow to all businesses, but was particularly damaging to the business of selling art. Unfortunately, this happened in combination with the first wave of aging boomers deciding to downsize. Many of these boomers are moving into smaller dwellings, while others are ridding themselves of their acquired possessions from the last four decades. These factors alone would bring the sales of art objects to an all-time low, but add the lethal punch of the annihilation of the middle class. This is the demographic that has carried the United States economy for the past 40 years, and with its demise comes dismal art sales, mostly because consumers have been forced to shift their spending away from art purchases to pay for basic necessities. Many “middle-class individuals” are more concerned with hanging on to their home or putting food on the table, paying for healthcare or funding a retirement plan. All of these priorities trump buying art for the home or personal adornment.cohdra_100_2936

 

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Make Your Sales POP

There is nothing more you could do to add power and punch to your merchandising scheme for increasing sales than to use a point of purchase (POP) display. I can guarantee that using this merchandising method will increase your sales, for retail and particularly for wholesale. The POP is an unpaid and silent salesperson that gets your customers to notice your products. A well-designed display and engaging graphics will tell your story and help give you brand recognition better than any method I know. Plus, customers will buy more when they buy from a POP. This is particularly true with items that need to be explained or demonstrated for the customers to “get it!” Point of purchase displays are not right for all types of merchandise. But, generally, lower-end items, such as cards, soap, mugs, and toys, will fly out of your booth or the stores you sell to.pop 1

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6 Simple Tricks to Make Money and Beat the Economy

Since the financial collapse of October 2008, artists no doubt have been more challenged to sell their work than any time since the Great Depression. The recent financial collapse was a low blow to all businesses, but was particularly damaging to the business of selling art.
Unfortunately, this happened in combination with the first wave of aging boomers deciding to downsize. Many are moving into smaller dwellings, while others are ridding themselves of acquired possessions. These factors alone would bring the sales of art objects to an all-time low, but add to it the annihilation of the middle class. This is the demograph­ic that has carried the United States economy for the past 40 years, and with its demise comes dismal art sales, mostly because consumers have been forced to shift their spending away from art purchases to pay for basic necessities. Many “middle-class individuals” are more concerned with keeping their home or putting food on the table, paying for healthcare or funding a retirement plan. All of these priorities trump buying art for the home or personal adornment.
As if all these factors combined were not enough, throw in the news media telling the nation and millions of viewers to be frugal and not to be a conspicuous consumer. We were literally told to simplify, downsize, go Green and recycle. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of taking care of the environment, but this “new frugality” has had a negative effect on our art-based businesses.
Add it all up and the picture looks bleak for selling handmade objects. Most of what we hear about artists selling their work these days is pretty negative. Yet I keep meeting and consulting with artists who are doing surprisingly well and posting increased sales, while other artists are posting business growth despite the current condition of the economy. How can it be that some are doing well while others are faltering? I have been giving this a lot of thought lately and asking artists what the secrets are for their surprising success. Here are a few of the common threads I have sewn together to help you with your own businesses:
1 Only exhibit at shows that are worthwhile There are tons of shows across the county, but they are not all created equally. Some draw a crowd that buys art and others draw a customer base that is only there to be entertained. Shows are expensive to exhibit at, not to mention the required energy output, the time away from making product and the relentless setting up and breaking down. It is the same amount of work to do a show where you lose your shirt as it is to do a show that yields positive cash flow.
2 Refine your jury submission images To get into better shows, you need an impressive product line with a theme and focus, as well as exemplary digital images that project your professionalism. It is tragic to see how poor most artists’ images are. Sadly, it is the exception rather than the norm to see images for the jury that are professional and impressive. Sending in inferior images to be juried is not the formula to get into good shows.
Designing work that has a “visual impact” and getting it professionally shot by a photographer who knows how to create great jury images can be a challenge. Good art badly photographed will always gets rejected—a huge lost opportunity for the artist. One of the first ways to create a better business is to make better work and have it photographed so it has a focus with a strong artist’s identity.
3 Make what customers want Once you get into a good show, you need to be well-armed with an inventory of sellable merchandise. By sellable merchandise I mean the kind of merchandise that customers want to buy. Too many artists are creating work that customers might admire, but do not necessarily want to own! Herein lies the key: Make art that people want to own and your sales will increase. This seems to be what separates the wheat from the chaff and is the key factor in creating a successful creative business today.
Creating work that customers want to buy is a lofty challenge for sure, but it can be done because I encounter artists who are having good sales every week. A bit of trend research can help you get to the core of what people are buying and will help you make art that is easier to sell.
Ever since the ’70s, American consumers have wanted art and objects of adornment so much that they were willing to buy just about anything we made. At the Rhinebeck Show in New York, the first American Craft Council show, customers wanted what we made so badly they would go to the show office and have us paged if we wandered away from our booth for too long! That is unlikely to happen today.
Throughout this period, many artists adopted the “belief” that they were entitled to make anything they wanted to and customers were obligated to buy it. And at the time, there were enough customers to make that paradigm work. (Of course, an artist is entitled to make anything they want or to make art for art’s sake. But if you want to sell it, you need to consider the market forces or you will end up with a huge inventory of your own work.)
4 Create functional products One of the biggest trends currently affecting successful businesses is the trend for function. Items that have a use are just plain easier to sell than items that have no apparent purpose than to be decorative. Look at your current inventory with an eye toward what in your line has a use. Then you must be able to clearly articulate to your customers the benefits and functionality of your art.
If you take a hard look at what you make and find an implied function in that work, look your customer in the eye and say, “When you hang this on your wall, I hope it brings you the peace and joy it did for me when I created it!” Or, “When you see the light sparkling from that amethyst, it will make you happy.” Or, “This sculpture will be the focal point of the living space you place it in!” All of these comments have a benefit to the customer, and that is a function. For items that have an apparent function, you need to be very clear and verbally communicate that information to customers. To say, “This is a Brie Cheese Baker,” is not enough. Instead, say, “The advantage to a Brie Cheese Baker is that it keeps the cheese contained so it doesn’t run all over, but also keeps it warm throughout cocktail hour,”—this is a benefit customers can sink their teeth into.
5 Impress your customers It is easy to find function in functional objects, but it is a much bigger challenge to find function in decorative ones. People buy art because they love it and it makes them feel good, but an underlying reason why people buy art and handmade things is to impress other people. If your art is not impressive, it will be much harder to sell.
The best way to a better business is to make impressive art and learn to talk about it so it impresses the customer. It will be easier to sell and attract more people to your booth when your art is impressive. And whenever you have customers in your booth, they draw even more customers in.
6 Learn from what works Here is a short list of the kinds of objects artists are having success with:
• Art that is large-scale
• Impressive products
• Handmade products created or sold in sets—such as nesting bowls or groupings of objects
• Calming, serene and natural art
• Art that moves or is kinetic
• Products that relate to food, dining or food preparation
• Items that are for or related to pets
• Crafts that are for or related to children or grandchildren
• Works that are simple and elegant
• Brightly colored art that incorporates jewel tones
• Functional products
Take a look at this list and see how you can incorporate some of these product types into the art you create. You, too, will see, just like the successful artists I gleaned this information from, that it will boost your sales and you will see more people in your booth and better cash flow. Make what you love, make it “on-trend” and use these tips to help you sell!TCR

moneySince the financial collapse of October 2008, artists no doubt have been more challenged to sell their work than any time since the Great Depression. The recent financial collapse was a low blow to all businesses, but was particularly damaging to the business of selling art.

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Bruce Baker’s Show Tips for 2011

Greetings. Can you believe another year has flown by? Here are my show tips for the new year—I hope that all of you have amazing business growth in 2011!
There are so many clichés that fit the times: “It is always darkest before the dawn,” and “If you are going through hell keep going!” to name a couple. Things are getting better, you have to believe that, but it will most likely take a little time for you to feel it in your wallet or your bank account.
Here are a few smart tips for 2011that will help create a better business in the process.
Did you ever notice when you are at a show or any sales event there is always one person who seems to get most of the business? That individual who has “gravity” and pulls people into their space while people line up to buy? With the right kind of thinking, that could be you. You, too, can be that person who arrives at a show (be it a craft show or gallery) and clearly dominates the event with one sale after another.
My tips for 2011 are focused on making you that person. You can do it!
If you know how to arm yourself and put good business practices to work, you can have all the business you want. If you play the victim, you are bound to fail—everyone is a victim of something. Yes, the economy is weak in most parts of the country, yet I meet people every week who are bucking the odds and seeing significant business growth. If you have the right attitude and good vision, you, too, can have a growing business even in this lame economy.
I have attended many workshops, conferences and trade shows this year and I have to say I have learned far more than I have ever thought possible about what it takes to make a good business great , and sometimes it boils down to attitude.
What I have learned this year from talking and consulting with successful artists is that business is not rocket science. Do the logical thing and customers will follow. It sounds easy, but it is true. A “can-do” attitude armed with good information is a formidable task but also a recipe for success.
Here are some tips to help you get there:
For your mindset
Just like a reptile, shed your skin and rid yourself of all thoughts that place you in a victim role. If you find you are telling a story to yourself (in your head) or to others about loss and lack, that is a victim stance. The victim role is powerless and will not help you. If you are reciting to others about how shows or sales are down, you are buying into victim mentality and it will not serve you as well as seizing your power and figuring out how to make things better.
Lose the tendency to be a victim at all costs; it is a nowhere, dead-end street for business growth and sales. There are winners and artists who are experiencing business growth even in these tough times—this is a reality. It is easier said than done to turn your thinking and dialog around, but through constant vigilance you can change the way you think.
When I meet these successful individuals, I always try to figure out what makes their business a success when so many are struggling. As I have toured the country this year, this is what I have learned is the key to their success: Pick and choose the topics that work for you. Once you decide what direction to take, you must commit and be disciplined to reap the rewards. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way to improving your quality of life both personally and professionally.
You, too, can build a better business as you move forward through 2011.
For your life
Don’t whine, grouse or complain. This type of dialog zaps your creativity and only helps to bring your business down, especially at shows. When artists are “bummed out,” they bring the customers down with them and this does not put the customer in a mood to buy. Approach every show, every day and every hour as a new and positive opportunity and you will see the difference in your cash box almost immediately.
For your booth
Build a “brand” with your business. We are a brand society; customers are brand-loyal and as an artist you are not exempt from this phenomenon. This is not the first time I have mentioned this, but I am bringing it up again as many, if not most, artists still do not realize the importance of this important trend in our culture. Build a brand! It is not that difficult, but it is important that your customers recognize you and know who you are.
Start with a trade sign with a good logo, one that is easily recognizable and that speaks to your business and the style of your work. Something easy to remember, easy to recognize graphically and easy to pronounce is a good place to start.
The more you display the sign, the more people will recognize you and your brand. Customers are creatures of habit; they will be drawn in if they remember you from a previous show. Many times what draws them in is not your work but your branding.
Once you have good graphics for your business, these images have to be consistent throughout. Business cards, order forms and mailings should all have these consistent images to help build your brand.
Brand your packaging so that when people buy your work and carry it around, others see your brand is being purchased. This can be as simple as a printed sticker that you put on a shopping bag or jewelry box.
Also, encourage people to tweet about you. There are a myriad of social networking sites and if you can get people in your space to talk about you, it is good for business as long as what they say is positive.
Any kind of in-booth promotion you can do costs little to nothing. For example, you might be doing a show and announce that you have a class starting in a few weeks—encourage people to sign up and give them a discount or benefit.
For your digital images/slides
After attending the ZAPPlication Conference this fall, I saw firsthand how the digital era has changed the quality of images for juried shows. The technology that is out there, both in terms of hardware and software, is daunting. It can be hard to keep up.
Consider getting professional help with your digital images. Good shows are hard to get into and the artists who get in have incredible slides. Trust me, you will get into more shows by using the advice of a professional.
For your sales
Learn the language of sales and be sincere when you are selling. So much of our “sales culture” is an insincere “schmooze” and customers can see through it from ten paces away.
Remember to wait for customers to ask you a question or engage you in conversation before you start to sell to them. Customers like to deal with warm, friendly people who engage in eye contact and smiles.
Customers will buy more in an environment that is lively and exciting; it is a part of your job as a salesperson to create that excitement. Energy and enthusiasm are the keys to stimulating people to buy when they are in your booth. When you create this “vibe,” more people are drawn in and more sales are transacted.
Consider functionality when you design and describe your products. Objects that have a function are so much more likely to sell in the current economic climate. Functionality is totally on-trend and anyone who makes functional objects will tell you that items with a purpose or specific use are easier to sell.
So much of what we make has no apparent function, so we as artists have to use language to get the point across. To say to a customer, “When you hang this on your wall it will bring you so much tranquility,” is a function. So learn to load your words with “benefits” to the customer. “When you put this in your garden, it will be the focal point of your backyard,” is a function, but you have to make it clear to the customer—well-chosen words are the key.
Use current and future trends to make objects that people want to buy! Trend tracking is easy with a computer; a Google search for the word “trends” will turn up a wealth of information. If you know about a trend and make design decisions to speak to that trend, you will have products that are in higher demand.
Here are just a few current trends to get you thinking:
Large—people with the money to buy art generally want something large because they live in large spaces.
Kinetic—several galleries I worked with in the last few months told me everything they had that had movement outsold stationary pieces by far.
Light-emitting—the category of decorative lighting is really hot right now. Thanks to advancements in LED lighting, many artist are adding illuminated elements to their work with good results.
I have given you a lot of tips to help you get to that place of being the artist at a show who is getting all the business. It is a long list and no doubt will take some time to put in motion, but what I have described here is what is making success and growth for the people who are doing well at shows.
At the ZAPPlication Conference I heard a profound quote: “If money is your problem, you don’t have a problem. The problem is you don’t have enough vision! When you have enough vision, the money will follow!
Put those wise words to work for you, and have a great year in 2011. I hope to meet many more of you on the road this year at a show or a workshop.TCR
Bruce Baker is a jeweler, gallery owner and nationally
recognized expert on booth design. Visit his website at www.bbakerinc.com.

dollarsDid you ever notice when you are at a show or any sales event there is always one person who seems to get most of the business? That individual who has “gravity” and pulls people into their space while people line up to buy? With the right kind of thinking, that could be you. 

How to Create Your Own Brand Identity at a Craft Show

Selling at shows or in galleries revolves around three things:
• Impeccably crafted, creative and innovative products designed to be “on trend” and developed to fill customers’ needs sell well. Products have to be the right look, scale, color, weight and an entire list of other criteria to make them desirable.
In this current business climate, functionality, be it real or implied, is a big factor in what people are buying. You are more likely to sell a customer something in this era if it has a use. If that use is only to make the customer feel good, it must be made obvious to them.
• You must be a good salesperson to make the most out of any sales venue. So many sales are blown in the greeting stage because artists don’t know how to sell their work. Sales are a language-based skill—when you learn to use effective language when selling, your sales volume will increase.
• The third element in the trinity of a sale is visual merchandising. Creating displays that cap­ture the customer’s attention, draw them into your space and sell your work is the objective! This third element is the focus here. How does one create compelling displays without spending a lot of money? When it comes to displays, it isn’t about how much money you spend, but rather about how creatively you showcase your work.
I always find it so interesting that as creative as artists are with regard to designing their work, when it comes to displaying it, they often take the easy-street approach. Many say, “I am just not good at display,” and give up. If you use shows to market your work, display is a part of your job. Currently, I am seeing a movement where artists are buying commercially available display systems that can be quick and easy, but the net result is that too many booths look exactly alike. This makes it hard for the customer to distinguish what is compelling about your product line, and makes it hard for you to build a recognizable brand.
When customers see you at a show, the visual of your booth should be the projection of a recognizable look—a brand identity. When customers see you at the next show, there should be a connection and memory of your display, your work and your image. I am not criticizing commercial displays or the use of them, this approach is right for some. However, the displays that I see grabbing the attention of customers are almost always custom-made.
Displays that employ conscious design decisions that work with the product line go a long way to create that special look—one that will resonate with customers. Effective custom-built displays not only create a mood and look that is unique to your line, but they also clearly distinguish you from your competition. Good design in your display will result in a sales tool that works for you, your customers and your product line better than any commercially available display.
By using careful and creative display solutions, you can save a lot of money compared to commercially available displays. Do not be afraid to use the same creativity in designing your booth as you use to create your work. If you are daunted by how you will build it, get someone to build it for you.
The first rule is that the display must work with the merchandise and vise versa. Plus, the display must speak to your ultimate customer who will buy the product. Sales will suffer if the demographic you are trying to sell to cannot relate to your colors or even the look of your booth. Keep in mind, your display should stimulate the senses.
The visual sense of your display needs to be one that will draw customers in to your space. Meaning, they will cross that imaginary line between the aisle and the front of your booth. The second sense that needs to be tweaked is the sense of touch. When your displays prompt your customers to touch something, you will see a spike in your sales.
An effective booth must get the customers to stop, take notice and be drawn into your space. When they do come in, something has to hold their attention and get them to touch the products. Your well-honed sales skills should take over at this point and, if you are effective, you will close a sale.
Too many booths send the message “look but do not touch.” Or sometimes things are displayed in such a way that the message is sent that you shouldn’t touch—key among these are shelves that are too deep, tables that are too wide and if the product line is out of easy reach. In most cases with commercial systems, you cannot determine the depth of a shelf (they mostly come as one size fits all).
Custom displays (ones designed by you) have so many advantages over commercially available systems. Realize that first of all, display isn’t “rocket science”—that is really all you need to know to empower yourself to be a display designer. If you go to a couple shows, stores or galleries and observe what creates visual magic, you will realize that you have what it takes to be a display designer. By analyzing your findings and asking a few questions, you will determine what works and what doesn’t. Then, reinterpret all your observations into a design that works for you, your product line and your customers—one that helps you build your brand.

booth-brand-identitySelling at shows or in galleries revolves around three things: 
• Impeccably crafted, creative and innovative products designed to be “on trend” and developed to fill customers’ needs sell well… 
• You must be a good salesperson to make the most out of any sales venue…
• Creating displays that capture the customer’s attention, draw them into your space and sell your work is the objective…

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How to Get Customers 4x More Likely to Buy

basilsign

Once a customer holds something in their hands, they are four times more likely to buy it.

Many times it is the sign that gets them to stop and take notice, and then to interact with the product. This is the key. To convince passersby to look more closely, or better yet to pick it up! When used in retailing, signs are often referred to as “silent salesmen.”

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From the Floor Up

 

show-business-october-2008-2Flooring can make or break your entire display. Its potential to attract customers into your booth and keep them there cannot be underrated. When I do booth evaluations at both outdoor and indoor shows, I frequently see someone who has meticulously crafted their work and gone to great efforts to build a fantastic display, but has omitted a floor covering. Usually when I tell someone during an evaluation that they need a floor covering, they say, “I have one, I just didn’t bring it.” This is a terrible error and no place to cut corners if you want to make the most out of a merchandising opportunity. The floor is so important that it should not be an afterthought or an element to be overlooked altogether.

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Start Wholesaling in June!

Start Wholesaling in June!

Expert advice from Diane Sulg of CRAFT will get you started in wholesaling the right way.

 

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