word to mouth
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With todays technology being a designer, artist, author… has become easy, not just in regards to production but also in regards to distribution. Nowadays we sit in front of our mean machines and create, then upload it and sell it all around the world through cyberspace. Yet many, especially newcomers, will quickly realize that is isn’t as easy as they thought. I know, I was shocked by how hard it is to make a sale. And, in most cases it has nothing to do with the quality of the design, rather with the fact that it’s hard to get word out that you even exist.
When you take a closer look at the distributers you chose, you’ll see most of them have thousands, some even millions of designers trying to make a sale. As much as internet and cyberspace gave us opportunity, it also gave us competition in equal measure.
I know my family laughs and snickers every time I get an email letting me know I made a sale, because I whoop, clap my hands, and do a little happy dance each time. They tease me about it, because after all, it’s just five, ten or twenty dollars. The thing is, those sales are still quite rare, for I’m one in a see of designers, each unique with their own style and ideas. I could now launch into a collection of ideas of how to promote your business online, but I’m not. What I’m going to say is something my mom used to say to me when I was little… “get out of the house!” Or in this case more correctly… “get out of the cyberworld!”
For those who don’t know me, I’m a typical introvert and most of the time rather antisocial. Yet, about two years ago, I decided to try out taking part in a mini mall around Christmas time. What I expected was lots of awkward moments where I would be forced to talk to people, and no sales. What I got was, a lot of awkward moment that I overcame and talked to people and several sales. In those two days of mini mal I sold more then I had sold in six months online, and back then I only had my books, some bookmarks, and some Christmas Cards. I made enough to pay for my table, food, drink and had some profit.
Encouraged by that experience but sadly incapable of figuring out how to find more of those kinds of events I tried again this winter season. This time not only with the two days of mini mall around Christmas, but with going to a bazar every month.
Now, the thing about going outside of cyberspace is that you need merchandise to present and sell. Meaning, unlike selling online, you have to make an investment. Since I have not much of an budget carrying a large inventory is hard. Yet even with just a small inventory I managed to make a profit during those five bazars. It wasn’t much, but what was even more interesting was that my online sales went up as well. It’s called word to mouth. When people see a friend wear one of your shirts, they might like one as well. If they see your art on the wall of their mother, they might want some of yours as well.
But there is more then just those kind of events, but let’s start with them.
If you’re not as shy and hesitant as me, go out and use your outgoing personality to ask around about bazar, flea markets, farmer markets (something I will do this year) and arts and crafts sales. Depending on the art you’re doing a comic con might even be of interest and a good stomping ground to make an impact with your art.
If you like me, don’t have a large budget to show a large inventory, just order a handful of shirts, prints, mugs or whatever you want to sell. That way you have examples of how they look. Then assemble a catalogue or if you have the means let a slide show run on your lap top to showcase all your designs and offer that customers can order them.
As to how to find those events, I found the once I participated in by flipping through the newspaper. Others like the bazar I found by accident as I went into the bathroom of the place hosting it. Talk to people, would be my guess is helpful as well.
Now, those events are often just once or in certain intervalley during a season. Yet you want to sell all year long, right? I know I want to. So… what else can we do outside of cyberspace?
Take a walk through your town, or if it’s a 500 soul town, take one through the next largest one. I bet there are shops that for example sell gifts, at least on the side. Maybe a clothing store, or one specialized in interior decorating, hell even our computer store sells T-shirts on the side. So don’t shy away from a place that doesn’t seem to fit, in the end it might. Take a selection of your shirts, prints, posters, mugs, and such and show them, ask them to sell them for you or in consignment. Some might order them themselves. However, consignment sales are more likely in the beginning.
If you sell canvas prints, photo prints and such check around if there is an arts council or gallery around and ask if they would display your art, maybe even sell it for you. If you have library, coffee shop or tea house ask there as well. Floral shops often sell gifts and decoration on the side, check them out as well.
There are tons of opportunities outside of cyberspace, take advantage of them wherever and whenever you can. I often, actually almost always, have a small selection of merchandise in my car. Stored safely away in a box.
If you can afford it, bestow a shirt or mug or bag to a friend, family member or co-worker. If they like and wear it, others will see it and ask where they can buy one.
If you have ideas of your own, that I didn’t have, feel free to add them in the comment section. Who knows maybe we’ll even see each other one day of one of those events mentioned.