Saturday, September 15, 2007

Experimentation

I have a degree in chemistry. Lord only knows why! By the time I left school I knew I was not going to be a chemist. So I ended up working in sales for awhile, until I went on to get my MBA. Business school was infinitely more enjoyable for me than my years as an undergraduate. Yet, as I think about it, there are things I learned studying science that I bring to what I do now.

The scientific method is one of the essential lessons of any study of science or engineering. The scientific method goes something like this. Develop a question, idea or premise, otherwise known as your hypothesis. Set up an experiment, a way to test your hypothesis. In order for the experiment to be the most meaningful it should be absent of bias. Gather and analyze the data. Report the results. Reporting the results is an important part of the method, because an effective experiment results in reproducible results.

Let's say you set up some idea to test, and run your "experiments". What if the results do not come out as expected? The training a scientist recieves means that there is often an evaluation of why this was. And a new hypothesis, and set of experiments, and data gathering begins. Changing one variable. Gathering data about the results of this change.

I find I go through a modified version of this process all the time. Whether it is in my studio, or in my business. I am forever experimenting, trying things out, making adjustments incrementally and evaluating the outcome. What appeals to me about this methodology is that when things don't go as planned it encourages you to revisit and adapt. The experiment failed. I did not fail, personally. But my original idea or concept needs to be modified or adapted to get the results I was looking for.

My new line of work has been a process of continually experimenting, exploring, and adapting as it has evolved. As a business person I am forever testing, evaluating and trying things out.

With this testing and trying things out, it is important to get enough data before you assume something did not work. One run through is never sufficient data collection for a scientist. It is essential to repeat the experiment several times, at least, to get enough information to draw a conclusion.

One mistake I see artists make is with advertising. They may run an ad in a magazine one time. If they do not get results from that one effort, they decide it didn't work, and give up. In order to evaluate if the ad is effective, you really need to run it at least three times. I have made this mistake before, and I have since vowed that unless I have the financial resources to commit to doing this right, I won't run an ad.

At the show this weekend I am evaluating how people are responding to the new line of jewelry. Ooohing and aaahing. Trying things on. One woman commented that she hoped I left the show with no inventory, and just a big pile of money. Sounds good to me! There is a great deal of excitement about the work, but sales yesterday were lackluster.

There could be several explanation for this, so I will continue to gather data. It could be that yesterday's crowd was more conservative in their taste, and liked the work, but did not see themselves wearing it. When I noticed the jewelry coming into my booth yesterday, it was seldom bold or colorful. It could be the economy. I had lots of people talk about not being able to buy things right now. It could be the work is not as wearable as it needs to be. The lengths of some of the earrings came into question a few times. Of course, when solutions were offered, generally people decided that no, they did not want the alternative. It was the long earring that appealed to them. So today I will continue to observe, collect data, and see what happens.

In addition, I am here without my cranes. I have developed a solid base of wholesale accounts for the cranes. I have three orders that need to go out next week. Selling a lot of cranes here, would have made filling those orders next week more challenging. And, more importantly, they might be a distraction. It may be time to make the cranes strictly a wholesale item.

A conversation with Laura Timmins led me to test this out. Laura is a dynamo. I would happily spend a day picking her brain, if I could, about all things sales. She made the observation that by having multiple items in my booth I could be hurting my sales overall. This is the premise. Someone is looking at a pair of earrings. She overhears a conversation I am having about the cranes with another customer. Her attention is now on the cranes, and not the earrings. When the conversation about the cranes ends, she has a disconnect with the earrings and the cranes. The earrings get put down, and she leaves my booth, having learned about cranes, but not buying the earrings she was interested in.

I am already faced with two lines of jewelry in my booth that are quite a bit different. But I juried in with the old line, and so I am obliged to have that work in my booth. And I have my vessels. Throwing the cranes into the mix might just be over the top in terms of attention, and frankly, space. As it is, I find myself talking more about the new work, and resisting be drawn into lengthy discussions about the old work.

This is not an ideal experiment, because I am adding new work at the same time as I am taking the cranes away. I had three people come looking for cranes yesterday. No cranes. Did I make the right decision? I don't know, but I do know it is too early to tell, and I think the idea of focusing has merit.

I don't wear a lab coat. But I guess I am a scientist at heart on another level. Always experimenting. Trying to figure out a better solution. How about you? Have you run any experiments lately? Do you find yourself using a process like this?

1 comment:

tammy vitale said...

I find myself ready to do nothing but experimenting right now, turning away from the last few years of getting percentages with shops who display my work - moving toward wholesale (I hope). If not that, then trying out commissioned sales people. It ALL feels like starting all over and yet I believe it's the right direction given today's market.