Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Can We Learn from Those Stats?

There has been some serious grousing lately on a discussion board. It is about statistics. This is a discussion that happens regularly anytime someone is trying to sell something, and is using the services of another company to facilitate that process. If the outcome is not meeting their expectations, there is the inevitable outcry...."Where are the buyers?" "We want to see the numbers...." Attendance, visits, who is visiting?..... Raise the cry, and you will be sure to hear the back up chorus chiming in, in full harmony. I have seen and heard this over and over again, for wholesale shows, retail shows, on-line outlets (EBay, Etsy, and, etc.

The latest discussion leaders want more statistics about the buyers. Who is coming? How often do they come? How often do they buy? The thinking seems to be that valuable information can be found in those statistics. If they had the statistics, they could then "prove" that the particular outlet is not performing. Or it is not their fault that things are not going the way they want. It is the quality of the buyers. The lack of buyers. The wrong buyers.

But at any of these places, you can also find artists who are connecting with buyers. Why? Is it because they are selling "cheap stuff"? Is it because they are lucky? There are endless reasons why they may be having more success than those who are focused on getting more statistics. But I am willing to guess that the main reason they are doing well, is they putting in the effort to promote their work. They are keeping their work fresh. They are constantly adjusting and adapting.

Etsy has become a hot place to sell your handcrafted work. But it takes a lot more than just putting up some pictures and waiting for the sales to come in. Successful sellers on Etsy are promoting their presence on Etsy elsewhere, on the web and off, and they are working the site. They are on the discussion boards. Showcasing their work. Active on the street teams. Success on Etsy just doesn't happen. It takes work.

At a retail show, you need to do the mailing, display your work to best advantage, and sell your work. Be present to the customer. Have a story to tell about your work, your inspiration, or your life as an artist. Have a good product at a fair price. Buyers are more selective than they may have been in the past. Being talented is not enough. In order to get a sale, you need to have the rest of the package in place.

On a site like it takes effort to get sales. You might as well just put $400 in an envelope and hand it to a stranger if you are not going to invest any other effort...or money...into making the site work to your best advantage. Being on the site is only the first step. Anyone who has an on-line shop with their website will tell you that you must be able to get the traffic to your site to be able to have a chance at making a sale. Likewise, on a site like, where there are over 1000 artists on the site, you need to do more than post images of your work to generate a sale. You need to keep your work fresh, run ads, online and in print. And being on the site doesn't mean you shouldn't be pursuing other opportunities off the site.

So, let's say the people raising the outcry get the statistics. And they find out that buyers are coming to the site. What then? Do they ask for a financial audit of the buyers? It must be that the buyers who are coming are just not buying enough stuff, right? Or they don't have a big enough budget to buy quality work.

It's the statistic thing again. Statistics can give us valuable information. But they don't eliminate the need to do the basic work. Develop a good product. Control your costs. Make sure you are doing the right shows, or are on the right sites for the work you are producing. Promote your work. And follow through. Be there for the sale. Better yet, exceed your customer's expectations. Those are the things that help you develop a following. And that, takes time.

I like statistics. They tell me a lot. But sometimes they tell me what I am doing is not working, and I need to do something differently if I want a different outcome. What are you looking to find in the numbers? Salvation? Justification? Or perhaps just a little information?


Tasha said...

I did a Google search on "artpreneur" and found your blog. LOVE IT! I added your link to my blogroll.

I see that you do some work with polymer clay. I've wanted to try it our myself, but I was concerned about how much the materials would cost. Is it expensive to get started?

Judy said...

Hi Tasha, Thanks for your comments. Polymer clay is very is all the tools and other materials that most polymer clay users start to accumulate that can start to add up a bit! The best thing to do is keep an eye out for the sales at the various craft stores, and buy your clay then. I would recommend getting a few good books as well.
Have fun....but be careful. It is highly addictive. :-)