Thursday, January 24, 2008

A New Focus

I have made a decision to focus on selling wholesale this year. My decision has come from several vantage points. First, I have seen terrific growth in this area of my business, and I want to be able to continue that growth. Second, retail shows have been more problematic for me.

Retail shows are a terrific way to get a first hand reaction to your work. This can be misleading and confusing though. I have had shows where the work flew out of my booth, and another show with the same work was dismal. Which information was correct? Both, most likely. Demographics, flucuations in the economy, weather, and many other factors can effect the outcome of a show. My energy level, or my display can also have an effect.

And retail shows are time consuming. Before the show I typically will do a mailing. This means updating my mailing list, printing out labels, and stamping postcards. A day to pack things up and organize. A day to travel and set up. Three days at a show, tearing down and traveling home on that last day. Crash and burn for at least a day. A week out of the studio. If the show was great, this was a week well spent. If not, it was a week away from family, and out of the studio. Then there are sales taxes to be paid, credit card sales to be entered, unloading the van, and putting everything away again. And more names to add to the mailing list.

In the past, I have felt unable to really think through, and follow through on developing a consistent and cohesive marketing plan for my work. It has been catch as catch can. Part of why I want to try focusing just on wholesale this year is because I want to be able to give enough attention to marketing that it can be more effective, and opportunities are not dropped or lost for lack of follow through.

Here is part of what I want to do;

1. Mailings. I still will do postcard mailings, but now they will be to galleries, and planned to promote some sort of special offer. A call to action, if you will. I also plan to mail out my new catalog to anyone who as ordered from me in the past or has asked for information. It will build on the past interest, and perhaps generate some sales. Too often in the past, I would send out a catalog after an inquiry, but leave it at that. I will make use of the mailing list of galleries I have built up over the last three years.

2. Newsletters. This is a step I have already begun. I sent out my first e-newsletter this week using Mail Chimp. They have a 30 day free trial, and flexible pricing plan that works for my volume and frequency. And it works! I had an order within 12 hours of my first mailing. I plan to send one out every other month, alternating with the postcard mailing. Not all galleries even use e-mail. But for those that do, it is a great way to stay in touch and let them know what is new with your work. These newsletter services would work well for retail as well. The nice thing about services such as Mail Chimp, or Constant Contact, is that they tell you how many people opened your email. How many times, and which links people clicked on. They clean up the list automatically, removing bounced e-mails. You could do this your self with a standard e-mail, but the background information is helpful to gauge the success of your newsletter.

3. Advertising. One of the tenets of effective advertising is repetition. Some people will contact you with the first advertisement. But others will have to see your ad repeated times before they take action. In the last year, I focused my advertising dollars on the Buyer's Guide put out by It is open to anyone who is on their site, and it goes out four times a year. I had planned to only do two ads last year, but ended up going with four. I also increased the size of my ad. The results were well worth the expense.

This year I plan to run ads in at least one, maybe two periodicals on an on-going basis. I am starting with Niche magazine, put out by the Rosen Group, and sent to galleries. I can run a co-op ad, again through, and gain broader exposure for my work.

What I have learned in the last year of running the ads in the Buyer's Guide is that I get a different clientele contacting me as a result of these ads. I get phone calls from galleries who do not visit the website, and do not want to place an order on-line. They prefer to talk to me on the phone. Perhaps have a catalog to peruse at their leisure. Some customers love the flexibility of ordering on-line, but others prefer a different approach. Being able to respond to all the various styles of your clientele is important.

4. Wholesale show(s). I will be doing the ACRE show in Las Vegas again this year. This show gave me exposure to buyers who like to come and see and touch the work in person before placing an order. Doing the show last year took me out of my comfort zone, but was well worth every minute of anxiety.

My approach to this is pretty much like it has been all along with my business. It is a trial. An experiment. I will allow myself this year of focus and see what happens. I may even do a retail show or two this year. But maybe not. I like the idea of traveling only once this year to do the wholesale show. I like the idea of taking the money I would have spent on retail shows this year, and using it to boost my advertising, and exposure.

I will let you know how this experiment works out. I am sure I will have more adjustments to make next year, but I feel like I have a map for the coming year. Each time we try something new, we learn new things. We may learn that it doesn't work for us, but we know it with certainty rather than fear.

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