Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Can You Afford NOT to Advertise?

Do you do advertising?

Where, and how often?

Advertising can be a leap of faith. It is often hard to measure the effectiveness of an ad, at least in the short-term. And ads will often need to have repeated exposure to maximize their effect.

I am relying more and more on advertising now that I have focused on wholesale, and have virtually eliminated the retail side of my business. With a disciplined approach, and some effective images, ads can definitely work.

I do most of my advertising through They offer a few options. One is their Buyer's Guide, which is like a catalog of craft artists. It has ads ranging in size from full page to 1/12 of a page. I have run 1/12 , 1/6, 1/3, and soon will be running a full page ad in the Guide. And I have found, size matters, as does repetition. The most recent guide went out a few weeks ago, and I came back from New York with three messages on my machine, and continued to get calls through the week. Not all are placing orders, and the orders placed have been conservative. No surprise there.

But part of what has helped me is that I am sticking with the advertising, in spite of being fully aware of how bad the economy is right now. The last Buyer's Guide was the thinnest I can recall seeing. Especially for that time of year. I had a third of a page ad, and it got noticed. People are asking for information, visiting my page on, and placing orders. Three good measures of an ad's effectiveness. With less ads, it is easier to be seen. With pictures that I know work well, it is easier to get a good outcome.

I debated whether I should run another ad in the next issue which will go out in September. I finally decided that I should. People will place orders for the holidays, although they are likely to be smaller and later. And from the sounds of it, fewer artists will be running ads. I was offered the chance to bump up to a full page ad at a terrific price. It was a no-brainer. Yes.

The biggest obstacle to the decision is truly psychological. Am I the type of artist who would run a full page ad? In other words, had I crossed some imaginary line in my head that gave me permission to be so bold? No, but I decided I needed to do it anyway. Act as if. The best part is that I had fewer creative limitations. I could design the ad myself. I love doing that sort of thing, and spent too much time this weekend designing and refining my ad.

In addition to the Buyer's Guide I often run a co-op ad in Niche magazine. Niche goes to galleries across the country who purchase handcrafted work. My target market. I get a better price by doing a co-op ad with And I get exposure to the market that would be most interested in buying my work. It has led to some terrific accounts.

How can I afford it? I guess I have come to see I can't afford not to. If I hold back from advertising, I will disappear into the ether. Visibility matters if you want to sell your work. It is about seeing your work as a product, rather than an extension of yourself, and then doing what it takes to make sure that your market sees your work, and knows about it. I have said this before, and I likely will say it again. Marketing your work is a bit like dating. Sitting at home waiting for Prince Charming to come knocking on the door is about as effective as making your work and waiting to be discovered. Might happen. But, probably not. It takes effort. It takes putting yourself out there for others to see. Simply listing your work on, Etsy, or Trunkt is not enough.

Sellers on Etsy rely on the Showcase, and Treasuries to be seen. Flickr users will often join many groups where they can post their pictures to increase their exposure. I have come to look at the expense of advertising as the equivalent to the booth fee at a retail show, with less wear and tear on my body and my work. It takes time to build an audience for your work, but given enough patience and time, and yes, money, it is possible.

What do you do to have your work seen?


Elaine said...

Recognizing that I'm operating from a much smaller profile - I am not prepared, for example, to move to a primarily wholesale setup yet - I use smaller, grassroots advertising.

I view my small, retail only shows in the community as my best advertising - handing out business cards, pamphlets and basically being enthusiastic about polymer clay and it's possibilities (I teach, in addition to selling pieces) and presenting attractive well finished pieces.

Online, it is more of a keeping up a cohesive, regular presence. I use a similar or identical handle for all the sites I join, try to use quality, clear images and keep refreshing and renewing my presence.

For what it's worth - the artists I've spoken to regarding Etsy's showcases (a paid advertising) have had 0 to small results. It's difficult to diagnose how much of a result because Etsy offers no statistics at all to its vendors. The overall concensus among the regulars there is that Etsy functions best as a destination to bring existing customers from other locales and that on Etsy purchases are just icing.

Judy said...

Thank you for your detailed and extensive response, Elaine. I agree that shows are definitely a forum for advertising your work. If you sell on-line, it can be great follow up for people who saw you at a show. Sounds like you have a good sense of how to reach your customers, and communicate your message. Thanks for sharing your approach.

Tammy Vitale said...

Judy - thanks for dropping me a line re - I hit the wrong button and erased your email, but knew I could find you here. And what an appropriate post - I've been wondering about Etsy for a long time myself! Nice to chat!

Free classifieds said...

Interesting post. I'm not an expert on magazine advertising but generally it's a lot more expensive than utilising the internet for promoting your business.

It can definately work for some but the overheads of advertising in a magazine can be crippling (especially producing a worthy advert)

How do you guage your return on investment when you advertise in a magazine?.. do you literally ask every customer where they got your details from?