Photos and text by Bruce Baker

 

There are always trends influencing our lives and our handmade businesses. There are also other trends that have been with us for a while, but many artists fail to embrace them. In my travels around the country doing workshops on craft marketing, I often find that artists are reluctant to use trends to their advantage. Rather than get behind a trend, they say "I don't do that." Others reject or ignore the trend by citing excuses like, "I don't have the time to ... ", or "I can't afford to ... ". If you're using excuses rather than getting on board, you're missing valuable opportunities to help grow your business.

While it's not likely that we will ever return to the days of copious consumption of the '90s, the economy is getting better; and opportunity abounds for those who are thinking with vision. Here are a few major trends guaranteed to help you increase your sales and get you closer to your personal goals--but don't wait, take advantage of them now!

1. You NEED to accept credit card payments
It continues to blow my mind that so many artists doing retail or wholesale shows do not accept credit card payments. I rarely meet a craft maker or artist who tells me they want to sell less. Most want to sell more of their art; and for most, selling more is at the top of their priority list. Yet many of these same people don't take credit cards. Sure, they accept personal checks, but what they don't realize is that customers are not carrying checkbooks with them anymore. If you want to sell more--fast, this is the first payment method you should add to your business. It is how your customers (particularly younger buyers) want to pay. Plus, they will often buy more and at a higher price point when you accept their cards. Most artists tell me that they get a twenty percent (or more) bump in their sales from the moment they hang that MC/Visa (or other) sticker in their booth!

It has never been easier to get merchant status to accept your customers' payments. Using a smart phone and a Square UP device, you can go from applying for merchant status to taking credit cards in your booth in less than a half an hour! It's easy, affordable, and there is really no excuse that makes sense not to accept credit cards.

Artist and Calligrapher, Galia Goodman, creatively displays her work at ACRE Orlando.


2. You NEED to invest in "pocket technology"
If you don't have a smart phone, you need one. Pocket technology is probably the biggest trend available to help any business. The time savings and organization options that these devices bring to your business are phenomenal.

Not only does my smart phone process credit card sales; it tracks receipts, it reads QR codes (more on these later), it gives directions, and it does a multitude of other useful tasks. If you choose the right device, you will also get one of the best cameras you've ever owned. I cannot believe the quality of photographs (and videos) that can be taken with an IPhone. My entire website was shot with my phone--while I was on vacation!

The possibilities and flexibility this technology offers is amazing. You can send photos or a video of you working on a piece to potential customers and convince them it is "just right" for their living room--all from your phone and without the use of a computer. You can even do it all while on the road!

For those of you already using smart phone technology, congratulations-- you've made a great business decision. I know some people are put off by the price of smart phone technology; or, more likely, many are intimidated by the learning curve. To that, I say "yes," there is a learning curve, but you will find it much easier and more intuitive than you think.

"After thirty years in retail shows, ACRE Orlando was my first wholesale adventure. Clueless about booth design for wholesale, I attended Bruce's (Baker) workshops. After consultation, I envisioned using ribbons and magnets to display my cards...eye-catching and colorful!"
Galia Goodman, www.galiagoodman.com

3. You NEED to utilize QR Codes
Like all technology, smart phone technology and capabilities are always evolving. Quick Response (QR) codes are an exciting result of such evolution. You've undoubtedly encountered QR codes popping up everywhere. They look like a postage stamp with a tiny quilt pattern and are usually displayed as part of an advertisement. In fact, there were at least 16 of them in the airline magazine in the seat pocket in front of me when I wrote this article.

QR codes are free and can be placed on ads, catalogues, business cards, etc. When read by a smart phone, the potential customer can be directed to a specific website, a YouTube video showing your product, or anywhere else you want them to land.

I encountered my first QR code two years ago on a potter's flyer. I read the code with my phone and it took me to a recipe for the blueberry cobbler that was featured in his handmade pie dish. My second encounter was with a waitress in a diner. On the table in front of me was a tent card with a QR code. I read it and BOOM, I was taken to her website. She was also a potter and had her entire line of wares in my face in a split second. I was able to shop her line as I waited for my food!

Jonathan's Spoons (www.woodspoon.com) use a "glorified table top display" incorporating a table top and walls behind it to make an efficient space and an inviting presentation.

4. You NEED to be creative
More artists are doing wholesale shows farther away from their studio base. With the high cost of gasoline, one can fly cheaper and more effectively to a show in Philadelphia, Orlando, or New York City if you live 1,500 or more miles away. This trend is giving rise to a whole new method of display that I call the "glorified table top display."

If you simply rent tables and put your work out on the tables, your sales will certainly suffer. I am seeing more and more people being very creative about the way they are designing and implementing lightweight, condensed displays. Such displays can go on an airplane or ship via Greyhound in just a few cartons, and when set up, they create a professional display that leaves the old table top display in the dust.

5. You NEED to embrace social media
Social media is certainly the wave of the future and shows no sign of slowing down. There are a lot of people out there who just want to put their heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn't exist or believe that they don't need it. However, everything I read on the topic pretty much says if you and your business are unwilling to embrace social media marketing, your business will be left in the dust.

I am certainly no expert on the topic as I have not yet made the most of this opportunity. Nevertheless, I see the benefits of social media each time I dip my toe into that water.

A friend who just opened a gallery posted a few photos of my jewelry on her website. In just a few hours, three of my high school classmates saw the photo and commented on it. This resulted in two of them requesting catalogues for holiday purchases. As a result of this experience, and many others like it, I've recently hired a young man to assist me in my social media marketing endeavors as I move forward.

Yes, it takes time, but like learning another language or skill--it gets easier every day and the opportunity to have the world as your customer base is pretty compelling motivation.


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