Marketing Your Creations, Products and Inventions
My Passion to Help Creators Marketing their Creations
As a semi-retired sales rep to the gift industry, my heart is and has always been in helping professional craftspeople, artisans, producers and small manufacturers market their products. I am not a artist or crafter in any sense of the word, but have learned and developed ways to marketing handcrafted items -- especially on the web!
Being an "at home" entrepreneur living in a small country town in Idaho, learning to be self-sufficient is a part of life -- and learning to market is an essential part of this style of life. My greatest experience is in the gift market, but most of marketing your products translates into any industry.
If you are a budding or new entrepreneur and want to learn some of the tips I have learned over the years about marketing, stick around ....
Marketing Your Products Quick Start Guide
Selling at Craft Fairs ....
.... Good place to start
One of the first and best places to start market your handcrafted wares is at a craft fair, farmers market or community/holiday event. Most buyers will be expecting handmade items and will give you a chance to see if there is a demand for your items.
Live events, such as these, are also great venues for getting feedback on your products. If you are at a community event, buyers may even know you and can give you some honest feedback. Maybe your packaging needs tweaking or maybe the color is just wrong .... good to know as you formulate your line of products.
Some tips on managing your craft booth:
1. Engage everyone that comes by your both. Talk to them -- make eye contact and don't just ask them: Can I help you? Often, just acknowledging them by saying hello and asking them if they are enjoying the show is enough to break the ice.
2. Always stand, not sit, in your booth, so you will be at eye level with the folks visiting your booth. If you need to sit, bring a stool not a chair so you can still maintain eye level.
3. Using a special give away or incentive will entice folks to stop at your booth. As a gourmet food producer, it was a no-brainer to give away free sample of the food I was selling. Other items I have seen other producers give away are bookmarks , pens, pads, tiny gift packs .... that included their contact information! Use your imagination!
4. Wear your most comfortable shoes and your best smile ... and bring lots of water or drinks with you!
Setting up Your Own Website
.... My favorite website software
So you have a craft show or two behind you, so where do you go from there? ..... Set up your own website!!
Setting up an ecommerce site is MUCH easier ... and cheaper than it was 10-12 years ago when I set up my first website. Ecommerce platforms make setting up your catalog site a breeze!
And 3DCart is our choice of ecommerce shopping cart software. Using it was so easy: The user friendly template system makes my sites look like they were designed by a professional. All I needed was to add my products, my shipping and sale tax options and I was ready to publish to the world.
We found that 3D is THE most feature-rich, low cost shipping cart on the planet. After researching all suggested alternatives, I am switching ALL my eCommerce websites to 3DCart. WHY? For one, I am very excited to eliminate one of my biggest holiday frustrations. We do a big business for Christmas and occasionally a customer will order a gift shipping gourmet foods to multiple locations. Just last holiday season, we had someone want to do her entire Christmas list with us --13 orders -- all to different addresses.
With our current system, customers must go in and place 13 separate orders, add their credit card each time, then confirm and submit each order individually -- makes our customers work too hard! For this particular customer, she had to fax in the addresses and info, and I input the orders myself, into the system. A painful waste of my time and well as hers!
However, now that I am fully up and functional with 3DCart, multiple "ship to" addresses will be a snap. With ONE visit to the website, our customers will be able to submit multiple orders, ship to addresses, and shipping options -- and pay for it all with only one credit card transaction!. Plus, each address, including the customer's information, can be retained in the customer account for future reference.
3DCart is still the most bang for the buck, in my opinion!
Note that this is my affiliate link. I do get a little kickback if you order through me, which I very much appreciate. But note that I do not recommend something that is not wonderful or in your best interests. I ONLY recommend stuff I personally use and/or believe in. And if those services offer an affiliate link, I use it. But if they do not, I still occasionally recommend them.
Oh, before I forget, here is my first transferred site, which I manage for someone else: Gem Berry
Moving into Wholesaling
.... Best way to grow your hobby into a "real" business
It enviably happens ... you may have an exhibit at a show and a person come by and says: "You have fantastic products! I am going to go get my sister/brother/mother. She owns a shop and these pieces would be perfect!"
Some producers would panic, but this is a perfect opportunities to grow your business to the next level! But, you will need to do your homework ahead of time so you are ready when this happens. Or you will need to come up with all the information for the buyer -- and quickly!!
If you priced your products correctly at your retail booth (check the following resource for help with pricing: Pricing Your Products ), the next steps should be pretty easy.
Take the contact info from the potential store buyer and tell her/him you will get them with a wholesale price listing. Of course, the best scenario is to plan ahead, so you will already have this information on hand when the time comes.
One of the best resources I can recommend for getting ready for wholesaling in my classic eGuide: The Complete eGuide for Selling to Gift Shops
Working with Sales Reps
.... Get your products in LOTS of retail outlets
Once you get your feet wet with a few wholesale sales -- got your terms firmed up, your shipping systems working well, and your invoicing and collections in top shape -- you may want to expand your business by hiring sales reps.
Sales reps, often called manufacturers' rep, manufacturers' agent, sales representative or just reps, probably qualify as the lowest cost option for manufacturers interesting in expanding sales regionally or nationally. Independent reps operate as a contract sales person, or in the case of rep 'groups', as a contract sales force, working on a strictly commission basis, minimizing overhead for a producer.
Sales reps typically work like this:
A) Reps travel to their customers and/or run a Gift Mart room and present merchandise for the lines they represent.
B) If an order is taken, the information is forwarded to the manufacturer, who then ships the merchandise, subject to the manufacturer's terms and conditions.
C) After payment is received, the manufacturer then sends a commission check to the rep, usually the month following payment.
Standard commission rate in the gift industry is 15%, although some companies pay more or less than the standard amount.
Personally, I've been a sales rep for over 12 years, traveling around the state of Idaho for the first 8-9 years before semi-retiring with my online sales rep wholesale site: Idaho Gifts Wholesale.
My best selling resources on the subject: How to Find, Recruit and Manage Sales Reps eGuide
The biggest bonus of this eguide is .... FIVE SAMPLE INDEPENDENT SALES REP AGREEMENTS! The agreements alone are worth more than the price of the eguide!
Exhibiting in Wholesale Trade Shows
.... As an exhibitor or a helper to your sales rep
If you hire a sales rep or not, wholesale trade shows can move your business to a new level in the wholesale arena.
But, I must warn you, wholesale trade shows are not for the faint at heart. Planning must start months ahead of time -- including contacting show management, designing your booth, printing sales literature and price sheets, developing your marketing strategies, etc.
Personally, I recommending visiting the show before you exhibit. You can learn numerous tips and techniques just by seeing what others have done: What is working and what is not. While at the show, you can connect with show management to ask questions, bring home valuable literature and make your reservations for the next trade show.
Trade shows can be very exciting, but they can also be very expensive -- so you cannot afford to jump in without some extensive planning.
I recommend anyone wishing to exhibit at a trade show to purchase my eGuide: Trade Show Exhibiting Secrets!
Interesting in more information about marketing your creations ...
Subscribe to my newsletter:
"The Monday eletter from Gift Rep Sandy"
Submit the form on the top right hand column on the link listed below:
Selling Wholesale to Gift and Retail Shops
Three main eGuides to help you on the way are published as the following titles:
1. The Complete eGuide for Selling to Gift Shops (or any retailers)
2. How to Find, Recruit and Manage Sales Reps
3. Trade Show Exhibiting Secrets
EGuides and special FREE resources are available on my website: Selling to Retail Stores
And while you are there, you can also sign up for my Monday Newsletter and receive weekly information to help you grow your business.