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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Are you just a …?

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

A couple years ago, I was at a gallery opening with some creative women, and they were each sharing what they did. After hearing one woman say she was a mixed-media artist and another say she was a photograph, the third said, “I’m just a longarm quilter.”

Why did this person’s passion become a “just a?” And why did she think she was “less than”?

If you grew up in the 60s with the women’s liberation movement, you might remember hearing people say “just a housewife.” I can remember thinking I would never be know as “just a.” In actuality, being a housewife is probably the hardest job around, raising healthy, happy and productive kids. It’s definitely not “just a.”

Back to the artists I met. I know that this longarm quilter is not the only one who says “just a” when someone asks what she does.  Maybe she has second thoughts about the phrase, and I hope she does. Maybe she doesn’t.

When I started to reflect on what this woman said, I wondered where she placed her value.

Read more…

Thank You for Your Business!

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

When was the last time you sent a letter via the US Postal Service to thank someone? When was the last time you received one?

I know that today we are all about digital. However, I think you are missing the boat if you don’t add some higher touch activities to your marketing and/or customer service efforts. By marketing, I don’t mean selling. I mean inviting people get to know, like and trust you.

Personal hand-written notes are the perfect way for you to build that connection. A simple note only requires a few of minutes of your time and a first-class postage stamp.

The rewards for both parties are way beyond that. You will feel good doing this. The recipient will feel appreciated. I’ve seen examples of people sharing their thank you notes on social media or in their blogs, making even more people feel good. What a great example of word-of-mouth marketing. Remember, the more people learn about you, the better.

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Does Your Elevator Speech Need a Lift?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

 

I live in an area (Washington, DC) where the first question you often hear is, “What do you do?” While it may not always be the first question, at some point it usually comes up. And, I’m sure that’s not unusual in other parts of the country. People are just trying to get to know people they don’t already know.

Do you have an elevator speech? You know, that 30 to 60 seconds or so that explains what you do and will engage the person you are talking with into asking more questions. It’s supposed to be succinct so that you that you could really deliver it in a quick elevator trip.

The problem is that most elevator speeches are boring or long-winded or both. Haven’t you tuned out when someone launched into his or her corporate titles? I remember when I moved some years back, and my new neighbor said, “Hi, I’m Chuck. I’m an attorney.” Yikes! A real conversation starter.

Most of you are creatives and the idea of a set elevator speech is cringe-worthy. After all, elevator speeches can sound so canned and “markety.” Thing is that you have a business and you cannot grow that business if you don’t market.

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Are You Using Testimonials to Build Your Business?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Testimonials are a terrific way to help market your quilt or creative arts business. It’s word-of-mouth advertising, only you get to decide who hears it and what is heard. While you may get unsolicited testimonials, it’s a good idea for you to actually ask for a response. In some cases you might want to offer a thank you gift for the comment. Here are some ideas to try:

1. For the fiber artist or longarm quilter who has finished a commission, include a self-addressed stamped reply postcard with the work. Ask for comments that will help you in the future. You might try: Was the communication between quilter and customer adequate? Was the project completed in an appropriate time frame? Encourage the buyer to send you a photo of the quilt in use and ask for any other comments. If you want to thank the person giving you the testimonial, perhaps a small discount on a future order is possible.

2. For the teacher, include an additional comments line on your evaluation form. You’ll not only get ideas to improve your classes, but you’ll also get wonderful and heartfelt comments to use as testimonials.

3. Any book author can tell you how valuable the testimonial blurbs are on the back cover of their book. You will need to ask someone if he or she would be willing to write a blurb and then provide a galley copy of your book for reading. A published book might be a nice thank you for the testimonial.

4. If you sell a product to the general public, you can include a comment card in your packaging. You can request that someone leave a comment on your website or return the comment card via regular mail. Another idea would be to encourage feedback from the user. All products include some written material. You can add a couple sentences about how excited you’ll be to hear back from the user about their experiences with the product. You’ll be surprised at the response you’ll get. I think this would be quite effective for pattern designers.

5. For shop owners it’s easy to get testimonials either with a return card with a purchase or a comment card box somewhere in the store.

After you start receiving these comments, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. You are delivering a great product and building an ongoing relationship with your customers.

What do you do with the testimonials as you get them? Be sure to include them in all your advertising. Here are some specific ideas:

1. Create a page for testimonials on your website. We have one we call Success Stories. You could also intersperse them throughout your site.

2. Include testimonials in your catalog. For example, a pattern designer might include a testimonial about how easy to follow her instructions are.

3. Include testimonials in your tri-fold brochure if you are are teacher or do commission work. It lets potential customers know the value of your work.

4. Include testimonials in any of your print ads. Study ads in magazines to see how testimonials are used.

5. Include testimonials on your product packaging, if space permits. It might be limited to just a few lines, but it could make a difference in someone buying the product.

Lastly, remember you don’t have to use the whole testimonial. You can use an excerpt, just be sure to keep it in context.

How do you gather and use testimonials in your business? Please leave a reply and share your experiences.

Your First Steps to Social Media Marketing

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

I’m often asked where someone should start to market a business with social media. It is really easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there: Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube.  Before you decide which platform will work for you or which one to use first, you need to spend some time getting clear about your goals, your market and your message. Since I have a journalism background, I sometimes think of these steps as the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story.

1. Clarify the who

Who exactly is your customer? The clearer you are about your customer down to the minutest detail, the better. One suggestion here is to actually name your customer. For example, perhaps your target customer is Beth, a 35-year-old mom, college-educated, loves to quilt, has little spare time because she has two small children, makes mostly traditional quilts, lives in an urban area, reads Quilters Home, hangs out with other soccer moms. Once you are clear on your target market, it makes it easier to create your marketing message. You can picture your customer.

2. Clarify the what

What is your product, i.e., what are you selling? The key here is to think of what you are selling as a benefit. One example I always use when talking about benefits is the Michelin tire ad with the baby sitting inside the tire. Michelin is not selling tires, it is selling safety. Ask yourself what problem you are solving for your customer.

3. Clarify the where

Where are you going to find your customers? When you got really clear about your target market, the who, you also should have thought about where they hang out. This would be the time to think about who uses Twitter vs. Facebook vs. blogs vs. email newsletters (ezines). Generally Twitter is big in big cities and big with a younger demographic. Think the Gen X we’re trying to get into quilting. Facebook is popular with everyone, though the fastest growing demographic is baby boomer women, typically the average quilter according to the latest Quilting in America™ survey.

4. Clarify the when

When and how often are you going to reach out to your customer? You may want to send a monthly or weekly update. You may want to tie your contact into specific holidays or events. You may have weekly sales and that dictates how often you contact your customers. Start with a marketing calendar and figure out what you are promoting; that will help you figure out when to contact them. How often you contact your customers also depends on the medium you choose. You’ll use Twitter more often than you’ll send an ezine. I suggest setting a schedule that allows for a certain number of contacts per day, week and month. Something to remember, too, with connecting with your customers is to give them a call to action, something you want them to do as a result of your message.

5. Clarify the why

Here you should look at the why from two sides – yours and your customers. Why are you using social media and what are your goals? Look at the why of your customers. Why should they care about what you have to offer? What differentiates you from all the other offerings on the street? This is closely related to the what, in that you need to consider the customers’ viewpoint. When I teach business classes, I remind my students that we are all tuned to the same radio station – WIIFM. That stands for What’s In It For Me. Tell your customers why they should care.

6. Clarify the How

How are you going to reach your customer and how are you going to educate them about you and your company? You already know that your customers are lots of places, so go where they are and invite them to come play with you. For example, if you provide good content, people are more likely to value what you offer and come to know, like and trust you. Let people know how to find you. Use the social media icons on all your online correspondence with clickable links. For printed materials, include your social network information. Make it easy for people to connect with you. Another idea here is to offer something to people who join you on one of your networks. This could be a discount or even a free product.

If you answer these six questions, you’ll be well on your way to understanding how to use social media to build your business. If you want more help, please join me for our upcoming five-session Social Media Marketing seminar.

Tweet This: 6 Tips to Using Twitter

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

socmedia

With more than 6 million members on Twitter, you’re sure to find more than one of your customers tweeting. While Facebook seems to be growing fastest among baby boomers, Twitter has captured Generation X. Since many of us find some customers in this group and we’re looking to add younger quilters to our industry, this micro-blogging tool is a great addition to your marketing tool box. Here are five tips for using Twitter in your business.

1. Share stories about your business, service or product. If you have announced a new book or pattern, share a link to the press release on your site. If you’re a shop owner and you added new classes, tweet that. If you’re a longarm quilter and added new photos of your customer’s quilts to your site, tweet that. Since Twitter limits you to 140 characters, shorten your web links with a service such as bit.ly.

2. Share stories that you find about our industry or the art world in general. It could even be something new and good about one of your customers, such as winning a prize at a quilt show or releasing a new book.

3. Retweet useful information from your followers or those you follow. I’ll often find something that one of the people I follow tweeted that is worth passing along. Be sure to credit the person you are retreating. On Sunday I retweeted an offer for free e-cards with a work of art from the Guggenheim collection.

4. Ask questions to engage your customers. It could be something like, who is your favorite designer? Or, do you wash your fabrics before cutting? The goal is to create a conversation.

5. Share something inspirational. This could be a favorite quote or a link to a YouTube video. Sharing something humorous is a good idea, too. This can sometimes make someone’s day.

6. Handle customer inquiries. This could be pre-emptive, as in tweeting if you find a problem in one of your patterns or books. Or if one of your customers found a great solution or work-around to something, tweet that. You may get direct messages on a problem. It’s fine to answer the specific person, just be sure you address it also through Twitter. Larger companies to check out who are cited as good examples on customer service on Twitter include Comcast and Zappos.

If you are interested in learning how to use Facebook to grow your business, join us in our upcoming Social Media Marketing course.

6 Tips for Promoting Your Business With Your Blog

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Do you have a blog? Blogging can be fun and creative. It can add to your business growth and lets you connect with your tribe. I think that’s the primary reason for blogging: building your community.  Blogging lets you create lasting relationships, and when people know, like and trust you, they are more likely to become your customers. Here are six tips for using your blog:

1. Take your customers on a tour of your studio or shop. I admit that I love to tour other quilters’ studios. In fact, I enjoy it so much, I created a lecture to share the studios I like and feature a studio in each issue of The Professional Quilter for the same reason. And, I love to see the shops I want to visit ahead of time, or maybe just put them on my wish list.

2. Provide information. This can be “how to” or just sharing the latest information on an upcoming show or exhibit. It should provide value for the readers. This helps to establishes you as an expert, the “go to” person on a topic. You can also make offers on your products or provice coupons, etc., but the primary goal should be to provide information.

3. Share yourself, your staff, other professionals. People want to know who they are doing business with. This is your chance to share something about yourself. Let your personality shine. Customers or potential customers also want to know the people that work with you. And, if you have friends who blog, take a turn blogging on each others’ pages. It will help each of you increase your audience.

4. Take advantage of technology to further readership of your ideas. You can connect your blog to Facebook and tweet about your blog. Many of our blog posts originate in this weekly e-zine. They then post to our blog and then to Facebook. I found it interesting that I often get comments on the blog or on Facebook from artists who originally read the material in the ezine.

5. Participate in blog events. Here are just two ideas. Sponsor a blog contest. It could be as simple as asking for input on your latest quilt design, perhaps helping you name it. For a prize, you can offer a copy of the pattern. If you are a book author, create a blog hop. In this case, you find several other bloggers and ask them to review your book. They in turn ask for comments on the post and offer a copy of your book to a random commenter. Each blogger advertises the blogs where your book will be reviewed, so more people learn about other blogs.

6. Be consistent. Bloggers are more successful who keep a constant schedule about blogging. Readers start to rely on you for specific information and will return to your blog for that type of information. Along with consistency comes frequent postings. The more often you post, the more your readership, and in turn your business, will grow. Of course, you have to figure out what works for you. In general, two to three times a week is a minimum.

7. Remember that blogging is one part of a social media strategy for your business. Look for other ways you can connect with your customers, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and your e-zine (online newsletter).

Please share your tips on blogging here on our blog.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.    

Book Review: How to Be a Press Friendly Artist

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

How to be a Press Friendly Artist

By Tara Reed
Tara Reed Designs; $27

Promotion is key for creative entrepreneurs who want grow their businesses, and part of that is getting press coverage. If you are stumped with how to go about getting the press to notice and write about your art, Tara Reed provides you with the blueprint to follow to accomplish this. Tara, a licensed artist who has created more than 15 lines of fabric in the past three years with South Seas, found herself answering questions from other artists about art licensing, and many of those questions were about getting press. This ebook resulted from Tara’s own experiences and that of her clients. She covers the basics of setting up a press release, what it should include, adding photos, how to distribute your release, creating a press kit and even how to make your website more press friendly.  Even if you’re an experienced press release writer, you’ll add a few tricks to your toolbox so you can become your own publicist. I’ve even comb bound my copy for easy reference.

Here’s a link if you would like to learn more about the book and save $5 off the price of the book.

Book Review: Flip Flop Block Quilts

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Flip Flop Quilt Book

By Kathie Alyce
American Quilter’s Society; $22.95

In 2004 IAPQ member Kathie Alyce introduced her Flip Flop Block template at International Quilt Market and sold out. She knew she was onto something when a few years earlier she created a four-sided curved template that would serve as a basic shape from which to create many designs. What seemed like a simple idea has endless possibilities: Imagine a log cabin fitting in a block with curved edges or even a New York Beauty block. Kathie also produces an acrylic template for the blocks, and the book includes a paper shape that you can trace onto your own template plastic to create a template to use. The book includes 18 projects that range from placemats  to queen-size bed quilts. This is a great creativity stretcher for designing outside the square block.

Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.>

Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Did you know that February is National Time Management Month? One way I like to get control of my time use is by time blocking on my calendar. What is time blocking? It’s a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I’m able to manage interruptions. I’m the one in charge of my day. Here’s how to do this:

1. Review your daily and weekly activities.

  • Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
  • Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
  • Do you have tasks that need attention that don’t seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
  • Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.

2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.

  • Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.

3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.

4. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it’s often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. With your goals in mind, put the important tasks first so you’ll accomplish them. If I don’t block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like folding fabric and putting it away or reading the latest quilt magazine or checking Facebook. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way. Here are some things you might like to time-block:

  • quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than at odd times.
  • time dedicated to longarm work
  • creative time to design patterns
  • marketing time
  • bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
  • order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
  • learning time
  • time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
  • writing time if you are working on a book
  • time to complete samples
  • time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
  • time to develop new classes
  • breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)

To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. Because I’m working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It’s a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I’m not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Thursday afternoons for errands. Because I know that’s the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I’ve already scheduled my hair appointments through October. I also block out time for family and self-care, so they don’t get lost.

I’m not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. This week I have my local guild meeting and a professional quilt guild meeting.

In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.

Let me know how time blocking works for you.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

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