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Posts Tagged ‘Mentoring’

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.

Looking for Talent and Spirit? Hire an Intern!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Imagine a highly trained, motivated and energetic intern helping out over the summer or during your busy fall or winter season. Coming right out of the classroom, interns possess up-to-date technical knowledge and can assist with anything from the most basic tasks to the more complex, freeing time for you or your staff to take care of other details.

As a member of the IAPQ, you can participate in an academically acclaimed internship program where students receive hands-on experience in the textile field. It’s your newest benefit as a member of the International Association of Professional Quilters. The program, Pathways into Professional Needlearts (PiPN), was created in 2006 as a partnership between The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) and the University of Akron (Ohio) School of Consumer and Family Sciences. Since its inception the program has placed more than 60 interns/apprentices with TNNA members and reached students from dozens of colleges across the country.

The benefits of hosting an intern go far beyond the extra help he or she brings. Based on comments from TNNA PiPN hosts and echoed by educators, career counselors and other academic experts, PiPN provides a company with much more than a free hand. Students bring fresh talent and spirit, new perspectives and insights, shedding light on what the future holds. Usually representing the next generation (although non-traditional students participate), these young people are current/future customers and tomorrow’s professionals.

Internships have long been valued as a means for students to acquire real world experience and develop important professional relationships. Interns learn new skills, gain industry-specific knowledge and develop a better understanding of how business operates. In addition to enabling them to “test drive” a career, an internship can be a direct road to future employment. Usually unpaid, internships and apprenticeships are even more important within the current economy.

Of course, hosting a student also carries some responsibilities. As non-professionals, they require oversight and direction. By mentoring others, however, we often learn more about ourselves and our businesses. At the same time, when the internship ends, you have a personally trained individual who could, if appropriate, become an employee. Research has indicated a higher rate of employee retention within companies that hire past interns simply because everyone already knows and understands the job at hand.

PiPN recruits students from colleges offering programs in the arts, fibers, textiles, crafts, sewing, quilting, fashion and merchandising, as well as business, marketing and design. They review all applications and work with the college internship coordinators and students so they have a more complete knowledge of each of the applicants.

PiPN also focuses on placements within small companies, a group not commonly able to draw interns. These types of businesses offer students greater opportunities to be totally involved, enabling them to learn and participate to the fullest.

PiPN only accepts Host Companies that are members in a professional organization, including IAPQ. This gives PiPN more direct knowledge of its hosts to better enable it to make appropriate placements.

As a host company you are allowed to define your own requirements and responsibilities, offer pay or not and review applicants’ information before accepting them. Currently PiPN is looking for host companies. If you are interested in applying, here’s a link for more information.  You can also read the experiences of interns on the PiPN blog here.

If you apply or have experience with interns, please let me know and share on the 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.

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