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Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

Nine Tips for Shopping Quilt Shows

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

With quilt show season at its height, I thought I’d share some tips for shopping large shows, both wholesale and retail.

1. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. You can easily be on your feet for eight hours or more. Take to heart the Quilts Inc. admonition, “Remember at Market, fashion stops at the knees!”

2. Take some healthy snacks with you, like fruits and nuts. All the booths will have snacks of the chocolate variety and while a bit is fine, you want to be sure to keep your stamina up. Once you start walking the floor, it’s hard to leave. Something new or an old friend catches your eye. That sugar rush just won’t sustain you. And, don’t forget to bring water or an empty water bottle to fill to keep hydrated.

3. Take advantage of the learning opportunities. Quilts Inc. has lectures and classes the day before Market opens and then the mornings and evenings when the vendor floor is closed. This is a wonderful opportunity to take back knowledge to share with your staff and customers and to build your business. At retail shows, you can often find wonderful classes that will teach you something to share with your customers. Even just bringing back knowledge of “what’s new” is important.

4. If you go to Quilt Market, don’t wait in line for Sample Spree. I always check the lines for Sample Spree and often find the same people at the front of the line every show. They recognize me coming now! Some of these attendees get in line at 2 pm for an event that starts at 8 pm. They miss half of the Schoolhouse Sessions and terrific learning opportunities. Once the doors open, most everyone in line gets in within five to 10 minutes. Even latecomers get in. Last I heard they weren’t giving a prize for first one in the door!

5. Don’t forget your business cards. You are going to meet shop owners and quilt business owners from around the world in addition to buying for your business. A good tip is to make a note or two on the back of the card as a memory jogger for when you get home. And, to make it easy for ordering, try printing the information on labels to make filling out forms easier.

6. Start with a plan to shop the floor. Spend time the night before going through the show program, marking those you must see. Set a schedule that includes any appointments you have with fabric companies or distributors. If you are shopping with a group, be sure everyone knows the schedule. Many shop owners walk the floor and collect literature during the first day, go over the material at night and then buy the second or third day. Other shop owners know what their shop needs and buy on the first walk through. Figure out the plan that will work best for you.

7. If you are traveling with a group, be sure you’ve got everyone’s phone numbers programmed in to your phones. Market is really big, and it’s easy to get separated from your group. Even keeping up with your group at a small show can be a problem.

8. Keep a journal so you can track what you see, need to follow up on, etc. I usually have a small 5″ by 8″ notebook where I make notes about what’s new, action I need to take when I get back, and secure business cards I collect. It’s fun to see what’s transpired over the years.

9. Look for ways to connect. Everyone has to have lunch and/or dinner. Look for someone at a table, go join them. You’ll probably pick up a business tip and be able to share one, too. And, likely you’ll make a new friend.

Please share your thoughts below.

Quilt Show Vending Tips

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

It’s definitely Quilt Show Season! AQS/Paducah was last week, Quilt Festival/Cincinnati and MQX the week before, and Machine Quilters Showcase and Quilt Market are in a couple of weeks. That’s just the larger shows. I think you can find a local show almost any weekend now. This past weekend I enjoyed one of the local guild’s annual shows.

Vending at these shows can be draining and it’s key to keep your energy up if you are to have a good show. Here are eight tips to help you have your best show yet:

1. Set an intention or goal for the show. Is it to make a certain amount of sales, to get your patterns picked up by a distributor, to test a new product, to get rid of aging stock? When you are clear on your intent, you’ll be more focused, and your results will show that.

2. Establish eye contact with show visitors, smile and engage them in a conversation. Ask questions that will lead to an answer that is not yes or no. Share something of yourself and your product. Your customer is buying you as much as she is buying your product. And, I’m sure you’ve been to a show where the vendor sits on a chair in the corner of an empty booth. Of course it’s empty; no one feels welcome to enter! Get up and greet your customer.

3. Demo if you can. Nothing draws a crowd like a demonstration. Next time you are at a show as a visitor, take a look at the more crowded booths. Many will have a group watching a demo. This engages your customer and leads to more sales.

4. Qualify your buyer, i.e., separate the browsers from the buyers. Quilt Market is filled with what I call “the entourage,” quilters who want to see what Market is all about. And, I love quilters who want to become involved in our industry; they keep our industry vital. However, while they may have some influence or be the buyer of the future, they are not the decision-maker today. I’m not saying to ignore them or be rude. You can engage them in a conversation, only find out who makes the buying decision and try to get to that person.

5. Have plenty of handouts and brochures. Not everyone is ready to make a decision when they first meet you. Some like to take materials back to the hotel room and compare before buying. Be sure to bring an original of your handouts in the event you need to get copies during the show.

6. Have a way for people to contact you later. I recently visited an artists cooperative, and while all the artists had business cards none included a web site on the card. Many times, I’d like to peruse the artist’s web site and see what other work she might have. Not all your buyers will purchase while they are in your booth or even at the show. Make it easy for them to see your product line.

7. Put your website, phone number, booth number on all your handouts and receipts. Buyers will share their finds with their friends and this will lead to more sales. At one of the first shows I vended in the 1990s, a friend stopped by the booth and showed me a new notion. She wanted to purchase another, only she didn’t know the name of the vendor or where he was located, and the receipt offered no help. Neither did I. (As it turned out, he was in my row!)

8. Keep up your energy. If you are doing multi-day shows, it’s easy to get run-down. Have healthy snacks and water in the booth. Try to stick to your regular sleeping routine, something I find hard to do at shows. If your energy is zapped, it will show in your results.

Hope these tips add to the success of your next show.

Please share your best vending tips below.

Are You Managing Your Time or Is It Managing You?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

It seems every year many people make a resolution to manage their time better. How about you? Funny thing is that we all have the same 24 hours in the day. Some of us just do a better job of managing ourselves. Here are five tips to help you do that this year:

1. Know what your time is worth. Your goal as a business owner is to turn your time into money, so I think you should know what your time is worth. Here’s an easy way to figure it out. What do you want to make this year from your creative arts business? For our example and easy math for me, let’s say $50,000. Let’s also say you take two weeks vacation, so that leaves 50 weeks a year that you work. Divide the $50,000 by 50 weeks and you get $1,000 a week. Divide that by five days in the week that you plan to work and that gives you $200 a day. Divide that by 5 hours a day that is productive and you get $40 an hour. Let’s double that to cover overhead. Now we have $80 an hour. You can do this with your own goal number. Next step is to ask yourself if the task at hand is worth $80 an hour. A good exercise is to track your activities and look at them in this fashion. Is driving to the post office worth $80 an hour? Is grocery shopping worth $80 an hour? Is cleaning your house worth $80 an hour? Is packing your own patterns worth $80 an hour? You may decide you need to continue doing these tasks, and that’s OK. You just need to know the value of the task.
2. Track your tasks. For the next three to five days, record your business activities. At the end of the day, go back and note whether the activity was A (administrative/technical), M (managerial) or E (entrepreneurial). Then go back and decide whether these tasks could have been deleted, delegated, systematized or automated. Remember your goal is to replace those activities that aren’t valued at your hourly rate, so that you can work on activities that are worth your hourly rate.
3. Try time blocking. This is the idea of pre-assigning blocks of your time for specific activities, and it is one concept that I suggest early on with my clients. It lets your days be more productive because you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset with all your activities, not just outside appointments. It also lets you control your time because you decide when activities take place. Here are just a few activities to consider time blocking: quilt intake for longarmers to one afternoon and evening a week; creative time to design your next pattern or quilt; time for bookkeeping; business development (marketing time); and time to write that book that you keep putting off.
4. Plan your day the night before and use a list. At the end of each day, review what worked and didn’t with the day and plan what you need to accomplish the next day. By doing this the night before you’ll start the next day fresh and not spend time trying to figure out what to put on your to-do list. I’ve also heard that you’ll spend less time worrying about the next day at night because it’s preplanned. And, I’ve heard that often your mind will work on those activities and you’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have.
5. Learn to say no. This is a biggie, as it’s so easy to say yes to every opportunity. When you are asked to do something, consider whether it will move you closer to your goals. If so, then it might be appropriate to say yes. If not, can you find other compelling reasons to say yes? If not, then don’t hesitate to say no.

Here are some time management quotes I really like:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”                             H. Jackson Brown
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”                          Michael Altshuler
“Never let yesterday use up today.”
                                 Richard H. Nelson

Please share your thoughts on how you get control of your time below.

What’s Clarity Got to Do With It?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Despite the title of this piece sounding rather Tina Turnerish to me, I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about what I want in a variety of areas. In other words, I’ve been looking for clarity. It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the what ifs and fuzzy thinking. Ever been there?

What do you need clarity on? When I work with some clients, that’s our first step. Clarity is really the foundation of success both in your business and your personal life.

You need to be clear on the direction you are going. What is your end goal? If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

You need to be clear on who your client is. We can’t be everything to all people, though I do know people who try. In one class I taught, I had a student who wanted to turn every quilter into an appliqué artist. While that was an admirable goal, her time would have been exhausted trying to accomplish this. She would have been more effective targeting beginning quilters to get them started.

You need to be clear on the financial realities of your business. Where does your income come from? What are your expenses? How much do you need to earn to provide support for yourself?

Those are just a few of the many areas that require clarity. I’m sure you can find other areas where you are searching for clarity. It could be something big, like what my coaches call your “Big Why,” or it could be something smaller, like the name of your new pattern.

It’s easy to figure out what you need to be clear on – you hear the muddled voices. How do you find clarity? Here are a few approaches to tune into the right little voice inside so you can listen.

1. Create a vision board. The easy approach is to go through magazines and find things that resonate with you. It could be colors, words, pictures of places you want to visit, quilts you want to make or techniques you want to learn. Glue them onto a piece of poster board and leave it in a place where you’ll see it. I find that just searching for the items to put on my vision board helps me get clearer.

2. Keep a journal. Note your day’s activities, how you felt about what happened, any insights you might have. You might even ask a question and brainstorm on ideas or let the answer just come to you. Go back and read your earlier entries. The more you journal about something, the clearer it becomes.

3. Be grateful. If you are grateful every day, you can start to replace confusion with clarity. I keep a gratitude journal.

4. Spend time alone in nature. You may feel most at peace in a certain type of setting. For me it’s the water. So when I need to gain clarity, I will often sit by the water. Clarity often comes just “being,” and this environment lets me “be.”

5. Let go of the question. Sometimes by no longer putting your attention on something the answer will just come to you.

And, finally remember when I started looking at the letters in the word “success”? For me, the first C is for clarity.

Here’s a quote on clarity from Scottish writer Richard Holloway that I like:

Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.

Please share your thoughts on clarity below.

Pricing Questions You Need to Answer

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at the pricing decisions new longarm quilters need to make when starting their businesses. They are also the questions experienced longarmers need to readdress from time to time. If you aren’t a longarmer, these are the same questions you should consider for commission work. And, if you have work completed by someone else, you would want to know the questions to ask. Here’s an excerpt from the issue.

How are you going to price your work? You have three ways to price your work: by the size of the quilt, by the amount of time it takes to quilt it, by the number of bobbins used.

Do you charge differently based on different patterns and techniques? Yes! Take this opportunity to explain the differences to your customer. It is common to have a few different pricing categories, such as edge-to-edge, semi-custom, custom and heirloom. You need to explain what each category is, how each category differs from the others based on time required and skill needed.

Do you give an estimate? Yes. The estimate I give is very accurate, but occasionally something comes up to change it. You’ll need to immediately notify the customer and discuss this with her.

Are there any additional fees? Most longarm quilters have an additional fee for thread used on the quilt. You may also choose to sell batting to your customers. Some longarm quilters add an additional fee for turning the quilt, squaring the backing, piecing backings, repairing seams on the quilt top, pressing the quilt or the backing (or both) and trimming the quilt after the quilting is done. Some of us even offer additional services such as binding or labels.

Once you’ve evaluated the answers to those questions, you can use them to set a pricing schedule and create an order or take-in form.

If you would like to read more of Mindy’s article on pricing your longarm work, it’s included in the Fall 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. 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 here.

Please post your thoughts on this article below.

Do You Have an Advertising Plan?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Is advertising part of the marketing plan for your business? Advertising is used to persuade an audience (your potential or current customers/clients) to take action with respect to your product or service. And that action, if you mean a purchase, can take some time. I’ve read numerous studies that it can take anywhere from 13-17 times for someone to see your ad before they purchase. Much of the initial viewing of your ad puts your name in the mind of the buyer. They begin to recognize your name or brand. Once your name becomes familiar, the prospect moves along a continuum to become a customer and hopefully a long-term client. I think some form of advertising belongs in your marketing plan. When I think about advertising I often go back to the basic questions I learned in journalism school: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Here are my thoughts on how they relate to advertising:

1. Who are you trying to reach? The more you know who your ideal customer is, the better. Before you can decide where to advertise, you need to understand your customer. Often people just think they are trying to reach all quilters. If you really look at your customer, you might find that you are trying to reach beginners or appliqué lovers or avant-garde artists.


2. What is the product you are selling? Remember when you look at your product to look at its benefits, not its features. Benefits tell the customer the problem you are solving for them.


3. Where will you find your customers? It’s easy to look at all the quilt magazines and online advertising opportunities and get overwhelmed thinking you need to advertise in all of them. Take time to figure out where your target market hangs out. Are they traditional quilters who read traditional quilt magazines? Are they more art focused and read art-focused magazines? Do they get most of their information from the Internet? Once you determine where you can find your customer, it lets you narrow down where to spend your advertising dollars.


4. When will you advertise? It’s valuable to set up an advertising schedule outlining how often you will advertise. As I noted earlier, it takes time for people to find you, and you need to advertise on an ongoing basis to expect results. Sure you will get customers from your first ad, but you’ll get more as you advertise more. Your customers will begin to recognize your name and your brand.


5. Why are you advertising? I like looking at this from two standpoints – yours and your customer. You know why you are advertising: name and brand recognition, more sales, etc. Consider your customer’s why, too. Why should they care about what you are advertising? Why are your products or services different from the other products or services they already know about?


6. How will you advertise? You have lots of options with advertising  these days, and you will have to answer a lot of “how” questions once you get through the “W’s.” How will you connect with your customer – print, online, google adwords, etc.? How will you structure your ad: with lots of information, lots of visuals, testimonials, etc.? How often will you change your ad? How will you know if your advertising is effective? You need to create a system to track your results. In the end it’s all about your ROI (return on investment). You can’t make decisions about future advertising if you don’t.

If you spend time considering these questions, you’ll be well on your way to an effective advertising plan. Sometime in the next month I’ll look at ways to create an effective ad.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on advertising below.

Are You Selling Benefits Not Features?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Defining your product is key to creating a good marketing plan. To define your product, you consider both its features and its benefits. One of the keys to marketing is to sell the benefits not the features. How do you know the difference?

Features characterize the product; benefits are why we buy the product. Features are easy to describe. Examples could include size, color, design, hours of business, fabric content, years of business experience.

Benefits are more difficult to define. They do, however, answer your customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?” When you buy products, you don’t buy because of a feature; you buy because of a benefit. Benefit is the value attributed to the feature of the product; in other words, it’s the result of the feature. Benefits are not as easy to describe and are often intangible. The most compelling benefits are those that deliver emotional or financial rewards. Emotional rewards let the buyer feel good. Examples could be shopping at an online retailer who donates a percentage of your purchase to a charity you choose or sending a quilt to someone to let you express love. Products that offer financial rewards usually save time or money, offer convenience or make you money.

How do you determine the benefits of your product or service? Start by knowing who your customers are and then look at your product from their point of view. Who are your customers? Are they baby boomers with expendable income? Are they Gen Xers? Are they teens and tweens? Are they working mothers with little free time? You might be trying to reach a variety of groups and need to consider benefits for each of them. Consider also who has purchased your product or service in the past. What does your customer profile tell you about your product? For example, do you sell your product to customers who might be retired and have extra time for long-range projects? Do you sell your product to working mothers who want something quick and easy? Do most of your store’s customers shop after 5 p.m. and on weekends? Ask your customers to help identify your product’s benefits. You could do this informally or with a survey. Your customers might even identify benefits you didn’t consider.

Developing your benefits statement is an ongoing process. As you continue to market your product, be aware of additional benefits. You might ask your customers for suggestions to your product or service. Pay attention to complaints or unsolicited comments about your product. Also, consider what your competition is doing. Additionally, consider how you’ll package your product. You might find a benefit there.

Once you’ve established your benefits statements, you will be able to describe your products in ways that are important to your customer. You will do this in all aspects of promotion, whether that is in creating your marketing collateral, advertising your product, writing articles or speaking one-on-one to customers about your product. You will also be able to differentiate your product from that of your competitors. You will be able to provide a benefit to your customers that your competition cannot. Now you’re on your way to a successful marketing strategy.

Please  share your thoughts on creating your product’s or service’s benefits below on our blog.

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.

Selling Quilts and Fiber Arts to Vacationers and Tourists

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I recently returned from Aruba. One of the highlights of the trip was looking at (and buying) local crafts from vendors at the timeshare where we stayed. This year I saw Aruban artists joined by an American, Doris Iversen. Doris makes beautiful handcrafted bead crochet and wire jewelry encompassing polymer clay. She has vacationed for many years in Aruba, and some years back when she was crocheting at the pool, the activities director asked if she would like to sell her work along with the local artists. It added variety to the selection, and she wouldn’t be competing with locals. Today when she makes her annual trip, she brings all the jewelry she can to sell at the twice-a-week evening events.

As I look back on other travels, I recall similar examples: the painter selling her work in the lobby of a small hotel in Hawaii and the artist-in-residence at the Art Colony Shops at the Greenbrier. If you live in an area frequented by vacationers or even vacation yourself in one particular spot, you might consider this as a possible sales outlet. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Look at where you live or where you vacation. Spend some time going to resorts and seeing if they offer art or crafts events. Stop in the local galleries or crafts shops and ask if they know of any options. And, at the same time, you might ask about consignment or crafts purchasing. Some of this you may find out with an Internet search or a phone call.

2. If you want to consider contacting specific hotels ahead of time, look for the resources from AAA. Its destination guides will list details on hotels. You’ll also find information on its website ( The American Hotel and Lodging Association ( produces an annual guide of members’ establishments that is available to Allied Members or through STR Global ( As the cost is relatively high, you might want to look for a copy at the reference desk at your library.

3. Check with your state crafts guild. They may know of arts and crafts outlets. For example, in West Virginia, Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia is a statewide collection of handmade crafts, art and specialty food. It’s run by the Tamarack Foundation whose mission is “to preserve West Virginia’s cultural heritage and the development of a strong, creative economy through its work in the improvement, growth and support of arts-related industries.” From its beginnings in 1994, Tamarack has grown to represent 2,800 artisans. It is located just off I-77 and welcomes half a million visitors annually to its facility.

4. When you do find opportunities, questions to consider include:
· What fees are involved to participate? This could be a table fee or a commission on your work. You may need to join an organization.
· How do they advertise the crafts?
· Can you set up a sales table for conventions at larger hotels/resorts?
· Can you talk to some of the participating artists and get their experiences?

5. When contacting in person, go armed with business cards, brochures and a sample or two of your work. Nothing sells like seeing the real thing.

If you’ve had experience selling your work in a resort setting, please share with our other readers.


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: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

No Excuses
No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
Brian Tracy
Vanguard Press; $17.99

Brian Tracy says that what separates successful people from less successful people is self-discipline. In this book he looks at self-discipline in three distinct areas: personal success; business, sales and finance; and the “good life.” To be able to grow as a person and achieve happiness, which is really our end goal, requires self-discipline. Not easy to achieve in all areas. Some of the material wasn’t new to me, though it served as a good reinforcement. Because each of the 21 chapters (seven in each of the three areas) includes action exercises, I think it would be useful to do one each day for three weeks to build on the discipline you are practicing. Some readers may have problems with the sales focus in part of the book. I also wish the book included a list of references.

Look for the book at your favorite book retailer or go to Amazon to learn more about the book.

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