Making a difference and attaching meaning to our work

OK I promise this will be the last blog post about a  book I recently read: Marketing-A Love Story. (I am reading a new one about the history of botany..that should produce an interesting blog or two). Once again, Book quotes will be in old, my thoughts won't, and sorry. still no page numbers.

What if marketing was where we began our journey towards understanding what people need and want?- Arts and Crafts don’t solve problems, but they do feed an intrinsic need for the beautiful.  Our journey is to understand and provide what people want, not what they need in many cases.Selling a want versus a need is more complex. Often you have to help people realize they nave a want, or to give an exact description to what that want is. I need to be clean, any soap can do that. I want to smell "nice", but what does that mean? I want to have soft skin, but my definition of soft may be different than that of my neighbors. These things need to be defined before I can purchase what I want, and after I find something I like, I may even start to define it as a need if I want it bad enough to give up other things for it.

Art and business alike are about doing things that make a difference. – Need or want, it is to make a difference. So what do you do that makes a difference? How does it make a difference? Are you helping someone express their inner person? Are you providing art they can look at and that brings back a memory and increases their happiness? Do you provide a product or service that can become a tradition, an heirloom, provides a connection between people that is more meaningful than then item alone?

The number one reason a salesperson fails to close a sale is that she can’t effectively communicate the value of the product. Don’t sell the guitar, sell the music.  The biggest spending consumers aren’t simply shopping for stuff anymore; they are shopping for ways to change how they feel, to express themselves and to find meaning. They no longer want information or even experiences, they expect context- an understanding of what matters to them. We are mini psychoanalysts. We need to look at a potential customer, size them up, and quickly figure out how we can connect with them, how we can connect our art with them, and how we can make what is meaningful to us, meaningful to them. 

Marketing is not a department; it’s the story of how you create difference for your customers. It is the way we enable our customers to attach meaning to our products and it’s the reason they want to belong. Marketing is a transfer of emotion. We buy with our hearts and justify decisions with our heads.  That is what buyer's remorse is. Making a purchase with our hearts, only to have our heads tell us later it was a bad choice. We need to mitigate that remorse by attaching as much story and emotions to an item as possible. They aren't buying our art, they are adopting it, they are making a part of us a part of them. It is much harder to have remorse over a purchase that has its own emotional meaning to it. I watch American Pickers and they are always trying to buy a piece of rust from someone who will never get around to restoring it, but loves it too much to pass on to someone else. Those people have emotional attachment to that item so strong that money can't break that bond. We need to have each item we sell leave with the strongest bond to the purchaser as possible. They may never come back and buy another, but they will never part with the one they have or say anything negative about it to anyone who asks about it either.

Consciously bake word of mouth into your product or service. Most people skip this step. Make giving people a reason to talk about your products and services part of your culture, not just your marketing. Attaching meaning is what word of mouth is based on. Having our customers care enough about us to tell our story for us is key. Having them love what they bought so much that they buy more as gifts, or talk about it so much that all their friends need one too. This is is what the artisan needs to be doing. Most of us don't have advertising budgets, or a marketing department, or even a sales force. But if we treat our customers right, teach them about us, and show them how much we care about who they are and what we do, they will step up and be all the advertising, marketing, and sales force we need.



Are Craft Shows just Hope?

So I am still on the thought processes surrounding this book I recently read: Marketing-A Love Story.

There are quite a few passages that really resonated with me as an artisan. I will bold them below and once again, so sorry for the lack of page numbers.

He starts talking about a local farm market (I think) and mentions that Each week the stallholders show up and hope. Each week when an artisan attends a craft show we are doing the same thing, hoping: We show up and hope the weather is good, we hope the crowds turn out, we hope we have a good location. We hope that we are selling something someone may want. 

Without having a story attached to our work, having something beyond the item that attaches you, our customer, to us in a meaningful way, then the internet will win. Online you can buy things when you want it, when you need it, not when you see it at a craft show. 

Our story is our mission statement. Your mission statement should be something you live every day, on purpose. Are you actually on a mission or are you just assaying you are?- For me this is very true about the recent move for all products to be “green washed”. They are just saying they are on a mission. Customers will eventually see through to the truth. I have so many problems when I read the (now almost cliche) story. "I started making x natural product because I had a baby and couldn't find anything in the marketplace that suited my needs". Really? Today with the number of shows, a thriving Soapmakers Guild, Etsy, and Whole Foods you couldn't find ANYTHING that worked for you. You decided to take time away from your newborn and start a company? I mean if it is true, great. But really? The easy, believable spin, would be to mention that you are a localvore, that you try and buy your food and as much of other stuff as you can made within 100 miles of your house. There wasn't anyone LOCAL who could provide you with what you want, so you did it yourself. That I can swallow. That is a story that reflects your passion, your life. 

The earring maker knows who his customers are and what makes them tick before he sets up his stall and he creates things just for them. Maybe he also knows that understanding your customers is a better strategy than hoping.- taking feedback, taking ideas, listening to their needs and wants and using that as a basis for our creations is the only way to go. That is one thing that can keep us as artisans ahead of the mass market. We can listen to each individual customer, we can make what they ask for, we can listen for trends and react quicker. We are leaner, meaner, businesses and not taking advantage of that is the biggest mistake we can make. Even if you don't take special orders, you can still listen to the needs and wants of your customers.

Just showing up, unlocking the door, and putting on the conference or giving the lecture is no longer good enough. Access is no longer the point. This is why shows need to offer more than just access to the artisans. They need to help us connect. They need to offer demonstrations, or talks. Music, food, ambiance. The shows that are dying just open thir doors and let in the customers. The ones that are thriving have made the show an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.

So how does this help me? It helps me recognize that my story is special. It reminds me I need to tell my story to anyone who will listen. It helps me choose shows in the future and drop shows as they are lagging. It teaches me that right now, shows and the web site are working hand in hand. That I need to work on both equally to build the business, not just rely on one or the other.  And above all, it teaches me to LISTEN to my customers (both realized and potential) and to figure out how to incorporate what they want into who I am and what I offer. It is a symbiotic relationship.