Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some Pointless Rambling about Advertising, Pricing and Buyer Mentality

Okay, okay, it's not so pointless. I'm just trying to draw out and prolong the Interview Series by posting this before the very last one I have, in the hopes that some of the responses I'm waiting on will come in.

So in the meantime, I'd actually like to talk about two very touchy subjects for any hand-crafter:
Pricing and Advertising.
And also:
Buyer Mentality

I had a whole post about Pricing near the end of last year.  Though I'm not sure anyone can really say enough about it.  I've not yet touched on Advertising, though.  Buyer Mentality, I went over a little bit last year also, during the holiday shopping season, but what about normally? What about the times where it's not a holiday shopping season, and it's not the season of "rushrushrush" and "buybuybuy"?

Let me begin with Advertising.  Let's face it.  It's really not easy to get your name and product out there.  Even if you open an online shop, or have a website, you're not going to be able to see a million sales within that first week. Especially if you are in certain areas, like Jewelry, Knitting, Crocheting, or Cards.  These areas especially have many, MANY people who make MANY magnificent things, and it's hard sometimes to sort through all of the sellers to find that ONE thing you're looking for, whether it be for yourself or for someone else.  But let's say YOU have that special something. How will a buyer KNOW? How will they even have the idea that you even exist?

Sure there are link exchanges, social media, paid advertising options… But what if you really don't have an advertising budget?
I will admit, I do not.  I'm saving up, but right now, I just can't afford a premium slot of advertising space, and I can't afford to pay for premium membership in any of the places I sell to be heralded on the front page of the site every day, every week, every month.  My shops are buried on their respective sites, and it's hard to post something new every day when I don't MAKE something new EVERY day.  And I know I'm not alone.  Many shops who are just starting out won't have that budget, and they won't have a stock of items to just post, post, post, either.  So what's the secret to getting your shop found?

If you find out, please tell me! I need more sales!

… Ahem.

There are actually several things that I've found out that have at least opened eyes, even if it really hasn't brought about sales yet.
It might seem obvious, but Social Media.  Are you on Facebook? Is your shop? 
What about Twitter? Pinterest? 

It's amazing how people can overlook some of these tools.  On Facebook, having a fan page is actually a very good way to start, especially if you have a non-existant budget.  Your friends will probably mumble a little when you send each and every one of them a message saying "Go Like My Page!", but really, most of them will do so, even if they have no idea what it is, and don't care what it is, only doing so because you are their friend.  That is then listed on their page.  Someone they are friends with that you are not will see it, and if it's clear what you make, or if your name is intriguing enough, chances are they'll click on it in curiosity.  They may look and say "Meh, no." or "Oooh."  That may generate another Like, which in turn will be posted on their wall, where friends they have that you don't know will see it. And the chain reaction has begun.  This was how Dream Weaver Jewelry (and more!) got its first 100 Likes, in fact.  I was shocked, in shock, and wasn't sure I was really awake.  After burning my tongue on some molten cheese in the pasta I forgot in my shock was FRESH out of the oven, I was sure I was, though. By the way, I don't suggest that method of waking up or realizing that yes, it did happen.

After a time, I found a nifty little Facebook/Twitter app that posts everything I put on my Page's Facebook Wall to my Twitter – not my personal one, one I had set up just for Dream Weaver Jewelry (and more!).  It did take a few tests, and sometimes it doesn't post certain things (if you post a question, for instance), that I have to put up manually, but for the most part, that became almost completely hands- and worry-free.  My Twitter updated when my Facebook did, and I didn't have to constantly go to both to make sure both sets of Followers were updated on what I'm up to, the pictures I post, etc.

I found Pinterest by accident.  I'm not as good at keeping up with it yet, but I'm getting better.  Pinterest is a great way to share things you find, though many may not like it because it discourages SELF-promotion.  But I will admit, I've found some amazing things pinned there, and I myself have pinned things I find amazing, and have been surprised to find they have been liked, and some even repinned by others.

To be perfectly honest, I find advertising to be a balancing game.  Yes, I want my name and my shop out there for all to see, but I also look at some other shops or items and wonder "Why hasn't someone snapped that up yet?" or "Why hasn't this shop seen more sales? Their stuff is stunning!"  This is where my gallery that comes at the end of my more serious posts comes from.  If that item is buried, no one will ever see that it may be that SOMETHING they absolutely have to have, or that they've been looking for as a gift to that SOMEONE.  I know I don't have a huge following here, but I like to think that maybe, just maybe, enough people read my blog to see it, spread the word, or even be the one who's been looking for that item.  It's also one of the reasons I've been sharing the stories and items of the people in my Minnerviews. We're all in this together, and I see no reason to try to bury my competition, unless of course they ripped off one of my designs or blatantly copied my work to sell – which thankfully I've not seen yet.  Everything I see is so unique, and deserves to be seen. 

Self-promotion is only part of it.  Sometimes one gets more attention for their conduct, more so than their product.  This ties in also with how a potential customer may view potential customer service.  I'm sad to say I've dealt with some really rotten sellers, lovely product, but absolutely rude, obnoxious, and so full of themselves that they look down their nose at someone "daring" to ask a question about the product that they "slaved" over, and I was actually told once: "If you're not going to buy it, I'm not going to bother with your questions."  Needless to say, I wrote back "Well, I was asking questions to make sure that this was the one I wanted to buy, since it's exactly what I'm looking for, and I just want more information on its materials and making, but if you're going to treat a potential customer like THAT, I'm not buying from you."  That product stayed right where it was, and I went elsewhere. 

You don't treat people that way.  You just don't.  I don't care who you are – your product is NOT the only one, THE BEST there is, and I do not HAVE to buy from you if you are rude to me, treat me like I should bow down to you and your product, and you refuse to answer questions, or treat customers – potential as well as actual – with respect, or thank them for even looking at your shop, whether they buy or not.

Advertising is not only about putting your product out there.  It's also about YOU.  Your work will share a lot of your personality, whether you realize it or not.  When you advertise, you should not only be advertising your product, but yourself as well.  Customers want to see a sense of customer service, quality, a willingness to work with, or possibly customize items, friendliness, patience, and kindness as well as good workmanship or craftsmanship.

This is a good lead in to remind you all of Pricing.

All of those traits will also make whatever price you set seem worth it.  I know so many that struggle still with pricing their work, since it is hard to balance what people will actually pay, and how not to cheat yourself.

I've seen work similar to some of what I do, done in plastic, glass, or cheap junk sell for higher prices than what I charge… and I don't understand it, and I do wish someone would explain that to me.  Why is it that people don't mind shelling out $25 for a shoddily made necklace with cheap-metal chain, glass or plastic beads, but a lovely design, but will look at sterling silver, semi-precious or precious stones, Swarovski crystal, fine craftsmanship in a design just as lovely, for the same $25, and sneer and ask "You want me to pay THAT price for THAT piece of junk?"

This ties into Buyer Mentality.

For some strange reason, the above scenario is actually all too common, even though the common buyer doesn't realize it.
Go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever Major Store you have.  Go to the "Fashion Jewelry" section.  Look around.  Look at the prices.  Then examine the work.
Most people don't know the differences, or what to look for.  I can tell you, though, from the perspective of KNOWING jewelry rather intimately, that if you are looking at something that says "GENUINE GOLD" or "GENUINE STERLING SILVER" – it's not.  You want the real thing? You better be looking in the glass cases at the higher priced stuff.  That's the only place where there will be Genuine ANYTHING.

If it's out on a display table, or on a wall, it's not going to be real, no matter how many times it screams "GENUINE!!!!" on the packaging.  It might be plated.  But when that plating wears off, you're likely to find a cheap metal that will burn your skin, set off an allergy, or just look like crap.  Trust me. It doesn't take long for it to wear off – I used to buy that stuff, and if I wore it for a week, it would be completely crap by the end of it.

One MAJOR thing to look at/look for is the way the LOOPS are made.  I took a moment to make two eye loops with some scrap silver plated wire I had left over from a project so I could provide examples.

Bad Eye PinDoes it look like this?
Stay away from it.  This indicates fast, or just plain shoddy work.  The eye-loop is improperly formed, not properly closed, and if it was done with a machine, it was not properly checked for quality before it left.  If it was made by hand, it was probably made quickly to produce quantity on time, and not much attention was paid to the quality of the work.
This eye loop will very easily catch in hair, on clothing, or other things that when pulled, will pull the piece apart, destroying the item entirely.

If the item is indeed hand-made, it also will indicate amateur work. Check back with the seller after a while – I will admit that this is indeed what my eye-loops once looked like, and it did take me time to learn to make them better.

Good Eye PinDoes it look like this?
You can trust it.  This indicates care and time was taken, or was made by someone who is experienced with making loops, or if it was made by machine, the item was properly checked for quality.  If it was made by hand, the person who made it took their time for quality, not necessarily quantity, or made by someone who is experienced enough to make quality loops quickly. The eye-loop is properly closed, and will not easily catch in hair or clothing, or other things, so it is far more difficult to be pulled apart, destroying the item.

If the item is hand-made, this indicates good to masterful work, or that time was taken to check it, correct it, or remake it for quality.  Check the seller's other work, and of course check the dates – earlier work may look like the one above. If it does, you know then that the person who made the work has improved rapidly, or has learned new or better technique.  This is a good quality in jewelry makers.

The loops are usually one very quick indicator of whether or not the item is worth it.  Another thing to look for is for how much something screams "GENUINE".  For example, take the ring that my sister dropped in her Lasagna, then found later by biting down on it (and cursing a lot).  Knowing I have some jewelry knowledge, she gave me the bent bit of "GENUINE" silver, and asked me to straighten it back out into a ring.  Well, I did so.  Then I saw the marks from where she bit it, winced, and whipped out the needle files and fine grit sanding pad and the polishing leather pad.

I hope she doesn't kill me.  Some of that "GENUINE" silver, is actually…. Copper.

Don't mind my hands, sanding dust from metal tends to turn them black, and my hands, my nails themselves are a little work-weathered.

Linda's Ring Top This is the top of my sister's ring.  You can see the tooth-marks pretty clearly.  I did file this a little, until I saw the slight hint of the copper along the very top of the left-hand heart.  I stopped filing.  This was the first clue.  I thought to myself, okay, perhaps it's a trick of the light. Let me try somewhere else to test this.

Linda's Ring Side This one shows the side, which is a little blurry in this shot, for which I apologize – which was still too obvious.

So I didn't even touch this spot.

Linda's Ring Bottom And the bottom of the ring, which I filed, sanded and then polished.

And it's VERY obvious. Copper.

This was one of those "GENUINE!!!!!!" Silver rings.

… doesn't look genuine to me.  This one, however, is a bit better than most – it looks like actual copper under that silvery sheen, and not some other metal.

GENUINE!Love This one is one of my mother's.  She asked me to clean it.  I cleaned it and buffed it for her.

This also, was a GENUINE!!!!!!! Silver ring.

Not So GENUINE!Love A look at the inside tells the truth, however. Blackened, greenish, even after a dip in silver jewelry cleaner, a light brushing and a light buffing.

Not so GENUINE!!!!!!! after all.

Actually GenuineTHIS ring, however, is also my mother's, and she asked me to clean it.  I sent it through my silver jewelry cleaner.

It did not need buffing.

This is actually silver, ladies and gentlemen.

Triple Comparison Let's have a look at all three rings.

The one on the top is the real one.  Notice it's not ULTRA bright, but has a lovely sheen.

The middle one is my sister's "GENUINE!!!!!!" Silver ring – but only a plating or coating… and it's unknown what it's actually plated with.  In my opinion, it looks more like that ULTRA shiny chrome you see on cars – since it is ULTRA bright.

The last one also claimed "GENUINE!!!!!!!!" Silver! But you can see the lackluster shine, and you saw the inside above.  This is probably Alpaca Silver – which I warned about in an earlier blog post.  This ring would very likely give anyone with a nickel allergy a very nasty reaction.

The top ring would probably have been priced around $30-35 in today's standards.  This ring is older, and was probably purchased for less at that time (around 20 or more years ago).
The middle ring was probably one of those $5-15 things you see on prominent displays at larger stores.
The bottom ring was likely from one of those little Mall Kiosks.  Cute things, yes, but very rarely real.  Also probably around $5-15.
Yes, the middle and bottom rings will look okay or great for a while, but time wears out that shiny silvery coating, as is seen on the inside of the second ring.  For those without metal allergies, all it will do will pit, feel uncomfortable and turn your finger funky colors (usually green or black).  For those with metal allergies, this can cause severe reactions.

But notice how much more expensive the real ring is.  Also notice that I said it was purchased around 20 years ago. The other two were more recent, but considering how one is apparently copper (and the plating or coating is very thin), and the bottom one was never silver to begin with, they may look lovely for a time, but then their luster will fade, and they will look more like the junk they are.  That bottom ring already looks more like junk, even though it is still serviceable as a"silver colored" ring.
The bottom two are most likely to be purchased – they are inexpensive and look nice.  But as I just said, they will only look nice for a little while.  The top ring, which is less likely to be purchased unless someone is looking specifically for quality, and is buying from those glass cases, or from an actual jewelry shop, will last much longer.

The problem most hand-crafters have is this:
Buyers want inexpensive, and most do not realize that inexpensive doesn't mean quality.

Crafters make quality, and expect to price for materials, quality AND their time to make sure what they have produced IS quality.
Hand-crafted items will usually be more expensive, which is why my pet peeve ALWAYS comes into play: "I can get that so much cheaper at (Big Store/Name Store at the mall/Kiosk at the mall), so why should I pay that exorbitant price for your cheap handmade crap?"

Unless, of course, the buyer is educated on hand-crafted items, the work that goes into them, and the time taken to ensure that what the hand-crafter offers for sale is quality, and very often one-of-a-kind.

That is why I write these. I try to make it clear that since so much is made in other countries, most notably China (which, if you read up on, is often cited for poor working conditions, poor quality, lead use, and other such things), that because it's cheaper, it's not always going to be what you expect.  Granted, some things made in other countries ARE high quality, and beautifully made – usually ethnic items native to that culture are going to be the best.

Most things made in another country are made there for some other country which outsources their labor to keep their overhead costs low, and offer lower prices so more things are purchased.  This does not necessarily mean that outsource is going to provide the highest quality – just less expensive, mass produced items.  There are always exceptions, of course, but normally, it won't be.

Hand-crafters do not do this.  They make their items with their own two hands.  They may have things they can "mass produce", or keep in stock.  I know I do, but I make those when I don't have other projects, or when I need something to do to keep my hands busy, or when I'm preparing for a live venue.  Not all hand-crafters do this, or even have that ability, depending on their craft.

Back to Pricing for a moment.
Hand-crafters almost always short themselves in order to sell their products, because of the mentality that it has to be inexpensive to actually move from their shops.  I have done so, admittedly, but I don't agree with it.  It's not fair to the person who made the item at all.  They took the time to make the item, check it for quality, and then offered it for sale.

A person expects proper compensation for what they do. So let me ask this:
Why is a hand-crafter's time not worth this?  What is it that makes people think that someone who sells hand-crafted items they made with their own two hands should not be properly compensated for their time?  Other professions do, why should they not be? 

A hand-crafter not only makes their items, but photographs them (photographers make around $25-30 an hour), markets them (marketing assistants make around $20 an hour), does their invoicing and other paperwork, including filing (clerical jobs can be anywhere from $8-25 an hour, depending on the work and company they work for), their shipping (mailroom clerks make around $15 per hour), and often spend the time to drive to and from the post office or shipping place of their choice (current 2012 per-mile reimbursement rate is $0.51 per mile). 

Using these averages (which I calculated from US National Average Salaries from basic job titles found on www.salary.com), and after some more research that says most people charge anywhere between $10-30 per hour for actual crafting time (found on various question/answer websites by using Google to ask the question "How much should I charge per hour to make jewelry?"), let's see just how much crafters really "should" be charging.

I'll use one of my own items as an example.
Let's see.  One of my more recent items… Ah. One of my earwrap/earcuff sets.
Hrm.. the Fire one.
It took me around 12 hours to design and finalize the earwrap, about 5 hours for the cuff. Using the average of $20 for labor… $340 for just the labor there.
Materials.  The materials cost was around $30, if you count raw materials, and trial-and-error failures in the design process… $30 for materials.
I spent at least 4 hours setting up and photographing both of them, and then sorting through and picking the best ones and adjusting for crop and lighting… about $100 for the photography.
I used a model.  I should have paid her for her time, even if it was my sister. Some of these at entry-level charge up to $50 or more per hour… I should have paid her $200 for her time.. so I have to charge $200 for the modeling work done to photograph my product for sale.
I had to post them, which is marketing work, that took me about an hour all told, to put it up on Facebook, check that it posted to Twitter, posted it on my deviantArt gallery, and put it up on my shops, so $20 there.
If one sells, I have to do the paperwork.  Another hour spent doing that. $10 there, if I use the lower entry-level average.
Shipping.  I have to package the item for shipping, put everything into the mailing item (padded envelope, bubble envelop, box, etc.), which I also had to purchase, and then drive into town (I live in a rural area), to take it to the post office and make sure it has delivery confirmation… So let's see, time to package, around half an hour, so $7.50 there, driving the 17 miles to AND back from town, that's around $9 for the mileage, and I spent about an hour to drive and wait at the post office.. so another $15 right there.
Now that set is on its way to its new owner.
If I add all that up…. That earwrap/earcuff set should be minimum cost $731.50.  Oh, right, retail markup! How could I forget that?  So a 25% markup…
My Fire Elemental Earwrap/Earcuff set should retail at $915!  That's not much, is it? 
Funny, I only charge $60 for the set, and $5 for shipping within the US, $10 outside it.  I'm shorting myself $850!! Oh, wait no.  $650. I forgot I had to pay my model for her time, which was calculated at $200. Oh! And Etsy charges $0.20 for every listing, so every time I've listed or relisted it, that has to be calculated and added, and then they take 3% of the sale, so I have to add that if it sells on Etsy, and if it sells on MadeItMyself, they charge 3.5% of each sale, so I'd have to calculate that, and if I get a Premium Zibbet account I'd have to account for that too.  All of those factors would adjust the price on each site, which would cause me to do some basic accounting work…

As I said before – crafters short themselves for their work, and many buyers tell them they charge too much.
It's hard enough to advertise, create and price your work, but then, if you look at that one example, you see what hand-crafters go through to please the buyer mentality that it should be much cheaper than it is just because it's hand-crafted.  Granted, not everyone thinks that way, but far, far too many do.

I leave you by repeating my questions from above:
Why is a hand-crafter's time not worth this? 
What is it that makes people think that someone who sells hand-crafted items they made with their own two hands should not be properly compensated for their time? 
Other professions do, why should they not be?

Do you know someone who has that buyer mentality?  Point them this way! Educate them.
I should make a new slogan: Stop the Abuse of Hand-Crafters!  No, perhaps not.  That would require yet more paperwork…

Until next week's interview!  Thank you, everyone, for reading!

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