People make purchase decisions based on products they desire, can obtain, and are aware of. Desire is often based on utility and attractiveness, while availability and pricing determine whether an item can be obtained. But awareness is the area where most makers struggle, sometimes even driving quality manufacturers from the market.
Ways to Increase Sales
There are several ways to improve sales results.
- Improve distribution
- Product Differentiation
- Increase awareness
I’m not going to fully address the first two points in this document, we’ll leave those for another day. But generally speaking:
- Distribution can be improved by doing things such as: selling products on eBay, Amazon or other online marketplaces; setting up an eCommerce site; finding retailers who are interested in selling your product.
- Differentiation must be real and not perceived. For example, if the market is being flooded by a particular type of product – say hunting knives – focus efforts on something completely different – like tomahawks.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that you already have a quality, differentiated product and you’ve made it available for sale. Now you need to begin to build awareness of the product so people have the opportunity to make an actual purchase decision. So I’m going to go in a logical order with the recommendations because they build on one another.
Establishing a Web Presence
A website allows for a central location to catalog the story of a maker and their products. Your website should include a story about you, a gallery of your previous works, and links to your available work. Websites only work when sufficient information is added to create a critical mass – so everything you do should be documented and cataloged.
A website can serve as a single source for contact information, social sharing, marketing materials, digital storefronts, and commerce. And if you intend to do any social sharing, its the single best place for you to put information to promote. The longer you have a website and the more you promote it, the more respect Google will have for it in terms of sending natural search traffic over time.
But keep in mind that although a website is a critical first step for all marketing initiatives, it is valueless if not combined with additional activities. Don’t even bother setting one up if you aren’t going to do anything else.
For free help with building your own website, find a local WordPress Meetup group. Or ask your favorite teenager to set one up.
Alternatives to a Website
The closest alternative to a stand alone website is a Facebook page (set one up here). Unfortunately it will be much less effective in multi channel marketing than a stand alone website.
For example, you can’t promote a Facebook page on Twitter, or Google+, or Pinterest. And if printed on a business card, a facebook link appears to be nothing more than a social handle, it does not inspire a potential client to seek out information in the same way a URL does. It’s just not professional.
Facebook isn’t an effective medium for sales or order taking. It’s an awareness channel. So it’s just like trying to use a hammer to grind a blade. It’s never really going to work.
Professional sales organizations have radically different commission structures for new client acquisition vs up-sell or re-sale to existing clients. That’s because it’s much harder to get a new client than to keep an existing client! So from day one you should be keeping a list of every client and gathering full details including addresses, email, and any other notes that help you remember them and their preferences and details.
Every sale by definition should add 1 new name to an ever growing marketing list. These are people who are already aware of you, so going forward you only need to let them know what you’re up to now.
List building is something you do to be proactive with your sales efforts. When you have a new product you can reach out to your list to make it available. And your list can be used to stay top of mind with customers.
You can use a service like MailChimp for professionally managed email lists, you can also use Feeburner to make email subscriptions availalable for your blog update notifications. Both of these services will allow people to sign up for your notifications and opt-in for your update messages.
Social promotion is a reactive tool. You make yourself available with updates to various social networks so anyone can follow along with your updates, whether they know you well or have only just discovered you.
The most important socials sites follow. I’ve included links to my social profiles as examples, though I don’t exclusively focus on Bladesmithing and I might not be the best example since I’m as well established public personality:
My recommendation is that you take time to set up ALL of them, and then give each a try. See which ones you enjoy the most, and then stick with them ruthlessly!
Consistency is key when it comes to social sharing – you need to do it routinely so people become accustomed to looking for your updates. It’s also important to share things that are actually interesting and unique. Stay away from politics, religion, or anything else controversial! You’re building a social profile to attract, not alienate people.
Here are a couple examples of socially active bladesmiths:
- Logan Pearce’s Website
- Logan Pearce on Twitter
- Logan Pearce on Facebook
- Logan Pearce on DeviantArt
- Logan Pearce’s YouTube Channel
- Logan Pearce on Tumblr
As you can see, Logan is extremely socially active. He’s basically dropped off Twitter since 2015, but he remains active on Facebook where he’s amassed 350k likes on his page, and each person who likes it will potentially see everything he posts in the future in their stream.
He also has a small YouTube channel where he’s posted a few short informational videos, as well as a presence on a couple of other sites that attract a lot of attention for visual creativity. Each of these channels serves to drive his awareness further, which increases his subscribers, and also increases the number of people aware of his products and competing to purchase them – helping create scarcity and drive prices upwards.
Walter’s specialty is YouTube. With 189,000+ subscribers and over 16 Million views on his content, his awareness level is extremely high. He has recently set up a Patreon site where people can give him money for making new videos. Yes, not for making them a knife – for just sharing new videos on YouTube!
Generally, when it comes to social media sharing, you want information that is generic enough to appeal to everyone, but one problem you’ll routinely notice with Bladesmiths is that they often seem to be talking to other Bladesmiths as opposed to potential customers.
Detailed step by step video tutorials about how to do something won’t hold the attention of the average viewer. Although videos that demonstrate the steps while discussing the challenges faced during the construction of a knife are interesting to everyone, and also help establish the value of a handmade piece.
The Bottom Line
It’s tempting for creative people to spend all of their time focusing on their talents and relying on their strengths. And Bladesmithing is such an old world skill that many of its practitioners are uncomfortable with the online world. But if selling more product and increasing the value of your products are important to you, then marketing is a core competency that needs to be developed just as much as forging, grinding, heat treating, or any other part of the bladesmithing process.
In fact, you should think of this as the last step of the process.