Saturday, March 13, 2010

Going Pro As a Woodworker Part 4 - Finding Customers

"If you build it they will come!" This is not completely true. This addition makes the statement ring true to me, "If you build it and they know about it they will come!"

Sam Maloof struggled with finding the best way to connect with customers during the early part of his career. For him to build "It," wasn't enough. He tried designer galleries for a while and had to give too much money (commissions) and control. He finally settled on a one customer at a time model while really pushing the magazine, newspaper article and book methods of getting the word out about his work.

The "humble" woodworker can't be so humble in reality. The woodworker, businessman must be more like the character in the old private detective series named Columbo. He was always asking questions , never thwarted but never rude and always "humble" as he moved in to solve the case. In the case of the humble woodworker you must find opportunity after opportunity to show, talk about and/or tell a story about your furniture. To do this you need to know your story and develop your brand before moving forward to find your real customers. In other words, Who are you? What is your story? What do you do? What is your product's value?

Consider these questions to find your customers:
  • Who are your customers? You should be able to describe them. Education, income, age, interests, vocations, dreams, needs and values. They are your target. A person recently asked me if I ever took my chairs over to a local flea market to sell. I graciously thanked him for his suggestion . He didn't know my customer.
  • Where are your customers located? I live in a city that is more concerned with price than the experiences of life. As a young woodworker making custom furniture, I competed with furniture stores in my local market. Let me tell you there is not any profit there.You have to fish in a pond with the fish you want to catch.
  • How do you get your furniture or story in front of your customer? Once you know the answer to the above and you have developed a product out of wood that you think your customer desires, then you have to place your brand in front of them. (see blog article concerning developing your brand)

I found out through bold effort that the media needs a story. They have all of this space, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers that they need to feed. I find that a press release emailed to the newspaper or magazine works well. Give them enough of an idea for a story that they can take it and make it their own.

Example: We have a turning club locally that was having a devil of a time getting press. I told the president that I would use a method I had used before to get them a story. The local paper's "Home Section" was a good fit for a story about wood turners (mostly men) wearing plaid concerned with designing and making wooden decorative items with texture, shape and color using lathes. I emailed the story idea to the home editor and she pounced on the idea. The story brought renewed interest, new members and enough orders to improve their clubs teaching mission. I have done the same thing with teaching woodworking classes. They need to print!

The media loves human stories about craftsmanship and passing skills to a new generation. They need you! (See a magazine story link in part 2 of this series that is an example of how I have used this method)

If your customer can afford your work they read and keep abreast of what is going on using the media in some form. Try the following to find your customer one, fifty, five hundred or thousands of miles away from home:
  • Establish a blog or website. I have sold my woodworking products to customers all over the world even in Moscow, Russia by utilizing the internet. Like I have said before, take or pay for high quality professional pictures of your work and post them on the web. Create your store. The world is flat on the internet and you look as big as anybody.
  • Join and link to individuals on the internet that will place you in front of your customer.
  • Send links and stories to TV stations, magazines and newspapers that can place your work and story in front of your customer.
  • Recognize key people who can get the word out for you as a customer or connector to your next target customer.
  • Study other successful woodworkers and find out their story. They can be and usually know the keys to success. This works for anything you want to do!
While you are perceived as the humble woodworker, sell, sell. sell!!!

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