Dear Design Doctor
I have been selling my jewellery since graduating from the RCA 12 years ago. I used to sell through a couple of galleries and well-known craft shows, but I find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Some galleries have closed, or only want to work on a Sale or Return basis. Trade shows are really expensive.
I know there is a recession going on, but I wasn’t expected it to go down this badly. What can I do to get more galleries buying my work?
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine September/October 2013 (page 32) where it was titled ‘Putting your practice into focus’:
‘We all know that the High Street is struggling. Consumers are spending less on ‘luxury’ items, and there has been far more competition for galleries from online sales and more shows.
In the current climate we all need to work a little bit harder and put in some extra marketing effort to get those sales!
Some galleries have done a fantastic job embracing online sales or organising great events to pull clients in, and they are surviving or thriving as a result.
The great advantage for you as a maker is that you are actually much more in control of your marketing and sales than ever before. Galleries used to be one of the few places to sell your jewellery, but now you have got far more options: selling on your own website, online boutiques and galleries, Open Studios, craft and jewellery shows etc.
The first thing to do is identifying your niche and positioning in the market.
After 12 years your work and market will have changed so it’s probably time for a creative marketing re-evaluation:
- What 5 descriptive words would sum up your work?
- Is your work bold statement pieces to go to the theatre, or precious jewellery for the mother-of-the-bride?
- Who buys currently your work, and why?
- Who would be your ideal client?
Be as specific as possible about identifying your ideal clients, and what they are like, why they buy jewellery, when they buy jewellery. Create a mood board with your ideal client, the clothes they wear, the occasions for which they buy jewellery, where they find out about or shop for jewellery.
You can learn more about what niche marketing is, and why it is so important for small creative businesses here.
Think about the future, and what you really want to be known for.
- What are your specific talents, passions and inspirations? Can you describe this in 5 words too? Find your niche.
- Who are your 5 closest competitors, and what do they sell, where and at what price level?
Do some practical market research to find out what others are doing, and create a list of at least 40 potential galleries, (online) retailers and selling events.
Instead of just focusing on galleries and trade shows start looking a bit broader.
- Where else would your work fit in?
- Which indie shops, online boutiques or (corporate) gift sites sell the work of your peers?
- Which new craft or jewellery events would be suitable for you?
- What about outside of the UK?
Finding out where and how your role models are selling will give you loads of ideas to pursue for yourself – from the names of potential retailers and selling events, to new product lines or how to photograph or present your work in a way that really appeals to your ideal clients and reflects what you do best.
You’ll need to become more proactive and creative in your marketing
Approaching potential wholesalers directly is one of the most effective ways to do this. During your research into potential selling opportunities identify who the best person is to contact and who else is currently selling their work with them. Write a short but personalised email or letter, introduce yourself and show that you have done your research. Share your values such as high quality craftsmanship, bold creativity or ethical gold. Include some images of your work and the link to your website. Or provide a nicely designed price list with great images of your work.
Contact new retail clients in a period when they are more likely to purchase, such as January and February (for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day) or September to November (for Christmas).
If you don’t hear anything within a week, contact them by phone and ask friendly if they received your email or package. Following up nicely but consistently is crucial. Start a conversation on the phone, see if you can get feedback and find out what happens next.
Don’t take it personal if they are not immediately interested, it is very common and they need to get to know you. Selling is all about building a relationship, and you will need patience and some persistence.
I suggest that you spend about one day every week on marketing. Keep researching, and approach about 5 potential new retailers every week. At the same time keep following up regularly with invites to shows you are doing or info about new collections you are creating.
Trade buyers sometimes take a little longer to make decisions, as they would need to make space for your work. Emphasise your credibility as professional creative who has been in business for 12 years. Stay at all times friendly, listen to their feedback, keep in touch, and no doubt you soon will have some great new trade outlets to work with.
Did you find this blog post on increasing your wholesale sales useful? Please recommend it to others, or ‘like’ it or tweet about it. If you have any questions or further suggestions, then please add them below in the comments box: