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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Target the Cross Over Crafter to Increase your Sales!

Crafters fall in and out of love pretty easily.  We are a somewhat fickle bunch...one day it is beading, the next day knitting is what rocks the world.  I crocheted feverishly all winter but will not pick up my hook again until Fall, content to have the colorful "not quite an afghan yet" granny squares decorating the wall in my studio for now.  Florida is already getting too hot  to have a lap filled with wool---what with Menopausal hot flashes and all.  Besides...I want to focus on jewelry for the moment.     Fiber is my passion and fiber jewelry in particular is what tends to make my heart go pitter pat...there is something intoxicating about the marriage of fiber and sparkle that makes me giddy.  I will admit that there was a time when my affinity for fiber jewelry made me a bit of a pariah.  I was a fashion DON'T with respect to my fetish.   

Not so any longer!

One cannot peruse a fashion magazine or scan the web without spying some sort of fibery adornment these days.   It is everywhere!  All of Anthroplogie's recent collections feature fiber of some sort.  The "Layers of Grace" bib necklace pictured below retails for $158.00  PUHLEASE!   A snippet of lace and some brass chain.   A Crafty Retailer could teach her customers to whip up something similar for a fraction of the cost!

Chances are, most Crafty Retailers won't think to do it.  Fiber jewelry is a bit "out there"  for  many standard bead stores.  Yarn shops tend to ignore it as well, concentrating more on garment construction.  The clumsy felt ball necklaces of yesteryear might have scared everyone away---I wouldn't be seen in such a necklace, either!    A quick Google  search for "felted jewelry" turned up over 10 million breathtaking images---the art has clearly evolved beyond the ball and your customers are all over it! 

Fiber jewelry is cost effective...many of the most beautiful creations center upon reclaimed/recycled components.  An old sweater can become the base for a felted cuff.  A broken piece of granny's jewelry can become the centerpiece for a spectacular new necklace.  A sliver of satin becomes a fabric bead.  Use your crafty Know How to fashion classes that your customers can afford!   Need some help?  Maricel, owner of the Etsy shop SolBijou offers a tutorial for making a vintage inspired Re-Creation--featuring delicate ribbon flowers-- like the one pictured above---for a mere $10. 

Check out some of the other fanciful creations I found in the cybersphere:

The spectacular brooches pictured above feature zippers and recycled sweaters.  The artist, Odile Gova, maintains an enchanting  Etsy shop, Woolyfabulous.

  I rarely suffer from jewelry envy but did not pause too long before raiding my "new video camera savings stash" to buy the flower brooch pictured at left.    Sometimes survival is a matter of perspective.  What I think of as "necessary" and what my husband perceives it to be are a little different. Economy be damned.   People are still spending---if you are offering something they want to spend their money on!

Ivy Long, the artist behind Edera Jewelry, creates some of the most romantic and ethereal crochet jewelry that I have ever seen.   The drop earrings pictured below are certainly drool worthy, wouldn't you agree?



The work of Gail Crosman Moore caused me to take back my snide "felted ball" comments---her work ROCKS.  I am inspired!  Hmmmm.......I might have to re-think the whole balls thing.
 Feeling inspired?  Wholesale customers can use coupon code TCR5 to save 5% off any purchase that includes fiber through April 5 from my online store

IN OTHER NEWS
 
The judges have spoken and we have a winner for our FIBER EARRING THROWDOWN!  We got a surprising number of entries and our judges were hard pressed to find one winner amongst the fabulous earring submissions...they really were all quite different and each was very lovely. However, life is cruel and decisions had to be made.  First prize went to Angie Shan for her exquisite folded ribbon creations.  Angie will receive a prize package valued at $150.  There were nine winners in all .....Check out all of the winning entries HERE.

We will be announcing two new challenges in April:  
Craft Warrior Challenge will be announced April 20
  Crafty Throwdown will be announced on April 27.  
Come play with us!

Eek!  We have run out of time!  Check with us next week when we feature survival tips from Crafty Retail Rock Star Carol Garfield, the owner of Dancing Beads.








Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Customer Service is a Contact Sport. How well are you playing the game?

The Ultimate Customer Experience. You think you are giving it....would your customers agree?

We all want to provide stellar service to each and every customer, every single day.  After all, Extreme Customer Service is the one area where brick and mortar retailers have a big advantage over their Big Box and E-Retail counterparts.  Of course, we have all heard stories about the rude or detached shop owner. Where is the disconnect?  Diane Gilleland, who is a respected author on matters related to social media, crafting and more, once did a blog post asking her readers for "Craft Store Horror Stories" and she was inundated with responses.  Some were laugh out loud funny, while others were simply pathetic.  A few typical comments:

Jen laments the treatment from her neighborhood yarn shop: 
It never fails, when I want to feel like an inept crafter, all I have to do is visit our LYS. Whenever I go in to browse yarn, I get the evil eye from the "usuals," slouched in randomly placed easy chairs, (some directly in front of shelves and alcoves, making it impossible to examine an entire row of yarn), knitting at rapid pace with snarls that read: What is SHE doing here?

Also, the folks at our LYS would rather cough up yarn balls than help anyone locate a particular fiber or assist someone with understanding a pattern or project. I invited a coworker to visit the LYS during our lunch break. My coworker brought a pattern she had printed from the internet. We spent 15 minutes admiring yarn before my coworker asked the YS employee, standing idle at the register, if she could recommend yarn for her pattern. The employee examined the printed pattern and replied in a monotone: "This pattern is from Hobby Lobby. It requires synthetic yarn. WE don't sell synthetic yarn." She then turned her back and went off to admire the work of some snarling person slouching in an armchair. 

Say it, Sistah!  Jen's experience mirrors the one I have every time I walk into one of the two yarn shops in my area.  I frequented the shop a number of times and and spent money on every visit but the last, when I finally determined that I would be damned if I was going to give any more of my hard earned money to such a sourpuss.

Kelly jumped on the bandwagon with the following observations:

Well, I hate to take another blast at LYS's but some of the worst customer service I have ever experienced is in three different ones I have been to:  

1. The owner of a local store [since closed] used to spend *all* of her time either talking/complaining loudly on the phone or yakking loudly with someone in the back of the store. I flipping hate that. You can park your personal conversation for the 15 minutes I am in your shop. If I'm there for much longer, you can talk quietly.

2. I once went to an LYS where the proprietor literally stood behind me the entire time I shopped and then would have the driving need to "re-stock" directly in front of me, wherever I was standing. I was totally confused by this behavior until my friend explained after we left: She thought I was going to steal something. (I was *shocked* by this revelation, by the way. Not to sound all old lady about it, but: "Well, I never!")

3. I rarely go to this other LYS but sometimes I find myself in the neighborhood and I check it out. And regret it. The workers are pretty friendly, but the place is a MESS. There is yarn everywhere. Half-empty bags out on the floor and filling every surface. The books (for sale!) are stacked into falling-over piles. It's such a bummer. They sell beautiful yarn, but clearly do not care about the customer experience. I don't want to buy expensive yarn that someone else was stomping all over earlier today. 

Yikes.  Personal phone calls, Aggressive Theft Prevention, Messy Stock.  Who would want to spend time or money in such a place?

The funny thing is...I am willing to bet that the retailers described above would not recognize themselves. They figure that they are doing a bang up job and blame lagging sales on the economy/the competition/the staff.  Silly girls!   Honest introspection is a wonderful thing...........if you dare!  

Meet Carol Garfield, a Crafty Retail Rock Star who has turned Customer Service into an art form!  Carol owns Dancing Beads in Medford, Oregon.  Her story is one that will resonate with you and she will share more about her journey next week.   Carol loves what she does and she does it well. The store ---about 600 square feet---  is her only source of income and Carol mentioned that she says "thank you" to her little shop every morning when she walks in the front door.   I believe it.  Her enthusiastic and infectious personality is permeated by a genuine attitude of gratitude. 
  
When asked about the key to her success, Carol noted that she is constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience.  She opened her first store in 1995, with no retail experience.  Although she didn't know much about owning a retail store, she knew how she liked to be treated while shopping in a retail store.  Carol observed that every Nordstrom's store has a banner sales staff and she emulated the Nordstom customer service model.

Her secrets include:

Know your customers and greet them by name as they walk through the door.   It is important to remember a little something about each one...trips they have taken, important events in their lives, the details of their most recent project.  For example, if an item comes in that might be of particular interest to a customer, Carol will make note of it so that she can immediately draw the customer's attention to it when she next visits.  The message: "You matter enough for me to remember you."  Good business with a side of warm fuzzies!

 Give something away every day.  Carol believes in the power of free and she strives to give something away every single day.  The customer who remembers that she needs two feet of chain just after the sale has been rung up might find the chain in her bag---no charge.   

Think fast and go for the win-win.  Lots of  retailers "get attitudinal" when customers ask for discounts/special pricing.   Not Carol...she just figures out a way to make it work for her, too.  For example, she was approached by a very good customer seeking to purchase gemstones from Carol's vendor.  Eek!  

[insert AWKWARD MOMENT here]

Although hesitant, Carol was determined to craft a win-win.  After all, the customer was savvy and in this internet age it is fairly easy to find wholesale sources.  Carol wanted to preserve the relationship more than she wanted to make the one sale.  So........she talked to her vendor and established some ground rules.  The vendor spent five hours with the customer and wound up selling her strand after strand of beautiful gemstones.   The customer got a great deal, and the gemstone dealer sent Carol a check for half of his profit.  Bottom line:  The customer saved a little while Carol and the Gemstone Dealer made a little.  Everybody wins.  Carol said that she was happy to go for the slow dime rather than the fast nickel and the customer is still a customer.  Well done, Carol, well done!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

If I can market office furniture, marketing your craft store should be a breeze!

Ever notice that it is really easy to give advice, but  a tad more difficult to follow it?   Helping my husband market his Office Furniture business has provided me with a great opportunity to practice what I preach and it ain't always pretty.  I am stretching  beyond my comfort level to do things that do not come easily, but I am doing it.  Is my halo glowing?

I send out e-mails.  I schedule special events.  I try [ ...er...."try" being the operative word] to keep his website current.   Heck,  I have even started networking.    Today I plan to ditch my shlumpy "working in front of the computer" clothes, don something that says "jewelry artist" and brave rush hour traffic to have a glass of wine with folks I met at a recent charity event. 

Guess what?

Its working!  Mind you, I am always behind and there is always more to do, but I can see the impact my efforts are having on the business.   A single email on filing cabinets has resulted in two customers who have gone on to spend tens of thousands of dollars with us.  Better yet, my husband has just added himself to the payroll---for now anyway---despite having been in the industry for less than a year.   I find that marketing office furniture is much more challenging than marketing Swarovski Crystal and Felting Supplies, but the same principles apply.  It is all about establishing the KNOW, LIKE, AND TRUST QUOTIENT! 

E-MAILS MATTER!
I want our brand to be top of mind with the consumer and need to do it in a manner that is not irritating.  I am learning the email "sweet spot" for prospective office furniture customers---- you know what I mean...that magic number that serves as a gentle reminder that we are here,  not harassment.   It appears that one email every three weeks is about right for us at this point.   You can email your crafty customer with greater frequency.  After all, she is already interested in what you are selling.  Crafting is what she thinks about when she is daydreaming at work.  It is what she wants to do when the kids are tucked in bed.  

My customer is a bit harder to engage.  My challenge is to give  him a reason to stop and peruse the email before hitting the delete key!    Not easy when you are selling work stations.  Accordingly, my emails often have little to do with  office furniture.  My last few blasts touted our latest "Business Boot Camp" Event.  

SCHEDULE SPECIAL EVENTS!

Since our customer is a small business owner struggling along just like the rest of us---wearing too many hats, facing too few hours in the day---we figured that it might be worthwhile to have a monthly gathering where folks could network and listen to a speaker on subjects of interest to every small business owner.  So far it is proving to be a solid networking effort.  Of course, any time you try something new, there is a learning curve and bump or two along the road.  Mama didn't raise no fool and  I made sure to stack the deck in my favor for the first event.   While several attendees came to  listen to the speaker and some others came to network,  more than a few only stopped in because I promised them a home cooked meal in exchange for the warm body.  It worked!  Those interested in networking were impressed by the turnout, making the second event an easier sell.

In fact, I didn't have to call in a single favor and attendance actually went up!  A number of attendees brought guests and I am hoping the series continues to grow.  The main attraction  is the ability of guests to network and market their own businesses, but I am confident that if one of them is ever in need of an ergonomic office chair, they are going to think of us!


NETWORK LIKE IT MATTERS!

...because it does.  One of the things that I have learned from working with my husband is that networking really works.  He has opened my eyes to the power of the referral and what it can mean to the bottom line.    John is in several networking groups where each member's mission is to procure leads for others.  The guy in the market for a telephone system might also be in the market for office furniture.  A few questions can result in a great lead for me, or for someone in my circle.  I would never have considered such an aggressive networking effort as a bead store owner.  Too Pushy, felt kinda smarmy, not my style.   I was wrong.  If you are sincere and motivated by a desire to give at least as much as you get, lead generation is awesome!  Every time I meet someone these days I pause to consider how we can help each other.  My life --and my business -- is richer for it.
 
Toward that end, let me tell you about Hannah Rosner.  Hannah is an amazing bead artist whose work leaves me breathless.   You can see some it here and here.   Hannah is really, really good at Social Marketing.  She and her fiance have a separate business focused on helping businesses navigate the wild and wooly world of Social Media at a fraction of the cost of other industry experts.    However, the coolest thing is that because she is a self supporting artist, she is particularly good a CRAFTY MARKETING.   She has a kind heart and a generous spirit.   If the whole Facebook/Twitter/Blogging thing has you pulling out your hair in frustration, you should contact her.  Seriously. 

In other news
Happiness is getting it level the first time.  Well, level enough, anyway.  The dogs decimated my fall vegetable garden so I spent the week-end building a fence to protect the spring plantings.  I am sure that it was quite a site....I was digging in fence posts, cutting boards, and glistening profusely.  It was great fun and I still can't believe that I did it.   I hope to have it completed this week-end so that I can get back to the more important stuff...like my fuzzy pink necklace.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Politics and Other Scary Stuff....plus a new Crafty Throwdown Challenge

O.K.  I simply CANNOT help myself.  I gotta talk. I have been trying to will myself to silence.   I have tidied the house, organized the studio, walked around the garden and played with my dogs...the standard "Go To" activities when I need to Find My Center.  It didn't work...I still have the anxiety sitting in my gut like a bowling ball.  The kind of anxiety that comes from watching the world burn around me while everyone else seems focused on inanity like the Oscars or Lindsay Lohan.  The kind of anxiety that generally acts as a precursor to an intense political spew.   

 It is going to burst out any second now, so if you are going to be offended, please scroll quickly to the bottom of the post where I will be announcing the details  of our next Craft Challenge.

Alrighty then---you have been properly warned.  I am not your average Crazy Right Wing Zealot.  I couldn't care less who you love or what you smoke. I am Jewish.  I have a pierced nose and chickens running around my yard.  I am an artsy gal who is happiest listening to my IPod while working in the studio.  I make a concerted effort NOT to talk about current events in this blog because I don't want to offend anyone.  Ever.  I lost a reader the last time I talked politics and it made me feel awful.   Truth is, though, I feel worse when I coast along as if I am not seeing what I am seeing.  

Consider the sad and pathetic decline of the talented Charlie Sheen.  I used to be an occasional watcher of Two and 1/2 Men.  I thought it was entertaining, if somewhat on the edge. Sheen plays Charlie Harper, a morally bankrupt playboy. The show became less amusing to me as Sheen's descent into addiction and mental illness started to come to light.  It felt kind of gross to giggle at a fractured human playing a fractured human, so I just kind of lost my taste for the show. 

Charlie is clearly bent on self destruction and the media is all over it.  We all know that this is going to end badly (remember Anna Nicole Smith?) yet the cameras are hell bent on capturing every pathetic morsel for our viewing pleasure.    I cannot turn on the television without seeing yet another tragic videotape of a wild eyed Sheen telling the world that he has "Adonis DNA" and that his two porn star live in girlfriends are "Goddesses."  Police finally removed his toddler sons from his care---about damn time.  Of course, the toddlers' Baby Mama, Brooke Mueller, is on her own Drug Rehab Merri-Go-Round.  What a world! Yup, we are getting minute by minute updates on the esteemed Mr. Sheen, but how much have you heard about a hero named Shahbaz Bhatti?  
  
You probably won't hear much about the recently murdered Shahbaz Bhatti and that is truly a shame.  Mr Bhatti was well known in Pakistan,  home to 180 million people, all but 5% of whom are Muslim.  Bhatti was a Roman Catholic--and the only Christian member of Pakistan's Federal Cabinet.  He was a high profile opponent of the nation's "blasphemy laws," which impose the death penalty on those found to have insulted Islam.  Not surprisingly, Bhatti's views were unpopular with Muslim extremists and he was recently shot down in a spray of bullets.   Al-Queda and the Taliban have claimed responsibility for his murder.

Bhatti knew that his life was in jeopardy and recorded a videotaped message to be released in the event of his death.   A somber but determined Bhatti noted that he was willing to die for his principles, while seeking justice for his community, rather than to compromise his values.

The video is powerful stuff.  Bhatti's strength of purpose humbles me.   He was a hero--a freedom fighter---and his story is one that should be heard. Is your media source of choice covering it?  No?  I am not surprised.  This nation is being fed pablum by a media intent on keeping us distracted. 

Charlie Sheen, anyone?  

Do the Media Gods think that we are not interested in the truth?  Do they think we cannot handle the truth?  The truth is not partisan and it has no agenda---we just have to be awake enough to start looking for it.  I have never understood those who hide from reality.  I may not like it, but if I know what it is I can develop a plan to deal with it.   I used to work for a serial philanderer.  He didn't even bother to make up good excuses for not going home.  I remember asking him about it...I was young and incredulous...and I will never forget his words.

He laughed--honest to God, he laughed--and he looked me in the eyes and told me that his wife did not want to know.  He said it was easy ... "Who are you gonna believe, Honey?  Your lying eyes or your loving husband?"

She believed her loving, cheating SOB of a husband every single time until he finally left her for his flavor of the moment.  Weird, huh?  Yet, here we are...yucking it up over Charlie Sheen in all of his ridiculousness.

Chaos in the Middle East.  A National Debt that will lead us to ruin.  A country that seems to be rewarding the Takers and punishing the Doers. Yup, the world really does seem to be burning around me.  What does it look like from where you are sitting?

Whew.  Sorry 'bout that.  I probably shouldn't say this stuff out loud but I can't always get to the Edit Button before I spew.   We seem to have lost our way as a nation and that just sucks.  I am tired of the Charlie Sheens and am looking for more Shahbaz Bhattis.  We have to take a stand for what is right---regardless of the politics. 

Hey!  My stomach doesn't hurt anymore...thanks for listening.


IN OTHER NEWS...........
The FIBER EARRING CHALLENGE is now closed. We got some FANTASTIC entries and the photographs will be sent out for judging this week.  Winners will be announced the week of March 14.  Good luck, everyone!

THE NEXT CHALLENGE:
 In an effort to get my own little world feeling warm and fuzzy, I would like to announce our next craft challenge, but this one has a twist!   I will still send out the supplies for free, and you will still get to make whatever you want with the goodies pictured above.  

The Twist?

I have set up a new Etsy Shop under the name CRAFT WARRIOR.  It will be officially "live" in the next week or so.  Each participant must be willing to donate their piece to be sold on the Craft Warrior site with ALL PROCEEDS going to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.  The Special Operations Warrior Foundation provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.

Additionally, each participant must blog/tweet/or otherwise promote the challenge.  Bottom line:  the more folks buzzing about it, the more money we will raise!

This challenge is limited to 8 volunteers. We will draw names on Monday, March 6 and the piece must be sent to me on or before April 15, 2011.   Shoot me an email if you want play!  

IN THE STUDIO:
I am back to felting these days.  I just finished another fiber cuff which features a 30mm Swarovski button as the focal.  The cuffs have inspired me to create some embellishment kits which will include hand dyed velvet, scrim, ribbons and more.  Look for them soon!

Meet Cooper!

Thanks for all of the name suggestions for the new pup.  We went with Cooper.  He is a doll, albeit a constantly filthy dirt ball of a doll!