Johanna

Some Practical Marketing Advice

10 posts in this topic

Marketing Handcrafted Leathergoods
A basic guide for craftspeople
This practical guide sets out a range of cost effective and commonsense leathercraft marketing strategies for maker/retailers.

Introduction
I have been working leather for more than thirty years. In that time I have attended countless craft markets, owned and run four retail shops and more recently set up a small manufacturing unit and wholesale leathergoods operation. I am happy to share my knowledge but definitely don't have all the answers; so if you have any great leathergoods marketing ideas you want to share or need more information about anything in this guide then please email me at ray@barefootleather.co.uk

Market Research

Marketing depends largely on knowing who your customers are - or who you think your customers might be - and precisely what they want to buy. Market research allows you to find out what people want to buy, ergo it tells you what you should be making. Remember: it is much easier to sell people what they want than to try to sell 'em stuff they don't need.

Start out with family and friends and then move on to groups and clubs to discover what people in your area are looking for. If you are really brave then go and ask people in the street. You could be surprised at what you discover.

Personal promotion

Always carry a top quality piece of your work with you. Wear one of your own hand-tooled belts, carry a bag you have carved or a briefcase you have hand sewn. People always notice unusual or beautiful things and will often ask where you got an item from. You won't get a better chance to promote your own products.

Demonstrations
Take every opportunity you can to demonstrate your craft alongside your sales operation. People love to see something being made especially if they can't do it themselves. You will make a lot of friends and sell a lot more products if you demonstrate what you can do.

Photography
You might want to start out by getting some great photographs of your products - if your budget is limited then a friend with a decent digital camera, a set of lights and a burning desire to create is a huge asset. You can use these pictures to develop all kinds of marketing collateral such as postcards for putting in store windows and to be handed out everytime somebody comments on your belt, bag or briefcase or asks why your hands are that funny color...

Flyers

If you are a computer geek grab a copy of MS Publisher (or any other desk top publishing package) and create yourself a three fold flyer with pictures. You can promote a huge range of items on one of these and best of all you only need print what you need. They look good on noticeboards too.

Postcards
I used to have some very simple postcards with the words HANDTOOLED LEATHER in big letters at the top and a couple of nice pictures underneath that brought me in loads of work. Best still they got people to call me to talk about stuff they wanted. I couldn't always help but after a chat they often came back with other ideas.

Noticeboards

You could put business cards, postcards or flyers onto noticeboards at colleges and big office complexes. Find friends who work in these places and persuade them to pin cards up for you. The simple approach is best.

Another good trick is to make up your flyers with printed 'tear off' strips underneath so people can rip off a copy of your phone number or email address to take home with them - that way your flyer stays on the board.

Tags
Make tags for your leathergoods that carry your contact details. People like to see who made an item and, if they are pleased with the way it performs, you will have made it easier for them to re-order from you. You can also use a tag to promote bespoke/custom leatherwork. Be inventive - how about using your leather scraps to make your tags? All you need is a rubber stamp or a Sharpie.

Niche markets

Re-enactors have always been a great source of business for me. I love 'em all but I don't expect them to have big bucks. If they are your target market then you might want to think about the sort of stuff they might need and produce yourself a mini catalog of good leathery things for distribution at Medieval Fairs and the like. You will be surprised how these catalogs are kept safe until the cash is found to make a purchase.

Dog equipment is another lucrative market for the leatherworker because it constantly needs to be replaced. Hand-tooled collars and leads are good sellers and can lead to bigger orders. Try your local pet shop with a sample of your work.

I have created a number of blog sites that offer advice to people in niche markets. For example: A Guide to the Restoration and Renovation of 1940s Leathergoods http://1940sleather.blogspot.com links back to my website and to my eBay shop. This will be picked up by the search engines and will lead people to my sales area.

Online marketing

Build yourself a website to use as an online brochure. Go to Blogger or one of the other free blogging sites and see how easy it is to create an online brochure for free. For an example of a free leatherworker's blog check out: www.barefootleather.blogspot.com

Don't worry about online sales as you can always open an inexpensive eBay shop until you are ready to invest in a full e-commerce package.

A more design-focused and craftsperson friendly alternative to eBay is Etsy. Listing prices can work out cheaper but the market isn't as large. The 'plus side' is that buyers know that goods sold on Etsy are handmade. Check out: http://tombanwell.etsy.com

Always remember that people can't buy from you unless they know you are there. You will need to make sure your website URLs are clearly visible on all your marketing materials, on the end of every email you send and on every letter you write.

You should also try to get other websites to link to your pages - add a link to your Facebook page, take a look at all of the social media websites and link your web page as many times as you can so others will find it.

Conclusion

I really enjoy the marketing side of leatherwork and can't wait to try out new ways of reaching out to potential customers. The trick is to stay focused on the client. Always try to make what they want (which is not necessarily what you want to make) and make your marketing materials look as good as your leatherwork!

http://www.barefootleather.co.uk

©2008 Ray Hatley UK

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Excellent advice. Let me add one more thing... Don't project your own income and lifestyle into your marketing plan. Never be afraid to upgrade.

It is very easy to view the world in economic terms befitting your own life and circumstances. Remember that there are people out there whose perception of value and a fair price are radically different than our own. Don't fence yourself out of those markets by assuming that everyone thinks and feels as you do.

I see so many extraordinary pieces of artisanship and craft here. I often wonder how many of these things are being sold for way way less than they could or should have netted. Think above your own station. It usually pays handsomely.

:17::17::17:

Life is too short for cheap leather!!

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Thank you so much for all the info. I just moved from a small town know as the "cowboy capital of texas" and the business just came to me. I now live in the middle of a city a few miles from Dallas and there isnt a big market for "western" leatherwork here. Its been really frustrating because im not sure who to go to or where to look for customers. The other big problem is that there is a HUGE western store about a mile from my house so thats kinda discouraging. Any ideas for a country kid stuck in the middle of a city?Thanks again for all the great advice!!!!

Phillip Sims

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Philip,

First thing that comes to mind is that you are unlikely to be able to compete on price with the huge country store, so check 'em out thoroughly and see if you can beat them on quality. Find beautiful leathers, top quality fittings and tell local people you are using them in your flyers and cards. Hey, you could even hang a 'top quality custom leathergoods' sign on your truck and park it in conspicuous places in your neighbourhood. Easy free local advertising.

My next suggestion would be to concentrate your efforts on a niche market - you need to identify a particular and distinctive style of belt, spur strap or whatever that is popular locally and make yours so much better than those sold at the local country store that people won't even consider buying from them. Don't try to compete on everything - specialize!

Finally, Promote your products direct to the end user using all the techniques you can utilise and offer to make up custom orders at no extra charge. It is unlikely a big store will be able to offer the sort of individual service you can provide. Word of mouth advertising from all your satisfied customers should do the rest.

I hope this helps,

Ray

Edited by UKRay

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Excellent advice. Let me add one more thing... Don't project your own income and lifestyle into your marketing plan. Never be afraid to upgrade.

It is very easy to view the world in economic terms befitting your own life and circumstances. Remember that there are people out there whose perception of value and a fair price are radically different than our own. Don't fence yourself out of those markets by assuming that everyone thinks and feels as you do.

I see so many extraordinary pieces of artisanship and craft here. I often wonder how many of these things are being sold for way way less than they could or should have netted. Think above your own station. It usually pays handsomely.

:17::17::17:

Life is too short for cheap leather!!

Here! Here! I think what I have learned being a perfectionist is to realize that oftentimes you are the only one who sees the "flaws" I pick my work apart terribly! It wasn't until last weekend I was vending at a big ranch rodeo next to other leather workers that I realized how good my work is! I've never been one to pat myself on the back and I ALWAYS sell too cheap. I'm putting an end to all that! The reason I started the craft was that I wanted beautiful hand-tooled goods I couldn't afford as a student putting herself through college...so why should I sell the real deal for cheaper than Mexican imports??? Everything has its place and I've decided my market is not necessarily my personal price range!!

Thanks for the great marketing advice! I do need to work on finding a well-oiled, easily manageable website; one I can add & remove pictures and items and that I can have large pictures on to show off the detail! Came home from that ranch rodeo to a website with pictures NOT WORKING!!! Any suggestions??

www.barcleather.com

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PM me your phone number and a good time to call, and I can probably help you get your pics back.

Johanna

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If you have ever done a craft equitable or tried to deal your pieces in unaligned high road stores you may have heard “Oh that’s too costly” a number of times. The two biggest obstacles faced by those trying to make a dwelling from their home wares are: home waresers who do not need to make money from their items; and the general public.

Edited by iaanhayden

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Some great online options for many of you would be Pinterest. Create boards to link to your seller pages and items. Online Marketing is about engagement, what can you offer, and what makes you different. Some of us are not the best but we created a niche in the online community. Guest Blogging, twitter, Facebook all help to create your online niche and bring up your SEO and Google rankings. I am rebuilding my blog right now to include Guest Posts and Tutorials.

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I've had more than one unsuccessful website over the years and I've found that Facebook is where it's at, for me.

I've identified my niche market - working dogs, large dogs, K-9s and protection dogs and competition dogs. I go after these folks and "friend" them. If and when they accept my "friend" request, I send them a "like" request to my business page on Facebook. My relation to my niche market is that I have handled, trained and bred working line German Shepherds for more than 30 years. I know what is required of the equipment that a working dog uses. I know what is needed in my leather, to keep the dog, the handler and the bystanders safe.

I try to keep my pages updated with new photos and updates. As a result, more than 95% of my business is coming

from my Facebook pages and of that, at least 50% is from word of mouth.

I'm continuing to try to develop a working website because there are more people roaming around the web than there are in Facebook.

In the end, for me, it's finding and exploiting that niche market.

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Very good advice! I was a wholesaler working on the road for years in my own business. There is one sales technique that I have not seen here on the forum (it may be here though). It is called a lost leader. That is where you sell a item very cheap in a broad market to find a narrow market for your product. Ebay is excellent for doing this, although it takes a little research savvy or sneakyness. -- Tex

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