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Thread: Rob's thougt for the day .......Selling craftsman made furniture ???

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada

    Rob's thougt for the day .......Selling craftsman made furniture ???

    The thought occurred to me this morning that perhaps some ofwhat I impart to small businesses might be of value to my buddies here,particularly to those of you who sell your wares to others and are finecraftsman but not particularly great marketers or salespersons.

    We had a discussion in another thread about whether ourfamilies will value our furniture making etc and it was good debate, however,here is the issue I observe in this kind of debate which we tend to forget.
    We are all woodworkers in some or other shape or form.
    This fact alone puts us in a group that appreciates wood,appreciates all associated with converting wood from one form to another. Don’t matter if its carving, spinny, scroll saw or ahand cut dovetail or even a mortise and tenon joint (which as you well know isnot even able to be seen by an observer of a piece of furniture.)

    Keep this fact in mind.

    Next consider this, you can go wild on web based marketingtools and social networking but unless the person coming across your site islooking to buy or order/commission a piece of craftsman made furniture all youare doing is serving up content which from my observations for the most partends up being pictures of a piece the craftsman has made. This is great if you arein the entertainment industry and hoping to be spotted for the next realityshow on TV but it’s not in my view going to help sales of furniture from yourshop.

    Many here are hunters in hunting terms this is equivalent togoing into the bush armed with some form of weapon and taking on anything thatmoves. Yet we know successful hunters step out there with a very specific plan.Just think about it. There is choice of target, choice of weapon, choice of locationand the list goes on.

    So applying some of this logic there is a need to recognizeand target the persons you are looking to sell your wares to. Thinking ofsolving this issue like a woodworker is not going to get to there.

    1)Before you sell anything you need to ask yourself what itis you are selling.

    The right bait will secure the right species of fish.

    2)Ask yourself why someone should buy from you. (tough eh?)

    3)Who are these people you expect to buy from you and whatdo you know about them.

    You may say duh obviously ….but that’s not what I observewhen I look at the craftsman who have websites to sell their wares.

    So lets go back to some basics.

    Do you only want to sell to those actually looking to buy?

    Think about this if retail sales (which is what you areparticipating in), were left to being only items that people are looking to buybecause of real need, then the general economy would be really small.

    The bulk of retail sales today are impulse driven. Theimpulse may take time to manifest itself in the mind of the consumer but it’sstill an impulse or put another way, stimulation of the need and want.
    We all know much of the “stuff” we already own and have wereally can get buy without. Example in our house we have enough coffee mugs tohost a football team but it don’t seem to stop SWIMBO from buying more coffeemugs.

    So how are YOU creating this desire to purchase your wares?

    What is “IT” that would stimulate such desire in theperson/s that you expect to sell your wares to.

    Think about some of these points and revisit exactly what you put out there in any form of medium, internet, printed even your business card. How does your communication address these issues? What do you think would happen if you corrected this?

    You may be surprised. Spelt with a "s" not a zee.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    Rob has a point but has yet to express a methodology, or how to find that elusive buyer and discover what turned him/her on to buy. I have some thoughts but would like to hear Rob address this first as he began this topic. Rob?

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Oliver Springs, TN
    I don't have a clue and would be happy if either one of you would give me some insight!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    new york city burbs
    we may all be woodworkers, but theres a world of difference as far as targeted markets goes for someone selling pens and bowls, or someone trying to sell a thirty thousand dollar hand made dining room set.
    Human Test Dummy

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Well i was hoping for debate rather than me prescribing methods. I really want to get people thinking about the merits of just putting a picture up of their work and expecting other people to rush in an order/buy a piece from them. Without a caption of some sorts what is the viewer expected to think. ?

    Me i am a big believer in missionary work. In this case missionary work defined as educating the buyer.

    We all talk about the quality issues with mass produced cheap retail furniture but i aint seen any woodworkers site where they show pictures of the stuff coming apart and show the merits of good stuff.

    BUt fundamentally the problem here is that the small shop looking at this as an excuse for no sales is basically also in business without a strategic plan.

    First up the complaints that always resonate here are price. The customer is not willing to pay what i want or i cannot make it for that price.

    Yeah sure you never will be. But i would not expect that a small shop is expecting to compete with Walmart and their mass market of consumers who by and large are shopping there because of low price. You immediately engaging in a David/Goliath kind of battle and in this case you have lost before you begin. You know right up front you cannot in a lifetime hope to get near the material price a big vendor like Walmart pays and its not about Walmart.

    To give you some idea from a different industry what a company that has a large market in mind does, is to set the price for that material not ask what it is. Case in point a company like say HP or Apple go out to vendors of the components and essentially just about buy the entire output of a particular factory for a period. This gives said factory a base load on which to cover over head and operate. Its a strategy adopted by both players. Its a high stakes strategy, it don't always pan out the way they would like just ask Blackberry right now who is desperate to offload the tablets they made.(they just took a huge write down recently in order to move out the stock they had when they missed the market demand and timing).
    Why do they do this? They do it because they understand the price point they need to meet in order to sell their wares to the market place taking into account the entire retail marketing cycle (price cuts). So to secure price point they dictate the component price and the volume along with what they can afford to pay for manufacture.

    So forget about comparing yourself to this market and forget trying to compete with people who need to meet this price. You never going to win. If you getting loads of people in this category wanting quotes from you, then you really need to look at your marketing message. You may have people wanting to give you business on the basis of them feeling like a white knight bailing you out and they getting a deal of a lifetime. This is not sustainable and you don't want referrals from people like this. They just going to bring you more of the same.

    What you do know is there is a degree of backlash in the market towards junk, but the consumer does not have the ability to discern good from bad and as time goes by this will get worse as shop class fades to the past.
    What you also know is there is a degree of supporting local business taking root in the market of course both of these trends have limits when it comes to price.
    But another element taking root is sustainability. With the pressure on disposable budgets its not rocket science to realize that the concept of just throw away and buy new has a finite life. With consumer debt in western world being at all time highs there is just not the disposable for the throw away and buy new concept to sustain itself. So the opportunity is there to play on the merits of quality well built furniture made to last. Also classic styles of particular kind tend to have staying power despite changing fashions. Take mission look its been around for years same with shaker style.

    SO there are three messages that can be woven into your message to appeal to consumers at large but you still have not addressed targeting a specific group.

    What you need to be doing in your messaging is give them good reason to be buying your product besides those above.

    Messaging starts with everything that is put out to anyone about you and your business or product. This could be what the wife is saying at work to people, how you interact with people about your work and business and products where ever you may be in your community. What your extended family is saying. It even gets down to things that are not being said and images that say things without them being said.

    But i used the word missionary in the beginning and its important you understand what i mean by this in a business context.

    If we look at missionaries the overwhelming element is that to be a missionary you have to believe. In the case of religious missionary's theirs was utter belief in their religion and it sure has to be to endure some of the hardships certain groups of missionaries go through even today.

    In business sense its a question of believing in yourself and your views and vision to such an extent that what i refer to above about sustainability, quality and buying local (as examples) you need to believe wholeheartedly. Nothing else will cripple your business more than being dishonest about your beliefs and sprouting one thing while doing another. You aint running for office, you running a business.

    So its important that you believe the messaging you put out to the point that you are prepared to commit resources to it and be called on it if needed. You kinda need to be prepared to fall on your sword over it. If you doubt your market outlook then you best give up right now because the worm of doubt will serve to undermine everything you attempt to do. I know many will not believe what i am saying in this sentence but ask the Ravens this morning why they not on the way to the Superbowl.

    So what is it you want someone to take away from your pictures you post on your website? Perhaps now you will ask yourself what your messaging is?

    Very simply put nothing beats being open and honest and saying something like " I got into woodworking because i wanted to make fine quality furniture my grandfather would be proud to see me produce and to show the world that not everything has to be consumable and disposed of after a few years"
    " I would like to be able to hear from my customers years down the road about how they still enjoy the piece i made for them and how they never cease to be amazed by the superb finish and the way it has endured so well all the use those little hands of grandchildren dish out"
    "What would delight me is to produce a piece of furniture for a client that would like to see it passed down in the family for years after they have gone sending the family a everlasting message to appreciate fine craftsmanship".

    Now i aint a wordsmith but this is the kind of stuff that you want to be getting across so that it resonates with the desires of the person buying it.

    So there you have it for today....i welcome you all to add to the debate. As Ken F. said keep an open mind and you may just learn something in a debate.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    OK. I'll put in my two cents worth. I am an optometrist.

    My personal way of being an eye doc. was to do the best possible services, with the best possible equipment, in the best possible facility, with the best up-to-date materials (frames, lenses, contacts, etc.), with the best possible (and highest paid) staff.

    It took a few lean years to achieve the above. However, once it was achieved I was productively working every minute I wanted to work. People came to me. I did nothing to solicit patients (no advertising, no Yellow Pages, no discounts, no come-on's, no glasses or posters on display). My patients came to me because they were referred by someone else. To my knowledge I had the most viable and most profitable practice in the nation.

    However, being in the field of optics I saw the other side where being an eye doc was just a way to get customers (they don't think of them as patients).

    This is all leading up to the following. I was in one office when the owner (the owner of the chain) was pricing glasses frames. He did not look at what the frame cost him. He looked at the frame and said to me, "I can sell this for $275.oo." So $275.oo was the price of the frame. In some cases the frame cost him less than $2.oo, in other cases the frame may have cost him $125.oo.

    Cost did not mean much. What was important was, "What can I get for this?" I looked at a frame and said something like, "This cost you a dollar and seventy-five cents. It is a piece of crap." His answer was something like, "That's true. But I can sell it for $275.oo." He was in the big city. He never expected to see a patient twice and that is why he ran TV ads, specials in the Sunday newspaper, etc. You cannot get away with something like that in Westpalila, Michigan.

    Notice that he did NOT expect to see a patient twice. You, on the other hand, want the customer back and you want the customer's referrals. Therefore you need to work closer to the mode I used. Quality, quality, quality. Then you need to have the confidence in your product that allows you to sell it for what it is worth---NOT a mark-up on the price of the lumber, hinges, etc.

    You and your family and your employees do need to have this confidence also. They need to talk about you and your work at church, synagogue, at the barber shop and PTA. You don't want to bore your potential customers with how good you are, you don't want to be or sound like a Snake Oil Salesman, etc. Just lay out the truth.

    DEMONSTRATE: Have nice looking pieces of wood showing Butt, Miter, Half-lap, Mortise and Tennon, etc. joints. I would also have samples of the same that were put under pressure and broken so you can show why you use your system. I would also have pages from these kinds of tests in wood magazines to show. You want your customer to realize that he/she is purchasing the best. That may be important to the customer because of: Status (Brag to friends), they are people who appreciate quality, they want something of themselves to pass on down to child, to grandchild, to whoever.

    Demonstration will give you the most bang for your effort in your presentation. Example: You could show your customers a picture of a $75,000.oo chest of drawers made with the same kind of joinery that you use, or has the same hand rubbed finish that you use.

    Purchase a piece of IKEA furniture new or at a garage sale. Do whatever it requires to show the construction of the piece and why it is wrong (screws into particleboard, butt joints, no glue, whatever).

    Be in surroundings that build you up---not tear you down.

    Some factors that build you are:

    General neatness (not sterile clean) shows that you can be organized.
    Tools in shape that shows care. Rust not permitted. Dust on equipment not permitted, nor is dripping oil. The customer does not realize it but they are equating care of equipment with care of building that piece of equipment.

    There is no reason that customer's cannot go into your shop if it is not running. Let them see the workplace. However, if you have finished product to show it needs to be in a separate dust-free area (we are demonstrating care).

    Excellent lighting. You want illumination that shows your product to advantage---like the lighting in an upscale automobile showroom. If you don't know what to do, check out your library. There are many books on this subject. If the library does not have any on the shelf, they can get what you want from another library.

    If you are off the beaten path and people are going to come see you, you need to be "country organized." Many things are absolutely forbidden because they drag you and your percieved skills down: Rusty cars, wheelbarrows, etc. Plant in bad condition, mud puddles, leaking roof, you can figure out the rest of this. You need to approach your place as a stranger and see what is good and what is bad.

    Many things are good: Artsy pottery along the walk, some stained-glass, a pretty bench, artsy night lighting, etc.

    Enjoy, be true to yourself and succeed,

    Last edited by Jim C Bradley; 01-23-2012 at 10:18 PM. Reason: Big mouth. I had to add more.
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Thanks Jim for your excellent post. You hit the nail on the head and more.

    Its been killing me to hear everyone talk about not being able to compete yet none have gone and shown a comparison and why stapled chipboard does not hold together.

    Or why the finish with x many layers will deal with the oopsies of everyday life.

    You make another good point i been harping on forever.....cost and selling price have nothing to do with each other.

    The thing is until one really internalizes this fact and accepts it as truth one will never get away from time and material pricing.

    Come along chaps ....pile in here.....

    One other thing i would like to share as a point to consider...

    Times are tough...right..but its that way for your customer too, so consider how you can chart a path forward for both of you.
    Some may have a huge desire to spend their money more wisely and buy quality durable furniture...make it possible by offering a lay away system. Let some one know they can pay you over time for their order but that you will make it over time too. This breaks down the need for them to go into debt or have to come up with a lump sum. Also make it possible for them to pay you many different ways but dont keep this a secret. Oh and dont despise tge credit card fees. Think about it like a business man...they taking the risk out if the payment for you. You dont have to have a collections department or wait for payment.

    But the key is have a section on your marketing materials that lets people know this info and how they can approach the issue of payment.

    Same goes for other processes like say the design process. You may be willing to make what i want do i know this and how do i go about getting across to you what i want.

    You gotta be prepared to communicate in some way form or shape what is in your head to the customer. This also does not just pop out of your head it takes effort and refinement.

    Go for it.

    Sent from my MB860 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Rob Keeble; 01-24-2012 at 12:18 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    Many years ago, I read of a guy going into high end cabinet making and finding it difficult to get potential customers to understand what they were getting by buying from him. So he built a small cabinet with doors and drawers at about half size. He put his brochure, contracts and business cards in the drawers. One side of one drawer had a quality draw slide, the other a junk slide. The other drawer had the el cheapo middle plastic piece the drawer hung from. Corners of the drawers has different joinery and side, ends, and bottoms were different materials. Two doors also showed different materials, pulls and hinges. He brought this into the customer's home and made his presentation. When the customer could SEE (and operate) the comparisons side by side, there was no issue with price.

    The other method of showing a customer what you are offering is to show it in context. Fruit, salad and popcorn bowls have those items in them, as an example. Boxes are shown with items in them. By and large people have little imagination and when you present your product in context, you stimulate their imagination and again, price considerations are diminished.

    For my money, this is the way you offer a quality product and get your price. Worked for me when I was peddling router jigs. I sold many more jigs when I offered a class using them. Rarely did a student leave without buying something. And they also paid for the class, so I didn't lose. Neither did they for the least they left with was information and hands on experience.

    Marketing is the process of letting people know what you have to offer and how it benefits them. It is not the process of grabbing someone by the throat and picking their pocket against their will. My two cents.

    But there are more pennies in my pocket.

    Carol, who wrote the syllabus and taught the class "Woodworking as a Business" years ago.

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Growing up building stuff and using tools from a young age I always assumed everyone could do what I do. I assume many woodworkers that have honed their skills assume that others can do the same. So as a culture of woodworkers we most likely don't see the products we build in the same view our customers do regarding advantages and strength differences, so very good points about showing differences and educating buyers. I think this same mentality hinders us in our pricing and what we see as a viable product.

    So, great tips so far...

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    not to detract from carol or jim or robs posts here, but darren one thing you kinda hit on is i was brought up where there wasnt the free flow of dollars to buy things like we want to sell to others. so we either made it or got buy with less.. garage sales or hand me downs.. i think that has hindered me in trying to price anything.. what one see as a fair price i look at as i cant get that i am not sam maloof or mr who ever.. but yet our things we have made are good quality, how does one look there stuff as being great without coming off as a braggart?
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

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