You can expand a new or established Sandcarving business by following these basic rules:
- Tell your potential customers what you have to offer
- Price your product appropriately
- Provide excellent customer service
The tips below are provided to help you develop a roadmap to accomplish these objectives.
Marketing: defining your customer, your product, your price and your distribution
Marketing encompasses all the decisions that shape the way you go about fulfilling the needs of your customers. To be an effective marketer, you need to have a written plan that defines the core aspects of your business:
- Who your customer is
- What your product is
- How you will set your pricing
- How you will reach your customers
Simplicity wins. As you define these parameters, remember that simplicity is usually the best strategy. If you are interested in the bridal industry, for example, just use common sense to determine how to reach your target customers: partner with tuxedo shops, jewelry stores, bridal gown stores, party stores, etc.
Do what you enjoy. If you are having a problem selling a particular product, ask yourself the following:
- What market do I enjoy?
- Do I have an advantage in a particular market?
- Do I have knowledge of or know someone in a particular market?
Working in a market segment that you know and enjoy benefits you in a variety of ways. Your enthusiasm will encourage others to get excited about your products and services. And, you will feel a greater sense of satisfaction when you reach and exceed your business goals. This is an important point to note, because Sandcarving is an industry that offers you the freedom to tailor your niche relatively easily.
Niche it down. Once you identify your preferred market and customer type, focus on a small set of product ideas. From that line, you can grow and expand as you develop your customer base. If you start out with a scope that is too broad, you run the risk of losing focus and diluting your resources. It is more time and cost-efficient to start off as a specialist.
Understand your market. Sandcarving is visual. Your products will be in demand to the extent that they appeal to your customers’ aesthetic tastes. Do some research to learn more about the design style that is most popular with your target customers. Sandcarved items that reflect the tastes and preferences of your target customers will almost sell themselves.
Show them what you can do. Find places to display your finished products. Showing off your artwork will be far more effective than simply leaving brochures and business cards around town. Say you would like to produce wedding pieces, such as invitations carved into plates or curved, beveled picture frames and toasting flutes. You could approach retail proprietors who cater to the wedding market and ask if you can set up a small display area in their store. Offer something of value in return for the display space.
- Negotiate to pay the proprietor a commission for every piece sold; you would display a sample piece along with your business cards and order form in the store
- Consign generic products to the store; the proprietor would then pay you a fixed amount for every piece sold
Have a sales plan. Decide if you’d rather do the selling yourself or if you need the help of sales representatives.
Create a catalog. The catalog is the most versatile marketing tool available to you; it is a brochure, a leave-behind sales piece and business card, all rolled into one. Presenting your product offering in a catalog speaks volumes about your level of professionalism. Even if you are working out of your garage, you can still present yourself, your products and your business with the professionalism of a large and established company.
You can distribute your catalog to groups, businesses, clubs or organizations in your area. If you are producing and printing your own catalog, your primary limitation will be cost; consider this when selecting your distribution points.
Use the Internet. The Internet is the fastest growing method of presenting and selling product. E-commerce technology makes it relatively easy for you to display your products and accept orders online. You can quickly set up online stores through a variety of channels, including e-Bay and Amazon.com, or you can rely on your own efforts to drive Internet users to your website.
Use the marketing tools provided by your equipment and supplies manufacturer. Rayzist has several tools to help you quickly establish and implement a marketing program for engraveable blanks, including:
- Professionally designed catalogs
- Marketing templates in PDF format
- Online catalog or personalized, hosted website
Advertising: Developing a message and communicating it to the right people.
The local print advertising industry has become expensive and fragmented. No longer can you put your name in a telephone book and expect to see results. This is because there are probably numerous phone books in your area, each of which has a different distribution program. As well, the Internet is rapidly replacing the phone book as a resource.
Having said that, you may identify a local telephone directory or an online business directory that reaches the right audience and will list your business for the right price. When you decide to place a listing—in print or online—DO NOT list your business under “sandblasting.” You will get calls from people who want walls, driveways and pools sandblasted. Instead, list your business under “engraving” and “trophies and awards.” Even better, check to see where your competitors are listed and duplicate that strategy.
Once you begin advertising your business, you should expect to get phone calls from other advertising reps. There are many places to advertise and you can’t possibly pursue all of them. Here are a few tips to help you stay focused:
- Industry publications. Industry publications can provide a lot of exposure, but it will cost you. When resources are limited, you are better off being more efficient in the way you spend your marketing dollars.
- Direct mail. A direct mail campaign can be cost-effective. However, the success of your program will hinge on the quality of your mailing list and the impact of your printed piece. Consult with a list provider to obtain names and addresses that match the profile of your target customer. And, produce a flyer or postcard that contains a specific and compelling offer, such that the recipient has a reason to call you, right away.
- Personalized, direct selling. If you are targeting a specific business account, drop in with a personalized sample of your product. For example, if you want to produce “Employee of the Month” awards for a local Mercedes-Benz dealer, don’t show up with a mug that has the Ford logo carved on it.
- Social media, emails and newsletters. Once you begin establish your customer base, you can keep those customers informed of specials and new products via flyers, faxes and email blasts. Remember to get their permission first and get familiar with the laws governing email campaigns.
- Service excellence. Do not underestimate the value of service; excellent service naturally drives more sales.
- Networking, word-of-mouth. Talk to people about what you do and ask for referrals. One of our customers took this advice to heart by going next door to meet his neighbor. While he was there, he also had the opportunity to meet his neighbor’s neighbor, who happened to be a decision-maker for a large corporation. This executive became very interested in the sandcarved product. Ultimately, this informal meeting led to a lucrative, large-volume contract for carved product and promotional items.
You can also join local business groups and philanthropic organizations, such as the Optimists, Shriners, Elks, Moose Lodge or Chamber of Commerce. Go to the meetings and talk to people about what you do. Chances are, you will be the only sandcarver in the organization. If you have a chance to present to a large group, take it; you can use the opportunity to show people how sandcarved products can add value to their businesses. You may even consider marketing customized trophies and awards to the Chamber itself.
- Trade shows. Depending on your area of focus, consider bridal bazaars or local craft and hobby fairs. Be prepared to collect contact information for every person who stops into your booth.