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The Cheapest Add-On That Sells Products

coffeeAs woodworkers, we often fret over what wood to use, and if using contrasting wood, which one, and in what proportions. What hardware, what finish? However, most of us don’t use an add-on that really helps sell the product, and at no cost.

That add-on? Experience. Let me explain.

Why does Starbucks do so well? Why does it attract the upper crust in society? You really don’t see blue collar workers in there; it’s more white collar workers, more likely women then men, and are usually dressed very well (incidentally, check out the women at Target as well for the same phenomenon). A more affluent class of people goes to Starbucks then McDonalds for coffee.

Why?

The cost of the coffee beans for companies is in the same price range, in terms of wholesale cost. Yet Starbucks charges (around here) $2.11 for a medium “bold pick of the day”. McDonalds, on the other hand, get about $1.19. That’s about 77% higher. Why? Some would say “the coffee tastes better” – and that may be, since Starbucks paid 10¢ more per pound. But still, a much higher price for the consumer. So why are they so successful?

Because of the experience of Starbucks, that’s why. You have a “barista” making your coffee for you however you want it; you have a hip, relaxed atmosphere with comfortable chairs and tables, like you were in an upscale nightclub. Free WiFi. The decor. The status. It’s more like Disney then Dennys. That is what you are paying for, and this is why the more affluent go there. The coffee? I like Tim Hortons better, actually. They have an “ok” atmosphere, nothing like Starbucks.

Are you getting my point? People with money are willing to pay for the experience, not just the product. If I took a Starbucks coffee and a McDonald’s coffee, did a side by side taste test on the street, where people don’t know which is which, people might choose Starbucks more often on taste, but I’ll bet they wouldn’t want to pay the same price that Starbucks charges. So the question is, what experience can you put into your woodworking product? More then you know.

At shows in which woodworking is displayed, I watch the women – who are the major purchasers of our pieces – as they peruse a vendor’s goods. What she touches, she is interested in; she’ll glide her hand over it’s silky surface, taking in the beauty of the wood and design. Yet, she will still likely walk away. However, if that piece has a story behind it, then you have another sensation she can add to her experience of the product that may cause her to buy. Let me illustrate here:

Suppose we have a beautiful hanging mission fixture for sale:

Mission ceiling lampWoodworker A tries to sell it like this: “Yes, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? It takes three bulbs, up to 60 watts each. The straps are real leather, and the stained glass is real too. The wood is cherry. It’s $7,000. You’ll have to have an electrician install it, I can’t.

Woodworker B: “Yes, isn’t this a gorgeous piece? I’m sure you’ve never seen one like this before. Can you see this hanging over your dining table? It would certainly be admired by your friends during parties! The stained glass is done by an artisan in New Hampshire I picked myself. The leather straps are from an artisan in a small town in the Adirondacks; the cherry wood comes from a sawyer in Maine, where some of the best cherry is grown. It took me about 125 hours to craft this, and I’ve been working wood for 23 years. (After some back and forth with her, he also throws in this -) I’ve had a passion for woodworking since I worked in my grandfather’s shop as a kid. I’ve made a good living pursuing my passion.

So, which woodworker would get the sale, if a sale could be made? That’s right, the second one. Why? Because he gave an experience to the lady – he explained woodworking is his passion, he put many hours into this piece, he gathered the best materials and artisans he could to build it, there’s nothing like it, wouldn’t your girlfriend’s be jealous, etc. He was upbeat, and painting a nice picture. Contrast that to the first guy – he tells about the piece like it was a sports car, and throws on the wet blanket of the price and having to have it installed. Ugh. And by the way, that lamp? It’s real, and yes, it is $7,000. It’s made by a premier woodworker, Kevin Rodel. See it here.

Part of the beauty of places like CustomMade – and to some degree, Etsy – is that the experience for the consumer is one of having something made just for you. When you think about that, that’s pretty awesome, when you can tell someone how you want something done, and they can do it. I mean, think how nice it is at a McDonalds, for a cheap hamburger, let alone a piece of furniture! In my experience, it excites the customer, at least my customers. Adding to that, I also update the customer regulary with pictures, so they can see how it’s coming along, building anticipation. Even when I ship it, I give them a shipping number and ask them (or someone else) to be there to sign for it. Once again, building anticipation, like a little kid at Christmas – do you remember that excitement as a kid? Same thing here. They can track the package all the way to the door! All of this adds to a richer experience and adds value to the product, and it didn’t even cost you much, if anything.

Can they get that experience at a big-box store? No. So your task is to find a way to build an experience around your product so customers will pay more for it.

The affluent love exclusivity. They want to have what no one else (or few others) has, or what’s the point of being rich? Nobody buys a $1.4 million Lamborghini to get to work. A $32 million Picasso is just a piece of art, oils on a canvas –  yet, when you own one, you are part of a very exclusive club. That experience – of being one up on their peers – is what they are paying for, be it as something as everyday as a coffee at Starbucks, or a million-dollar car, they are one step up. Sure, they probably enjoy that car or art, but having what very few others have, drives these people as well.

My point? Build the best damn “X” you can, and charge a lot for it; use experience of the piece (whether that be a back-end story, exclusivity, etc) to help sell it.

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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in BlogNotes

 

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Tips on How to Sell Your Woodworking, Part Two

This is part two of a three-part series on how to sell your woodworking projects; part one can be found here.

  • Ask questions. Ask potential clients what they might need. Putting them on the spot forces them to come up with some kind of answer – that might be a “nothing, really, just looking” kind of answer, or it might be a “well, a new coffee table might be nice, our new puppy was biting on ours” – or some sort of response like that. I would advise you not to do the hard sell, like a used car dealer (“What’s it going to take to get you into this car today?!”) but rather point out the good things about your product – “This coffee table is all solid quarter sawn oak….you can see I use these very strong mortise and tenon joints…and the finish is four coats of poly.” You get the idea.
  • Everybody loves a good story. If you can tie a story to a piece, all the better. Remember, you’re not selling some cheap mass-produced junk from China, and can use that to your advantage. Maybe you’re selling a Limbert coffee table replica; you could point out some of the characteristics of that style, how you researched the piece in old books, visited an original in a museum in Boston, and so on. A story adds value to the piece.
  • Good photography – a must! Nothing ruins the chance for a sale quicker (at least online) then crappy photography. A white bed sheet as a background for your custom turned cocobolo salt and pepper grinders? Really?! The reason your photos aren’t good are becuase either A) you don’t think it’s a big deal, or B) You don’t know how to do it. Well, it IS a big deal – isn’t the piece you put hours and hours into worth taking a good photo to help sell it? If you don’t know how to take a good picture – and a lot of people don’t – consider having it either professionally done, or done by a friend that knows how to do it. If you like my photos of my products on the white background, such as this one, it was done on the cheap, by myself. The white is just a piece of sheet melamine (I believe it is melamine), 2’x4′, which is very thin and flexible. It is propped up on a table outside, under a porch, curved. The lighting is natural of course, always best. Yes, I used my expensive Nikon DSLR, but results could be just as good with an iPhone, and no, I’m not kidding (I will be doing a photography how-to in the future). Some very basic tweaking in Photoshop –  just contrast and brightness, maybe a little blemish or dust removal – and that’s it. Regardless, good photography is a must.
  • Gather testimonials. I usally ask my customers for a testimonial of a few sentences. Here’s an actual one from my customers: ” I’ve been looking for a source of hand-crafted mission lamps and was delighted to discover the New Mission Workshop. My new lamp is beautiful and well made, offering a warm finish and clean lines that are a perfect match with my home.”  I intersperse these testimonials on my web and printed media. Testimonials are valuable in sales.
  • Ask for the sale. When people don’t really need something – like a new toilet, food or gas – then they can hesitate to jump for a purchase. After your pitch, you might say something like, “Do you think you might want to see this in your home? I currently have a break between jobs, so I can get this done for you in short order” or, if it’s already a built item, “I can get this shipped out as soon as tomorrow, would FedEx be ok?” I’ve read that people that ask for the sale get it 3X more then those that don’t.
  • Remove all payment barriers. This factor is often overlooked. You should be removing all barriers for people paying you (within reason, of course). The more ways people can pay you, the less chance you’ll get the “That’s the only way I can pay you” line. Some people don’t like giving you, some guy, their credit card info (and who can blame them), or they don’t like using Paypal. They just want to send you a check – even cash. With checks of course, you have to wait several days for the check to clear their bank (ask your bank about details), but let the customer know your product won’t ship until it does – they’ll understand. If you’re at a craft show, or some other remote venue, you have to be very trusting to take a check, and hand over the goods. Instead, you might want to look into a credit card service like Square, which lets you swipe credit cards right on your smart phone!

In the next installment of this series, I’ll discuss where to sell your pieces.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in BlogNotes

 

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Tips on How to Sell Your Woodworking, Part One

Pat in shopWoodworking, of course, is not always about making a buck; plenty of us are in it as a hobby, for the pure enjoyment of it. We make stuff for ourselves and others; nothing wrong with that – but for those of us who are trying to make a buck at it, it can be tough. I’ve tried a lot of different things trying to make it – big time – in woodworking. I’ve done ok, but I’m not where I want to be.

So, in the spirit of helping out others, I thought I’d pass along some tips, tactics and strategies that have helped me out – and I hope they help you too.

• Selling is about need. A good salesman doesn’t just find a need to fill – as in, “You need a new medicine cabinet? I can build that!”. If you take that tact, you have to wait for them to come to you, to have a need to be fulfilled. Good salesman create a need. You might be asking, “But how do I tell that lady she needs a new medicine cabinet, when she doesn’t?” She needs the better one you have to sell her. Your cabinet can hold more things, has a bigger mirror, is made of cherry, which matches her bathroom cabinet, and so on. You create a desire, a want. Look at car commercials – you care is probably just fine – but don’t you want that hot Lexus on TV? The luxury, the styling, the driving experience? It all looks appealing to you. Again, creating a need where none exists. So how does this work in the woodworking world? Well, you take the car company tact, and make a product that appeal’s to a women’s sense of decor (most of our customers are women, let’s face it). You’re not going to sell a clock made out of a table saw blade – though that might work for some guy’s shop – but you can sell a nice mission style clock for her mantel. Women like to attract beautiful things to themselves – whether that be adornments, like jewelry or clothes, or their surroundings, as in your beautiful table, cabinet, clock, etc.

• Sell value, not price. You’re never going to beat the big box stores on price; it’s impossible. People will look at you like you have three heads when you tell them your mission mantel clock is $475, when, by God, they can get a clock at Walmart for $20! Off hand, their point seems valid, a clock tells time – in this case, one for $20, the other for $475, so why should they spend more? The answer is in perceived value. If that’s all they value, something to tell time by, then you’ll never make the sale. However, if they value the story behind the clock – how you picked out the cherry yourself, crafted it yourself from your own plans, and how it is much more visually pleasing then the white plastic, made in China clock that won’t last for more than 5 years, and isn’t something you’ll be handing down to your heirs, like your clock will be – now you’re talking about value.

• Differentiate yourself from competitors. Why should I buy from you? What makes you better then this other guy? It’s not always about price, by the way. You could sell yourself on many traits – you have over 20 years making clocks; you have a long list of customer’s testimonials; your design is unique – yet very appealing, you use mechanical movements while others use electronic movements and so on. Of course, your product should be the number one thing that differentiates you from others – the quality, craftsmanship, styling – all need to be appreciably better then other woodworkers. You must stand out, and above.

• It’s about relationships. Not the one with your girlfriend, or your wife (!), but with the customer. People like to feel special, and they feel special when they have a relationship with someone that is special. This explains the lures of celebrities; why do people come off positively giddy when they meet Tiger Woods or Kim Kardashian? One chase balls around a country club; the other chase balls all over the country. These people are special – in that a lot of others think they are special – so when you have a moment with them, however brief, you feel sort of special too, and you run back and tell all your friends whom you just met. Well, to your customers, you are kind of the rock star, in a mild sense. People are thrilled to have stuff custom made for them, especially by someone who is percieved to be a very good craftsman. Think about it – what if Sam Maloof made you his famous rocker, or Krenov, his cabinet – just for you? Wouldn’t that make you feel great? Well, that’s how your customers should – and really do want – to feel. Once you get that customer, be personable from first contact forward. You don’t have to be their best friend, but you don’t have to an aloof cashier at 7-11 either. You hopefully can build some relationship with the person, and therefore, future sales.

Watch for my next post in this series….

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in BlogNotes

 

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