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My Favorite Marketing Tools

I’ve never watched The Sound of Music all the way through, but I know enough about it to know that there is a scene where Julie Andrews sings a song about her favorite things. I’m not going to break out in a song and dance montage, but when it comes to marketing my business, there are a few things that I couldn’t live without.

And so, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things:

My Computer: When it comes to marketing my business, it all starts with my computer. My computer allows me to connect with people, write press releases, find reporters who are looking for leads, create graphics and promos,  and so much more. My computer is my marketing life line.

The Internet: The Internet changed everything. And when I say “everything,” I mean everything, as in the whole world. Part of that is marketing. For the first time in history, it doesn’t matter what your advertising budget is. Small, home based businesses can compete with large, national companies. Put your marketing message on the Internet and you can be doing business with people all around the globe. It’s amazing what the Internet can do!

Blog / Website: Of course, in order to get business from people all across the globe, you gotta show ‘em what you can do, and that is where having a blog and/or website comes into play. Even if you have an Etsy shop or if you stick to local craft fairs for sales (why do you do that, by the way??), you STILL need a website / blog.  It will help you build relationships with your customers, keep them informed about your business, and it will help you find new customers. Do you see why this is so important? (to learn more about blogging, check out my resource How To Give Good Blog)

Twitter: There are lots of social networks out there, but this little dynamo is by far and away my favorite. When I write a new blog post, I send the link out on Twitter and within a few moments, I have feedback. How awesome is that? It’s a great tool for meeting people — including potential customers, potential partners, and the media. It is awesome and I love it.

My Friends: Friends are awesome, and they are especially awesome when they blog about you, re-tweet your posts on Twitter, post your links on Facebook, and do whatever else they can to promote you online.

If you aren’t friendly with any other business owners, use the aforementioned Internet to browse some social networks and find some! You can find people via Twitter, Facebook, the Etsy Forums, and a zillion other places. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. One of my next posts will cover how to do this…..

Tenacity: Marketing a craft business online isn’t as easy as turning the computer on and pushing a couple of buttons. It is hard work and it does take time and effort. There will be days when everything seems to be going great – you’ll find yourself featured on a blog or maybe a reporter will ask to interview you. There will also be days when you’ll feel like you’re making zero progress. That’s normal.

When you have one of those days, hold onto your goals, dig your heels in a bit deeper and keep working. The only way to move ahead is to keep it up, even on the days you want to quit.

Remember, you CAN do this.

Now, go out there, put your best marketing face on, and show the world what you’re made of.

No singing or dancing required.

Time To Meet The New Girl!

Hello, readers! I’m Crissy, and I am very excited about joining the Sparkplugging team as a contributor to CraftBoom!

When Kelly, (as in Kelly McCausey, Sparkplugging’s new General Editor) asked me if I would like to join the team last week, my answer was an immediate “YES!”  So let’s get started!

I’ll be honest with you  I’m one of those people who gets VERY excited when I am talking about something that interests me and I already have a zillion ideas for blog posts… but I guess the proper way to start this out is with an introduction…so let me tell ya’ a little bit about myself!

I’m a big believer in the DIY Movement and I love business – especially marketing and publicity! I combined those two passions and turned them into my own business in 2007 when I launched  Indie Biz Chicks, a website that provides business, marketing, and publicity info to “women who’d rather work for themselves, than work for the man.”

Some interesting facts:  I was born and raised in America’s High Five (aka Michigan!),  I get very excited over trivia games (trust me, when it comes to trivia, you want me on your team!), I lived in Alaska for quite a few years, I’m the self-proclaimed “world’s best aunt,” I make great cookies, I take way too many pictures and can occupy myself for hours with some paper, glue and scissors (yep! I’m a scrapbooker!), and if I were ever famous, I’d like to host Saturday Night Live.

(But enough about me….. My next post will be all business, I promise!)

Craft Fairs: “Know the Show” and Plan Accordingly

When planning to sell at a craft fair, you also need to keep in mind the audience you are selling to and what price the market will bear. If your high-priced items just won’t sell, look for ways to reduce your materials/labor costs, which will allow you to lower your price and still sell profitably.  If this can’t be done, find something different that you can sell for a lower price while still making a profit. Each craft fair is different, and even the market and economy will vary from year to year, so make sure to keep these factors in mind.

“Knowing the show” will also allow you to understand the groups who will be coming through. Oftentimes juried shows attract an audience who are willing to pay a higher dollar amount. A show at your local elementary school gymnasium may have you rethinking the items you choose to sell. It’s hard to tell, but taking the time to evaluate after each show you do will help you the next time.

Upcoming Post: Ways to Move Your Products!

Craft Fairs: How to Price & Profit – Part 1

Pricing, pricing, pricing!  “Where should I price my product?” is the never-ending question.

Every small business owner has asked it when getting ready for a craft fair. Is the price too high? Too low? From my experience, I can tell you that the bottom line is that your time is money and that there is value in that. So don’t sell yourself short by pricing too low and don’t allow inventory to just sit there by pricing items too high. I will share a 3-part series of some ideas on how you can do what you love and reap the benefits of selling at the same time.

I’d like to first share three techniques on how I come up with pricing when getting ready to sell.

Following are several factors you should consider when setting prices for your hand-made items.

1. Cost of Materials: Write down the total cost of your materials per item. If you use one yard of material, but make three items from that one yard, then divide the price of the yard by three and apply the cost to the item. Accounting for all costs is very important so you know what your break-even point is.

2. Related Costs: Account in your expenditures for the cost of the booth, any travel expenses, etc. Divide the total amount of related costs by the number of products you’ll be selling and you’ll have a better idea of the amount to add to each item sold.

3. Pay Yourself: As I mentioned before, your time is of utmost value. Set a reasonable hourly rate and multiply by the time it takes to produce each item sold.

Add these factors together and now you’ll have a better idea of how much you should charge. Another great method to set your pricing is found here on About.com.

My friend and colleague, Courtney, sold for many years at both craft fairs and Etsy. She  put together a spreadsheet that worked for her where she calculated her material costs, kept track of her hours spent, and added the various fees involved with the show. It really helped her keep track of it all in one central place, as well as to account where her time and money were going. 

The most important thing is to find a pricing strategy that works for you. But notice I used the word, “strategy.” I use that term because there really can be a “science” to it. Make sure you do not guess what a “good price” might be without taking into account your costs.  Make it worth your while by doing the homework beforehand to come up with a price that will be positive for your business.

*Next time we’ll talk about the importance of “knowing the show” and planning accordingly when pricing.

Craft Fairs: Are They For You?

You love what you create and you love sharing with others. Has anyone ever approached you and said, “You know, you should really consider making and selling these things!” While the compliment is very flattening, you may think that you enjoy making items yourself but wonder whether selling those items would be a good idea.  Is it all worth it?  It may or may not be.

 Over the next few weeks I’ll help you explore the pros and cons of generating additional income by selling your creations.  I’ll share some great tips on how to price your items, how to make an eye-catching display, creating that great first impression with customers, and then how to extend your business beyond the craft show. I know many of you out there have tips to share as well, so I invite you to share your experiences selling your products by commenting on the Craftboom blog! We can all learn from eachother!

If you have considered entering your products into a craft fair, it is important to do your homework first. This is very important; because the work you do ahead of time will make sure you are able to get into the fair in the first place!  You have a lot to plan for, but first let’s make sure this is right for you.

First, you will want to find out where the craft shows are happening. When and where will they be taking place? Call your local Chamber of Commerce. Look at local community bulletin boards, including school and church fairs.  You may be surprised how many you find once you start looking!

In the craft show market, there are really two different kinds of shows. There are juried and non-juried shows. A juried show is one in which you apply and send in photographs of your items. A selection committee then makes the final decision if you will be accepted to display in that show. Juried shows have a limited number of sellers and the booth costs are likely to be higher.  However, the attendance is often greater and there is often more advertising, meaning more prospective customers. Non-juried shows are those in which all who would like to have a booth are welcome, or are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Typically, the booth fees are less than you’ll find for juried shows.  Non-juried shows can be a great way to get started in this kind of business.

In addition to finding out the dates, times, and booth price, there are some other important questions to ask the organizer, which include:

  •  Approximately how many attendees do they expect? 
  • How many vendors are selling the same type of product as yours? 
  • How will the craft fair be advertised?
  • What is included in the booth price- chair? Table? Electricity?
  • What commissions need to be paid, if any, to the organizer? Are a percentage of sales taken?

If you’re not sure about the kind of show you should attend, then attend as many as you can as a consumer. This will give you a better idea of the shows in which you are interested in participating the next time they are held!

Second, it is important to find out any city or state requirements you have for your area. Because you likely must charge and then pay sales tax on the items you sell, it will be imperative that you register your business with the state and obtain a sales tax certificate. You can find that information by contacting your state agency covering sales tax (often available online). Check with the state and/or the show organizers to find out how the tax is to be collected. At some shows I’ve sold at, the state tax authorities pass around a certificate that needs to be filled out at the end and then turned in that day rather than filing later. Different states and shows vary, so be sure to find this information out before you begin.

Finally, perhaps the biggest question should be, “Do I have the time I need to invest into preparing for this show?” That is a question that only you can answer for yourself. If you choose to pursue this, then you may want to consider taking a look at your calendar and setting goals and deadlines for yourself to ensure you are not up until 3 a.m. the night before the big show! We’ve all been there…trust me! Look at giving yourself “office hours” each day when you can spend time each week making the items you will be selling. Be creative in how you streamline the process of managing your time. Rather than planning a large assortment of different items for your booth, consider finding a “niche” and focusing on just a few items so that you can make items in “assembly-line” fashion. This will help not only with your time, but also with your costs…and your sanity!

Preparing for and participating in a craft fair can be a lot of work, and yet very rewarding at the same time. To do what you love and get paid for it at the same time provides much satisfaction. You can feel good about what you are doing, so enjoy the journey! It is definitely a learning process, so don’t become discouraged. You will learn new things each time you participate in a show. We wish you all the best in your creative endeavors!

I’d love to hear from YOU!  Have you ever participated in a craft fair? If so, was it juried or non-juried? What was your experience like? What questions do you think are important to consider before entering a craft fair?

Next Week’s Tips: How to Price and Profit at the Craft Fair