I recently wrote about the importance of having a USP or Unique Selling Proposition for your shop. Now that we have some idea of why people should choose you for their woodworking or other projects, the next task is marketing to get the word out.
I assume that you, like me, routinely get spam promising exceptional web marketing. "Local!" "National!" "SEO!" "Organic!" "Paid!" "Video!". I have heard it all. Now, just for jollies, suppose I paid someone $1000 a month to "do my marketing" for me and it turns out that I have to create the "content" - images and text and descriptions - for the marketing to work. $1000/month also means I would have to sell enough to net an extra $1000/month to pay for this marketing service. For a small company this isn't a bargain, especially since most of the people promising huge returns have no idea how to reach your customer. Who wants a thousand website clicks if they're from bots or queries from customers who don't get why you can't build a chair for less than Ikea / don't live in the Aleutian Islands / don't understand why you can't just cut a board to fit into a small hole for three dollars? I don't want to exclude the champion time waster: random people want you to design an entire remodeling project for free with no guarantee that you might get the job.
You need marketing to the right kind of and quantity of customer. You need a marketing project that doesn't take over your entire day. You need something manageable and maintainable. Most important, you need something you can afford and can sustain. What is the affordable number? Nearly Zero!
The most successful marketing outlets I know for cabinetry and remodeling business are as follows:
- Google My Business
- A webpage with current projects and samples of the type of work you do -- and of course your contact information
- An Instagram account for your business that is fed fairly regularly
- A Facebook account for your business that can be fed from your Instagram account.
Before we take a look at these opportunities in detail, let's look at the materials you need to be successful no matter how you spread the word. In addition if you already utilize these marketing outlets and you are not happy with the results ask yourself if how well what you are posting promotes your USP.
If you sell great design - make sure the pictures show it
You need pictures of your work. Good pictures. They don't need to be professionally taken - most cell phones nowadays have decent cameras - but they need to be properly composed, clutter free, and show the work in good light. Sometimes clients won't let you take pictures, but why not ask? And don't forget that many potential clients would prefer to see your work post-installation in the real world, not just how it looked in your shop. When you ask, be clear that the client is granting permission to make the picture public on your website or social media.
When you take pictures always keep in mind your USP. If what you are selling is your clever ability to maximize space, your pictures need to convey that feature -- or great use of color, or great carvings, or whatever your USP is. Whatever it is you need both overall pictures so people can understand what you are doing and detailed shots emphasizing your USP. If you are working on a project with other makers, then you'll need to coordinate the photography and credit your colleagues appropriately. Showing off a kitchen that you built, but then, upon being questioned, admitting you didn't design it might mean wasting time with a customer who needs a designer first. It is far better to caption the picture built-by-me-designed-by-someone-else, and then if the prospect calls you, be happy about offering to get that someone else involved. Or maybe they are just looking for a fabricator. The issue is that your USP is what you want to push -- not the theoretical idea that, given the right alignment of the stars, you could make anything and find someone else to make parts of it too. (Customers hate their time wasted and feeling like they can't trust you, BTW.)
Words are important
While your photography has to call attention to what you do, a few words of explanation lead to greater engagement. It's really simple: a picture draws you in and compelling text keeps you drawn in. It was Howard Gossage who said "An ad should ideally be like one end of an interesting conversation." Write a compelling bio. Write about the project in the picture. Respect confidences. Keep people entertained. You don't necessarily need to stay laser-focused on the job. Obviously I believe in mixing it up, as evidenced by this blog. Sometimes I write about products we sell, sometimes about old tools, sometimes about museum exhibits, sometimes about business. Topics are basically whatever I find interesting in the hope that you will find it interesting too and come back to the blog and our website periodically. And then, if I am really lucky, once in a while you might need a tool we have and buy it from us. Modern advertising.
However, you might be a fabulous craftsperson but intimidated by the prospect of stringing two sentences together or taking a decent picture. Maybe you'll be as lucky as I am and you can get assistance from your partner as I do. (Hence the blog no longer featuring misspelled words in its headlines nowadays.) If you need help, ask! If you can't take a proper picture look on the internet for free lessons. Once of the things I was taught when I first started in the business was that as a company founder and owner I needed to develop decent levels of skill in a lot of areas. One area is photography. I know I should do an even better job, but I like to think the job I am doing isn't horrible and passes enough muster.
If you sell great technique, you need pictures of the details and an explanation about hard it is to great the detail
If your USP is great design, you need a story about how a design or two evolved. Make it easy for other people to understand your USP.
The goal is to have content that pushes the buttons of people who will respond to your USP.
You need a level of content you can maintain
Whatever means of marketing you choose, you will have to maintain it. Don't let this discourage you from beginning this process but understand that your marketing isn't a one-off. Ideally you'll have additional examples of your USP or perhaps a new facet. But at minimum you will need to make your efforts look current, relevant and accurate.
Now that you have good content you need to tell people about it.
Google My Businessis a free service by Google in which you upload descriptions and pictures of your business and what you do. The business will appear on Google maps and make it easy to find with organic search. And by uploading pictures, descriptions of what you do and contact information, you have the basis of a website for free - a great first point of contact. Even if you have your own website, Google My Business is a very powerful sales tool. The only downside I can see it that it really wants a location and most of you don't have a retail store someone can visit. (And if you do have a location that's open to the public: that's awesome. We literally have had customers come by after seeing our name appear on a Google map.) However, as long as you have the address of your shop or where you share shop space, it makes sense. Of course you need to mention that the shop is closed to the public or by appointment only. Pictures of your workshop in addition to portfolio pictures will take your public presentaiton to a new level as a company worthy of consideration. You will also have a place where customer can leave reviews and feedback. From an ongoing standpoint you will need to occasionally refresh the pictures, keep the contract information current and of course pay attention to any reviews.
A simple websiteIt's pretty easy to set up a plain website. If you are someone who sells lower priced items, an eCommerce store might be something worth setting up, but that's a whole other layer of complexity. Mostly what you need is a one page website that tells people who you are and how to get hold of you. In addition you should have a portfolio online. There's very little difference between the content of Google My Business and a simple website, except that if it's your website and you sell design you have an opportunity in the website to have something elegant that makes people think you are a fine company to deal with. If you do plan to hire someone to help you with the website, make sure you own the content, the pages, and most importantly have a way of updating portfolio and contact information without relying on them. There are also tons of sites that use templates so that you can design your own website. And WordPress, a very popular blogging platform, is a great way of creating both static pages and ongoing updates.
Instagram and Facebookare arguably the two biggest time wasters nowadays but they work as a way of keeping friends and family in touch. And in the case of business, they remind people you exist. The most logical thing to do is to create an Instagram page for your business and keep it separate from your personal page. Post news, images, and anything you find interesting so people can keep up and hear about you. The important thing for outreach is having appropriate tags on your posts so that people who aren't already following you find you. You can also add location information to your posts. Instagram does support paid advertising, which is probably not cost-effective for a furniture maker or architectural woodworker. You can set up Instagram to directly feed Facebook. It's not ideal in that it ignores a lot of Facebook features, but it's easy and for us the only practical way of generating content for both sites. While some people have the urge to post constantly. you mostly need to find a frequency that works with you. Once in a blue moon won't develop much of a following, but once in a while, with hashtags that rope in architect and designers (your customers) along with compelling images will be very helpful. Brief videos can deliver a lot of bang for the buck! You don't need a lot of followers, just a bunch of good ones. As with many schemes, the time to get cracking is before your hour of need. Many customers report that they have gotten real work through their Instagram posts. If you are first getting started, you probably want to have about 20 pictures up your sleeve to post. You can stack the pictures for release on a calendar via several different free apps designed for this purpose. Don't forget to tell people about your account so that they can follow you or follow you back.
Not matter how you promote your business, make sure to follow these rules:
- Market and advertise what you actually want to sell.
- Make contact and connection with prospective customers easy to do.
- Keep it current with accurate information and recent work.
- Make sure that approach is both affordable and maintainable long term.
The Screenshot is from our Instagram page. It is, as I say in the blog a combination of whole bunches of types of photographs. What people react to is its immediacy. The pictures of the tools we sell on our website are not nearly as haphazard. And it turns out it works. Over the years we’ve built the following, and they seem to like the random collection of pictures. Instagram and Facebook are for us about engagement and it turns out it works. Over the years we’ve built the following, and Followers seem to like this random collection of pictures. The selling on Instagram and Facebook is indirect. If I needed to set up every photograph with the perfection of some of the really wonderful photographs on your website, we would never be able to post two or three times a week. And it turns out frequency of posting is important for what we did. Would you do, obviously works for you, And your photos are really cool. But our USPs are different than yours and that is why we need different approaches.