In a challenging economy, many artists and craftspeople are lowering prices in an effort to “stay competitive” and stay in business. But is that a smart idea? After all, competing in a race to the bottom means that everyone earns less. It also means that your customers perceive that your work is worth less.
Buyers who are considering a purchase of your art are making a judgment based on their perception of the “value” of the piece. Keep in mind that all purchases are emotional. That means the way a customer feels about your work and the value they perceive in it, makes an enormous difference in their decision, and in your sales.
What adds value to art or craft? Great design is extremely important, as well as skillful craftsmanship. A complete and cohesive collection of work which is beautifully displayed will create a great impression. There are other ways to create a greater perceived value for the shopper as well. Here are some of them:
- Handmade in America – when an item bears this mark, it means a lot – to buyers who want to own the work of American artists; who understand the high level of quality that “American Made” represents; and who buy American on principle. Don’t forget to proudly label your work with this distinctive feature.
- Tell Your Story – an object is enhanced when the maker relates the story behind it, and a connection is made. What inspires your work? Do you have a fascinating history? What makes you and your creations unique? Will this item be an heirloom? The buyer will tell others the story when showing their purchase, as it has become part of the appeal.
- Presentation is Everything – Do your hangtags or packaging enhance your work? Beautifully made tags, boxes or literature which describe the process, tell about you, and include care instructions convey the quality of the purchase. Truly expensive products have lavish presentation – what is yours like?
- Reach them Emotionally – Artists and craftspeople who link their work with a cause or charity convey a different type of value. If you work with exclusively recycled or up-cycled materials, use that as a selling point. Do you donate part of your proceeds to a charity? Let that speak for you as well. Others who care about your cause will see the added value in your line.
- The Material Difference – When you go beyond expectations in creating your product, through extra detail in design, or adding something unexpected that is pleasing or useful, it adds value as well. Even a small element can allow you to realize a price premium. You may be able to raise your prices while your competition is discounting theirs, and still increase your business.
Take a look at some examples of how this works:
- If you make handmade clothing, add special buttons, tassels or other detailing which makes a statement and enhances each piece.
- Pottery or glass objects made using gold overglaze or accents give a high-end luxury look.
- One artist changed the perception of his elaborate jigsaw puzzles, which were originally seen as toys by shoppers. He added legs and made them into tables, at which point they became furniture items worth at least $100 more.
- A cubic zirconium replacing a peridot in handmade jewelry immediately gives the impression of added value.
- Handmade ceramic vases with lids become more valuable when sold as funerary urns. That same vase, without the lid, when used by a “sensei” to create an incredible ikebana arrangement is perceived as a much more valuable item than a simple vase being sold as such at an art fair.
Added value as a concept has been understood and used effectively in the general marketplace for many years. Consider the Cabbage Patch doll – just another toy, except that an individual name and “adoption certificate” was included, propelling it to a national phenomenon. Rocks are just rocks until they are packaged as “pet rocks” – a 1970’s fad based on a gimmick.
Your work can be perceived as extraordinary, if you think creatively about how it is designed, presented, and marketed. Too many artists ignore the responsibility of sharing their message in a well-written statement – but much of the value of their work lies in the message that is communicated.
Value is in the eyes of the beholder. What have you done to creatively add value to your line?