by small business expert Donna Maria Coles Johnson
I was so glad when The Arts Business Institute told me that a reader asked me to share with you on the topic of how entrepreneurial artists can successfully compete with hobbyists and mass produced brands who charge low prices and masquerade as the real thing.
There really is no way to fancy up this issue. It’s ugly and unfair.
Let’s face it, the very tool that has helped artists and brands sell more products is the same tool that makes it possible for hobbyists and mass producers to offer cheap or inexpensive products that bring down the market.
Having said all of that, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about any of it.
Even though there is nothing you can do about any of those things, there are things you can do that will help overcome the challenges. Here are four of them.
1. Embrace an abundance mindset.
Instead of waking up every morning thinking about how the cards are stacked against you, wake up remembering that the pie is very big, and there is enough to go around.
The hobbyist who only needs to make a few bucks can attract plenty of people who only want to part with a few bucks.
The low-balling mass producer who is out to cut every corner possible can attract people who only want to purchase a commodity.
And you, the artisan who puts her heart and soul into work that is making the world a better place — you can find an audience of loyal buyers as well. You can attract people who value integrity, quality craftsmanship, and who appreciate the passion you put into your work.
There is enough to go around.
2. Know and reach out only to your target customer.
When you stop being concerned about what everyone else is doing, you can focus your energy on your highest priorities. It is a learned entrepreneurial skill to ignore everything but what gets you to your next level of success. You must do this.
Take the time you would otherwise be worrying about the competitive landscape, and focus on knowing your target customer like the back of your hand. Understand what makes him tick. Why does he buy some things and not others? What matters most to him? How can you position your brand to appeal to his emotions in ways that almost require him to buy your product?
When you know exactly what you are selling, and to whom, and you funnel your energy in that direction, it truly does not matter what anyone else does.
3. Skip shows and stores where buyers are not prepared to pay for quality.
Investigate potential shows and retailers thoroughly before investing time pitching or entering them. Make sure you don’t find yourself at a show where the host does not fully vet the exhibitors in advance.
You are successful in business not only because of what you do, but also because of what you don’t do. Put your time and energy into the venues where your brand stands toe to toe with other professional brands.
Putting your products in close proximity to other high quality goods automatically increases the value of your offerings. Do this and ignore everything else.
4. Use technology to nurture and maintain customer relationships.
One of the most powerful things you can do to ensure that your customers know that you are not a hobbyist or mass producer is to help them understand why that should make a difference to them. The best way to do this is with video.
Use video to share the story behind your products. Tell people why you do what you do. Use Snapchat and Instagram to showcase your making process. Fire up Periscope or Facebook Live and treat your customers to a studio tour.
Pull back the curtain and reveal a bit about yourself personally, and how passionate you are about serving your target customers. The amazing technological tools available to you today allow you to build relationships with customers for free. It is these relationships that will increase and sustain your sales over the long haul.
In conclusion, so much of business requires us to avoid comparing ourselves and our offerings to those of others.
We must not only view the glass as full, but as overflowing! And really, it is.
Donna Maria Coles Johnson is an author, small business personality, and award-winning home-based business advocate. She is also the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, a trade organization providing mentoring and coaching services, and affordable product liability insurance, to makers and creative entrepreneurs across North America. Donna Maria has hosted the Indie Business Podcast since 2005. She blogs at the Indie Business Blog, and she is @IndieBusiness on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.