AAE Glass | Workshops, Videos, Tutorials
How To Sell Your Art
Using A Blog To SPread The Word
The word blog comes from a combination of the words “web log.” A blog is a series of entries related to a single subject or a combination of similar subjects entered electronically. The frequency of entries is up to the blogger and can range from several times a day to once a month or more. A blog gives you the freedom to express your thoughts and opinions on anything. Blogs cover a wide range of subjects from celebrity gossip to quantum physics to cooking and of course glass art.
Now that you have a brief background on what a blog is, let’s get blogging. First, you need to select a blog host. There are several free blog hosts that are easy to navigate and starting an account is easy. If you get hung up on anything, simply google where you are stuck and several help options will be available. Don't get frustrated if you get stuck or confused, the more you navigate the site, the more you will learn and the easier it will get. Blogger.com also has an excellent tracking system that allows you to see how many people are clicking on your blog and what key words they are using to find your blog.
What do you do after your account is set up? Start typing. By that I mean provide information related to your business. The first blog I posted for AAE Glass in 2009 was about the glass fusing decals we sell. This identified us to the reader and as a new company. There is nothing more important than to identify with potential customers. The next few posts offered tips and troubleshooting when using our decals with glass jewelry. These original blog posts are still used as a reference by glass jewelry artists. I then started featuring glass jewelry artists who used our products. This is when we really started to gain the majority of our readers because it showed our products in action. While we entered the market with a relatively new and interesting product, artists didn't have experience using our decals and were understandably skeptical. Featuring outside artists, complete with pictures, allowed me to show positive results which in turn gained the trust of other glass artists.
When writing a blog there are a few basic things to remember. Key words are what will drive your blog up the search engine ladder. You may write the most informative blog in the industry, but if people can't find it, what good is it? Put yourself in the shoes of someone who may be searching for the exact information you are providing. What words are they going to enter as their search? In this case, “glass fusing decals” are the most popular key words. I make sure to include this combination of words in the title as well as the first couple of sentences of the post if possible. Even more important is to include these key words in the “tags” section at the end of every post. This allows the search engines such as google, yahoo and bing to categorize the blog. The search engines will determine how many times your key words are searched for, how many times your blog is clicked and position your blog accordingly on their list. Obviously the more quality clicks, the higher you will be slotted by the search engines which in turn equals more exposure for your company.
After you determine the content of your blog you can add pictures and links to further validate what you are selling. Pictures are a must as it will give your potential clients a visual image of what you are selling. It is also important to link the same clients to the website where they can purchase your items. You can put a link directly on the picture or you can hyperlink any text throughout the body of the blog. These links will be highlighted and will stick out to the readers eye. AAE Glass gets the most hits from our website via links we have on our blog.
Another way to gain traffic to your blog is to link with other blogs. This is a practice that mutually benefits both blogs. I may email abc jewelry and ask them to exchange blog links if they use our products. By doing this, I will post their link on our blog and they post our link on theirs. Readers will be interested in more information and this makes it very accessible for them and increases exposure for both parties. If you look at our blog you will see a link to poetrygift.com. While poetrygift.com is not a jewelry related site, they do sell personalized poetry as gifts. All of our readers will have a need for a gift at one time or another and they can easily click on this link. Poetrygift.com in turns posts our link on their blog so any of their customers can find us if they want more information about jewelry. As you can see both sites benefit and the more reputable sites you link with the more exposure everyone will get thus helping you climb that all important search engine ladder.
The last thing I want to leave you with is, be creative. There are no rules to writing a blog. I can share my experiences and give you tips, but the content is up to you. If you write an interesting blog that provides knowledge and value to your readers everything will take care of itself. An example of something I have had success with is featuring an artist of the month. I have judged contests for the artist who used our tree of life decal the best and awarded a prize. I have incorporated youtube videos to share techniques about several different ways to use our decals. This is where you get to play marketing guru and you can implement any sort of sales tactic you see fit. Make it fun for both you and the reader. Your readers will let you know what they think by leaving comments after your posts. I have found the more interactive the blog is, the more readers you get. When you get readers, your product gets exposure and when you have exposure you get the all important sales you need to grow your business. Remember, this is an ongoing process. You need to keep up with your blog and any social media you choose to work with. The more work you put in, the greater the results will be.
Reprinted with permission from Glass Art Magazine. For more marketing articles from Mark Veit, please visit Glassartmagazine.com.
Don’t Just Experiment With Your Art
I was talking to Tanya Veit a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she was taking a few days to experiment with some new glass fusing techniques. She went on to say that some of her best and most popular techniques have come about through experimentation and even accident. She knew what she wanted the finished glass piece to look like, but she didn't know exactly how she was going to get there. She applied several different ideas and as expected, some worked and some flopped, but what she learned through the process was priceless. She kept meticulous notes during her experiments and was able to narrow down what worked best and build on those principles. I followed up with her a few days later to see how things were going and she told me the experiment had taken on a life of its own. She ended up getting the results she originally wanted, but she got there in a way she never knew possible. Since then, she has parlayed that newly learned knowledge into 3 similar techniques of various sizes and shapes. I was impressed with not only the outcome she achieved, but the process she used to get there.
This got me to thinking how I can apply these same principles to the marketing work I do. One of the most attractive aspects of social media to me, is the freedom I have to do or say anything I want. There is no template and there are no rules when it comes to using social media. One thing I tell people who share their marketing ideas with me is, “you can't break social media.” What I mean by that is, if you are serious about getting more exposure for your glass art and you go about it in a professional manner, social media is unbreakable, unless of course you offend somebody’s mother!
For the most part, everyone's goal with social media, in regards to business, is to gain exposure for their product and ultimately reap sales. While everyone has the same goal, there is an infinite number of ways to get there. It is at this point that I say to people, get creative and experiment with several different social media marketing ideas. Remember, I said if you are serious, social media is unbreakable, so yes, even though you have a failed experiment, and I have had several, there is always an opportunity to scrap it and start over or fix it and make it successful. As Tanya did in the above example, take detailed notes throughout the process. This will allow you to see exactly where and why your experiment went wrong. Then on the next go around, you can take a different approach to get to whatever goal you are trying to achieve. As stated, I have had several failures when it comes to social media marketing. The beauty of this is even when I fail with a social media marketing idea, I have a chance to amend it according to what I have learned and turn it into a success. An example of turning a failed experiment into a successful one is a contest AAE Glass held for glass fusers.
I tried to put together a contest for our product users years ago when I first started working with social media and to say it flopped is an understatement. My goal was to gain exposure for a new decal design we just released and ultimately sell them. My mistake was, I wasn't clear enough on the rules or the judging criteria. Basically I didn't make the rules clear to begin with, which caused confusion among the participants and I only ended up with a handful of entrants. To make matters worse, I was very clear on the prizes to be awarded, so every entry won a prize this time. I didn't get the exposure I was looking for and had to award all of the prizes anyway. I chalked this particular contest up as a loss, but I knew where I went wrong and wanted to revisit the idea in the future.
Fast forward a couple years to earlier this year and I was ready to give my contest idea another try. This time, I knew what I had to do. Everything from the rules, to the entry method, to the judging criteria, to the prizes were clearly defined. I announced the contest to all of our product users and I began getting entries that day. No questions asked, no incomplete entries and the entries were as unique as I asked for. As the contest got more and more notoriety, my blog hits and sales saw a significant bump for the duration. I was able to achieve my goal even after I tried and failed. I learned from what I did wrong and I corrected it. I now have experience with a successful social media marketing idea and I can build on that in the future. This contest is just one example of a social media marketing idea I have used. I am always experimenting with possible social media initiatives. I ask anyone who will listen about my ideas and I use their feedback to tweak my idea until I have something I think will work, but I never know until I try. Don't be afraid to try innovative methods or tactics to get the attention of your potential buyers. The results might just pleasantly surprise you.
These principles can be applied to anything we do in life. It is important not to get caught up with what isn't working, be able to recognize it and go about it a different way. Learn from our experience and use that knowledge to make our goal a reality. Social media gives us all this opportunity, it is up to us to make it work
Reprinted with permission from Glass Art Magazine. For more marketing articles from Mark Veit, please visit Glassartmagazine.com.
Who Needs SEO?
The answer is, anyone who wants their website to be found by potential customers or vendors. In other words, it is essential for every business to keep an eye toward some basic search engine optimization (seo for short) principles when it comes to adding content to your website.
We followed some basic seo ideas when we created aaeglass.com and have achieved a high ranking for both our website and our blog within our niche. We have never paid for a seo service, although there are thousands of them out there. Just google “seo service” and you can research these companies for days. I don't want to say the companies who specialize in seo services are irrelevant, far from it. I have heard several success stories and in some cases it is well worth the cost to pay for these services, but this day and age, your company dollars are very important and need to be spent wisely. For every seo company success story, there are numerous examples of it being a waste of money for the companies who employ supposed seo gurus and, in some cases, companies find themselves worse off than when they started. The decision to employ one of these services is entirely up to you. I don't want to steer you one way or the other. What I do want to share with you are some basic principles that will help you climb the all important google, yahoo or bing ladder without investing in a third party seo service.
A very important, but overlooked aspect of building a strong seo base is to know your audience. This means you need to decipher who the bulk of your readers are going to be and what it is they want to read about. Put yourself in their shoes and write what they want to read, not what you want to tell them. Of course, sometimes you are going to need to offer information for the readers with the intentions of enlightening them on a subject that you know will be of help to them, but the majority of your content should be geared toward what the reader wants to read.
As a glass artist looking to sell finished glass art, the most important things to share are descriptions and pictures of your finished pieces, as well as a way for the reader to purchase them online. Be sure to include “key” words in the beginning of your description as google tends to weight the first couple of sentences more than the rest of the body. Be sure to write it in a way that is readable and makes sense. Don't just throw your key words in the first couple sentences (glass, art, necklace, plate, bowl, vase, etc) to get them in there. Incorporate them in a way that is readable to your audience.
ie: “This beautiful fused glass necklace is a perfect gift for anyone who loves wearable glass art.” In this example, I was able to incorporate several key words or phrases while still coming off as readable. After all, if you make the first couple of sentences interesting, your readers are more likely to keep reading as well as take the time to dig deeper into your site for more products.
When you write content that is relevant to your readers and is going to teach or inform them, they are going to use your site or blog as a reference. This will result in readers frequently checking your sites for new or unread content. This is going to build a solid foundation of loyal readers who will inevitably talk about your company with their family, friends and most importantly other glass artists or glass lovers who will become future customers. A common mistake companies make after setting up their site, blog or social media outlets is not continuously offering new information to keep the readers coming back. Once you start, you need to commit 100% to updating your sites or you will lose all of the readers you worked so hard to get in the first place. People shopping on the internet these days are impatient and if I check back with your site for a week or two and nothing has changed, I am going to look for a new source of information or product and just like that, you have lost a loyal reader and anyone else that particular reader may have alerted to your sites. If you share relevant information and update it frequently, the seo rankings will take care of themselves naturally. I believe any company looking to gain readers or customers needs to provide solid, well thought out information in regards to their products if they are going to succeed. Don't take shortcuts and your ranking will thank you.
Without getting into too much detail, google uses algorithms to determine their rankings. Two of their more famous, or infamous, algorithms are Panda and Penguin. While google is not forthcoming with exactly what their algorithms are designed to find, google does give you basic ground rules that boil down to building an original, in depth website that doesn't try to take advantage of shortcuts designed solely to boost ranking without adding depth or content to the website. Several companies who achieved a high ranking before the change in algorithms were shocked when Panda was released. It was designed to reward in depth websites and penalize shallow sites. These shallow sites had invested heavily in seo specific companies and once google changed the rules, most, if not all of the work that the seo companies did was for naught. These algorithms will keep changing and I believe it is for the best. While it isn't a perfect science, if you build a deep, informative website you are off on the right foot.
Hopefully by adhering to some of these principles you will gain exposure for your websites, which will gain exposure for your glass art and you yourself as a glass artist. This progression will ultimately make your company more visible on the internet and result in an increased number of sales.
Reprinted with permission from Glass Art Magazine. For more marketing articles from Mark Veit, please visit Glassartmagazine.com.
Selling In Galleries & Boutiques
Not a week goes by that I don't hear a glass artist say, “If I only had the time, I would love to make a living out of my glass art.” Typically this phrase is uttered while a glass artist is finishing up a class or studio time and they see the beautiful fruits of their labor and the potential for so much more. They have a love for glass art, they have a willingness to expand their knowledge of glass art and most importantly they have a passion for glass art. Wouldn't it be great if they could put these traits to work and build their own glass art business? This is happening more and more and I don't think anything could be better. Glass artists are learning both sides of the business and by educating themselves, hobbies are being turned into full blown businesses. There is definitely momentum in the glass art world and there is a place for your glass art on the shelves of boutiques and galleries.
I would like to share some methods and ideas Tanya Veit used to sell her glass art jewelry in over 180 boutiques and galleries across the country. Whether you currently run your own business and are trying to get into more boutiques or you are testing the waters to see if this is something you want to pursue, these tactics will put you in position to make an educated decision by speaking directly with boutique owners.
If getting in front of store buyers is your goal, focus on juried “fine art” shows as opposed to “craft” shows. There is nothing wrong with selling at a craft show, but store buyers are more likely to attend the juried shows because they know the artists have gone through a screening process and most likely deal on a wholesale basis. Anytime you are selling at one of these shows, be sure to have a few packets containing all of your information, including your price structure. If a store buyer shows interest, they will appreciate a concise packet that they can easily take with them. They may also want to take notes while speaking with you. It is a great way to show your professionalism and make a great first impression on a potential client. It is important that you find the right shops to work with as your goal is to build a lasting relationship full of reorders, so be sure to ask the potential client any questions that are important to you. Working well together with your client is very important and will save you headaches, time and money down the road.
Another way to get your glass art in front of store owners is to hire a commission based sales representative. You will have to pay close attention to your pricing structure if you choose this route, but when applied correctly, a good commission based sales rep can help you spread the word about your glass art like wild fire. A standard commission for a commission only rep is 15%. Be sure to have a written contract outlining the specifics and be sure the sales rep understands you expect “x” sales/accounts by “x” date. You might go through a few sales reps before you find the right one, but when you do, you will see an increase in sales.
If you are not keen on hiring a sales representative, get out there and do it yourself. Tanya did, and she cultivated some of the best business relationships because of it. This is where you can really take your time and research the boutiques and galleries you visit. Be sure to visit them anonymously before speaking with any buyers. Make sure you are comfortable in the environment. Make sure the sales people are attentive and willing to help. After all, you want this to be a lucrative relationship for both you and the shop owner, so a good sales staff is very important. After you have found a boutique that you are comfortable with, make an appointment with the owner or buyer, often the same person. Tanya learned the best days to contact the owners are Wednesday's and Thursday's later in the day. Owners tend to be busier on Monday's and Tuesday's and are more apt to give you their time and attention later in the week. When you speak with the buyer, let them know you make a product that will sell great in their store and show it to them. Let them know that you have been in their store before and have researched their business a bit. If you can make a connection with the buyer and show them you are taking the time to research their business, they will realize you are a serious sales person and willing to go above and beyond to sell a great product. Any shop owner will take notice of that initiative and realize you are a positive person to do business with. If you think the color of paint on the walls goes well with your glass art, be sure to point that out. If you sell glass art that is location specific, point out what a great fit it will be in this particular boutique. On the other hand, if you can't find anything in the boutique that compliments your glass art or if something made you uncomfortable, move on, it's not for you. Not every boutique will be a good fit. Don't get hung up on any one location, there is always another one out there.
While the above examples are relatively inexpensive, purchasing a booth at a wholesale tradeshow is not. However by attending a well recognized wholesale tradeshow, Tanya was able to obtain dozens of new and established boutique and gallery accounts. I wouldn't recommend purchasing a booth at a wholesale show unless you are prepared to meet the demand that will be generated. The national shows draw thousands of buyers from across the country, so it is important to be prepared and professional. Be sure to have your best work on hand as well as ideas and concepts of future work. The worst thing you can do is over commit to these new accounts. If you promise them the world and 6 weeks later they call you looking for their order and you haven't had a chance to even start it because you have been working on other orders, you will lose the business relationship before it ever has a chance to grow. Be honest and give them a realistic timeline. If the buyer knows the product won't be ready for 6 weeks they can work around that. In fact, they will appreciate that. The last thing a shop owner wants is a surprise. Another perk Tanya offered that always made the buyer feel comfortable was a guarantee to swap out pieces that didn't sell in 6 months. Tanya only had to do this a couple times, but every shop owner felt comfortable knowing they could swap out older merchandise for the same priced new merchandise if it didn't sell. The items you swap out after 6 months may be a better fit at another location, so in reality, all you are doing is moving your inventory around and it doesn't cost you very much to do so. The particular trade show Tanya participated in also had a website that helped reach galleries and boutiques across the country, even if the buyers couldn't make the physical trade show. It is yet another online presence that will open your work up to thousands of potential buyers.
After much trial and error, Tanya discovered these were the most effective routes to getting her glass art into various boutiques and galleries across the country. All glass artists are at a different point in their careers and some may not be able to devote as much time to their art this year as they will be able to in 3 or 5 years. That doesn't mean you can't start exploring some of these options now. When you are out shopping, imagine you are looking for the perfect place to sell your glass art. Take notes of the boutique and gallery layouts as well as your impression of the staff. When the time does come to expand your business, you will have a solid foundation to start and you will be well on your way to building a very strong foundation for your small business.
Catch More Flys With Honey
So you had a bad day. You opened your kiln and discovered a crack in a piece you have been working on for a week. You spent 2 hours trying to fix a piece of equipment that is on the fritz with no luck. You have been dealing with problems from customers the whole afternoon. These are just a few examples of what every single glass art business deals with on a constant basis. Back to my thought above, “People like surrounding themselves with positive people.” What I mean by that is, if you present a positive attitude when dealing with potential buyers, they are more likely to buy from you than if you present a negative attitude. We have all heard the phrase, “You catch more fly's with honey than with vinegar.” I believe this wholeheartedly.
Let’s face it, we all have bad days and some worse than others. Let’s not pass our negative experiences to our potential customers because frankly, it could turn them off and lose you a sale. Put yourself in their shoes, they could have received some bad news earlier in the day or maybe they have had a very stressful morning. The last thing they want to hear is how tired or overworked I am or what an ordeal it has been trying to get my car fixed. Why add to the negativity when you have an opportunity to make a positive impression and possibly be the best thing that happened to that person, that day? You never know when a little encouragement can snap someone out of a funk. When this happens, they will remember it was you that brightened their day and they will thank you for that either in person or with a purchase. I try my best to give each customer a warm and informative buying experience. Often this means listening to what is going on in a person’s life or business, both good and bad. If they want to bring up their trials and tribulations or their problems, I am more than happy to listen and share my opinion if they ask. I do make a point not to shovel my problems or complaints onto theirs. Instead, I let them vent and offer encouragement to them. I try to get their mind to focus 100% on glass art in order to give them a break from the day to day stress. I share new products they may not have used yet or some funky glass that might be hard to find. By doing this, I have made a positive impression on this person and most likely earned their business moving forward.
When you are interacting with a potential buyer at an art show, really try to give them your undivided attention, even if only for a minute. I know how hectic art shows can get, especially the good ones, but by giving just that one minute of positive attention, you will increase your chances of cultivating a new customer and hopefully a repeat customer. Again, keep the conversation positive! If you are having trouble striking up conversations with passers buy at your art shows, try this, it especially works at glass art shows where patrons wear their best glass jewelry. Simply keep your eyes open for anyone wearing a unique piece of glass art. When they are within earshot, tell them how cool their piece is. They will stop to thank you and immediately look down at your display to see what you do. You can ask them where they got their piece or if they are artists themselves. Before you know it, the potential buyer is asking about your glass art and you are off and running. Again, keep the conversation positive. People like to surround themselves with positive people.
These are just a few examples of how to incorporate some positive and encouraging conversations in your day to day activities. One thing I have learned is that I never know where my next customer is going to come from. Maybe that person I talked to at the art show isn't interested in my glass art, but they know someone who is. I have made a good impression with that person, so chances are if they know someone who may enjoy my work, they will pass my card along to them. These small victories will add up to more sales and catapult your business to the next level. Remember to stay positive.
These principles are also true with social media. Don't post how tired you are on your business facebook page or that your dog ate your flowers. Don't tweet that so and so is being a pain. Keep your business social media presence as professional and positive as you possibly can. It is proven in the social media world that positive, informative posts garner more attention than negative ones.
So as the economy recovers and people are more willing to open their wallets and purses to buy your beautiful glass art, be sure to give every potential buyer your best. By building a professional and positive brand for yourself, your glass art will be separated from the competition and you will build a loyal customer base.
No Fears For Tiers
I want to focus on ways to organize your target web page in order to maximize sales now that your site is being viewed by more people. Clicks and views on your target site are all well and good, but if you can make your target site enticing to buy from, you will increase sales instantly.
Your target site is the site that allows buyers to purchase items directly from you. It may be a website you built or it may be a hosting site such as Etsy, Ebay, Artfire or even the new Handmade at Amazon. In any case, this is the site that you share with your social media outlets and ultimately generate income. The average time a person spends on any one website has been decreasing over the past few years. A couple years ago, the average time spent on a site was just under one minute. Today, that number has fallen to roughly 30 seconds. That means you only have 30 seconds to grab a buyer's attention and convince them that your product is the one they should be buying. Do you feel the pressure?
Well don't stress, because if you take the time to organize the products on your site you will most likely be one step ahead of your competition and your sales growth will show. Not to mention, once your site is organized, it is easy and less time consuming to keep it organized when adding new products. The first idea I want to touch on is using a tiered system to give as many potential buyers as possible a chance to find a piece in their price range. This can be applied to selling at art shows as well. If you have put the work in to build a quality social media base, you will notice more clicks on your target site. This is great, but some people may be looking to spend $30 to $40 per piece, while others may be looking to spend much more. It is important to have something for both potential buyers. I don't recommend making a bunch of lesser quality items with the sole purpose of offering a lower priced tier. Your lower tiered items can be smaller in size, maybe stagnant pieces that haven't sold in the past few weeks or at the last couple of art shows. Or you can make specific pieces that use less glass or take you less time to make, but be sure not to sacrifice quality for the sole purpose of having lower tiered items. Make the best piece you can using less.
Now that you have a lower priced tier, create a higher priced tier. This is going to be the best of the best. These items may be bigger, more intricate or just more stunning to look at. This will bring buyers looking to spend more money per piece into play. Do know, buyers will be comparing your higher tiered items to your middle and lower tiered items. By knowing this, you can use your descriptions to explain what makes a piece worth its asking price, be detailed. This is your chance to capture the attention of the potential buyer and cause them to stay on your site longer than the average 30 seconds. The more you engage them with pictures and explanations, the higher the chance they will be adding your work to their cart. Buyers are notorious for associating price with quality. By having both ends of the spectrum covered, you cater to the person who is looking to get a less expensive gift for a co-worker as well as the person looking to spend more on a meaningful piece for their sister, wife or even themselves. The middle tier is easy and will be your largest tier. Basically anything that doesn't fall into the top or bottom tier, settles in the middle tier. When you see your top and/or lower tiers are lacking inventory, be sure to add to each as needed in order to keep the tiered structure in place.
As mentioned above, you can really use your descriptions to explain why one piece is $40 and another piece is $200. This is specific to your glass art work, but I can share a couple examples with you. I always defer to fused glass jewelry because that is how AAE Glass got started and that is what I know best.
Let’s say you produce a beautiful two or three layered dichroic glass pendant, attach a bail, a chain and a $40 price tag. There is a definite market for this piece and because you have built a strong social media base, several potential buyers will see this instantly with the click of a button.
Let's take this piece to the second tier. Attach this glass pendant to a silver plated jewelry setting or wire wrap this piece to add an accent. Now you can charge $80 for the same glass piece you were charging $40 without the setting or the wire wrapping.
But wait, we can take this same exact glass piece to the top priced tier by attaching it to a sterling silver jewelry setting or combining it with another glass piece to form a set or collection. Or, if you have a larger glass piece you are working on, you can possibly incorporate this piece into the larger piece with a price tag of $200 or more.
Depending on which tier a piece fits in best, it is important to be clear in your description of the piece and explain to the buyer why it has the price tag it does. Some people will be looking for higher priced items while others will be searching the low end. By having a wide range of options available on your site, you will attract a larger number of potential buyers which in the end will yield more sales for you and your target site. It is worth the time it takes to organize your website in order to maximize your number of sales.