This is the final installment in the blog series about building a successful brand, following the inspiring talk by Brogan Cox at the Furniture Maker’s Hall last month.
Making a business as a craftsperson or designer is tough, but not impossible. Whilst ensuring you have enough work coming in to make rent, or to reinvest into your business might be at the top of your priorities, making the most of brand building opportunities is a really important way of developing your business. These are projects that are not commercially driven, but are about staying on trend, or even better ‘ahead of the game’.
There might often be another motive in it for you as the designer-maker, for example the chance to work with your favourite material or process, or perhaps offer something completely new to you and time to learn new skills. These occasions allow you to strengthen your brand’s narrative, often in a engaging and refreshing way. The most important aspect of these opportunities therefore, is investing in the documenting of your work.
A few simple, carefully styled photographs, or short video clip, can help capture the interest of your audience. By drip-feeding the exciting aspects of your projects to the relevant people, whether it is through emailed newsletters or Instagram posts, you will ensure they keep up-to-date with your current projects and commissions.
Although you may not have a degree in marketing, there are few key points to making this a successful process for you:
Use the descriptive words that you outlined in your brand triangle as criteria for deciding which opportunities that come your way best align with the brand you are trying to build. The more clarity you have to begin with will help you make the most of these opportunities, and perhaps avoid taking on projects that may sideline what you are trying to achieve.
Use the contacts you already have to build your brand’s network. Approach fellow creatives for possible collaborations; contact photographers to help with photo shoots and styling; reach out to other small businesses and brands that echo what you are also trying to achieve. Be attuned to what’s going on around you, and how you can help raise each other up; there is no need for it to be a dog-eat-dog world, as there is nearly always an opportunity for mutual benefit.
Avoid one-dimensional thinking, such as restricting yourself to a ‘design-make-sell’ approach within your specific discipline. Consider how your business and skill set could adopt different income streams by offering services and experiences, as opposed to solely products. These alternative routes to market are a good way of expanding your audience and client base, which can also be aided by offering a range of products at more accessible price points.
Dress to impress, by showing your products in beautiful settings. Clinically white studio shots often leave too much to the imagination. But, by demonstrating how your work fits into its intended setting, this will make it much clearer for others to understand. This is also an opportunity to collaborate and reach out to the network around you. And, remember your photography should show the context and details of your product.
To those of you who may feel alienated from online marketing, there are still a number of ways you can promote your work offline. Such as:
- Trade shows
- Events & Workshops
*During her talk, Brogan explained the value of investing your time and resources into contacting press. Press loans involve sending samples of your work to magazines, enabling them to coordinate their photo shoots with beautifully designed and crafted objects and accessories.
Or, alternatively, you may prefer online channels of promoting your work; allowing you more time to create in your studio or workshop. These include:
- Social media
- Email (Mail Chimp or other group mailing services are recommended to maintain your customers’ interest).
After investing enough time into your practice, and if it aligns with your business model, you may have several collections or ranges of your product to offer. For each of these, it is important to identify the following:
- Customer profile
- Promotional channel you intend to use
- PR target
- Sales outlet
This means you will be fully aware of who the product is aimed at, and how best to promote it to them. You may also find it helps with other aspects of your business, such as costing and budgets.
So, if you thought designing and making wasn’t enough work for you, this previous point demonstrates how important the roles of analysis and reflection of your practice is for the success of your business. And to bring this blog post to a close, I will leave you with Brogan’s final point:
“Find the bottle neck in your business, in other words ‘what is it that’s slowing you down’, and fix it”.