When I turned my woodcarving hobby into a small business I had no idea what customers wanted to purchase. I carved pieces and hoped people would like them. My first attempt at selling wood carvings was at a small craft sale at someone’s home. It resulted in few sales but lots of doubts. I
thought there must be something wrong with my woodcarvings or my artistic skills. I wondered if going into business was worth the time to produce little income. However, I really enjoyed carving and didn’t want to give up so easily. I continued to practice and took more carving classes to improve my skills to produce better products. Sales increased a little but were not at the level I wanted. I wondered if it had something to do with the customers. So I did some research on customers. I hope what I discovered will help you to increase your sales.
Create Customer Loyalty
- Interact with customers. In the art market customers are curious about not only the art but the creator and process behind the piece. I brought my work to a carving show held in a local mall. I discovered customers were very curious and asked the same questions over and over: What type of wood did I carve? How long did it take to carve a certain piece? What finish did I apply to the wood? Why did I carve each piece? They enjoyed learning about the process of carving, seeing the tools I used and hearing more about me and my reasons for carving what I did.
- Determine customer needs. I listened to what customers asked and, in turn, asked a few questions of my own to determine their interests and needs. I wanted know if my product fulfilled their needs. Did they like the designs? Did they like the colors? Did they like the sizes I offered? Some purchased pieces as wedding, birthday or anniversary gifts. Most purchased pieces for their own use. I asked them what they were looking for and why. I learned which pieces were the most popular so I could adjust to what the customer’s wanted. Understanding and acknowledging what they had to say created customer confidence and appreciation. Hopefully, this reassured them that I am the one to turn to for similar products in the future and produced customer loyalty.
- Check Out the Competition. As I participated in more carving shows and art fairs I started to observe and learn from other successful competitors. I wanted to learn what they were doing to increase sales. When I saw some of the same customers returning to artist’s booths from one sale to the next I wanted to learn how they got them to return. I listened to their communications with customers. If they were willing to share I asked competitors for suggestions and techniques to improve my displays and increase sales. I found that many of them had a wealth of knowledge and experience that helped me to understand my customers.
- Communication is the Key. Communicating with customers about the products and telling them about upcoming sales and the new designs and pieces I am working on has been a key to increasing repeat customers. I created bookmarks with dates for future sales and handed them out at shows. My business cards have a photo of my woodcarvings. I created a flier that lists my products, my website, my Youtube channel where I provide instructional videos on how to carve, and I hand out fliers for other wood carving shows. Customers really appreciate my efforts to communicate. Some of my competitors send post card reminders to repeat customers. I have recently started to ask customers to sign up by leaving their email address so I can send them reminders via email.
Understanding your customer needs checklist
1) Listen to what customers have to say about their needs
2) Put yourself in your customer’s place so you can understand their needs
3) Adjust your product or services to fit the customer’s needs
4) Learn what successful competitors are doing to fulfill their customer’s needs
5) Communicate with customers about future shows