Entries in branding (6)

Tuesday
Jan112011

Why You Need A Blog

Photo by Genevieve RobertsonAs our next Social Media for Artists seminar draws closer and I’m spending time refining my notes I realized while I often talk about having a business blog, I’ve never really told you why I think it’s important. And I do think it’s important.

Writing a blog is a worthwhile investment for any small business, but especially art-based businesses. Why? Because your business is so much about who you are, what makes you different and what you can offer to the customer. Buying a piece of art is about experience and connection. A blog is a way for you to create a voice, share your personality and connect quickly and more personally. A blog is a way for you to stand out in the crowd by sharing the story that makes you unique. You are starting a conversation that both your peers and customers can join in on. All this allows you to build trust and become their friend. Wouldn’t you rather buy from or recommend a friend?

You may be saying that’s all great, but I still don’t know what I would have to say that would keep people interested. This is a tough question, but there is an answer it just requires a little thought and research.

Think of your target market, your ideal customer. What do they want (I mean besides that gorgeous necklace you just listed)? Do they want to know how you make your jewelry? Do they want a story behind their purchase? Are they striving to lead a sustainable life and looking for products that fit in?

If you can nail down a “want” of your target market and provide a resource for them, they will turn to you again and again. I’m assuming since you read this blog you read others. What makes you come back? You get something every time right? Maybe it’s a piece of knowledge, a break from your busy day, or a laugh that you can share. It might also be a voice that you can relate to or that feels friendly and familiar. Think of your blog as an added benefit for the customer, kind of like free shipping.

Now to take it one step further, besides the familiarity and trust that a blog provides it also gives you a presence on the web and puts you into the conversation. There’s a lot of strategy behind maximizing this potential, but basically if you’re a part of the conversation your target market will more readily flock to you than your competitors. The more visibility you have the easier it is for them to find you.

If it’s ever occurred to you to start a blog I highly recommend you do so. If you’re at loss for where to begin, start looking toward the blogs you already love as models. And of course a Lightbox SF Social Media for Artists workshop wouldn’t hurt either.

What some of your favorite blogs? What keeps you coming back to them?

Tuesday
Nov092010

What Is It You Really Want To Do?

Photo by Scarlet Beautiful 2Shelly and I have been asking each other and ourselves this question lately because we've found our direction has become a bit muddied. We started Lightbox SF back in June of 2009 with a pretty clear idea of what we wanted to do and little bit of an idea of how we would get there.

At the beginning of 2010 we enrolled in a business planning course. The goal was not only to write a business plan for Lightbox SF, but to truly test our ideas. We had no idea if the path we laid out had any potential of working. As you might imagine that path changed a little in the face of marketing surveys and projected financials, but the shift wasn't too dramatic, we stuck to the plan.

Then we set out to actually make this business a reality. We tried to carry out the plan that we had crafted, but things weren't working quite the way we thought they would so we tried new things, asked more questions, and shifted. We got lots of feedback, some we listened to and some we didn't. A slightly different business model began to take shape, but we also never really let go of the old one.

Recently we had the opportunity to have a panel of small business owners give us feedback on a few key points of struggle. What we heard was confusion, they weren't sure exactly what our focus was, they thought we had too much going on. They were right.

Shelly and I had been trying so hard to make it work, and by that I mean make money, that we forgot what it was we really set out to do in the first place. We wanted to help artists and crafters make a living from their talent. We wanted to show them how to do it on their own, teach them to be savvy business owners. We did not want to do it for them, we did not want to be artist reps, we did not want to be elite and unreachable.

The waters had been muddied from too much reaching and grabbing and guessing. So we stopped for a moment and asked ourselves, "What do we really want to be doing?" The waters cleared and we can now see our path again. There is still much work to be done, more ideas to come up with, but we have the focus that we had lost.

So I challenge you, if you're feeling overwhelmed, unfocused, or misdirected, to ask yourself, "What do I really want to do? What is my mission?" You'll be surprised at how that one answer, if you're completely honest with yourself, can bring about so much clarity and vision.

Tuesday
Nov022010

Are You Unique Enough?

Today I want to pose a question and ruminate a bit about Unique Selling Propositions (USP). You may have heard the term before or something similar, but basically it boils down to: What do you offer that makes your business stand out from all your competition?

The question I want to pose to all of you is one that Shelly and I are struggling with currently, is your USP enough? We’re pretty confident we’ve got a distinct difference from the rest of our competition, that is those that offer business advice to artists, and it stems directly from who we are and our varied experience in different careers. But we’re wondering if it’s enough, do we need more distinction in what’s becoming a more crowded market?

I’d like to pose the same question to you and I really want you to think about it. Do you do anything that no one else can or does? Do you offer a service or material that’s not currently out there? Is your design style so unique that no one else can come close? There are a few of you that may answer yes to one of those questions, but many of you won’t. Don’t despair!

A USP can be something as simple as how quickly you complete custom orders or the personalized service you give in your shop. It doesn’t have to be amazing new technology or even a product no one else has seen, but it needs to be something that people want to come back for.

Zappos is a great example of a business that had success with a focused USP. There were many places to buy shoes online, so many in fact that the only distinguishing factor between them seemed to be price. Zappos enters the scene and offers free shipping, no matter what, and free returns. Those two simple things made clicking that buy button so much easier for customers. Zappos had more than $1 billion in sales last year.

I do want to stress that your USP also doesn’t have to be about price; actually it’s often not. Think of it from the customer’s point of view. You’re looking for a new pair of shoes and you see two pairs almost identical, but one is almost twice the price of the other. Seems an easy choice right? You choose the cheaper one. But what if you knew the ones that were more expensive would also be so comfortable you could wear them all day, running errands, to work, and even out for a night on the town and your feet wouldn’t hurt. However, the cheaper ones, even though they looked the same from the outside would give you blisters by lunch. If the expensive shoes fit within your budget, wouldn’t you buy them?

A USP is almost always about perceived value, not straight up cost. There will always be someone wiling to do it cheaper. Instead put your focus on your customer's needs. They like things to be easy, they like to have experiences that make them feel special, and they generally buy because they want something, not because we need it.

I’ll leave you with a few things to think about to help you come up with or refine your own USP.

What are the benefits of your product or service?

What do you do that’s different from your competition?

Do you or can you solve a problem for your customers or within your industry?

Be specific. Give proof of your benefit.

Can you consistently deliver on this USP? I mean every single time you make a sale. If not you need to find another USP.

Photo by HolgaJen

Friday
Aug272010

Beautiful branding!

I fell in love today with a beautiful necklace, an incredible artist and effective branding. Check out The Vamoose website, blog and portfolio. As well, she is active with all the current social media sites. If you are currently looking for an artistic mentor may I suggest The "great" Vamoose!

Monday
Aug232010

Homework

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about branding and identity and have been working on putting together a reflective and informative workbook to help myself and other like artists.  The journey is so fascinating and you can learn so much from taking a few moments daily to really think about your work and how it could affect others. Above are a few questions that I have put together. What do you think?

A few other things to think about:

"The act of creating something everyday will force you to develop a voice and style that is uniquely your own" - Tara Gentile and Meg Aumen

“A brand has to make people buy into the idea”  - Amber Karnes, Handmade Marketplace

Really it comes down to that fact that customers are buying more than just a painting or a pair of earrings, they are buying into a unique lifestyle. A certain energy and certains emotions are conveyed through the creation of art and that is what people are seeking.

Workbook will be available within the next month. Sign up for our mailing list for updates.