Way back when I decided to go into the jewelry business
and start selling my handmade beaded jewelry, I enrolled in a 6-month marketing course for rural artists that was sponsored by a local chamber of commerce. Even though I wanted to find a way to quit my day job so that I could make and sell jewelry full-time, I had my doubts that I would be able to find enough customers who could afford to spend upwards of $400 on one of my lovingly bead-embroidered necklaces or bracelets.
The very first night of the marketing course, the presenter (who would later come to be a good friend) asked us, "Who is your competition?"
Without thinking about it, I started a list of big-box craft stores and low-end jewelry retailers. All this time, I had been telling myself that no one was going to spend a lot of money on a piece of handmade beaded jewelry. I worried about competing with big-box stores where someone could buy a strand of lampwork beads for less than $5 -- who was going to spend $75 or even $100 on one of my lampwork glass beads when they could get something cheaper, right?
We went around the room and the instructor asked us to read our lists out loud. When I started to read off the names of the stores on my list, she stopped me. "No, those aren't your competitors," she said, very matter-of-factly.
"But, but, but..." I tried to protest. I explained my reasoning for thinking that these were the places that were going to lure customers away from my products when they could get the same types of items for less money.
After the instructor once again insisted that those places were not my competition, we moved on to the next topic, and I was left feeling quite befuddled and maybe a little bit angry. It made me realize that as I started this new venture, I had pretty much no idea who my customer was. And if I didn't know who I was trying to sell my beaded jewelry to, how was I going to sell any of it at all?
I missed the next week's class because I was on a much-needed and long overdue vacation in southern California with a dear friend that I hadn't seen in over six years. My friend, an artist based in Los Angeles, and I spent the next four days exploring restaurants, mountains, and of course, art galleries in and around Burbank, Santa Monica, and Pasadena.
My second day there, we walked into a high-end gallery dedicated to wearable art -- and to my astonishment, I saw an entire wall of beaded jewelry, most of it made with off-loom bead-weaving stitches. That was really my "a-ha" moment in all of this. My instructor was right, after all -- I wasn't trying to compete with mass-produced beads and finished jewelry. I needed to go home to New York and start to think long and hard about who my customer was, and how I was going to reach them if my jewelry business was going to be successful.
Ready to do a little market research for your jewelry business? Here are five questions you can ask yourself to see if you can do a better job reaching the people who want to buy your beaded jewelry!
1. Who will pay for my beaded jewelry? For most of us, our household budgets do not allow for spending on high-end jewelry. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't anyone out there who does have the disposable income and the interest in acquiring a piece of high-end beaded jewelry. Think about what this person might look like: is this person male or female? Single? Married? Do they have children? Are they well-educated? Employed? Retired? Even if it's just your best guess, take a few minutes and write up a brief description of who you think will buy your products.
2. Who has already bought my jewelry? Whenever you go to a craft show, farmer's market, or other venue for selling your jewelry, you need to capture information about your customers, even if it's just an email address. Do you notice that you make repeat sales to the same people? Do you have lots of new customers in a new venue? Do you find that your customers will purchase from your website or online shop after seeing you in person? Take what you know about your customers and use that to help you answer question #1!
3. How will I sell my beaded jewelry? Do you have all the supplies and setup you need to sell in person at shows? Or are you better off investing your time and money in the world of online selling for your handmade beaded jewelry? Take a good look at what fits best for your lifestyle when it comes to selling beaded jewelry. When I was a new mother with a young infant, selling my beaded jewelry at farmer's markets and craft shows was a challenge for me, but it produced more income than selling online. Maybe a combination of online and in-person craft shows works best for you.
4. How will I find my customers? Again, knowing who your customers are goes a long way in helping you to reach them. If you know that your customers are people with disposable income who enjoy luxury items like handmade beaded jewelry, you'll want to find out what kinds of shows these customers attend. You'll want to think about if they use social media, if they shop online, or if they frequent brick-and-mortar galleries when they go on vacation. Once you understand where your customers are making their purchases, you can focus your attention on reaching them.
5. How did my competitors get started? This is a big one, and it all goes back to my story about knowing who your competition is, and knowing who your customer is. Look at how your competition got started -- other bead artists who earn their income from selling their beaded jewelry probably got started the same way you did. Working in the odd hours of the night to make inventory, attending high-end craft shows, and setting up online websites and shops. You can draw inspiration and information from knowing their stories, and trying some of their strategies for your own jewelry business.
I know I've shared this before, but I think it's important to repeat. I approach my jewelry business model with the philosophy that the world is a big, beautiful place, and that there is certainly room in it for me and my dreams to be successful. Try not to look at your competition in a negative light, but instead ask yourself what you can learn from a successful seller of beaded jewelry. Most of all, stay true to yourself and your vision and how you express all of it in your finished beaded jewelry. It's always been my experience that the artists who are the most successful are the ones who can keep their heads up and do what they love to do the most!
Are you ready to shoot for the moon with your jewelry business? Have you ever thought about how cool it would be to get your jewelry worn by celebrities and seen in television and movies? Join Cathleen McCarthy, author of a popular jewelry business column in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist
magazine for a special live webinar, Product Placement Do's & Don'ts: Getting Your Jewelry on TV, Movies, & Celebrities.
You'll learn how to work with celebrity stylists, product placement agencies that specialize in jewelry, identify television shows and characters that are a good fit for your beaded jewelry designs, and so much more!
This special live webinar will be held on Wednesday, May, 14, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, but even if you can't attend the live event, your registration will give you access to the recorded session along with all of the questions and answers from the event. You'll also receive a coupon for 30% off Cathleen's other informative jewelry business webinars in the Beading Daily Shop. So what are you waiting for? Register now for Product Placement Do's & Don'ts: Getting Your Jewelry on TV, Movies, & Celebrities and find out how you can land your jewelry among the stars!
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