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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:26 pm 
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Koa
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What makes you think working musicians won't pay $5,000 for an instrument? That's not my experience at all. Perhaps it's different in the steel string world but I have a real mix of professional musicians, cash rich older clients (baby boomers) and not so rich people who save to get that handmade instrument that they've been yearning for, blue collar or not. Perhaps it's because many folk in the steel string world view Martin et al as the ultimate.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:20 pm 
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Koa
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Michael.N. wrote:
What makes you think working musicians won't pay $5,000 for an instrument? That's not my experience at all. Perhaps it's different in the steel string world but I have a real mix of professional musicians, cash rich older clients (baby boomers) and not so rich people who save to get that handmade instrument that they've been yearning for, blue collar or not. Perhaps it's because many folk in the steel string world view Martin et al as the ultimate.


From personal experience. But then again, perhaps it is a difference of US/UK. I know quite a handful of pro musicians. Some with full 30 year careers. Almost without exception they all report that making a living playing live is becoming hard to impossible. None that I know are interested in spending extra money on a special instrument. Some of the older ones I know are selling off their collectible instruments they bought at a pawnshop thirty years ago because it doesn't make sense for them to gig with a $5,000 instrument. Perhaps also it is a classical musician vs. pop musician thing. I know classical musicians that buy flutes worth $30,000. A musician that cobbles together a life by playing weddings, that one gig for brunch at the hotel, one night a week at a cheesy theme bar, the occasional recording session, and a dozen private students isn't buying a $30,000 flute. And yes, there is that brand thing. One friend has three "identical" D-28. All bought used for around $2,500. He takes two on gigs and one is perpetually at the shop waiting for some repair or setup. I don't make Martin clones, but I know several excellent makers. He wasn't interested. Martin D-28 was a known quantity with potential resale value. Boutique made no sense for him.

As for working people saving for their fantasy guitar, I know several school teachers, carpenters, code monkeys, etc., who dream of a luxury item like an artisanal guitar. Neighbors, friends, people I meet about town. When people find out I make guitars they all react very positively. When they find out they cost more than $500 they sigh and act as if I had said it costs a kidney and their first born. Again maybe it is a UK/US difference, but our working middle class is rapidly seeing their standard of life declining.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:27 pm 
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Koa
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Trevor Gore wrote:
As far as I know, Nigel still calls himself Nigel (and if you ever meet him, be prepared for a Geordie accent and a lot of laughs).

Lots of constructive contributions coming up. Well done, those people!


No offense meant to Nigel. All I saw was "nkforester" and a reference to "Nick". He can call me "Sherley", as in "Surely you jest!"


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:10 pm 
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Some interesting points here, but I think it may be a good idea to go back to first principles.

Before you try to figure out your target market, your Media mix, your message, WHO ARE YOU?

What sets you apart from everyone else? Are you a brand? Could you be?

How?

Ervin Somogyi. Linda Manzer. Jim Olsen.

They’re all brands. You hear those names and you automatically think of something quite specific. The same way you do with Apple. Or Volvo.

Now to be fair, they’ve built those brands over years and years. But they’ve always been true to them, and that’s why they’ve become brands.

Linda’s always been an experimenter. Ervin’s always been a teacher/writer/windbag (joke, I love Ervin)

So how do you become a brand? Especially when you’re mostly joe schmuck working in his/her garage. Like me.

It’s hard. It takes some serious self-examination, and a really good hard look at what you’re offering and who you are.

Nigel, thanks for bringing this up. Can you describe in a sentence who you are or what you offer? (I ask only cause I don’t know your market or what place you occupy in it. No disrespect intended)

It’s the toughest challenge any marketer/advertiser ever faces. And don’t feel bad if you don’t have an answer. Ford doesn’t have an answer. Nor does IBM. Or any number of other Fortune 500 companies.

And they spent many many millions trying to solve that problem.

But that is the fundamental problem of marketing. Who are you?

Define yourself. In a memorable,distinctive way.

Sorry for the long windedness.

Steve



These users thanked the author JSDenvir for the post (total 2): Clay S. (Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:05 am) • pat macaluso (Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:09 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:39 am 
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Koa
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Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:01 pm
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rlrhett wrote:
Michael.N. wrote:
What makes you think working musicians won't pay $5,000 for an instrument? That's not my experience at all. Perhaps it's different in the steel string world but I have a real mix of professional musicians, cash rich older clients (baby boomers) and not so rich people who save to get that handmade instrument that they've been yearning for, blue collar or not. Perhaps it's because many folk in the steel string world view Martin et al as the ultimate.


From personal experience. But then again, perhaps it is a difference of US/UK. I know quite a handful of pro musicians. Some with full 30 year careers. Almost without exception they all report that making a living playing live is becoming hard to impossible. None that I know are interested in spending extra money on a special instrument. Some of the older ones I know are selling off their collectible instruments they bought at a pawnshop thirty years ago because it doesn't make sense for them to gig with a $5,000 instrument. Perhaps also it is a classical musician vs. pop musician thing. I know classical musicians that buy flutes worth $30,000. A musician that cobbles together a life by playing weddings, that one gig for brunch at the hotel, one night a week at a cheesy theme bar, the occasional recording session, and a dozen private students isn't buying a $30,000 flute. And yes, there is that brand thing. One friend has three "identical" D-28. All bought used for around $2,500. He takes two on gigs and one is perpetually at the shop waiting for some repair or setup. I don't make Martin clones, but I know several excellent makers. He wasn't interested. Martin D-28 was a known quantity with potential resale value. Boutique made no sense for him.

As for working people saving for their fantasy guitar, I know several school teachers, carpenters, code monkeys, etc., who dream of a luxury item like an artisanal guitar. Neighbors, friends, people I meet about town. When people find out I make guitars they all react very positively. When they find out they cost more than $500 they sigh and act as if I had said it costs a kidney and their first born. Again maybe it is a UK/US difference, but our working middle class is rapidly seeing their standard of life declining.


Not sure it's a UK/US thing. My primary market is the UK (obviously) followed by the US. The rest of Europe (all of it) is a touch behind the US in terms of number of my clients. Given the distance and extra cost (shipping and customs duties) that's always surprised me a little. Of course it could be that I'm not representative of the market as a whole. Apart from the very odd instrument to Japan I have zero input into the Asian market. Europe and Asia could be the biggest 'hole' in my marketing strategy (not that I have much of one) but then again I'm ticking over, enough to keep going.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:16 am 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:20 am
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rlrhett wrote:

So what do I see as my marketing challenges?

How do I convince people that my handmade archtop guitar is a better prestige item than a Gibson, Fender, Taylor, or PRS?

The third issue is that father time is catching up to Baby Boomers (sorry, I know it's not fun to acknowledge). The first wave is in their mid seventies now, and generally not buying new toys or accessories. So somehow I have to pivot to Millennials. It is a big challenge because although they are far more open to "artisanal" items, far fewer of them are interested in guitars. Frankly I think I would do better marketing banjos to them. Not many have the disposable income yet for a "prestige luxury good", and those that do are spending their money on Kevlar kayaks and Carbon Fiber SUP's. Although, my instinct is again to find non-guitar events that display artisanal foods/wine/goods. Millennial do seem to love their food/wine festivals. But I don't yet know how to have a presence there.

So, to Nick and anyone, I am happy to hear suggestions or thoughts about all this. How do you connect to Babby Boomers? How do you get passed the Gibson effect? How are you reaching Millennials?




There is no question, there are fewer baby boomers every single day, but for now, they still exist in large numbers. And they still have most the wealth. And the majority of them will (until the day they die) harbor vast amounts of desire. For things. So don’t write them off yet.

I would advise all of you who are looking to grow your business, or make your hobby pay, to sit down with a pen, paper or a computer and do yourself a marketing audit. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. The process isn't enjoyable and involves looking at your own work and your own marketing and branding and spotting the weaknesses. Are making excuses for where you fall short? The process is a pain to get going, but interesting after a while, and then it can become quite exciting when you realise there is still enough life left in the economy for you to carve out your own corner. I'm not talking about getting rich quick, or even getting rich slowly, but making a decent living. And as the market is already way beyond saturation point, the money will move towards those who take their marketing more seriously.


Quote:
"how do I convince people that my handmade archtop guitar is a better prestige item than a Gibson, Fender, Taylor, or PRS?"


Well, are your archtops better?


Is your work in alignment with what people actually want? It's much easier to sell people things they actually want! Is the quality there? The fit and finish? The design, the look? The sound? If it is, great, if it isn't, you've work to do. The further you stray from the path of “giving them what they want” the fewer people will be interested in what you do. Even if you feel your design is better than what’s on offer by others - it makes no difference. It has to be aligned with what folk want.

The more in line your work is with people’s expectations and desires, the less creativity, time and money you’ll need to spend on clever marketing.

Likewise, the less conventional your work is, the less it's in alignment with people’s expectations and desires, the more creativity, time and money you’ll need to spend on marketing. Because you’ll need to reach a lot more people before you find the “like minded” ones.

If it is in alignment, and the quality is there, it may well be that your marketing is at fault. So, back to the audit:

Next, we have another simple question: Where did my current orders come from? If you don't know, find out. How many orders are from new contacts? People you've met? People who have come to you through real-life word of mouth, or online word of mouth? Most importantly how many of your orders are repeat customers?

Cultivating existing relationships is a great way to build your order book. I know one maker who is himself a baby boomer. He has been making since the 70s when there was no great market for handmade work, and he had to work his socks off to get the work in. He has developed a great reputation and has been successful financially. Yet he more or less stopped marketing actively by the mid-80s. In the 90's his business slowly grew and In and the last ten years he tripled his price. Those last ten years, he tripled his price (in his words) - “without any new customers.” This may be a little of an exaggeration but I got his point: almost all of these orders were to his old customers, who now own many of his instruments.

Cultivating the relationships you already have, is actually easier than constantly fishing for new ones.

So, millennials - plenty of them, with no shortage of desire. But often not so much money. I made the mistake of writing them off. For ten years I worked about 15 mins walk from college where they ran a folk music degree. That's my niche! I didn't visit or make contact with the staff or the kids on the course in that time - I was already busy with orders and to be honest, I do very little face to face marketing. But this was a great opportunity missed. I didn't know until after about then years when we went along to the degree show which was a live showcase. There was some great music. And every one of the guitar players was playing had a handmade guitar. And none of them were playing mine. The "bank of mam and dad" bought those instruments, and I missed out on a lot of sales, but also a lot of new friendships and business relationships. So after that show, I came up with another design, aimed at them - my "Session King" line. Which was a little quicker to make, and cheaper. And LOUD! The bank of mam and dad liked the new design! Actually, I ended up with more orders from baby boomers than millennials, but a gig is a gig.

Further up the country is another folk music degree (we have a few), but there, one young maker really got involved in the scene - repairing instruments for kids on the course. He was involved both professionally and socially and it all benefited his business. Before long one of the course tutors was acting as an agent for him, and it's pretty hard to be on the course and not end up ordering an instrument from him!

So, if you're scratching your head as to how to contact young players, maybe you would be better getting in touch with their mentors and tutors.


As an aside, one thing that keeps coming up in this thread which I find interesting is many of you really believe it's vital to meet people face to face - to get a guitar in their hands in order to get an order.

It isn't.

It's a valid approach, but it isn't the only one. I meet very few customers, and many of the new customers have never even seen one of my instruments in the flesh. But still, they order. And that's down to my marketing efforts.

I could go on, but that's enough for now...

_________________
nigel

http://www.theluthierblog.com


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:39 am 
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Cocobolo
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JSDenvir wrote:
Some interesting points here, but I think it may be a good idea to go back to first principles.

Before you try to figure out your target market, your Media mix, your message, WHO ARE YOU?

What sets you apart from everyone else? Are you a brand? Could you be?

How?

Ervin Somogyi. Linda Manzer. Jim Olsen.

They’re all brands. You hear those names and you automatically think of something quite specific. The same way you do with Apple. Or Volvo.

Now to be fair, they’ve built those brands over years and years. But they’ve always been true to them, and that’s why they’ve become brands.

Linda’s always been an experimenter. Ervin’s always been a teacher/writer/windbag (joke, I love Ervin)

So how do you become a brand? Especially when you’re mostly joe schmuck working in his/her garage. Like me.

It’s hard. It takes some serious self-examination, and a really good hard look at what you’re offering and who you are.

Nigel, thanks for bringing this up. Can you describe in a sentence who you are or what you offer? (I ask only cause I don’t know your market or what place you occupy in it. No disrespect intended)

Steve



If you watch videos of modern craft based business, they often have such a statement. Sometimes at the start, sometimes later. Here are a few examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAeXskZHC2o

my favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBb9O-aW4zI&t=2s

Storyhive have a load of them - some "mission statements" are direct, others are implied.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y_jrKiXuA8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LZYztCnuQs

If I were to have one, it would be along the lines of "My name is Nigel Forster. I'm a guitar maker. I run a one-man workshop. And for the last thirty years, I’ve made stringed musical instruments for what you might call the "high" end of the Celtic music world. I make no-frills, stripped-down, high-performance instruments for musicians, professional and amateur, all over the world."


Steve, as we all know the guitar market is vast. If you try to appeal to all of it you’ll get nowhere fast. So I don’t even try. The vast majority of folk into "posh" guitars have no idea who I am. And I care not. Yet there are a few small niches within this guitar world where if people are curious, it simply isn’t possible to not know of me. And that’s where I make my living.

I operate and do pretty well in a few small corners of the music market, where my reputation is for constantly experimenting with structure yet keeping the aesthetic quality of the work within certain classic boundaries. As for "sonic" boundaries, well, I'm doing my best to break them...

_________________
nigel

http://www.theluthierblog.com



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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:16 pm 
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Koa
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nkforster wrote:


rlrhett wrote:
"how do I convince people that my handmade archtop guitar is a better prestige item than a Gibson, Fender, Taylor, or PRS?"


Well, are your archtops better?



Yes. I am confident. In fact, that is a big part of the point I was trying to make. Not just my own output (of which I think I can be justified in being proud). For the last fifteen years I have been involved with the lutherie program at Palomar College. I can say for a fact that many, if not most, of the guitars coming out of the program are better in quality, fit and finish than what comes out of Gibson's factory.

You make very good points about marketing and self-assessment, but I think there is a hope and desire among craftsmen that if we can focus on what feeds our souls --the quality of our craft-- the rest will take care of itself. It is also the easiest thing to control. We know how to be more careful, work more cleanly, learn more about the craft. And yes, there are some delusional hacks out there making subpar instruments wondering why no one loves them. By and large, however, beating the quality standards of Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, etc., is not a high bar.

Again, my situation is unique to my economy, community, and personal circumstances. I am lucky that I don't personally aspire to make a full living from building guitars. However, through my involvement at the school I have seen dozens of aspiring luthiers deeply committed to the dream of making a living building artisanal guitars. In my own instruments I opted for something unique. I understand that my market is small. However, most of these young and second career aspiring luthiers want to build the ultimate Dreadnaught or OM. And they do. These are often talented woodworkers and they make truly beautiful instruments. I heard Dana Bourgeois say once at a conference that making a great guitar was relatively easy, making it fast enough and cheap enough for a business was the challenge. To that I would say finding people willing to buy it is also a greater challenge.

nkforster wrote:
Is your work in alignment with what people actually want? It's much easier to sell people things they actually want! Is the quality there? The fit and finish? The design, the look? The sound? If it is, great, if it isn't, you've work to do. The further you stray from the path of “giving them what they want” the fewer people will be interested in what you do. Even if you feel your design is better than what’s on offer by others - it makes no difference. It has to be aligned with what folk want.


The problem is that many people want a brand more than a tangible product. How do you give them what they want, if what they want is the Taylor they saw Taylor Swift play? I'm not just talking endorsements, the name "Taylor" or "Gibson" or "PRS" get passed along with hushed reverence. I speak to people who desperately want a Gibson Les Paul, but don't know one thing about its pickups, ponderous weight, short scale fingerboard, etc. It is just a brand they believe they should want.

The constant challenge I hear from aspiring luthiers is that people will OOH and AAAH about their instruments, marvel at the craftsmanship, rhapsodize about the sound, and then go get a Martin D45 for five times what their comparable instrument costs. There could be an unknown but gifted artisanal watch maker in Switzerland who's watches keep better time than a Rolex and has even better fit and finish, but who buys a Rolex because they are worried about accuracy? How many Rolex wearers even can assess the fit and finish of a watch?

I think this is where many are wary of traditional "marketing" advice. Did you blog? Did you maintain a Facebook presence? Do you communicate well with customers? Did you build your "expertise"? Etc. In the US that kind of thinking translated into excellent advice in the 1970's before China, Guitar Center, and mega guitar factories. Perhaps the EU market still has some of that. That all assumes a fairly level playing field and a rational consumer. Most millennials I meet will instantly roll their eyes when you start talking this stuff (which is usually met by a Baby Boomer claiming they are too lazy and disorganized to understand).

Today we live in a world where we cannot even communicate with friends without the mediation of a major corporation like Facebook. As consumers we have no connection to what, where, how or by whom the goods we consume are made. We are completely dependent on the branding to tell us what we have, and control of branding alone has lead to massive monopolies. Ibanez doesn't even have their own factory! They sell hundreds of thousands of guitars a year.

Comprehensive marketing advice has to somehow deal with this issue. It isn't truly addressed by speaking to quality of the product, commitment to the craft, or even energy devoted to the hustle.

nkforster wrote:
The "bank of mam and dad" bought those instruments


Now I KNOW there is a difference between UK and US. At least outside the hallowed halls of expensive private universities most parents I know are bankrupting themselves to help their children afford even public education. The children themselves are graduating with more debt than they could pay off devoting their entire annual earnings for the next couple of years. I go once a week to my local school to help teach and I have NEVER seen a student with a luthier built guitar, and we have a luthier program on campus!


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:48 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Well there you have it. Get a five star Yelp rating and you are golden.

A friend wanted to take his daughter and son in law out to eat at his favorite restaurant. When they pulled up to the place the son in law got his phone out and found out it only had three stars. He wouldn’t go in.

“Nosedive”, episode one of the third “Black Mirror” series is a great parody of this mindset.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive

_________________
It's not what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you do know that's wrong.



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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:52 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I will add a few points

Marketing , when I started had the buzz words of NETWORKING paradighm shift , to name a few. So after 20 yrs what did I learn

As all when you start you need to get out there and get name recognition . Today the internet is a big help. Where you want to go isn't as important as where you end up.

I wanted to build but soon learned my market was the jigs and fixtures , then as that took off the problems were how to Identify where I was going. I didn't fight success , and just went with it. You all know Blues Creek Guitars but as I got better an manufacturing , I also got a name in repair. So now I do a lot of high end restorations , and I build about 25 guitars a year.

So with that tidbit , as a new start up you have to find what works for you . I did the show circuit and found that , often the show wasn't as successful as I would like but weeks out , the orders would show up. Learning to sustain a cash flow and learning to diversify so you can have more to market is important. I also learned that giving a guitar away to get a name seldom works.
Tooling is important because it can give you time. Yes Time is Money so don't waist it. Those that have been to my shop know that I have a good supply of tool. Not to be mundane but the fact is CHEAP TOOLS ARE A COST . BUY THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD.

As the jigs took off my Marketing issues was to find what gave me the most bang for the buck. ASIA symposium and GAL were good placed for me as it targeted my first line of customers , you the builder. I was a sponsor here at one time and I was one of the first one. Lance's OLF helped me out a lot. I then had an opportunity to get my own forum . This was another way to get market exposure but to have real marketing you can shoot yourself in the foot. Find what works for you and don't be surprised if the marketing takes you in another direction than you plan.

as the jigs and repairs took off I was still building but I managed to find an outlet to sell my guitars. This took a lot off my as now I had name recognition and a sponsor in a way . This took me off the show circuit and I have been lucky . This doesn't happen over night . I am doing this for 20 yrs and it took about 10 years to build up to the point I could make a real living at this.

Competition is intense so don't take failures personal , learn by them improve your methodology and don't insist my way is the only way.

So marketing yourself can do many things for you. You will become the business and your will have to sacrifice to make a living at this. It isn't easy, and the best advice I can give you is this
A get a good accountant and make sure he is a CPA
B get a good lawyer you never know what can happen with the CITIES and LACEY restrictions along with contracts and insurances.
C Surround yourself with good people
D Your suppliers are more like your partners so take care of them so they can take care of you.
E If you put your money into your business , your business can take care of you.

So know what you want to do , but be realistic . Find the niche and fill it.
Be creative with your marketing. Know your customer base
Websites are great , but be careful on how you present yourself.

Keep track of where you spend money on advertising and what return it brings you .
Lastly don't promise what you can't deliver.

The quickest way to go out of business is to go into business when your not ready.

_________________
John Hall
blues creek guitars
Authorized CF Martin Repair
Member Board of Directors ASIA
You Don't know what you don't know until you know it



These users thanked the author bluescreek for the post (total 4): Rick Milliken (Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:23 am) • meddlingfool (Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:46 am) • Clay S. (Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:49 pm) • pat macaluso (Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:20 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:28 pm 
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Cocobolo
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rlrhett wrote:
nkforster wrote:


rlrhett wrote:
"how do I convince people that my handmade archtop guitar is a better prestige item than a Gibson, Fender, Taylor, or PRS?"


Well, are your archtops better?



Yes. I am confident.


Send me a link (PM) to your website if you like, a second opinion is always worth having, especially if it's not from an old friend. I can give you some thoughts about how your site might be working for you or against you.

Quote:
You make very good points about marketing and self-assessment, but I think there is a hope and desire among craftsmen that if we can focus on what feeds our souls --the quality of our craft-- the rest will take care of itself. It is also the easiest thing to control. We know how to be more careful, work more cleanly, learn more about the craft. And yes, there are some delusional hacks out there making subpar instruments wondering why no one loves them. By and large, however, beating the quality standards of Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, etc., is not a high bar.

Again, my situation is unique to my economy, community, and personal circumstances. I am lucky that I don't personally aspire to make a full living from building guitars. However, through my involvement at the school I have seen dozens of aspiring luthiers deeply committed to the dream of making a living building artisanal guitars. In my own instruments I opted for something unique. I understand that my market is small.


This rule has exceptions, but in general, the more unusual your work is, the more effort, thought, time and money you have to direct to marketing.



Quote:
I think this is where many are wary of traditional "marketing" advice. Did you blog? Did you maintain a Facebook presence? Do you communicate well with customers?


I agree. I had been following the same advice that everyone else was following - and was getting nowhere. One of the most cost effective things we can do is to stop doing things which are a waste of time. I do my own marketing audit every year now. When I did an audit around three years ago one glaring issue came up. Facebook. 288 hours of time on Facebook had directly produced only £6000 worth of work. Too much work for no discernable result. So I ditched Facebook. Sometimes it’s best to quit whilst you’re behind. You can't spend a Facebook "like."

For some FB works - it can, but the conditions are rather specific. It’s quite possible to use Facebook more effectively than I had been. But at the time I didn’t know how. With FB ditched I had a lot more time and the mental energy for different, more productive marketing activities. And with my attention better directed, the hours spent marketing generated more work.

The point I'm making is, yes, the economy in most "Western" economies may well be going down the drain. USA, UK, Europe...but that's not within our control. What is, is how we react to the situation.

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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:03 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Good post John. I remember when you just got going. BluesCreek is is a real success story in lutherie.

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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:34 am 
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Cocobolo
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I've enjoyed and benefited from your books in the past, Nigel. I'm sure this one will be helpful too. I've been a full-time repair guy and builder for 8 years. During that time I've operated in two different states, one rural and one urban near a college with a huge music program. I've done very little marketing and my experience is that word of mouth and Craig's List are the best free marketing tools. Facebook nearly useless. Web site does well IF used correctly, which includes keeping it updated. If you are good, the work finds you. I worked six days a week for five years keeping up with the repair and setup work in the city.

My biggest struggle is selling guitars. My experience does not mirror those who hang guitars in the shop and then sell them to walk-in repair customers. My experience is hanging guitars up in the shop, customers playing them and saying it's the best guitar they have ever heard, so much balance, clarity, etc. but they can't afford one. I've sold exactly one guitar to a local walk-in repair customer in five years at the urban location. Meanwhile, I manage to get a couple of commissions a year through my web site. I really believe that local sales are strongly tied to location, more so than specific marketing techniques. This is not to say that effective marketing isn't important, of course it is. But you can market your brains out and if the recipients can't or won't buy your goods, that's the end of it.

Fortunately for me, a wise person encouraged me to embrace repairing and setup, because there are more customers than there are repair persons. I keep very busy and make more money repairing. I still build, and I've never failed to sell a guitar I've made. Most are commissioned, but being a builder means I'm never out of work.

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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:03 pm 
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First name: Peter
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My marketing challenge is how to become known as a guitar maker and not just as a mandolin maker. The mandolins have been going for over 20 years and I am pretty well known in the mandolin community and they sell consistently from my web site. However, I don't want to keep doing the same old thing for years, there is a lack of intellectual stimulation so I started making guitars. That certainly gave me plenty of intellectual stimulation. However, marketing guitars is a whole another thing, the same marketing techniques are not working so well. I have read Nigel's book and my experience has been completely different. My OM sized guitars are really hard to sell, but tenor guitars and small short scale guitars have sold well. Currently am back ordered on tenors and all the small guitars have been sold. So guess what I am doing now - forget the bigger guitars for the time being and concentrate on tenors and small guitars. Not so much fun, they don't sound as good as my OMs, but they pay the bills. It is a niche market, hardly anyone makes tenors, but the market is small and I don't know how long it will last. The small guitars have been sold to customers looking for a small guitar but are not satisfied with the sound of the small factory guitars. Probably a bigger market there, but cost is a major consideration. Most people when they think small guitar they think low cost. I have also been designing some new mandolins and that has been another new challenge. A bit of a gamble as far as marketing goes because I don't know how they will sell just yet, but potentially could be big because the new instruments sound astonishingly good. They are different though and I don't know how much of a problem that is likely to be for customers. The first one sold very quickly and the people I have showed them to have been amazed at the sound, so looks promising. Sometimes you do need to stick your neck out a bit, and the rewards can be fantastic, but then again there is a risk it might fail for reasons you don't know at the time.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:39 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"hardly anyone makes tenors, but the market is small and I don't know how long it will last."

With the popularity of the ukulele growing it may be an expanding market. Tenors can be tuned in intervals like the low G ukulele (or 4 high strings of the guitar). Ukulele might be a gateway instrument for the tenor guitar. laughing6-hehe


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:15 pm 
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Greg Maxwell wrote:
I've enjoyed and benefited from your books in the past, Nigel. I'm sure this one will be helpful too. I've been a full-time repair guy and builder for 8 years. During that time I've operated in two different states, one rural and one urban near a college with a huge music program. I've done very little marketing and my experience is that word of mouth and Craig's List are the best free marketing tools. Facebook nearly useless. Web site does well IF used correctly, which includes keeping it updated. If you are good, the work finds you. I worked six days a week for five years keeping up with the repair and setup work in the city.

My biggest struggle is selling guitars. My experience does not mirror those who hang guitars in the shop and then sell them to walk-in repair customers. My experience is hanging guitars up in the shop, customers playing them and saying it's the best guitar they have ever heard, so much balance, clarity, etc. but they can't afford one. I've sold exactly one guitar to a local walk-in repair customer in five years at the urban location. Meanwhile, I manage to get a couple of commissions a year through my web site. I really believe that local sales are strongly tied to location, more so than specific marketing techniques. This is not to say that effective marketing isn't important, of course it is. But you can market your brains out and if the recipients can't or won't buy your goods, that's the end of it.

Fortunately for me, a wise person encouraged me to embrace repairing and setup, because there are more customers than there are repair persons. I keep very busy and make more money repairing. I still build, and I've never failed to sell a guitar I've made. Most are commissioned, but being a builder means I'm never out of work.



Time and time again, I tell folk, if you want to make a decent living, you're better off trying to be the next Frank Ford rather than the next Ervin Somogyi. Then your work comes in through the door and you get paid by the hour, rather than making things and hoping to sell them. Marketing a repair business is so easy compared to marketing a making business.

Back to selling guitars -

I mentioned it in an earlier post, but one thing worth doing (if you're hanging your work on the wall of your repair shop) is to ask whoever wants to try it "Do you have Facebook/Instagram?" If they do, they can try the guitar on the condition that they take a picture and share it. It's a small thing, but having someone else share your work is much more effective than sharing it yourself. And you don't have to do it. Others do it for you.

Yep, Facebook is by and large a waste of time. It can work, but the conditions are very specific. These days, if you want to use FB to market your work, you have to "pay to play." So you have to treat it like Google adwords rather than "free."

As far as selling guitars go, what I said earlier stands - is the work in line with what people want? TIs the presentation in line with what people want. The eyes come first. Not the ears. This is often overlooked. I've done it myself a few times.

Maybe send me a PM with your web address in it, let me have a look? One of the fellers did it a couple of days ago and we came up with some good ideas for him, that if he puts into action really should help his part-time making business grow. Once we got talking, it was clear what should happen next, and what was missing from his marketing.

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These users thanked the author nkforster for the post: pat macaluso (Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:35 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:48 pm 
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Quote:
With the popularity of the ukulele growing it may be an expanding market. Tenors can be tuned in intervals like the low G ukulele (or 4 high strings of the guitar). Ukulele might be a gateway instrument for the tenor guitar.


Actually only one uke player has bought a tenor guitar. The rest have been guitar players wanting to learn something different, or traditional Irish players who play tenor banjo and want something that doesn't hurt their ears, or tenor guitar players with a Chinese imported tenor guitar who want something that sounds and plays better.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:30 am 
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peter.coombe wrote:
My marketing challenge is how to become known as a guitar maker and not just as a mandolin maker. The mandolins have been going for over 20 years and I am pretty well known in the mandolin community and they sell consistently from my web site. However, I don't want to keep doing the same old thing for years, there is a lack of intellectual stimulation so I started making guitars. That certainly gave me plenty of intellectual stimulation. However, marketing guitars is a whole another thing, the same marketing techniques are not working so well. I have read Nigel's book and my experience has been completely different. My OM sized guitars are really hard to sell, but tenor guitars and small short scale guitars have sold well. Currently am back ordered on tenors and all the small guitars have been sold. So guess what I am doing now - forget the bigger guitars for the time being and concentrate on tenors and small guitars. Not so much fun, they don't sound as good as my OMs, but they pay the bills. It is a niche market, hardly anyone makes tenors, but the market is small and I don't know how long it will last. The small guitars have been sold to customers looking for a small guitar but are not satisfied with the sound of the small factory guitars. Probably a bigger market there, but cost is a major consideration. Most people when they think small guitar they think low cost. I have also been designing some new mandolins and that has been another new challenge. A bit of a gamble as far as marketing goes because I don't know how they will sell just yet, but potentially could be big because the new instruments sound astonishingly good. They are different though and I don't know how much of a problem that is likely to be for customers. The first one sold very quickly and the people I have showed them to have been amazed at the sound, so looks promising. Sometimes you do need to stick your neck out a bit, and the rewards can be fantastic, but then again there is a risk it might fail for reasons you don't know at the time.


Mandolins: It's very hard to make and sell non-traditional work for decent money in the mandolin market. It is a very conservative scene. If you can crack it, you're made: Steve Gilchrist. A couple of makers did well doing unusual work, but they all started by making conventional work. So it is possible, possibly.

Tenors: Yep, concentrate on what is working. That's the way I do it. The guitar business is the fashion business, and yes, tenor guitars are a bit in fashion just now. I sell a lot of them. So, for now, I market them rather a lot. But I'm also aware the fashion won't last so I'm also planning longer-term campaigns for other instruments I make. It may take a year or two, but those who came to you for a tenor, may well fancy a six string in time.

As for your guitars - which market are you aiming for Peter? Australia? Or further afield?

I noticed on your site you didn't have a newsletter sign up. One thing that I'd recommend to those looking to make a few more sales is to have a newsletter. I use http://www.mailchimp.com For the amount of folk most small shops will have in their mailing list, it will be free (under 2000 subscribers) And free is pretty cheap. With a mailing list, you don't have to find a single new person, you market directly to those who sign up and are interested in your work. Great if you have an ex demo or used instrument to sell.

I used to have an "available now" page on my site. Now I don't. I just have the mailing list. When I have something for sale, a newsletter goes out. Often it sells that day. If it doesn't sell within a couple of days, I place it on my blog. Works well for me, and creates some degree of scarcity. When I had too many instruments on my "available now" page, or had instruments on it for too long, there was no "scarcity" and little "social proof" to help folk decide that if they wanted one, they should act now. It's hard to create scarcity in a market of abundance, but it's worth doing what you can. It's all "supply and demand." Perhaps with a newsletter you could appeal directly to your existing mandolin and tenor customers to see if any of those would like to buy or order a guitar. My experience is it's well worth looking at existing relationships before expanding the "net" wider.

Anyway, I hope there is something there that strikes a chord. Pun itended.

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These users thanked the author nkforster for the post (total 2): ernie (Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:10 pm) • pat macaluso (Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:19 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:31 am 
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Cocobolo
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Quote:
As for your guitars - which market are you aiming for Peter? Australia? Or further afield?


Has to be Australia. I sold probably around 70 mandolins and mandolas in the USA, and about 20 into Europe, but it has become too hard to sell into the USA market now. The exchange rate went against me, and then the Lacey Act requirements really killed it. It is not too difficult to get the forms filled out, but I have had quite a few US customers do their research and then pull out because they were not willing to take the risk of getting something wrong. The potential penalties are huge. Now EIR is listed on CITES and most of my instruments have some rosewood on them. Something as big as a guitar is really difficult because the transport costs is a killer. I have been told that Australia is the most expensive country to ship to or from the USA. Europe is even more expensive to ship to from Australia. I have two customers that travel a lot and show their guitars around, plus guitars in the local music shop, plus the web site. The music shop has sold 3 guitars so that has been good, although they don't control humidity so the guitars dry out. I don't put my best guitars in the music shop. Have had lots of great feedback from those two customers, and excellent feedback from musicians who try my guitars when I exhibit. The only thing I don't have that I do have with the mandolins is me playing my guitars because I am a poor guitar player. Me playing did sell mandolins when I first started, but not much now. People do like my guitars. I have checked out the competition and I am up there with the very best, and do have the respect of other guitar makers. Like you, I am very selective about exhibiting. There is one music festival that is good for sales, and I attend every year and always do reasonably well, the others are a tax deductable holiday with a bonus if I sell something. I have sold tenor guitars and one small guitar at the shows, but the sales have mostly been mandolins. I have been thinking about getting someone to represent me in the USA, Gilchrist and Duff do, but so far have not had enough mandolins to send, they sell before I get organised which I suppose is a really good thing.

I like your idea of a mailing list, I think I will implement that. I do have a news page on my web page and a surprising number of people do read it so I could copy that to a mailing list when I update it. The web page is averaging around 80 visitors a day so that is working. The next challenge will be to move the web page into modern technology. It has been around a long time so uses old technology and looks dated, but it has grown large and a move is not going to be easy. However, if it is working and nobody has complained, the time involved may not be worth it. Not yet any way. Fancy presentations do not necessarily sell instruments, particularly if the pages are slow to load.

Just as an aside. My partner breeds toy poodles and had no idea how to sell the puppies. I implemented what I learned about marketing mandolins into marketing puppies and we have been absolutely inundated with sales enquiries. Puppies are effectively sold long before they are born. If only guitars would sell like puppies, but then dogs do tend to die and people do like to replace their dog when it dies. That usually does not happen with musical instruments.


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:47 am 
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You're not the first Australian maker who has told me shipping charges/exchange rates has shut off the USA for now. But you still have Hong Kong/Singapore and Japan not too far away. If you were looking to export, or run an online marketing campaign, that might be the direction? I was at a show in Osaka last year and there were a few makers from your neck of the woods.

Websites - I don't think there is ever any harm in having a better site. Much comes down to the photos in the end. Also, a well researched and made site can get you found during a google search more easily than one that isn't. But aye, adding a newsletter to your existing site would be the first thing to tick off the list.

Good luck!

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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:47 am 
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I just want to tip my hat to the pro's in this thread who are out there working hard and making a living doing this. I was not going to reply in this thread because it's more in line with the profession but I suppose even hobbyists can learn something. As hobbyists though we have the luxury of not having to make the sacrifices necessary to stay afloat. One thing I will say for sure is don't discount the Millennials. I know quite a few of them as I mentor a lot of younger kids in my other hobby, bicycle racing. They are not into things like cars anymore like when I was their age but rather craft beers and other more down to earth things. And many of them will be soon fresh out of college with their electrical engineering degrees and a first few pay checks that will be more then they know what to do with.

As for myself, when I did try and do this for real in the 90's it was the repairs that kept me afloat but then of course I could not build as much as I wanted to. But having a repair shop is an excellent marketing tool in itself. There are also other forums out there that draw a lot of people in like the AGF. I think some here may be sponsors over there. Just posting your work in the Custom section draws a lot of attention. Also YouTube. I posted a video of a guitar I built on YouTube and the video only has about 6,000 hits on it but already generated 3 guitar sales. I know that's small change to a pro but anything helps, especially for us hobbyists who have a closet full of guitars ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Marketing challenges
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:09 pm 
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jfmckenna wrote:
I just want to tip my hat to the pro's in this thread who are out there working hard and making a living doing this. I was not going to reply in this thread because it's more in line with the profession but I suppose even hobbyists can learn something. As hobbyists though we have the luxury of not having to make the sacrifices necessary to stay afloat. One thing I will say for sure is don't discount the Millennials. I know quite a few of them as I mentor a lot of younger kids in my other hobby, bicycle racing. They are not into things like cars anymore like when I was their age but rather craft beers and other more down to earth things. And many of them will be soon fresh out of college with their electrical engineering degrees and a first few pay checks that will be more then they know what to do with.

As for myself, when I did try and do this for real in the 90's it was the repairs that kept me afloat but then of course I could not build as much as I wanted to. But having a repair shop is an excellent marketing tool in itself. There are also other forums out there that draw a lot of people in like the AGF. I think some here may be sponsors over there. Just posting your work in the Custom section draws a lot of attention. Also YouTube. I posted a video of a guitar I built on YouTube and the video only has about 6,000 hits on it but already generated 3 guitar sales. I know that's small change to a pro but anything helps, especially for us hobbyists who have a closet full of guitars ;)



I think it's very important for a lot of hobby makers to learn how to market and sell their work. Some don't need the money, but for many, it can help if your hobby can "wipe its own face." I met one chap who had made 18 left handed guitars! He was running out of space. I don't know if he ever did it, but to me, he had a great opportunity to make a small side business catering for his fellow lefties.

The ebook is in several sections, the biggest of which is called "The long list." In it I have gone through as many marketing platforms and formats as I could think of, from the obvious to the obscure. Each is described and dissected. Of course, every view is just an opinion. And opinions are subject to both praise and blame, but they are all there as "food for thought."

It's all about experimenting and learning. A bit like making. YouTube is a good example - some makers use it a lot, other makers don't. Some do use it well, some use it badly. It works against them. If you're going to use YouTube, you must keep abreast of how it works, how it chooses what it shows people when they search. Every format, digital or real has it's conditions for success. And they keep changing. It's an effort to keep up, but if you don't your marketing efforts can head off in the wrong direction.

The AGF is another popular marketing platform. I joined up last year, but first wrote myself a note about what I hope to gain from posting there, and how I intended to go about it. The results have fallen short, and I won't be renewing my sponsorship. I know makers who it works well for, but seeing the response over the last 10 months has helped me realise that my work and my approach just doesn't fit in well with what's popular there. I always look at marketing costs in terms of £'s, time and energy. Many platforms end up costing a lot of the latter two. So they have to provide value. If they don't, I kick them into touch. My work is better received on the AGF when others post about me, rather than me doing it myself. So I can save myself a lot of time and the joining fee by ending the experiment when the subscription runs out.

Same goes for any platform - online or real - there are pros and cons, ways to do it well and ways to do it badly. Some marketing exercises just won't suit your personality, some will. Some won't suit your work, some will. It's all about looking at the options, learning what you need to learn to make the exercise worthwhile and being prepared to change your views.

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