Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

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Tuesday’s Business: Exercise Those Networking Muscles

The Money and Careers section of the Boston Globe ran an article recently on networking and compared it to exercise.  In other words, we all know that exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle and networking is important for a healthy career.  Here are the networking tips shared by Dave Sanford and how they can be applied to your art business

  1. Develop a targeted list: Put together a list of everyone you know and want to know.  Now is the time to put together your customer list as well as the list of galleries and stores you’d like to carry your work.
  2. Ask for introductions: Who do you want to meet that could help advance or support you in your art business?  Who in your existing network can help with these introductions? Part of networking is meeting influential people.
  3. Prepare multiple messages: Develop your “30-second elevator speech;” a consolidated statement about who you are, what you do, and what makes your art unique. Now, can you consolidate this statement into a five to ten second version that your networking contacts can use on your behalf?  Similarly, you may need different artist statements for different audiences.
  4. Attend events: Attend art events (exhibits, talks, etc.)  Join local art organizations and associations. Don’t forget state art organizations and associations. Get acquainted with those in local and state government and support arts initiatives.  The arts are often the first to get cut in down economic times.
  5. Use the power of online social networks: A lot has already been written on using online social networks.  Suffice to say that artists must continue to think outside the box and use a variety of networks to make contacts, promote our art, and offer support and advice.
  6. Overcome shyness: I know; easier said than done, especially if you’re an introvert like me.  Actually, one of the reasons I joined a local woman’s business network a few years ago was to help me become more comfortable with introducing myself to people.  Practicing your introduction beforehand is helpful.  When you find yourself in a room full of people, look for one person you can introduce yourself to and work from there.
  7. Set goals: Just as we set goals for our business, we need to include networking goals as part of our business.  Some examples include emailing x-number of new contacts a week, meeting with friends and new contacts once a month, attending art or networking events once a month, and sending email announcements or e-newsletters once a quarter.
  8. Networking is a two-way street: Effective networking relationships are reciprocal.  Sometimes you receive a lead or referral that may not match your needs but might be good for someone else.  Pass it along.  Remember it is nice to share.
  9. Be thankful and keep in touch: People are often best at networking when they need something.  However, the most effective networkers are those who continually find ways to keep in touch with their contacts.

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Be Nice to Your Customers

Last Monday in the Boston Globe’s Business section “Business Filter” a small, one paragraph article titled “Customers Hate You” caught my eye.

According to a recent Marketing Daily report 62% of Americans say companies don’t care much about their needs; 62%.  That is up from 52% in 2004.

And what does that have to do with you?  Well, if you sell your work at retail art and craft shows, it seems to mean that you better pay attention to your customers.  Though the Marketing Daily report targeted large companies and corporations, I think you can extrapolate this to the art and craft show circuit.

How often have you gone to an art and craft show, walked into an artist’s booth, and have not been acknowledged with a simple “hello”?

Have you ever wanted to make a purchase or perhaps place a special order only to get some strange vibe or attitude from the artist which caused you not to make the purchase?

Now I’m not saying we, as artists, can’t have a bad day.  Perhaps in the run-up to the show you’ve come down with a cold and go into the show feeling less than ideal.  Perhaps it is a slow show; people aren’t buying or people just aren’t coming to the show.

Yet when that potential customer walks into your booth, as much as you may not feel like it, you need to acknowlege the person and put on your best “game face.”  It doesn’t mean you need to turn into the proverbial used car salesperson.  It does mean, however, that by simply saying “Hi.  If you have any questions feel free to ask” you’ve welcomed this person into your booth. 

Most customers welcome this simple recognition.  You’ve acknowledged their presence.  They know you’re aware of them.  And then you can back away.  Simple conversation may follow; a question about your work, your inspiration; whatever.  It doesn’t guarantee a purchase.  However, you’ve made a positive impression and perhaps they’ll take your business card for future reference.

And in these days of stress, anxiety, and customers feeling their needs aren’t being met, a positive impression really can go a long way.