I learned a lot about marketing from buying a new coat for my job.
When I first started work as a stockbroker in the City of London I needed to get a new coat for wearing on the many business trips I took as part of that job.
I knew it had to be classic and well crafted and it also had to be practical to deal with being thrown into the overhead bin on an airplane (and sometimes shoved under the seat in front).
I spent the day in many different shops and saw lots of different coats but it was the experience I had when shopping in Jigsaw that really made an impression on me and, looking back, it was the experience that really showed me how sales and marketing should work.
Jigsaw had nice coats, just like all of the other stores, but I ended up buying my coat there because of the saleswoman working in the dressing rooms.
It wasn’t just that she listened to what I wanted (a thigh length black wool coat that would be hardwearing) and brought me exactly what I was looking for. It was that she didn’t stop there.
She also brought me a fantastic, floor length, completely impractical winter white coat.
It was stunning. I couldn’t take it off.
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I could imagine myself gliding into a room in this fabulous coat, feeling amazing.
The black coat was really nice, and it looked great, but when I was wearing this white coat I could see how it was going to make me feel every time I wore it.
It broke my heart but, ever the practical one, I decided to buy the black coat. I came really close to buying both but felt it was just too much of a stretch for my finances.
But I never forgot how that white coat felt and how I felt about that saleswoman after she convinced me to try it on.
I never felt that I’d had a lucky escape from some pushy saleswoman who had tried to sell me something I didn’t need. In fact, I felt like she had shown me something about myself that I hadn’t seen before.
I felt grateful to her and I left the store feeling really good about my purchase (and myself) and vowing to be a bit more daring in my clothing choices.
Ten years later and I am still wearing the black coat, which turned out to be one of my best purchases ever.
But I often wish I’d bought the white one too.
So what does this have to do with marketing your handmade business?
When I ask people what they struggle most with in their handmade businesses, the number one answer is usually marketing. And not just marketing. Sometimes it’s “Ugh Marketing.”
Marketing is the engine that keeps your business going, and we know we have to do it but, for many creators, it sits in the realm of “the boring stuff I just have to force myself to do.”
Or it feels uncomfortable to ask people to purchase your products. Maybe it feels pushy or salesy or deceptive.
With these beliefs about marketing, it’s not difficult to see why we put it off and why, when we’re finally forced to get on with it, it feels like such a struggle.
But marketing isn’t a way of convincing people to do something or buy something they don’t want. It’s not about talking people into something or begging for them to want your things.
Marketing is actually about helping your potential customers understand what your products can do for them and the enjoyment that can come from surrounding yourself with objects that make you feel incredible.
Just like the saleswoman in Jigsaw, you could help your customers to see something new in themselves or add something enriching to their lives.
Take a moment to think about one of your favourite possessions.
Maybe it’s a dress you’ve had for years, a favourite piece of jewellery or a painting on your wall.
Think about the enjoyment that it brings you and how it makes you feel.
Now think about how you’d respond if someone had found something else for you that they knew would make you feel a similar way.
How would you respond to them? How would you feel about them?
Would you feel like they were a pushy salesperson, or a friend showing you something exactly right for you?
Now take a moment to think about a time when someone got in touch to tell you how much they love a piece that they bought from you.
Think about the things they said.
Maybe it is a piece of artwork that gives them such pleasure every time they walk past it.
Maybe it is a piece of jewellery that has become a firm favourite and makes them feel stylish and confident when they wear it.
Maybe it is a handcrafted mug that just makes them happy when they drink their morning coffee.
I’m willing to bet that at some point in this conversation they thanked you for this thing. They thanked you for selling them something, because it made them feel good.
Whether your work is a small pleasure or a treasured purchase that will last a lifetime, we are very fortunate to be able to bring this kind of happiness to other people.
What difference would it make to you to think about marketing as finding those people who will love your work and showing them the happiness it can bring to their lives?
Wouldn’t that feel more inspiring?
Wouldn’t you feel more motivated to do your marketing?
Wouldn’t you feel like you were spreading joy, rather than being pushy?
So who’s more excited about marketing now?