Today’s post is a guest post by Dr. David Weiman, jewelry marketing expert and author. He’s answering questions submitted by All Things Metal Clay readers.
Q. Elaine – I am curious about his recommendations on whether to work with a few select Galleries or whether to apply and sell at shows. Is one venue better than another? How about on-line? Many people are selling on Etsy and RubyLane now. Does he see this as a viable sales vehicle?
All of these are certainly viable selling options, and there are plenty of jewelry makers who are selling successfully using a variety of methods. There are four issues you might consider in deciding which sales avenues to pursue.
The first is your own personality. If you are naturally a “people person,” you are probably energized by the opportunity to meet and talk with current and prospective customers face to face. You like selling at shows, home parties, fairs and other events where there is a lot interpersonal contact.
If you are more on the shy side, selling face to face may make you anxious because you feel self-conscious, unsure of what to do or say. If that’s the case, you may prefer selling online or through a gallery, where there is minimal contact with others.
The second thing to consider is how much control you want to have over the selling process. When you sell directly to consumers or online, you control every aspect of the process. When you sell through a gallery, you are depending on someone else to represent your work. That person may do that extremely well, even better than you! On the other hand, if another line of theirs is more profitable than yours, they may spend more time selling that line because they make more money doing it.
The third thing to consider is profit. When you sell directly to a consumer you make the most money because there is no one in between you and the buyer. The more people in between the seller and the buyer the less the seller makes. And although more people are taking money out of the process, the value of the item isn’t increased by their participation! In other words, a $75 ring is worth $75 no matter how many people are involved in the sales process. When you sell directly to a consumer you keep more of that value.
The fourth thing to think about has to do with developing multiple sources of income. I am strongly in favor of having multiple avenues of revenue in any business. That way, you are not dependent on any one source.
Taking all of the above into account, you may balance each of these four areas so that you are selling in ways that is consistent with your personal style, desire for control over the sales process, profit goals, and desire for a number of sources of income.
One of the things that I love about buyers of handmade jewelry is that what they value has to do with intrinsic qualities of the piece (for example, the fact that it is handmade and one-of-a-kind) more than with the price. Artisan jewelers can never compete on price with major discount stores, like Wal-Mart, nor should they. The discounters will win every time. What artisan jewelers are selling goes beyond even the jewelry, in my view: They are selling the experience of connecting with the person who made the piece. Don’t forget that people who buying your jewelry directly from you will tell the story to others about how they met and/or know the artist who made the piece. It’s a very powerful part of the experience.
The way to identify the correct venue for selling one-of-a-kind pieces is to first describe in writing the primary target market (or describe a few different types of markets, if they exist) for your jewelry. Think about how old she is, what she may do for a living, where she shops, how she spends her leisure time, and what her wardrobe is like. As well as you can. A great exercise to do is to imagine her waking up in the morning and follow her around in your mind, imagining what she does, what she wears, where she stops for coffee in the morning, whether or not she has a family, etc.
When you have a well-developed profile of the target prospect for your jewelry, it gets much easier to decide where to sell. You just mentally follow her around in your mind. If she is unlikely to visit a flea market, you definitely don’t want to sell there! But if she is the type of person who would attend and enjoy a home party with a jewelry theme at the home of a wealthy friend, I think you can figure out where you should be selling!
My favorite closes are “assumptive” closes. With this type of close, as the name suggests, you assume that the prospect wants to buy. You simply ask them questions that lead to paying for the jewelry. These questions include:
“How would you like to pay for that?” or
“Is this for you or would you like it gift wrapped?” or
“Would you like to use cash or a credit card?” or
“Do you want to wear it now, or shall I wrap it up for you?”
If you want more ideas on how to close successfully, visit the best jewelry store or department store jewelry counter in your area and watch how truly skilled salespeople transition effortlessly from showing a piece to collecting payment for it. Keep in mind that not all jewelry sales people are well trained, so make sure you’re in a store or at a counter known for the quality of the sales help.
Q. Lora asked: And that old chestnut… how to price.
Looking forward to this one! I agree with Lora. I’ve heard many different scenarios on how to price items each one so different than the other. I’ve heard materials times 6 (which will include labor, rent, advertising and more) or actual materials and break down the many, many other things that enter into making a piece.
I love questions about price. Pricing jewelry is the most frustrating part of the process for jewelry artisans to get their heads around. Because it involves a number, jewelry artists seek a specific way of arriving at that number. That’s why so many advocate or use formulas, because it seems to take the ambiguity out of the process. But it really doesn’t. I don’t like formulas at all, and I’ll explain why by looking at the issue from the point of view of the buyer instead of the seller.
You see, what a piece of jewelry is worth is what any willing buyer will pay for it. Period. So, for example, if you use a formula and arrive at a price of $75, but the most anyone will pay is $5, guess how much the pieces worth? Five bucks. You might get more by scrapping it.
On the other hand, using a formula may help you arrive at a price of $75, and you may be happy to get that. But what if someone would pay 10 times that amount? That happened to someone at one of my seminars. He was a well experienced bench jeweler who decided to start designing and making his own pieces after working for someone else for many years. He designed and made a ring and set the price at $75. He sold it and was very happy with that price. Until he learned that the buyer turned around and resold it at a gallery in Beverly Hills for several hundred dollars.
So, did the formula worked? Nope.
You should definitely know the cost of the components, but don’t throw in there things like a portion of rent, or your utility bills. A good accountant can explain why those fixed costs have little or nothing to do with how much you should charge for each piece. For example, two jewelry makers create the identical piece, but one pays more rent, does that mean the piece is worth more to a buyer? Those issues are unrelated to a piece’s worth, although they have plenty to do with how much you need to make!
In general, I think that most jewelry makers under-price their work. Now, if you have had the experience of selling at shows where there are bargain hunters, and they’ve complained about your prices, you may think I’m crazy for suggesting that your work is under-priced. After all, if the price is right, wouldn’t people buy it? My answer is that if everyone’s complaining about your prices, you’re selling at the wrong show. As mentioned above, artisan jewelry is not sold on price. It is sold on the fact that it is one-of-a-kind, that it is handmade, and that the buyer gets some extra – the relationship with the artist.
Here’s another concept to think about: People associate quality with price. I read a review in Consumer Reports on toaster ovens. I talk about this in my seminars, because it relates to jewelry directly. Consumer Reports found that the lowest-priced toaster oven made the best toast, but it wasn’t the best-selling toaster. Much more expensive toasters actually sold better. Because people associate price with quality, they assumed – incorrectly – that the higher price toasters were better. Consumer Reports found the opposite. I was in Bed, Bath and Beyond with the report in my hand as I shopped for the lower-priced toaster, and there was a couple in the same aisle looking at the higher priced brands. I tried showing them the report, and they didn’t want to see it. They were determined to pay up.
That same thinking applies to jewelry. Consider the fact that the average consumer is completely unequipped to appraise the quality or value of the jewelry they are looking at. One of the ways they might assess that quality is by the price.
As an experiment in my last seminar, I asked a talented jewelry maker to take off the sterling silver bracelet she had on (and which she makes and sells) and we showed it to every other jewelry maker in the class. We asked each person to indicate how much they thought the piece of jewelry should sell for. Estimates ranged from $75 to over $500. Keep in mind that the “appraisers” were not average consumers: they were all jewelry artists. What was the actual price that the jewelry artist was charging? She was offering the piece for $250 before the seminar. I assure you she raised that price after the seminar.
I realize that I have failed to give you a specific way of pricing your jewelry. That’s because there’s something mysterious about how to price jewelry successfully. Have faith. Realize the value you are creating by taking your two hands and putting them to work on metals, and gems, and beads to create “deathless things of beauty.” Think about the fact that the jewelry you make will survive the buyer, the buyer’s children, and the buyer’s children’s children. What is that worth? It might be more than you’re charging for it.
As mentioned above, I suggest that you develop a profile of your ideal customer. Think very critically about who she is, and what she values. When she buys jewelry she is more concerned with how beautiful it is and the fact that it was made by a person she can meet and get to know than she is concerned with the price. She will pay quite a bit for something she feels is worth it. And I hope she feels that way about your jewelry.
Sell at venues and through methods that attract people who value quality over price and you will do just fine. In fact you might experiment with raising your prices incrementally – $5 or $10 at a time – and see what happens. You would be surprised at how many people actually start selling more jewelry when they raise their prices!
Don’t get discouraged if your success is uneven. An attendee at one of my classes told the story of going to a show and selling out of wire wrapped gemstone pendants she had made and priced at $225. She was on top of the world. At the next show she couldn’t sell even one. She was crushed. What happened? That’s part of the mysterious side of selling jewelry. The first show was held in a community where people appreciated things that were funky and offbeat. The price meant nothing to them. When they saw her pendants they fell in love with them. At the second show, the prospects were much more conservative, and her funky designs did not go over well. Live and learn. You will really become a better seller by asking lots of questions of people who are looking at your jewelry. Particularly if they remark about the price, it’s an opportunity to learn more about what they value.
Q. And how many items can be done in a production run before it is too many. I’ve heard 6 is the place to stop. True? Do we number them 1 of 6, 2 of 6, etc?
I wish I could answer this question, but I don’t really have any expertise in production issues.
Q. I read in your Jewelry Selling Answers book that you recommend that makers of handcrafted jewelry NOT wholesale, that they only retail. I’ve never heard that advice before. Most jewelry artists feel like that’s the goal — get to wholesaling with galleries. Hearing you say you _don’t_ recommend that is actually a relief. I wonder if you would elaborate on why you make that recommendation.
The main reason that I have been down on wholesaling in the past is because you don’t make as much on each piece. Wholesaling works well for manufactured jewelry because it’s about volume. It’s a model that’s based on mass-production as opposed to artist-created work, in my view.
Also, I believe part of what a buyer of artisan jewelry wants is the connection with the jewelry artist. For example, at a recent seminar I did on selling for the banking industry, I asked the participants to tell me about their favorite sales rep in any area of life. A woman raised her hand and said, “I have a jewelry artist I buy from, and she’s my favorite salesperson.”
I asked her why, and she said,
“Because she really knows what I like! If she makes a piece that she thinks I might like, she invites me over to try it on. She even changed a piece for me to include my favorite gemstone.”
I think that illustrates how important the connection is. When you wholesale, you’re counting on someone else to make that connection for you, in a way. Or it just doesn’t happen.
I’ve lightened up on my aversion to wholesaling over the last year because I’ve heard from jewelry makers who have an excellent relationship with the re-seller (whether it’s a gallery owner, or a store manager, or whoever) and feel very confident that the person is representing their jewelry well and effectively.
Wholesaling is also an option for jewelry makers who are simply not interested in selling face to face. If you do include wholesaling to others in your selling mix, be sure to have clear agreements – in writing if possible – on your percentage, the retail price, and what happens if the pieces don’t sell.
I hope those answers help!
Get your free copy of the ebook, 50 Great Jewelry Selling Techniques by David Weiman (a $17.00 value) by signing up for his free newsletter at http://www.MarketingJewelry.com.