Show Pride in Your Work
If you sell stained glass jewelry, wear your own products wherever you go. It’s like having a private billboard to show off your work, and it’s a starting point for conversations. When co-workers, friends and people you meet in the grocery store remark about the piece, tell them where they can buy a piece like it – or maybe make their own if you offer jewelry-making classes. Be sure your home is filled with stained glass pieces. Give stained glass gifts for every occasion. Show the world you are proud of the products you produce.
You may want to offer a discount if a customer brings your business card to the studio or refers someone else for a class. I like to create unusual handouts to give folks I meet at shows or other events. Giving these to customers and friends alike often leads to some new customers checking out the studio. Each handout contains our studio addess, phone number, and a brief list of what we offer. By using a rubber stamp I can add a unique shape (a star, flower, etc.) to make the handout a coupon, which can then be exchanged at our studio for a discount or a free item. I use different stamps for different offers and events, then keep track of who comes to the studio to claim what offer. This is not only a great advertising tool, but it also helps to determine what events produced the best results.
Use Manufacturer’s Giveaways
After we opened our glass studio, we found one of the big manufacturers offered a special giveaway item. The Spectrum Glass Company produces a beautiful newsletter, printed on glossy paper, which includes several glass patterns and articles of interest in each issue. They give them to stores for distribution to customers. On the back is a space where we can stamp our studio name, address and phone number. It’s great advertising as people sometimes come in just to pick up a new issue. Check with any large companies whose products you sell. Many offer special items (sometimes for free) to use if you have classes or sell their products.
Find ways to Make a Difference in Your Community.
We always donate items to local charity events (especially the local high school), and we include a business card with every piece. We want to be an important part of our community, and we believe in supporting local businesses and people. Our hope is that they will return the favor.
Along the same lines, we open our studio one night a week for an event we call “GAMe Night.” That stands for “Glass Artists Meeting Night.” It’s a time for anyone in the area who works with stained glass to come in, bring their finished pieces, and share encouragement, ideas and questions. There is no charge and the people who attend really love it. We didn’t intend to even conduct business that evening,but rather planned to just to be part of the group. However, it turned out that some of the folks who had traveled a distance to the studio wanted to buy supplies while they were there, so the community event turned out to be profitable for us, too.
Talk about your business.
Often conversations with new people you meet start with questions about what you do for a living. Most people are fascinated to learn that you work in stained glass. It’s a unique and fun business, and they will probably have a lot of questions about your work. Always invite them to stop by your studio/store so they can see first-hand what you do.
That leads me to another great advertising technique: networking. It’s a word that scares a lot of people who may not be very outgoing or who feel they can’t take the time for “touchy feely” things like reaching out to other businesses. Let me clarify my use of the term. During the course of our GAMe meetings we met a woman who taught mosaic classes in the area, and another who worked with a local art alliance. Both proved to be wonderful “partners” for us, as they told their students and other contacts about our studio and our classes. Of course, we were able to return the favor and refer our regulars to them. It’s a win-win situation.
Also consider networking with similar businesses in the area. When I stopped at a glass studio in a near-by town to see what they were doing I discovered they were specializing in hot glass work. They had huge kilns and a full line of fusion glass. We don’t carry much fusion glass, and our kiln is only sized for making jewelry and other small pieces. Now I refer people who want to learn fused glass techniques to her, and she sends stained glass people to us.
Another glass artist we met loves to work in leaded glass, and she enjoys doing repair work. We really prefer to work in copper foil, though we can do either. Since we are about the only local studio that does stained glass repair work, we were able to steer some leaded glass repairs to her, and keep our customers happy at the same time. She buys her glass and supplies from us, sometimes even asking us to order specialty items. When you see “competition” as allies, you can often work out exchanges that help both parties.
Use the U.S. Mail
Another great networking opportunity can come from contacts with local builders, cabinet makers and decorators. We have a contractor who calls on us regularly for door inserts and cabinet fronts. It’s a relationship that developed over time as he learned we were reliable, did quality work, and delivered what we promised when we promised.
It all starts with a contact of some sort. Create a letter for local businesses, making it business-specific. Send it to local companies with a photo sheet of your completed work. If, like us, you have a designer in-house, be sure to mention that, too. In an initial letter, you might offer to give a percentage to their company for every referral, or you would be available to act as a consultant to their clients. Offer to meet with them at their convenience to discuss how you could benefit their business. Not everyone will be interested, but they will at least have your information, and it could get them thinking about the concept of stained glass being included in their products.
Remember your best advertising is happy customers. No matter what else you choose to do, be sure you cultivate good relationships with everyone who enters your store. A happy customer may tell some friends about your business–an unhappy one will tell everyone.