Jul 23, 2009

Flight to Meaningful – Making your Handmade Marketing Mean More

maria_summit

Folks, please welcome Tina Seamonster from Hello Craft to the MailChimp blog! She’ll be guest blogging here from time to time, posting helpful articles on how handmade artists can market their work more effectively (also see mailchimp.com/handmade)…

I recently invited Maria Thomas, Etsy.com‘s CEO to give a speech to the attendees at Hello Craft‘s first annual Summit of Awesome in Washington, D.C. The Summit of Awesome is a conference where crafters and artists get to spend the weekend meeting, learning and making. When I asked Maria to address the group, I sent her many questions, but the main question that we were hoping she would answer was really very basic. Why Handmade? Why now? Maria’s answer was actually simple and one that I think we all should consider in our endeavors to make a living making things…


For reference, she first explained the business term Flight to Quality, which is the act of moving funds from riskier to safer investments in times of marketplace uncertainty or fear. Along the lines of a "flight to" something, she said that she believes that there is currently a Flight to Meaningful in the economy. That consumers are looking for meaning in their purchases. First of all, people want the things that they surround themselves with to have meaning, have a story, and a purpose. And second, people want the act of buying something to have meaning. Buying something doesn’t have to be a faceless trip to a giant store, but can be a way to connect with the person who actually made it.

Many Etsy sellers are already making their products, shops and customer interactions meaningful. It goes without saying that when a real person is selling something handmade to another real person, meaningful connections happen. But this got me thinking. What can we (as handmade sellers using any platform) do to make our shops/products/marketing more meaningful. If meaning is what our customers are looking for, we should keep this in mind with all that we do. We shouldn’t be looking to big business practices when developing our products and strategies, but instead, we should be finding our own way. A few ways that we can create meaning in our making and marketing right now:

Be Unique.

The first thing that you can do is create unique products. If people can’t get what you make anywhere else, you will be remembered. Consumers are tired of seeing the same things over and over again and this is part of why they buy handmade. Being unique is in itself meaningful.

Be a human first, a business second.

Just because you are conducting "business" when you sell something in your shop, doesn’t mean you have to act like a "business." With over 2,600 sales in my own Etsy shop, I don’t see people as customers, but as friends who like what I do. And I treat them accordingly. The same concept can be used in your marketing efforts.

Tell a Story.

For me the number one reason to buy something handmade is that that item has a story and a life separate from me. It was not designed by committee somewhere and then fabricated somewhere else. It was conceived and created by a single human being with a story to tell. Using your handmade shop or your products to tell a story or more specifically your story can be a powerful way to distinguish yourself in a sea of makers.

I will be sharing more tips on making your marketing meaninful here on Mailchimp. In the end, we should see tools like Mailchimp, Artfire, Etsy, etc. as ways to connect with other people and the sales will follow.

Note from MailChimp: In the meantime, please check out: http://blog.mailchimp.com/handmade/ to see how artists can use MailChimp for their email marketing.

Tina Seamonster is a podcaster, blogger and mom to four-year-old twins. She is the Communications Director for Hello Craft, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement, where she hosts a podcast that collects stories of making and buying handmade. Her Etsy shop is full of zombies.