What a coat taught me about marketing

I have a coat. It’s stunning. It’s handmade, unique and interesting. I get compliments on it every single time I wear it. I’m constantly asked where I got it from, and I’m certain that the maker would be raking in the sales from referrals.

Want to know the tragedy? I can’t and won’t tell people where I got it from. The maker of the coat flubbed up on marketing, big time. Let’s all learn a lesson from my coat’s maker.

Where I got my coat

A while ago, I went to a silent auction. A friend of a friend had begun making interesting coats from recycled sweaters. I’d seen similar items on Etsy, and I immediately fell in love. I put in my bid, and won.

handmade coat from recycled sweaters

I love this coat. It has a big hood that neatly folds down over the shoulders and thumb-holes so that you can wear the sleeves like hand-warmers… and look how interesting it is!

So… what’s wrong?

The day after the auction, I went to pick up my coat. I was so excited to have won!

I picked up the coat and nothing else. There was no tag, no business card, no information about the maker. I have no idea who made it. I can’t recommend her shop to the dozens of people who ask where to buy my coat.

Furthermore, once I wore the coat, I discovered a couple workmanship flaws. Nothing major, but holes where the serging of pieces together had not been completed. So, even if I had the maker’s information, I’m not sure I would recommend the shop.

handmade coat from recycled sweaters

My suspicion is that the maker was asked to contribute something to the giveaway, and not wanting to donate something too valuable, gave away a piece that wasn’t quite perfect enough to sell. Makes sense, but a huge marketing mistake.

What can we learn?

The silent auction could have been an amazing promotional opportunity for my coat’s maker. With a quality piece and a card/label, she would have gotten a customer for life, as well as a number of referrals. But, alas, the event did not go that way.

Fortunately, we as crafters can learn a few important lessons from my coat.

  • Always include a card with your contact information with every item you make. Even better, add a sewn-on or permanent label. Don’t assume that it’s ‘obviously your style’.
  • Always put your best foot forward. It’s easy to donate a less-than-stellar piece to a school event or giveaway. But every single piece is a representation of your work. Don’t let a piece reflect poorly on you!
  • If you must sell less-than-fabulous pieces, considering adding a ‘seconds’ label to your work. This is what outlet shops do. You’ll notice that a piece from the Gap Outlet has a different tag than a piece from a normal Gap store. It reminds customers that the item was purchased at a discount.
  • Consider if an event/giveaway is worth it. If you genuinely believe an event/donation request has little likelihood of bringing in new customers, politely decline. It’s better than compromising your work.

With these few tips, you’ll never miss a marketing opportunity, again!

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Jan 28, 2013 | Posted by in Blog, Business of Design | 1 comment

Comments (One Response)

  1. Ana Rosa says:

    Great tips Stacey!
    I appreciate you taking the time to give us your insight!
    Thank you!

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