by Swami Stream
Question by oneeighty: How do I market my artwork (home decor/metal accessories) and grow my design business?
I am a metal artist, creating bowls, sconces, lighting, etc. I’d like to develop my line more and find manufacturers for my designs where I can focus more on the designing instead of the fabrication. I’m also looking for retailers to sell my work to. I’m scouring the internet, sending images of my work, with some success, but I’d appreciate any advice on finding buyers, and how to grow my business to find licensee/manufacturers and how that process works.
Answer by Nathan
In many businesses, a good way to grow a venture is to have a case study / proof of concept which can be pitched to potential business partners, investors, clients, or (in the case of larger businesses) internal decision makers — whoever holds the resources that you need to grow your small venture.
From the description you provided, it sounds like your work has an element of fashion or taste. So, you may want to consider (if you haven’t already) “packaging” your pieces as a collection and defining the characteristics of your “target client” who would install your collection in his/her home or business.
If you’ve sold your pieces in the past, thinking about your client base may help you define these traits. Alternatively, you may also consider a nominal investment in market research which you can conduct yourself with tools from SurveyMonkey.com or Zoomerang.com. (A simple way to recruit respondents is to send your survey to friends and family and ask them to forward the link to your survey to 2-3 people and in turn ask those respondents to do the same — a “snowballing” technique.)
You may also want to try defining the potential market size of buyers for your pieces and the economic opportunity that represents over the next 1,2 or 5 years — build the case that will interest buyers and manufacturers in working with you now and in the long run. Then, ask for a pilot investment of time/resources to work with you for the next 1, 3, or 6 months — make it easier for manufacturers and retailers to say yes by helping mitigate the risk they see of you being “unknown” and ask them to help you define the terms of a pilot. (Remember, this is a negotiation, so try to define the terms that will be ensure your success when it comes time to measure the results.)
When the pilot proves successful, you can ask for a larger investment and make the case for expanding your line of designs (if your partners do not demand it first).
To find manufacturers and retailers, you might consider participating in a tradeshow. Often, participating as an exhibitor can be prohibitively expensive, especially for a start-up business. But, if you register as an attendee (sometimes for free), you can walk the tradeshow floor and approach / pitch the people that you meet in the booths. The ultimate goal is to develop a list of warm leads for follow-up meetings after the show is over — don’t expect to close a deal there and then. Consider a tradeshow the icebreaker. Your “first date” comes later when you follow up to continue the conversation you started.
I know this does not answer exactly *where* to find manufacturers and retailers — you can probably do much of that by searching online — but hopefully this gives you some strategies that you can use when you find those leads. Good luck!
Give your answer to this question below!