Being Authentic

I’ve been reading a book by a marketing guy Eric Karjaluoto called speak human, Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal and it really ties in with information that I got at the ACV Conference last weekend. One of the workshops I attended was called the The NoBS Guide to Networking led by Sarah Beth Jones, of Nary Ordinary Business Services. Sarah Beth opened her workshop with the word “Authenticity”. I guess I never really put much thought into this concept, but last night I got to a chapter in Eric’s book that really made this term come into focus. For years, in my old job, I seemed to get into trouble for being authentic. The corporate world is one of secrets and professionalism that is truly based on untruths. We were actually asked to sign a document to not reveal secrets. Thing is, in this new world, there are no secrets. With Google, you can find out all that you want to know and some that you don’t want to know. My feeling was that if I was honest with my/their customers, the customer would trust us and trust our knowledge of making their product the best that we could make it. This was something I was reprimanded for on occasion. “Don’t discuss that with the customer”….WHY? I always questioned authority because I didn’t feel the authorities really understood the situation as being real or honest. Keep the customer in the dark.  If the customer did figure something our that we were doing there was a “damage control meeting” where everyone could get their story straight. This is just wrong.

As Eric brought to my attention last night with this…

“I open my personal life to business colleagues and like the idea that they see me as “human” first and “business-person” second. I tell other studio owners our business “secrets” and believe we have more to gain by sharing knowledge than by being secretive and paranoid. The truth is, few of our secrets are that good anyway. I’d bet that few or yours are either.We tell the truth for a few reasons. First of all, our moms told us to. I’m not trying to be funny here; that influence is still hard-wired into us. It’s also easier. We’re  not forced to remember which stories we told to which people. We don’t have to worry about inconsistencies from exaggerating. Aim for transparency and just put it out there. Edit as little as possible and speak as plainly as you can. You might be surprised by the results.”

Social media is changing the way we interact with people. When I first started using Facebook, I would lay in bed at night and try to think of a clever status update. One of my Facebook friends always has a very clever one liner and it is really refreshing to see what he has written. The longer I use FB, I find that I’m not sharing as much as I did when I began using the media. While at the conference I heard comments from folks of my own generation like, “it is TOO personal”. BUT, I think that is why it works. By being yourself and adding good days and bad day comments, others see you as human and they identify with you better. I no longer share what I am having for breakfast but I will share my successes or just check in to let everyone know that I am still alive. But from a business perspective, I think that since Facebook, Pinterest, my blog and my Etsy shop all have the ability for clients, customer, fans or friends to comment on my work, critique my work or praise my work, I can benefit from this interaction.  My business can benefit from this interaction. And I am being real, honest, reliable, genuine, trustworthy and AUTHENTIC.

Sarah Beth Jones’ workshop, “The NoBS Guide to Networking” addressed how to interact with someone that might end up purchasing from you. As a business person, making contacts, I don’t like a pushy sale. I like honesty. I want to build a relationship with someone before I let them know that I am in a business that they might like or want to purchase something from. Our group in the workshop came to the very same conclusion. Building a long term relationship with someone will be better in the long run than only showing up when you want something. This is what Eric refers to in his book about being open and personal with everyone. You feel much better about dealing with someone if you know that they have an interest in you that is other than business. You develop a connection to this person and you have a voice that is heard.

Herb and I love to go to the Woodstock Cafe! Coe and Jean Sherrard are the owners and they have built a wonderful business over the past several years. They do it by knowing their customers. They say hello, recognize if you haven’t been in for a while, ask you how you are, and LISTEN to what you have to say. Because they are friendly, personable and make you welcome into their environment, you want to go back. How many times do you get this service in a Walmart or a Lowe’s or a Rite Aid? We have lost this in our society and it is really a shame.

As I go forward, building new relationships and growing my small business, I have the ability to take each new “fan” as a gift, learning from them as they learn from me. Hopefully, I can develop the kinds of relationships that will make others want to know what I have to offer and how I can help them and that I really do care about their life.

In doing my google search of some terms for this post I came across an additional article on authenticity that you might also enjoy reading…Dan Erwin’s blog about Career Development

 

Preparing to Rise at the Artisan Center of VA Conference

 

 

This weekend I am going to be attending my first conference as an artist. I have signed up with the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference in Roanoke called “Rising Beyond Expectations”. I have been impressed so far with the energy of the Artisan Center’s efforts to help the artists and craftspeople of our state. I think they are realizing that we have a population of craftspeople that can add to the economy and add to the ability to create jobs and products here in the US. The conference is going to offer workshops that I hope to gain some insight as to how to continue to grow my business and market my work.

The artisan trail that our county is implementing in partnership with the Artisan Center and our own tourism department will help both Agri-artisans as well as craft persons to promote their businesses. Many of these workshops will address some of the issues that a artisan will be confronted with to get involved with this new adventure. I am really excited to get this going and to be involved with this county wide project.

 

WORKSHOPS FOR EVERYONE: ….artists, artisans, agri-artisans, entrepreneurs and all who desire to take their endeavors to the next level!

The New Horizon Is A Designer’s World: An engaging Panel Discussion with James Thurman- North Texas University, Alison   Pack- Radford University & Jennifer Anderson- Hollins University.

“There is Art in Marketing” Sandra Tanner, Virginia Tourism Corporation: Marketing plans made easy and lots of great insights and tips for reaching your markets.

“The NoBS Guide to Networking” with Sarah Beth Jones, Nary Ordinary Business Services: Discuss why networking is important, where and when networking happens, and how to find your comfort zone in situations that can sometimes feel daunting.

“Etsy 101” – with Vanessa Bertozzi, Etsy: Learn how to become part of a global market place in a vibrant community of 15 million buyers and creative businesses.

“A Gardener’s Odyssey: From Clay to Food ” with Jim Kvach, Master Gardiner: Find out how one gardener managed to change clay into food where clay is abundant and top soil thin in this informative and upbeat conveyance of lessons learned.

“Entrepreneurs, Artisans and Taxes: Can we all get along?” with Dennis Peltier, EA:  Find out the answers to your burning tax related questions.

“Educating & Inspiring the Next Artisan Generation” with Alison Pack, Radford University: Through the eyes and experiences of students at the Governor’s School as told thru images and narrative in this vibrant discussion of the importance of educating Virginia youth about contemporary craft.

“The Demo – Educating the Public and Customer Service with Fun in Creativity and Affinity” with Judy Ligon, Ligon Art:  Explore the importance of doing a demo as a means to engage public in what you love to do in this hands-on workshop.

“Art As A Business” with Marc Willson, Small Business Development Association: Are you ready to sell your work? Find out how to show your work in ways to make people want to buy it and how to talk and write about it in order to make it more appealing.

“Artisan Trails of Southwest Virginia Viewshed” with Debby Loggins, Round the Mountain: After Creating fifteen artisan trails throughout the 8,624 square miles defined as Southwest Virginia was a challenge three years in the making. What’s next?

“Pricing Your Work” with Neva Bryan, Round the Mountain: Discover why pricing is important, the psychology of pricing and a step-by-step to pricing your products.

“Think It! Ink It! The Craft and Art of Printmaking” with Jennifer Anderson, Hollins University: Join in a conversation on fine art printmaking….the history, types of print and how contemporary artists make art and develop community through printmaking.

“Global, Social, Mobile, Local – How Going Green Doesn’t Mean Going Into the Red” with Helen Nunley, Pretty Good Designs: Going digital and paperless no longer means spending tons of money. Learn about some of the many choices of free or inexpensive solutions from which to choose to help you and your business “go green.”

“The Artisan Mosh Pit”: A special session where you are invited to voice your questions, concerns and suggestions for a facilitated discussion with tourism, economic development, arts and cultural community leaders.

Vintage Woodstock Festival

Laughing Orange Booth

You would think that a Vintage Woodstock Festival in Woodstock, VA would really be about sitting in the grass, smoking weed, in a downpour of rain, listening to Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Joan Biaz and Joe Cocker, but this Vintage Woodstock Festival was all about eating some carnival type foods and listening to a local band called the Worx, which were amazing.

music

The weather was unbearably hot and there was a threat of rain. I actually hoped we would get the rain so that it would cool things down some. But we got a sprinkle and a bit of reprieve from some of the humidity, but not much.

court house steps

I really enjoyed seeing and meeting with our local residents of Shenandoah County and letting them know that I am here working everyday and if they need a gift or and item for their garden they are more than welcomed to stop in and see me and my work.

I handed out a lot of business cards and did sell a few items, but getting my name out there is a big deal. I think it is also important to do the local festivals so that people start to see that “hand made in America” is a little more expensive than Walmart or Target. I actually had a few conversations to that effect and hopefully educated some people that if you want nice things they are a little bit more costly.

court square

For the most part though, I think everyone really liked the work and I anticipate to start seeing more and more local traffic here at the house. I was also able to tell people about the upcoming Artisan Trail that we are working on here in Shenandoah County that we are hoping to be activated before the end of the year. This will be another post later but it is really exciting to be a part of this new venture for our county.

Prior to the event, I mailed out about 50 postcards to people that had bought my work, both here in the county and from the DC area. I saw a lot of those people so that marketing strategy is a good one. I think because I took the time to handwrite the cards and put a note on them that I hoped to see them there made a difference too. I am still learning about marketing the business and while social media is great for getting the word out there, there is still the old fashioned post card that will do a good job for you if you take the time to apply the personalization.

The next local event that I am looking into is the Ole Time Festival in Edinburg, VA. I’ll be posting as I get more information on that one but lots of folks last night said that would be a good one for me to do in the fall.

Etsy Unplugged…

Tomorrow is the Vintage Woodstock event that I posted about a couple of days ago and I’ll be packing up my items to take to the town square to set up tomorrow evening. But those same items are still listed in my Etsy shop. At least they are at the moment.

When I do an event, I haven’t figured out what the best approach is to keeping Etsy items listed and taking them live to a show and literally put them in people’s hands. I usually have my new smart phone with me and could easily access the Etsy site right after a piece sells in person and take the listing down. This makes me really nervous because I am at the show and am worried that the items are selling and my not knowing it and then sell the same item in person.

So for now, it seems the easiest solution to this is to deactivate all the items on the Etsy shop, put a message in the top of the opening page and then the day after the show to reactive what hasn’t sold in person. I haven’t had this be a problem yet but I am really worried that it will and with many of my pieces being a one of a kind item, it would really stress me out to try and duplicate something that is in the photo on Etsy. So tomorrow, Laughing Orange on Etsy will be unplugged for a day and then will come back online on Saturday. Thanks for everyone’s patience and in the meantime, I hope I put a lot of things into the local public’s hands and they get to know me better so that they will come in person to pick out items that they would like to purchase.

Freshly Squeezed, from Laughing Orange Studio

This is a newsletter that I sent to a group of my friends…. If you would like to receive an email newsletter, subscribe to this blog and you will definitely be included with the next mailing… I’d love to include you in the fun!

March 2012

…news from

Laughing Orange Studio

Starting a new business means taking advantage of all the ways possible to reach buyers for my product. There are a million ways to do that these days and while not everyone uses social media, it seems, that almost daily there are new methods of social media introduced, making it almost impossible for me to even get a product made for having to try and keep up with all the computer interaction that I need to communicate with my customers. You almost need a full time person just to update all the places that need updating to get this information out there.

With this first newsletter, Freshly Squeezed, I’d like to get information to YOU so that you can keep up with what I am working on or where I may be exhibiting my work. I may show you a new product line, a technique I’m using, a new blog post, or a new design that I am trying to get out and show you a sneak peak. That said, if you would like to get an occasional email newsletter, subscribe to my blog now!

I’ve  listed the main media that I am using consistently these days below along with links for them.  All of them are ways to connect with me and find my work. Check them out if you aren’t using them already.

Please, share this email with all your friends that you think would enjoy seeing what I am doing!

Laughing Orange on Etsy

My Etsy shop, Laughing Orange Studio, is connected to my blog. If you see the product page in the blog and see something that you would love to purchase, YAY!, the links there will take you to the shop on Etsy. For now. I would love to eventually move some items to the blog’s shop but, I need you for this, I need people to know that it is there first. For now though, the link at the left will take you to the shop and allow you to see some of the products that I have for sale right now and are available for you to purchase.

LOS on Facebook

Laughing Orange Studio has a business Facebook presence and I generally use this page as a way to blast out items that have just been uploaded to my shop on Etsy. If you are a Facebook user, you can like the Studio there and get new product updates as they are available to the public.

 

Pinterest link

Pinterest, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a great way to bookmark items onto the web for reference or sharing. I LOVE this new site and have to really limit myself or I really wouldn’t get anything done all day. The rule is: either when the tea is empty or I reach the bottom of the page, I need to get out of the chair and start my day. The bad part is that when you reach the bottom of the page, Pinterest loads more pins….. so I have to use the empty teacup rule.

There are a ton of uses that I have discovered for this site… inspiration for my work, my garden, a good laugh and sharing or storing information in a visual way. Visual is the key here, because I am a visual person, this site is great for me.  You can follow or see my boards by clicking on the icon at the left. Watch out though, you may get sucked in and have trouble getting anything else done.

Google + link

Google + is awesome for the main reason that I can see friends and relatives that are far away. It has a wonderful hangout option that many people can have a conversation all at once. Better than Skype for this reason, originally I think this was to be Google’s version of Facebook but if you want to see me work, I am trying to find way’s to maybe do workshops or “how to crafting ” with this wonderful new site. Webcam is necessary and a DSL connection. I’ve added the link to my page by clicking on the icon on the left if you would like to be in one of my circles.

Thanks for all your support in my new adventure and I hope that you will contact me in the future if you need a gift or an item for yourself.

Currently I’m working on:

  • I have Easter mugs getting ready to be fired and put on the Etsy site in the next week
  • We have put a calendar of events on the blog so that you can see events that I am going to try and participate in this year
  • Fairy Garden Items are all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started before Spring, there are new items for those on Etsy and I am making the miniature items for Natural Art Garden Center, who are doing workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here…

Happy Spring,

Susie Wilburn