The Merch table...

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The Merch table...

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:58 pm

I did my first big music festival today. I displayed my guitars and got many positive reviews and comments, met some cool folks and made some good contacts. While I didn't sell any guitars I did end up with about 80 less business cards than when I started out this morning. Honestly, only at my most optimistic did I ever actually think I would sell any today, but more realistically I knew I was just trying to get some exposure. So all in all I think it was a pretty good day.
Having said that... There is expense involved. I have to pay for a spot, preparation costs, fuel, food, little trinkets from other booths that I buy, etc etc... So, I'm looking for ideas of other smaller ticket items that can moved easier so that if I don't sell any guitars its still worth my while to be there. I'm thinking about maybe stickers, decals, t-shirts, stuff like that. Do any of you have anything like this that works for you? Or other ideas?
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:18 pm

One of the members of my local woodworking club ran a clinic to build pickin' sticks. I was unable to attend because of a conflict that weekend, but many members built two or three to give away as Christmas gifts.

Marcy & I love to go to art fairs, and the successful formula I see in the vendors that seem to make some kind of income from this is that they have an easily repeatable product - something for which you can make the templates, buy the materials and can crank out by the dozens during the off-season. The very best of them will have items spread across a broad price range so while the spectacular one-of-a-kind stuff that fetches astronomical prices might catch the customer's eye and draw them in, they see that the vendor has stuff that might be in their price range. The small stuff sells in higher quantity and makes their "nut" and when they get a customer for one of the high-end pieces, they make a nice profit.

The pickin' sticks are unique, easy to make and you can embellish the hell out of them with materials and decoration so you can even have a wide range of prices on those.

Doing something like this has crossed my mind once or twice... :mrgreen:
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Dan Smith » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:03 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:One of the members of my local woodworking club ran a clinic to build pickin' sticks. I was unable to attend because of a conflict that weekend, but many members built two or three to give away as Christmas gifts.

Marcy & I love to go to art fairs, and the successful formula I see in the vendors that seem to make some kind of income from this is that they have an easily repeatable product - something for which you can make the templates, buy the materials and can crank out by the dozens during the off-season. The very best of them will have items spread across a broad price range so while the spectacular one-of-a-kind stuff that fetches astronomical prices might catch the customer's eye and draw them in, they see that the vendor has stuff that might be in their price range. The small stuff sells in higher quantity and makes their "nut" and when they get a customer for one of the high-end pieces, they make a nice profit.

The pickin' sticks are unique, easy to make and you can embellish the hell out of them with materials and decoration so you can even have a wide range of prices on those.

Doing something like this has crossed my mind once or twice... :mrgreen:

I made one of those pickin sticks. Tuned G-D-G. I altered the soundhole size so the body would resonate in G. The little thing wails!
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Brian Evans » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:02 am

My first thought was actually - should a small luthier trying to build a business (opposed to build for fun and pleasure) try to sell finished guitars, or try to use finished guitars to get custom orders? I think with finished guitars for sale on a stand, your competition is Taylor, Martin, Gibson and other factory made instruments. I think build to custom order is the way to go. I have less of an idea as to how to get there, but showing at festivals is a great idea, with a focus on bespoke instruments and guitars on the stand, while for sale, as samples.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:00 pm

Brian Evans wrote:My first thought was actually - should a small luthier trying to build a business (opposed to build for fun and pleasure) try to sell finished guitars, or try to use finished guitars to get custom orders? I think with finished guitars for sale on a stand, your competition is Taylor, Martin, Gibson and other factory made instruments. I think build to custom order is the way to go. I have less of an idea as to how to get there, but showing at festivals is a great idea, with a focus on bespoke instruments and guitars on the stand, while for sale, as samples.

I have a friend who builds high-end one-off custom-designed furniture (like a $3,000 armoire, or a $5,000 table). He has used art shows and festivals (juried and otherwise) to generate business, but not with much success. He finds word-of-mouth referrals btween his well-heeled customer base generates much more business. He says you have to consider the market to which you get exposed at the event.

Ryan's event sounds like it is a bit more targeted, so the potential for generating some kind of business is probably higher. Also, there should be no reason to consider it an either/or proposition. With enough experience, I would imagine that a winning formula could be developed. Perhaps some combination of a few on hand that were for sale, maybe something that was custom-made and either not yet delivered or on loan from the owner (which helps to communicate the custom-building services), and some less-expensive items like pickin' sticks, dulcimers, music or guitar stands, REALLY COOL t-shirts or other distinctive swag that provides some advertising.

I'm sure anyone who works festivals or art or crafts fairs would need take several passes to get things fine-tuned so that it works for them commercially.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Dave Weir » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:10 pm

I make bud vases out of the body cut offs. The original plan was the guitar buyer would buy it and have it delivered with his guitar and "Look Honey, I got you something, too."
Mostly I just wind up giving them away. But I could see at a show having something that is made out of the wood you use for guitars might remind them of what they really wanted.
If you are doing bent side acoustics, maybe you have scraps and fails that could be layered up and bent into bracelets. Guy buys for wife, 3 months later, wife buys guitar for thoughtful hubby. It could happen...
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Sat Oct 01, 2016 8:56 pm

Update:
Did another festival this weekend. it's two days, Saturday and Sunday. About the middle of the week I came up with the idea of making cutting boards and sell them at the booth. Cutting boards are quick and easy, and all I need is scrap material of which I have a plethora just lying around the shop. But how to make them relevant to what I'm actually trying to sell... Guitar shaped cutting boards! I basically made them miniature versions of my guitars, with the headstock profile, logo and everything. I made 14 and sold out by the end of the first day. I guess they were a hit. Even people that didn't buy talked about how cool they were (or how "cute" according to most of the women.) One lady even sought me out after seeing other people walking around with them. But it accomplished what I was wanting. It paid for my expenses for the weekend festival, and then some. So, for any of you working these kinds of festivals and arts/crafts shows, make guitar shaped cutting boards. Evidently people love them.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Dan Smith » Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:18 am

Ryan,
Here's another idea for you.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Eric Knapp » Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:42 am

Ryan Mazzocco wrote:Update:...Guitar shaped cutting boards! I basically made them miniature versions of my guitars, with the headstock profile, logo and everything. I made 14 and sold out by the end of the first day. I guess they were a hit...

Great idea, Ryan. There is a high-end furniture maker near me who makes the most exquisite pieces. He goes to art shows and never sells any. He does sell out his of his bread boards, though. And he gets lots of future work. I think this is probably the best way to approach shows when your main work is expensive.

-Eric
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:11 pm

I'm in the same boat Ryan. I have now been to 3 guitar shows, in 3 different cities. At the show, people show a lot of interest in my guitars.
They say really nice things, like "Those are really unique and beautiful." "Did you make those?" "Right from blocks of wood!?"
"Wow, that inlay must have taken you quite a while."
When they play them and find out how well they play, they exclaim how nice they are, and how good they sound.

I have done extensive study into pricing, and I know my guitars are priced low.
Sadly none of that transfers into sales. I'm not sure which way to go next.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:36 pm

Low pricing is not necessarily a good thing, strange as that may seem. It causes the person to percieve the item as low quality.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Jason Rodgers » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:59 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:I'm in the same boat Ryan. I have now been to 3 guitar shows, in 3 different cities. At the show, people show a lot of interest in my guitars.
They say really nice things, like "Those are really unique and beautiful." "Did you make those?" "Right from blocks of wood!?"
"Wow, that inlay must have taken you quite a while."
When they play them and find out how well they play, they exclaim how nice they are, and how good they sound.

I have done extensive study into pricing, and I know my guitars are priced low.
Sadly none of that transfers into sales. I'm not sure which way to go next.

Read here.... viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4420
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Oct 02, 2016 11:03 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:Low pricing is not necessarily a good thing, strange as that may seem. It causes the person to percieve the item as low quality.

When I say low, I mean for a hand-built electric guitar. My prices are between 1900, and 3200.
I can't say that's cheap.
The comments from the people who see them are: "That's really reasonable."
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Perry Ormsby » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:50 pm

Brian Evans wrote:My first thought was actually - should a small luthier trying to build a business (opposed to build for fun and pleasure) try to sell finished guitars, or try to use finished guitars to get custom orders? I think with finished guitars for sale on a stand, your competition is Taylor, Martin, Gibson and other factory made instruments. I think build to custom order is the way to go. I have less of an idea as to how to get there, but showing at festivals is a great idea, with a focus on bespoke instruments and guitars on the stand, while for sale, as samples.


Why cant you do both? Finished guitars are an example of your work for future orders, and are also for sale?
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Chris Walsh » Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:54 pm

as most of us well know...we scrap wood hoarders...guitar maker types...can always find time to glue a few sticks together and do something with it. Now...I enjoy building guitars ...but sometimes...It's just nice to carry out some no-brainer stuff with scraps..glue ..and a half decent template. Now..we have to face it...how many households NEED a guitar...seriously...there are so many builders out there...and not so many guitarists...but anyway... Every household needs or uses a cutting board...and this may help defray the costs of the show a bit... A cutting board of walnut, maple, purpleheart... I suppose you could shape one into a guitar...so that it doesn't appear that you're hoping to offset those costs! :)
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:54 am

Nice design, Chris - I like that. Different from many dozens of other cutting boards I've seen.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Perry Ormsby » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:47 pm

Chris Walsh wrote:Now..we have to face it...how many households NEED a guitar...seriously...there are so many builders out there...and not so many guitarists...but anyway...


Not many guitarists out there?!?!

Reality check; if you spent the same amount of time learning some marketing techniques, rather than building $20 items, you'd sell more guitars. And that knowledge stays with you. The $20 doesn't.

I'm convinced that most luthiers actually believe that if they put some effort into trying to market their product properly, they might see some success, and that's nowhere near as exciting as complaining about how difficult things can be.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Chris Walsh » Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:54 pm

Well Perry... I'd have to say overall...in the last 10 years or so...there has been a"Boom" of builders coming out of the woodwork. The talent out there is fantastic...I love it....it's inspiring....I'm not complaining!! I don't do trade shows or a ton of marketing, because quite frankly, I don't want to be that busy...simple really. I build guitars because I enjoy it..it keeps me busy...offers me a creative outlet....something I can do right at home....and make a few bucks on the side...here and there..it helps. I'm retired from my day job after a thirty year career... I have other interests as well as building guitars..it's all relative I guess.

There are plenty of guitarists out there...and the market is saturated with guitars....they're everywhere...I think most working Luthiers have obviously found their niche..whatever that is...and that is also relative.

I was just making a general assumption...that there are probably more cutting boards in use in the everyday household than there are guitars...but I could be wrong about that...It's not something I took a great deal of time to consider...I guess I should be more careful how I present the situation.

By the way...have you scanned the market for hand made or high end cutting boards these days?? That's not to say...that's what I've done...I think I referred to it as a no-brainer... But, there's a bunch of folks who spend quite a bit of time and money marketing their cutting boards. I would suggest that in an effort to sell your point that I must be either out of touch with reality, lazy, unwilling to learn, that I dabble in cheap woodworking trinkets, and/or complaining about how difficult things can be...you threw an ebay "best offer" on that cutting board....sacrilege mate! :)


I checked out your site...beautiful guitars...best of luck with your business...
Last edited by Chris Walsh on Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:55 pm

Perry Ormsby wrote:I'm convinced that most luthiers actually believe that if they put some effort into trying to market their product properly, they might see some success, and that's nowhere near as exciting as complaining about how difficult things can be.


That's a little harsh, Perry. While some (many?) fail at marketing, you have to admit that this is a specialized skill that does NOT come naturally to most people. I have a degree in marketing, and I've spent years in marketing and sales support and sales management, and it would take me a great deal of effort and discipline to effectively market my own skills and/or product. My one attempt at self-employment failed after a few years because of my inability to find a way to market the service I was offering.

There are a HUGE number of variables that have to be aligned to be an effective marketer. The classic 4 P's of the marketing mix (Product, Price, Promotion and Place/Distribution) just begin to scratch the surface of the problem.
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Re: The Merch table...

Postby Perry Ormsby » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:59 am

Steve Sawyer wrote:
Perry Ormsby wrote:I'm convinced that most luthiers actually believe that if they put some effort into trying to market their product properly, they might see some success, and that's nowhere near as exciting as complaining about how difficult things can be.


That's a little harsh, Perry. While some (many?) fail at marketing, you have to admit that this is a specialized skill that does NOT come naturally to most people. I have a degree in marketing, and I've spent years in marketing and sales support and sales management, and it would take me a great deal of effort and discipline to effectively market my own skills and/or product. My one attempt at self-employment failed after a few years because of my inability to find a way to market the service I was offering.

There are a HUGE number of variables that have to be aligned to be an effective marketer. The classic 4 P's of the marketing mix (Product, Price, Promotion and Place/Distribution) just begin to scratch the surface of the problem.


Here's the thing:
People are willing to practice their woodworking chops to make a better product to sell, and provide them with a living, but throw their hands up in the air when it comes to marketing, because it's 'too hard'. So is honing your hand skills.

If you want to sell enough to make a living, you have to rise to the challenge in all aspects. 'Build it and they will come' doesn't really work.
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