Guys - Meet Alison Heath
If you are interested in woodworking as a business, it is important that you get to know Alison Heath.
I became aware of Alison Heath through Twitter. I noticed that she was always sharing these great, nutritious bits of information on business and marketing strategies, so I started following her at Twitter and through her blog "Workbench Marketing."
One of the things that I found to be a great connector for me to Alison is that she loves furniture and she worked as marketing director for a high-end custom furniture business in the D.C. area. She understands small business and has a special penchant for the craftsman of any medium.
This is important, because what she shares seems more relevant to me and my business. The variety of business books I have read offer great business advice and principles, but there seemed to be a disconnect as to how it helps me, with my business, in my situation. Alison's information seems to be spot-on for me and so other woodworkers may find her information particularly applicable as well.
Another pro woodworker and business owner that follows Alison is Troy Bouffard. Troy puts together the best interviews I have seen anywhere and he has just posted an interview with Alison at his site Birch Hill Woodcrafts. So be sure to check out Troy's interview with Alison to find out about her background and what she is all about.
What I love about Alison is that she "Shares the Love & Shares the Knowledge." Today, Alison is appearing as a guest writer for the ACW and her submission covers woodworking and marketing.
Woodworking + Marketing = Success
by Alison Heath
There’s more to owning a woodworking business than the woodworking.
Even if you are the best craftsman in the country, with unique designs, speed and efficiency in the shop and the full complement of professional equipment, you still need one crucial thing: CUSTOMERS.
Some folks seem to think that by opening up their doors and saying that they’re a professional woodworker, they will immediately have a backlog six months to three years long like Sam Maloof did. The reality is often different. Sometimes much different. I know woodworkers who haven’t seen a sale in six months, much less a backlog of six months.
That’s not intended to discourage anyone in their dream of becoming a professional furniture-maker. However, in order to be a professional, you need to be a professional businessman and not just a woodworker. And while you’re dreaming of your own woodworking business with the safety net of a nine to five is the time to start thinking about the basics of marketing. It’s not as scary as you may think.
1. Your Name, Professional Woodworker
You need to name your business. The above may have a nice ring to your ears, but what does it say to your customers? First, when a potential customer wants a piece of furniture, I can guarantee you that they won’t be Googling your name. Second, what is a woodworker? Is it a framer? A carpenter? A remodeler? There is nothing magical about the term “woodworker” that tells someone outside the hobby that you sell furniture. Instead, pick a name that says something about what you’d like potential customers to know about your business. Even better if you can come up with a business name that includes common search terms for what you’d like to sell. A business name isn’t there to soothe your vanity. It’s there to promote your business.
2. Start Promoting Now
Here’s the bare minimum you need before you can start a woodworking business in the 21st century:
- A website
- Business cards
- Relationships with other craftsmen in your community (not just woodworkers)
Your road will be easier if you start this now. What this will give you is a website that the search engines will actually see when you’re eventually ready to take the plunge, a bunch of contact information from potential customers that you’ve exchanged information with and a network of like-minded folks who are not necessarily in competition with you to share business tips and tricks with.
3. Don't Freak Out
You can do this. If you’re here reading Todd’s blog, you’re putting yourself in a terrific position for success in the future. But along with building your woodworking skills, work on building your business skills. Learn how to design a website. Learn how to build and maintain long-lasting relationships. Learn how to get your products in front of the right people. Learn how to ask for help.
Best of luck!
Alison, thanks for sharing, we really appreciate it.
Well Guys - That is all for now. If you are interested in business, be sure to check out Alison's blog regularly.
Your friend in the shop, Todd A. Clippinger
Share the Love ~ Share the Knowledge