Knifemaker Marketing - Topic For April 2012 How to get your name and your work noticed
Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:54 AM
Possible discussion points could be; advertizing, knife shows, web sites, knife photos, business cards and brochures, magazine articles, etc.
Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:32 AM
Currently all Master Smiths and Journeyman Smiths are listed on the ABS Website under “Bladesmiths” and when you click on their names in the alphabetical listing their profile page is displayed with the contact information that they have supplied and we have on file. This is one reason that it is important for you to login to the ABS Website and keep your contact information updated. The Apprentice Smiths will soon be displayed in this area as well and Sally and I are now working on this project to enhance the ABS Website and better serve our members.
Joining the ABS Forum not only provides educational opportunities to learn more about bladesmithing but also provides an area to display your work for anyone in the 100 plus countries that access our Forum each month. You can create a photo album in the "Member's Work" area of the Forum Gallery of up to ten (10) photos of your work, fully describe each knife, and provide your contact information. If you follow the steps that I have outlined below, the internet search engines will be able to discover your name and the photo from the ABS Forum Gallery. Google and other search engines visit our very active website several times daily and index the information displayed.
After uploading photos of your knives to your album in the "Member's Work Gallery" there are several additional steps to take if you will want to make your work and your name discoverable to the internet search engines. Google, Yahoo, Alexa and the other internet search engines will index on the caption or title line of the photos in our ABS Gallery so it is important to have your name in the caption of your photos in the Member's Work Gallery. There is also an opportunity for you to write a detailed description of your knife and the materials used in the space below the caption. Another idea is for you to include a link to your website and/or email address after a quote such as: “For more information please contact..."
The example in the screen capture below shows some tips to get your photos in the search engine page rankings and maximize exposure to your work on the internet:
Under the ABS Educational Programs category I have created a new sub-forum for “Educational Videos”. While ABS members can post YouTube and Vimeo videos in other areas of the ABS Forum, this is a place to feature and post "How To" videos that show bladesmithing techniques or demonstrate the building or use of tools and jigs for knife making.
After a video has been filmed and uploaded to the ABS member’s YouTube or Vimeo channel, it can be can be embedded in a post on the ABS Forum as follows:
1. In a new Topic or reply post describe and tell us about your YouTube video.
2. Obtain the code for the video in YouTube by clicking the “Share” button.
3. Copy the “long” code.
4. Go back to your topic or post on the ABS Forum and click on the “Insert Media” button on the tool bar as shown below.
5. Done! Your video from YouTube will now display and play within your post on the ABS Forum.
In conclusion, these are all examples of ways that you can use the resources already available to ABS members on the ABS Website and ABS Forum and Gallery to get your name and your work noticed.
ABS Webmaster and Forum Administrator
Send an email to Dan
Posted 01 April 2012 - 04:05 PM
I am so glad that this topic was brought up, mainly because (being only thirteen) I am short on funds and even though my knives aren't that good.
So far I have done the best with what I've had (which is this)
1. I printed "Jonathan Stanley handmade custom knives 501-767-3990" on card stock for business cards.
2. I set my knives in a 1' by 2' shadow box and put them in a local country store.
3. Became good friends with 2 great knife makers that live nearby (Mr. Donny Diggs and Mr. Glen Averitte both stock removers)
Other then that I have just kept making knives so I am looking forward to seeing how this topic turns out and hope to learn allot.
Posted 01 April 2012 - 04:43 PM
Get a website. You would be amazed at how many people will go to a website before even contacting the maker. Plus this give potential customers ideas of your work and pricing. You can also list available knives. A number of companies offer low cost website hosting along with step by step tutorials on setting up your site and getting it noticed. I am sure this will be covered in much more depth.
As Steve mentioned, get business cards. Give them out to anyone and everyone. Make sure that you have a working phone number and e-mail on them.
Go to knife events, such as Hammer Ins. This will get your name out in the public. Someone told me a long time ago, if someone is taking pictures see if you can be in a few. They may get posted in journals, Like the ABS journal. Along this same line. If you can, go to knife shows. Maybe first as an attendee. Bring a couple of your knives and have established makers look at them and listen to suggestions. Then when you feel your knives are sellable get a table. This gets YOU and your knives before the eyes of a lot of people. Make sure you are courteous.
If you can have professional pictures taken of your knives. These pictures get into magazines and books. Yes it does cost money, but, I consider the fee a marketing cost. I even have it listed that way on my books.
I know I will think of more, brain tired at the moment. And this is for Johnathan. Some shows like the AKA Show in Little Rock and the Oklahoma Show have special youth tables available at a much reduced cost. An excellent way to start.
There are many other avenues, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace, Constant Contact.
Looking forward to seeing what others have to say.
Anvil Top Custom Knives
Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:09 AM
1: Major magazines will be sent copies and contact information to keep on file.
2: When a photo appears in the magazines, your work is then "published".
3: It can save you money that otherwise would be spent on advertisement.
4: You have a ready made portfolio.
Not getting your knives photographed is like riding a tractor. Only the people in your neighborhood will recognize you.
Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:49 AM
Speaking strictly for myself, I know that the "business" aspect of knifemaking is very often intimidating, and I often feel woefully lacking. (but I am constantly trying to improve my "business" skills)
I've become somewhat disenchanted with sending photos into the knife magazines in recent years. There was a time when the only requirement was a quality knife, with excellent photos, and the chances were good that you'd be "published". After sending many photos in, without anything appearing in "print", I decided to take the "bull by the horns" and make some phone calls. Without exception, when I asked the question "What does it take these days to get a photo published in your magazine?" The response was "How much in advertising have you spent with us in the past year?" In other words, it's not about quality, what the trends are, or anything else, but rather about how many advertising dollars you've spent with a particular publication. While I can understand the "you scratch my back, I scratch your's" mentality, it gone way beyond that. Am I the only one who has wondered why certain knife publications run, and re-run articles on specific knives/companies? .... In my mind it has basically equates to nothing more than blackmail.
OK, now that my little rant is over, there's also the fact that fewer and fewer people are subscribing to paper based publications, and more and more are relying on the internet. Personally, I think it's imperative that a knifemaker build and maintain a presence on the internet. Compared to printed advertising, there is no comparison in "bang for the buck". How does one do this? I do it by being as active as possible on as many knife related forums as possible. I also do my very best to keep my website current, and ever changing. The cost in dollars is minimal, but it can eat an enormous amount of time....that's the "trade off".
I gave up on brochures and most printed material beyond business cards long ago. Printed material is very expensive, and is generally outdated almost as soon as the printing is done. I still occasionally get a request for a brochure, but the instances are so rare, when one does come in, I simply print off a copy of my "Ordering information" webpage, add a few printed pics of the type the customer is interested in, and send it off.
Shows: My take is that while we all hope to "sell out" at every show we attend. I view them in a different light....shows are about the "public" meeting a maker face to face, and making a decision as to whether or not that individual's personality warrants them spending their money with a particular individual. That being said, show are exhausting, hard work, if your doing it right. Standing up, greeting everyone, and answering the same question 1000 times with as much enthusiasm and zeal as you did the first time. Presenting yourself in a friendly, yet professional manner is paramount. All too often when I'm at a show, I see makers SITTING behind their table(s), looking like a "duffle bag", with a scowl on their face.....angry with the world because they are not selling knives......would you approach a person like that? While everyone has their own opinions, mine is that knife shows are more about people, and your interaction with them as a Maker, then about being a "salesman".
Some of you may have noticed the "tag Line" that is in my signature block...."Nobody cares what you know....Until they know you care." Being a "salesman" might sell one knife, to one individual, but showing yourself friendly, and that you "care", will sell many knives to the same individual, and will allow that to happen over and over again.
One thing that I discovered by accident was having advertising on my vehicle....while it's certainly not a "flood" of buyers, creating advertising for the topper lid on my truck has paid for itself many times over....very often I've been driving down the highway, and my cell phone rings....with someone who just passed me on the road, saw the back of my truck, and orders a knife. It's also helped "at home" with the same thing occurring when I'm driving around town on errands.
Finally, I think diversification is key...very often we get "locked" into our "knifemaking world", not only from the aspect of what we produce, but also from the standpoint of our target audience. While it's risky, the rewards of stepping outside our comfort zones, will often yield new markets that we may have never realized existed.
Posted 02 April 2012 - 01:42 PM
Posted 02 April 2012 - 03:11 PM
Posted 02 April 2012 - 04:44 PM
Marketing or sales at the Shows or show table is a different department for me than marketing my business.
Y'all have had some good ideas seems to me.
I agree with all of yall on the webpage/internet approach of course.
On the brochures. If they want a printed brochure and do not have a computer to look up the sales then I want to pass on them anyway to be honest. As a business I am not going to stock something that is that sells slow such as a brochure. Good idea on the truck Ed. Notice of billing of ones business should be anywhere you can get it done. I always though painting the trailer of an 18 wheeler going down the interstate day after day would sure get some notice. Mucho people would see that.
One of my clients told me awhile back when he goes to a show and the maker is not excited about his work how do they expect him to be.
Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:18 PM
Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:42 PM
Reading some of your post and looking at your gallery of "cool beyond words" knives has led me to some questions about photography.
1. Where do you get those back grounds? I have tried lots of different backgrounds but I haven't been able to come up with a good one.
2. What photo editing software do you use? I have always used Gimp.o2 but I was just curios to know if I could do better.(with new software)
3. What kind of camera do you use? I use a Olympus with 18 mega pixels as an option but just like the photo editing software I was wandering what else there might be out there.
Everyone feel free to comment
Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:48 PM
I needed a solution for the ABS to be able to securely accept credit card payments at events such as hammer-ins and Atlanta where we did not have computer access. I did my research and decided on Square and am satisfied with the rate, performance, and security. I also worked with Cindy to switch the ABS hardline telephone to an IPHONE with the same ABS Office number (and a lower monthly rate) and we now use Square with it at ABS events.
For more information, the Square website is My link .
ABS Webmaster and Forum Administrator
Send an email to Dan
Posted 02 April 2012 - 07:02 PM
Posted 03 April 2012 - 05:27 AM
The pro photographers I use will make a CD holding a large resolution photo and send it, along with an actual file card with the post card sized picture of that knife on it with the maker's contact information, to the various major magazines. This makes it convenient for the magazine folks to file and access the photos quickly. Old fashion filing and digital are covered. This system works well for them and the good photographers make it their business to know what the magazines want and give it to them. This service alone makes any money I spend on photography well worth the price.
Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:43 AM
The past two years I've kept track of credit card sales....over 70% of my annual sales have been on credit cards! It used to be complicated, and you always had to worry about them tacking on fees here and there. If you have a computer or a smart phone, it's now simple. Dan mentioned "Square", and there is also Intuit "Go Payments". Either is super easy to use/keep track of, and the best part is that there are no contracts! After I got out of the contract with my old credit card merchant, I went with Go Payments. So far it's been great. Plus, with a smart phone (I use an Iphone), and the "swiper" they provide for free, you can take a credit card at a show, and have the transaction happen immediately.
One thing that has always concerned many of about taking credit cards are the percentages they take from our sales. At one time I was under the impression that a merchant could not charge a fee for a customer using a credit card, but that's not so. I figured it out locally when I went to buy plates for my truck last Dec....they charge a 4% "processing fee"! Long story short, as long as you call it a "processing fee", "convenience fee", or anything other than a credit card usage fee, it's completely legal. Personally, I choose to apply a "processing fee" to any credit card transaction....which just happens to be exactly what they are charging me.
I found a "frame" shop (where the matte and frame photos/paintings, etc), and purchased various pieces of "scrap" that has a velvet look/feel to it. Color makes all the difference. For some reason, Medium and deep blue backgrounds seem to work best for me. Often times other colors will "bleed" into the knife, making the images look terrible.
I actually use several....my favorite is not longer produced.... Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite. I also use Zoner Photo Studio, and Ashampoo Photo Optimizer free. Its not uncommon for me to use all three of those program on the same photo....each one does things the others won't/can't.
The only camera(s) I will use for knife photos are Sony. Right now I own/use a 14mp model, but my reason for choosing Sony is that they are one of the only modern cameras that are produced with a true glass lens. Most of the other brands use a plastic lens, which does not produce images that are as sharp and clear as a glass lens. Also, over time, the production process for a plastic lens causes it to become hazy and distorted...sort of a built in obsolescence. I came to understand this when I was using a Minolta camera, which took great photos when it was new, but within about 6 months the images would always come out with a slight "foggy" look to them. I had changed nothing in the process, and sought professional help. After visiting/calling several "professional" photographers, and explaining things, most of them chuckled and told me the model of camera I had before I could tell them! Nearly everyone of them told me what I mentioned about the lens. Since switching to the upper end Sony brand, and ensuring the camera(s) I purchase have glass lenses.....no more issues.
Posted 04 April 2012 - 04:34 AM
By that I mean your market is detirmined by what you make and would like to make in the future.
If you make a good, functional, using type knife: then your promotions and your exposure should lean toward those parts of the customer base that has those interests.
If you want to make lots of utility type knives, mass advertising will get in the orders.
If you want to make collectable art; the guys buying hunters will be impressed but not many will be buying. You will need to get your work before the guys that want to spend money on a collectable type knife. Very select exposure to a VERY SMALL GROUP is the way to go.
Our interests change during our career; that is good. Our art; and it is art, by the way; should reflect those changes. Hopefully, our clients will appreciate that change in direction and we can also move into a larger base.
Sooner or later word of mouth will catch up to your work and your business.
Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:34 PM
As far as photo software I use Photoshop. Your camera should work great with the 18mp resolution. I have been repolishing old skills and learning many new ones with Photoshop and with the help of an expert, have come to realize that most of the "pro" knife photographers are taking photos of the knives on a neutral colored background, gray for example, digitally cutting out the knife and then placing that cut out onto a digital back ground. There are three avenues for digital backgrounds: you purchase them from stock photo websites, you scan in the back grounds or you build the backgrounds in photoshop. There are several free online tutuorials for building backgrounds in photoshop. Ed, for example, could scan in the matt boards he likes and use those image files as a layer in his photo. When you see a knife pohoto that has three shots collaged on a background, there are at least 4 layers in that image: threee separate cut outs of the knife shots plus the background. A simple starting point, however, is to get something like a photo tent (google it) to diffuse the light, a tripod for the camera, learn to use the closeup features of your camera and collect backgrounds like matt board, leather, placemats and art paper.
The below image is compiled in photoshop. I have just been practicing techniques and style. To the right of my logo, in the shaded area, is where I intend to put info about the knife. I'm still experimenting and learning. You can see the plain version of this knife photo at the bottom. I took that image, on a neutral background, and cut out my knife shots and pasted them on a digital stock photo background I downloaded. The cutting and layering is part of what makes the pro photos "pop."
Posted 04 April 2012 - 07:16 PM
I forgot to mention that I also use picasa.03 for editing my photos. Dose anybody have any experience with that.
Once again thanks for all the helpful info, You guys are the best
Posted 05 April 2012 - 09:31 PM
1. Don't judge a potential customer buyer by their looks/dress. I have seen other sellers look down their nose at someone because they may not look like they can afford anything and then they walk over to me and ended up spending quite a bit simply because I treated them kindly.
2. Ed mentioned being friendly at shows. That cannot be stressed enough. If you look unhappy, people will avoid you like the plague. Be friendly. Keep a smile on your face. Say "Hi. How are ya'll today?" when someone walks by or walks up to your table. If someone says they're "just looking", don't get discouraged. I tell them, "That's alright, feel free to look around. If you have any questions, I'll be more than happy to answer them." Then I back off and don't hover. Even if they don't want to see anything, I still wish them a good day. You always want to leave a good impression because you never know if they may come back.
3. Entertain the women. If a couple walks up and the wife/girlfriend doesn't seem interested, try to find a way to get her laughing or at least smiling. If the "missus" is pulling on his arm, the guy won't stay around very long. And if she has any influence on how the money is spent, her opinion can make or break a sale. You don't have to be the world's greatest stand up comedian. I find that what I call down home humor works well. For instance, I had a massive 51" sword that was based off of an anime series,(anime is a type of Japanese cartoon), and the guy was looking but the little lady was not happy. "Why do you need something that big?", she asked. Before he could say anything I replied, "I use it to cut up cheese for crackers.", with a big smile on my face. She cracked up laughing and he got the sword. If someone is looking at a large bowie and the wife wants to know what it's used for, tell her it's the same style of knife George Washington used to pick his wooden teeth. Entertain the women and you will have more fun at shows.