Saturday, December 13, 2008

This was all my bright idea, I know

I'm beginning to wonder where my knight in shining armour went. I mean just because the going got tough, didn't mean he had to vanish into distant dream land. Right? Oh wait.....

I remember...this was my bright idea.

Now, if I remember right, this started back in 2006, after I got off the truck and came home. After driving 7 days a week, right through the holidays, for the past 4 years, taking an average of 3 days a year off at home, I suddenly found myself sitting like a stump and trying to remember what life was all about.

Let's see....I'll start with the right foot and see what happens next. :) No kidding, it was almost that bad.

Being so used to sleeping round constant noise; either my own truck idling, a reefer unit running, a truck stop full of idling trucks and reefers, slamming doors and street walkers banging on the truck half the night, I found it hard to sleep. It was too QUIET!!!! OK so the TV all night helped. There's an old joke about the truck driver coming home and having his wife sit on the side of the bed to keep it idling so the driver can get some sleep.

It took me 2 weeks, to start getting a grip on daily life again. The first thing I did was look around me to see what I could do to help around the house. The place got torn up, turned around and re-organized, shifted, shelved, what ever. Then there was all my ceramics business equipment, molds and tools, stored under the deck.

It all got reboxed, repaired, reorganized, thrown away, what ever! Ok so now I was tired. :)

There was this neat deck, out the back door (mountain living and a house built on a hill) and it was a great sunny spot to sit and write. I went down to Walmart and got one of those self standing umbrellas. I loved my umbrella and spent the majority of the day, sitting under it. Aah nice.

My grown daughter said, "You've always wanted to write. This is your chance". hmmmm It was a funny thing, but while I was tearing up my grandson's bedroom, feeling sorry that half my office stuff was stored in the corner in boxes, I happened across some old flopply discs.

One of them was labeled 'Mold Book' and I got curious. I couldn't remember what I had done almost 10 years prior. There it was, a whole book on 4 floppies, an instruction book about making ceramic molds. I remembered some photos I had taken for the book. hmmmm

On my trucking travels, I had picked up a Travel Scan and started using it to scan all those old pics. Now everything was rolling along, without my really thinking about it. I completed the book I had started so long ago. Now what?hmmmm

I headed out to the printer place and had them print out some copies, then I made little booklets...no wait....I had them do it. Well, I made a few and decided it was easier for them to do it.

I uploaded a pic of the cover onto ebay and listed it under an auction. Low and behold it sold. hmmmmmmm So I did it again.

I got a message, through ebay, from a young lady asking 'will this book help me to know what to do with a bunch of ceramic molds, my grandmother left me?' The answer was, "No but give me a sec". The next day, I uploaded a pic of the cover of the new instruction booklet, with illustrations. Dang, it sold!hmmmm

Well, now I had a problem. Teaching folks how to make molds, and talking about how to grow their business, meant they would need to know how to make their own master blocks, so that they could mass produce molds, so they could continue forever with turning out their own mass produced ceramics. So the next day, I uploaded a pic of the new instruction booklet, with illustrations and it sold on ebay.

So! Huh! Blink, blink. With instruction booklets, selling on ebay, I wondered what other mess I could get myself into. :)

Being a Christian and loving to write, I began writing articles for a Christian writer's website.

Pretty soon, I was building my own website. Why pay ebay? I wrote about the books and began selling through the website. Printing and mailing off the booklets, started getting to be quite a hassle and the decision was made, one day, to go all efile. That worked out great, because not only did it relieve me of a lot of work, it was cheaper on both ends.

Somewhere along the line, I started remembering the reasons I stopped working the ceramics and mold making and got mad, all over again. For sure, I didn't have the energy, any more, to keep up with the rat race but I sure could go to bat for other crafter's, who still needed to overcome the problems of marketing. Hey! Why waste the knowledge?

Let's see, now. I'll add an rss of my pics from the highway. You can see some of the things I saw along the way. Whether I ever go back on the road, remains to be seen. I've already had to go back for this past year. Yeah :) I was working the internet while on the road. My laptop goes with me everywhere and I've been constantly working toward building an online name, since 2006 (off and on). My last post on this blog, pretty much explains why. I've had you in mind for a long time, now.

I'll keep writing and posting and building. As long as I don't have to get up and spend all my time doing somebody else's work. :)

Market Yourself Not Your Product

Think about it. Who is your competition? Look on the shelves of your local mega store. When it comes to anything you can possible craft, how many of those items are stolen design? Where do you think those designs came from?


Here's an example.

This is the large Sunface nightlight, I designed in 1991. I showed it to one of my outlets, which happened to be a wholesale manufacturer, themselves. It was too big for their nightlight boxes.



I went back to the shop and shrunk down the size of 4 different night light designs, this one included.


This is a pic
of the Sunface magnet I designed. I don't seem to have a pic on the computer, of the small Sunface night light.
I made the first mold off that smaller sized Sunface night light, completed one whole piece and showed it to my customer. Why, I don't know, but they never did order this particular night light, although they did order quite a few of my other designs for night lights.
Very few people ever saw that smaller size. I did let a couple of local tourist shops try them out. About a year after I first began turning it out to the public, I walked into a Target store and there, just about had a heart attack.
In their little decor section, where you find things like small planters, was my night light design. Not as a night light, at all, but in blue clear glass, attached to the face of a candle holder. Not only had somebody just taken a print off the face of my night light, they didn't bother to change my litte mistake. So there it was, mistake and all. Where did this item come from? China!

You think the Chinese are just so infatuated with America, that they come here for vacations? Naw, people....they are infringing on the locals, picking up your products in the stores, taking them home and copying them to sell right back in our faces.

Here was my own design, stolen and being sold to my home front market. In my face. So who are we selling our hard work to?

I learned the hard way that when I designed something new, I had to sit on it, hide it even from my own customers, until I had a market large enough to flood my own home front market, hard enough and fast enough to have a name attached to that product, before China came to visit. Not only that but I had to beat their prices before they had half a chance to undercut my market with my own designs.

Does that turn your stomach? It sure does mine. Now when it came to music, our whole government got in on the infringing thing and threatened China. You think our government was going to care about one little lady in the middle of NM? Uh uh, I was fresh meat. That's just one of the reasons I finally quit feeding the enemy by stopping, all together.

So here's my point. To you, it's a small time local market. To your business competitor, it' a world market. They have and will take your product away from you, steal and walk on your face.
So where is the defense? YOU! Your name, your face, your reputation.

If you make jewelry, put your name on it some way, somehow and wear it. Turn yourself into a walking display and when you take pictures of your jewelry, model it. Put your face with your product. Put your reputation with the product. BE there! Let your market know, without having to say it, that to buy from you is to buy quallity and a name behind the product. That you stand behind your product while China won't be there for your customer. That China turns out crap replica's and you have the original.

If you make wood toys, be sure your name is on it. Make hang tags that brag about your expertise, tell the world all about yourself, where your shop is, what a wonderful person you are. YOU!

Remember the quilt of old. The quilt that still serves the family after 3 generations. And remember the rag tag fake quilt from Walmart and how they wear out and the seams fall apart Sell that!

Sell-my product is an investment even for your grand children while cheap knock offs, are meerly and investment for the next year or two. Sell THAT!

In every creative way, you can think off, get the word out that buying cheap China knock offs, has helped to ruin the economy of our own country. Don't bash people on the head. Find ways to drop the hint. "I build quality in my product, to make it last for generations"

Another thing, in every possible way, make each item distinct. Think collectibles from the get go by numbering pieces, maybe even dates and signatures.

You've heard it for years, "perfect your product". Always strive towards perfection. China won't. Why do I pick on China, when there are so many other countries doing the same thing? I suppose because of that dumb piece of blue glass that set me back on my heels, one day. It can, and probably has, happened to you.

Now get this. You have the same sort of problem on the internet. On the ground, your competition covers you up with quantity and selling to the 'big boys'. On the internet, your competition couldn't care less about your product; they care about your traffic.

Your competition, on the internet, isn't another crafter doing the same thing, it's the guy building hundreds of fake websites, using names and titles that sound like your crafty competitor, simply to get traffic to their page full of ads. I call it spamming in a mega way. They steal your traffic by getting up there on the number one page of the search, looking for your product.

In other words, somebody types in 'childrens wooden toys' (how much more detailed can you get?).That first page that pops up, will be half filled with fake websites, not yours.

While I was searching for crafter's to join in on the network at Judy's Corner, I discovered that more than half of the directories out there, AND the webrings, for artist's and crafter's, had among the list, huge numbers of fake websites. You try it. Go on a search of crafter's in http://dir.webring.com/rw
just browse through the crafty rings and see what you find. Like me, your blood will boil. These fake websites are stealing your traffic. Do half those crafter's understand who their neighbors are on those rings?

So how do we battle that one? By doing what I've been working on. Collecting the crafter's into a site that does care what's happening, by building a name on the internet, by flooding the internet with our collective name, by telling our story.

I'll tell you what I've been doing. You wouldn't believe what it takes. Check out these sites, all by me.
I'm constantly submitting about the crafter's corner here http://www.reddit.com/
and that's not all, I just can't think of them all right now. :)

Why am I doing this? NAME!!!!! I post ads, comments on blogs, belong to google and all their programs that help to spread the name. All with links that bring traffic into a circle and right through the Crafter's Corner, where they will accidently bump into your links to your products.
And it doesn't just take that! I'm working on a name on the internet that people constantly just bump into. Every bump, bringing the traffic we need, straight to our front door. It's the only way, we are going to overcome what the greedy fake websites have done to us.

To be a crafter, these days, takes thinking ahead of the mega competitor. It takes neighbors, shows and local shops. It takes the internet and selling on every possible avenue. It takes thinking ahead of the 'alligator'. An alligator is something you feed and feeds on you.

Realtors call a house that sells for more than it's worth, an alligator. Why? Because before you can realize any appreciation in value, you have to feed that alligator for years, to overcome the value versus sales price. Let's say you buy a house for $100K but the actual market value is only $90K. What's more, the balance on the loan is $93K. Where does that leave you? If the appreciation rate is only 5% per year, how long will it be before you come out ahead? In the meantime, that house is 'eating your ass'. An alligator.

So today's crafter has an alligator to deal with. If they design something new and unique, you have to get out ahead of the greedy thief and today, that greedy theif lies overseas and doing business on your own neighborhood corner. Now that's an alligator.

So think wisely. BRAND your product and get it out there faster than the theives can steal your market. Name, name, name! When people see your product on the shelf, they need to invision your name, your town, your reputation. That's what we have, to push our product, in the face of the alligator.

For me, what this boils down to is; keep putting out the name on the net (both for myself and for my crafter's), collecting hundreds of crafters so that our online presence becomes immense. By immenseness, itself, we can bring more eyes to our own personal sites and products. So come join us. :)
I'm mostly retired. Now is my chance to help with these things. I'm not holding down an 8 hour a day job so why not put my time to use? Right?

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About Me

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I'm a grandmother of 1, a ceramist, a ceramic mold maker, a truck driver and writer.

I'm also a webmaster of many and have several blogs.

I help others in designing product, make custom molds and I still do restorations.