Solar Sippers

This case study was done for a friend who was just in the process of launching his website. He is a maker of wood furniture and also wants to sell a book on how to make wood furniture.

James is a cabinetmaker. He makes custom cabinets and hand-made items for people. He is a craftsman. He wants to build up his reputation so that other craftsmen then want to emulate him. When he reaches that point, he can easily sell a book with his techniques.

So letís look at how some friends of mine who sell wood items have their site laid out -

MoonHill Wood Art

The main page should contain clear images of the types of things theyíve made, so a user can see what their options are and what types of items are available. There should be an easy to scan main page of main selections, and then you drill down to specific items. There are good descriptions on some of the pages, for example the sea urchin ornaments, so that people searching on Google for "pink sea urchins" can find this page. Remember, search engines canít search pictures. They donít know that an image is of a pink sea urchin. You have to use the text to describe the pictures, so people searching on something can find your page on it.

So absolutely Jamesí first step should be to get every photo he has of past items on the site on pages that describe them well. The photos should be good quality ones - they are selling the quality of the items. The descriptions should be key word filled so people who search on a cherry with inlaid mahogany end table for example can find his photo of one.

So thatís the easy part. That should take a week ;) Someone cranks out a bunch of pages.

Now the ongoing part. The marketing effort with the blog and social networking. As James has said, his technique is his asset. Just like a green birdbath making company's asset is its green-ness, Jamesí asset is his unique creativity. Our main aim right now is to build Jamesí reputation as an established maker of fine furniture. That needs to come as the foundation for any book sales.

So when we look at Jamesí target audience for our current aim, thereís no reason to be promoting his techniques. That is, his target audience for building this website isnít woodworkers. Jamesí target audience is *non* wood workers who love fine furniture. They are people who appreciate the value of a gorgeous end table or a hand crafted coffee table. It is those people he wants to lure into his site to browse and explore his offerings. Just like Beth and Reid at Moonhill Wood Art are drawing in people who love hand crafted ornaments and platters.

So hereís the brainstorming question. How does James do that? The answer is to think about what that group of people would be likely to search on and to have Twitter and Facebook filters set up to find. Remember, youíre not sending a letter to their home. They have to actively look for the Tweet or page or whatever to find it. Just what is it that theyíre looking for?

First thought - wood. My boyfriend Bob adores fine wood bass guitars. He is always talking about zebrawood or purpleheart or so on. Alembic is a guitar maker who specializes in fine wood guitars like this one -

Alembic Wood Guitars

These Alembic enthusiasts can talk about wood types for hours and hours. The same would be true for people who adore fine furniture. They know the difference between types of cherry and shades of mahogany. If they are on the web searching for a new ebony-with-purpleheart table for their living room theyíll google for hours and hours on terms like those to find information. This is where you catch them. Your blog has all sorts of details about where purpleheart comes from, and how ebony is harder than diamonds (Iím making this up) and how cherry was first used in the 16th century and so on. Youíre catching the attention of wood lovers. They find you, and they discover the reason youíre a wood expert is that you make amazing furniture. And they buy. This builds your list of testimonials, and your reputation, and your site, which then makes you incredibly powerful as an authority who has a book to sell to explain how you did it.

I donít know if you do inlays but those are HUGELY popular. I adore inlays and when I finally bought myself a new desk I got one with inlays -

Glen Eagle Desk

You can see before and after photos in there (although I need to post more after photos). My office used to be a royal disaster. Now I adore my desk. In any case, when I was looking for my desk I spent *weeks and weeks* pouring over the web trying to find something I liked. I used all sorts of key words involving mahogany and maple and inlays and so on. If Jamesí site had existed and had a great blog on all this sort of stuff and photos and descriptions of his work, I would have found it if heíd set it up properly. And then I could have ordered one from him (assuming he made one).

So thatís the key. First, research your audience. Know who they are. Second, determine what your audience is going to search on to find you. What terms and words would they use? Therefore what words and terms *must* you have on your site in order for them to find you? Third, make sure the landing page they hit is as perfect a sales pitch as possible. People hit that BACK button in a heartbeat if the page is confusing or seems not to be what they want. People arenít patient. You need that landing page to be easy to scan, clearly about the topic they want to know about, and something that draws them in further. Itís like the entryway of a shop. You want it to be warm, welcoming, and indicate to them that this is the perfect shop for what they want to buy. Then you want them to step in.

So James absolutely you should start making your blog today and making daily posts about types of wood, history of woods, hardnesses of wood, suitability of wood, and so on. That will take a while to build up a "critical mass" so start that soon. But once you get that rolling, also you of course need your webpage up and running. You need those photos and descriptions of your made items!

In terms of a woodworking book, I think if you do the first two, your book will sell itself. You will become well known as a high quality builder of furniture and people will want to emulate you. So itís like becoming known as a great painter - then when you have a book about how to paint people will all want it. Since your selling point is that you make great end products, you need to make that a "given".

For example when I made my "how to do origami" DVD I didnít just make a DVD and hope it sold itself. I made hundreds and hundreds of pages of my origami products and established myself as a well known seller of origami. I showed the quality of my technique. Then people flocked to me to buy my DVD because they saw I was a success and they wanted to follow in my footsteps. Thatís where you want to head.

What other brainstorming do people have for James and his wood projects?




Follow Up after a discussion about determining pricing for a crafting website:

Absolutely the first key is to make a solid website. The rest will work itself out. You need the site up to start building traction. If youíre uncomfortable with pricing right now, donít have prices. For example, here is the website of a woman I interviewed for Mused who makes fantastically beautiful wood carvings Ė

http://www.bellaonline.com/review/issues/fall2010/i001.html

She talks in that interview about how it can be a challenge to charge I think $1000 to $2000 for each of her tiny wood carvings. So she doesnít list the price on the website and she builds personal relationships with people who write her and who adore her work. Then by the time they get to the price discussion the person is in love with an item, understands the hours and hours of work that go into creating it, and are willing to buy. She can put eight weeks or more of intense effort into one item.

Read the interview link and then follow the link at the bottom to see her website. See how elegantly itís laid out and how professional it feels? With the clear images and promotion of her product line? She could live in a tin shack for all we know, but the website presents a high quality image and thatís all the reader sees. They see that image, they get a sense of professionalism, and they believe in it. Then when they are quoted prices it goes with that high end feeling. They are willing to pay. Yes not everyone is going to be able to pay $1000 for a small wooden turtle - thatís OK. Those people arenít her target audience. Her only concern is drawing in the people who ARE willing to pay the prices she charges - and she is able to do that.

So James - start with the website. Start with a professional looking website that makes that impact of high end luxury for you. Itís all about that website and its impression and the work you create making the sale. If you have the expertise, and you use the good quality materials, and you create a good quality product, you deserve to be paid market price for the result. I know itís hard but Iím sure over time you can get to a place where youíre not intimidated by your buyers - where instead youíre proud of what you offer and are content that your buyers will be more than satisfied with the quality you present. You are at least on equal footing with them since "all" they have is money and youíre the one with skill. I would say youíre the one with more to offer in the exchange - *they* are coming to *you* because you have something special.

I canít emphasize enough how critically important a well done website design is, though. The difference in user impression between a homemade website and a website like Janelís is substantial in terms of making the psychological comfort of the reader there, so theyíre willing to stay and purchase.

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