Marketing is probably the most overlooked and yet necessary part of being a designer. Patterns, books, art quilts, web design services, all need marketing, and this is not “A Field of Dreams” – just because you build/create it, does *not* mean that the public and distributors will come beating down your door to buy it.
Marketing starts within your product. Put your best (best!) effort into creating it and then give people a way to find more. Every pattern can sell 2 more if you present that information to your customer within the pattern or point them to your other designs on your website or blog.
At the bare minimum you *must* have a presence on the internet and it can be as simple as a blog, which takes a bare half hour to create, to a complicated website with videos, online classes and a shopping cart.
Start with your local shop and remember, the owner is a busy business professional. Begin by buying your fabrics there if you want her (for the sake of discussion I will use “her” although your shop owner could be male or a team of owners) to buy your patterns. Your shop owner has no need to buy from you when it’s so much easier to buy through their favorite distributor. Offer to teach classes on your pattern, offer to let your sample quilt hang in the shop or offer to make one FOR the shop out of her fabrics that are on the shelf now and let her know what products you promote in your pattern and in your class. GIVE the owner a pattern and she’ll be far more likely to look at it! Ask your shop owner for constructive feedback, whether she places an order for your patterns or not, and here’s the hard part: listen to what she says. She‘s seen many, many patterns and can help you tremendously if you present yourself as being open to suggestion.
Submit to distributors, List is here. Write a personal letter with each pattern grouping that you send and let the distributor know what accessory items you promote in your pattern.
Consider going to Quilt Market. It’s a big investment, with lots of details. I recommend that you go once just to see how much work it is. Volunteer to work there, in a booth or for Quilt Market.
Marketing never stops. Unless you want your sales to stop, you can’t stop marketing. When you start selling, keep track of who your best buyers are and make sure you know why. Was it the fabrics, the timing, the ease or complexity of the pattern? Find out and ask what they would like to see from you next. You might be surprised, you might be intimidated and you might make it to the big time!
Over the years that I’ve assisted my pattern writing friends, self published authors and had my own designs and quilt book published, I’ve learned a lot about marketing – – for free.
In fact, after my co-author and I had our first Schoolhouse session at Quilt Market for our book, our publisher received so many compliments about our handout that the publisher (with my permission) copied it and handed it out, word for word, for all their new authors to use as a template for their Schoolhouse Sessions, and they continue to use it today.
I’d like to share some of the resources that I used as I’ve learned. I believe that we all have success in us and if you see marketing as a challenge, I encourage you to treat it like learning a new quilting skill. There are hundreds of resources available – for free – on the internet, in libraries and from people on this list. My first bit of advice is to learn from and trust someone who is wildly successful already, they are willing to share and their success proves that they know what they are doing.
I started with books by Jack Canfield; I am a daily reader of Seth Godin; I’ve taken all the free marketing online classes at HP Online (can’t link – google: Hewlett Packard online class free) and learned from each one, and I continue to learn daily. Add 1 or 2 of these books and classes to your stack of bedtime reading material or Seth’s blog to your daily newspaper and you will begin helping yourself with only 5 or 10 minutes a day. The online classes take just a few hours and can be taken at the rate you wish.
I had *no money* to pay anyone to do these things for me and I am glad I did them myself. I feel far more confident than I did in 1995 when I presented my first designs to Keepsake Quilting and had no idea of the structure of distributor pricing or shipping costs. Take the simple challenge of learning a little each day about marketing and you won’t regret it!
There are free newsletters you can sign up for and many, many free blogs about marketing that can make you smarter and more confident. I encourage you to seek them out or ask designers that you respect how they learned about and developed their marketing strategy. I can guarantee you they did it themselves. Ask Eleanor Burns.
Here are some awesome resources – – all free!