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Thread: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

  1. #1
    Owner - Artisan Archtops todda's Avatar
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    Default Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Hi MandolinCafe community.
    I'm a small builder of Archtop Guitars and Mandolins located in the Pacific Northwest.
    https://artisanarchtops.com/
    Trying to break into the craft.
    My outreach question is about marketing.
    I've reached out to a few local reps that sell instruments, only to find they ask 30-40% commissions - which kills profit when you have to start your prices low to build up a name.

    Looking to see what directions you have found successful in getting your instruments marketed independently.
    What have you found successful.

    Kindly - Todd

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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    I have a friend near me, who has found it helpful to get an instrument either into a pros hands, or anup and coming picker just to get it out there

  3. #3
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Quote Originally Posted by todda View Post
    Looking to see what directions you have found successful in getting your instruments marketed independently.
    What have you found successful.
    Nothing...

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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    I've been trying to "break into" this market for almost 20 years.. I've donated, loaned, given away, and even sold a few. There has been only rave reviews about looks and sound and price.. Been told my prices are "too low" and gives rise to a "cheep" or a "low end" budget product.. If you ever get a chance to hear a BUCKHORN mandolin, make your own mind up.. The love of the build continues......
    kterry

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  7. #5
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Talk with music store owners about giving you a lower consignment fee to get started with placing an instrument or two in their store or on their internet site. Some won't budge on their fee, but others are flexible. Get out to the jam sessions and festivals if possible so players can see and hear what you have.
    Tom
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  9. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Todd, well you named your mandolin after my daughter, so that is one point in your favor, at least for me.

    I would suggest that you do some outreach with social media. Do you have a youtube channel? Get some top notch players — they don't have to be famous, for the moment, just good players and have someone profession record a quality video. Your designs are out there but I think for the high end archtop guitar market, there are plenty of modernistic models out there. And set up pages on Facebook and Instagram with nice photos etc. And link all these from and to your web site.

    You are in Seattle. I assume you visited the guitar shops out there or in California to show off your instruments? Have you been to West Coast luthier shows?

    I am on the East Coast but I have been to the Woodstock Invitational which showcases lots of high-end guitars like yours. If you can swing a trip out there, that might be worth it to get your name and instruments in the hands of east coast musicians.
    Jim

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  11. #7
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    There is no one magic bullet here. A good start would be to read Nigel Forster's Making a living in lutherie:from amateur to professional. You can get a pdf for a few dollars from https://payhip.com/b/yoJP This is a realistic viewpoint on the whole thing.

    Social media is very useful. Several people have told me Instagram is particularly effective if you can post a sequence of pics of instrument being built. Videos are useful, especially if you can build a group of 'followers'. I have a friend who is a very fine ukulele and guitar builder who has almost 10,000 followers on Instagram and posts pics and videos weekly.

    Guitar shows are good for being seen, but they are expensive to get into and it is competitive to get a table. Your work has to be very good and preferably distinctive. The La Conner Guitar Show is just up the road from you in May and it would be worthwhile getting in contact with Shirley and Brett who run it. Almost certainly too late for this year but they could provide some useful feedback on what you need to do to get a table there.

    As others have said show your instruments to as many good/professional players as possible, get some comments on your phone video and post them if that is allowed. Music festivals can be good avenues for players and buyers to see and play your instruments. It can be really hard work spending 2-3 days in a booth explaining what you do, but it is part of the process of getting your name known.

    My most useful tip is to marry someone who has a well paid professional job.

    Cheers

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  13. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    My most useful tip is to marry someone who has a well paid professional job.
    That is called "social security insurance for luthiers" :-)

    My advice regarding OP would be build quality (and you can do quality setup or repairs as well to finance your building) and the customers will show up eventually. WOrd about quality will spread.
    Adrian

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Hi Todd, your instruments look beautiful and original and I wish you success. I’d keep contributing the Mandolin Cafe and publish pics of your latest builds. We all like to see what’s being created out in the World & it’s good to see Instruments breaking away from the Gibson style. You could consider making at least one “standard” model as they tell me repetition is cheaper to make & consequently sell. You can always offer upgrades over a base price.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Music festivals in your region that have a vendors' area -- even the smaller ones -- can get your instruments in front of the "music public." I've seen a lot of interest generated, business cards taken, and possibly fruitful conversations at small-time festivals that draw perhaps fewer than 1,000 audience.

    Of course, this means acquiring a canopy and some display equipment, and giving up some weekends where you talk to "tire kickers," and don't make any immediate sales. And, you have to have an inventory of at least a half-dozen finished instruments to display.

    In April, I'm playing at the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA), this year in Acton MA. They have a whole school gym given over to the "folk bazaar," which always includes several instrument builders, as well as jewelry, clothing, pottery, etc. The fact that some of the luthiers have been there nearly every year of the 20+ I've played there, indicates that they've found it good for their business.
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  19. #11
    Owner - Artisan Archtops todda's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Thank you to all who have responded.
    My daytime job has been in the graphic design/communications field where I have provided marketing and communication solutions to all sorts of industries, but my venture into designing, crafting and selling instruments has proven quite vexing to all my experience.

    I'll be stepping into video, social media and trying to craft stories to build my brand (thank you for the advice).
    I have spoken to local Seattle dealers that specialize in Archtop Guitars and also sell Mandolins - they note it's hard to sell lesser named brands, as people are more secure with recognized name brands.
    Winter Grass is in my area (held each year in Bellevue, WA). I'll need to get a series of instruments built and held for event presentations. Difficult part is the dedicated time if your doing this on the side (need a full time or part time job to fund the addiction - right?)
    I'll keep knocking on doors.

    I appreciate the knowledge and community support.

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  20. #12
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Alright, from the outside in and this one is harder to swallow for some than others. There's a reason that the vast majority of mandolins sold at higher prices in this world look pretty much the same. The nod to tradition in this segment of the market is huge. There have been some really great designs that have popped up now and again over the years and folks generally comment on them favorably but from what I've seen rarely buy them. Guitars might be different but I know what I buy. As much as I expect to see folks jump in and say I'm wrong the numbers won't prove me wrong. The workmanship looks great, the designs may not sell as well.

    I used to have a big bicycle dealer in Federal Way many years ago in a different lifetime.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  22. #13

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Selling/marketing is expensive and time consuming. And usually not built into the pricing model of many small businesses.

    As mentioned, traditional designs are often an entry path into the mainstream, run in parallel to innovative designs.

    Luthiery is an easy way to leak money.
    Not all the clams are at the beach

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  23. #14

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Mike, I work with small business people everyday, and as someone who buys (and sometimes sells) a lot of instruments I echo your observations. Mandolin buyers are very conservative, as a whole. There is an expectation on color as well as design.

    Guitars, divided into segments, with classical designs being quite traditional, electrics are pretty varied, and acoustics can be a mixed bag. Archtop guitars are a very small segment of the market. Buyers are a small majority. Most are interested in traditional designs.

    There is a Northwest Luthiers guild that I believe Andrew Mowry, Kerry Char, Mark Roberts, and Saul Koll (to name a few) belong to, and who meet on a regular basis. You might reach out to them.

    The most important thing to remember is that your brand should be synonymous with stellar fit and finish, and most importantly fretwork. Playability and tone are key. Study what makes a musical instrument brand strong. Who’s instruments are selling, including resale, and which are not. Like anything else, there is an art to successful branding.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  24. #15

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    When I got interested in acoustic guitars, I started collecting them and soon I had about 25. Anyway, time passed and I was only playing three of them so I sold the rest which took a year or so. My conclusion was that Guitars don’t have to be good or bad, they have to be Gibson or Martin, which is to say that the Brand is the whole thing. However, you don’t want to be turning out 100 guitars a day. I’d say, make a fantastic product and keep the name out there as much as you can.

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  26. #16
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Talk with store owners: check.
    Top notch players: check.
    Guitar shows: check.
    Festivals: check.
    Quality fit and finish: check.
    Quality sound: check.
    Nod to tradition: check.
    Quality fret work: check.
    Quality set up and playability: check.
    Financial success: nope.

    In short, nearly all of the suggestions here are things I've done, although admittedly without applying too much effort in recent years (sort of burned out on "marketing" I suppose) and none has led to increased sales, higher prices or increased financial success.

    The thing that I see that works best for successful builders?
    Being prolific. It is all well and fine to build high quality, great looking, great sounding instruments, but if you don't build lots of them many people will never see them. It takes time to build a lot of instruments, so building them quickly helps us to do that before we are so old that it's too late to get much benefit from out "brand". Successful branding, in nearly all cases, requires a lot of product on the market, so build away. Don't do what I've done and spend many years of your working life enhancing someone else's (employer's) brand. Don't do lots of repairs and become good at repair and restoration, that doesn't help your brand.

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  28. #17

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Two things from looking at your website:

    1. There are no sound clips or videos on a quick scan. If I were thinking about buying, I'd want some idea about sound (even if a video clip is not that good a test, seeing and hearing a decent player get good sounds out of the instrument would be reassuring).

    2. You give me no idea about the kind of price I'd have to pay. So if I have a budget in mind, I've no idea whether I'm wasting my time contacting you. Many instrument builders deal with this by giving a base price for each model (with the lowest spec), while making it clear that final price depends on the choices the customer makes. Ignorance on my part is off-putting, so even if the looks (and sound, once you have that) tempt me, I still might not contact you.

    Finally a word on pricing. First, it's really hard to raise prices once people get to know what you're charging. Starting low seems a good idea, but even if you gain customers it will be challenging to raise prices until you can advertise a long waiting list, for example. Second, your pricing tells people what you value the instrument at - if it's vastly lower than comparable instruments, you are in effect telling them that yours are much worse! That can put buyers off. As an example from another field, an academic colleague had no takers for a conference and asked my advice. I told them to quadruple the price, and they had 100 takers. Too cheap is seen as suspicious.

  29. #18
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfChris View Post
    Two things from looking at your website:

    1. There are no sound clips or videos on a quick scan. If I were thinking about buying, I'd want some idea about sound (even if a video clip is not that good a test, seeing and hearing a decent player get good sounds out of the instrument would be reassuring).
    I had a very elaborate website with sound clips, videos, tutorials, lots of pics etc. etc. How many sales did that website generate? Zero. Was it easy to maintain? No. Did it take up an inordinate amount of my time? Yes.
    My website now is just one of those self-built ones, cheaper, easier to maintain, and it has the one feature that has been of benefit to me since I've had a website: a "contact" button.

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfChris View Post
    You give me no idea about the kind of price I'd have to pay. So if I have a budget in mind, I've no idea whether I'm wasting my time contacting you. Many instrument builders deal with this by giving a base price for each model (with the lowest spec), while making it clear that final price depends on the choices the customer makes. Ignorance on my part is off-putting, so even if the looks (and sound, once you have that) tempt me, I still might not contact you.
    I don't have 'models' as such and so I don't have base prices. The vast majority of my work has been custom building. It's really simple to click the "contact" button and ask any question you want. If your are put off by not seeing prices listed, you are free to try to understand the whole MSRP, dealer pricing, street price and so forth that we are left to deal with from major builders these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfChris View Post
    Finally a word on pricing. First, it's really hard to raise prices once people get to know what you're charging. Starting low seems a good idea, but even if you gain customers it will be challenging to raise prices until you can advertise a long waiting list, for example. Second, your pricing tells people what you value the instrument at - if it's vastly lower than comparable instruments, you are in effect telling them that yours are much worse! That can put buyers off. As an example from another field, an academic colleague had no takers for a conference and asked my advice. I told them to quadruple the price, and they had 100 takers. Too cheap is seen as suspicious.
    Since my website doesn't list prices, how would you know if I have raised them?
    My prices have basically been market determined. Do I think the quality of my instruments merits top dollar? Absolutely. Can I get top dollar? From what the market tells me, no I cannot.

    It is true that I am a bit burned out on trying to sell instruments, but I still love building them, and I've been at it so long that I have no other resume so I'll likely continue until I no longer can. Just relating my experience, and what the small builder instrument market looks like from this perspective.

    One other thing:
    Luck.
    All of the most successful builders that I know build high quality instrument and most build them in abundance. I also know many builder who build high quality instrument is abundance and are not nearly so successful. In many cases the thing that separates the two is luck. Timing of starting out, some form of good market exposure, basically, being at the right place at the right time. I'm not sure what it takes to improve our odds of being in the right place at the right time, but if there is something I would recommend it.

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  31. #19
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    It sounds like your background in communications would be very helpful. I can't claim to have been a huge marketing success, so take all of this with a grain of salt, but here are my thoughts...

    One challenging thing about being an archtop builder is that archtop-guitar players and archtop-mandolin players comprise two widely different audiences, so we have not one, but two marketing challenges Even though bluegrass may not be your target audience, it couldn't hurt to display at Wintergrass, since you're right there. It's the one show I go to on a regular basis, and it's been good to me. It's a wonderful group of people, and I always leave with a sense of rejuvenation.

    Coming up on 20 years doing this full time, I think I've done some things right and some wrong. The main thing that has been detrimental to me is that I'm an introvert, and I'm not particularly good at networking and promoting my brand and work. All I've really done has been to maintain my web site and try to let my work speak for itself, which has been successful enough to keep me busy, but I'm sure I've also missed a lot of opportunities. I've also never approached any well-known players, but I'm sure I should have. If you have an outgoing personality that's a huge benefit right off the bat, and I've seen a number of outgoing builders leverage that strength to grow their brand very quickly. The social media aspect is of course huge, and helps to level the playing field, in my opinion. I can't imagine how anyone was able to get into this field before internet. In that regard we are very lucky these days.

    One thing I think I did right was to never try to rush to get something done, and not let something out the door that I thought wasn't right. Of course we all look back on earlier work and see things we should have done differently, but that's a different story. Along those lines, I think it's helpful to always try to make every instrument a little better than the last, even if it's a minor improvement. It's as much a mindset as anything. If you can keep your day job as long as possible, that would remove a lot of stress and keep you from feeling the need to rush to get something done. The only things we have on which to base our reputation are our work and our customer service, so they both have to be as good as possible.

    Another thing I did was to start with prices low and raise them very gradually, typically when my waiting list got to be longer than seemed reasonable. It probably goes without saying, but above a certain modest price point, most of what people pay for when buying a custom instrument is the name . It takes a long time to get above that price point (I haven't yet), and it looks bad if you start out with high prices and have to lower them later, especially if you have people on your waiting list locked in at a certain price. A few builders have been burned badly by that.

    I haven't had the means to give any instruments away or pay for advertising other than maintaining my web site (and one ad here during the recession ), so I can't speak to how successful those tactics are, but I certainly think it's useful to have an occasional instrument in a store, despite the fact that consignment costs might seem high. I would do some research (you probably already have) to find out where your target audience(s) would shop, and send an occasional instrument there. I usually try to send one instrument a year to stores in parts of the country where my brand is less well known, and that's been helpful for name recognition.

    Maintaining an active presence here and on similar sites also helps, in fact this site was probably responsible for most of my business my first 5 years of building. Folks here are receptive to occasional photos of work in progress and completed instruments, especially if you also "give back" by adding to the conversation. Scott and the other moderators have been very generous to us builders in that regard. Just don't overdo the self-promotion, because that reflects badly, IMHO. Again, maybe I have that wrong .

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  34. #20

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    This is a very interesting thread. Two years ago, I finished my Arches kit, the very first instrument I have ever built. The few players who have tried it love it for band playing because it is bright and brash and cuts through like nobody’s business. It has pretty good tone, but not the sonorous lushness many would like. Just like all of us tend to do, I have a case of MAS slowly building. Yesterday I played a few Collings mandolins. The cheapest f was $5500 or so, then climbed to about $8000. My impressions? None was loud enough, and yes, none was bright enough. I had my mandolin in my car and almost brought it into the store, but since I was just tire kicking, I decided against it. Now my mandolin is a mass of flawed cosmetics and I finished it blonde and light amber so I could show off all that.

    So I started a single builder thread in order to someday find a mandolin I’d spend $6k on. But like the builders trying to find buyers, I’m at a quandry as to finding sellers. It seems a trip to Nashville is in order, and then I’d play maybe a third of the brands out there. So it is a matter of sellers needing to find that small segment of buyers willing to buy an instrument and visa versa. I’d much rather pay the maker the money rather than the retailer, and I’m only going to buy used, so where that leaves a maker is in a tough situation.
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  35. #21
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Hello Todda,

    Some may say the experience I am about to recount to you is totally irrelevant. If you believe that to be the case, skip it entirely. I, however, believe there are some similarities between our businesses that may enable you to glean a few truths from my experience. We are both in artisanal businesses with a strictly defined and limited audience, and we both are following the road less traveled even in that limited space. My business is artisanal wine-making using only fruit grown on my farm, and no grapes at all. Yet, I do not make the typical fruit wines; I make fine table wines from fruit other than grapes.

    As background, I was a wholesale grower/shipper of high quality specialty produce for about 20 years when the globalization of that industry drove prices below what I can grow that fruit for. Luthiers, sound familiar? I do see some similarities. I had to find another way to market my fruit, mainly Asian pears. I experimented with value-added products and discovered I could make good wine from them. I switched entirely to wine about 14 years ago. This is where our similarities come in.

    So, like yours, ours is a small-scale artisanal business selling a fine product to enthusiasts. The only labor is myself and my wife, so it is a very personal product. How do we sell it? By connecting one-on-one with potential consumers. We sell to individual people who want to know the story behind the wine they drink, how it is grown and fermented, where and how it is done. I think that parallels your business. For my small mandolin collection, I know the history of each builder. Only one of my instruments comes from a factory, and it is one with a quirky beginning and product, and very dedicated people. For each of the others, I have spoken with the builder and come to know their story. This is exactly the situation with the vast majority of my wine consumers. They get to know the history and some become dedicated followers of the product. And for some scale reference, I am making about 8,000 bottles per year (that is small scale in this industry).

    So, what worked for me? Only venues in which I have personal contact. In broad terms, 80% of my sales is through wine festivals where my wife and I deal directly with wine enthusiasts. About 10% is liquor store sales and most of that is to consumers who tasted our wines at festivals. Another 10% is here at the farm.

    We do little to no advertising. I have collected email addresses at festivals (people who want to know which festivals we are attending) and I send out only 5 or so email blasts per year. My web site carries lots of pictures and useful information (wine descriptions and where we will be) and gets a surprising number of visits. I am pretty sure that most of these visits are from fans of our wine.

    So, I had to be where the potential buyers were, and I had to make personal contact. Were it not for festival contacts, my business would have failed right out of the gate. Selling face-to-face continues to work for me. They taste the product, have a conversation and either buy or don't. Either way, my product has been exposed and the potential consumer is aware of it. They might buy at some later date.

    Is it a pain in the neck to go to lots of festivals? You bet. I sometimes feel like a Carney; load the truck with display and product, drive to some far-flung part of the state, set-up in a tent, hawk my wares, then take it down and get back on the road. A lot like the life of a traveling musician, huh? But if I want to do the part of the job I really like (growing fruit, making and bottling wine), I have to do the other part, too.

    Take home message might be, you have to get in front of the potential consumer, show your product and tell your story. Let them know who you are and why they might like your product. Let them try it. Let them know you. And you have to do this over and over and over.

    I would imagine the Cafe could be a huge help. After my first mandolin (I was very green), every mandolin purchase has, in some way, involved the Cafe, even if it was just becoming more familiar with the builder here and then purchasing directly or locally. I have done my share of mandolin-family instrument buying, but base knowledge was always gained through the Cafe. Think of it as a constant virtual festival; you can meet the potential consumer here, and they are all mandolin enthusiasts.

    That's all I have to offer for now. Time to run off to a Valentines Day gig. As I said, if you don't see the similarity, ignore this. If you do, then it was worth telling. If you want to converse in person about the festival thing, or artisanal business life in general, feel free to PM me.

    In any event, best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

  36. #22

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Plenty of sellers, but you have to wait and work at it. Not a lot of buyers.

    But to the Op, again, you need to network, find your niche, and work at it. Building a brand is not easy. Know your market, know your buyers. I notice that you are not taking orders but are building instruments and then placing them. It may be harder to achieve what you want using this method. There are a couple of luthier shows coming up this year. It might be good for you to get out and mingle with other builders and their patrons. Its really the only way you will get to know what others are doing, whos buying what, etc.

    To get some visibility, you could ask someone well known in your general area to do some demos with your instruments. You pay them a small fee to do the demos. Its a worthwhile expense. But as Bill McCall says, building is a good way to leak money. But certain activities are a necessary evil.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  37. #23
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Bega NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,183

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Most of us are not very good at marketing. Andrew Mowry's story is very familiar to me, I am also an introvert, so salesman I am definitely not. The first mandolin I sold took 9 months to sell, and I was almost ready to give up at the time. What worked for me at first was exhibiting at festivals, and attending concerts where I knew mandolin players would be, and shove an instrument into their hands for a "review", something I found very difficult to do at first. I still exhibit and mostly stay quiet, and answer any questions that might be asked. That seems to work better than strong promoting. I have had a helper who is good at promotion, but that didn't work, most musicians don't like it. Another strategy that works sometimes is to do repairs and show off the latest mandolin to the customers coming in with an instrument to repair. Selling your mandolins and/or guitars takes time and effort, often a lot of time, especially when you are starting out and don't have many instruments out there. Once you have some instruments out there in the hands of active musicians it gets easier, but I have found that a sale to a prominent musician more often than not produces zero follow up sales. It is exciting to get a big sale and see your mandolin played on TV, but don't expect much follow up. A sale to an active amateur sometimes brings a repeat sale from the same person, or a sale from someone who saw and played his/her instrument. There are many types of customers. Some are beginners and clueless, some buy with their eyes, a few are collectors, others are super fussy about tone and playability, others buy the headstock logo - i.e. they have heard about you from someone they respect. Once you get a lot of instruments out there the latter becomes more important. Paid advertising is a waste of money, with the exception of a good web site. The web site does not have to be fancy, but what I have found that works is pretty pictures, sound clips, information on how they are made, and some diversification. Make sure there is easy to see contact info, and please add prices. If you offer only one type of mandolin, then you are narrowing down your market so diversification can get you more sales. Some diversification won't work, so drop the ones that don't and concentrate on those that do. I get hassled by web developers all the time who tell me BS about how badly my site is implemented and poor ranking in Google searches etc etc. High search engine rankings are not well correlated with good sales, so paying your hard earned cash to get a professional to doozy up your web site is not a particularly good strategy IMHO, but it is a good idea to educate yourself about what is working. Ask customers how they found you.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

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  39. #24

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    Just come accros this thread. Thanks to Graham for recomending my ebook. Yes, it is useful according to the nice emails I get from folk about it. Link HERE.

    The best way to sell your work is to make things that people actually want to buy.

    I had a look at your site. Its nice work. But, like my own work, its all a bit "unusual." Unusual work is harder to sell for a reasonable amount of money. The number of folk interested will be few. The fewer folk are who might be interested in your work, the more work you'll have to do to reach people. The more time and money you will have to spend.

    In the mandolin world, almost no one has made a living from making unusual work. Many have tried. What they usually do is start by seling their work cheap to "get established." All they establish is that their work is unusual and cheap. When they try to raise their prices, people lose interest and turn their attention to the next person working for nothing who is also "trying to get established."

    If you want to make a living in lutherie, don't start off by making instruments. Repair them instead. There is no shortage of great makers making a poor living. There is a huge shortage of decent repairers. And repairers (if organised) can make a very good living. I was talking to one struggling maker in the US who works one day a week in a very well known repair shop. In the course of the conversation he started to realise his folly - his fortune as a maker was far too dependant on the whims of others. It was very stressful. Whilst at the same time he was working in a repair shop which always had more work than it could handle. Regardless of how the economy was doing, regardless of fashion, there was always work. And next to no marketing. I hope he decided to direct his energy more towards making a living and less towards craving minor fame.

    So I'd reccomend getting people through your door by repairing instruments. Be choosy about what you repair or it will drive you nuts. If you can do good repairs, you'll meet musicians. You'll get to charge an hourly rate. You'll build relationships. You'll be able to get your work into peoples hands. There is advice about this sort of thing in the ebook.

    Keep in mind, Steve Gilchrist - the most successful mandolin maker today, made his reputation and made so many vital contacts when working in the repair shop of George Gruhn.

    Builld a reputation as a great repair person. If you can do that you'll already be making a living. Then see what sort of work sells.

    Its much easier to sell things to people they actually want.

    Nigel
    www.nkforsterguitars.com

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  41. #25

    Default Re: Marketing and getting your name/brand out.

    I'd like to relate a buying experience I just had that might pertain to the issue at hand. I've been following You Tube channels of various luthiers, most notably Jerry Rosa and Brian Kimsey. These are very different, but I find both of value. Bryan Kimsey is known for fixing 70s Martins and modding them. He has a bunch of comparison videos and I noticed over time that when he stated a preference of one guitar over another, I tended to agree with him. So I e mailed him one day asking if he would/could buy a D 18 for me, mod it, then sell it to me. I gave him a budget I was comfortable with. He said he could do that, but he had a friend selling a Custom D 35 that he had played a lot, and it was atypical of the D 35 sound. He sent me a link featuring it on a video. I loved it. Then he got the guitar and made me a video going over the guitar. I bought it and am thrilled. The video is on his web site and he posted it on the UMGF forum. Watching a guy over time on a YouTube channel, you feel like you get to know him. Get an insight into how they do what they do. Yes, it's a lot of work, but you can build a lot of trust that way. Bryan Kimsey says it's the clearest, punchiest D 35 he's ever played.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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