When you sharpen your tools for woodturning you shape the tool to cut wood in a specific way. You may have two bowl gouges with slightly different grinds for two different purposes. How you respond to your customers may require you to sharpen your responses to maintain your competitive edge.
I’ve had people come into my show booth and basically say “Why should I pay $ 75.00 for your product when I can buy the same product at XXXXXX?”
There a lot of responses you can give to that question, but the main issue is how I compete with the big box stores. You can fill in the name of whatever store is in your area or country. What response can you give that will maintain your competitive edge?
Price seems to be the issue because they are talking about buying, but the real issue is the why. The second issue is whether this is a question you need to address with this customer.
The Foundation for Your Competitive Edge
You are an artisan. You have learned your craft and progressed to the level where you want to sell your product. You know which of your pieces are perfect, which are close, and which are there just to fill up your table. Let me tell you right now your work is worth the price that you have on it. In fact, most of you reading this should increase your prices. But that is another post on money mindset!
Your one of a kind, handcrafted work is what you are selling. This is your competitive edge!
You are not competing on volume, price, or mass production. These are the three pillars of the BBS (Big Box Store). Your work is special because you made it. You selected the wood, you turned it, and you sanded and finished it. You decided to include it in inventory and set the value on it.
Your artistic work goes beyond the utilitarian value of what your product does. If all I want to do is cap my wine bottle there are plenty of cheap, plastic lids to do the job. But a turned bottle stopper has beauty in and of itself. It is the beauty of the wood combined with the enjoyment of the wine that makes it a great combination.
Okay, basically you are here selling your products because you want to be here, not because you hope to put the BBS out of business.
Realizing Your Competitive Edge
The answer to the why is your issue. Why are you turning? I turn because I enjoy turning. I like making wood into stuff. I also like sharing my work with other people who like wood and also like what I turn. That is why I blog about turning, to share my love of turning with others. I also like teaching so that explains the project tutorials.
Does this answer the why of the customer? No. This answers the why of the turner. Until you can engage the customer in a conversation you will not know the why that is supporting their statement.
You could approach answering that question in three direct ways.
You could point out to the customer the hours of work that went into producing your product, or the hours it took to learn the craft of woodturning. The customer might be using this to see if you would be willing to lower your prices just to make a sale.
The quality of the product will be higher in your booth than in the BBS. Your product is built better and will last longer than one purchased from a BBS. You could be using local and natural resources rather than imported and petrochemical-based.
- Hand Crafted
You created your product by hand. You didn’t have them mass-produced outside of the country and imported just for you. They are unique creations. The customer is talking to the craftsmen, not a retailer.
Each of these is a valid response if the customer actually has these concerns. That brings us to the other key question regarding your competitive edge.
Refining Your Competitive Edge
Is this a question you need to address with this customer? For whatever motivation, the customer needs a reason not to buy your product. Attempting to resolve the issue is usually unfruitful. I would rather have 1 happy customer than 10 people I cajoled into buying my product. I want people to enjoy what they purchase from me. This person doesn’t look like they want to make the purchase.
They may also be feeling guilty if they have to give you, the vendor, a reason for not making the purchase. Whenever you are rejected try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It might change your perspective.
Rather than respond to their specific question you might try to engage the customer as to what they like about your product. Actually opening a conversation with the customer about something other than the price of the product allows you to know more about your customer. You may find out the real reason behind their question. For me, I tried to have a good relationship with everyone who visited my booth.
Early on I tried to reason with the customer. I explained the unique features of the product, or the time of production, or any number of ways that this was not like the BBS product. I might have had a sale or two from those people. Several of those conversations left me feeling like, did I really want to do the market again? However, the people that I had conversations with did come back. It took some time but in a local farmer’s market, you see the same people over and over again. The relationships are more important than sales. It is your personal relationships that are the real competitive edge.
You are not a big box store. You are there in person, able to communicate with your customers, and able to build a long-term and lasting relationship. The customers who want your product will need no encouragement. I approached one customer who had filled up one of our shopping bags and asked if I could take it to the checkout. Her response was “Leave it alone. I’m still shopping!” She thought I was indicating she was finished. I quickly picked up a second bag for her to use and took the full one to the till to wait until she was done. There was one customer who was happy with my product and not making a comparison to other stores.
Honing Your Competitive Edge
You need to know why you are at the market selling your products. You are not in competition with the BBS. Realizing this will increase your competitive edge. In our economy, there is a place and purpose for both BBS and handcrafting artisans. Be proud of your work and don’t apologize.
Turning For Profit
Thank you for reading my article. I hope it helps you to understand and sharpen your unique competitive edge. Other business articles include 5 Tips on Handling Cash at a Sales Event, A Trade Show Checklist, and 5 Reasons Appearance Matters.
Here are some books that provide good business advice as well:
- The Productivity Project – Good tips on improving your daily productivity.
- The One Thing – Helps you to focus on what is important to you specifically.
- Design The Life You Love – Helping you create the business and personal life that you want to have.
There are also lots of woodturning projects to include in your inventory. You can click on “Projects” in the header or click on “Build Your Inventory” for a complete list of all the projects on the site.
There are also posts on specific techniques that you use when you are turning. So far there are posts on Sanding, Adding a Burn Line, and Using a Captive Ring Tool.
Please sign up for my newsletter, in the box below, so that you will receive a weekly notice of my new posts and projects. Remember to always turn safely.
Great thought piece about sharpening your competitive edge. I have not had a lot of “why should I buy this, when I can get it cheaper at big box XYZ. I mostly get people who look at a piece, look at the price, and then put it back down. When I see this I try to engage them; “did you like the piece? What did you like most about it? What didn’t you like about it? These aren’t rapid fire to put them on the spot, but a conversation to find out more.
I have found asking questions, and then really listening to the answers to be one of the most
powerful ways of getting deep information. We are so attuned to surface communication we don’t often listen between the words. Even when they don’t buy, they walk away knowing more about what I put into my work.
Thank you for your insightful response. It is the relationship that we have with our customers that will make the difference.
I think these days, one of the best ways to get a customer to buy is to have a story. Whether it’s a story about your shop or a story about your product, people want the connection. Because, yes, they can go to the BBS and get a similar product, but that product won’t have an interesting story they can tell their friends about. THAT’s the competitive edge we have as makers.
Well said. Relationships are the foundation of an artisan’s business. Thank you.