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How to answer the discount question--Lampwork business extras

Periodically I read stuff on my lampworking forums that prompts a blog post. While customer service has it’s own chapter in my series The Business of Lamporking, I couldn’t resist tackling this topic that came up a few days ago.

As a lampwork seller (or any seller) you’ll likely get the discount question at some point. It comes in a variety of forms. Everything from: do you offer wholesale? To: what’s the lowest you’ll sell this for?

The wholesale question is a reasonable one. Many of us do sell wholesale or offer quantity discounts. If you want to sell in bead stores or galleries, you will need to figure out your wholesale terms. Most of us offer a 50% discount if the buyer reaches a certain retail amount.

I’ll admit, the question, ‘what is the lowest you’ll sell this for?’ can be irritating. Especially if you don’t have a history bargaining with that particular customer. But I recommend responding just as polite as you would to the wholesale question.

Here are my standard responses.

The wholesale question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry.  I offer a 50% wholesale discount on retail orders that reach $xxx. My lead time on such orders is usually two to three weeks from time of order to shipping date.

The discount question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry. I do not offer discounts on individual beads. On orders over $xxx I offer a 25% quantity discount. In addition, I do periodically run 20% to 25% off sales in my Etsy store. Sign up here for my newsletter to be notified.

If you don’t offer any discounts that is fine, too. I still recommend being polite. You never know who is on the other end of your email. There is nothing wrong with writing, I’m sorry, but I do not offer discounts on my work. Simple, easy, gets the point across. No room for negotiations. And you don’t run the risk of alienating a potential customer. Maybe they are used to bargaining. Lots of cultures do it and the beauty of the internet is it’s global.

I’ve seen many people get upset when asked for a discount. I admit I’ve gotten irritated myself. But why is it so hard to just be nice? Especially when we are selling our work online. We have the opportunity to step back and calm down before we hit the send button.

It’s my firm belief that being nice is one of the most fundamental business practices and crucial when selling our own artwork. We each have our own ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t. But lets get real. When you get an irritating question it isn’t like you are entering a relationship with that person. You don’t need to school them on social graces. Stay polite and you won’t run any risk of harming your reputation.

But you don’t care what that person thinks, you say to me. You don’t want to do business with them anyway. Be careful here. There are pieces by lampworkers I used to covet, until I got to know them better. Now I don’t have any desire to have a piece these particular people made in my personal collection based on how they treated other people.

If you are selling your work, always remember this is a business. Your business. Don’t let one or two irritating questions get the better of you.

Bead and Button Report

I’ve been home from Bead and Button for a week and I’m just now getting back into my regular routine. I actually got home last Tuesday night and by Wednesday I was off and running with everything that didn’t get done while I was gone. I’m semi-caught up and didn’t want to forget to give you the dish on how the Bead and Button show was this year.

A few years ago when I was researching shows and trying to decide which ones to do, after each one I would scour the internet looking for a results posting. It isn’t something that is easy to find. And shows like Bead and Button are expensive to do. How’s a girl to know if it’s worth it?

If you have good friends in the industry who have done the show you might feel comfortable asking them. However, it’s awfully crass to ask how much someone made isn’t it? Usually the question is, was it a good show? Was it worth it? I’ve asked those questions myself. But everyone has a different barometer of success. And sometimes people don’t want to say they had a bad show, always putting on the happy it-was-good-face.

Once when trying to decide if I should do Best Bead in Tucson, I emailed a respected friend and colleague who had done that show for quite  a while and gave her a breakdown of what numbers I thought I would have to do in order to have a successful show and just asked if she thought that was reasonable.  That worked pretty well, but again, she’s a friend of mine, so I felt comfortable doing that.

As always, I don’t like to talk about exact figures on the internet, but I’ll give you some specifics.

Last year was the first time I attended Bead and Button. A friend and I decided to share an eight foot table to keep costs down. That gives each of us four feet of isle real estate. In hindsight, we both agree that wasn’t the best move. You see, that only leaves space for one customer at a time to browse your wears.  Now, it is my understanding the sales were down across the board last year at Bead and Button with the economy in the toilet. I don’t know anyone’s actual numbers but my own. I barely made expenses and that was only because I luckily ended up with a free hotel room. Expenses included booth fee, travel, and food. Plus the show takes up a full seven days that I’m out of the studio. Needless to say last year wasn’t a success.

Still, one bad show in a bad economy wasn’t enough for me to give up on Bead and Button, the show that everyone in the industry says is the place to be. Instead I signed up for an eight foot table, did a lot of brain storming on revamping the table display with Greg, and worked like a dog to fill that table up.

I somehow managed to fill the table, but barely. Seriously, by mid-day Saturday the table was looking woefully understocked. I should have brought at least twice as much as I did. That’s all good though, right? It means I was selling stuff, right?

Exactly.

Everything came together. My table looked gorgeous (in my opinion–Greg did a great job–and others commented on it as well), I had good real estate (a full eight foot table in a good row), and the economy didn’t seem to be as much of a factor. Of course, I’m sure the beads themselves had a least something to do with it. :)

I came away making four times as much as I did last year, picked up a new wholesale account, and made a contact for Greg to teach this fall. Overall it was very successful and more importantly profitable for us. We’re already signed up for next year.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hear anyone grumbling too much about sales this year. During a bad show, when another vendor asks how things are going–and we all have a lot of free time during those shows–you usually get a crunched up face and a shrug or a slight shake of the head. This year, I got the impression most everyone was pleased with the financials, but again I only know my numbers.

I'm Packed and Ready to Go...

Almost. Oh, come on. You know you aren’t surprised. I leave tomorrow for my long drive to the annual Bead and Button show in Wisconsin. It’s a two day trip and this time I get to stop outside of Knoxville to visit my dear friend Ali VandeGrift. She’s cooking and everything. It’s more than I get at home, though Greg did just ofter to make me some stir fry (oddly enough that is what Ali is cooking tomorrow), but I already ate. So, everything is packed, except my clothes. The laundry is done though. That’s something right?

To see what the display looked like just two months ago, go here. This is what my table looked like this morning before we packed it all up:

This is why I have neglected this poor space for the last month. I will be gone for a week and after I get back I have big plans of paying attention to this blog, so look for some regular posting in the near future. If you’re coming to Bead and Button, please be sure to stop by my booth 1238. I have beads, marbles, and murrini!

Crunch time

Thirty-seven days and counting until I leave for Milwaukee for the annual Bead and Button show. If you could see my table right now, you’d be horrified. It is woefully empty. The next month will be spent chained to my torch, whipping out production. How did this happen? Orders. That’s what happened. I love orders, but it does put a crimp in my production schedule.

This morning I got the look and the quiet announcement I had five weeks to get my act together. To which I said, “I know! I know!” I have a plan. I’m good with a plan. In fact I’m great with a plan. Give me a plan and I’m super woman. Yes, really.

Then Greg mumbled, “Man, you have work to do.” That’s when the freak out started. Time to make a list. Seeing it in writing will either kick me into high gear or…never mind. Let’s not talk about that.

Bead and Button, you don’t scare me and I’m gonna kick your ass. Or at least bring a table full of sparkling beads. Are you coming? Stop by booth 1238 and see my FULL table. Of course if you show up on Sunday, I hope it won’t be totally full, if you know what I mean.

Exciting News

It’s official. I have secured an editor and a book designer for my paranormal romance, Haunted on Bourbon Street. My final draft will go to my editor in mid May. This means I am shooting for a July release date. A release date, that sounds so official. Squeal!

I am nervous and super excited at the same time. If you’ve paid attention at all to the publishing world you know things are changing and fast. With ereaders steadily rising in popularity, more and more people are moving to the ebook format. I myself got my NOOK in December and I’m pretty sure I’ve already bought more books this year than I did all of last year. It’s so easy. Just turn it on and the whole book store is in my hands and I don’t have to worry if the title is in stock. It’s amazing.

With that in mind and the ability to publish to Amazon’s Kindle format and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt, it makes it so much easier for authors to get their work out there without waiting years to find an agent and/or a publisher. I don’t have stars in my eyes over the recent Amanda Hocking news-the self-publishing phenomenon who made almost two million dollars in one year self-publishing. I know it’s hard work and Amanda’s story, while no doubt she worked very hard for her success, is not even remotely normal. Still, there is a future for self-published authors and I am no stranger to marketing my work or finding an audience. I’ve been doing it for ten years with the lampwork business.

So wish me luck on my newest endeavor. I’ll be sure to let you know the exact release date and the status of the rest of the series. And for my bead followers, don’t worry, you can still find me at my torch everyday.

P.s. For those of you without ereaders just yet, I will also be releasing a print version.

Edited to add this blog post by Joe Konrath:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/04/are-you-dense.html

While I think his delivery is a little over the top, he touches on many of the reasons I decided to self-publish. That’s not to say I’ll ever rule out traditional publishing. A writer can do both and there are benefits both ways.

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