Thursday, February 2, 2012

Craftsman's Success: Make a Lasting Impression by Delighting on Delivery

"Craftsman's Success" is a new article series I'm writing based on my experience as a full-time craftsman selling my work online. I hope to share some of the processes I use to help other practitioners of craft to reach a higher level of success in their ventures and improve their marketing efforts.

Each article can be downloaded as a printable PDF. (Please note, articles are Copyright Katherine Kowalski 2012. Please ask for reprint permission. E-mail me at

This is the first in series. I present:

Make a Lasting Impression by Delighting on Delivery
By Katherine Kowalski

After you spend so much time creating beautiful work, give it respect by presenting it impressively to the client.
It seems trivial compared to the rest of the production process, but delivery is in fact the most important part of selling work. When you sell one of your pieces online, you can't simply shove it in a box and mail it to your client. Otherwise, when they get it, it'll look like it was shoved in box and mailed to the client!

Presentation is everything. The send-off you give your pieces is a reflection of how you feel about them – the respect you have for your own work. The packaging/presentation doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be impressive. Giving a nice presentation will wow your clientele and entice them to come back for more. It makes good sense because it is part of excellent customer service.

The Postman Comes A-Knockin'
In my business, people often leave feedback about how nice the packaging is! Your presentation differentiates you from the "faceless corporations," and allows you to stand out as an individual, which allows people to relate to you.

If you've ever bought anything from Etsy (, you know how special it feels to get a parcel from a real person! The product comes beautifully wrapped, often with a hand-written note thanking you for your purchase.

Why do sellers go to this much trouble? Because every sale matters to them, as it matters to you, the craftsman. (As an aside, nowadays, I go out of my way to support real people, instead of buying from big-box stores whose products come from mass-production factories in China. These are often poorly made goods that don't last. Instead, I'd rather buy a high-quality item from a craftsman in my own country). Just think about it: how many times have you bought from a big-box store online and felt special? When people buy a handmade item, they want to feel special!

OK, So How Do You Do It?

I pre-cut items like ribbon, and punch holes in my tags so that they are ready to go out the door!
First question on everyone's mind: what does it cost? The answer: a little time and some materials. (Of course, if you have the capital, you can buy a huge variety of pre-made gift packaging items, like wooden/plastic cases, boxes, bags, pouches, etc. Just search online).

In this era of green living, however, I like to make my packaging materials decorative, but also usable. (Basically, something that won't simply be thrown out). The pouches I enclose my fiber arts tools within not only make a great impression, they also protect the item from scratches. The tag, held on by a coordinating ribbon, gives the client information about the piece, (the wood from which it is made, the size of the crochet hook), and, most importantly, my web site address, so they know how to find me again.

Small items (like jewelry, pens, and small pots/bowls) are most easily enclosed in pouches or small boxes. Larger items look best in gift boxes. Or, if the item is too large to reasonably enclose, wrap it in tissue paper with a hand-written note to the client).

Even simple paper cards can look great! (Such as for pens, earrings, etc.) And they're recyclable too.

After enclosing in the fabric pouch, I then wrap my items in tissue paper, ensconcing a business card. I place it carefully into the box, and send it through the mail! Remember – since you've already enclosed an info card with your web site address, the client can feel free to give the business card to friends and family members. In fact, you may want to enclose two!

Ready to Make Your Own?
For me, money is very tight, (as I suspect it is for most professional craftsmen). Thus, I choose to make my own packaging materials, (even though it takes a greater investment in time than simply buying them). But there's another reason too: the pouches I make are a branding tool for me. They are unique, because I choose to use unique fabrics, print my own cards, and follow a specific color scheme.

Because I spend so much time working my own business: making items, online promotion, as well as teaching and demonstrating, I want to do my "grunt work" (like online listings and making packaging), as efficiently and quickly as possible. I want to save every second. (For an excellent example, check out my pattern instructions for making pouches at the end of the article. It's filled with lots of time-saving examples).

Tips for Delighting on Delivery
I've made and sold thousands of fiber arts tools, which has given me new perspective on how to save time while maintaining excellent customer service.
  • Do things in batches that make sense. E.g. print all of your shipping labels at the same time, THEN pack everything. (Don't keep running back and forth to the computer).
  • Ship promptly, and keep your shipping promises. If it says on your web site that you ship every other day, do it. DON'T wait three weeks so that orders can accumulate before dropping them all off at the Post Office. (Clients LOVE to receive their items as fast as possible!)
  • Charge reasonable shipping costs, and combine shipping charges. I sell primarily on four web sites: eBay, two Etsy stores, and my web site. I invite my clients to purchase from all three, and items can ship together in the same box, saving them money. Only charge what it actually costs to ship, and refund extra monies paid.
  • Communicate promptly. Sometimes there's a problem with the order – always help the client immediately.
  • Avoid "canned" responses. Address your client's questions personally. (If you find that people are always asking the same questions, revisit your item listings and add more details.)
  • Personalize the experience. Enclose something hand-written, or a thank-you note. Always personalize e-mails, and send shipping confirmations, advising the client what to do if something's amiss. (Include your e-mail address and/or phone number).

Package Making Tips
  • Choose a consistent color scheme to represent you and your business. (Please, after reading this article, don't choose my color scheme – buyers in my market already associate those colors with me!)
  • Utilize consistent materials. Example: even if you are using different colored (coordinating fabrics), use the same color of thread – it will save you LOADS to time. Similarly, buy ribbons in bulk to save money.
  • "Real" looks better than imitation. Example: use satin ribbons instead of paper/plastic, unless it is intentionally part of your "look."
  • Recycled materials are generally free. Example: you can craft small boxes from old Christmas/greeting cards, or wrap cardboard boxes in the comics pages from the newspaper. (Please, avoid the murder headlines!)
  • You can also recycle clean packing material. Ask local businesses if they have extra that they would be willing to give to you.
  • For a long time I printed my own tags, but after the constant cutting became too much, I ordered them as business cards. A hole punch in each, and they serve as wonderful tags! (Be sure to buy matte – the glossy ones are difficult to write on!)
  • Create in "do-able" chunks. Example: while you may want to cut 3 yards of material to "save" fabric in the final cutting stages, realistically, 3 yards is unwieldy. One yard is far easier to put on your ironing board, sew, and manage.
  • Use "easy" materials. Flannels fray less than cotton calicos, and quilting flannels much less so.
  • Use "easy" tools. Cutting large amounts of fabric with a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat is much faster and easier than by hand with a pair of scissors.
  • Buy in bulk, and on sale. If you know what you need, buy in bulk – it will save you a LOT of money. When I go and buy fabric, I am armed with a multitude of coupons, and will buy a whole bolt at a time. (Note that many craft stores will take competitors' coupons). Sales are usually less advantageous than a good coupon, so watch for what you need. I buy ribbon online in 100 yd. spools.

For the Step-By-Step Pouch Pattern, please feel free to download the article (in printable PDF form) here. (3 MB, illustrated)

Copyright © Katherine Kowalski 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I invite you to visit my web site: for more articles on online marketing, as well as woodturning instruction and design.