Make it Happen!

Happy 2017!

new-year-lgI hope that 2017 is a year of great things, many quilts, and great prosperity for you!

Make 2017 be the year YOU “make it happen” in your quilting business life.

How do you “make it happen” in your quilting business? First, decide what “happen” is. Is it more customers? Is it more $$$? Is it getting more inspiration or creativity? Once you can decide what you want, you can then work on getting it!

I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes it is the hardest thing to do! I am going to take the next few blog posts and write about some of these “wants.”

You want more customers.

If you want more customers, think about who your customers are, where are they, and how are you going to let them know what you do?

We are machine quilters and if you ask, who is your customer, you usually respond with “anyone who makes a quilt!” But let’s try to be a little more specific. If you say ANYONE who has a quilt is a customer, and someone brings you the worlds ugliest quilt that is poorly pieced, has LOTS of threads hanging from it, it does not lay flat,  it’s not square and it (literally) stinks – your customer is known as the local cat lady – and the customer wants you to quilt it for el-cheapo prices, will you quilt it? Before you answer that, ask yourself – Do I REALLY want this person as a customer? If your answer to both of these questions is NO then something has to change.

Let’s also assume that the last few customers have been like this. You may have to play detective to find out how they found you. When you learn that, then you can do what is necessary to get your information off the “bad customer list”.

Now you have to find out how to get your information onto the “good customer list” and find “good” customers!

Here are some of the typical ways of doing this –

  • Join a quilt guild in another part of your neighborhood, city, county, etc.
  • Work with other quilters doing other quilting “stuff.” Is there is a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-and-sew in your area? Join it. Work on your projects, but bring completed works for show and tell!
  • If you can teach piecing, teach at your local quilt shop or even teach in your home or community center. This is double $$$ for you! For a fee you teach them how to make the quilt and then charge them for quilting the class project!

Here are some other ways to find new customers –

Find out who the teachers are in the local, or not so local, quilt shops and offer to quilt their class quilts for a discounted fee. (In general, I’m not a fan of discounts, but this is one place where I feel it is justified.) Many quilt instructors teach at several shops and your quilting could be shown in a wider area. I would get an email or physical address of the teacher and send any discounts directly to her/him.

A while back when I was teaching out of state, I was talking with a quilter who said they were concentrating on getting customers from a specific zip code. (This zip code was in a large metropolitan area.) I asked why that zip code? The answer was “that is where the rich people live!” This quilter was doing what was necessary, in that zip code, to contact, connect to and work with new customers.

I have talked with quilters who live in smaller towns and they say they “can’t” attend guild meetings out of their neighborhood because of where they live, etc. I am a “big city girl” and I don’t really understand this way of thinking. You have the courage to purchase a quilting machine, learn how to use it, practice, practice, practice some more and start a machine quilting business. You do all that and you don’t have the courage to go across town to a quilt guild meeting? YOU have to choose what is best for YOU and YOUR business. I say, take the deep breath, bring your show and tell, and GO to the meeting. You might be surprised – you should get a warm welcome, and possibly some more customers!

Where is it written and what “rule” says that your customers are ONLY from your area? Have you ever thought of getting customers from away (maybe far away) from where you live?

Do you live in a tourist area? Are there any gift shops you could put some quilted items (pillows, coasters, table runners, possibly lap quilts, etc.) for sale? Of course on all of these items you include a label and / or business card with your contact info, maybe even stating that you quilt for others.

You might offer a “drop off” service, where the customer who is coming to your area for vacation can drop off their quilt with you to be quilted. When the quilt is completed, you ship it back to them for a shipping fee. Or you might offer a “pick up” service where the customer ships to quilt to you before their vacation and they can pick it up when they are in the area. Note: You MUST be able to get the quilt done before their vacation time ends!

If you have things planned properly, the out of the area customer could drop off their quilt at the start of their vacation and pick it up at the end – assuming the vacation is more than a day or two. I consider something like this to be a “rush job” and a rush job usually requires more $$ to do! And, if the customer wanted the quilt back in a few days, and you can do it, that would be a MAJOR rush job with MORE $$$ added to the cost!

You will have to be a little creative to find these customers, but I know it can be done!

Does your local quilt shop have a Block of the Month quilt where you have to attend a mini-class to get the next part of the quilt? If so, join it even if it isn’t your favorite type of quilt. Be there at every mini class with something that you made – and quilted – from the previous mini-class. You could make tote bags, table runners, lap quilts for a charity, etc. But SHOW what you can do with your quilting! Bring business cards but don’t do a “hard sell.”

Do you have a special technique or style of quilting that would appeal to other piecers and quilters? For example –

I know of a quilter who LOVES Judy Neimeyer quilts!  (For information on these quilts Click Here) She has pieced and quilted several of these quilts and is targeting other piecers who love this style of quilts. Quilting this type of quilt (foundation pieced with many, many,many small pieces) has many challenges and, because of this, a lot of extra $$$ can be charged to quilt this type of quilt.

Another quilter I know loves Civil War Reproduction quilts. Not only that, she lives in an area that is a Civil War battlefield tourist area. She is “targeting” other Civil War Reproduction quilt enthusiasts and working with local businesses / charities, etc., to showcase her quilts and quilting in their advertising and in their businesses.

Personally, I love doing Sashiko on quilts and I promote my Sashiko work on my personal blog  (To view some of my Sashiko Quilts Click Here)  And yes, I have done several quilts for people from other parts of the country who saw my work online and sent their quilts to me to quilt.

This should give you some ideas of how to get new customers. YOU have to think a little “out of the box” but I know you can do this.

I know that there are even more ways than these to find new customers! If you have another idea please send it to me in an email to longarmu@aol.com or put it in the comments section.

In my next post I will talk about getting your information out to others!

 

 

 

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Customer Contact

When I was traveling and teaching classes during the summer I was talking about contacting customers long after their quilting was done. One student said that she only gets a customer’s phone number and then throws it out when she is done with the quilt. I was dumbfounded!

I asked if she ever sent a follow up letter or card or contacted her customers during the year. She said no, that she never had and never thought to do so.

So, my question to you is –

When your customer brings a quilt to you to quilt, do you collect as much of their contact information that you can?

Obviously, you should get their name and phone number. And you should include the following –

  • Complete mailing address – your customer may live next door, down the street or in the same town. Get this information from them.
  • Phone number AND cell phone number. Also ask which is a better number to contact them
  • Email address – yes, you need this too.
  • Social Media – do they do FaceBook, Twitter, etc. If so, get this information.
  • Birthday Month – you don’t need to know their exact date or year, but the month is important.
  • If you text, ask the following –
  • Do you accept text messages? Do you accept photos via text? If so, add this to your customer information.
  • You may want to ask what is the best way and the best time to contact them.

Yes, this may be extra work for you, but it is IMPORTANT!

The obvious reason you need all of this information is to let your customer know that their quilt is ready to be picked up. If you can’t reach them via phone, at least you have other contact info options such as email and their home address. And yes, there have been times when I have had to send a letter, via regular mail, to let someone know their quilt is ready. I have also sent text messages and, literally, have had customers stop what they are doing to come over and pick up their quilt.

But here is where you can set yourself apart from other professional quilters in your area. Because you have your customer’s complete contact information you can send them notices, updates, special offers, etc., during the year. You can establish a “relationship” with your customer which keeps YOU at the top of THEIR list when it comes to machine quilting.

I recommend that about every three months send your customers something via regular mail. This “something” can be as simple as a note, maybe revolving around the seasons or local events.

Since it’s October, let’s do a Fall theme. You could write –

It’s Fall! The leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and we are getting ready for winter. The weather is getting chilly out – perfect for wrapping up in a quilt or two!

Now is the time to bring your quilts to (fill in your name or business name) for quilting!

Bring your quilts by (date) and receive (special offer).

PS – Christmas is coming! Get your gift quilting done early this year! Call (phone number) to make your appointment.

(Of course, you have ALL of your contact information on the card!)

You don’t have to be an eloquent writer! If you are a scrapbooker you could dress up and personalize the cards as much as you want. All you need is something to remind your customers that you exist and are ready to work on their quilts.

Note: we will talk about special offers in a future blog post.

If you have been keeping track of your customer information and the quilts that you have done for your customers, I would make a list such as –

Customers in the last six months, all of 2014, all in 2013, and as far back as you want to go.

Then decide which list to send the cards to. I would definitely send a card to all of my customers for 2014 and 2013. Then, depending how many cards you want to make, send them to customers from past years.

I would also note when I sent these cards out and see what kind of response I would get from them. Even if only one customer responds – that is one more quilt and more $$ you will earn!

Why would you want to know what month your customer was born in? Because you can then send them a birthday card – a card you make or a purchased card – with a special birthday offer. Send the birthday cards out early in the month and date the special offer for the whole month. For some people, this may be the only birthday card or greeting they receive!

Does that make YOU special! It sure does! Is it worth the extra effort? I feel it is. Does this make your customers want to come back to you again and again, YES! And that is what we want – happy customers who come back again and again, bringing us wonderful quilts so that we can “do our (quilting) magic!”

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts.

A November Idea

Early November is a “strange” time for professional machine quilters.

Many quilters are up to their ears with customer quilts and customer Christmas quilts and are working nearly all the time to get these quilts finished on time. Other quilters may have big “spaces” in their schedule and could use some extra work to pay their bills or to use for their own holiday celebrations.

If you are a busy quilter, good for you and You Go Girl (or Guy)!!! If you are the quilter who could use a few more quilts to finsh before the end of the year, I have an idea for you.

I suggest that you go to your customer list (you should have a data base of the customers you have had, preferably since you started your business) and find the customers who you have had little or no contact with for a while. You have to determine what  “for a while” means to you. This could be customers who haven’t brought a quilt in for six months, or maybe they haven’t brought a quilt in for a year or more. (I would choose six months or more.)

 Now, write-up a note reminding them that Christmas and the Winter Holidays are coming up, time is getting short and if they want quilting done for the Holidays, they need to contact you as soon as possible so you can get their quilting done in time. (Don’t worry about what to write, I have an example you can use a little later in this post.) To make this offer irresistible to your customer, include that they can have a FREE BATTING if they bring their quilt before a certain date. Trust me, Free Batting get the attention of your customer – which is what you want!

Print out these notes (I use Publisher, which is already on my computer) on card stock paper (card stock is slightly heavier than regular computer paper), put your customer’s address on it, stamp it and put it in the regular mail. Wait the day or two it takes to have the Post Office deliver these notes, and you should have a few more quilts to complete!

Here is a pdf of the note that I created for my business November Customer Note Feel free to adapt it and use it in your business.

Here are the details about this note – There are two notes printed per page, landscape page layout. I cut it in half and then folded it in half with the address on the outside and taped the short edges together. I created labels with my customer’s addresses (using the Mail Merge function in Word from the addresses in my data base), then put these notes in the mail.

I put my note cards in the mail last week. The results – I have already had a few customers call and they will be dropping off their quilts in the next few days!

Let me know your thoughts and if you use this idea, please let us know your results.