As we approach the end of our March series of posts about marketing your creative business, modern quilter and surface designer Thomas Knauer shares his simple approach to marketing. 

February 2013 007

Marketing can feel like an exceedingly complicated thing, especially as one gets into the weeds of particular decisions: this card or that, to place an ad or not, etc, etc. It can be mind-boggling, expensive, and often garner little to no reward. That is why I do very little of it, at least in those particular ways. My business cards are simple; I’ve never taken out an ad. I’ve stopped doing giveaways because that traffic doesn’t really endure, and I don’t do a newsletter. When it comes to all of the usual marketing suspects, I don’t do much.

For me, all of those particulars that are the trappings of marketing make up the surface of marketing, not the substance. For me, marketing is all about the plan—the long term perspective—and the plan comes from two simple questions: Who am I? and What do I do?

I don’t look at marketing as a means to reach an audience, but a way to tell the stories that flow from those two questions. The individual things you do—the cards, the ads, the giveaways, and the sales—are simply tools for conveying the core message, and the first thing you need to do is figure out what that story is. That means really making sense of and understanding your business and putting together a vision for what you want that business to be (a really honest one, not the sudden celebrity version).

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the indie maker world doing incredibly awesome things. In an ideal world just being awesome would be enough, and at a certain level it is, but in order to succeed you need to actually build an audience, which is different from just reaching people. You need an audience that will come back again and again, one that will support you creatively and materially.

All of the practical decisions, then, need to support that goal. Blog posts don’t just show the things; they share the nuances, the bigger picture. If a blog post is there for no other reason than to generate hits to support ad revenue or bolster stats you are doing yourself a disservice. Rather than host giveaways I build relationships based on mutual respect that leads to supporting each other through our work and our resources; you have no idea how much working with other makers can do. The goal should always be to market through good content; the mechanisms should support meaningful things, not just the mechanisms themselves.

To put it into blunt terms, lots of eyeballs are meaningless if your conversion rate is terrible; the blunderbuss is a pretty terrible tool. Reach is great, and is important as your business grows, but the key is to not sacrifice quality for quantity, mouse impressions for human impressions.

Yes, the ads, the cards, the newsletters can all help, can all get the message out there, but the most important thing is to seriously invest in knowing just why you should succeed. And then, of course, do the insanely hard work of doing amazing things; without that all of the marketing in the world won’t mean a thing.

About Thomas Knauer


Thomas Knauer holds MFAs from both Ohio University and the Cranbook Academy of Art, and before entering the quilting world he held faculty positions at Drake University and the State University of New York. He currently designs fabric for Andover Fabrics and is expecting his first book with F+W in early 2014. At times he thinks it might be best to flee to Outer Mongolia.