Monday, July 8, 2013

Ernie "Gets It!"

I was speaking with someone the other day and I was complaining about how little revenue my forays into advertising had brought me. Etsy advertising just whittled away at my profit and never earned me a dime, and Facebook advertising .. well ... that just sucked in general. Only a couple of bucks wasted but it garnered no clicks and certainly no sales.

This brilliant person said to me, "You don't need to advertise, you need to market."

I didn't get the difference. She tried to explain it, but I didn't get the difference still.

That's been a couple of weeks go by now and I suddenly get it.

I used to be discouraged because the vast majority of knives I have sold have been primarily to people who like me in some way. Either they follow me on internet forums, or my blog or I know them in real life. I was discouraged because people didn't just see my knife and go "wow, I should buy this". I felt like it was just people humoring me, even though my wife always said, "People who want to humor you will say, 'nice knife'. When they open their wallet, it's because  they want the knife."

And now I get that too. People want my knives, but they want an Ernie knife. They want MY knives. They want knives made by me, by someone living my lifestyle who holds the same viewpoints they do, and they want to help support that life. They're not just buying a product here ... they're helping to prop up a dream.

In short, I'm participating in a tribal economy. People self-identify with the tribe I'm in and they want to support someone in the tribe. It's the same reason people drove across town to buy sandwiches at Chik-fil-a or to shop at Hobby Lobby. It's the same reason people buy things locally from people they know. You want to spend your money in your own tribe.

It's why my sales have picked up so dramatically with the new radio show. People aren't crazy about the radio show, though some like it, but it shows people what they're supporting with their money. It shows people the lifestyle that their dollars enable. This is a fascinating thing to me.

The old model is to get your product out in front of as many people as possible. I was very pleased that a couple of local shops agreed to carry my knives in their stores, but ultimately that's proving to be a dead dog of a business model. One of my knives sitting in a display case with a hundred other knives is cool, but I'm not standing there to sell it. There's no Ernie in that picture. It's just a knife, and there's a lot of good knives out there. Even if you go to the handmade knife category, there's guys who have been doing this for 50 years and they make some very good knives.

If I post a picture of a knife on my Facebook page, it will get about 80 views. That's cool. I like that 80 people look at my knife. My Etsy shop is getting about 40-50 views per day and I'm selling 3-4 knives per week right now. This is a very good thing. But when I post some comment about what we're having for dinner or how we spent our day, that goes freakin' viral. I had over 300 people view my post about what my wife thought about us eating "chicken". That's 300 people with money in their pockets who might just buy a knife. You can't purchase that sort of advertising. I don't even know how to make it happen except by just being myself.

I can only make a limited number of knives per week, so even if I suddenly found myself "making the bigtime", I wouldn't be making a fortune. I don't need to. If I sold just ONE knife per day we'd be living high on the hog. Right now we're selling about 1 knife every 3-4 days, which keeps us rolling along. Ultimately I'm selling my labor at about $8-10 per hour. That's not a great business model, but we've arranged our lifestyle in such a way that it fits, and I LOVE the labor I'm selling. So that's worth a lot to me. I am happier earning $8 per hour for labor I love doing than I was when I got $80 per hour for labor I hated.

So thanks, folks, for showing up. Thanks for participating in my tribe. Every time you "like" a post on Facebook then all your friends see it and I end up with new people visiting my page, which has the net result of keeping the shop going. This also shows me where to focus my efforts in the future. I'm not making knives for me, or for the masses. I'm making a niche product for YOU. I am going to start trying to figure out what people want to buy and produce that sort of knife. Expect lots of polls and questions in the future.

I'm also going to start carrying a wider range of products in the shop. A common thing I hear is "I love your knives but I don't have much money right now." That's a situation I can completely identify with. So I want to sell some sort of $5 product that we make here on the farm. Keychains are going to be an easy one to start with. Heck, $5 doesn't look like a lot of money to big business or to most people, but it buys dinner for the whole family here. For about 30 minutes of my labor I can put an entire dinner for 7 people on the table? I consider that a win. That's the new paradigm for the new economy, folks. Just putting dinner on the table one night at a time.

So thank you, and stay tuned as I make all the necessary adjustments to social media and my business. This is a pretty big epiphany and it's going to take some time to absorb. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this so let me know through any of the available channels. God bless, and y'all keep on being y'all.


Jess (Ozark Momma) said...

Old tricks, eh Ernie?

For the record, we LOVE our Ernie knives. Our kiddos' first knives will be Ernie soon as we can trust them to not shank each other in the dark.

Ernest said...

Heh, thanks, Jess!

Wish I could make a "shank proof knife", but it's beyond my skill. :)

But God willing, I'll still be in business when they do get past the shanking-each-other phase and I'll be privileged to provide their first knives!

ladyhawthorne said...

You have made a very good point and I think I get it too!
I think I should give it a go too for my etsy shop. Saint necklaces are kind of a niche market too, but probably smaller than the knife market.

k baxter packwood said...

Glad to hear you figured it out!

Gorges Smythe said...

The old saying is that the salesman doesn't sell his product; he sells himself. Put a picture of yourself with your knives at the stores and the name of your blog, website, etc. and see if that helps. said...

Just a thought. People like to encourage kids, too. And it's really satisfying to a child, to make something that somebody will actually pay them for.