LADY GAGA, STEVE JOBS AND VINCENT VAN GOGH - THE MYTH OF THE MAGIC BULLET
What makes a maker / artisan business successful? This is a regular topic of conversation in the maker community. Every time the question is posed there are responses that focus on the one magic bullet or a small array of them that will ostensibly result in overnight success.
There is no magic solution to success in the blink of an eye. Perhaps one in a hundred or one in a thousand craft businesses become an overnight success - by sheer luck. It is the equivalent of winning the lottery or the jackpot – no skill or knowledge needed. In reality, makers reach their goals over time, not in the blink of an eye. They earn their wins by consistently doing many little things right. Vincent van Gogh, one of the greatest artisans in history did not paint a masterpiece in a day or two. He said:
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”
A more modern version of Vincent’s words comes from Gary Keller’s best-selling business book The One Thing:
“When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time.
When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time.
When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time.
When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time.”
Lady Gaga honed her skills for several years by writing essays, working with other artists and playing gigs in the New York area before “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” hit the charts.
Steve Jobs became acquainted with many areas of digital technology early in his career. Before the Apple II was born, Jobs developed his skills working as an Atari technician, building and selling circuit boards and the short lived “Blue Box”, a device designed to digitally generate dial tones.
Big success stems from the momentum of small successes. Makers can harness this principle by identifying aspects of their business where change has the greatest positive impact on success and then improving them step-by-step. Most often those areas lie in the sales and marketing areas. It is also possible, but less likely, that they are on the operations side (process, equipment / technology, etc.).
For example, ceramicist Nia has good sales results from her online store, and only modest success at brick and mortar venues. After a quick analysis she concludes that one way of increasing her brick and mortar sales is to overhaul her merchandising, i.e. the way she presents her work in displays. Here are some tactics she uses:
- Change the colour of the backdrop/background of her displays for more contrast.
- Add spot lighting, to draw the eyes of customers to her products.
- Arranging her products in groups of 3s or 5s.
- Making pricing labels more visible.
- Add a one-page framed bio to her displays to create a stronger connection with customers.
- Placing her most profitable items together with her bread-and-butter products in the selling hot zone, 3 to 5 feet above floor level.
Nia does this consistently for all her brick & mortar displays or shows. Over the course of a few weeks she takes notes of what is working well and what is not. She eliminates the less effective tactics and step by step her brick and mortar sales increase.
Nia didn’t rely on some kind of divine intervention or magic bullet. She used a series of simple steps starting with the identification of the obstacles that interfered with her brick and mortar sales. Next, she began making intelligent changes in the way she displayed her work and monitored her progress and continuously improved her displays. In the end she made the tactics permanent elements of her merchandizing process.
Continuous small step changes resulted in a several incremental improvements, which in the end added up to a big difference in her sales results. Nia created something that was much more valuable for her craft business than one silver bullet. She built an effective and repeatable process for growing her sales!