Rue

Selling in a saturated market

Recommended Posts

I've been contemplating/discussing the challenges of selling 'common' products in a saturated marketplace.  

Violins fall into that category.  Everyone knows what a violin is.

There are low end (mass produced),  middle range, high end (bench made), and what I'd group as luxury instruments (where provenance is everything)...so anyone can find one at any price point to meet their needs/wants.

The internet is great - but it's also overwhelming.  If I start looking for something (anything) I find myself in a confusing forest almost immediately.  Often times I can't tell what's what.

However, while the internet is evolving, it's not going anywhere, so this overwhelming access to 'stuff' isn't going to disappear.  I predict it's only going to get worse.

A. How do you establish a niche for yourself in this climate?  Most MNers would fall into the middle/high end market.  How do you advertise?  Do you have enough clientele?  Where do they come from?  What led them to you?

B. If you are a consumer of any similar product (ie. where you want something handcrafted and not mass produced) - how do you search for what you want?  How do you sort through the mass of items to narrow it down?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Rue said:

I've been contemplating/discussing the challenges of selling 'common' products in a saturated marketplace.  

Violins fall into that category.  Everyone knows what a violin is.

There are low end (mass produced),  middle range, high end (bench made), and what I'd group as luxury instruments (where provenance is everything)...so anyone can find one at any price point to meet their needs/wants.

The internet is great - but it's also overwhelming.  If I start looking for something (anything) I find myself in a confusing forest almost immediately.  Often times I can't tell what's what.

However, while the internet is evolving, it's not going anywhere, so this overwhelming access to 'stuff' isn't going to disappear.  I predict it's only going to get worse.

A. How do you establish a niche for yourself in this climate?  Most MNers would fall into the middle/high end market.  How do you advertise?  Do you have enough clientele?  Where do they come from?  What led them to you?

B. If you are a consumer of any similar product (ie. where you want something handcrafted and not mass produced) - how do you search for what you want?  How do you sort through the mass of items to narrow it down?

 

A. Apply the KISS principle.   Meet people with musical interests at entertainment venues selling alcoholic beverages.  Sell them a violin before they sober up.  Disappear into the night. :ph34r:  :lol:

B.  Now here's a subject which could be discussed at length.  IMHO, the foundation of doing this is to be a well-informed scholar of the product of interest, and it helps no end if you are knowledgeable in the production, history, and use of the thingy, along with the current state of the market involved, to include the current level and quality of fakery and fraud prevailing in that market.  With the internet bursting with facts to be gathered, it's a good place to start.  Besides basic informational sites (Wikipedia and its littermates), educational sites (there's a lot of university class-support pages, DIY how-to's, YouTube expositions, etc.), library resources (archive.org, Google Books, etc.), and on-line museum/private collection photo galleries, the most important resources are expert on-line forums (like MN) and the on-line markets themselves.  Study all of these resources exhaustively before you spend a penny.  As to how to do that most successfully, I'll see how this thread proceeds and maybe come back with more comments later. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one needs to look into  the psychology of "value perception" . The "China" thing will in the long run come back to bite "you" . Basically we have an entire world of people who are "x amount of years old" who actually think that a set of outdoor lawn furniture should cost about 40 bucks, same with violins. When you are bombarded with cheap goods across a broad spectrum products, in time, with no actually exposure to the manufacture side of life, we basically have a mass of people who have no concept of value perception. 

So after years and years of western business giving away the farm in order to gain some profit, we see once "slave labor" and shoddy workmanship, turn into "skilled workers" with high quality, and yet, still way cheaper that what it once might have been. This of course will only go on for so long, and when it does eventually end you will have a nation of people who do not know how to make anything and are expecting others to.make it for them , and they expect to pay virtually nothing for it.

A rude awakening will happen, as external forces rise up against the "petro dollar" as they should, as it is strong arm central banker tactics which have given the Us unfair advantage as well as allow for fiat currency to flourish , which means you owe more in debt to the scammers.

Basically I don;t have an answer to your questions, but I do know that they are important questions

I have always just been a weirdo outlier and so its always been easy to be different for me, I've got most of my clients by word of mouth. Ironically  by doing the exact opposite of "what everyone else said I should do" ie. make "normal" violins.  Also ironically by doing this I seem to have been able to skip the slow escalating "get better clients" thing and gone right to the top of the heap.They don't come often, but when they do come they are VIP....As I was able to get a violin in Ozcan Ulucans hands I was able to get exposure to Maxim, which is now a potential, and pretty much the top, nothing is in stone, but things have been discussed, so that's the way I do it, maybe get blister on my pinky, maybe get a blister on my thumb 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, this is not a normal market, it is more like the art market, not all that rational. I wold not get a work by Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst, but the market do pay a mint for them.

Sales will not occur "naturally", you will have to work a bit on it.

But, luckly, I am a viola maker!

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Making violins, professionally, and as your only source of income, is a very hard row to hoe. I have never recommended it.

If one possesses what it takes to become a professional maker, there are probably much higher income opportunities available within that talent and diligence realm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What about a total amateur like me building his first one.  Is there any chance of a sale?  or do I have to build lots of them and give them away?   Not enough room in the shop to hang more than one or two on the wall. 

   Manfio is there a better market for violas than for violins? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Rue said:

If you are a consumer of any similar product (ie. where you want something handcrafted and not mass produced) - how do you search for what you want? 

First separate want from need.

I am fortunate that I got what I needed long ago through the help of friends, a good shop, and luck. Every instrument I have owned since has been a want, and usually some random encounter.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Making violins, professionally, and as your only source of income, is a very hard row to hoe. I have never recommended it.

If one possesses what it takes to become a professional maker, there are probably much higher income opportunities available within that talent and diligence realm.

Too bad, you could have become a shepherd after all

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rue, always great to see you are not a bugsickle! :)

For me, for B, I would never, ever use the internet to make a selection, if we are talking something highly variable like wooden musical instruments (even among 'mass-produced' models!), which have important properties (actually, to me, most of the most important properties, since I have no interest in collector value!) that cannot be assessed online.

I know a lot of places will send you up to perhaps three student-grade violins at a time to trial, but that still isn't many, even if you use several places and get multiple lots from each. I mean, just to buy a ~$2000-ish violin and a few-hundred-ish bow (I was willing to go $3000/$1000, but spent less), I spent several hours spread over two visits at the local violin shop playing probably 20 violins just to select three of each to take on trial. If we had more options where I live, I would have tried even more.

I even debated making the three-hour drive to Chicago and staying a couple of days to be able to hit more shops and try a wider range of instruments, but finally decided that for my level of play, and the cost of the instrument/bow relative to the cost of the trips (I probably would have had to go back at least once, to take back what I wasn't keeping) and time off work, it probably wasn't worth it. For sure if I were spending several thousand to ten or 15 thousand, I would go hit some market(s) with a lot wider selection, as there is really not much choice here (really, not much even in the $2,000-3,000 range, either :( ). It would be great to live near Ann Arbor and get to go spend all day every day for a week trying stuff at Shar, lol, and there are of course some world-class makers there, too! :)

I can't really think of anything else that I would be buying handmade online that would be in the same category of something expensive and handmade. Furniture perhaps? Even then, I really would want to see it in person, sit on it, bounce on it a little if was a couch or something, and run my hands across it. For expensive clothes, you would need to be fitted and so forth (not that I would ever buy expensive clothes, lol), though I guess unless they are bespoke you could return them. Even jewelry, I would think buying something expensive (again, not that I would), I would want to see it in person.  So really kinda hard for me to relate to your question, sorry.

Sorry to be of so little help, lol. But I am likely not really in the category of shopper you are inquiring after, lol. For sure can't help with A!

Stay warm!

Carol :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

The shepherd realm was not entirely unattractive. ;)

Have you ever seriously wished you'd taken a different path? E.g. thought what am I doing scraping on sticks?   My experience is no matter what you're doing something looks more attractive.  Usually the polar opposite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MikeC said:

What about a total amateur like me building his first one.  Is there any chance of a sale? 

The question is what is the chance of it appealing to someone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MikeC said:

What about a total amateur like me building his first one.  Is there any chance of a sale?  

I suppose if you find a buyer and want to sell it...then sell it.

However,  I'm curious...my first of anything isn't refined enough that I would consider selling it.  It remains in my 'prototype' box - for reference, laughs and nostalgia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

Have you ever seriously wished you'd taken a different path?

I've struggled with that. The violinmaking path happened to work out OK for me, after about 20 years. But one of my nephews got such a high-paying job just into grad school, that it was hard for him to go back and complete the degree.

He seems to be quite satisfied in the electrical engineering world, and maybe I would have been too. I happen to get a lot of satisfaction out of manipulating physical objects, but maybe I would have been no less satisfied manipulating electrons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Rue said:

A. How do you establish a niche for yourself in this climate?  Most MNers would fall into the middle/high end market.  How do you advertise?  Do you have enough clientele?  Where do they come from?  What led them to you?

One way I have seen to establish a niche is to be a dedicated salesman selling directly to young players whose parents have some money.  Not my thing.

Another way is to work very hard at making very high quality instruments... which takes about 10 years of effort, seeking out good instruments to examine, good players for evaluation, and (most importantly, I think) good makers for advice.  And making instruments.  This only works if there are good basic skills or aptitude for precision woodworking.

My initial sales were to people that I knew, or who knew people that I knew, from the local fiddling community (should also work for other genres of music), or from family connections.  A few sold thru a local shop on commission.  Very low (relative) prices, just to get them out of the way.  For higher levels of visibility, an internet presence helps a lot... photos, videos, etc. to display what you can make.  And if you can make a really good instrument and get extremely fortunate to have a great player make fantastic videos, that's a HUGE boost.  

Right now, I have enough clients to keep me busy for a while.  If I could make more, I could likely sell more.  Clients come from all over, mostly poking around the internet looking for their new instrument.  You just never know, so it helps to be visible so you  can be found.  Most recent client is from Maestronet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, MANFIO said:

First, this is not a normal market, it is more like the art market, not all that rational. I wold not get a work by Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst, but the market do pay a mint for them.

Sales will not occur "naturally", you will have to work a bit on it.

But, luckly, I am a viola maker!

 

Edited by Martin McClean
Double post

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting.  As usual I have an odd perspective.  I work with people of all levels of making all over the  world.  I hear this question regularly.

I was once a professional maker of custom bespoke furniture.  I recently spoke with a colleague, about my age, who is a world renowned maker of Craftsman era furniture.  He said it is more difficult than ever to get commissions.  But part of me still wishes ....25 years later....that I had stayed with it.  

We do what we do by way of passion, not payment.  If we are good at what we do and a bit lucky we will find a way to continue.  Fortunately for me, I found another craft to absorb my passion and it provides enough to keep the bills paid.

Change is the norm.  And change is about.  Antique instruments gain value and price themselves beyond the reach of most players.  Modern instruments compete for sound and appearance....and they don't demand constant maintainance.

As the thousands of young players in conservatory in China begin to recognize the quality of the instruments made there everything will change again.

on we go.... hopefully,

Joe

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Rue said:

I suppose if you find a buyer and want to sell it...then sell it.

However,  I'm curious...my first of anything isn't refined enough that I would consider selling it.  It remains in my 'prototype' box - for reference, laughs and nostalgia.

Technically number 1 was back in 1985 and is in pieces / kindling.  Number 2 was a better VSO,   Now working on number 3 which should be much better since I have learned a long hanging around on MN.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, joerobson said:

As the thousands of young players in conservatory in China begin to recognize the quality of the instruments made there everything will change again.

yup

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Martin McClean said:

Ask a question about violin marketing and you'll get answers about violin/viola marketing dressed up as answers about violin/viola making. Read between the lines.

It's all about marketing and here you can subtlety market yourself for free. MN is a great place to get exposure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The difference in our market is:

-music is a very small world

-our customer know a lot about the product.

-they talk a lot together

All this make our job of selling very different of the other fields.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^His nephew got ripped off though.  It's not unusual for a large company to send a new hire recent graduate engineer to get a master's on their tab.  Often an MBA.  Ten or fifteen years ago, anyway.  That is when things get really different from struggling for survival.

Once you are past the necessities it seems to me what matters is "points of satisfaction", and job description is maybe secondary.  If a great player comes in and makes a really magical sound with an instrument you made, it's the same thing as somebody like me finishing a challenging project or getting a great job offer.  Both are the same thing and the real reward you're after.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another thing I would say, if you are going to sell expensive handmade things, you have to target people who have disposable income to spend on expensive things, gee, I wonder who that would be? :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.