Buying from independent designers and makers at this time of year is a great remedy against Christmas shopping overdose. When I turned up at the Made In Bristol Gift Fair 30 min before it closed, I had to curb my excitement. It’s hard to focus when surrounded with so many objects of desire. When I don’t have time for a leisurely browse, I pick up cards from sellers I like the most. Besides a couple of purchases, I’m now left with a bunch of cards of varying sizes and quality.

How well will I remember the products I did not buy then but might purchase later?  Here is a video showing three good examples of printed promotion and explaining how to create a lasting impression.

Below, more practical tips to designers and makers who are selling this month:

Nesting sales. Remember the difference between a product and a gift. The gift holds the potential of future sales. There are several characters in this scenario: the ‘giftee’ receives gift, the ‘gifter’ buys and gives gift. Whilst the gift must contain information about your company, don’t forget the gifter and give them an extra postcard or flyer. This is the best way to be remembered for another gifting occasion or for a treat.

Grow your market. Do your bit of co-promotion and use the organisers’ cards or flyers to promote other events you are taking part.

Easy picking. It’s great to speak to your customers but, typically, it is nearly impossible to serve more than one person at once. Besides eye contact and saying hello, make sure your prices are big, clear and visible. Keep postcards and flyers in view and within reach of browsing shoppers.

Busy packing. If someone still looks at your products while you pack and you are pushed for time, make the effort to talk to them briefly. Give a (post)card and tell them how to buy from you after the event: ‘you can come and see us here’ and ‘here is our online shop’.

End of the (cash) King? Mobile technology makes it a lot easier to take card payments. But don’t forget to have some change and keep your notes and coins in a safe place. As a shopper I now expect to be able to make card payments at pop-up events, which means I am likely to buy and spend more.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

How to enhance your design portfolio with text.

Call to action

If an image speaks a thousand words – that’s probably too much talking and not enough telling.  If you are a designer or an illustrator there are endless online platforms to showcase your work and to earn new clients. This post is not about choosing what to show, it is about writing about what you show.

Why you need some text beside your work

  • Never assume that viewers will not look for a caption. If they are interested they will.
  • I am no expert in search engine optimisation but jpegs are more easily found when well associated with (key)words.
  • Not everyone is visually proficient and literate – you are the expert not your potential clients.
  • Images sell better with a good story.
  • When you are in a presentation or meeting talking about your work, the process of writing the caption will inspire the way you speak. One of my clients whose first language is not English uses the text of her portfolio as a prompt when presenting to English clients.

What’s a good story?

A mix of what you put in the work and what the client or user got out of it and how you came to work together.

How many words?

Rarely a thousand… Your portfolio should hold no more than three long stories, many short ones and a healthy number of medium stories. Your long story should never be the full story, save this one for your face to face meetings with inquisitive clients or journalist.

How to inspire the writer in you?
Writing about yourself or your own work is the most difficult thing. Good news is that every designer has a story for every single piece they do. So find your written voice and turn it into a copy that helps you selling your service or products.

Answer some of the questions below to make the story interesting:

  • Who was it for?
  • What was the client need or problem?
  • Why did they come to you?
  • What were the restrictions or limitations?
  • How did you overcome them?
  • What did you enjoy whilst doing the work?
  • What did the client got out of it?
  • Did it win some awards?

Other more specific questions:

  • Why does client X keeps buying from you? – In case you have repeat clients.
  • What do you enjoy doing most? – There must be somewhere you say about what your dream job is, no-one will know otherwise.

And finally…

Get help! Ask people around you to proof read, accept tweaks and hunt for the copywriter amongst your friends, colleagues and relatives. And keep doing it, it will get easier.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook
Eiffel Tower in Snow Dome _ Maison&Objet 2014 review

Kitsch gift

Paris’ M&O has a reputation to be a magnet for international buyers and businesses. I have often heard rumours of disappointment coming from exhibitors: “there aren’t many people… where are the buyers?…where are the big orders?”. In fact I’ve heard this at most trade shows. I would probably become disenchanted too, after days standing on the same carpet with little natural light and not enough fresh air. I spent only a day visiting the famous French show to find out about the reality behind reputation and rumours.

I started with Hall 8, home to design-led brands. There I found Design House Stockholm, Normann Copenhagen and Petite Friture, as well as a strong delegation of British names, such as Tom Dixon, SCP, Dona Wilson and Eleanor Pritchard, to name a few. It felt like a mini-Milan. In fact, a lot of the products shown in Italy were making a second appearance in Paris. Hall 8 was mildly busy with most of the footfall around the stands nearer the entrance and a dwindling flow of visitors past that point.

I visited Hall 7 around 1.30pm, so there was an atmosphere of post-lunch lull. It is the perfect shopping destination if you are after something big, spectacular or expensive – and certainly unique – for your latest luxury pad. It’s also good if you need to furnish a luxury resort, a boutique hotel or if you are a collector.

Hall 6 seemed to get the most visitors. Here, you are likely to meet independent boutique buyers as well as their colleagues from larger stores. It might put off design aficionados but it pretty much felt that this is where business is happening. Some buyers I’ve known for years have only ever bought from Bijorhca and M&O in Paris. Their shop is located in more than 500km from the French capital and they stock a wide variety of jewellery and fashion accessories. They buy mainly in Hall 6, with rare excursions to Hall 7. They would usually spend a week in both January and September in Paris to browse, select and order from European designers and makers exhibiting at these events. There are a number of shops similar to this one across Europe.

If  you are designer-maker exhibiting at this event, you are in the right place. You do, however, need to do some preliminary work to get noticed on the day. This could be a push on PR to get a prime spot in the show directory or magazine. Consider some targeted advertising leading up to the date. Even better talk to potential buyers to find out where and when they go and what informs their decisions.

So why exhibit in Paris? It puts you in front of a lot of potential buyers and customers from Europe, France and possibly Asia. If you are a small brand showcasing your products, it is a very good way to grow your niche in the busy homeware market. Be prepared to build up to the event to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

Five whole years (and two children) since my last visit – I came back to haunt my favourite design destination. A year before, in March 2013, I was having a phone conversation with the director of Secondome:

“Are you coming to Milan?”

“Well, I am actually very pregnant so I won’t be there this year.”

Then conversation moved slightly from the purely business agenda and I watched on the design news unfold hoping to go back one day.

The Alps - en route to Milano

Fast forward to last winter – still on maternity leave – I enlisted a friend to join me on my Italian adventures. We found a cheap flight from Bristol and booked an affordable yet well located room on airbnb.

By the time we had to travel, I was in conversations with a new client about a new contract, so I could not say much about it. Talking about the kids was not allowed, both a scary and exciting prospect. These were my game rules to enjoy Milan:

  • meet with existing contacts
  • have a must-see list of 10 events
  • accept to miss more but to see better
  • come back with a more cards than brochures
  • go to the smaller events and partially ignore the bigger ones
  • use social media daily
  • capture thoughts and write a blog draft before leaving Italy.

Since coming back my focus is on fulfilling my new contract and blogging has taken a back seat. But I have had plenty of time to think about how to best recount my fifth trip to Milan. I will publish at least four more posts that offer a reflection on what I find so special about the Salone and how it impacts Milan and the rest of the furniture, product and interior design industry.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook
If you value your contacts share them!

If you value your contacts share them!

Graphic designers and illustrators credit their printing suppliers, but I often hear that product designers and designer-makers can be protective of their manufacturing contacts.

Why hide your contacts?
Is it a fear of competition? Is it the belief that if your suppliers are less accessible to fellow designers, you’ll have less competition? And then we’ve all heard about how difficult it is to find good manufacturers in the UK or anywhere vaguely local. So despite government initiatives championing manufacturing businesses via innovation and design, we still have struggling manufacturing businesses. There is a simple thing small design businesses can do to support British and European manufacturers: share your suppliers’ details.

The same way that designers like to be mentioned and credited when they are commissioned to do a piece of work, manufacturing businesses need orders to survive. They, too, can’t afford to have all their eggs in one basket – they need large, small and medium-sized orders from a variety of clients. Since most design businesses are on the small side, it is very likely that your suppliers can’t survive on your orders alone.

Here are some simple tips to help you share:

  • Be clear. I dare you to put your suppliers’ details on your products, website and communication materials.
  • Be loud. If you know of a fantastic small workshop that makes wares of exceptional quality and that people can travel to over a day or two, tell everyone and use social media to share the good work(shops). Don’t you like it when your clients do this for you?
  • Be chatty. Have a conversation with your suppliers about how to pass them business. Tell them about other design companies you know that might use them. When is their quietest time of year? Have they got expertise, a piece of technology or know-how they don’t value?
  • Be creative in the way you do business. For example, if you struggle to meet the minimum quantity requirements, could bringing another small account to this supplier help them to meet your demand?

Story CubesIt’s good business practice to introduce someone to your suppliers. Keep doing this; become a valuable client and it wouldn’t surprise me if you were to find them going the extra mile to keep you happy.  People are screaming for referrals; any designer can gain so much from sharing their contacts rather than hiding them!

I provide guidance and advice on how to interact with your manufacturing contacts whether they are suppliers or potential clients – get in touch! www.mariongillet.com

Alternatively, have you tried www.mymas.org?

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

How to enhance your design portfolio with text.

Call to action

Call to action – Cubbon Park, Bangalore, India

If an image speaks a thousand words – that’s probably too much talking and not enough telling.  If you are a designer or an illustrator there are endless online platforms to showcase your work and to earn new clients. This post is not about choosing what to show, it is about writing about what you show.

Why you need some text beside your work

  • Never assume that viewers will not look for a caption. If they are interested they will.
  • I am no expert in search engine optimisation but jpegs are more easily found when well associated with (key)words.
  • Not everyone is visually proficient and literate – you are the expert not your potential clients.
  • Images sell better with a good story.
  • When you are in a presentation or meeting talking about your work, the process of writing the caption will inspire the way you speak. One of my clients whose first language is not English uses the text of her portfolio as a prompt when presenting to English clients.

What’s a good story?

A mix of what you put in the work and what the client or user got out of it and how you came to work together.

How many words?

Rarely a thousand… Your portfolio should hold no more than three long stories, many short ones and a healthy number of medium stories. Your long story should never be the full story, save this one for your face to face meetings with inquisitive clients or journalist.

How to inspire the writer in you?
Writing about yourself or your own work is the most difficult thing. Good news is that every designer has a story for every single piece they do. So find your written voice and turn it into a copy that helps you selling your service or products.

Answer some of the questions below to make the story interesting:

  • Who was it for?
  • What was the client need or problem?
  • Why did they come to you?
  • What were the restrictions or limitations?
  • How did you overcome them?
  • What did you enjoy whilst doing the work?
  • What did the client got out of it?
  • Did it win some awards?

Other more specific questions:

  • Why does client X keeps buying from you? – In case you have repeat clients.
  • What do you enjoy doing most? – There must be somewhere you say about what your dream job is, no-one will know otherwise.

And finally…

Get help! Ask people around you to proof read, accept tweaks and hunt for the copywriter amongst your friends, colleagues and relatives. And keep doing it, it will get easier.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

As the furniture fair in Milan is opening I thought I’d share some of the stories I noted down from my last visit. I’ve thrown in a few of suggestions for designers who are about go for the big showcase!

Time is the essence
I spoke to a couple of designers established in Finland. It was one of the few stands where I was approached for conversation. Being in Milan for the 3rd year, they said that their commitment was starting to pay off as buyers and manufacturers were now coming to see them on their stand. Interestingly they also admitted that they started to design and show products that would be easier to sell, for example smaller objects.

Honesty in movement
There was a designer from Australia who was showing to a small group of visitors the way his products worked, folded, collapsed and adjusted. He also openly admitted that he was looking for more opportunities for his products. As this conversation was happening, other people stopped and picked up cards (shame there was no brochure).  I would not be surprised if his honesty paid off.

A nice gang
A gang of cap-wearing designers giving a continuous demo of their products. Since I remember them so well, it proves that their display and performance worked. One of them was handing out information leaflets to visitors who, like me, looked vaguely interested. However, the demo, which consisted of throwing clothes on rubber bits, was taking over most of the stand and exposing adventurous passers-by to the risk of being struck by some young men’s trunks or T shirts (clean, I hope!). They all seemed to have fun though, which is certainly a way to retain attention.

Best behaviours, a few tips

  • Offer the right amount of information. Prepare as much as possible for questions and give information to all your stand visitors.
  • Keep busy. A busy stand is more engaging than a quiet stand where people look bored. Don’t hesitate to give a full product demo to design students, it might inspire a journalist or buyer to stop.
  • Turn passers-by become actual visitors. Devise a way to engage with anyone who shows the slightest interest. You could offer a piece of information to read or have someone available to speak to people, giving and taking information. Be creative and keep it interesting.
  • Don’t do it on your own. Share your stand and have people helping. Whoever helps should be well briefed and trained to answer most questions.
  • Be honest. If you are looking for stockists, manufacturers, staff, etcetera, mention this in your conversation as you never know who you might be speaking to and who they know.
  • Use your market collaterals. Have to hand cards, brochures, price lists, press releases and perhaps a CD with good quality images and know what you give to who.
  • Be memorable. The challenge is to give the right thing to the right person; find out who they are and what they need the information for. The bottom line is that your products have to be remembered and trade visitors get saturated quickly, so it is important to create a long-lasting impression.
  • Network! More than speaking to your stands’ direct neighbours allow time to network with the other exhibitors especially the larger companies outside of your hall, aisle or space.

Coming soon: the Bangalore furniture fair story on my India Connections blog!

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

I’m not too sure where the pride of working long hours comes from.  Like many design students, graduates and free-lancers, I have done my share of working too late and taking too little time off. I won’t go as far as pretending that I work strictly nine to five and five days a week (I’m writing this on a Sunday) and take my twenty days of holiday per annum, including all bank holidays. A free-lancer enjoys (or endures) flexible working hours, but I keep thinking that holidays were invented for a good reason.

Making most of your time…off

Switch Off

Switch Off

Before you go

  • Book a non-exchangeable, non-refundable ticket and accommodation. Booked trips mean you can’t really pull out at the last minute.
  • Choose your travel buddy well; typically someone who won’t talk too much about work.
  • Switch your mobile off. Even better, leave it behind.
  • Pay bills and deposit cheques before you leave to avoid some nasty surprises.
  • Place ‘hold jobs’ to invoice before or after you go to cover the time you won’t be working, ensuring you have enough income.
  • Take a moment to assess what needs doing during your absence, what can be delegated and things that can be put on hold. Whether you choose to employ extra staff or hire a virtual PA, it’s a good way to learn how to effectively delegate work.

While you’re away

  • Auto-responder can be a great PR tool. Use it to make announcements or ask questions. But don’t forget to give your return date and/or alternative numbers to contact. Keep it short, personal and fun.
  • If you can, record a temporary answer phone greeting that says who and when to call, or that you will contact the caller on your return.
  • Enjoy your holiday! I really mean it – don’t take any work.

When you return

  • Turn off your auto-responder and change your temporary answer phone greeting.
  • If you have lots of emails to sift through, set up an auto-responder kindly prompting people to call or to be patient. If, however, you gave enough warning to clients, partners and colleagues you shouldn’t have too many emails.
  • Whenever possible don’t promise too much too soon. After my last holiday I found it useful to give myself a couple of days to catch up with book-keeping and filing.
  • If you work in a team or on a large project, book a team/project meeting soon after your return.
  • Book a session with your mentor or advisor. It can help you to get back in the swing of things and at the right pace.

Why I think it’s essential to take time off
Having a holiday is the best way to take a regular fresh look at your business – before you go, as you come back or both. It is also a forced deadline. I use holidays as milestones for my medium and long term plans. For example, if I want to progress to “X” by the end of the year, I ought to have sent 3 proposals to potential clients the week before I leave, and have initiated follow up phone meetings for when I return. I read on the MyCake blog that “Taking a holiday is also a great sign of confidence to your clients”. After all, clients take holidays too.

The most efficient people are not those who work the longest hours. Taking your nose away from the grindstone is the best way to avoid getting caught in it – ‘cause you know that hurts!.

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook