By Rick Hill
CWB Sales and Marketing columnist

Woodworkers usually hate selling

. They got into the woodworking because they like making things out of wood, not selling them. If they had wanted to wear plaid sport coats, they would have gotten a job in the used car lot down the street.

There is a way to get your name and products known without being a pushy aggressive salesperson.

In Their Space, Not Their Face
Your customers routinely visit the same areas. They meet similar people with similar interests and incomes. These are the people you want to know about you and your services. Instead of advertising on billboards or in newspapers, expand and leverage your network of customers and build your business on Word of Mouth referrals.

The goal is to get your name mentioned and referred to by others that your customers will trust. This happens when you put your products in their space, not their face.

With Word of Mouth referrals, the customer calls you with a level of trust already established. They also will come to you with a project in hand. Word of Mouth customers are also easier to sell to as all of us count on the recommendations of friends more than any intrusive advertisement.

How to Build Word of Mouth Business
My friend Doc owns a small pottery shop. He sells his pottery along with some consignment art from other local artists. His pottery is very nice, but let’s face it, it’s clay pots. He won’t sell any pots going door-to-door or by putting up a billboard. Yet, he has run this shop successfully for a decade. People know who he is and his store has lots of repeat customers.

To make this happen, Doc gets in his customers’ space. For example; every year we volunteer at the Make-A-Wish Golf Outing held at “The Bull.” The Bull is a Jack Nickalus designed course that draws every doctor, lawyer and big business owner in the county. Every year he hand makes unique trophies for the outing. These are very creative and as they are one of a kind, they are highly coveted. Of course, Doc’s name and number are etched on the bottom of each one. He also donates one very nice plate or pot for the event’s silent auction.

Doc does this type of marketing for four charities in town. Doc’s goal is not to make money on these donations. He considers them his advertising, and uses them to promote his products.

Custom woodworkers can put the same idea to use. Donate a table or carving to a charitable event. If you make cabinets, you could donate a pull out waste can and install it for free. There is no better way to get your name and product in front of people than to donate and show them your creativity. It is important that the customers see you helping the causes they believe in, this builds a rapport and trust before they have even met you. Track the amount of leads you receive from each group you work with so that you know where your efforts are having the most effect.

Every town also has all sorts of service groups, Jaycees, Rotary, Kiwanis and dozens of charities like humane societies, domestic abuse shelters, art centers, and park associations. Ask your customers what benefits they are attending. Wherever they show up is where you want to be.

Rick Hill is a consultant specializing in woodworking companies that need to find new markets and more sales. He is also an independent sales rep and founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent reps in the woodworking industry. He can be reached at
[email protected]

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