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Ceramics and the Internet: Article or Project

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About 1995, I was interviewed by the editors of Arts & Crafts Magazine, a leading ceramic publication at that time. During the interview, I was asked what I saw for the future of ceramics. I prophesied that in order to survive, Ceramic Shops/studios would need to turn to the internet in order to compete and succeed.

Today, I repeat the mantra. It is imperative that you utilize the internet in promoting your business and your product. Everyone, whether you are a fully functioning store, a home studio, a hobbyist wanting to sell some wares, or someone making and selling finished items on any scale, the web can make the difference of coasting along or really succeeding. Buyers are loving the ability to search the net and find new products and ideas, they are loving the convenience. Don’t you want to receive part of the millions of dollars being spent daily on the internet?

It does not have to be fancy, but an internet presence with your own website is crucial. It is no longer the matter of saying, 'maybe one of these days' - it is NOW. The future is here. Face it, you are using the internet-you’re here, so why limit yourself to only doing the surfing and buying?

Websites do not have to be expensive. A domain name .. YOUR name can be obtained for about $10 a year. There are free hosting sites available and some of them will provide assistance and templates so that you can build your own website. For nominal fees, you can find hosts with servers who will help you advertise and promote your website business, it only takes some research (on the internet of course) and via word–of- mouth to find something that will fit your budget.

So you have a good customer base already and you think nah, I don't need it. But you do. Imagine walking into your studio in the morning and finding orders from your customers who were at home browsing through the internet (surfing) and on impulse were tempted to check your site out and found something that they just could not live without, or maybe they were in the middle of a project and realized they needed some supply or other and found out you had it so ordered it. If they waited until you were open, the urge may pass and they to will say, ‘one of these days, I’ll go check out that ceramic shop.’ then forget or get busy doing something else. Many businesses go out of business because customers, get distracted or keep putting off their visit.

Having a website does not mean that you have to sell out of your area, it does not mean you have to ship. It does mean that you will be able to service your customers better and faster. It gives you the opportunity to promote specials and sales without having to mail circulars or place advertising which can be costly. Do you rely on signs in your studio announcing an upcoming event or a sale? Do only the regular customers take advantage? With a website, even those who do not visit your shop on a regular basis will be able to click on your site and see, at a glance upcoming sales, classes, new products, new molds/bisque/greenware and they will be able to interface with you with questions anytime they want.

I've set up several websites over the past 20 plus years from free to hosted and have learned that it is most important to begin somewhere and then build from there. I've learned a lot about how important a good hosting service can be in success or failure. I've learned that I am too old to master or keep up with all the changes in technology so rely on my hosting site to keep me up-to-date with the basics and trust them with the details. OK, OK..so we are never too old to learn - even the computer. I just don't want to 'know' much of it. I don't want to know HOW it works, or even WHY. I just want it to do what I want it to do. I do know that the more you can be involved and the more you can understand the process, the better off you will be.

Whether you utilize established sites for selling, like Online Auctions, Etsy, or (choke) Ebay, et al; you should still maintain your own identity with your own website regardless of the scale you choose.

There are many sites out there that enable you to promote your site such as blogs or Facebook that are free and only require your time to post and toot your own horn. These 'networks' spread information like a wild fire.

Many of the 'free' blogs and sites offer services with fees to 'spread the word' even faster than that which you get free and I encourage you to use caution before spending the money. This is where a good hosting site will be of benefit. There are so many ways your competitors can use the system against you and wind up costing you big bucks. For example Google Ad Words. This is a game that can cost you plenty and not reap any benefit to you or your business, unless you know how to 'play'. Why pay good money for something that can be used against you? Learn how to utilize the search engines, Google, Yahoo, etc. to your advantage.

Seems like a lot of effort involved, but you will find it rewarding in many ways. The more you put into it, the more you will get from it.

 

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