View Full Version : It's Spring and Sales are Non-Existent... Again

Tim Bateson
04-22-2010, 1:42 PM
It's that time of year again. I'm out of work & the laser business is dead. Third year in a row for both.
I'm curious as to why spring sales are always so slow? I know some of you have more work than you can handle. This question is for everyone else.

Darryl Hazen
04-22-2010, 2:45 PM

Have you thought about talking to the sign shops in your area? We have had a lot of laser engraving orders from the ones in our area. A lot of them do not have in-house lasers and are willing to farm it out.

Dee Gallo
04-22-2010, 2:53 PM
I believe Spring is a time when people are getting outside after winter and cleaning up their gardens and such, not spending money after the holiday/heating/Spring break seasons are over.

This might be a good time to approach garden centers, home improvement stores, contractors to show them samples of impulse items people will pick up when they buy seeds and supplies. Simple things like plant markers on wooden sticks to garden greeting signs to stuff people will hang on doors or add to wreaths to stepping stones/wood rounds and so on. I know I always fall for some silly thing like that when I go to the store.

cheers, dee

Mike Null
04-22-2010, 3:54 PM

Among other things, this is peak season for those who do school and college awards. The wedding business will be booming very shortly as well.

Commercial/industrial stuff is steady pretty the year round.

Shouldn't your question be, "what makes your business so good?".

Can you take another look at your marketing strategy?

Scott Shepherd
04-22-2010, 7:38 PM
Tim, what exactly IS your market? I don't recall if you've ever said. Instead of everyone telling you what market's they are in (some won't do that), maybe if you tell is what your market is, some people will gladly look at it and offer advice.

Not knowing what you do, I'm not sure how we can help because we don't know what isn't working for you.

Can you tell us a little more about the types of things you do and your customer type(s), retail, commercial, etc.?

Joe Pelonio
04-22-2010, 9:33 PM
Darryl has a good idea. I'm starting to get busy with engraved signs and acrylic lettering, plus some corporate awards, all wholesale jobs for sign shops. Most even provide the material so it's just load the file and run.

Bill Cunningham
04-22-2010, 10:09 PM
Wedding stuff, and graduation stuff is the usual spring/summer stuff.. But industrial stuff can be anytime.. I just had a $1k order for valve tags come in last week, and just getting to them tomorrow. Most of next week is already booked with memorials, and glassware.. The recession has been a lot lighter in Canada, and Canadians are buying. I've only had one order from the U.S. this year, and I shipped that yesterday.. Could be because the $cdn is now par and sometimes a little above the greenback, I can only assume Americans are mostly buying from other Americans.

Rodne Gold
04-23-2010, 12:53 AM
I too think you should look inwards and refine your marketing , target market and product mix.
As others have asked , what exactly IS your market you are currently serving?

Tim Bateson
04-23-2010, 12:13 PM
I appreciate all of the advice and PMs. This slow period in the spring is just my observations over the past 3 years. To clarify some of the questions & queries:

I’m a hobbyist/part-time businessman looking to make a few spare $. I knew before I bought my laser that I couldn’t replace my day job (when I have one). So I don’t try. In fact I’ve turned away a couple larger contracts for that reason. Not enough $ to replace my regular income and too much work to do in evenings & weekends. My goal from day #1 was to learn this business over 10+ years on a hobbyist/ part-time business bases. Then spend 2-3 years after that building a full-time business as I ease into retirement from my current career. Sounded like a solid plan a few years ago.

For marketing, I’ve used the shotgun approach to see what sticks. Unfortunately that seems to change from season to season and year to year. I’ve made a lot of money on dog tags, on wooden crosses, on marble/granite and a host of odds and ends. I’ve discovered things that just don’t work for me – either no sales or too time consuming to be worth it. The problem seems to be no consistency. I’ll go through cases of marble in a few months and have no orders for a year. I’ll sell literally hundreds of dog tags in a few weeks span, then a trickle from time to time. Crosses are always a decent seller, but very time consuming and low profit.

The past 3 1/2 years have been a good education. I can see moving to more of a sign based business. I can see the possibilities in industrial endeavors. I clearly see that diversification is a major key to a full-time business. However making that bridge between hobbyist /part-time business and full-time entrepreneur is a tough leap. Being downsized for the 3rd straight year, I have to ask myself if it’s just bad luck or is the universe trying to tell me it’s time for a new career? If the later is the case most of the doors around here still seem to be firmly locked.

The past 2 years after being down-sized, I pushed my laser business hard with little to no results… until after I was once again gainfully employed. Then the orders came pouring in (from sources other than the ones I'd pushed)... well they did increase dramatically. My days, evenings & weekends were full. Thus my original question about Spring being so slow. I think Dee hit on the best answer.
I’ve gotten some good advice to improve my web site and practical advice on marketing. Now, I need to weigh my options and pray fate has bigger plans for me.

As for the day-job search – the current odds of moving from Cincinnati Ohio to Raleigh /Durham North Carolina is about 50/50. Moving isn't something I desire, but I now have to keep all of my options open.

Scott Shepherd
04-23-2010, 12:33 PM
Sounds like your main stay has been a retail client if I'm reading that right. I can't offer any suggestions for that. I used to have an online store I ran for a guy that traveled a lot. One thing I learned from that was that no matter what, people were completely unpredictable. I thought it would be easy to predict to some degree. I was wrong. Like you, we'd see orders for one item, all at once, strong demand, then we'd gear up to handle that, and we'd not see another order for 6 months. Things you think will sell well, won't, things you don't think will sell well, do.

I think you've nailed your own issue. You want to do it part time, but the people that have repeat orders and money don't want to sent their work out to part time people. They want someone to call during the day that can knock something out and bring it right over.

It's tough, for sure. Keep working hard, it'll happen. Just keep asking questions like this of yourself and you'll figure it all out.

Liesl Dexheimer
04-26-2010, 2:03 PM

I too have noticed a decline in sales since January of this year. It's getting pretty depressing. I've tried marketing, sent out over 300 emails to various local businesses. Had one potential job which fell through and only got one other job (although it was a large job, I more than worked for the $$ in labor). Our regular customers are the only things keeping us going and even they are cutting back. We did so well last year, in fact every year since we opened we gained more than in previous years but I think this year will be the exception. I even noticed our local sign shop has given us less and less business. :(

Customers seem pretty conservative here in the northeast. I can only hope the economy recovers in our sector of the industry so that things start happening again.

**EDIT** One suggestion, you could try marketing to funeral homes. We engrave quite a number of casket and urn plates for a local funeral home. It probably won't make you rich but it may help a little...

Jim Beachler
04-26-2010, 3:37 PM
Tim, I think you should laser in on what you what to make and sell and push it hard. By your posts you stated that you are trying a shotgun approach. I am in a small niche (personalized childrens items) but I love what I do and focus on pushing my product to the market(s) that apply.

You stated that you did great on dog tags for a while. If you like doing that, start hitting all the vets you can find to set up a display in their office. Talk with pet store owners about doing dog tags for them. I would suggest doing something above what the traditional is and do something that is unique to you. Attend wholesale pets expos and talk with store owners about setting up orders through them.

Maybe you're not talking about dog tags for pets..... oh well. You get the idea.

In my opinion, not focusing on one area hurts in that you cannot focus your marketing dollars and time to get maximum impact.

If you are hunting for a big buck (deer), you use a rifle, not a shotgun.

Bill Cunningham
04-27-2010, 9:25 PM

I've tried marketing, sent out over 300 emails to various local businesses.

Liesl; I don't think you will ever have much luck drumming up business with email. Most businesses just look at the subject, if it even remotely looks like someone trying to sell them something, it's deleted without being read. Your competing with the big companies in China that send out millions of emails . Also, some people think no subject will peak the interest and cause the email to be opened. Emails without subjects are opened at the risk of the receiver, so my filter is set to bounce back email without subjects to the sender(mostly hotmail users). Same with Faxing. Getting a ad Fax, is Like getting your mail postage due, because the recipient is paying for it in consumables. If you feel your service can be valuable, print off some fliers etc. stick a stamp on a envelope, and address it to the buyer by name. You will have much better luck..

Tim Bateson
06-04-2010, 5:08 PM
Update - I've been rehired. Same company - new project. Time to relax & breath again. http://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.png

Dan Hintz
06-04-2010, 6:10 PM
Update - I've been rehired. Same company - new project. Time to relax & breath again. http://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.pnghttp://forums.planetchristmas.com/images/smilies/biggrin.png

I don't know what line of business you're in, but if the same company keeps firing/hiring, I'd look for another employer.

Tim Bateson
06-04-2010, 6:25 PM
I'm in IT - Government contracts come & go.

Viktor Voroncov
06-05-2010, 3:30 AM
Since August 2008 (start of crisis) only 6 months were profitable :(

pete hagan
06-06-2010, 8:43 AM
In Lexington and surrounding areas just south of you the spring time is ripe for the volume work around sports trophies, plaques and such. When I say spring time that means March thru June because sales must be sought in March/April to fill May/June deliveries.
For instance just the baseball market has five or six different leagues.
Each league has divisions (T-Ball, Rookie, Minor, Little League) and each division usually has 6-8 teams. EVERY team gets at least two plaques for sponsorship recognition and many teams give plaques to the coaches as well. That alone is 48 plaques minimum. This is besides the trophy work which you may not be too interested in but must be sold together if you want the business. Trophy work is a pain but once you are setup to do it it is very lucrative even part time.

Now there's soccer, basketball, football, etc. The trick is to work with a photographer that is taking the pictures for the leagues and supply the backend work. It's wholesale but likely at a better price for both parties to be happy.

Good luck.. BTW I don't supply this market (I'm working just for my special event needs) but on the receiving end of these awards and always thought that these niche markets were ripe for agressive marketing.

Garrick David
06-06-2010, 9:02 PM
Networking. I seem to get most of my orders through people I know. The more people I really get to know, the more work I get.

Glenn Corser
06-06-2010, 10:00 PM
Tim, I kind of had the same plan you did - learn how to use all the equipment and then work at it "full-time" in retirement. I started a few years ago doing arts/crafts shows. In particular, I was lucky enough to get hooked up with a guy who was trying to start a weekly artists market. He flopped and so did the guy who took over after him but in those years I came up with a portfolio of stuff I could do and made a lot of contacts. That has led to modifying lamps that I make into bottle glorifiers for a local tequila company, making crayon holders for a local resort, doing edge-lit signs for various businesses, making candle holders for a local restaurant, and having my lamps, coasters, etc in a couple of gift shops around town. But, the foundation of it all was doing arts/crafts work and trying to get to know people and work those contacts. I know how hard it is to do those shows (I now do only 4 or 5 a year for about $6k but plan to do 4 or 5 more of the bigger local ones when I retire) but if you view them as ways to meet people and get contacts for other work they are easier to deal with. BTW, I'm in defense work too and can't believe how it has changed over the years. I'm amazed that I made it this long and am glad I only have to sweat out a couple more years.