Marketing Your Pens

Pic-1This is the first in a series of ongoing articles to help you make the most of your pen turning business, or to help you get started making a little money with your hobby.  Click any photo to open a larger version.

It is SHOW SEASON, and time to start making pens and selling them. As an instructor and author of several turning books, one question I hear repeatedly is “How do you get started, and where is the best place to sell the pens that I have created?” My first response is why do you want to sell it? Is it to make money, satisfy an egotistical need to be a world renowned pen maker or is it because you have made so many pens that all your friends, family and neighbors have one and they are telling you “Why don’t you sell these?”

These next few paragraphs are by no means going to give you the silver bullet, step-by-step, key to success, however, I will try and offer some pointers on displaying and selling your work.

My first rule of marketing is to be proud of your creation!

Make sure you have one of your own pens in your pocket! Show your pens to everyone, and let everyone know you that you made that pen and people will always say “Really – you made that?” I can not tell you how many pens I have sold by just letting people know that the pen they are holding (which I conveniently placed in their hand) was created by me. Just recently (last week) a salesman from a re-bath company came to my house to sell my wife and me a new bathroom. When he left, he had an abalone shell pen in his pocket that he purchased for his wife for $150.00. He would have not known that I made pens unless I told him. It is a very simple sales technique that you can do too.

My second rule of marketing is to figure out WHO will buy your pens and more importantly, for the price you want to charge them. Herein lies the dilemma, where do you start? Think of what you are making, are you making high end fountain pens with gold nibs that sell for $300 or are you making a slimline pens selling for $25? There is nothing worse than making a lot of high end product and trying to sell them at a local firehouse, or church craft sale.

First, do your homework; no one said this was going to be easy.
In order for you to be successful, you will have to know your market. Attend a few craft shows and see what the average item costs. Are there vendors selling their products for hundreds of dollars? If so, are they selling them, or are they just sitting there looking great, but no one is buying them? Will you be the only vendor there selling pens? If not, go snoop around their booth and see what the response is to their work and what prices they are charging.

After you have done your homework, and found the right venue for your work, how will it be displayed? Will you need a pop up tent for your work? (Pic-1) Most shows require you have a 10′ x 10′ tent that has sides (if raining) and any tables must be draped. This is part of your start-up costs, and something you will use at every sale.
Pic-2How will you display your work? Will you just put it in a case and open it on the table? (Pic-2)

This is not the best way to display your work.

Click the photo to open a larger version.

Pic-3I prefer to put them on some sort of risers as shown (Pic-3). Also note that each pen is in a box, perfect for gift giving and each pen has a “romance card”, or description of what the pen is made from.

Click the photo to open a larger version.

Pic-4For my more expensive pens, I put them under a glass case. (Pic-4) This does two things: first, it tells your customers right away that these are the “better, more expensive pens” and secondly, it draws them in closer so you can then hand them a pen of your choosing, and now they have your pen in their hand already. They can feel the quality, and you tell them all about the pen, how it was made, what material you used and any other pertinent information drawing them into the conversation and making them take ownership of the pen!

Click the photo to open a larger version.

Then have them write with the pen – make sure that you have a good quality paper for them to try your pen. I usually upgrade the refill to a Parker ink gel and that way the pen writes really smooth. Once they have written with your pen and like it, ask them if they would like that in a gift box? This is your “upsell” to get a little more profit from a new customer. Be sure you have a selection of pen pouches, boxes or cases that can fit the buyer’s price range.

And just like that you sold your pen – nice sale!

Happy Turning!

3 thoughts on “Marketing Your Pens

  1. Great start to this blog and appreciate your efforts. To the readers of this note, I highly recommend you take the time to stop by any show that Barry is at; it’s worth the time. He is a very generous person with his time and knowledge. I can promise you that you’ll learn a lot by just listening to him.

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