A Tiny Extravagance: Merchandising in a Down Market

comments (3) March 9th, 2009     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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In a competitive market, getting noticed is sometimes the hardest part. An unconventional promotional piece can help you grab (and hold) the attention of potential employers.
A few tiny pages can have 10 times the impact of a typewritten business letter. Dont be afraid to let your ideas out when looking for work. Your audience is bound to take notice of your fearlessness.
A pleasant surprise is one of the best ways to get someones attention. It neednt be a walnut; how about a tiny, crocheted pencil cozy—in orange, or a gilded eggshell, or a tiny piece of dune grass tied in a little bow...
In a competitive market, getting noticed is sometimes the hardest part. An unconventional promotional piece can help you grab (and hold) the attention of potential employers.

In a competitive market, getting noticed is sometimes the hardest part. An unconventional promotional piece can help you grab (and hold) the attention of potential employers.

Photo: Jeff Rudell

Nick Graham, the self-titled "Chief Underpants Officer" of Joe Boxer, has said, "The brand is the amusement park, the product is the souvenir." For a self-employed crafter like me, this means my brand is tied very closely to the  experience people have working with me. That experience—assuming it is a positive and rewarding one—is what is likely to bring clients and customers back, again and again, to avail themselves of my skills.

In theory, this makes perfect sense, but in practice it quickly gets a little hazy. I mean, what, in fact, do I sell? I don't have a line of products, I don't have an Etsy page, I don't offer refills or replacement parts. When I look at the clients I've had and the jobs they've given me, I find that mostly I'm hired to make quirky or unexpected things out of paper; what a friend calls "high-concept solutions to abstract design challenges manifested in paper."

Whatever it is you do, the fact remains that a business isn't a business without clients (or customers). So, as part of my merchandising strategy, I periodically sit down and create design souvenirs; tiny extravagances that I send to clients to remind them who I am, what I do, and that my services are available to them (read: please hire me) should a project arise for which I might be well suited.

My goal in creating such trifles is two-fold: high impact for low cost (I am, after all, footing the bill for these bagatelles and until I win the lottery, frugality rules). I have no way of knowing whether my results are representative of other crafters in the field who are engaged in soliciting work, finding new clients, or maintaining current clients but, in short, a liberal distribution of souvenirs seems to work wonders. In the past I have spent a great deal of money building (and maintaining) a website, designing and printing a mini-portfolio of my work, and networking (via LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster, Tribe, and countless cocktail parties), and none of these endeavors has begun to approach the success (measured in terms of jobs gotten, income earned, and client relationships solidified) I've had as a result of these simple, inexpensive, and often diminutive gifts that I occasionally send out by mail to those people I've worked for or hope to work for.

This past holiday season, I created etuis out of walnut shells, filled them with miniature accordian books, and wrapped them in pink tissue and tiny white boxes. I mailed them in early December and the first job rolled in four days later. It is now March and I'm still getting calls from editors eager to "do something together." Proof positive (in my book, at least) that in a very real way, creativity sells itself.

Each three-inch square envelope of pink tissue bore a tiny (5-point type) label that read, "Open."


Inside my tissue was a single Diamond brand walnut shell that had been carefully opened and cleaned out.




I used a tiny hand-held drill to make two small holes through which I ran a piece of embroidery floss (tied on the inside) to form a small hinge.


Inside each shell, I placed a tiny book before carefully applying a little bead of rubber cement around the rim to reseal the shell.


I printed my book, "Gratitude (in a nutshell)" on an 8-1/2-inch x 11-inch sheet of paper (sixteen 1/2-inch books per sheet). I then trimmed them into strips and accordian-folded them into the finished shape.


My tiny book, a meditation on gratitude and the joys of working for creative clients, was written in verse (a la Dr. Seuss) and ended with my telephone number and a reminder that I was available for jobs large "and small."


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Comments (3)

vintagejules writes: What a lovely and creative idea. I must say miniatures always make a large statement. I love all your wonderful ideas large and small.
Posted: 5:23 pm on June 9th
2Crafty writes: I fell in love with your little book. How wonderful of you to share it. I enjoyed reading how you used it to remind your clients that you are still here waiting to serve them. It was a perfect time to do it as well. Who does not get behind at the holidays. Thank-you again.
Posted: 2:23 pm on March 29th
AWilcox writes: Wow, I am NUTS over this little tiny and beautiful creation! We are indeed living in crazy times, what a great way to send a beautiful message to those special people in our lives, thanks for sharing.
Posted: 10:41 am on March 9th
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