One of the first things we teach toddlers is how and when to say, "Thank you". In the south, good manners mean a lot. Especially to grammas and big mamas, so even if it's a "ta-ta" your baby is going to say it when they get anything.
It makes sense that as a business owner, saying thank you to an individual is not only necessary, but critical. Someone has decided, out of all the art they've seen, and all the other ways they could spend their money, that my art has resonated with them so much they want it. That's huge. And humbling. Why wouldn't I say thank you?
One lesson I thought I had learned through and through was the value of gratitude. A year or so ago, I had a MAJOR logistics failure that I nicknamed "Boxgate". I mention it often because it taught me so much about business in general, and my business specifically, I'm still unpacking the lessons (see what I did there?). During "Boxgate", I kept my customers abreast of what was happening, and made sure I was expressing my gratitude at every turn . Most of them were patient and understanding, and are still ktheotherway collectors. A couple of them never ordered from me again, which is also fine. All got the same messages from me:
- Thank you for your patience
- Thank you for being understanding
- Thank you for your support
These are pretty innocuous phrases. We get them ourselves as consumers. So it's almost a given that we use them as artrepreneurs. The point of this post isn't really to talk about whether or not you should tell your customers thank you, what's important to me is the how and of course, the why.
How do you thank your customers?
In the first few months of my business, all those years ago, I bought preprinted thank you notes and wrote personal messages in them. There's nothing wrong with that at all. But for me, it wasn't enough. I wanted to give the people who purchased my art something as special and unique as the canvas I'd slapped paint on. So I started making my own cards.
Now let me interrupt myself and say, it's absolutely your choice how you do this. You could design your own preprinted cards using whatever software or service you choose, and include that with your shipments. OR, you could buy them from the store and write personalized notes in them. OR you can write thank you on a post it note and stick it to the inside of the box. Remember, it's not about whether or not you say it, it's the how and why. My how is my how.
At some point during my big craft store hauls, normally when I'm restocking a lot of supplies, I will purchase the following items:
- blank greeting cards
- Cardstock in whatever color/ pattern I'm feeling that day
- Modge Podge and/or glue, because you can never have too much (if you use it a lot like I do)
I pick a theme based on how I'm feeling (because I'm intuitive) and go with it. The theme for right now is black cards. Initially, I used paper bag colored brown cards. I also used to paint these really dramatic scenes on cards, or do layers of cardstock and paper to create something instead of painting it, but I don't do that anymore because, well, we'll talk about that in a minute. Nah, let's talk about it now.
If I had to attach percentages to my motivations for making my cards instead of ordering them, I'd say about 30% of it is branding, 60% is gratitude, and 10 percent is a mashup of meditation and scratching my creative itch.
Branding is important. So maybe before social distancing, a collector gets a piece of art from me, and displays the card in their home or office. Because it's eye catching, someone else may ask about it (this has happened, but I'm speaking hypothetically for the sake of argument). Most of my collectors will tell people exactly where they got the card, show off the art, and talk about their experience. Now I have a new potential client. I want to make sure that card is an great first impression of my brand because the brand is more than the painting. It's the paintings, the journals, the boxes, and whatever else I do PLUS the customer service. The card is an ambassador for the company and for me. The art will speak for itself. So even though doing those dramatic cards was fun and interesting, it was almost a distraction from the point. The point is "who sent you that?" (ktheotherway) which then begs a why (i bought some art), "oooh, lemme see". Boom.
When I'm making cards, it's usually the only creative thing I do that day. I invest hours in the process, and see it almost as a meditation. The gratitude and creative motivations are a bit muddled here, and that's okay. As I'm making cards, cutting k's out of cardstock the other way, making accent pieces, or drawing on the cards, I'm setting intentions for each card. No matter who gets it, the love is the same. And it doesn't matter to me if they paid $40 or $400 dollars, the gratitude is the same. When they open that box and unpack the painting, they'll see this card, open it, read it, smile and feel good; even if only for few moments. And I'm grateful for that, too. So I prime each card with those intentions, and once a piece is sold, it's easier for me to express gratitude to that person (by name) for their purchase because I'm sending them more than what they paid for. Value on value on value.
That's why I say "that ktheotherway happy mail hit different". Because it does. Collectors have repeatedly said that getting the art they ordered was a morale boost, and the card was icing on the cake. That's the goal. The money is cute too, of course, otherwise I would just give art away. But this is a business built in love whose mission is to raise the collective vibration one brush and key stroke at a time. And that little detail makes a world of difference in my mission.
If you have questions about my card making process, or where you can create your own, let me know.