Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wondering About Tourism

In the past couple of years we have seen some remarkable changes in the demographics of our customer base. When we first began selling our pottery in the Ithaca/Trumansburg area, our main focus was on our local clientelle. We put up posters all over the Commons in Ithaca, everywhere we could find on Cornell's campus, and almost every storefront window in Trumansburg. We also advertized incredibly heavily in our local papers and mailbox circulars. End result... not much. Probably about a 2-3% return on investment our first year and less the second and third years. Hmmm.

Our next idea to get folks out to the studio was to join the Greater Ithaca Art Trail and the Trumansburg Area Chamber of Commerce. For the past three years we have taken both organization's brochures with us to all of our fairs and shows. Our biggest hurdle has been getting people to understand that the Art Trail brochure comes out in June or July for the given year, so when we do shows in May - July, we often have the prior year's brochure to hand out. Sometimes people are really confounded by finding "last years" brochure. But getting 50 Ithaca artists to have their slides/images in for jurying before December just wont happen. Sort of like herding cats.

This approach worked well in some ways. We had a lot of visitors during Art Trail's first weekend, but the second weekend was usually slower for us. Since we are doing Art Trail during the middle weekends in October, the weather can be pretty iffy. Some years it verges on SNOW!
Other years the weather has been beautiful. Last year the leaves were just raging reds and yellows... but our visitors must have been out leaf-peeping because our second weekend was almost devoid of Art Trail visitors.

Two years ago we joined the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. At the suggestion of Jeff and Judy at the Cayuga Creamery, this year we joined the Fingerlakes Tourism Alliance and the Fingerlakes Artist and Crafters Network. This past Thursday I joined Judy and Jeff on their annual brochure delivery run up and down Cayuga Lake. In less than a week after hauling ourselves around the lake, we're already starting to see the fruits of our labours. Not bad.

Next weekend we'll be at the Kenan Center at the 100 American Craftsmen show. Should be a very interesting time for us. From what I have heard from other ceramic artists who've done the show, this is THE show to look forward to! Nice.

Bringing this back to the topic of tourism.... most of the shows we do in Rochester, Ithaca, Canandaigua... are all fairly small, local shows, nice but not huge money makers. What they are fantastic for though, is getting our name and work out there... and subsequently, getting more visitors to come down to the studio. This has proved over and over to be the BEST way of going from a single sales encounter to a longer lasting patron/potter relationship. So, hopefully, we'll see more of that in the Buffalo region next weekend as we do the Kenan show.

No comments: