Book 'Em

The Big Ideas

To draw customers into your store, you've got to provide more than products; customers are also seeking ideas. "Customers say over and over they enjoy coming to this store because of the plethora of layouts, ideas, tips and techniques they can find here," says Tamara Sortman, 34, who invested $30,000 to open Scrapramento in Sacramento, California, in 1997. "Also, whenever someone purchases a tool, I give them a few ideas for how to use it in creating layouts."

The strategy is paying off: After just seven months in business, Sortman's store grosses $800 to $1,000 per week, and she projects $300,000 in annual sales within the next five years.

The biggest challenge, Sortman says, is promoting her store. "Advertising is costly, so I rely heavily on word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is powerful in this business. If someone has a good experience in the store, they'll share that with others."

Nash uses a bimonthly newsletter with contests, puzzles, surveys and a class schedule to keep customers interested, and she sends postcards to remind them of upcoming sales and events.

Slate recently added a high-tech marketing technique: "We began asking customers for their e-mail addresses so we could let them know about upcoming classes, cropping times, special promotions and new merchandise," she says. "The response has been overwhelming."

Despite scrapbooking's handmade origins, technology has played a surprising role in fostering the industry's growth. "There's an amazing mass of [scrapbooking] information on the Internet--Web sites, support groups and bulletin boards for scrapbookers," Sortman says. "People can post a message and say, `I'm looking for a particular product and can't find it here in Oklahoma. Can anybody help me?' Some scrapbookers are actually doing entire scrapbooks on their computers and storing them on disk."

Who is the typical scrapbooking customer? "Scrapbooking appeals to everyone because everyone has photos," says Nash. The typical customer, however, is female, ranging from young mothers and middle-aged women to grandmothers doing books for grandchildren or special events.

Because the goal of scrapbooking is to organize photographs and other memorabilia, most hobbyists create large family albums. Others are cutting this often overwhelming task down to size. "We're seeing a focus on smaller theme books," Nash says. "Customers who don't want to tackle the big job of doing albums of their kids from birth are doing smaller books on [themes such as] vacations, grandkids, sports and Christmas."

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This article was originally published in the August 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Book 'Em.

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