I have to say I never thought I’d be writing a post with that title! With a marketing and sales background, asking “What are you looking for?” is like asking a preschooler if they need to use the bathroom before heading out on a long car ride.  It becomes a habit – something you do without thinking.

So 5 days after participating on a panel discussion at SURTEX (The Licensee / Licensor Relationship: an Intimate Dialog between Artists & Manufacturers) I am still shaking my head in amazement.  But I get it and want you to understand this very fine nuance as well.

I can’t remember exactly how it started – I think an artist asked a question about the best and worst things manufacturers have seen and heard from artists.  The main point was to figure out how best to present themselves to new prospective licensees.  That is when I heard the following words come out of Linda O’Donnell’s mouth, Product Development Manager for Certified International Corp. –

“Don’t ask me what I need.” she began… (HUH? This didn’t seem right, I must have heard wrong, I thought.)

She continued…  “If you are an artist I have never worked with before and you want me to consider your work, it is your job to know what I need and show me why I should consider working with you.  Research my company, the style of art our customers look for, and give me something fresh that will work.”  (I’m paraphrasing in these quotes since I didn’t record the class but this is the jist of what I remember.)

Linda finished by saying that if she was going to make suggestions about what she needed, she’d be doing that to artists she has worked with in the past and has an established relationship with.  (OK, now I’m getting it.)

Cyndi Hershey, who works in the fabric / home textile product categories agreed.

So the skinny is this:

If you are submitting to someone you never worked with before:

  1. Do your homework about the company and the industry.
  2. Submit appropriate artwork.
  3. Don’t ask “What are you looking for?”

Times when “What are you looking for?” is appropriate:

  1. When you already have a working relationship with a manufacturer.
  2. If the manufacturer contacts you or if you are at a trade show – then it would be appropriate to ask the question so you can better direct them within your portfolio.  If you didn’t know they were coming, you can’t be expected to have done the homework.

That is one of my big “take aways” from the class, although there was a lot more great information shared as well.  If you ever have the chance to take classes or hear speakers and really listen, you will gain a lot of insights!

– Tara

P.S.  Amy Cerny Vasterling did an amazing blog post / recap about the show and the classes she attended on licensing. Click here to read it.