4 Rules to Follow When Considering a New Venue for your Wares

il_570xN.322230596

{image by BlueBerry Ash textiles}

With so many new websites appearing, it is very tempting to open online shop in each and one of them.

More exposure, new customers and better promotions are promised to us. Moreover, a shiny new front, more functions and less fees – it is all oh so inviting!

After I had been invited to sell on 3 new websites that appeared recently, I started wondering… should I spread my efforts on many shops in the hope of more exposure; or should I pick one or two and promote them like crazy?

How many shops is enough and how many is too many? Which one do you promote first? Will your customers get confused when you send them in 6 different places?  So many questions!

I admit, I am writing about this not only because I’ve been asking this question of myself (and of Mr. Plushkin and my family) but because I was caught in this “trap” of too many online shops before…

I found that yes, it is confusing for the customers when there are too many shops available to buy from.

It is better to pick one shop (unless you have your own website) as a main one that will get linked to in your newsletter and your blog.

I am sure that each and every one of the online marketplaces that are available are  great in their own way, but how do I choose just one or two that are right? It feels like I am missing out on something wonderful by eliminating the other shops.

How do you choose an online shop?

4 rules to follow venue

I have 4 basic rules that I apply when considering opening a new one:

1. Easy to use with helpful functions. For me, it`s important for the shop to be easy to use! It’s actually vital as, with over 100 items in the shop, when listing an item takes too long, it just won’t work.

If there are too many boxes to tick with messy layout, I give up fairly quickly. Moreover, I am now looking at how many functions website offers.

Is it easy to apply coupons so you can encourage customers to return? Does it give you an opportunity to list different colours/sizes in one listing? Does a new shop offers something to your customers that the current shop doesn’t?

2. Fees. There are websites that charge for listings plus take a fee. Alternatively, there are website that charge only commission on sale.

I have heard an opinion that websites that charge only commission work better as they are more interested in you actually selling your creation. I am not sure myself as the one commission might be higher then listing fee+sale fee combined.

Get you calculator out and write down how much it will cost you to list and sell the best sellers on different websites.

3. Traffic. Do they have a good google rating? How long have they being around? Check out the shops that sell through the website similar items, how many have they sold?

4. Advertising. Have you seen this website contantly advertising in the magazines/websites/blogs that your target market reads?

The rule of finding a perfect shop for what you make is simple – try.

It will cost a bit in time and fees but if you apply those 4 rules, it will eliminate the ones that are not worthy of the time and effort. Do your research and give it a go. But don’t be afraid to close the shop and walk away thinking that it might take of in a month or two, maybe Christmas…..

Test the shop

Try not to promote it yourself via your media at first.

List items actively, make sure your tags and wording is right so you can be easily found in the search, buy some advertisement on the website without introducing your customers to it and see how it performs.

Look at your stats/analytics and see what’s happening with the traffic and where it comes from. It’s obvious if you will start promoting the new shop via media you use, traffic will come – but does the website that you are paying for gives you more exposure and attract new customers?

Besides, every maker needs to remember – you creations are valuable, you need to believe in that.

You worked hard to create your reputation and customer base and you are bringing it all with you when you open a shop on another website. I hear you saying: “Having a shop open that charges only commissions doesn’t really cost me anything” but having a standing still shop doesn’t really make your brand looks great as well as take into account all that time you have to spend taking listings off that were sold on the other website. Close it, I would say!

I would love to know  how many online shops you are running at the moment? Are you happy with the online shops that you currently have? 

Grow Your Business with Pinterest (4) – Is Pinterest Worth The Effort For Small Business?

Effort

Source: DecalsForTheWalls

We all know how much time can be enjoyed within Pinterest. Plenty of time is ‘invested’ in Pinterest but what if you are running a business? You need results.

Why Measure Results?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said ‘Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing – the result.’

When you are running a small business (or any organisation for that matter) you should aim for maximum results from minimum input. This is true whether you’re focused on profit, brand awareness or social responsibility.

To be able to measure results you must first set goals otherwise you won’t know where you are going. How can you know you’ve achieved something if you aren’t sure what you’re aiming for?

Tape Measure Rounded

Source: Whachuneed Supply Co.

What To Measure

Knowing what to measure depends on your goals. For example, if you are seeking to improve brand awareness by 20% you’ll want to focus on content types that are shared the most and the best time of day to post.

If you want to attract a particular target audience you will need to identify where that audience is currently found and the keywords they use to find the type of products and services you offer.

Other results you may want to measure include:

  • Community engagement
  • Quantity of traffic referred to your website
  • Quality of traffic to website

 

Tools To Help You

To find out which images people are pinning from your website use the following URL:

http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com

For example, Create & Thrive would type:

http://pinterest.com/source/createandthrive.com

You can also use Google Analytics to measure traffic from Pinterest reaching your website:

“If your goal is to drive traffic from Pinterest back to your website, you can use Google Analytics to see how much traffic you are receiving from Pinterest compared to other social networks.

You can click on Pinterest in Google Analytics to see which pages on your website have drawn the most Pinterest traffic.” – Social Media Examiner

Of course, just like the proliferation of app development following the introduction of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter the success of Pinterest has seen rapid release of apps to the market. Let’s take a look at four that will help you analyse your results and generally save you pinning time.

pingraphy-logo

Pingraphy

The number one challenge for small business owners is time. That is, time to get everything they want done, which is why they love Pingraphy and you will too.

Pingraphy enables you to upload multiple pins at once and schedule them for future periods. You can track the clicks, repins and reach for each pin as well as find out your best performing boards. This allows you to analyse the data and pin based on the image types receiving the desired response from your audience.

Curalate

Curalate

Curalate is one of the more recent additions to the marketplace and offers a range of functions. In addition to general analytics you’ll be able to refine future campaigns by identifying trends of a viral nature. Curalate offers competitor monitoring and a contest platform.

Where Curalate differentiates itself from the competition is the ability to monitor keywords. Curalate finds pins and gives you details about them such as the pin’s descriptions and the number of followers for that pinner.

Repinly

Repinly

Repinly helps you identify the trending content and habits of top pinners. You can leverage this by pinning around these themes, capturing some of the traffic and engagement for your own account.

Pinfluencer

Pinfluencer

Pinfluencer is not a free app but does offer a 60 day trial to help you decide it’s worthiness for investment. It tracks your most influential pinners, most engaged users and compares your Pinfluence against other brands.

Pinfluencer has the added benefit of being a contest and sweepstakes platform. These promotions can be hosted on your website and have specified entry requirements such as hashtag use or number of pins from a specific website.

Actions

You’ve learned about the importance of measuring your pinning effort and the tools available to help you.

Now it’s time to test, evaluate, refine, test, evaluate, refine, test, evaluate, refine. Yep, rinse and repeat.

Start with one goal, one tactic to achieve that goal and one app to measure performance. When you are happy with the results from this tactic move onto another that will assist with achieving your goals.

Wishing you every pinning success!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Caylie Headshot

Caylie Price is the founder of Better Business Better Life.

A social strategist, copywriter, SEO consultant and all round great chick, Caylie helps you blast your business to success so you can live the life you want.

Sign up now to be first to know when she releases her new Pinterest For Business ebook!

How I Started Studio MME {Megan`s Story…}

commissions page

I have always been competitive, which is probably why when I heard only 10% of art students make a living from their work, I swore to be part of that percentage.

There was no way I wanted to work at Starbucks till I was 30 while dabbling on my illustration in my free time (which is sadly what most of my former classmates are still doing 4 years after graduation).  That’s why before I graduated with my degrees in art and English, I opened Studio MME Illustrations.

My parents wholeheartedly encouraged me to pursue my ‘artsy fartsy’ degrees so long as I started a business.  So I did!  Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that I could fail.  This blind ambition definitely helped me overcome the struggles I had to go through to get where I am today – a self-employed artist.

After earning my diplomas, I applied to 6 graduate schools…and was turned down by all of them.

I wallowed in self-pity (and ice cream) for about a week.  Then my boyfriend got accepted into a graduate art program and I had to start packing for a cross-country move to California, thus leaving my ice cream wallowing behind in my hometown.  While I had visions of setting up shop immediately as a self-employed artist, Silicon Valley rent crushed that dream.  We were literally paying double the rent for an apartment so tiny we had to set up our studios in the kitchen.

For the first time in my life, I had to hunt for a ‘job’.  I landed one as a bookseller at Borders and, honestly, I thought it was going to be the best job ever.  After all, what English major wouldn’t want to be surrounded by books all day?

Well, the appeal quickly wore off when I learned about sales quotas and my bosses learned that my Midwestern background made me a natural seller.  It only took 6 months for my ‘job’ to demoralize me.  I dreaded going to work, I loathed my bosses, and I hated how the company put sales over customer happiness.

Every day I grew crankier and during the holiday season, I would wake my boyfriend up to ask if he was ready to check out.  I had no desire to make artwork because all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and dread the next time I had to go in to work.  Obviously, the world of ‘real jobs’ was getting to me.

about page pic

Proof that I have always been a bit creative.  One year I trick-or-treated as a snow tiger (ie snow gear and a tiger nose) and when I moved to California, I couldn’t help but pose on my first rocky beach.

Finally, I sat down on my lunch break (in the Borders café) and wrote a great big plan entitled, “Quit My Day Job in 6 Months.”

I was ready to work for myself and by golly I was going to do it before the holiday season came around again.  The act of writing down a plan fired up my enthusiasm to create more artwork and make my dream of being a self-employed artist come true.

The universe must have heard because not two weeks later, Borders declared bankruptcy.  I had a few weeks to start on my big plan and tell my boyfriend about my intention to NOT look for a new ‘job’.  After 6 months in a company that valued money over the happiness of its customers I knew I couldn’t go into any other retail business that wasn’t run by me.  My time at Borders taught me how NOT to run a business and I could now put that knowledge to good use in Studio MME Illustrations.

That’s probably why I was the only employee to dance out the shop door when the last day came.  Everyone else thought I was bonkers to go off on my own but I was blindly ambitious again.

I’d tried the ‘American dream’ way and it had sucked the life out of me and replaced it with crankiness.  Now I was going to do it the ‘Megan dream’ way!

love whale 1200 x 1200

“The Love Whale”

So, almost two years later, I’ve come a long way.  I’ve illustrated the covers of two children’s books, released an embroidery line, illustrated and designed a CD cover, and been featured in 2 nationally published art books.

I’ve self-published a book of my short stories and illustrations as well.  I love the interactions I have with my customers.  I always strive to create things with them in mind.

I’ve even started a new series on my blog where every week I write a silly story for them so they have something fun to read during their work day.  At the start of 2013 I also started a 365 Portrait Challenge where I’m drawing 365 portraits of my fans, bloggers, artists, etc.  Embracing my talent allowed me to grow as an artist but embracing my customers has allowed me to gain what Borders never had – fans!

While I’m not 100% sure what 2013 will bring, I know that I can truly say that I’m part of that 10%.  A competitive nature, blind ambition, and experience in how NOT to run a business got me to my dream of being an artist.

My goal for this year is to help other people, especially former art students, become part of that 10% because I truly believe the world will be a better place if there are more artists and makers.

Grow Your Business With Pinterest (3) – Search Engines Love Pinterest

SEO & Pinterest Love

This is a guest post by Caylie Price. Part 1 of this 4-part series on Pinterest for Business is here. Part 2 is here.

How did you go? Have you converted to a business account and verified?

By now you should have your account sorted and plenty of awesome images ready to be or already pinned. Fantastic!

What if I told you with a tiny bit more effort your pins could be doing double duties? You could be driving new readers to your blog or shop from within Pinterest as well as through the search engines. Sounds brilliant right?

Well let’s explore how to make it happen.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) relates to creating an online presence in a manner that is favourable to search engines such as Google, YouTube and Bing to encourage greater visibility of your content in search results.

SEO is influenced by factors such as:

  • Content
  • Keywords
  • Backlinks
  • Images
  • Social Media
  • Plugins

Seems a pretty long list, yes? Don’t take fright. You are probably already employing SEO to an extent without even realising it and this post will take you through exactly how Pinterest can help with SEO! The crystal ball tells me you’ll be super confident by the end of this post.

If you’d like to get a better general understanding of these terms have a look at Super Simple SEO For Small Business.

Pinterest Hearts SEO

Search engines love Pinterest which is fantastic news for your SEO efforts. Pinterest helps with keywords, backlinks, images and content in addition to being a social media platform (of course).

Let’s look at each element!

PS I Love You

Pinterest And Backlinks

Backlinks are links coming from another website that direct traffic to your web pages. Pinterest is recognised by search engines as a quality site meaning they put value on Pinterest links leading to your site.

The first step to creating a backlink from Pinterest is to verify your site which you learned about in the previous Grow Your Business With Pinterest.

You can also create backlinks by nominating a link when you pin or upload your own images as explained in Get Your Images Right.

Don’t alter the link if you are pinning someone else’s image. You definitely don’t want to impinge copyright and have the Pinterest police after you. What you can do is add a USEFUL comment to the image and include a RELEVANT link to further information.

Pinterest And Keywords

The beauty of Pinterest is that every pin, board name and bio is an opportunity to use keywords to improve search engine optimisation.

Keywords are the words or phrases you want the search engines to associate with your business. You should also aim to choose words that your target audience would use to find your content. You can try a tool such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool as well as ask your readers for suggestions.

Once you’ve selected your keywords include them in your biography as well as the description for each of your pins in a ‘natural’ manner. A natural manner means including keywords as if part of normal HUMAN speech or writing. Don’t force keyword use!

Pinterest And Images

This strategy requires a little work to prepare your image for pinning by readers or yourself. When you are creating images for your blog or to upload directly to Pinterest think about how you name the file.

You have the opportunity to include keywords that will be seen by search engines but not so much pinners. The more that image is re-pinned, liked or commented on the better the search engine love it will enjoy.

Pinterest And Content

To keep your website high in search results it needs to be kept fresh. Google and its peers love fresh content especially from social sharing. The beauty of creative images and building your profile on Pinterest is that you have the potential for an item of your work to go viral.

Creating content that generates conversation or re-pins is an effective method for improving your SEO. Ask a question in the description of your images that followers can’t help but answer. Host a contest with incentives for followers to like or re-pin your images. Make it easy for readers to pin images from your blog. Make it easy for people to help you.

Take Action

You’ve got some homework but I want you to use a slow and steady approach.

Start by working out what keywords you plan to target. Really think about the words your audience would use to search for your products (these keywords may be different to what you would use).

Got that sorted?

Now begin including keywords in the file name of your images. Practice this until it becomes a habit. You’ve now created a strong foundation for SEO.

Keep working through the strategies about until they are second nature. Do this and you’ll really reap the benefits of Pinterest search engine optimisation.

The next Grow Your Business With Pinterest post will focus on measuring the return on investment and refinement of your pinning efforts.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Caylie Headshot

Caylie Price is the founder of Better Business Better Life.

A social strategist, copywriter, SEO consultant and all round great chick, Caylie helps you blast your business to success so you can live the life you want.

Sign up now to be first to know when she releases her new Pinterest For Business ebook!

 

C&T Q&A – Can You Have a Successful Handmade Business Without Etsy?

This week, Kate asks:

Do you think it’s possible to create a successful business without using Etsy? I used to sell jewelry on there and after 3 years my account was suspended for violating the etsy policies.  I didn’t realize it and after pleading with the admins, I realized they weren’t going to let me come back. I’m on Big Cartel and sales are slow.  I’m just not sure if realistically, it will ever amount to a successful business without Etsy. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your issues with Etsy, Kate, that must have been a rude shock. I’m glad to hear it hasn’t stopped you pursuing your business, though!

Honestly, I’m the first to suggest that everyone who has a crafts-based business should have a shop on Etsy.

I still make a good portion of sales there, and it’s where I find a lot of new customers.

Etsy is definitely still the premier online marketplace for handmade – and not only that, it’s also a handmade search engine. I know that Etsy is my first port of call when I want to buy handmade. Both of these reasons are why I will never shut my Etsy shop – no matter how successful my own site becomes (Epheriell.com already accounts for well over half of my total online sales).

However – as useful and awesome as Etsy is for growing and running your business – I also believe that anyone serious about their handmade business should set up their own shop on their own website.

If you’re doing all the hard work to market your business and grow a customer base, you should be sending that traffic to your own website.

Now – there are of course other marketplaces out there online, and if you make reproducible products (you are doing that, aren’t you??) you should set yourself up on as many of these as you can feasibly manage. If only with a small sample of your core range. I see these sites as marketing – getting my work out in front of as many people in as many places as possible, at low cost.

Personally, I have my jewellery on Madeit and Blue Caravan here in Australia, as well as Supermarket HQ, Dawanda, and a few other places overseas. I make a nice number of sales across these marketplaces, but Etsy and Epheriell.com are my main shops, where I stock all of my work.

If you can’t sell on Etsy, for whatever reason, you should seriously consider setting up your own site, rather then relying primarily on another venue.

So, what are the costs vs benefits?

 

Etsy

Pros

  • Premier online marketplace
  • First port of call for many people wanting to buy handmade
  • Easy to use
  • Excellent ‘training’ ground – to compete on Etsy you have to play a stellar game with fantastic photos, good descriptions, excellent customer service, etc
  • Trust – people know that if they buy on Etsy they are protected if something goes wrong
  • Transparent feedback – do a good job and people will see that and buy from you

Cons

  • Fees – you pay listing fees, relisting fees, a percentage of every sale (and this is on top of the Paypal fees you pay)
  • Not as professional – anyone can sell on Etsy
  • Lack of control – like Kate, they could shut you down anytime they like, and all the work you’ve done will be extinguished
  • Distraction – people are likely to favourite you and forget and move on and try to find the best deal within Etsy, rather than sticking in your shop

 

Your Site

Pros

  • Control, control, control – you can do exactly what you like, make it look how you like, and no-one can take it away from you! It’s your baby.
  • Professionalism – having your own site shows you’re a serious business
  • Focus – once people are on your site, they won’t be tempted to click away to all the myriad other options available like they can on Etsy

Cons

  • You don’t have access to an immediate customer base – you have to do the hard work to bring people to you
  • People may be hesitant to make their first purchase from you if they don’t already know and trust you (many of my website customers found me on Etsy or elsewhere first, and after their first positive buying experience with me, now happily shop on Epheriell.com)
  • Might be expensive if you don’t have the knowledge to set it up yourself

 

Obviously, my recommendation is to have both – an Etsy shop and your own site (and any other venues you can manage). Having a shop on Etsy makes building your business a lot easier, especially in the beginning. You’ll find that you reach a kind of critical mass there, too – the more sales you’ve made, the more you’ll make as you are established as a serious seller.

However, you can have a successful handmade business without Etsy. It will just take you a little longer to grow your customer base. But if you’re patient, work hard, market smart, and have a stellar website and webstore, you CAN do it.

 

Want to take your Etsy shop to the next level, or set up shop on your own site for the first time? Join the email list to find out when I launch my upcoming ecourse, Set Up Shop.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This