Saturday, October 30, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: How to Maximize Returns After You Make the Sale

*I'm in VA for the weekend, so I apologize that this is a little late.  I promise it's worth it. :)

There was an interesting thread on the Etsy forums that I discovered through the most recent Etsy Success email.  I only click on those links every now and then but the title of this particular thread caught my eye: "10 Ways to Make the Most Out of Every Sale."  Think about that for a minute.  Once you've already gotten the sale, there are definitely some things that you can do to try and maximize the situation - namely in gaining a repeat customer and/or referral.  The artisan who authored the thread is Lori of  Risky Beads (who just so happens to be from my town).  She was kind enough to let me repost her 10 Ways here on the EB Blog.  Check out the "Cliffs Notes" version below, complete with comments from yours truly, and be sure to visit the original thread for more details on how Lori implements her own suggestions:

1. Send a freebie along with each order.

This can be an effective technique.  I've seen it work for bath and body sellers who include a tiny soap sample or candle makers who include a mini tea light in a complimentary fragrance.  Risky Beads emphasizes that the freebie should be something that people want.  It can sometimes be hard to guess what that might be.  Easy to use samples like the ones I mentioned are a pretty safe bet.  

For jewelry sellers like me, it can be a little trickier.  Her suggestion to use sustainable marketing items is probably the best idea.  Some people will throw away a magnet or keychain or business card, but it never really hurts to include one, as long as it's cost effective (read: include the cost of the promotional item into your pricing calculation).  

Yep, if you want to make money, freebies that you send out with every order shouldn't really be "free" - the money has to come from somewhere.  Giving people items that you would have just thrown out in the trash is not a good way to encourage repeat business.  That means supply sellers - don't dump your misshapen, crazy drilled, beat up beads in a plastic baggie and write freebie on it.  And non-supply sellers, never send your customer unsolicited "supplies."  9 times out of 10 they are going in the trash.  If the person wanted to make a similar item they would buy the supplies from a supplier not the finished product from you.

2. Invite customers to join your mailing list.

Okay, so I'm really bad about doing this.  I really need to push my mailing list more and I also really need to write a newsletter again.  It's been a couple of months.  I blame the LSAT.

It takes time and effort to build up a mailing list, but you definitely should suggest it to people that have already demonstrated an interest in your shop by buying something.  If you offer exclusive discounts, first access to new items, and other information that benefits the customer, they'll actually read the newsletter too.

3. Send a coupon for their next purchase.

I do this each time I make a sale.  So far, no one has taken me up on the discount BUT I do not have an expiration date for the offer.  At first, I included information about the discount in my thank-you notes.  Now I use my little mini Moo card collection with different pictures of my items.  On the back of the card is my "Customer Appreciation Discount" complete with the important information: shop URL, shop name, discount %, and secret coupon code.  Sometimes I drop in two in the hopes that one will be shared with a friend.  However you decide to offer a repeat customer incentive, I think it's important to remember to include your shop URL with the message about your offer.  I've gotten some before that just say "10% off your next purchase" and two months later I've forgotten who sent me that piece of paper.  I can't use your discount if I don't know which store it's for!

4. Send a brochure with FANTASTIC pictures of other products you sell.

Personalized Silver Christmas Ornament, family names or other wording around the edges, nickel silver, alt customization avail, just ask, free shipping to U.S. and Canada, flat rate elsewhereThis is a great idea for beauty products, as Lori describes in her thread.  I've decided against this idea for my jewelry business for the time being, but I have given some thought to developing a brochure with information about booking me for home parties.

What you should take away from this, regardless of whether or not you decide to try a brochure, is that pictures sell.  I choose to put pictures of my products on my regular Moo business cards and my mini-Moo cards.  Give your customer something they'll want to keep on their fridge or give to a friend.  Visual appeal is important.
5. Invite your customer to a future secret sale--not too far in the future, say 2-3 weeks max AND/OR unveil a secret product and offer it early to your existing custom base.

This is another interesting idea.  You might leverage this idea into more newsletter sign-ups - i.e. "sign up for my newsletter and receive exclusive information about my upcoming secret sale."

6. Send along your Twitter and Facebook links...either on a card or via a convo/email when notifying about shipping.

I think it's always good to encourage customers to sign up for your social media outlets.  I personally choose to put other contact information on my business cards (phone, address, email) and this info simply wouldn't fit.  Instead, I have my one URL listed there:  Once a customer goes to that site, they can find my Twitter, Facebook, and more links than they'd ever be able to keep up with.  I also use Mad Mimi for my newsletters and they have a great setup for you to add clickable icons in your newsletters to take customers to these social networks.  However you go about doing it, definitely encourage people to follow you - as long as you're providing them with worthwhile content, of course!

7. If you have a significant customer base, send out a customer service/product survey and offer a nice coupon for customers that complete it.
This is an interesting idea and wouldn't cost you anything but the time it takes to set up a free online survey.  I imagine the feedback gained would be more than beneficial for you as a seller.

8. Send samples of a new product and ask for feedback. This can be a great way to try out a new scent/flavor/color of something.

Great idea for those who make candles, bath and body, and other similar products.  I'm not sure I could send out a sample of a necklace I'm making (mail customers one of the beads? lol).  No, instead, for other sellers this is a great way to make use of the Facebook fan page.  Make the new item and introduce it on Facebook so that people can comment on it and give constructive feedback.  This will not only improve your product line, but will also get people checking back with your shop to find out when the new item becomes available.

9. Offer an instant entry into a giveaway for their purchase.

Giveaways are a nice way to boost sales when they're done properly.  I'll defer to someone with more experience with them, but this is a nice incentive and may get someone to buy an item if they already like it and just need an extra push.

10. Network with other Etsy sellers who sell complimentary products to yours, not direct competition.

This is an excellent strategy that I highly recommend.  Make use of other people's customer base and offer yours in return.  Business card exchanges are an easy way to do this.  Trading advertising space on each others' blogs could work too.

I truly enjoyed going through the Risky Beads suggestions and appreciated the reminders of things I could be doing better.  For more information about running a successful handmade business directly from Lori herself (who, by the way, is almost at her 2,000th sale on Etsy), you can purchase an inexpensive e-book called How to Make it Small When You're Trying to Make It Big.  You know I'm all about low cost and free - this book will only set you back about $9 and comes with free updates.

Let me know in the comments what you do to capitalize on the sales you make!

Until next time,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekly BEST: As You Like It by DiCarlos

This week I'm featuring an artist and teacher from from Woburn, MA (Boston area).  Stephanie is the creative force behind the shop As You Like It (found under the Etsy username "dicarlos").  Her shop features jewelry, artwork, cards and stenciled notebooks.  The work seems to be inspired by bright, earthy colors, as well as a love of writing and literature.  Here are my favorite items from the As You Like It collection: 

Stephanie's other shop on Etsy is called Unexpected Knock and draws inspiration directly from the poetry of Emily Dickinson.  Find her at these other places around the web as well:

Check out Stephanie's shops and let me know in the comments which item is your favorite!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, October 22, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Entrecard

This week, I want to talk to you about advertising opportunities through Entrecard.  Please scroll down to the bottom of this post and read the disclaimer.  When you're finished, join me back up here for the discussion.

Entrecard is a website that allows users to get free advertising.  Since I'm all about low cost and free, I signed up for this site quite a while ago.  You may have even noticed the little Entrecard widget on the side of my blog.  After seeing a widget on someone else's blog, I decided to look up the site and find out more.  In order to participate in the advertising network, you are required to install the widget on your blog.  Then Entrecard staff view your site and decide whether or not to approve you.  Non-English and sexually explicit websites are always rejected.

Once you have installed the widget and are approved, you'll notice that you have credits in your account.  These credits are like currency that you can use to buy advertising in the widgets on other people's blogs.  Use the Campaign search to find blogs that cater to readers in your target market.  For example, if you're a jewelry seller like me, you may want to advertise on women's fashion blogs.  Each blog or site has a credit price associated with it depending on a popularity calculation.  Your ad will be displayed for 24 hours at the price displayed.  You have the option of allowing people to purchase ads on your site too through your widget.  It works the same way except that instead of spending them, you receive credits which you can in turn spend on other websites - without ever opening your wallet.

If you want additional credits once you've spent them all up, you can get them.  Buying credits costs money though and you all know I'm not in favor of spending a lot of cash.  An easy way to get free credits (in addition to having other people advertise on your widget as mentioned earlier) is through dropping.  Check out other sites in the Entrecard network (there are literally 30,000+ to choose from) and "drop" your card on them by clicking the "drop" button on the widget.  You get one credit for each drop so earning credits this way can take a while.  And no you can't just drop your ad 300 times (the max allowed in one calendar day) in a row as quickly as possible or you will be penalized.  Take time to look through the website before dropping and wait a little while before you try to drop on the next site.  It makes good business sense to take your time anyway to make sure you're dropping your ad someplace it will actually have an impact.  For more information on how to drop correctly and maximize your credits, check out the FAQ.

Now, one of the things you have to consider when trying out an advertising opportunity is whether or not it is working for you.  I'm sure we can agree that an advertising opportunity is only successful if you get more publicity, clicks to your site, and (eventually) sales.  Entrecard does provide statistics for you to evaluate the success of your campaigns...but they also admit that they are unreliable.  The website makes it clear that it is possible to generate "fake" clicks, which can skew your statistics.  If someone (presumably the site owner) is clicking many times on the ad you purchased, it might make you think that ad is doing well for you (i.e. many different potential customers clicking on your ad) and cause you to continue putting your credits into that site.  Fraud is completely lame, but there's not much Entrecard is doing about it and I'm not sure they even can do anything.  The only way I can think of to combat that problem is to do your own research.  Google Analytics might be able to differentiate between the fake and legitimate visits (maybe in your bounce rate?), but I'm no expert so make sure to look into that yourself.  I also suggest considering adding a poll to your site asking people where they found your site or adding a poll to your PayPal or other ecommerce account to ask your buyers how they found your shop.  Not everyone is going to answer these polls, but at least they are less easily manipulated as most only allow one vote per IP address and no one gains anything from scamming your independent poll.  If any current Entrecard users have any other suggestions on drawing conclusive statistics, please let me know.  Otherwise, you'll just have to trust that the people you advertise with are honest.

There are other features on the site that I haven't used, such as the market or the affiliated website.  If you're interested in joining Entrecard, check out those features when you sign up.

I'll be honest, I don't spend a lot of time monitoring my Entrecard account.  I get periodic emails from them updating me on the number of credits I have.  Once I notice that I've built up a few credits from people advertising on my widget (at least 100+), I take a few minutes and go buy some ads.  It's really that simple.  I never spend any of my own cash and the time investment is minimal.  I'm sure that the more time you spend working it, the more benefit you'll get from it.  However, I don't think you have anything to lose by giving it a try even if you don't have a lot of spare time to work out the right sites for maximizing your ad credits.

Do you use Entrecard?  Be sure to reread the disclaimer below and consider writing your own post reviewing the site.  There is a "contest" I'm entering that is open to everyone who wants to weigh in on the site.  Get more information about the contest here: Free credits for all! :)

Until next time,

Disclaimer: In exchange for writing this review, I am hoping to receive $15 worth of Entrecard credits through a contest.  No, I'm not selling out.  The review does not have to be positive in order for me to receive the credits.  Here are the instructions about the contest as copied and pasted from the email I received, typos and all: "Just write a review about Entrecard on your blog. Share the pro’s and the con’s (hopefully, there will be pro’s ;) ). And in your blog, please place a link back to this contest (Here’s the URL: Tha’ts it!"  So, as you can see they are not requiring anyone to write an unfairly biased review.  My view is strictly my own.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weekly BEST: Ardent Reverie

Ardent Reverie is a diverse business based in San Diego, CA.  In addition to original artwork, the shop features a wide variety of wearable art accessories including hair clips, crocheted beanies, fascinators, and scarves.  This shop is a true family-run, handmade business headed up by two sisters, Melanie and Meghan.  These are my favorite pieces from the items currently for sale:

Find Ardent Reverie around the web at these locations:


Please check out this fashion foward shop and let me know what your favorite item is in the comments!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, October 15, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: The Updates for Handmade Venues You Need to Know About

There have been some crazy exciting updates in the handmade world in the past month and I want to share a couple of them with you tonight:

Etsy On Sale: Just in time for the holidays, Etsy on Sale makes it possible for Etsy sellers to put their items on sale.  That's right - at once.  Automatically ( takes a few minutes, but still...).  You can save yourself tons of time editing or processing PayPal refunds with this feature.  Get more information about it by clicking the image below or visiting the site (link above):

Think of all the time you'll save when you run a sale this holiday season!  One of the Etsians that has tried this feature boasted on Handmade Spark that she made 9 sales during her promotion.  This comes highly recommended.

Zibbet-Etsy Importer: After initial outrage (by sellers) that their Etsy importer was rejected by Etsy, Zibbet turned right around the next day and launched an importer that will allow you to copy your listing information from Etsy to your Zibbet shop.  I haven't tried it out yet as my current Zibbet shop is specifically geared towards beaded and upcycled magnets, but I'm eager to give it a go.  Try it out yourself and let me know what you think!  Be sure to check out the article on what to do after you import (click the picture below):

It's never optimal to keep all of your focus on one venue.  Zibbet is a great up and coming handmade (and vintage, supplies, and fine art) site with monthly instead of item based fees and great new features added all the time.  Consider using a coupon code to give them a try this holiday season.  It's easier than ever to set up shop.

I hope you're as excited to try these new features as I am!  Have you found any others that will help you get your shop ready for the holidays?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Weekly BEST: Rae of Light

This week I have the pleasure of featuring a photographer from Missouri.  Rae of Light Photography is the photo business of a 28 year old woman from a family of photographers.  What she lacks in professional training has been made up for with informal training from her talented family members.  She is able to capture the beauty in the simplicity of the everyday world around her.  She doesn't just offer prints of her work, but has magnets, calendars, cards, and puzzles available for sale as well.  I picked out some of my favorites from her shop which you can find below:

I hope you are as inspired by the nostalgic and romantic feel of her natural scenes as I am.  Check out Rae of Light around the web at these locations:

I encourage you visit this shop and then leave a comment here to let us know what your favorite item(s) are!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, October 8, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: How Wholesale Can Help Your Business

What's the difference between consignment and wholesale?  In both situations, you are offering your work to another business at a lower rate than your retail price for them to resell.  Also in either situation you might sign a contract and/or have an ongoing relationship with this particular business.  The major difference from my perspective is that in a wholesale deal your items are purchased outright.  The reseller can then mark up the prices and sell the items to their customers (or, really, do whatever they want with them).  When you consign your items, however, you are paid your percentage when and only when the items sell.  If your items sit on the shelf collecting dust, the same collects in your wallet.  I have heard horror stories in the Etsy forums of consignment deals gone bad, so I've decided to stay away from that avenue.  I would highly recommend wholesale, however.  It can be a fantastic feeling to have your work in a brick and mortar retail shop and it can be a great way to grow your business.

As many of you know, I recently sold about 50 pieces of jewelry to a new shop in Durham, NC called Hunky Dory.  If you're local, be sure to check them out and tell them Elle's Beads sent you!  I stopped into the shop the other day to show a friend my work and he snapped this picture:

The jewelry I made can be seen from the middle to the right side of the picture, along with a few pieces from some other artists.  I was fortunate enough to make this huge sale just by being found on Etsy.  Previously I had only briefly skimmed the forum threads and thoughtful discussions on wholesaling.  I raised my prices some, but that was the only action I took.  I assumed that since I only sold one-of-a-kind pieces that I wouldn't attract that kind of interest.  I was happily surprised to find out that wasn't the case.  So, there are some things that I was prepared for and some things I wish I had thought through in advance.  To hopefully get you excited about selling wholesale, here are my top five pieces of advice:

1.  Be thorough in setting up your online shop because you never know who may come across it and decide that your work is a perfect fit for their business.  This is my first piece of advice because I didn't actually seek out this order - the owners of Hunky Dory found me through searching on Etsy.  If you want to be found, you must make sure that your work is properly titled and tagged and optimized for search engines.  Use clear photos and accurately describe your work in the appropriate sections.  Especially if you sell on a site like Etsy where users can search for sellers local to them, be sure to include an accurate and complete location (city, state or province, and country).  Actually, doing all of this will help you not only with wholesaling, but with attracting regular customers, being featured in blogs or magazines, etc. - set up your shop to work to your advantage!

2. If you're interested in selling wholesale, recognize that you need to prepare for it ahead of time.  The most important preparation is tackling your pricing.  Go back and read that last sentence again.  From what I've read on Etsy, most wholesale orders tend to run at 50% of retail price.  That means if I have a ring listed in my shop for $10, my wholesale price should be $5.  This allows the retailer that buys your crafts to mark them up so that they can make a profit from selling them.  If you would lose money selling your items at this 50% rate, you are not ready to wholesale.  It's time to raise your prices.

You may be thinking, "Why would I want to sell my one-of-a-kind items at 50% off?"  It's true that for this kind of wholesale order you aren't making large batches of the same item at once, which saves time and cuts down overhead costs.  However, consider the amount of work that it takes to promote your individual items and sell them, and how much money you spend in advertising, renewing, and craft fair booth fees.  It may actually be more cost effective to sell a large number of items at once for less profit per item than one item at a time for a higher profit.  The point is to make a profit and make sure you aren't cheating yourself.

3. Another main preparation you should consider is delivery of the goods.  Whether or not you sell to someone local, you will have to consider how you will package the items and deliver them.  If you make a local sale, you may be able to arrange for the buyer to meet you to pick up the items.  (Remember to exercise common sense safety precautions - you are meeting a stranger from the internet and bringing valuable merchandise with you.)  Otherwise you will have to factor in shipping costs as well.  Make sure you're prepared with promotional materials and think of creative ways to use them.  I noticed that one of the other local artists who recently sold jewelry to Hunky Dory attached their rings to their business cards in a similar fashion to the way earring cards are used.  While every business may not allow you to include your own branding and promotional materials with your items, it can further expand your business if it is allowed.

4. Decide on your policies ahead of time.  Once you receive the order request is not the time to make up your mind on what your wholesale rate is.  You need to consider under what circumstances you will sell wholesale, for example:

*What is your minimum order amount for the wholesale discount? 10 items? 50 items? $200 worth of merchandise?

*Will you offer a smaller discount for those who do not meet your minimum order requirement?

*Will you have the customer place the order through your website or through an artisan venue?

*What payment methods will you accept?  Cash?  Checks?  Money Order?  Online bank transfers?  Credit card payments?  And how will you go about accepting payment?  In person?  Through the mail?  Through a payment service like PayPal or Google Checkout?

Make sure to clearly state your policies to the customer and consider adding them to your policies page on your website or shop.

5. Respond quickly, stick to your agreed time frame, and be as accommodating as possible.  Hunky Dory hadn't yet opened when they contacted me, but they were looking to get the shop opened within the week.  Without staying on top of communications and quickly getting together the order for them, I may have lost the sale.  You don't need a Blackberry or fancy tools to be professional.  I made use of the Etsy convo system to update them daily (sometimes hourly) on the status of the order and to make sure they knew I was concerned with making the sale an easy, pleasant transaction for both of us.

Now you may not have the time right now to prepare large orders for wholesale and that's understandable.  Most of us one-of-a-kind item sellers are gearing up for lots of smaller sales from holiday shoppers this time of year.  However, start thinking now about whether or not wholesale may be a viable option for you and take steps to prepare yourself for the possibility.  For more information on wholesale including selling non-OOAK items and exclusivity, I recommend checking the Etsy forums by using the search bar at the top of the page.

Do you have experience with wholesale?  Consignment?  Interested in it?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Weekly BEST: Inkstrand

Inkstrand is an Etsy shop run by a crafter named Jamila from Portland, Oregon.  A self-described dreamer and jack of all trades, Jamila specializes in pendants, purses, and accessories in this Etsy shop.  Inkstrand takes you back to the Victorian era, meshing aesthetics from that era with elements of nature, science fiction, and fantasy.  Inkstrand is also eco-friendly - Jamila uses a mix of new, recycled, and repurposed materials in her work.  Here are some of my favorites from her shop:

Vintage inspired Light bulb illustration - brass pendant 

Inkstrand can also be found on the web at these locations:

Blog 1:
Blog 2:

What's your favorite item from Inkstrand?  Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, October 1, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: One Year on Etsy

Time flies when you're not quite paying attention!  As you know, my focus lately has not been on my craft business and so I completely missed the fact that my one-year Etsy-versary was last month.  On September 16, 2010 I concluded my first year of selling online, which quite honestly is a little mind-blowing for me.  Now I can't boast that I've turned a major profit or that I'm ready to "quit my day job" (it's not even my goal...), but I still feel like I've been successful.  I've learned how to sell at craft fairs, the farmer's market, and the flea market.  I've gotten a blog, Twitter, and Facebook following.  I've made 25 online sales between Etsy, Zibbet, and Artfire and learned how to package and ship across the country.  I've also sold a large wholesale order and seen my jewelry on display in a local shop (more on that in a later post).  I've made friends, honed networking skills, and organized and led a local team event.  Most importantly I've learned a great deal, not just about running a small, independent business, but about myself - my personality, my strengths, and my passions.

I've been talking a lot about inspiration lately, and if there was one piece of advice I could give to anyone starting out it would be to stay inspired.  Do something you really enjoy or it's really just work.  Crafting is generally not easy money (hence the popular term "starving artist"), but it is possible to turn your passion into a successful business - whatever "success" means to you.

Many thanks to each and every one of you that read the blog, tweet the posts, leave comments, subscribe to the newsletter, and purchase from the shop.  I don't know what I would have done without you this past year.  I genuinely appreciate all of your kind words and support.  Happy sales!

Until next time,