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,