As I prepare some articles on my latest landmark at the Energy Shop (1,000 Sales!!), I wanted to do a flashback to this post I wrote in August of 2010. This article has been re-published at Handmadeology as well. 450 Sales in the First Three Months of Business: Here’s How:
I’ve kept close watch of what works and what doesn’t since I started. Here’s what I know for sure:
Give Stuff Away. If you check out my shop, it will come as no surprise to you that I’m a real believer in karma. Share your product. If anyone I know personally shows interest in my product, they get a bracelet. I appreciate support in all forms. Before I started selling anything, I gave packets of bracelets to many of my friends. Their feedback was essential to my beginning, and it proved that I had a lovely little gift in each creation.
This reminds me of something written by Wayne Dyer, “When you say, ‘How may I share?’ the Universe responds, How may I share with you?” Let me be clear in that I don’t share for what I’ll get in return. I’m often thinking of someone when a new stone comes across my desk, and I love making a new bracelet with loving thoughts of someone I know. Having clarified that you don’t want to give just to get, here’s my point: Anytime I put an unexpected gift package in the mail, I see a huge increase in sales that week. How can you share?
But, Don’t Do Give-Aways. Early on, I ran a sweepstakes on my own blog site for a free bracelet. I was just starting out and I had a lot of time to play with my blog and try to push my website on the free advertising forums (read Help Your Customers Find You below). By the time of my sweepstakes drawing, my business had increased and I had become quite busy. I made the sweepstakes bracelet and sent it to the winner, who had an issue with the bracelet on arrival. Her story was slightly suspicious. I was sorry to disappoint the winner, but I did not have the time or personal energy to perform customer service for a non-paying customer.
I’ve learned to work around this by offering gift certificates for sweepstakes, and I only do this for other bloggers to go along with their reviews. In order to redeem my gift certificate, the customer will need to log into their Paypal account and fill out all of the information on Etsy as well. That person is then a customer with a gift certificate, rather than a sweepstakes winner, which means we’re “in business” and following all of the regular policies.
Celebrate Your Sales. When I hit 100 sales in my first month of business, I was beyond ecstatic. To me, it meant: I really have something here! I saw a full-time job and a second income in my near future. I needed to CELEBRATE! and I wanted to do it with the people who got me there.
At 100 sales, I created a “Customer Appreciation Special.” I ordered Chrysanthemum stone for the first time, and this sale is how it was debuted in my shop. I made a stock of 10 bracelets and priced them so that I didn’t lose, but my customer clearly won.
Once I reach a goal, I make a new one and plan the next sale accordingly (including bigger stock for higher landmarks).
Help Your Customers Find You. This means to have a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, a blog (if you like to write), a website, and a public email address. Encourage other bloggers to review you. These forms of spreading the word are a slow-moving, but steady progress. You are building a brand. Every spot where you leave your mark is leading people to your shop. Also, my Facebook fan page is, BY FAR, my best form of free advertisement. I post something once or twice a week and those posts often lead to multiple sales.
Be Wary When One Customer Finds You Too Much. I do well enough wasting time. I don’t need other people to do it for me.
When I first opened shop, I earned a huge fan. Man, she loved me. She followed me on Twitter and tweeted to me often, she found me on Facebook and commented all over the page, and she wrote me direct messages through whatever forum was available to her in the moment. She had a boatload of requests. My site had all of the things she loved; she’d just like me to alter them slightly: a different size, another stone, etc. For two months, I worked for her, ordered for her, researched for her, and just as I was about to jump through 3 hula hoops on fire, I looked her up in my records. She had made one sale, with no promise to make anymore. It seemed one of her hobbies was managing my business, and I was allowing it! I stopped doing anything just to please her, and we grew apart gracefully.
I love my customers so much. 99.8% of them are not anything like the person I mentioned above. Moreover, when I’m dealing with that .2% of customers who are all-demand and no check-out, I don’t have time to appreciate my valued buyers. When the convos are coming daily, but there hasn’t been a sale in weeks, you might want to determine who’s really interested in your products from who’s just bored at home.
Buy Advertisements. Etsians talk about renewing listings every day. This means you refresh your listing by checking it and clicking “renew,” which then re-charges the $.20/item listing fee. I’ve done this a few times, especially when I have anything wedding-related listed. A lot of Etsians rely on the traffic that comes through the Etsy home page or site search. I’m in the jewelry business on Etsy, so I absolutely have to fish a bigger pond. I spend an average of $.20 per click on Facebook advertising, bringing the outside world into Etsy.
I love! love! love! my Facebook advertising. Where my stuff is trending is where I need to advertise. I pick very select groups to sell to, which keeps my cost per click rates on Facebook very low.
I’m not going to give away my entire strategy here, so let’s say I made boutique-y children’s clothing (I don’t). I used to subscribe to US Weekly,* and man oh man, did I think that I needed to outfit all of my children (there are four) in upscale, boutique-y, one-of-a-kind outfits. If I were selling this line, I would take out an advertisement on Facebook for married women aged 26-38 who “like” the US Weekly Fan Page. I would put a child that looked simple and neat, a life-like Suri Cruise, in one of my cutest outfits and create a fabulous headline.
*If I were a boutique-y children’s clothing store, I would also subscribe to US Weekly to keep up with Hollywood baby trends and change my item tags to match what other US Weekly subscribers might be searching each week.
In start-up, Facebook Ads have been everything I need. Facebook recently started accepting Paypal, which is just one more convenience. Google Ads are another very user-friendly advertising resource. However, I find the cost per click to be insanely over-priced. Books that teach the CPC strategy, like The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, have increased the popularity of search engine advertising. I recently cashed a coupon for $75 in free Google advertisements (magazines, like Inc., will offer great deals and coupons for small business owners) and I was paying more than $1 for every click (two years ago, each click would have cost $.10). In my opinion, $1 is simply not worth it.
However, you may have a product that would do very well on Google Ads and every $1 spent could potentially bring in great profit. Obviously, your marketing strategy depends on your market. So, ask yourself:
Who are your customers? How old are they? Are they predominantly male or female? Do they have a family or are they single? Are they conventional or quirky? What do they read? What movies/TV do they watch? Where do they take vacation? Are they laid-back or adventurous? What are their hobbies? Build a typical customer on paper, and then you’ll start getting ideas on exactly how to find them.
Follow Your Customers Lead. For me, this means always carrying 3-packs. My 3-packs are 3 bracelets made of smaller gemstones, listed at inexpensive prices. The 3-pack is not my favorite listing, they take up a lot of my precious time and they are always at a reduced price, but the customers ♥ it.
I’ve spent these last few weeks trying to cut 3-packs out, but when I do, sales drop.
The 3-pack is especially important when I think of new customers. I imagine them coming to my site, seeing all of the different gemstones with all of the different meanings, and feeling completely overwhelmed. This one means this; that one means that. I need a little of the moonstone, and a little of the jasper in my life . . . I imagine them doing this until they just leave my website and we part ways . . . forevermore.
If a customer comes looking for a great place to start, there it is: the 3-pack. For this reason, I try to always carry a starter 3-pack because even if I’m not gaining profit, I am gaining a new customer—which is so much more valuable than that of a single sale. The point is to follow the customers’ lead, and give them a simple place to start. They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll thank them for all the future business to come.
Think Outside the Box. The Energy Shop has taught me that I have an entrepreneurial spirit. This does not feel like work to me. It feels like Cake Mania or Wedding Day or Spa Tycoon, or any other virtual business games that I have become obsessed with in the past. Every seed you plant is important. Even though it doesn’t take root and sprout immediately, you’re putting yourself, and your brand, out there.
Finally, Realize That I Am Not Your Competition. I am always your friend. We have neighboring shops and we help each other, whether you realize it or not. My Facebook advertising brings hundreds of people to Etsy each day (FYI, I usually spend $20 per day). I guarantee that some of them have shopped around and spent elsewhere. I’m glad, I want them to! Because I love you, Etsians. I really, really do! I care for you and your wellbeing. So good luck!