Friday, April 24, 2009

Increasing Your Sales- Offline...

This is the follow up to my earlier blog about online sales. This entry will focus on offline selling and promoting both your creations and your online shop/website.

There are so many ways in everyday life to promote your work without being obvious about it. As an example, I make handmade jewelry and specialize in authentic sea glass creations. One of the best ways for me to promote my work, is to wear it!

I don't always have a new piece of jewelry on and I don't wear it every single day (though there's no reason why I can't) but I do try to wear something 4 or 5 days a week and I consciously wear one of my necklaces every time I go out to dinner or a rare night out on the town.

A small disclaimer... I don't like wearing bracelets, but I love making them. I want to portray a positive attitude, so you'll probably never see wearing one of my sea glass bracelets. I do enjoy the earrings and necklaces I create and I actually keep special pieces for myself (and internally argue about some pieces that I list in my shops...because I'd love to keep some of them too!) and those pieces I love wearing in public...not only as advertising, but because wearing these handmade pieces make me happy.

I can not begin to tell the number of times a women or young girl have commented on my sea glass jewelry. It's not very flashy (I prefer very basic designs that do not take away from the sea glass) but it seems that people who enjoy the beach/ocean/sea glass recognize it and approach me to comment on the my jewelry.

Which brings me to my next advertising prop... the business card. Invariably, most of the people who talk with me about the piece of jewelry that I'm wearing, will ask me where I bought it. Sea glass jewelry is not available at WalMart and I've never walked into a jewelry store that carried sea glass jewelry, so women who love sea glass want to know where they can buy some also.

Many seem quite surprised when I tell them I make my own jewelry and even have a few sites where they can buy some for themselves. Some may seem skeptical and have questions (luckily, my husband is also an avid sea glass collector, so even if we are out for a night on the town, we are approachable & willing to answer questions or hear someone's story about the big find) I don't blatantly go out hoping for someone to ask me about my jewelry, but if they do I'm happy to talk with them. After all, you never know where your next customer will come from and I'm sure we've had customers who tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on....

Self-promoting in this manner is not limited to only jewelry makers. People who make clothes, scarves/hats, etc can also promote their work this way. Try it, I think there will times you are pleasantly surprised at some of the positive comments you receive and at how many business cards you hand out.

The easiest way to make offline sales is by doing craft fairs. A well organized fair can attract hundreds, even thousands of buyers who prefer to buy handmade creations. Obviously, these are the type of customers you want to attract. A craft fair will give you a good idea if your items are "commercial" and also give you an indicator if your pricing is reasonable. Once again, having business cards displayed on your table is important. A customer may not be buying that day, but they may have found something they really liked and want to buy it in the near future.

I have had done many shows that I didn't think were very good, only to make online sales a week or two later to people who live in the surrounding area of the show. Without a business card, they certainly would not have been able to find me online.

Home shows are another great way to sell your creations. I have found that inviting a fellow crafter, one that creates something completely different from you, is a great way to add variety to a home show. Both vendors invite friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Serve wine & cheese, a dessert with coffee and make your home show into a small social gathering. You'll be surprised at how many people will make purchases that day and even more purchases in the future!

Wholesale and consignments offer wonderful opportunities to place your creations into brick & mortar stores and shops. The best scenario is to wholesale your items to the store. This requires very little future work on your part as the store now owns the items they bought. If they keep it in a backroom or display it poorly, that's their choice... it's their inventory.

Consignments can be a bit trickier. The store doesn't get paid until one of your items sell, so the store isn't concerned with your items and the way they are displayed. These are factors that a seller needs to consider before consigning. Hammer out all the details before hand... discuss where & how your items will be displayed, who's responsible for theft/damages, return policies, etc. Personally, I like stopping in at the shops I consign to a couple times a month...every week if possible. I go in to clean my jewelry, see what has sold, what isn't selling at all and let the shop owner that I'm more than willing to take out slow moving inventory and replace it with new creations or similar items to those that have sold in the past.

In my opinion, this lets the shop owner/manager know I'm proactive about making sales (which can only benefit them too) and at the same time, it keeps my items prominently displayed. I have never had a problem with a shop owner in the past, but I know I would never allow my items to be shoved into a corner or mixed in with another seller's items. I would just as soon pull my inventory from the shop and move on the the next opportunity. I try to stay away from shops that want a 50/50 split on sales, unless the selling opportunity is too great (which means I can mark-up my work high enough to reach my expected profit margins) Most of the consignment I do is at the 70/30 level, but I have done some 60/40 in the past. Getting the right shop that works best for you and benefits the shop's bottom line is the perfect situation and one where you'll be welcomed for many years to come.

A word to the wise... if you want to do consignment/wholesale, don't show up with your items unannounced and expect to see the owner or manager. Respect their time and schedule an appointment. Leave a business card and maybe briefly tell them why your product can benefit the store. A professional presence is essential. If you give the impression that this is a hobby, they won't be sure if they can count on you (remember their customers come first and they need to be able to service them properly) Present yourself like a small business and you'll find store owners willing to try your business on.

These are just a few ways to promote yourself as an artisan outside of the internet. Cross promoting both offline and online is essential to increasing your sales and building up a customer base. The most important things are to portray yourself and your work professionally and always remember... you never know where your next customer/sales account/next big sale may come from. Treat the person that you think will not buy something as you would the person you swear is going to open their pocketbook. You just NEVER KNOW!!!

'til next time...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Increasing sales online....

I met with a couple other crafters over the last couple weeks. We had been discussing our online sales, or actually the lack of online sales this year. I commented that while total number sales for each month of 2009 have been down, I'm making as much or more money each month and have increased my return on investment for each item sold. Of course, upon hearing that, they wanted to know how I've managed to do this.

To be honest, this was part of the goals I set for myself in 2008. To be able to make higher-end items and increase my profit margin for each piece. I'd also like to credit the many helpful and more experienced members of Etsy (such as Timothy Adams, Sherry Truitt, the Virtual Labs on Etsy, to name a few) that have help me gain more experience by sharing what they learned through trials and experimenting. The have been many other Etsy members, customers and sea glass collectors that have spoken with me about having the confidence to "get paid for my creations".

The addition of Google Analytics have been a big help to see when/where potential customers have visited my shop. The use of CraftCult helps to show if potential viewers are currently on Etsy and that gives me an indication of how effective promoting on Etsy will be at that time.

I really have not increased my promoting, but I have spread out my promotions to many other sites. The use of Facebook and Twitter have helped drive potential customers to my shop, while joining sites like Kaboodle, StyleHive, ThisNext, etc have allowed me addition sites to showcase my online items.

The thought of not "keeping all my eggs in one basket", by opening online shops at Art Fire & 1000 Markets has not yet paid off, but I'm remaining hopeful that sales will begin to pick up and I'll be able to stock these "secondary" sites and promote the sites a little more in the near future.

Of course, joining all these social networking type sites does not ensure that sales will pick up and I know of several crafters that do little more than blog once every week or two, and promote on Etsy very little... yet they still make many online sales, but it makes one wonder how many sales they could make if they were working the internet.

At a time when it often seems like the only people in the Etsy forums are other sellers (and quite often the same Etsy sellers almost every time you log on) spreading the word about your shop and creations to others that may not be on Etsy or not yet Etsy members can lead to a sale. It has for myself a few times already this year... and it can for you too.

Tomorrow- Increasing sales offline....

'til next time...