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Friday, February 17, 2012

You Better "Get Social" if you want your Crafty Business to Thrive!

True confessions....
I built my business by spamming.  I know, I know!  It wasn't nice and I ain't real proud, but it was what it was.... There was a time when I was that person.  In fairness, my spamming occurred early in the internet explosion and people weren't quite as repulsed by it as they are today.  There was no money in the budget for a salary, let alone a marketing plan, so I had to figure out a way to get the word out.  I spent hours and hours surfing the web trying to find bead store websites, copied down  store email addresses from the advertising section of the bead magazines, collected business cards from every store I visited, and carefully added all of the information to a primitive Excel database.  I prepared a weekly email newsletter and held my breath before I hit "send," praying that no one would hate me or report me to the Internet Police.

It worked!


Although my initial email was definitely Spam,  it turned out that the folks I had targeted were generally amenable to receiving my emails.  My unsubscribe rate was very low because I offered a product that bead store owners were having a hard time finding, I sold it at an "easy to swallow" price point in "easy to buy" quantities, and always included beautiful color photos.   My marketing emails solved a problem for retailers because they took the thinking out of the ordering and busy bead shop owners appreciated it.  I was amazed by how well the formula worked---it seemed like magic.  Mind you, although I got the marketing part down, I was sorely remiss when it came to the process oriented side of the business.  You know...the stuff like accounting and recording keeping.

I learned a valuable lesson in those early years....one does NOT need big money to get big marketing results!  Nope, discipline and elbow grease will get the job done.  It was true in 2002 and it is even more accurate in 2012.  Social media is an amazing resource for today's Crafty Retailer.  I recently changed my business model in an effort to beat my life into submission.  It is an exciting, rewarding change that makes me much happier personally.  However, the change came with a need to totally update my branding, my marketing, and my website. 

Sigh.

I am not a computer geek.  I am not a graphics person.  I do not have a clue about how to work with layers in photo editing software.  I am a middle aged woman with a small business to run.  Like you, I have a family, pets, outside interests and the drama and minutia that go along with all of it.   It is just me, by my lonesome.  Yep, I am the one juggling it all...the website, the social media, the creating, the selling.   I bet you recognize yourself!  I do not have a marketing budget but I have passion and I  have gumption.  If I can do it, you can do it.

Your customer shares your passion for creating...leverage that interest through the use of emails, your website, your blog, TwitterFacebook Business Pages and Pinterest, just to name a few.  Of course, it takes some time but it is worth it!  A successful business owner can no longer rely on a website alone.  The new reality is that social media works best when it works together.  It is not enough to have a beautiful website if you fail to reach out via several of the other mediums as well.  They all work together to get the word out about you and your business. 

I resisted creating a Business Facebook Page, but when my business model changed late last year, I committed to a low cost marketing regimen that incorporated a website, a blog, Facebook, and --on a much more limited level---Twitter.   Admittedly, I spend a whole lot of time on Social Media.  A blog can take me anywhere from 2 to 6 hours to write and I maintain two of them.  Additionally, I spend about an hour each day focused on the other aspects of Social Media.  Although I try to blog weekly, I fell off the wagon over the holidays and only recently climbed back in the saddle.  It will take me a month or two to build up my audience to the point where it was before my absence, but it will happen if I continue to blog regularly.  I have Pinterest on my radar...my teenage daughter is a fan and my customers are all over it, so I am behind the curve on that one.  80% of the users are female...it is like an Internet Scrapbook and I see all sorts of marketing potential.  So much to do, so little time...but I will get there....

Many Crafty Retailers are overwhelmed by the thought of an integrated social media campaign.  Don't be!  Over the next few weeks I am going to be sharing how I market my crafty endeavors.  I will tell you about how I am managing...slowly and in between everything else I have going on in my life...to get the job done.
 
I recently taught a marketing seminar for Swarovski and  I checked out the web presence of all of the participants prior to the workshop.  The ladies in attendance were incredible...a very talented group energized by the possibility of turning a passion for jewelry into a business.  It was exciting to see!  One of the attendees has a killer website.    No faint praise here...her graphics are crisp, the verbiage is pithy, the photos are artful and professional.  She takes care of the site herself , from the photos to the product updates.  There is absolutely nothing about the website that I would change---it is perfect.  Gulp. I was the one at the podium talking about marketing so I was a bit embarrassed to share my own  homemade, kind of dorky, Urban Stitch Studio site.  Interestingly, my Plain Jane site has a much higher Alexa ranking than the beautifully appointed one.  It didn't make sense to me until I realized that the owner of that site did not yet participate in Social Media. 


Helpful Tip!
Not familiar with Alexa?   It is a wonderful site that computes traffic rankings on all of the websites floating throughout cyber space.  The lower the Alexa Ranking, the more popular and visible the website.   Once you install the toolbar, you will be able to see the ranking of every single site that you visit.  Google is #1 and Facebook is #2.  It is a fun and informative tool for your marketing toolbox.  Take a minute to install the Alexa Toolbar


Take a look at my Urban Stitch Studio home page. I told you it was simple!  It is an average site with no bells and whistles, but it works for me. I can maintain it without killing myself.  Some pages are still under construction, but I try to work on it  for an hour or so several times a week.  It has a shopping cart and runs me about $35 per month.  Quite a contrast from my first website, which cost $26,000!   I had to pay the developer hundreds of dollars every single time I wanted to add a five cent bead to the page!  Never again will I give away that sort of control.  Simple works for me.

My Alexa Rank is circled in red on the Alexa Tool Bar at the top of the page. I will notice a change in my ranking if I fail to make frequent changes to my website.  Google and other search engines like to see that there is activity on your site, so it should not remain stagnant.  I also notice a decrease in my Alexa ranking if I have slacked off on my social media marketing efforts. You can't fool Google. 

Notice that my Urban Stitch Studio Blog is linked on the front page.  I will soon be adding a link for this blog, as well.  My goal is to enable people to find me everywhere I am in cyberspace, as easily as possible.  The more people that click on my links, the more visible I become to Mama Google.

I also include a Link for  Tutorials.  In fact, I will soon be adding the word "Free" to the link because I find that  the phrase "free tutorials" is a popular Google search term.  I want to take advantage of likely search terms to help folks find me.  The tutorials drive traffic to my site and sometimes the "traffic" morphs into a customer, which is all part of my evil plan. 

Finally, I recently added a "Google +" button to the top of the page.  The idea is that if crafters come to the site and like it, they will click Google +  and the site will, through the magic of Google, be recommended to their friends.  I have not done much research into this, but a tech savvy friend told me to do it, so I did.  I have yet to see a direct benefit, but I am watching.  If you happen to be perusing my site, do a gal a favor and press the link!


My next Post will focus on using Facebook Business Pages to connect with your customers...Business Pages ROCK!!!!! 

In the Studio:
I finally finished a pillow that I had hoped to have completed by Christmas 2011.  It didn't happen, but I was determined to get it done so that I could cross it off my To Do list at last!  I used up all of the random poinsettias I had felted for various workshops last Fall, re-purposed an old sweater for the pot, and used Tahki Stacy Charles Cotton Classic for the trim. I enjoyed it for an hour before tucking it away until next December!