A quick note: This list is meant as an overview of basic marketing as it applies to Etsy’s Handmade Marketplace. I am still a fairly new seller (of handmade goods), but have ten years of experience in marketing consumer products and an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise. It is not my intention to put this forward as a ‘success kit’, since I am still working on creating Etsy success for myself, I feel that would be disingenuous. I know when I was just starting in the business world, I would have gotten a lot out of a concise outline of how marketing works. Many people helped me figure it out. I am just trying to pay it forward.
I also want to note that most of this info came from my wonderful and enlightened teachers, associates, professional peers, and friends. This is not new info, hopefully just well-formatted and helpful to those who haven’t seen it before. I do ask that you not publish, copy, or forward this to anyone without checking with me first.
1. List a lot.
And by ‘a lot’, I mean both frequently and list a bunch of stuff. I have yet to see anyone making any money off of a shop that has one page of items. There’s just not enough choice, and if you don’t provide choices in your category, a sea of other sellers will, and your potential customer will go look at their shops.
2. Be cohesive. Ask yourself these questions:
a. Does my banner match my avatar?
b. Do my avatar and my banner match the style, color, and tone of my shop? If you’re not sure, ask the owner of a ‘front page’ shop….or someone who was written up in ‘Quit Your Day Job’.
c. Do my business cards (or other paper marketing pieces) match my banner and avatar?
d. Does my gift wrap and packaging match my banner, avatar, and business cards?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you gotta fix it ASAP! Your brand is everything! If you don’t have a clear understand of what ‘brand’ totally means, ask me…I’m happy to go over the basics. Always remember, just because you like it, doesn’t mean that it’s the best representation of your brand and your work. My first round of cards got tons of compliments, and was really cute, but I used a font that looked hand-written and casual, which didn’t match the more sophisticated and feminine style of my work. As soon as I changed it, the number of comments, hearts, and most importantly, SALES, went up. Brand is most important when cultivating repeat business. Cohesiveness helps people know that the next time they visit you, they will have similar style choices every time.
3. Don’t skimp on the important stuff.
None of us have the luxury of extra cash, but you can do A LOT these days with a little, you just have to know where to look. Here’s my list of what not to do yourself, unless you KNOW you have the skills:
a. Never-never-never-never-never make business cards at home. If yours have perforated edges, are crooked, or you used a basic template on a site like Vistaprint, toss them. Why, you ask? Because they make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. What to do instead? Go to a site like Moo, Vistaprint, or Ovenightprints. When choosing a template to start from BASIC IS ALWAYS BETTER. Don’t choose a template that is very distinctive…no swirls or big graphics, I guarantee you will eventually trade cards with a massage therapist who has the exact same card. No bueno! Instead, use a simple outline and dress it up with color or with clear, close-up, hi-res photos of your work. Or, find a graphic designer that likes your goodies, and will trade with you for a logo design (best option).
b. List-list-list-relist-relist. And I mean that, every day/week/month, you should average 60% new listings, 40% re-listings. A note on that… do them in groups of three-ish at a time, and space it out over the day. Remember, listing is like getting a marathon runner to stop and say hi while they run past you. If you got that jogger to pause for a second, would you offer them water, an orange slice, a towel, a big encouraging sign, a power bar, and an ipod? Of course not! What would you offer at mile two?
c. Packaging. Make sure it represents your brand. It needs to be pretty! Paying a couple of extra bucks for satin ribbon instead of paper will not mean you don’t make rent, but it can mean the difference between a happy customer and a satisfied customer. Success on Etsy is all about the extra mile.
4. Have good taste.
I know this is a tough one, but if you look at your work and it doesn’t match the level of work we all see on the front page, ditch it and DO BETTER! You can do it! BE GREAT! Putting up sub-par work and/or sub-par photos will only hurt you.
5. Don’t spam strangers or friends.
If someone compliments an item you’ve made…listen to what they really are saying…. are they just being polite and making conversation? If so, just say thanks, if they ask more questions when you say you made it….then give them a business card. As for friends… don’t talk about what you made all the time. Treat it like a job, don’t make your friends feel like they have to buy from you, and they will be more willing to help promote you.
That goes for social media too.
Which brings me to…..
6. Social media.
I know it’s tedious sometimes. I know there’s a learning curve. I know you don’t know what to say. Figure it out! It’s free! The best place to start is looking at the pages of other sellers. Not sure where to look for those? Go to the Etsy Forums, and search for Facebook, Twitter, or Blogging. Start reading! Always remember that when it comes to social media, or really any form of Internet promotion, content is KING! Every post you put up can’t be about a new item or a new sale. Think about what other things your customers might be interested in and post info and links about those things. For example, if you sell handmade dolls for children, you might post an article related to early childhood education, or write a blog with anecdotes from friends and customers about your first childhood stuffed animal. This helps buyers understand who you are and why you make what you make. People come to Etsy for a ‘high-touch’ experience. If they wanted a generic stuffed bear, they would buy it at Walmart. Help them see that you love what you make, and they will love it too.
7. Continuing the conversation.
This is all the things you do after you have a sale, or that you prepare for before you have a sale, or when things are slow.
a. Newsletters. This is extremely key. There are several programs out there that provide free or very cheap systems to help you format a basic newsletter and create different mailing lists, etc…. My favorite is Mailchimp. Newsletters help you stay ‘top-of-mind’ for your customers. That means that when they need a gift or a pair of earrings, or whatever you sell, they think of you first. Again, as will all other promotion… Good Content + No spam = Happy customers. Don’t ever break those rules. If you don’t have anything to say one month, spotlight a friend’s shop who sells something you don’t. Always have people opt-in. It’s ok to send your first one or two newsletters to everyone you know, but make sure you put a line in big, bold letters that they need to respond to you if they want to continue to receive the newsletter. Don’t assume that everyone on your contact list cares about your handmade goodies.
b. Thank you. Never underestimate this. You can never do it too much. Send a thank you when someone buys, send another when they pay (unless they do both at the same time), send another when you ship, and wait a week and send an email making sure they received it, and are happy with it (this is the perfect spot to tactfully ask for feedback…and make sure you always include a clickable link back to your shop in each communication.). I even send a paper thank you card as well if someone buys more than one item, or something expensive.
8. Pricing and discounts.
a. Pricing: Price fairly. That means you make a fair profit and your customer pays what the item is worth. For some, this is VERY hard, as we often spend WAY more time on things than we could ever charge for. If this is the case for you, than Etsy will always be a hobby. I once made a necklace that took me three days of solid work. To make a decent living, I need to be paid about $20/hr. That means that my time cost $480, plus the materials. This piece could absolutely not sell for more than $150. See the problem? So, I stopped making that style and looked for ways to streamline production. If you aren’t sure what to sell for, ask the people you would like to sell to, or people that sell in your category….NOT your friends or family. They mean well, but they lie…… period. They want to make you feel good, not help you build a business.
b. Discounts. Stop offering discounts. Stop offering sale sections. Stop offering publicized freebees. All of these things make you look desperate and devalue your work. If you don’t stand by the value and price of your work, how will your customers see a value in what you create? Instead, offer only seasonal and very rare sale offers, and only to people on your newsletter mailing list. An occasional small coupon here is ok too….but no more than six total discount programs per year….and this is on the high end.
9. Give Back.
Find a way to give. Even when you could use help yourself. It will align your brand with a sense of community-mindedness, and will allow you to network and promote like crazy without looking like a self-promoting capitalist. For example, for the month of May, I connected with a local domestic violence charity to give $5.00 from every transaction to them, in Honor of Mother’s Day. They, in turn, promoted my shop to their mailing list….making us both look good, and all it cost me was a little slice of profit on sales I might never have made otherwise. My Facebook fan list doubled in two days.
10. Be real about who you are.
This is another hard one. If you really don’t have time to take perfect photos, make lots of stuff, promote like mad, list like crazy, blog every other day, tweet your socks off, and constantly reinvent yourself…. Etsy is a lot closer to a hobby for you. This is totally ok, you just have to be real about your expectations. If you are in the hobby category, you have to understand that everything will happen slower. Marketing is like a three-legged table. The three legs are Product (what you make, what you sell, and who you are), Placement (where you sell, AND how people think about you [where you are ‘placed’ in their brain]), Promotion (how you get the word out, and how you represent your brand). If you are falling a little short in any of those three areas, your table will wobble or fall. A successful business requires equal strength in all three areas.