Is online selling really doing what we need it to do?
I felt inspired to write an entry in my blog seeing as so much emphasis is being put onto selling online, and if we are not actually making the sales, then somehow as crafters we get that sense of failure, that our product isn’t good enough or there just isn’t the demand for our style
Whether you are aiming to sell through your own website, Have an Etsy or Folksy shop or feature your items on yet another commission based online craft shop are you really succeeding in your mission to sell?
I Having been running my own business for over 12 years and have ( as any honest business owner would tell you) had my ups and downs, but have always found a way of changing direction and filtering any negative energy into moving things onwards and upwards.
I often browse through the Etsy forums and find non-stop questions and heart wrenching quotes from buyers who want to throw in the towel as their online shops are not getting the traffic, favourites and that the number of sales is embarrassing. We can tweak our photos, change tag words, titles and descriptions till the cows come home, and if we are one of the lucky ones this could result in sales, but most of the time with all the will in the world our blood sweat and tears never actually seem to have the desired effect that we had hoped for, leaving us back in the dark hole of the what’s, whys and how’s of online selling.
At many times in recent years I have hoped that if I bury my head in the sand ,maybe social media may disappear, online selling will die a death and people will go back to shopping local and actually communicating in person will be the favourite as it was when I first went into business all those glorious years ago.
Unfortunately this is not the case so we need to embrace how the world is changing and how as creative people we need to keep up the enthusiasm which we wish to shine through in our product.
TAKE IT BACK TO BASICS..
Aside from the obvious hurdles of online selling, I am so proud to say that my little empire is booming, and yes even in a recession I have managed to shape my business into the market place which works for both my product and also for me which of course is a big part of my product.
The reason that I do not have to rely on selling online, is that I have stuck with what has always worked for me, which is face to face selling, gauging my customers’ requests and also being able to actually see what people are looking at and with a mastered technique on “homing in on private conversations and “ actually” hearing feedback on my product.!
Many of the most successful designs I have produced have been through potential customers commenting to their friend what they would prefer to see, and of course the “made to order” side of my business has been a god send as I have been able to make for the client to their own requirements, then make a 2nd piece as a “new sample”.
These pieces have often gone on to be best sellers, as I have been able to create a piece for an actual person, and after all ,many potential customers ( especially in the bridal accessories side of the business ) tend to wear what I class as “the bridal uniform “ known as “trends “ in real terms.
So back to basics I believe is testing our products in the “actual market “ to get a feel for how our designs come across, hear comments, positive and negatives, ask people what they would like to see and also how you would be able to tempt them from buying from you , i.e. by introducing certain product lines to your range and what your branding says about your product.
Whether it’s a local craft fair, market stall, or shopping evening, there are so many way of getting yourself out there and putting your product on the map.
I am fortunate enough to have run my Saturday market stall for over 3 years now, and the results have been astonishing!!
I have added to my accessories range over the years, and now as an established trader I am overwhelmed with the amount of repeat customers I get back every week and also the comments I receive from customers as to how amazing the products are.
I can spend many hours online per week trying to get the word out, link with potential customers and promote my accessories with the results being very deflating and disappointing. What matters to me is that every week I am able to sell my goods to actual people who are able to appreciate my products and by the end of the day my spirits are so high that a week of inspiring stock making in the workroom is done to the highest degree.
Being creative when your spirits are low is one of the most difficult tasks in the world, so going back to basics and getting back the buzz really is what it’s all about.
I am not saying that selling online is a no go, in fact in the long term it is a very important part of a successful business but I wanted to focus on the importance of keeping our product research as basic as possible.
For anyone who has started their craft business in the last few years online and maybe have not the response that they had hoped then GET YOURSELF OUT OF THE WORKSHOP, OFF THE INTERNET AND SIGN UP FOR A FEW EVENTS IN YOUR LOCAL AREA…
Knowing that my selling techniques and customer relations were a big part of my business, by being told ( by various marketing gurus) that selling online was really the only way to stay in business, it felt to me that I would have to become the silent maker behind my product, which was something that I did not want to hear.!
By having an exciting career as a costume designer working in Film, tv and theatre as well as a massively creative journey through eco accessory creations and millinery design, I wanted to further prove these business gurus wrong so I decided to take the next step on the ladder and take on a side line of speaking to WI groups and at other regular meetings.
In the last 2 years I have had the pleasure of talking to over 120 groups ( usually within an hour’s journey of my studio ) to share my experiences with large groups of ladies who have been both inspired and overwhelmed with my enthusiasm and creativeness of my journey.
My blog is not intended to plug my business, after all if you are reading this then you are obviously already on my site, but I needed to try to get my point out that by actually( and yes I mean in person), if you are part of your product then the outcome can be totally amazing.
At every meeting I get paid to talk to groups of 20 – 150 people, about my business, I can promote my accessories, get people to try on my products and then of course buy my work.
In business i often use the example of a visit to a museum as a comparison to peoples buying habits at the meetings. When you go to a Museum would you go straight to the gift shop? probably not, and if you did then i doubt that you would buy much. After your visit to the Musuem, after understanding and appreciating the nature of the subject you would happily then wish to purchase souvenier, maybe even 2 or 3 things? which is again where selling after an hours talk to a captive audience is so effective. ! Those who dont choose to buy that evening, are often the ones to pass information onto a friend whos daughter is getting married or link up with a few crafting pals and head on over for a crafting workshop. The leads are endless after being part of your products story.
Many of the ladies are inspired with the crafting side of my business, so I am then able to tell them all about the workshops I run from my beautiful workshop, ( launched summer last year ) or as a call it, yet another promoting opportunity for such a wonderful captive audience.
As I said at the beginning, the internet can be a scary place, and sometimes we need to look back to basic selling techniques before we successfully can give it a go at creating the same buzz online.
My aim was to inspire like-minded crafters to maybe take a different angle on promoting their business, So even if you are able to take one piece of inspiration on-board which will get you closer to achieving your dream, then I have done my job.
Every day I learn something new, and I do hope that one day the demand for my products online will meet my expectations, but in the meantime I will continue to see and hear my customers trying on my products and enjoy being part of my product rather than just the creator.