Aside

FYI…these posts are called The Bad Blogger Chronicles because I am a very undisciplined writer. You never know when one my blogs will appear (because I sure don’t.) You never know what I’m going to be writing about either (I am just as surprised as you to see what comes out of my mind and onto this blog.)

Today’s Focus: Marketing your brand online

This info is for all the crafters out there. You’re on etsy, or art fire, or zibbet or bonanza or maybe you just have your own website and sell your handcrafted goodies there. Regardless, there are things you can do (and should do) to get people into your shops, to get shoppers to buy, buy, buy and to turn first time customers into repeat buyers.

Why listen to me? Two reasons: (1) I make and sell jewelry online at etsy  and (2) my “real” job is in advertising/marketing. I currently run my own little agency (bh creative – website: bobbihelms.com) and am a freelance copywriter. I was creative director of a Philadelphia ad agency for about 28 years.

Things to consider to get noticed.

Never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself/your shop.

In the past few weeks/months, there have been multiple offers from Google, Facebook and American Express among others for free advertising.

Have you taken advantage of them? I have – and have seen my visitor count increase dramatically. Have I gotten direct sales from these free ads?

No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. Any chance you have for free advertising – take it!

There are countless lists of FREE or LOW COST sites where you can list your items for sale. This list appeared recently on

Handmadeology.com:

http://www.craftjuice.com
http://craftgawker.com
http://www.craftstylish.com/share
http://www.craftytips.com
http://www.designstolove.com
http://www.plaincraft.com
http://tryhandmade.com/promote-handmade
http://coolmompicks.com/yourpicks.php
http://thehandmadedirectory.com/directory
http://etsylush.com

If you advertise somewhere/anywhere (free or paid), make sure you keep track of the results with google analytics, or a similar program.

You need to know if something’s working or not. Look, I’m the first to admit – I am NOT a numbers person. But even I check my google analytics, site stats and craftcult.com to see what’s doing.

Do something with all that positive feedback you get.

I take the best blurbs (without using any names) and put them on the back of my business cards. I’ve even made mini-cards with the testimonials on one side, and my shop name/web address/phone number etc on the other side. These small cards get slipped inside jewelry bags with purchases of smaller items.

mini business cards using testimonials

mini business cards using testimonials

Don’t want to spend  a lot of money on business cards? If you are on etsy – you need to visit moo.com   They are offering etsy shop owners a FREE set of beautifully printed, high-quality business cards. The only catch? The print a small line on the bottom of one side promoting their own site. Even though I have my own cards, I took advantage of this offer to print up a set of “thank you” cards offering free shipping to return buyers.

free business cards from moo.com  

free business cards from moo.com

If you have a website, these positive testimonials should also have a prominent place there, as well.

When you can, spend a little money to upgrade your packaging

I use brown boxes for my bracelet and necklaces, which I order in bulk. I take advantage of discount offers at companies such as Vistaprint  to order custom made return address labels, small round logo stickers and small customized address labels. Just be aware that some such companies tend to charge you more for shipping, than for the products themselves. So buyer beware!

I use a round logo sticker on my boxes, and tie each box with ribbon I buy on sale at craft stores such as Michael’s.

The result? My little logo doggy is everywhere. People start to recognize it. And another reason I takes such care with my packaging is that I like  my customers to know that they are special. I want them to feel as if they are getting a gift when they order a package from me.

fat dog beads packaging

fat dog beads packaging

(Oh – and by the way, for the most part I include a free unexpected gift with every purchase.)

Many of you may be thinking about the cost for all of this. I try to recoup some of the cost in my shipping fees. In the US, I may charge $3.00 for shipping. Actually mailing cost is probably around $2.00.  And, for some smaller purchases – such as earrings – I usually skip the box, and mail them inside a colorful jewelry pouch in a smaller mailing envelope.

I always try to keep Tiffany’s in the back of my mind. Doesn’t matter what you buy or how much you spend – you still walk away with that signature blue box or bag. Every customer is someone to value.

Try out new things – but don’t spread yourself too thin.

I’ve tried out a fair number of online marketplaces for my jewelry. After a lot of mostly “misses” – I settled on etsy and art fire. For over a year, I “paid to play” on both sites. I tried chatting in the forums, making treasuries/collections, and more. And while I know some of you  have the time and patience to handle more than one site, I couldn’t. I dropped art fire and stayed with etsy.

For me, it’s working. I’m not a power seller. But I sell enough to encourage me to keep at it. But I also put in a lot of time there.

I play in the BNRs/BNS’s…I chat with, and have made many, online friends. I buy a lot of my supplies from other etsy sellers.

And I’ve also sold many things to those same sellers.

As far as new things, right  now I am trying/or have tried:

• Pinterest

• Tophatter

• Twitter

• Facebook

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.  And – please – let me know if you have any good marketing ideas.

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Little Ways Crafters Can Build Their Brand Online

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Bad Blogger Chronicles: A Little Late, But Hey! It’s Here…

So much for my resolution to blog more. Just not happening. Instead, I resolve to blog BETTER. (meaning: write something worth reading. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?) So here goes. Let’s start with what I learned this week.

There’s a little something for everyone here.

For those trying to lose weight:

(1) Eating breakfast for lunch or dinner is a great weight loss tool. (I’m not talking syrupy waffles here, people. But omelets or cereal and fruit)  FYI – here’s a great oatmeal recipe you make in a slow cooker overnight.

(makes 9 servings)

Cranberry Maple Slow Cook Oatmeal

2 – 2 1/2 cups steel cut oats (you cannot use regular oats for this)

3 cups water, about 1 cup lo fat milk

3/4 cup of dried cranberries (can chop them if you want)

ground cinnamon or cinnamon and sugar (about 1 1/2 tbl or to taste)

1/2 cup maple syrup (I used the lite kind)

Throw everything into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. You can garnish it when it’s done with slivered almonds. This is actually a recipe from Weight Watchers. Each serving has a points plus value of 6 if that means anything to you.

For those who make things/sell things:

(2) Facebook is having a giveway for facebook ads. Details here:

https://www.facebook.com/smallbusinessboost

If you have a shop on etsy or artfire (and a facebook page) you could get either $50 or $150 worth of free advertising. And they’re going to give away 10 prizes of $10,000 in free advertising too. (Chances of winning that one…ummmm…probably not so good.)

For those with pets:

(3) No matter how many dog toys you buy for a puppy,

maggie mae

My pup, Maggie Mae

they would still either eat your couch, chew on your tupperware or shred your toilet paper.

For those who play words-with-friends:
(4) Chances are, you can’t win if you don’t get the “J”, “Q”, “X” or “Z” – at least one or two of them. And if you have all vowels, don’t be a martyr. Swap some letters.
For those who make jewelry:
(5) Try to develop a signature style. If your stuff looks like everyone else’s – why should anyone buy anything from you?

Heart of Gold Lampwork Wire Wrapped Necklace by fatdogbeads

Shooting Stars Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Bracelet by Fatdogbeads

For those who sell on etsy:
(6) If you don’t have sales, try to get new visitors to your shop. If you don’t have new visitors, you need to put yourself out there. Go to the main page. Click on Treasury. In the search bar at the top, type in BNS or BNR. These are fun places to meet other etsy sellers, introduce them to your shop, learn something about theirs, and quite possibly make a sale or two. Plus, almost everyone participating in these BNS/BNRs posts a discount coupon, so you can pick stuff up for less.
Anyway, that’s it for now. More later. (at some point….)

What’s In The Mail Today?

I love email. I love it on my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone. I check for – read – and reply to – email for at least 15 hours a day. Or more. But for all of its convenience and speed, it’ll never match snail mail when it comes to deliveries.

Who doesn’t like getting something in the mail? (Okay, except for bills and/or political and/or garbage mail.) It used to be that the mail that was delivered to my house was pretty ordinary – aforementioned bills/political/garbage – plus the occasional invitation or magazine or thank you note. (Note to everyone: email thank you notes DO NOT replace real, honest-to-goodness handwritten thank you notes.)

But ever since I started making jewelry – almost every mail delivery is worthy of a “woo-hoo!” Anyone who does anything with crafts on a fairly regular basis buys a lot of stuff. Stuff they need. Stuff they might need. Stuff that is on sale and too good to pass up. Other people’s stuff that you may be able to use. Someday. Maybe.

I tend to buy a lot of jewelry stuff from people who sell on Etsy and Artfire and even on ebay. Stuff from all other the world. Which is another fun thing – looking at the packages to see where they came from. (And, because I buy a lot of stuff, I tend to forget where and from whom I’ve bought that stuff.)

California lampwork beads received in the mail today

Pink beads from CA ...in the mail today

In today’s mail…a bead shipment from one of my favorite lampwork artisans in California. This was a big shipment – a double batch of beads. (I was in a PINK mood…and she had just posted a lot of pink beads.) Plus, being the wonderful seller that she is, my California bead maker included a freebie surprise bead. How much fun is that!

I also received a set of cool orange-y topaz beads from another favorite bead maker.

And I received two typewriter key pendants from an etsy seller. (These definitely fall  into the category “Maybe I’ll use them in the future” or “Not quite sure what to do with them now…but definitely some possibilities there.” Bought these on a BNR. See my previous post entitled Assorted Little Secrets I Learned As An Etsy Seller.

Orange beads

Orangey Topaz Beads from NY

Now, I must admit that I also love getting “real” mail more ever since I started work as a freelance writer, and owner of my own little ad agency. Because sometimes real mail means real money – as in checks from clients.

So you can see why my heart beats a little faster and my pulse races a bit when my three dogs start their woofing frenzy as the mailman puts stuff in my mailbox. It’s the highlight of their day…..and mine.

Typewriter Key Pendants

Typewriter Key Pendants...what to do with these?

Oh – and the last photo? That’s the book I ordered, and received in the mail, several days ago. Opened it. Unwrapped it. Haven’t even opened it up yet. Guess not all mail is as exciting as others.

Walk Off The Weight Book - also in the mail

This Book Came In The Mail....days ago....

Recipe For Success: Selling Handmade Online & Off

BEGIN WITH SOMETHING YOU REALLY LOVE MAKING….

Someone commented to me the other day, “wow! you sure are doing well selling your jewelry.” And I had to agree with them. While I’ve been selling pretty regularly to family, friends and neighbors, I’ve been slowly cultivating an online group of customers as well. And while getting paid for what you like doing is terrific – the fact that many  customers are repeat buyers means every bit as much to me. (Cue the Sally Field Oscar tape, “You like me. You really, really like me”)

ADD IN SOME RESEARCH TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING…

I checked out tons of online jewelry shops in Etsy and Artfire and the like. And created a niche for myself. It wasn’t that my technique was so outstanding…I learned from others, and others will learn from me. But I always felt I had a somewhat quirky way of combining colors, patterns and shapes that helped to make my bracelets, pendants and earrings stand out.

BLEND IN A HEFTY HELPING OF PATIENCE

Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Pendant

I began making jewelry last July. Opened an Etsy shop. And waited… and waited…and (well, you get the picture.) My first online sale came in September – to someone in Australia. I don’t know what got me more excited – the sale, or the fact that I sold something to someone in Australia. I started reading blogs, forum posts, Etsy seller tips and more to see what more I should be doing to encourage online sales. It was pretty slow going there until I hit October and November, when sales online and offline really started picking up.

THROW IN A HANDFUL OF MONEY

I decided to spend some money on advertising and marketing. I joined Artfire, and later, Zibbet. I took the Pro package at Artfire – giving it a test through the holiday season. I went with the freebie package on Zibbet. I tried FB ads, blog advertising, a few freebie websites, and I took some ads on StumbleUpon and Craftcult. I bought showcases on Etsy, and renewed my items on a fairly regular basis. I started a blog (free) and a FB page just for fat dog beads.

STIR CONSTANTLY...

Honeysuckle Rose Pink One Of A Kind Lampwork Bead Bracelet

Honeysuckle Rose Pink Bracelet by fat dog beads

I realized that even though making and selling jewelry was my hobby, I would need to devote more time to it to get it up and running smoothly. I checked my analytics everyday, as well as other stats. I realized that some things worked WAY better than other things. One thing that really helped (and still does) is having a presence in the Etsy/Artfire community forums and BNR’s. (See one of my earlier posts for explanation of the BNR’s). I began making connections with other Etsy and Artfire sellers – terrific, friendly, helpful people. We are often each other’s customers – a nice turn-of-events.

AND VOILA!

I’ve had over 70 sales on Etsy; 2 on Artfire; and countless numbers offline. But a majority of my offline sales use my Etsy shop to browse for their purchases. They also connect with me via my FB page. I make sure to update that very regularly.

What didn’t work for me: Zibbet, FB ads, Stumble Upon, and blog advertising. Not convinced Artfire is for me. I believe you have to put a lot of effort into sites like Etsy and Artfire – and I don’t have time for both. (need time for the job-that-pays-the-bills). i

What worked for me: Etsy showcases (they got me exposure when I needed it. Though I’ve stopped them because of the price.), Craftcult ads – yes, they can be pricey, but whenever I was on Craftcult, my numbers shot WAY up. It was no coincidence. Being in the Etsy forums/treasuries/BNRs on a daily basis.

And now….a recipe you can really sink your teeth into:

From my daughter Erin. This appetizer recipe is a crowd-pleaser. And couldn’t be simpler. Enjoy!

1 lb hot italian sausage (preferrably patties without casing – otherwise, you have to take the casing off before cooking.)
1 bar of cream cheese (not fat free)
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

Brown the sausage, then add the cream cheese and rotel. Stir well. reheat in the microwave or oven. Serve with Fritos scoop chips.

Great Way To Sell Your Stuff: Hold An Open House

Held my first Jewelry Open House last night at my daughter’s house. It was fun, relatively easy, very laid back, and terrifically successful. The most stressful part was pre-open house…when I feverishly worked to replenish my stock due to an influx of sales the week before.

Spearmint Green Wire Wrapped Bracelet

Here’s a rough timeline of how I got ready:

• Arranged for daughter to host the party at her house – 6 weeks in advance

• Sent out evites to family, friends, neighbors, customers in the area; posted invite on FB – 3-4 weeks in advance  (My daughters also sent the evite to some of their friends and neighbors)

• Start thinking about HOW to display bracelets, earrings, pendants. Order/purchase any display items 2-3 weeks

• Plan food, drink, etc. Make a list! Ask a few close friends to make some things  – 1- 2 weeks

• Clean and tag all jewelry for the sale – week of sale (NOTE #1: this was a very, very long  process removing tarnish from all my sterling silver items. My fingers were black each night from the polishing cloths. And tagging the items can also be a painful thing if you have a lot of items to sell. )

(NOTE #2: Even though I thought I had tagged everything, I had NO tags on about 6 or 7 items. I had to hop online quickly to look up prices.)

jewelry open house display

Daughters Emily & Erin and some of displayed jewelry

Do Something Special. I’m not big on playing games at parties. I’d rather just share a glass of wine or two with friends and chat a bit. But what I did to, is allow each buyer to pull a folded up piece of paper from a bag before they paid. On each paper was written a different discount. Some were for $3, $4 or $5  off. (my prices run from about $15-$35 for ss earrings…$22-$48 for pendants…$40 to $70+ for ss bracelets) Some discounts were for 5%, 10% or even 20% off. And I even had one or two that were “Buy one item – get the second 1/2 off”. It didn’t matter what they got, everyone was pleasantly surprised to get some kind of discount they weren’t counting on.

• Day of Sale – go to BJ’s and liquor store to get wine, small bottles of water, snacks and something sweet. (Note #3: skip cut up cheese. In warm weather, not an attractive hors d’oeuvre. Should have had chocolate. Dips did well. Everyone loved mini-soft pretzel tray that Emily brought.)

• An hour before sale – arrive at Open House and set up all displays. Make sure everything is within reach and approachable. Items I placed on top of boxes and directly on table were picked up and tried on. Not so much the bracelets I had on a wooden display. People were less likely to move things around – as if they didn’t want to mess things up.

• During sale – be available for questions. But mix and mingle too. I was going for a very laid back, soft sell approach. And it worked. I also took cash (many paid in cash!), checks and credit cards (thank you SQUARE!). I had some cute gift bags I had bought in Target…and boxed all gifts. Make people feel like they are getting something special – because they are!

The results: fewer people showed up than expected. (But I guess that IS to be expected). But just about EVERYONE bought something, some bought 2 or 3 items. All in all, I sold 18 bracelets, pendants and pairs of earrings.

I thought it was a great success. And I recommend it to anyone who sells handmade. Remember – when you’re throwing an OPEN HOUSE, people are coming to buy your things. My profits far outweighed any expenses for the night. If you sell on etsy or artfire, I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.

Keep it simple. Make it fun. Have a blast.

An Awesome Sunday With Jack Bauer, Mr. Big & Dead Osama

What a wild, wacky and wonderful Sunday I just had.

The Lime Green Pendant (I call it Kieffer's Pendant) I made for my NYC trip

First – I had somehow (lord knows how) scored front row center seats for a pretty much sold-out limited edition Broadway show: That Championship Season. (I know!) Went to NYC for the day with my fav cousin Linda. Took the train up from the sparkling new Trenton station (way to go Trenton!) and our mouths probably moved faster than that train. Lots of catching up to do. Also wore one of my bracelets (which I decided I liked too much to sell. Pulled it off etsy and artfire. Say “bye bye” to “drops of sunshine”. It’s coming to live in my jewelry box.)

Anyway. Perfect weather. Sunny, warm – but not hot. Got in town in time for lunch. Walked up and down restaurant row reading menus. And finally agreed on one I hadn’t been in before – Orzo. Lovely little restaurant. Very nice little half carafes of wine (of which we had two). Great meal.

Went to the theater and was delighted to see it was a rather intimate one. Much smaller than the one I had been in last week across the street (Billy Elliot).

Front Row Seats - me and my cuz

Here’s a photo of cuz and me standing in front of our seats, in front of the curtain/stage. (Yes – we could have easily jumped on stage at any time and tackled Kieffer(me) or Chris(cuz). But we contented ourselves with merely grabbing each other every time they walked/looked in our direction.

The play was really good – better than I thought. And of course, sitting RIGHT IN THE FRIGGIN’ FRONT ROW made it feel like they were performing just for us in our living room. (Except we were wearing makeup and had our shoes on).

When it was over, we made our way to the restroom from our seats (Did I mention we were in the front row????) and eventually, left the theater. We saw a crowd near the stage entrance, and of course, scooched our way over towards the front of the line just as the stage door opened. One by one, the actors ( Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Jason Patric,  Kieffer Sutherland and Chris Noth) came out, signed autographs and chatted with the crowd. (See photos. Drool accordingly.)

Be still my heart! Heeeeerrrreee's Kieffer!

Chris (I really am this good looking in person) Noth

Never had that happen before! Caught an express train just as we got to Penn Station…and was home by 8 PM. Watching the Phillies (lose – boo hoo) and learn that Bin Laden was dead.

Was that a perfect Sunday, or what?

(FYI – look for a few red, white and/or blue USA inspired piece of jewelry this week from fat dog beads. I’m feeling very USA-ish)

Information Overload…when to say no.

A few things you need to know before we start: ( #1)I have the attention span of a flea. (#2) I am easily amused – but as stated in #1, I constantly need NEWER! BRIGHTER! FUNNIER! MORE AMAZING things to keep me amused. (#3) I am very curious (keep #1 in mind here). (#4) When I do something, I want it done right…or even better than right.

Aegean Sea Blue and Aquamarine Lampwork Pendant with WOW charm $34.

Which leads me to the art and science of making and selling handmade goods. In my case, it’s jewelry. I totally get the “practice makes perfect” thing. I spend countless hours doing and redoing and redoing again to make the piece of jewelry I’m working on different, and better, than the rest. No problem there.

But the marketing/selling aspect of the business? Hmmm. Not doing so well there. Don’t get me wrong – my jewelry sells. And I’m thrilled with the number of repeat customers I get. But in order to really ramp up my marketing efforts, I need to understand and use social media in ways that are totally new to me. There is so much I need to learn. So, I’m doing what a lot of sellers on Etsy and Artfire are doing. I’m clicking and printing and  saving and subscribing to every thing I possibly can that has to do with internet marketing, SEO and the like.

Trouble is, I am spending so much time gathering the info, that I have no time to actually READ and FOLLOW the advice in all those emails, web pages, guides and blogs. Does anyone else have this problem?

Lately, I’ve decided to open and “scan” the material to see if it’s save-worthy. (For example – I now do this with the daily emails from Handmade Spark.). If it’s worth keeping, I will print it out to save for later. If not, it goes out with the trash.

Watercolors - Blue and Teal Lampwork Bead Wire Wrapped Sterling SIlver Bracelet $72

So, that’s it. I’m done. No more.  I am going to stop some of the things I’ve subscribed to that come too often. (Every day? Do I really need to be reading stuff from you every day?) I am NOT going to download anything new until I’ve read/scanned/trashed all the stuff I’ve already downloaded. I am going into voluntary info withdrawal.

Should I approach you and ask for some SEO tips…or some new networking websites…just walk away. We’ll all be better for it.

Two In A Row: My all-time record for blog posts

So here we are on the second consecutive Monday since I started on the quest to become a regular contributing member of the blogosphere. So how are we doing so far?

Well, let’s see.

It’s Monday. I am sitting in front of my laptop. I am typing something. Good. Good. And good.

I have tried to remove distractions. Volume on cellphone – turned down. Husband and 3 dogs – all taking a nap. Clients from job-that-pays-the-bills – also must be napping. Very quiet day today.

The biggest hurdle of Blog #2 – the topic. Lots of wonderful ideas racing around inside my head. The problem is getting them from THERE to HERE on the actual blog post. Okay…let’s pause. Take a look around. See if something I spy starts the “aha!” music that lets the audience know something wonderful just happened.

And what do I see? Beads. Thousands and thousands of beads. I hoard beads. Big beads, little beads. Round beads, pillow beads, lentil beads, focal beads. Made in Israel and Italy. Poland and Germany. Hong Kong and Canada. And from almost every state in the good ol’ USA.

To me, each bead is like a work of art. If I could, I’d figure out a way to frame them and hang them on the wall. The colors are just head-turning, eye-opening, jaw-dropping gorgeous. Colors I didn’t even, couldn’t even, imagine.

These beads form the basis of the jewelry I make. Bracelets. Pendants. Earrings. In the next few posts, I will introduce you to some of the amazing artists I’ve discovered who make these incredible beads.

Pictured here are just SOME of the beads I own. What you’re not seeing are the trays of focal beads, silver and silver colored beads, crystal, rhinestone and pearl beads and all the beads I have yet to sort.

Nor do they include all the beads on my work table that I pulled out for one project or another.

So, to summarize – in two blog posts you have learned (1) I have 3 dogs who are a little fluffy, but not fat (2) I have lots of excuses not to exercise (3) I obsess a bit (okay, more than a bit) about beads and (4) I have made it to the end of blog post #2.

Cool.

Boxes of Beads from fat dog beads studio

Love these great little bead organizer boxes i found online