Thursday, June 18, 2015

seeding without weeding .... how to destroy your business by using Etsy fundamentals outside Etsy

Weeds for Sale © 2011 Mufidah Kassalias
Many people I know with maker businesses started their business on Etsy. It is understandable when, as they move their business outside Etsy territory, they might stumble a bit.

You'd think it would be easier for someone who had a business before Etsy, but I seem to make all the same missteps and then invent a few of my own.

(and now that I think about it this is the same thing that happens to me when dancing although I am excellent at that dance move Courtney Cox does in the Springsteen video, yeah that move)

1.  On Etsy more is more. More options, more variety, more opportunities to draw more people into our shop, more price points, more for sale = more sales.

 (this more is more will actually cause our business to break down on Etsy, too, or give us one, but it does usually produce more sales, at least until it doesn't)

Some of us have been seeding without weeding our Etsy shops for years.

But outside Etsy this more is more stuff doesn't work at all.

At shows - now for in person sales, we need a certain amount of product to sell a certain amount of product. At a craft show for example, I want to make 10X my booth fee and I stock with 2.5-3X that to make it happen. So if my booth fee is $100, I want to make $1000 and I bring $2500 - $3000 retail of my makings.

(of course I still need the weather and the foot traffic and the location and the right show to make this happen, but much of that is outside my control, the parts I can control and inventory is one of them, is how I give having a successful show my best shot)

So, let's say my retail price point was $30 and I was bringing $3000 worth of makings - that would mean I was bringing 100 items with me. Now, on Etsy the way to more sales would be to have 100 different items for sale and just remake things as I sell them. At a show this doesn't work of course and would be a very bad idea anyway. You might think more choices would give you something for everyone, but my experience tells me something different happens.

Given too many options people face overwhelm and can't decide.

There is an infamous 'jam' study about this. Lots of options = more eyes on our stuff. Lots of people stop and look, but then they more often leave without buying than when we have fewer options.  

There is a sweet spot with this between too few and too many and it is our job to find it. 

Since I sell mostly picture jewelry the customer has to like a particular style of jewelry and then they have to like a particular picture. This is easy on Etsy where I can offer almost limitless options.

In person this is trickier.

So I limit the options on a particular style down to say 12 options, sometimes as few as six. The customer who likes that style can make a decision and a purchase much easier.

(And yes, sometimes they ask if I have something I do have but didn't bring - I just hand them a business card - most of the time I will never hear from them anyway. I find that when I have a customer who says something like "oh I love this style I wish you had an owl" and I whip out an owl, will just as quickly respond "oh I wish he was blue" - they don't really want to buy anything even if they think they do. This happens to me in Anthropologie where I often like everything but nothing enough to buy it - like if that same plate were in the drugstore I would snatch it up but in Anthropologie surrounded by lots of amazing whoseewhatsees I can pass it up. I'm not sure we can totally eliminate this.)

Remember also at shows we have just a few minutes to get a buyer to purchase. They didn't just come to see us (although that doesn't mean we aren't totally adorable and have minty fresh breath). Unlike Etsy where people tell me they return to my shop again and again to decide - that isn't going to happen with in-person sales.

We need to be weeding.

On our own website -When I started my own website I just pulled all my listings over from Etsy and made a huge mess of it. I have been weeding it ever since (yes, my back hurts and my gardening gloves have holes worn through the fingers). I do not suggest anyone do this.

On our website things need to make total sense - for your customers, stores that stop in and for SEO.

1. We need to be selling the things we are talking about (this is why I am absolutely moving the astrology posts off this site this summer, I know I said it before and backpedaled because it was so sad for me to see the traffic stats on the new site, but this time it's all moving - it will always include astrology since it's a passion of mine, but I need to have many more posts using the words I want Google to affiliate with what I make) - blogs are necessary SEO tools for our website, assuming of course we update them regularly, but can be detrimental if not used correctly.

We need to weed.

 2. We need our lines to be consistent. For example if we sell lip balms and lotions we probably need to have the same flavors/scents for both. We need to sort things out seasonally. If we have a line of necklaces and sell bracelets - we need that line of necklaces to work with that line of bracelets or we probably need to just ditch the bracelets. Things need to make sense and be consistent.

We need to weed.

3. Our websites do not have the SEO strength that Etsy has and people are not often randomly Googling the thing we are selling.

How often do you buy from a random website? Well, that's about as often as everyone else does. People aren't just going to Google "necklace" and stumble into my website. People need to be looking for me.

Which means I not only have to be selling something people want - they have to have heard about me. All that social media/promotion stuff we haven't wanted to do

(and yes, I know I am just talking about myself here, but I think many makers can relate)

 - well with a website it is no longer an option. This stuff is going to take a lot of time and since we sell things we make and not just something we purchase and bag up there is not a lot of time to do this part.

If we set up our website the way we set up our Etsy shop - no one will ever find us. We need to figure out what works and what doesn't with this stuff and trust me we don't want to be late to the party - and when it comes to social media I am often late to the party.

(I think because they didn't serve wine and cheese and finish it off with chocolate cake, that would have had my butt in line much, much sooner)

Although to be fair to myself I jumped into Twitter with both feet, was a little more tired by the time Facebook came along and maybe gave it more of a one legged hokey pokey kind of effort. With Pinterest I was years behind the curve and just started my Instagram a couple weeks ago! Gulp!

We need to make time to do this stuff if we are going to have a website and we need to choose which social media to focus on - we don't have time to do it all.

We need to weed so we can focus.

A diluted focus will always lead to diluted priorities, diluted enthusiasm, a diluted brand and a diluted bank account.

Wholesale - Off-Etsy we might decide to sell to stores and we might need to sell to stores in order to make a sustainable income. Store owners are busy people. They don't have time to be figuring out how to work our website or read our 10 page linesheet. We need to be streamlined and consistent.

They want stuff that is new and interesting but they also want stuff that has a track record and sells. These are not things that go together. We have to figure out how to give them both these things. For example with my new aromatherapy lockets I tell stores about the popularity of aromatherapy and the popularity of my regular line with customers on Etsy. So they get something new and exciting, but they do not feel they are going way out on a limb with me.

We need to weed through our losers and seed our winners for them because we want them to be successful and we want them to come back and buy more from us!

There are many changes we need to make as we maneuver outside Etsy, and maybe you have been weeding all along. But if our weeding is really only dictated by the Etsy expiration date feature we need to take a better look at this. Continuing to seed new stuff without weeding out the old makes the life we are creating for our business as short and unattractive (unattractive as in both ugly and not able to attract) as the life for our garden.


lynn bowes said...

Weed. Weed, weed, weed. You've got this one exactly right, my friend. Occasionally I have set up my outdoor tent and display, stood back, and thought, 'Okay, something's gotta go' so you are absolutely right. The trick comes in knowing what to eliminate.

I think it is the same thing with the whole of an artist's work and by that I mean we periodically need to weed out one medium for another, move from what isn't working into what we love, is fresh, and what is inspiring to us as artists. And by 'artist' I mean me and by medium I mean from metal to paint, oil and watercolor, and back to basics drawing, and colored pencil. So I weed out what isn't working for me anymore, even though I love it and it works well in many stores and shows, and into another unknown area of work. If I want to sell and make a little moolah with it, the trick is again knowing what to eliminate.

But Etsy. I'm tired of it. I feel like I'm standing a foot taller in the midst of a bunch of middle schoolers. So out of place. Is it just me? Guessing not. Just waiting for my few listings to disappear.

Good post :: lynn

Catherine Ivins said...

Hey Lynn- yes, to all of it. I am a much better seeder than weeder - I even feel a bit nostalgic for the weeds I pull from my actual garden. Sniffle! Things usually have to be pried from my fingers even though I know exactly what kind of situations I am creating with this way of going through life. Totally fear based thinking that there isn't enough.

Etsy ... I think my sales are about half what they were in 2009 which I guess is pretty standard. The changes have everyone who actually makes what they sell wanting out. It's very hard being an artist and trying to maintain and promote a website when you're trying to actually create. This is where an online venue like Etsy can make all the difference. It's too bad they didn't trust us with that vision. On the other hand, everything has its season and of course you are talking to someone who's weeds have to be pried from her fingers ..... standing a foot taller in the midst of a bunch of middle schoolers is about right. xo - have a nice weekend Lynn

KJ said...

Very informative. Thank you.

The other weeding that needs to be done, and this was a hard learned lesson for me, is price points have to balance. You cannot have a $500 necklace side by side with $5 earrings. The $5.00 earrings tell your customer that the necklace is only worth $50.

Catherine Ivins said...

Yes, excellent point Kathy. You could have an entire 2nd line at a lower price point - not a $500/$5 swing, but different prices, but be prepared for people to think the higher priced line is overpriced - not that the lower priced one is a bargain. I have a couple things that are so much easier to make I had lower prices on them, which is not a good reason within a brand, and it made other things look overpriced. Also they were just kind of hanging around my Etsy shop for years - if I had a brick and mortar I surely would have had a sale and moved them on out or given them away by now. Everything needs to work together. xo - hope you are having nicer weather this weekend down by you!