12 August 2009

advice for small business owners


since blogging this week is all me, just me and nothing but me, i've decided to ask myself, what do i have to offer these people? what do i know? what can i say that is different than the rest? what pearls of wisdom can i possibly offer? hmmm. it's hard to be objective about this kind of thing. because like i said, i feel like it's all already out there. in neat, bulleted lists probably. like, right now you could easily google the next sentence i write and find something worthwhile to read (but since my blog is sometimes known as an unsolicited advice column, i may as well put my two cents in, while i have you here).

MY ADVICE ON MARKETING YOUR small BUSINESS.
i've been designing and crafting seriously for nine years now. most of those years i did not take myself seriously. i sat on the fence for a long time feeling wishy washy about my craft and selling my items. although i've always had supportive feedback, the little voice in my head often told me that i wasn't good enough, nor savvy enough nor even worth hiring. a few years back my brother (and personal guru) gave me loads of wise advice. first saying, marta, there will always be someone who might steal your ideas... your fears are no good reason to quit your craft. he always reminded me, you have nothing to lose. from that point on, i gave it a go. full steam ahead. and have picked up quite a few lessons while being a proud participant in the small business world. here is my take on it.

and so it begins. you have a passion for making handmade goods. you make them in your home, on your carpet even, while watching So You Think You Can Dance. not having a proper desk or studio space or sewing area does not slow you down. you are in heaven. your husband can't understand why you're so enraptured with these small goods, but is happy to see you so happy.

you start out by humbly giving them away as gifts. it's hard to, of course, because they have become like your children, you love each creation so much. but still, you want to share them, to spread them out, to give them a good life. suddenly and surprisingly, your sister calls and wants ten of them. wow! you write it down as your official first order (you don't know if she's just being nice or really, actually likes them. still you happily oblige). you don't care if you're really making money at this point, you're just having fun. later, you show your craft to your aunt at the reunion (just to make some conversation) and with her ecstatic ooohs and awwws you give her the one you're wearing. little do you realize, she is your new marketing agent. she shows it to her friends at lunch and emails you the next day begging you for a catalogue, promising loads of business from her thursday night Bunco group. now you need to whip up some orders, come up with prices, packaging and a business card to go along. eek! congratulations, you are in business, baby!

01. avoid an identity crisis. as soon as you know you want to sell your goods or services, come up with a name, a brand, a logo. make up some cards and start a blog and get out there. you'll immediately be taken more seriously and therefore you will take yourself more seriously. we are our own worst enemy when it comes to this.

let me guess, you feel bashful when your mom announces at the family party that she's wearing one of your one-of-a-kinds. you crawl into a corner and squirm with embarrassment. what you should do is take the free advertising with a big smile, even if your cheeks are turning pink. if someone comes and asks you about it, tell them the truth; you've started up a small business and you're really excited about it. (there is nothing wrong with being passionate about something! it's actually quite inspiring to see an artiste so involved in their work.) reach into your clutch and give them your new fancy business card or jot your website on a napkin if you have to. if you feel a bit silly, just say, am so glad you asked. i haven't had a chance to give these out yet. you can be humble and excited about your new endeavor.

you do not have to shout it from rooftops or drop hints left and right to everyone you know, but when the opportunity to talk about your new business comes up, jump at the chance! remember to make a good impression. new clients are everywhere. someone in your circle (or your mom's hair stylist's best friend's circle) might just be throwing a party next week and desperately needs forty-five of your originals asap! you're going to save her bacon. and since you came to her rescue, she is going to count on you forever more. believe me, this really happens. like i said, customers are everywhere. and remember, a happy customer is a loyal customer.

02. what price is right? shop around for prices of goods similar to yours. see what fits your items best. pricing your items is difficult but very important. (i promise you, there will always be someone who think you charge waaay too much, while there will always be someone who feels they've struck gold and loves you for it.) you must make it worth your efforts and time. think to yourself, if someone were to order fifty of these, would i still be smiling when tediously tending to the order or would i be feeling resentful at my too low of prices? be smart and cautious when it comes to pricing. be sure to think about how you will present your items (and take that price into consideration). keep in mind, people often pay for quality cuteness. i love buying online, shipping to a friend and knowing the item will arrive as an adorable gift for the recipient.

03. get organized. it pays to stay ahead of the game. when the day arrives that you get hundreds of hits on your shop, you want to be prepared. come up with a strategy for how to handle orders. print each one out or keep a tally with a spreadsheet. do whatever makes sense to you. i have a binder with sections: orders, custom orders, expenses, invoices, and so on. i keep a zippered pencil pouch in my binder and stick every receipt that has to do with keeping shop in it. after the new year, i remove all of last year's stuff and start anew, saving it all in a file for tax day.

04. to market, to market. now that you have a name, some goods, some confidence and a logo... set up shop. there is no stopping you! thankfully, there are infinite ways to sell your goods; host a party, start an Etsy shop or big cartel shop or sign up for a booth at your local farmer's market. whatever way you do, get the word out! it is not enough to just sell things. no one knows about it. no one at the grocery store knows that you are wearing a one-of-a-kind item that they could have too if they just happened to be brave enough to ask you about it. while snapping shots of your li'l precious swinging the monkey bars, no one knows you are actually a real knowledgeable professional. no one knows that you paint pretty pictures if they are all in your basement. get them out, dust them off, have them on display. have your business cards on hand, strike up conversation. be out there, but avoid being obnoxious. potential clients will never know you are the girl who makes the out of this world caramel apples unless you take them to the neighborhood potluck. this is when you have to be bold and invite others to browse your goods. and a tip for those of you who sell edible goods at a boutique or farmers market; samples, samples, samples. we have all tasted a darling yet disgusting baked good. therefore the proof is in the pudding.. or cookie, or cupcake or caramel..it is well worth it to keep them craving more.

you must announce your big coming out in one way or another if you want to receive any attention. send an email (just one, not a thousand) to your friends and family with a link to your new site. and be sure you toot your own horn. tell us your beads are sewn on by hand, that you use organic fabrics, that your goods are vegan friendly, that you make music blindfolded. explain why your goods are so special. if you really want someone to notice your shop (with high hopes they will put your link on their blog) send a personal email to them. be absolutely surely positive to spell their name right. explain why their opinion matters to you. be polite, not demanding or annoying. a li'l buttering up goes a long way. be yourself, be sweet, be genuine. send out a mailer with a coupon. send a freebie to your favorite blogger. attach your website to your email signature. get involved with blog giveaways (there are hundreds of them). put an ad on the web.

be sure to stick with your territory. think of your potential clients, get inside their brains. if you are selling rich chocolate fudge and swirly sprinkled vanilla cupcakes, do not sign up for a booth at the Think Yourself Thin convention. you'll get a lot of disapproving looks and hungry people asking if you use splenda. do yourself a favor and set up a sweets stand right outside the doors of the 2nd Annual Scrapbooking 'til Dawn-a-thon instead. (punch out letters for your banner with a cricut for extra brownie points.) you'll have a steady stream of happy, scrappy customers.


i hope this tidbit of marketing advice motivates you. believe in yourself and your craft. have fun with it. in my opinion, small business is the new big business. spread the word, be brave and get out there. once your product gets noticed, it will speak for itself. still, work hard to make a quality piece that people will appreciate. keep evolving, practicing and promoting. good luck.

if you have more questions, ask away.

34 comments:

Yellowgoat said...

thank you so much for the passionate article. ;D

joy said...

Marta,
Thank-you for writing this. I found your blog after somehow finding your beautiful hand-bound journals and diaries. Your talent and dedication is inspiration enough, but I really appreciate these words of wisdom! Hope your week continues to be full of realizations and affirmations!

EliseBlaha said...

perfect post.
i can already tell i'll be linking to this often...
xo.

jess said...

i loved, loved, loved reading this post!! i could certainly use the free advice, and felt a little validated to see i may be on the right track - at least i've done a few things right!:)
p.s. ever since your giveaway, the shop has been in a bustle. so exciting! i've just started slowing down this week in preparation for a much needed trip to hawaii - but once we get back, it's back to business! i could never thank you enough!!!!

KJ said...

oh to have talent

Susan said...

Thank you Marta! I love how you combine passion and wisdom so eloquently. I'd like to link this in my blog.

Simply Stork said...

this is a very encouraging post. I think I am on the fence here and I need to pick a side don't I?

~simply stork~

Julia said...

i love your writing. love it.

i honestly feel like you are writing about my journey. i remember the first time i actually called myself a photographer. i freaked out and i still do. but you're right - be confident. be passionate.

so check it, i am a photographer.

you're inspiring. thank you.

gem said...

thank you so much for this...
cheers,
gem

hannah said...

such fabulous advice. now i need to start crafting!

crissy said...

Great advice! I'm slowly starting out, trying to create and set up shop. I don't really know what to do to get my name out there or what I should really be doing business-wise, so this is very helpful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Christie said...

M,

This is JUST what I needed today - so much wisdom! It's so scary starting out, and I find myself second guessing all day and into the wee hours of the night. I am heading out RIGHT NOW to get me a binder and get my orders and receipts all organized. Bless you.

Jessica Tingey said...

this is wonderful, thank you! you have such a positive zest about you. i'm sure that makes you a wonderful and appreciated wife and mother.

lenistav said...

thanks for the great advice. i love any post that come from your heart. they are always positive, optimistic and inspiring.

Anne Living Life said...

thanks marta! GREAT advice!

gab said...

Color me impressed, Min! This is great marketing advice. (And I should know...I am married to Mr. Market Research. Please let him know when you want a full-data analysis!!)

Jen Anderson said...

Yea Marta! Great post, I've been wishy washy for the past year and recently decided to go for it. Love your practical advice and encouragement! ps- i love my handmade marta journal

heather said...

thanks SO much for all the advice. i am at the very beginning of trying to branch out and start my own little business, and these tips are gonna be soooo helpful. so kind of you and so helpful!!

Travelin'Oma said...

People pay good tuition money for this kind of info! Thanks for the free, public education.

The hardest part is to convince yourself that you do something well enough to offer it to others. It's easy to think, "If I can do this, anybody can." And it's usually true—if they put in all the research, work, time and commitment, they COULD do it. But they're busy doing something else, and are willing to pay for your expertise. Anyway, I am.

poo kah loo said...

you talk the talk and walk the walk. and with a baby at home. thanks.

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

This is wonderful and such perfect timing for me as well. Thanks SO much for sharing your knowledge! I'll be linking to this.

Amy said...

There have been things I've been going back and forth with in my head... my hubby and family keep telling me to get it out there. So many of the thoughts you wrote I can relate to. Thank you so much for the advice, keep it comin! :)

pam@pixelimpress said...

super advice! thanks so much for putting it all down and sharing. pam

elizabeth rosemond said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I've been sitting here with a busy mind and an empty Etsy shop because I'm completely freaked out! I really needed this pep talk (how ever did you know?), so I'm going to do my best to throw caution to the wind and just DO IT.
Much love to your brother, too :)

Emily said...

just what I needed. I've been sitting on my laurels for way too long now. Thanks, Marta!

Meg said...

Thank you for sharing this. When I ordered some mini diaries from you at Christmas that is what really inspired me to start marketing my own little craft. I loved your packaging, your label on the envelope, your product! So cute. However, my timing was horrible and just after I set up shop life took a bad turn... but I'm brushing myself off and starting again. I'm really excited, but needed a little advice as to how to really get this thing going... how did you ever know? Just kidding. Thanks a million!!

Simple Ink said...

Love this, Marta! Thank you!

Cindy said...

Hi there,
I just stumbled upon your blog and am loving it! I really enjoy your style, and eloquence. This post came at a wonderful time. My husband and I are trying to re-launch our business and this is just giving me the extra push that I needed. Do you do create custom business cards for people? We are also looking for a new web page and I loved your brother's website. Just curious. We need all of the help we can get! :)

Krista Eitsert said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I really enjoyed this article. It was sincere and full of great advice. I am taking notes ;)

wallspank said...

Hi Marta

I've only recently started a blog in support of my shop www.wallspank.com and have been trying to get as much marketing information as I can.

Thanks so much for being so generous with your tips and tricks and providing us with such a beautifully written blog. Inspiring!

Brian and Kendra said...

I guess I better de-lurk... :) I just recently found your blog! I love this post about being a business owner! I have a small blogland business and this helped to keep me positive! I just need to go for it! Thanks!

Katriin said...

Hi Marta!

I am so lucky to have found your blog and your piece on small business. This post inspired me so, that I´m really tempted to stand up from my chair, walk out of the office and go straight to home and continue making my "things" and start bloging and to NOT GIVE UP. Your words spoke to me, they said i am not alone and my creations are worth something, even though my etsy shop is not successful. Thank you so much !

kOrTnI said...

Thank you for your post.
I am in the cosmo service industry and that is challenging as well; from family free cuts to colors, etc.
Thank you for your advice. I believe I will begin to incorporate now.

ShutterDee said...

I'm new to your blog and i'm in LOVE. YOu are very inspirational! I've been doing wedding/family photography for years but this year I'm amping it up (2 kids later ha!)
TYTY - Love Dee

Related Posts with Thumbnails