As small business owner, one of the things that I struggle with the most is marketing. I have never taken a marketing course, and I’ve never worked in a marketing team, so the idea of finding ways to let people know that I’m in business is more than a little daunting to me. This might be where all the hard work falls apart, and the thought makes me die a little inside each time it crosses my mind.
The Original Plan
When I started Old Fashion Soap Co., last year, I thought that if I made a good product and sold it to a few people, word of my company would start to spread. I also thought that if I did a few craft shows, people would buy my products and then come back to me when they ran out. Ha! Ha! How naive can one woman be?!? The reality did not meet my expectations.
It’s true that I do see repeat business. Customers do come back, but it isn’t exactly the beaten path that I originally anticipated. The feedback I get from people is almost always positive. One of my best customers told me when I met her at a craft show that she just didn’t like handmade soaps. They left her skin feeling “funny.” But I convinced her to give my soap a try. She bought one bar, and frankly, I never expected to hear from her again. About three months later, she contacted me to buy more soap, and told me that my soaps were fabulous. We’re about seven months past that original encounter, and she orders from me every few months now.
On the other hand, I get messages from people who say they love the product, but then never place another order. Take the case of a customer earlier this month. She sent me an email that said her family bought from me at a craft show recently. They loved my soap, and she wanted to buy more. I’m always excited to hear people say that! I responded and told her she could place an order on the website and pick it up. I know she looked around, but the order never came. I’m not sure why, though.
Taking the Internet By Storm … Or Not
I’ve tried multiple websites, website builders, etc., and I have not been able to “up my online game” at all. This is one of the most annoying, frustrating problems I’m facing right now. I have tried multiple platforms, sites, etc., and all it’s earned me is irritation.
Etsy is probably the top handcrafted market on the Internet right now. While that is great news for the top rated crafters, it’s proven to be mostly a barren wasteland for me. Etsy, like most search engine types, has algorithms and formulas that determine where in the rankings a listing shows up. When you’re new and you haven’t made any sales, you’re at the bottom, basically.
There are a lot of people out there who claim they know how to boost your sales, drive traffic to your shop … basically, they claim they can deliver the world without anything to really back up the claims. Oh, they say they have a top Etsy shop, and maybe they do. They’ll claim to know the “secrets” to getting your product seen. I’ve been lured in to “free webinars” that promise to teach me their secrets and make me an Etsy star. Let me just assure you – it’s mostly a load of crap.
The thing is, most of these “free webinars” are nothing more than sales pitches designed to play on your insecurities. They are doing their level best to lure you in to paying a lot of money for information that can usually be found elsewhere for free. One of these programs charges more than $2,000 for “a proven program to make you a top seller on Etsy.” Ummm .. yeah. Right.
I haven’t cracked the Etsy market yet, but it’s on my list of things to research. When I do learn how to drive buyers to my shop, I will happily share the secrets with whoever wants them. I won’t be preying on people who are desperate just to make a quick buck.
Let me preface this by saying my husband uses Shopify for his business.
As I said, Chris uses Shopify for his vape business. He seems to be really happy with it, and for some people this might be exactly what they need to run a successful operation. He chose Shopify because, unlike other online marketplaces, they would allow his shop to make online sales. The lesson we learned from setting up his online store was to ensure that your provider will allow the sale of your product. Since vape products are considered tobacco, there are many platforms and payment gateways that are not viable.
Because Chris was so satisfied with Shopify, I decided to give it a try around the end of 2016. I had been using ehosts.com’s shop builder, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. The shop had a very generic look, and that isn’t the image I want for my business. Shopify’s cost is about $30 a month for a basic site, but there are a lot of things that can be done to customize it. The problem is, all of that customization costs money, and it gets out of hand pretty fast. I liked the look of my shop, but every time I needed a new feature, it was more money flying out of my pocket. The dollars were practically leaping around!
One of those “free webinars” promised to show me how to set up a WordPress site so I could save money and have greater flexibility. I wasn’t interested in paying the $1400 she thought it was worth, so I jumped in feet first alone.
“Free webinar” chick said that a WordPress site would save me hundreds of dollars in Etsy fees. Great, I thought, I know WordPress! I’ve used WordPress for years, for my blog; how hard could it possibly be?!? My naivety is so cute, don’t you think?
WordPress is incredibly powerful, she wasn’t wrong about that. And it does save me a lot of money, so she was right there, too. But what I didn’t take in to account, and really didn’t even know, is that WordPress.com is NOT the same as WordPress.org. They are very similar in the user interface, but they can be worlds apart in other areas. WordPress.com is the version that many blogs use. It’s easy to use – basically, you just write out your thoughts and post them. WordPress.org is where it’s at, though. With the .org version, you can set up eCommerce stores, and other really intricate stand-alone websites.
I wasn’t daunted in the least, at least not in the first five minutes after I decided to make the change. Then I had to figure out how to work with ehost.com’s cPanel. Fortunately, they offer an option to install WordPress for free on your site. Yay! After a lot of research and reading, I added WooCommerce to my site, and began setting up my store. I was on my way!
I’ve been using WordPress for several months now, and I have to say that I love it better than anything else I’ve ever tried. I love it so much, I’ve set up another store, Heat Wave Designs, and I’ve moved this blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
In My Next Post …
I will talk more about my experiences with WordPress, why I like it, what I am learning, and how all of this fits in to my marketing issues.