Promotions! This has always been a hot topic in our Etsy Metal group where we discuss what works or doesn't work for certain members. So this blog post is about my own experiences with marketing and promoting my business.
If you have ever run a business you know that constant marketing is the key to retain or grow success. Even in busy times one can never stop promoting. It does take time out of ones day, time that I can't spend making my products. But you just have to do it, even if it's just in short intervals.
There are hundreds of ways to promote a small business these days. The options have changed quite a bit in the last 10 years with the rise of social media. But what will work for a particular business also depends on what type of business they are. A local business, with a storefront catering to a local market, will have to target their marketing quite differently than an online only store. Know your target customer.
Being myself an business that does all sales transactions online, I have always put most of my marketing emphasize on online promotions too that are clickable and bring people directly to my online store. Local customers just haven't been my target because I can't give them the experience they want when shopping locally. They often prefer to shop and see the merchandize in person. They want to come by the studio, try on things, get to know the maker. Being a very private person I just can't provide these services, on top of the security and liability concerns it raises.
My marketing efforts have mainly included social media promotions, web site building and content development for better search engine optimization and some limited search engine advertising.
This is certainly one of the marketing platforms with a huge potential for online businesses, especially those who are visual and have lot's of images to promote. Visual pleasing pictures seem to rule and get more engagement. However, since Facebook severely limits what percentage of followers actually see posts, it becomes less and less effective as a free marketing tool. I keep occasionally playing with paid promotions of posts, but it does not seem to make much of a difference. There is certainly a way to make it work with the right targeting. But it seems rather cumbersome to figure out. I do however get a couple hits on my web site from Facebook. If they actually transfer into sales I don't know. Facebook seems to be the easiest way to communicate with potential customers via comments or even messages.
For a visual product based business like mine Pinterest is the mecca of social promotions. And I wish I would be better at actually utilizing it to it's full potential. It's on my list for next year to come up with a marketing strategy for Pintestest, create more boards, themed wish lists. I did convert my account into a business account. This comes with some helpful built-in analytics especially once one verifies their website with Pinterest. This way one can learn how Pinterest users engage with your websites content. Pinterest does show up quite a bit on my web site analytics. Being in the Etsy Metal team has been great for gaining more exposure on Pinterest. The team as been awesome pinning interesting products, cross pinning different Etsy shops to spread team member products across the platform.
I have only been a couple months now on Instagram but I love it. It seems so much easier to gain followers, get likes and comments. The major drawback is that no direct links can be posted except the one website link on the profile page. However, I do occasionally see Instagram as a reference in my websites analytic. So something is working.
I do find it helpful in keeping my customers updated on what I am working on. They can follow me and see their ordered ring in some work in progress stages during the couple weeks of wait time they have. It somehow became my mini blogging site. I do post progress shots of what I am working on, tools I use, the occasional cute dog pictures, flower shots, beach and sunset pictures, all mixed in with final product pictures. I think it's a really helpful tool in showing the handmade aspect of my business. Overall I am less selective in what pictures I am posting on Instagram than on Facebook. On Facebook the final staged product shots seem to fare better than quick phone picture shots from my bench.
I also use the auto post feature to Facebook and Twitter quite a bit. This makes updating on multiple social media platforms quite easy. I often still go to Facebook afterwards and add links to the product I am showcasing in those pictures.
My Intagram feed is also showing up on my websites front page at the bottom along with the Twitter feed and my blog updates. I think this is always a big motivator for me to keep posting fresh things on Instagram.
I don't get Twitter, never have. So I pretty much ignore. My twitter profile would be empty if I had not set my Facebook posts and Instagram updates to automatically also post to twitter. I wish it would actually import the images into the Twitter feed and not just put a link in there.
If you actually do use twitter feel free to follow me there too.
What I haven't done yet is running any giveaways or contests on social media. Not sure if that's my thing anyways. Most of my products are a bit too high end and customized for giveaways. But I am planning on working on some necklace and earring designs next year, which should be easier to use in contests and giveaways.
Website Building and Content Development
My main push this year has been developing my own website further and optimize it for searches. This is more a long lasting promotional effort that the quicker social media marketing. I have changed the website layout to work better of mobile devices, added more social media sharing possibilities and set up a way for my customers to leave reviews. All these have been hugely beneficial in increasing views and sales on my site. While I still get a bit more views on Etsy, I do actually sell better on my website. All my social media marketing have also been geared towards my own website. I mostly stopped sending people to Etsy if I also have that product on my own site. I won't ditch Etsy any time soon, but I put way more work into my own site. And it's paying off.
Search Engine Optimization:
I spent a lot of time this year optimizing content on my website for Google searches. I invested in a subscription to MOZ to track keyword performance, traffic data and find issues like broken links, duplicate content and titles, etc. Much of this data presented can also be found on Google Webmaster tools and in Google Analytics for free. But it's nice yo have it all compiled to neatly and get historic data to compare. I learned a lot during this time. It's surely an ongoing and somewhat time consuming process, but the rewards are huge and long lasting.
By following the stats in MOz it was apparent that keeping a blog on my site and regularly create updates is a huge benefactor to search engine optimization. I can target certain keywords better in blog posts than in product descriptions. Since the blog gets regular updates, it actually ranks higher than many other pages on my site. Participating in this ongoing blog carnival helps with link building and therefore increasing my Google ranking. Plus it seems many customers actually do read those blog posts too. I often get comments that they appreciated seeing the process being the making of my designs. Blogging is somewhat time consuming but it does pay off in the long run. And it's free!
I am always seeking out opportunities to create good back links to my site. I am currently researching more opportunities to invest in some paid advertizing on other sites and blogs, in addition to creating organic back links through content development. It's a slow process for sure.
I did invest into Google Adwords campaigns this year too. I mostly use it for keywords I currently don't rank well yet. It does give me a bit more exposure. Looking at the campaign data it seems that people do stay on the site quite a bit and browse. I am not sure if it actually resulted in direct sales since at my price range people tend to come back multiple times before actually buying the product. So it's hard to measure how successful it actually is. But as long as I keep selling those products in that keyword range, I assume it has some benefits. It also helps me in understand what keywords customers actually use to find my site. Since Google keeps much of the keywords private these days, Google Adwords can provide some more insight into actual used keywords.
I just finally started using email marketing last month the first time. I had a subscriber list already through the mail list sign up button on my website. Just never got around to start a campaign. I am using Mailchimp and it's super easy to use. I certainly will try to use this more next year. Just have to figure out what content actually makes sense to push in those emails.
Check out what marketing methods other team members are utilizing:
K. Skiles Studio http://kaskiles.com/studio-updates/
Fenton Design http://www.fentondesign.ca/whats-happening