I'm Amandla - the founder of Bartholomew Sisters and subsequently the designer and marketer of the company. I got started two years ago when I was looking to eliminate harsh products for my daily regimen. Once I got started, I began to get requests from friends and family who were looking for the same. They encouraged me to make the leap into small business.
I started soap making about 4 years ago when discovered an interest in using ice cube trays/molds to create hand poured gifts for the holidays. I ended up posting these creations on a local Toronto trading page called Bunz, and my hobby took off from there. Shortly thereafter, I began making skull candles to trade, as I absolutely loved candles and skulls. I joined my first local handmade market a few months later. Everyone would mentioned how much they loved the skull candles, but would never burn them, so I knew I had to start making a product that clients could enjoy (and burn). I was always a fan of scented candles, so began researching and testing the best ingredients to make my own line of scented candles. The rest is history! Sara's Soaps and Candles was born, creating 100% soy, hand poured scented candles, and skull candles made using unique dying techniques.
Growing up in the small town of Portland Ontario, I was fortunate to be raised in a creative family of entrepreneurs. Having always had an interest in style, beauty, and travel – when these things finally all aligned and presented an opportunity here in Toronto, I was beyond ecstatic to start designing and creating a product of my own. I wanted to create something that was all-natural, affordable, but also a bit sassy and luxurious.
I developed Bitter Gold after I realized there was a gap in the market in nail serums. Bitter Gold contains three unique features: it strengthens nails, heals dry skin and tastes bitter— the bitter ingredient I use holds the Guinness World Record for the bitterest tasting ingredient. This clear, odorless nail serum also contains all the ingredients you want on your nails such as Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, Silica and Biotin.
I love nature - Preserving our earth is important to me. If I’m not at my regular 9-5 or making pet beds, you’ll find me camping at an Ontario Park. I have given up single-use plastic, and try to live a zero waste lifestyle. I am still learning but enjoy sharing my knowledge with others, and love my reusable straw. I have also brought my passion of Zero waste into my businesses. Everything I have gets used into something else, like our scraps of fabric and thread get made into cat toys and doggy poop bags.
Time is our scarcest resource. It is the only thing we can’t make more of. We can’t buy time, we can’t grow it, bottle or store time and we can’t stop it or slow it down. This not a new dilemma. Some two thousand years ago, Lucius Seneca wrote:
“You must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it.”
We are all given the same amount of time. Like Michelle Obama, Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey we all get twenty-four hours, no more, no less. Greatness or success is not a function of how much time we have available to us. The challenge for artisan small business owners is to use time wisely, in such a manner that it has the greatest impact on their business. Makers place great value on being efficient, which means they strive to do things well without waste of time, money or other resources. That IS important.
Effectiveness, however, is even more crucial to success. Different from being efficient, which is generally described as ‘doing things right’, effectiveness is defined as ‘doing the right things.’ It is about achieving tangible results that move the maker business forward. For example, finding ways of creating a batch of 25 ear-rings faster and cheaper can be a great idea. It will curtail production cost, and increase profit margin.
However, if the ear-ring design is out of fashion and not sellable, your product will not generate revenue, regardless of how efficiently you worked. A better, more effective, approach would be to first research which ear-ring designs are selling the best. Afterwards one can determine how to reduce production cost and increase production speed. Check out this video for additional details.
Below is a tool adapted from a quote by Eisenhower. Commonly called ‘The Eisenhower Matrix” it helps you doing the right things with your time – and be more effective.
With the matrix you can identify the most important tasks for your business using the criteria ‘important’ / ‘unimportant’ and ‘urgent’ / ‘not urgent’. Most of your time should be spent on the tasks in the two upper quadrants, i.e. ‘urgent’ + important, and ‘important’ + ‘not urgent’. Top entrepreneurs spend up to 75% of their time on tasks in the two top quadrants.
As an example for ‘urgent’ + ‘important’, consider this situation:
One of your customers is interviewed by a local TV crew at a craft show and trashes the product he just bought from you. This is a threat to the health and future of your business. You need to take action immediately.
As an example for ‘important’ + ‘not urgent’ think of running out of supplies to make your product. You probably (hopefully) have enough inventory to last until you get new supplies. It might not be necessary to order new supplies immediately, but to do so soon is essential, because you can’t generate revenue without products to sell.
The lower two quadrants show common time management traps. Avoid spending time in them, at almost any cost. Quadrant III shows examples of activities that others impose on us, because it seems important to them. Keep in mind that what appears imperative and pressing to them may not be so for the success of your business. Activities in quadrant IV are the worst threats to effectiveness. Everybody ends up there on occasion. But when you do so, it should be outside of your work-time.
We are all are deluged by emails and notifications from Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and messenger services. Very few of us were trained how to deal with the information overflow of the last ten or so years. Joshua Zerkel, productivity expert and Evernote’s Director of Global Community, says:
“No one is formally taught how to focus in meetings, how and when to check email and when to look at the countless notifications we get every day. As new technologies emerge, it becomes harder and harder to catch up, because most people are struggling enough to navigate the existing chaos.”
The Eisenhower Matrix will help. It is a very robust tool for determining where to invest time into your maker business. The matrix is simple, time-proven and works just as well on a napkin as on the latest mobile device.
Give it a try !
As a maker, you have to fill many roles. A common one is that of visual content creator. Crafting and integrating visuals into the promotion of your work is a valuable component of maker success. Research gathered by MDG Advertising shows that:
· “Articles with relevant images get 94% more views, on average, compared to articles without images.”
· “67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing the product.”
· On average “People remember only 10% of information three days after hearing it. Adding a picture can improve recall to 65%.”
Here are 5 tools that can help you create high quality visuals to showcase your maker business.
Color ideas, palettes, patterns, and trends. The super fast color schemes generator! Create, save and share perfect palettes in seconds!
What others say:
“The web site and iOS app Coloors makes finding new palettes as easy as pressing the space bar. When you load up Coolors, it will instantly generate a palette of five colors that play nice with each other.” (Patrick Allen on Lifehacker)
All things fonts, font-face and web fonts. Handpicked, high quality, commercial-use fonts.
What others say:
“Great site with a good number of fonts, this too offers commercial and free usage fonts. This site also has a cool Web-font Generator and a Font Identifier to create new fonts, or identify fonts from image uploads.” (https://visualdeck.co)
Free stock photos & videos shared by talented creators.
What others say:
“Pexels provides high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to discover through their discover pages.” (Christopher Grimmer, Snappa Blog)
Photo editor, design maker, idea realizer. Everything you need to make your ideas come to life.
What others say:
“PicMonkey is an online photo editing software that allows users to edit images, as well as add filters, text, and other effects. They also have tools for collage-making, retouching, and creating graphics for print. We compiled PicMonkey user reviews from our website and from around the web and determined that it has generally positive ratings.” (Eunice Quilla, FitsSmallBusiness)
Crop and resize any image to the exact pixels or proportion you specify and reduce the file size significantly without losing quality.
What others say:
“Offers many options for resizing including the ability to specify the exact dimensions. You can also rotate, crop, change the format and optimize the image for the web or for best quality. The site also offers the option to make Gifs, resize MP3 files, convert PDF files to JPEG and compress JPEG files.” (Techjunkie.com)
CHELSEA : ALL THINGS STAMPED
You can find Blazing Bombs here:
Online Store: https://blazing-bombs-store.myshopify.com/
CAROLINE: CALI & CO. HANDMADE
You can find Naughty Florals here:
MOLLY: NEON LACE JEWELLERY
3 Powerful Strategies You Can Use Immediately
It seems obvious that price is the amount of money people spend to buy something. Establishing the prices for your work has an immediate impact on the sustainability of your maker business.
For artisans, it is extremely important to get your pricing right. If prices are too low, you don’t make enough money. If they are too high, people won’t buy. Either way, your business loses.
What is often forgotten, however, is the psychology of pricing. Certain pricing strategies can affect how often a product sells, and for what price. This is backed by extensive and high quality consumer research.
STRATEGY 1: Price Anchoring
According to Priceintelligently.com, this approach refers to:
“The practice of establishing a price point which customers can refer to when making decisions. Every time you see a discount with ‘$100 $75’, the $100 is the price anchor for the $75 sales price.”
Another example that has been used for many years in marketing courses is about selling an expensive watch:
Question: “How to sell a $2,000 watch.”
Answer: “You place it beside a $10,000 watch.”
As a maker, you probably don’t sell $2000 watches. However, you can display some of your showpieces prominently and with a higher price (which would be justified because they are special). This makes your other products appear more affordable in the eyes of the shopper.
STRATEGY 2: CHARM PRICING
In charm pricing, also called “price-ending strategy”, the round number on the very left is reduced to an “odd” price, for example from $100 to $99.00.
Consumers tend to round to the next lowest monetary unit. Prices such as $99.00 are seen as spending $90 instead of $100. The shopper’s mind will default to seeing this as a significant saving, even though the actual difference is only $1.
This strategy is common in many areas of retail but is used less frequently in the handmade industry. Makers who don’t use the strategy place themselves at a disadvantage. It might seem trivial to go through the effort of adjusting your price tags. However, extensive research has shown that charm pricing works. Why leave money on the table?
STRATEGY 3: SCARCITY PRICING
This concept is another psychological pricing strategy used frequently in traditional retail. Like charm pricing, it is also very effective for increasing sales in the handmade industry. Scarcity pricing increases the perceived value and desirability of a product.
A well-known example is the Hermès Birkin Bag. Hermès makes the bag available at unpredictable time-periods and then offers only very limited quantities. This creates artificial scarcity and exclusivity, which in turn results in high demand whenever the bags become available. Other examples are “By Invitation Only” events or the limited access to airline VIP lounges.
Having or buying scarce items makes shoppers feel good about themselves. They have access to or ownership of something that other people might want but can’t have.
When you position some of your products as “scarce”, shoppers feel they may be missing out on something rare or special if they don’t make the purchase now.
Buying a rare item appeals to some of our most fundamental emotions. It confers respect, prestige and a sense of accomplishment to shoppers. They may very well be willing to pay extra for an item that appeals to these needs or buy an item that they otherwise would not have considered.
You can create a little benign fear of missing out with phrases such as:
· “Available only at this show.”
· “Only 3 left.”
· “Limited edition/production run. Only 20 will be sold.”
· “Free-shipping, this week only.”
· “Exclusive collaboration with XYZ artisan.”
Scarcity pricing must be honest. When you present a product under the scarcity principle as a limited edition or for a restricted period you can’t reverse course. Offering your limited edition in large quantities further down the road will leave buyers feeling cheated. The same applies to extending the “limited period of time” product into an “always available” product. Shoppers WILL notice, and they will share their disappointment with other potential buyers. Your business will lose its hard- earned consumer trust.
Artisans have many reasons for growing their business. Some want to go full-time, others try to transition from pure hobby to building a steady stream of income. Another common motivation for artisans is to get more revenue out of their side hustle. Growing a business has risks, but can also be immensely rewarding. As writer Anaïs Nin said:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Traditionally, artisans and other creative entrepreneurs turn to the web to learn more about how to grow their business. Most searches will yield between 500,000 and 10,000,000 results, which are impossible to read and digest. Even taking a more modern approach and checking textbooks from expert authors at the library can be discouraging. You will probably find several shelf-fulls of textbooks with thousands of pages and hundreds of suggestions. And you will still be none the wiser.
Fortunately, there are other options. Below is a planning tool to help you organize your thoughts and determine which growth strategies might be best for your business. It is adapted from the Ansoff Matrix, which remains one of the most used marketing tools of today.
Four Main Growth Strategies
The matrix summarizes the 4 basic growth strategies. They are based on 2 elements, Customers and Products and can be applied to any artisan business.
Strategy 1 - Quadrant A: Selling Existing Products to Existing Customers
This approach is about selling more of your current products in your current market segment. It is often called a Market Share Growth strategy.
The easiest strategy to grow your business is to sell products you are already making to your main target market segment. Some people in your main target market segment have already bought from you. However, quite a few probably have not. These potential customers are the easiest to convince to purchase from you.
For example, a leatherworker who makes purses and knapsacks might find that only 175 people of her 1000 member target list purchased a knapsack from her. From there, she builds promotion tactics designed to reach deeper into her target segment.
A reasonable goal is to increase her share in that segment to 40%, which amounts to sales of an additional 225 items. The value of this strategy comes from the vendors market knowledge. She knows her target market segment, and its personas and she has learned that her product does address the wants and needs of these shoppers.
Strategy 2 – Quadrant B: Selling a New Product to Existing Customers
This strategy is based on New Product Development. It carries more risk than Market Share Growth but is a very viable option for an artisan business. For example, a potter who has so far focused on vessels might consider expanding her product line to plates and platters and offer them to her existing target market segment.
Another maker might expand her product portfolio from greeting cards to include note-pads and notebooks and sell them to shoppers who are interested in buying her cards.
Growing your artisan business by expanding your product line will require time, effort and possibly investments into production and promotion. This is a worthwhile risk. The biggest upside is that you have already a deep understanding of the buying behaviour of your current market. Knowing your existing shoppers lets you develop new products tailored exactly to their needs and values.
Strategy 3 – Quadrant D: Selling Existing Products to New Potential Customers
This strategy, often called Market Development, is for expanding your business into new market segments. It is about reaching consumers who don’t know your business and products but might be interested in what you make.
For example, if you had good retail sales on the eastside of an urban area you might consider selling on the westside. Or, if your current target market segment is “urban women between 30-45 years of age”, you could test younger target market segment such as “urban women between 20 and 30 years of age.” Market Development carries more risk and requires more effort, at least until you have established your presence in the new segment. You can mitigate the risk by conducting enough market research to make sure the new shopper segment wants to buy what you sell.
Strategy 4 – Quadrant C: Selling New Products into New Markets
Selling new products into new markets is called Diversification. For artisans this is the most difficult and risky growth strategy because it is comes close to rebuilding the business. If a woodworker adds making pottery to his business, he or she is offering a completely new product to what is most likely an unknown market segment. The strategy will put significant stress on the existing woodworking business, mostly in the areas of production and marketing. Brand image can also be affected. Shoppers will find it difficult to identify and embrace the personality of the business. The dissonance between the concept of “woodworker” and “potter” will be too great to bridge.
Diversification is not a good option for artisans to expand and increase revenue. Your priority should be Market Share Growth. When the results become too meagre, Product Development or Market Development are the next-best options.
“Why waste a sentence saying nothing?”
"Treat your subject line like the movie trailer – give a preview so they know what to expect."
Dan Jak - Head of E-mail & SMS, British Gas
"Personalisation – it is not about first/last name. It’s about relevant content."
Benjamin Murray - Head of Marketing, Peldon Rose
"Quality over quantity – E-mails may be cost efficient but it’s no excuse to not produce quality content to give to a targeted audience."
Bob Frady - CEO at HazardHub
“Customers don’t sign up for email – they sign up for your brand."
Jake Sorofman - Chief Marketing Officer at Pendo.io
"When you start with what’s at stake for the buyer, you earn the right to their attention."
Nick Usborne - in his book ‘Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy’
“It’s the words, not the technology, that connect with customers. […] So why is so much investment made in the software and so little made in the message itself? ”
Guy Kawasaki - Marketing Guru, author and Silicon Valley venture capitalist
“Provide good content and you’ll earn the right to promote your product.”
Andrew Davis - Best-selling author, top-rated speaker and marketing guru
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
Robert Rose - Chief Strategy Advisor at the Content Marketing Institute
“When taking a content-first approach, our job as marketers is not to create more content (…) it’s to create the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of results.”
Matt Blumberg - Founder and CEO of email intelligence company Return Path
“Reaching the inbox isn’t your goal – engaging people is.”
Neil Patel - Forbes Top 10 Marketer and NY Times Best Selling Author
“It’s all about education and getting to know people, building a rapport, a connection. I try to provide a lot of value for subscribers, before ever trying to sell them on anything.”
E-mail is the most cost effective Digital Marketing tool. No other digital communication channel has a wider reach. Data shown at Lifewire indicate that in 2019 almost 4 billion people will be using email. Facebook has only 2 billion users. It is fair to assume that 90% of people who buy handmade have an e-mail address. For makers and artisans it should be the go-to platform for promoting their work and their business.
What makes email even more appealing for small businesses is that it offers more customizing options than any other digital tool. You can tailor content and, its presentation and distribution with great precision. In addition, a number of aspects of email marketing can be automated. This frees up valuable time for other important aspects of your business.
As with all marketing, the success of e-mail depends on a good plan and high quality implementation. Planning need not be complicated and can be done on the proverbial ‘napkin’, guided by 4 questions.
· What is the goal of my e-mail campaign?
· With whom will I communicate?
· What will I say to them?
· How will I measure success?
It’s all about the recipient
Using e-mail for promotion should never be about you. It is always about the shopper, their interests and addressing their needs and wants (recognition, power, self-esteem, prestige).
Starting your email with a personalised salutation will tell the reader immediately that whatever follows is about them and for them. Most email marketing tools (HubSpot Marketing, Wix ShoutOut, MailChimp, etc.) will create personal salutations for each recipient automatically.
You can personalize the email further with your opening line. It should link to the reader’s needs and interests or concerns. To do this successfully you will need to have a clearly defined shopper persona in mind. Secondly, your opening line should include the word ‘you’. It is one of the most impactful words in marketing.
E-mail recipients invest 1-3 seconds in determining if they read your email or not. The word “you” in the subject line significantly increases the likelihood they move on to the main text.
Make it personal
Consumers have become selective about what they read. The best way to cross that barrier is to have meaningful content in the main body of your email with high value for the shopper.
To do so you can subdivide a large target market into smaller segments. For example, if you have a large target segment of women aged 24 – 50 you could create three smaller sub-segments for a specific campaign or message set.
· Women under 30
· Women 31 – 40
· Women over 45
Then you can tailor your subject line, word choice, content, visuals and product offers. This will make your e-mail feel even more personal to the readers.
Opt-in / Opt-out
You should offer your recipients an opt-in / opt-out choice. It is tempting to inflate your mailing list and spread your well-intended content to hundreds or thousands of people to get a handful of additional responses. Chances are the ‘quality’ of the responses and the willingness of the people behind them to buy will be low. Having an opt-in/opt-out button on each email will ensure that your mailing list is up-to-date with shoppers truly interested in your product.
Keep it simple
The content of your e-mail has to be clear and concise in addressing the reader’s needs. Wordiness is NOT appreciated. Experts suggest less than 200 words. IF you write more, make sure your content is indispensable for the reader’s understanding and not just verbal fluff and puff.
Ask for action
Regardless of the specific goal you have defined for your campaign, one fundamental purpose of your e-mail is to get the reader to take action. This call to action should be clear and simple, for example:
· Join my Facebook group
· Check my Website
· Try my on-line store
· Visit me at booth# xyz at the Port Richmond Maker Fest
Some words do not work well for call-to-action phrases. Among them are “buy”, “order”, “submit”, “contact us”, “complete” and “invest.”
These two letters might be the most powerful of all in your email. Research has shown that almost 70% of people who open an email will read your Post Scriptum. Your “P.s.” therefore is prime virtual real-estate for messaging that has high priority in your promotion. Use it to share information that is relevant to your business even if it has not been covered in the main body of your email.
“We will be offering a new line of xyz product next month. Stay tuned!”
“You can find more tips on using digital marketing for promotion right here.
“Here is what one customer had to say about our new all natural body mist: ‘Dear Angela, just tried your Wildfire body mist. It is so soothing and refreshing!’“
Notwithstanding the utility of other digital marketing channels, e-mail is and will remain a maker’s best choice to promote her business. It is THE place to start your digital marketing efforts.
“People have been talking about the death of email for years now, and yet we continue to find more and more uses for it. Email marketing is still the most economical and the most powerful marketing tool for a majority of businesses. Marketers consistently ranked email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. The more we try to find a better alternative to email, the more we realize that we already have the solution that just needs to be used better....email is still relevant, it's just a matter of how you're using it.”
Quoted from Contactually (now part of Compass Inc.)
Copywriting is about using words and phrases to persuade and motivate the consumer. You should choose your words so that they:
· convince shoppers you are offering something that has value for them
· motivate them to purchase it
These are the two overarching principles for creating copy, i.e. “Words That Sell.” Keep them top of mind at all times. Three more concepts that can guide your writing are:
· Don’t write propaganda. Overstatements cluttered with words such as fabulous, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime” have a negative effect on your credibility.
· Stay factual and avoid claims you can’t support. For example, for jewellery, there is a big difference between ‘silver plated’ and ‘sterling silver’.
· Be detailed where it counts. For example:
Long lasting hardwood cutting boards
Durable multi-coloured cutting boards made of jointed reclaimed cherry, maple, ash and walnut.
· Be systematic. What you write should flow logically from your top-line to the conclusion you would like your shoppers to draw. Even though what you write is short, it should have a beginning, middle and end. That is what the shopper’s mind is expecting.
· Be clear. Avoid cluttered phrases and convoluted sentences in which the reader’s mind becomes trapped. Few people read or retain complex wording because it is too difficult to understand.
Perennial Best Sellers
These words always seem to percolate to the top of ‘most powerful words’ lists:
· Thank You
· “The customer’s name”
Your text has to create interest and invite the shopper to read further. Here are 8 phrases to help you accomplish that. Use them at the beginning:
· Explore the…
· Experience the …
· Think about…
· Today more than ever…
· Believe it or not…
· What is the safest…
· Are you curious about…?
Words that make your creations appealing
· sunshine fresh
· the way nature created it
· untainted by…
Words that give your work authenticity
People who shop for hand-made look for authenticity because they associate it with ‘well-made’ ‘high quality’ and ‘genuine.’ These concepts distinguish artisan products from mass produced items.
· original (recipe, formula)
· time tested
· made to last
· no shortcuts
Sensory words are descriptors of how we experience the world: how we see, hear, feel or taste something. At first glance, one could assume they are only used in poetry and fiction. However, they are also of high value for makers and artisans. In the world of handmade, sensory words confer warmth, personality and flavour to your communication and your product. They captivate and they sell.
For example, compare the promotional text below. On which product would you spend your money?
“Velvety, buttery, almost-melt-on-your-skin all organic cleanser”
“A nice organic bar of soap”
Many artisans worry about finding the right words that sell their products. It is true that the first and even the second attempt at writing advertising might be less than perfect. It is equally likely that the first, second and even third iteration of the product you are selling now were not flawless at the beginning. In the artisan world it is worthwhile to invest time to get things right.
However, support for your writing comes from an unlikely source, i.e. the consumers themselves.
“The greatest thing you have working for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint; it’s the imagination of the consumer. They have no budget, they have no time limit, and if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.”
Don Draper (fictional TV character, Mad Men)
“What we really need is a mindset shift that will make us relevant to
today's consumers, a mindset shift from 'telling & selling' to building relationships.”
Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer, Proctor & Gamble
“Audiences everywhere are tough. They don't have time to be bored or be brow beat by orthodox, old fashioned advertising.”
Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at marketing communications firm J. Walter Thompson
“Don't be satisfied with stories how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth”
Rumi, jurist, poet, scholar
"Keep it short and simple (KISS)”
One of the most famous speeches in North American history, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, took only two minutes and 246 words, most of them of one or two syllables.
“Focus on the core problem your business solves & put out lots of content & enthusiasm, & ideas about how to solve that problem”.
Laura Fitton, Founder of Twitter app store Oneforty.Com
“People don't want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about the things they care about.”
Larry Weber, author of Marketing to the Social Web
"In our rush to be heard and understood, we focus way too much on ourselves doing the talking. We are the critical factor in communication, it is true. But our listening is much more important than our talking, because our listening determines whether we learn anything, and actual communication occurs."
Harvey Robbins & Michael Finley, authors of ‘Why Change Doesn't Work’
“It no longer makes economic sense to send an advertising message to the many in hopes of persuading the few.”
Lawrence Light, former Chief Marketing Officer at McDonald’s
“Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what's successful on the Web.”
Rick Levine, co-author of ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’
“By publishing content that shows buyers you understand their problems and can
show them how to solve them, you build credibility.”
Ardath Albee, author of ‘E-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale’
Artisans and makers compete with a glut of messaging and advertising. Craft shows are filled with posters and panels. Online messaging and social media are littered with tepid promises such as ‘handmade’ and ‘unique’ or ‘all natural.’ Even classic brick and mortar retailing requires artisan to come up with high quality text and written materials.
· 91% of consumers have unsubscribed from permission-based marketing emails
· 77% report being more cautious about providing their email address to companies
· 81% have either “unliked” or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook news feed.
They are clear about the reasons for their disapproval. The brand-building experts at Sprout found out that:
· 46% of consumers unfollow a brand because of “too many promotional messages”
· 41% believe that the information they receive is “not relevant”
· Only 18% of consumers said the brand was “too quiet”
On the other hand, a staggering 74% of consumers follow a brand because they are interested in their product (or service).
Despite the ever-growing “noise” in the market, artisans and makers can build messages that appeal to their target segments and compel these shoppers to action.
To do so is not difficult, nor is it expensive.
The first step to avoid the consumer’s proverbial yawn is to clearly identify what and who is your target market. The better you know the people you are speaking to, the easier it is to find the right words to gain and maintain their attention.
After that you should determine what you want to accomplish. In general, artisans aim for one of the below:
· Awareness of their business
· Reminders (show attendance, special promotion, pop-up, etc.)
· Changing or re-enforcing their brand-image
· Generating direct sales
Experts suggest that one set of words or content be dedicated to one goal. This makes it easier to write the right phrases and avoids confusing the shopper about what they should remember or do.
Then you have to conquer your fear. Much of today’s messaging is faint-hearted and sterile. To stand out from the crowd you need to come up with compelling words that capture the interest of your potential customers. Here is an example from marketing a music player/mp3 player.
Next, you must consider the consumer, not your business. The consumer is only mildly interested in you. She might, however, be very curious of what your product can do for her. Therefore, this one does not work:
“We have been recognized as a leader in hand-crafted furniture for over 20 years. Many high profile customers benefitted from our services. We are constantly innovating our products and use only the highest quality woods from across North America.”
Here is a better approach:
“The chairs that we built can be modified exactly how you like it. No more endless adjusting of your chair. Instead, it adapts to you. And that means our chairs will help you eliminate back and neck pain.”
Another example of putting the customer first, comes from the messaging of an artisan who makes a mineral based, totally organic deodorant:
“Control your sweat with DeoRocks. Sweat less. Live more. Wear whatever you want whenever you want.”
Most if not all of what your shoppers want is related to very basic emotions:
· Fear (of loss)
When you write content or advertising your words should appeal to these emotions or alleviate them.
"People rarely buy features. People sometimes buy benefits. People always buy emotion."
Glenn Fisher (Author, Speaker, Copywriter)
Many artisans have begun to invest into a website. While such an investment is not essential, a webpage can be an asset to the maker business. You don’t have to build the website yourself. Small and large consulting businesses abound that can do the technical work for you.
It is however important to know what you want. Don’t assume that a web-consultancy knows how to build the right site for your business. As with all hired help, you must make sure that such help understands what the expected outcomes are.
After all you expect to get a good return for investing your hard-earned dollars. Even good consultancies are not mind readers. Best results come from collaboration and good communication. Here are some pointers of the basics that a maker website needs.
The 3 most common reasons what artisans have a website are:
· Lead generation
· Branding – creating a business image
Ideally, your website can provide all three of these functions, but combining lead generation and branding with e-commerce adds a significant level of complexity.
Most makers initially build their sites as a branding and information tool, with a secondary purpose of lead generation. For starters, keep the purpose of your website focused and simple. Less is definitely more. A simple site with a clearly defined purpose will provide more value to you and your customer than a multi-layered monster with clunky designs and information overload.
A Sensible Web Address
Your web address should be easy to remember and easy to type. It could be, for example, the name of your business, or a shorter version of the name. Think about adding a distinguishing element, for example your general location, or your first name. Definitely avoid forcing words into a specific template.
Krstnswudwrkng might have all the right words in there, if people actually can deduce that your name is Kristin and that you are a woodworker. It’s almost guaranteed that no one will be able to remember your web-address.
A Clear Description of Who You Are
“Someone who stumbles upon your website shouldn't have to do investigative work to figure out what, exactly, it is that you do. That means clearly stating your name and summing up your products or services right on the homepage”, says John Zhuang, of Web-design and SEO-optimization firm Winning Interactive.
An Image Of What You Make
A picture speaks a thousand words. Therefore 1-3 high quality photos of your best work should be the first thing your visitors see when they arrive at your site. Include compelling text, which describes why or how your products are different and special. The words should be in synch with the value statement you have developed for your business.
Visitors to your site will NOT go on a wild goose chase to find what they are looking for. Two clicks used to be acceptable. The trend today is towards 1 click only. All essential information that you wish to communicate must not be more than one click away. For less relevant details two clicks might be tolerated. Drop menus are probably the best way to go. Try for 5 or less and really question the need for sub-menus.
Apparently our attention span has shortened from 12 seconds several years ago to an even more anemic 8 seconds. Your main points should be written in clear language, without jargon and acronyms. It makes them easier to absorb.
Telling your story is about connecting with the visitor. Everybody likes to listen to an interesting narrative. Most visitors will enjoy reading how you started as a maker, or the thought process and philosophy behind your work. This is also a good place to speak about your business mission and goals.
A happy customer is one of the most credible and therefore impactful influencer to persuade others to purchase your creations. Hearing from an unbiased person about the value of your product is much more convincing to shoppers than your own words. In addition, buyer testimonials are an abbreviated form of story-telling.
The main character is the happy shopper. She shares that she had a need or want and explains how your product and its value provided her with just the right solution. People like stories, it makes them more likely to buy or make the next click.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”
(Richard Branson, founder Virgin Group)
72% of all shoppers think that handmade items are generally more special than mass produced items (AYTM survey of 1000 consumers).
This is in line with the traditional messaging of makers and artisans. The messaging around uniqueness and is sticking in the consumers mind. Let’s keep it up!
49% think that handmade shopping is likely to continue gaining popularity (AYTM survey).
That means the interest in buying handmade will continue to grow.
25% of consumers purchased handmade products on eBay, Etsy or Amazon. (AYTM survey)
That means that the majority of purchases for handmade products are still made in person, in either a brick and mortar store or transient organized events (craft shows, pop-ups, etc.).
In 2018, Etsy’s Merchandise Sales Volume of the 2.1 Million active Etsy sellers was $3.9 Billion. (Yahoo Finance) The average annual sales revenue per active seller was ~$200.
Etsy is a very competitive marketplace. You are competing with 2 Million other sellers who offer around 50 Million products.
Crafters are younger than ever. 41% are 18-34 years old, 36% are 35 – 54 years old. 23% are 55 or older. (Association for Creative Industries)
Total e-commerce retail sales for 2017 was $453 billion in 2017 in the US, a market reasonably similar to Canada. Total brick and mortar retail sales were $2985 billion in 2017, almost 700% greater than e-commerce.
It is true that e-commerce sales are growing faster than brick and mortar sales. As such, e-commerce is important for makers and artisans. However, finding the right opportunities to sell in brick and mortar environments is by far a better revenue generator than on-line selling.
According to Statistics Canada, retail sales growth in 2018 was weaker than in 2017. Sales declined in four out of the last five months of 2018, compared to the 2017. The retail forecast for 2019 is guarded.
Not every year can be a blockbuster year in retail sales, especially when it comes to spending on handmade items, which most consumers consider non-essential. If you want different, better results for 2019 than in the past you have to add new and different approaches to your current strategy!
Blazing Bombs creates handmade artisan bath and body products. Meghan began learning about making bath products 4 years ago and since then steadily grown her business. Blazing Bombs was so successful that Meghan was able to convert her full-time job to part-time. Most recently, her work caught the eyes of curators of the One-Of-A-Kind show, arguably the biggest and best craft show in Canada. The Nooks wanted to find out more about how she does it all.
What distinguishes your products?
“I create handmade artisan bath & body products. They are bright, vibrant and with a wide range of fragrances. But they are much more than that! All ingredients are responsibly sourced; vegan friendly; phthalate-free; paraben-free and not tested on animals. They are 95-100% natural.
There are a lot of companies out there where you pick up a product and cannot pronounce the ingredients on the label. Many use surfactants, man-made emulsifiers, and other chemicals – ingredients that are unnecessary to put on your skin. The recipes I create for Blazing Bombs are carefully and selectively created using high quality ingredients that are only necessary while incorporating the fun side to bath time using cosmetic grade colourants and skin safe fragrances.”
How did you get interested in becoming a maker?
“Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a creative imagination. I really loved anything to do with arts and crafts, bright colours and making something out of nothing.
The fuel for creating was always in my soul and it wasn’t until the spark lit fire when I learned about making bath products 4 years ago. I honestly didn’t know where this hobby would lead me until I tested the waters to see if this was something I could sell for other people to enjoy.
Several months later, I found myself experimenting more with colours, recipes, designs, and couldn’t believe that I was able to take a hobby that I enjoyed and could make something out of it. What I love most – is the freedom to create and the connections I get to make with every customer to make their bath experience beautiful.”
Who or what inspires your work as a maker?
“I so much like vibrant colours, wild designs and anything eye catching. I love to follow current trends - they give me the opportunity to challenge my creativity and turn it into a product.”
Which maker/artist do you most admire, and why?
“When I was about a year and a half into establishing Blazing Bombs, I met a soap maker through a friend: Margo Stinson of Carberry Soap Company. I remember walking into her studio space for the first time and my jaw just dropped. It wasn’t about the fancy equipment or space she had, but it was the fact that she built her business from the ground up and made it what it was.
I remember telling her that I could literally just sit on her couch and stare at everything for hours; yes, weird… but you had to see it. Her products were nothing less than beautiful.
When I got to know her, I was truly inspired by her willingness to help another maker- a competitor within the same product category at that. She believed in good karma and when referring to any business, she always said there is room for everyone. She taught me so many things from creating recipes, marketing, techniques, customer interactions, show tips; the list goes on. What I admire most about Margo is her bright and adventurous personality. I truly believe that your attitude is the key to success and I know she taught me that.”
What are the goals for your maker business in 2019?
“My first goal for 2019 is to increase online sales by the end of the year. With hard work and a good advertising campaign that should be achievable. I also want to generate an income of $20,000 in 2019 after costs and rent. Looking ahead to 2020 another big goal is to move Blazing Bombs HQ out of the house and to an off-site 1500-2000 square foot studio space by the end of 2020.”
What do you think are your biggest challenges for selling your work?
“Bath and body products are definitely a tough business to be successful in because it is an oversaturated market. One of the biggest challenges is to stay on top of trends that make you unique compared to another company with a similar product. No matter where you look be it retail stores selling big company names or markets, just as examples, there will always be another company that has something similar to you.”
How are you planning to overcome these challenges?
“Oddly enough, I love a challenge. I feel that if you want something so bad – you will bend over backwards to find a way to overcome an obstacle in business and in life. To overcome my challenges, I will continue to evolve my brand, my look and my designs and stay on trend with what people are looking for while maintaining the vibrant style that separates my product from others. If something doesn’t work out, I will find another way until something does.”
What do you know now that you didn’t know when you started your maker business?
“I went into the maker business essentially blind folded. The only post-secondary education I received was through nursing and I never stepped foot in a business class. I now know that owning a maker business isn’t just an afternoon hobby anymore. It is literally a 24hr job if you want to ensure you are providing optimal customer service while keeping up to date with your records, product making, packaging, etc. It is a lot!”
“Even if you think you can manage time, something will always come up to throw a wrench into your plans. But, I love a challenge and I am still learning. Even if you have no idea where to start, it’s okay to look like a flamingo looking for food, we’ve all been there.”
What would you say to those who want to start their own maker business?
“If you have a passion for something that makes you happy and you want to share that with the world, do it. We only have one chance on this earth to enjoy life, so take the risk, do something wild and do what you love. No dream is ever reached by thinking about it, so why didn’t you start yesterday?”
MEGHAN PATTERSON’S BLAZING BOMBS CAN BE FOUND AT:
The Nooks in Port Hope - 68 Walton Street
The Nooks in Toronto - 2038 Danforth Avenue