Welcome to Craft Venture ““ business and marketing tips for indie online business owners, just like you and me! Im Brenda, owner of Phydeaux Designs on Etsy and 1000 Markets. Last week, we talked about holiday packaging and shipping, as part of our series on the holiday season. This week, we are talking about marketing for the holidays.
November starts this week. Are you ready for the holidays? Do you understand some of the basic terminology and dates? Did you read up on international shipping and you’re now ready to expand your business with global sales with first class shipping? Is your holiday packaging set and ready?
What about customers? Particularly with a slow economy, what is your marketing plan for this holiday season? How are you going to stand out in a sea of retailers, both online and brick and mortar?
If you’ve been reading Craft Venture from the start, you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not a huge fan of the “I’ll promote myself like crazy in the forums of my online marketplaces” answer. First, that kind of promotion is very hard work and you need that time for effective marketing that does the work for you, so that you can focus on creating and fulfilling orders. Second, in a large marketplace, you’ll be instantly buried and competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other voices vying for customers. Third, how many buyers are you really going to find hanging out in the forums? Sure, there are buyers visiting the forums, but the odds of your millisecond promotional thread attracting the attention of more than a few people looking to shop aren’t that high.
I’m going to focus on one key marketing idea for you in this week’s column: online advertisement. You might remember reading about marketing right here on Craft Venture way back in June. We talked about how to identify who your customers are. Marketing based on your natural skills and talents. Marketing that works for you, rather than you doing all the work. This is a great time to review those columns, along with other online marketing resources and books from your local library (free!).
Online advertising is a great way to attract new shoppers. Before you head off, starry eyed, to Perez Hilton’s or Dooce’s websites, a reality check for you: you can’t afford them. Well, maybe you can. If you have $10,000-50,000 handy for a month of advertising. Since I don’t have that kind of cash, I’ll talk about more realistic options! But first, another reality check: for the holidays, you have just a week or so to line up advertising, and you’ll likely find that advertising space on many of your target sites is already sold out.
If you’ve never advertised online before, here’s what you need: (a) an online shop that has great photos, clear and engaging text, a great shop announcement (as well as a beautiful banner, but some folks get by without any banner at all); (b) a full shop (at least a few pages of items) with a variety of styles and colors; (c) prices that are reasonable for buyers and for your own profit margin; and (d) an advertisement graphic.
Let’s talk about the graphic for your ad. Look over to your right on papernstitch. See the blinking ads? Those are dynamic or blinking ads, saved as GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format). See the non-blinking, ads? Those are static ads, saved as JPEGs (Joint Photographic Experts Group). There are other types and formats for graphic files, but these are the two most common for ads at our price points.
(Are you already feeling a little short of breath and woozy about GIFs versus JPEGs? Don’t worry at all. I just wanted to give you some terminology and background so that you’ll know what you’re reading about when you research possible sites for your ads.)
You can make an ad for yourself without spending a dime, using your camera’s photo editing software. Since I don’t know what camera or photo editing software you have, I won’t go into details about how to create your own ad. In general, use your best image of your most popular or favorite item, use a nice balance of negative (white) space and your item, and add your shop name or logo. Simple. You can play with fonts or reinforce your branding by using your logo or same font as your logo. You don’t even necessarily need text! A gorgeous, compelling image that people have to click may be enough.
Even better, you can hire someone to create an ad or two for you! You can find on Etsy and similar websites, graphic designers who will create ads for anywhere between $10 to $50 for you, often with a variation or two (or three). See about buying not just one size, but several variants of the same ad in different sizes (125 x 125 pixels, 150 x 100 pixels, etc.). This is a great way to reduce your own stress about creating your ad graphic! My only advice is this: sometimes you get what you pay for, so make sure you see examples of the designer’s work and that the quality is high. I’d hate for you place ineffective ads!
In parallel, you need websites to advertise on. Project Wonderful is a great way to break into advertising online. Gauge a site’s monthly charge for ad space against their traffic. For a site with less than 1,000 visitors, $40/month is rather high, given how far you want your dollar to stretch. For a site with more than 10,000 monthly visitors, $40/month may be a great investment.
Think about your target customer. Where does he or she spend time online? Are there particular sorts of blogs that they read? If so, visit those blogs, look for “advertising” or “sponsors,” and find out more about their charges, volume, and the types and sizes of ads accepted. Maybe your customers frequent online forums? Many forums offer advertising. Same process: visit the forum, search for “advertising” or “sponsors,” etc.
Here’s what not to do! If you make beautifully tooled leather wallets, don’t advertise on a vegan forum or blog. If you sell adorable handmade newborn infant clothing, don’t advertise on a blog whose target audience is boys, ages 12 to 18, playing ultraviolent videogames. You get the idea. Think about your items, your target audience, and the site’s aesthetic and audience. You’re looking for a great fit.
Here’s your homework, because blogs, forums and other sites are rapidly selling out for November and December ad space! Write down the five websites that you visit every day (other than your shop or online marketplace/venue). With pen in hand, visit each site, search for “advertising” or “sponsor,” see if they have space open for the holidays. If not, cross out their name and move to the next site. If they do, do you have to email the site for a media kit and/or rates? Email them right now. Here’s what you can say:
“Dear (fill in the site owner’s name here),
My name is Jane Smith and I own (fill in your shop name and what you make in no more than one sentence here). I love your website/blog and would love more information about holiday advertising, including rates. I very much appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you. (or !)
your signature block”
If you don’t hear back from your queries, I wouldn’t worry about it. Blog owners in particular gets hundreds of emails every day. Just move on to the next on your list. If your selected site has the rates, traffic and other particulars on their site, and the site’s a good fit for your items and in your price range, follow the site’s instructions for buying space!
Quick disclaimer: not everyone wants or needs to buy ad space. If you have more business than you can currently handle, maybe bringing in more business isn’t a great idea. For many of us, we are looking for additional business, so buying an ad or two can really help get our name out there. Just make sure you have Google analytics set up for your shop/site so that you can track your ads’ effectiveness. If you don’t do great, see if you can swap out your ad, which could be all the change you need. If you are doing great, what is it about that ad and that site that made your ad campaign so effective and how can you apply that to your next campaign?
This is another post where there’s so much more to tell you than I have space for! If you have questions, add them in the comments, and I’ll answer them – or find answers to them – in the comments, too. I’d love to hear from those of you who are experienced advertisers. What tips and tricks would you share with us? What is key for you? And for all of you, thinking from a buyer’s perspective, what kinds of ads make you want to click?