Monday, June 9, 2014

Shop Talk: The Work of Running a Shop

shop talk The Work of Running a Shop

This post is the fourth in my ongoing series about being an Etsy shop owner. My previous posts can are: Etsy & The Stay at Home Mom, Developing Your Product, Pricing Your Items and Six Etsy Tips (an older post).

The best part about having an Etsy shop (in my opinion) is when complete strangers see something you made and like it enough to spend money on it. It’s the final reward in creative process in which you poured out a part of yourself in its creation. And that’s what everyone hopes for when they open a shop. They want the affirmation of their art—the compensation for their effort. But what seems to be easily forgotten or ignored in the early stages is of shop ownership is the amount of non-crafty work it takes. And while that work may not seem very fun, don’t say you don’t have time for it and then be disappointed by a lack of sales.

Today I’m going to talk about 4 key aspects of having an Etsy shop that are worth putting the work into: market research, search engine optimization (SEO), listing renewals and customer service. And I would like to preface these points with the fact that the effectiveness of the work you do goes hand in hand with the number of listings you have in your shop. I saw a dramatic increase in both traffic and sales when I implemented these four points in my shop. Then, when I reached over 100 items listed in my shop, the additional increase blew me away. So if you’re hoping to see your business grow, I highly recommend you keep plugging away at reaching 100 items while working on these four points.

Market Research
As I shared in THIS post, one of the first steps in developing one of my products is adding it to my list of ideas.

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But before an idea makes my list of things to make, I do a little research to see if it’s even worth my time. I love the Etsy App for checking out my competition.

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I go into the search section of the app, type in my product idea, and see how many listings come up in the search. In the first photo, I entered “bow tie garland.” As you can see, 228 items came up. In the scope of Etsy competition, I consider anything under 500 to be pretty low. If it’s lower than 50, then I figure either I need to rethink how I’m wording my product name or there may not be a market for that idea (although, it’s always possible you’ve found an untapped market that is highly needed, but that’s a little rare). If I see that the competition number is in a fairly sweet spot—as it is with the bow tie garlands—then I scroll through and look at what the competition is. If there is nothing like mine, then I feel really confident in moving forward. I also check out what the prices are like and what the cost covers—I don’t use it to price mine (as I talked about in THIS post) but do use it to see if my pricing would be in the right range. How long are the garlands compared to mine? What are the size of the bows on them? Are those shops actually selling their similar items? After doing my research I felt good about listing my bow tie garlands. And they’ve sold well!

In the second photo you see that I searched for “Frozen Party Pack.” I had the idea for THIS product that would include a crown for the party girl, hair clip party favors and a snowflake garland. As you can see, with 477 items coming up, I was in the range I like to be in, but definitely at the top end. After scrolling through I knew that my concept of each item being crocheted was unique and my price range was reasonable. But I also knew that crochet items was a fairly small target market. So I added them to my shop because I wanted a broader price range but didn’t have expectations of a ton of sales. I have sold 1 party pack with additional hair clip party favors, and another order for 20 hair clip party favors. So while it hasn’t been a large number of sales by any means, the profit from those two orders was higher than a month’s worth of sales in previous months.

The third photo was a search for “bow headband.” There are so many of those on Etsy that initially my search didn’t give me a number. It took narrowing down my selection through sub categories to finally list an item count of 2821. I could look at that and confidently say that bows would not be my niche. But it didn’t mean that I couldn’t put bows in my shop. My bows (these and these) are a little more unique because of their shape and material, but still, they don’t come up easily in searches. They’re worth having listed, though, because they make a great add on item. If someone arrived at my shop because of one of my unique items, it’s worth it to have smaller products that don’t add much extra in shipping. Just last week I sold 2 star garlands and a bow headband to a customer. So while it’s good to have these types of item in the shop, I’m not disappointed when they don’t sell.

Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is something I was scared of for a long time. It sounded intimidating, time consuming, and like a science I just didn’t want to put the effort into learning. In the book How to Start a Home Based Etsy Business Gina really pushed the importance of SEO. I knew I needed to do it if I wanted more traffic, but again it was intimidating. And then Gina did a step by step tutorial for how to use Google’s Ad Words Keyword Planner Tool to know what to put in the “Tags” section of a listing. I can’t tell you enough how important this is. It really only takes a couple extra minutes to do this when creating a listing and I can use the same tags for all my similar products. If you don’t do anything else I recommend in this post, DO THIS. Hop on over to Gina’s tutorial HERE and follow what she says.

Listing Renewals
As I mentioned in THIS post it costs money to get sales. I’ve found that renewing items regularly is key to getting views and sales. I try to renew at least one item each day. Some items automatically renew themselves after a sale if I have more than one in stock. But on the days that I’m not getting sales, I renew something. And I’ve noticed that after I renew an item, it gets viewed more. There is a spot on the Etsy home page that will show items that just got listed, and that can get you some attention. It keeps things fresh in the search engines. And there’s a sort option of “most recent” in the Etsy search. All great reasons to keep renewing.

Customer Service
I get a fair number of private conversations about listings. Most commonly it’s people asking, “I need this by ____ date. Would I be able to get this in time?” I’ve noticed that if I respond within a half hour of that question, they buy the item. Over and over again, I respond, “Thank you so much for your interest in ____. I could have it in the mail this afternoon (or tomorrow, or whatever is reasonable). I ship via USPS First Class, and typically my orders arrive within 3 days. I feel confident that you would receive it by ____ unless there is an error on the part of the postal service (which rarely happens). Let me know if you have any further questions!” The times that I haven’t been able to get back to a potential customer quickly, I don’t make the sale. I figure the longer I take to respond, the more time they have to find someone else to buy from. Utilizing my smart phone is key to this—I’m notified via email of a conversation, and then I hop on the app to respond. When a custom item is requested, I make their listing in the app and can send them the link right away. Speed (on my part, not necessarily theirs) is huge.

I want to make sure my customer feels like they received royal treatment from me. A happy customer is more likely to buy more and refer you to their friends. I had a customer contact me about my small zipper pouch asking if I could do a custom size. We had a few messages back and forth to get the correct dimensions and colors before I created the custom listing for her. When she went to buy the item, she noticed my wristlet key chains and added one to the order. Then, after receiving it, she was so happy with the product that she ordered another one for her husband. Those were 3 items I wouldn’t have sold had I not had good communication with her from the start. The other day a lady contacted me about my bow tie garlands asking if I could make a large number of the bows but not put them on the string. It turns out she was an event planner. The order grew from 60 to 65 to 70 through our conversations. This was a significant order that I could have missed out on had I not been quick to respond, eager to be of service, and professional in my communication. And now I’ve [hopefully] made a good connection with someone who is in a business that would allow her to be a returning customer.


I know all four of these points are work, but it takes work to make a business earn money. And that work is worth it. Your hours and hours of creation are worthless if you don’t sell those items. And selling those items happens a lot more often when you do your research, utilize SEO, renew your listings and provide excellent customer service.

How about my fellow sellers? What would you add to the list of work that makes your business grow?

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I like to link up with:
Made with Love, The Sunday Showcase Party, Weekend Wrap Up, Make it-Wear It, Show and Tell Saturday, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Take a Look Tuesday

3 comments:

  1. Look at you! 3 Mondays in a row- color me impressed:-)

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    1. Thanks Lindsey! I set a reasonable goal and now I'm sticking to it!

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  2. Love this! I would also add that if you are first starting out, a great way to get the word out about your shop is to give away (yes, I said "give away") some items to friends or friends of friends, and ask for feedback and they will be so excited to get something free that you've made, they are likely to feel special, spread the word and of course look at your shop. It doesn't have to be something huge or expensive--like a freebie with your business card. For me, I gave out simple elastic handmade hair ties for the girls in my daughter's class in the school colors.This may not be a realistic thing if someone's shop items are costly or time consuming to make. But it's just an idea if you are starting out.
    And because I am new, most of my sales have been to my friends, neighbors, etc. I feel comfortable asking them for feedback on the items and expressing my interest in true opinion on price, quality and how the items endure. I've had such a positive experience doing this and I have even contacted a few of these people and I think it makes them feel connected and invested in my success somehow--they have been walking advertisements for me. And it truly helps me as I develop my products. That's my two cents--or maybe 20 cents. Thanks Jill for all of your help!

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