Wednesday, June 13, 2012

*Series* The business of being Mama, Part 5: Networking and Marketing...

(Part 1:  Is it a good idea to turn your hobby into a business?...)
(Part 2:  How to sell your wares...)
(Part 3: Pricing your handmade items...)
(Part 4:  Legal mumbo-jumbo...)

It's not like Field Of Dreams.  Just because you build it, doesn't mean they're going to come.  You need to work your tail off to get your products out there, and make people want need them.    
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Here are some things I've found helpful, and some things I probably won't ever do again...

~If you don't get into a craft show or farmers market you've had your eye on, go anyway as a customer.  Talk to as many people as possible in similar fields as you.  True, they're your competition, but they can also be your allies (and helpful promoters).  This Spring I missed the boat for the show I wicked wanted to get into (and by missed it, I mean totally forgot about it until I checked their website to get an application, and the jury process was already closed.  So, yeah, by missed the boat, I mean I didn't even make it to the dock.  next year I'll have my shit together better...)  Anyway, so I went to the show as a buyer instead of a seller, and actually had a remarkably educational time.  While walking around I met the charming young fellow behind Squirrel Pirate Apothecary.  I noticed that he had lovely little tins of Healing Salve on his table, and I was instantly intrigued and jealous all at the same time.  You see, I had just come away from an incident of having an entire batch of Body Balm explode in my microwave.  So I shared my wildly embarrassing story with this kind man, and he suggested to me that I use a double-boiler instead of my microwave.  I knew that already actually, but I was, up until that very moment completely terrified of trying a double-boiler.  I had no idea what it was, and it sounded menacing.  But he assured me that it was nothing to be afraid of, and he was absolutely right.  I've had amazing success with my own double-boiler technique I'm using now, and I'll be forever grateful to him for convincing me to stop being such a wuss.  The bar of soap I bought from him in thanks doesn't seem like a great trade for that, but here I am on my blog singing his praises, and I hope that he drums up some business from it.  Which brings me to my next to-do...

~Be Nice!  There is such a thing as Craft Karma.  People like to talk, and you want them talking about you in a nice way.  For instance (yes, here I'm about to embark on another one of my stories), quite some time ago when I was first starting out on my small business adventures (with one that wasn't successful, mind you), I stumbled upon New Duds.  They are a fantastic little husband/wife-run company that does original and custom screen-printing, as well as making some totally to-die-for bags.  I came to them with a printing project, and it was my first ever business-to-business meeting, transaction, interaction, etc., and I had no idea what I was doing.  One of my huge pet peeves is when people in the know make me feel stupid for not knowing what they do, and make me feel like I'll never be part of the cool-kids club.  I have a bit of a George McFly complex at times (children of the 80's, you will hopefully understand that reference).  These guys were super helpful, never condescending, and made me feel right at home.  They were the NICEST people EVER.  So even though that business venture I originally went to them for is no longer operating, and I'm not currently using them for any other projects, I tell everyone about them.  Just the other day someone asked me if I knew anyone locally that does screen-printing, and I said, "of course!"  Whenever I want a new t-shirt I buy it from them, and last year I had a custom bag made by Tessa, one of the owners, and she knocked it out of the park.  By the way they also have a wicked great blog with lots of cool pictures of their shop.

~Start a facebook and/or Twitter Page for your business.  I haven't broken into Twitter yet (I know, I'm the last of my kind), but as far as facebook goes, don't start another personal profile.  Start a Page.  There's a difference.  A profile is for a person, and a page is for a business.  Post links to where people can buy your stuff, coupon codes you're offering, sales, etc.  Shamelessly invite all your "friends" and ask them to do the same for all of theirs.

~Start a blog.  Truthfully, the amount of views per day I get on my blog wouldn't be worth getting out of bed for if my paycheck depended on in, like one of my favs, Joanna Goddard.  She writes an awesome one called A Cup Of Jo.  But it's nice for your customers to see that you're a human, and to get a glimpse into your life.  So for that, my blog is helpful (and even if it wasn't, I like to do it, so I'd probably keep doing it anyway).

~On that blog you start, post links to things that interest you, and also to your own products.  You may have noticed that this particular post was quite "linky."  So far I've pointed you to Squirrel Pirate, one of his products I wicked like, New Duds, one of their designs I just bought, Joanna Goddard's blog, and even to one of my own products and 4 links at the top of this page to all the other posts from this series.  Now if any of these people are keeping track of their site traffic stats, they'll see that a few folks ended up at their sites via some crazy chick at a blog called Pretty Clucked Up.  If I'm lucky, they'll click back to my blog, read this post, and think that I'm pretty swell for saying nice things about them.  By the way, don't do this just because it gets you traffic, and gets people to view your products.  Do this only with people who really deserve it.  Remember back to that Karma thing?

Now for a few things I probably wouldn't recommend...
~This one I might actually do again, but not the way I did it the first time; Blog give-aways.  The first time I offered a give-away on a blog it was a pretty new blog and didn't have a huge reader following.  So I only made one sale off of the post, and it amounted to exactly the same as the give-away I offered.  But any sale is a good sale, and maybe that buyer will tell her friends that the stuff she bought from me totally rocked, and it'll be worth it in the end.  Anyway, pick your give-aways carefully.  The whole point of doing a give-away is to drum up buzz about your business, and if you're not doing your give-away on a blog with a big enough following, you're only giving, and not receiving.  The only time this is acceptable in the business world is when it's to charity.

~Newspaper ads.  I don't feel like this would bring enough return on investment for me.  Maybe it would for someone in a different field of work.  A hairdresser, for instance would probably get a good return on a newspaper ad, because she could offer a coupon, and she's offering a service in which she can absorb most of the cost of the ad with just a few customers, and the sales of some products in her shop.  My products aren't expensive enough for me to make back the cost of the ad from the number of customers it would generate.

~Showing up unannounced to solicit your products.  I haven't done this because I think it's rude.  Give the shop owner a call, or send them an email to schedule a time to meet with them.  Showing up and peddling your stuff when they're trying to wait on their customers is not going to leave a good first impression.  The one time I think this is acceptable is if you're hanging fliers up.  Then, please DO go in and ask the shop owner if it's OK to hang your flier.  Don't just go slapping things up on peoples' walls without asking.  If they ask you a little bit about your business, then you can chit chat with them about it.

Any questions?  Suggestions?  Comments?  Bring 'em on... It's part of networking...

Thanks for stopping by (and thanks for taking the time to read my wildly long-winded series),


  1. love it and thanks for the shout out, that's so sweet!! I some how connected our facebook account with our twitter so I never actually go on twitter but it post everything I post on facebook. An easy way to double up with little 'work'.

    SO much good info here I will have to pass it along! With blogs I feel like I always find late, so am constantly going back to all the previous posts for info. So thats what I keep in mind with our own, even if we dont have tons of followers now having the diary of our projects/business and lives has been super fun to go back and look at. Hopefully others like it for that too!

    1. You guys totally deserve the shout-out. And thanks for the Twitter tip. Twitter for me is kind of like my double-boiler...something that totally terrifies me until someday i'll find out that it's so easy a monkey could do it...