Opening up my Etsy shop was both exciting and nerve racking. I was so optimistic, but mixed emotions wrestled inside of me. I had not had my first sale, but I could already envision the sales count climbing; yet the pessimist in me saw a complete bust.
I dove in head first, but quickly realize I was in over my head. Marketing my shop made me feel like I had to be an advertising expert, professional photographer, graphics designer, customer mediator and social media guru.
If you are reading this you may have already realized that being creative or having a good eye for amazing vintage products is not enough to be successful and build a cliental on Etsy. Truth be told selling online can be quite overwhelming. So how do you face the daunting task of taking amazing photos, getting a large amount of followers on social media and what the heck is SEO???
My first bit of advice; don’t get hung up in being perfect and most importantly, do not get discouraged. Here are some simple yet effective ideas and tips to help improve your Etsy sales.
For starters, join a few Etsy teams where you can promote others and they promote you. You may be a member of a few teams; good for you, but joining is not enough. Do your homework. Pick 2 or 3 good teams; and by good I mean active. Just because a team has 500 or more members does not mean it’s an active team. I have been part of teams with over 1,000 members, but the threads were stale. I would post on threads and come back the next day and my post was still the last post. I would come back the next day and the day after that; still my post was the last post. I would give it a week. Sometimes I was still the last one, other times there were only one or two member posts. Stale teams mean stale product sitting on my shelves. I suggest you select a team with daily posts. Such as Tuesday Twitter Bomb or Daily Searchathon. Even then, pay attention to the number of people that participate in these threads. The more people participate the more traffic your shop/item will have. Here are a couple of team suggestions; www.etsy.com/teams/19260/promote-me-please and www.etsy.com/teams/7512/promotional-frenzy-team.
Once you have joined an Etsy team, reach out to a few of the members and network with them outside of Etsy. Like their Facebook Page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Comment on their posts, tag them. I am always on the hunt for fellow Etsians with growing shops and great products.
However this requires balance. I quickly realized that I was filling my twitter and Instagram with products from other shops and not enough of my own products. The whole purpose of having a social media account with my shop’s name, Over The Top Cake Toppers, was to promote MY product. I didn’t mind and still don’t mind promoting products from other shops, but I was flooding my feed and readers with a medley of items. My social media accounts lost their focus and purpose. It was just all over the place so I had to reel it in. Pinterest, Polyvore and Wanelo are good venues to promote yourself and others. You can create boards or otherwise categorize your posts without drowning your products in the overload of pins and posts. It’s a win-win. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I focus more on promoting my own product and occasionally those of other shops.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, SEO are terms or phrase that search engines such as google, bing, Etsy, etc. look for when someone does a search. The more familiar, regular, descriptive terms you use in your item posts the more likely you are to be found by a customer. Think like a customer when you are assigning your terms. For example, if you sell quilts you might want to use; quilts, sew, pattern, crafts, blanket, and so on. If your quilt is more specific, say it’s a pink baby quilt then also add the terms; baby, pink, nursery, gift, etc.
Also, take advantage of the space Etsy gives you to title your item. Using the same quilt example, instead of using the title “Pink Baby Quilt” expand your title to “Baby Quilts for Girls, Deer Nursery Bedding, Deer Baby Blanket, Whole Cloth Quilt, Baby Quilt Handmade, Forest Animal Nursery, Crib Quilt” – www.etsy.com/listing/452612610.
Use all the tags at the bottom of your listing. Think outside the box and use other terms you didn’t use in your title. If you use the same terms you are only repeating and cutting your opportunities short. Note that you can use more than one word in these tags. Instead of using two tags for “Party” and “Ideas” bundle it up into one tag “Party Idea”. There is no need to add the “s” at the end.
For more detail information I recommend www.etsy.com/shop/EbookEnchanted. Her eBooks are easy to read and understand.
Listen to your customers
Customer feedback is one of the, if not THE most useful tool. Listen to your customers. There was one topper in particular that customers would tell me arrived broken. It didn’t happen every time but enough to tell me something was wrong. Every time I got a complaint, I had to either refund the money or replace the topper. I made some minor changes to my packaging and the problem went away.
Many of my cake toppers are the result of custom designs requested by customers. Take for example my Old Fashioned Airplanes. One day a customer contact me and asks if I can make it in red and white. I loved the way the airplane turned out so I posted it on my shop. I’ve sold over 30 of them since.
In every instance, listening to my customers saved me time and money; at times made me money.
Presentation is more than great photos. It is also about the quality of the product you are selling as well as the manner with which you package and ship it.
The first thing customers see are your photos. The photos you post could be the determining factor between a sale or not. I took the helpful Etsy advice seriously, but getting grate photos takes time and practice. When I launched my Etsy shop the only white back ground I had were my window blinds. Eventually I found an old not so white sheet but it worked better than my window blinds. My photos have improved, but I continue to try new things.
The next thing your customers “see” is what you say or don’t say. I am an Etsy Shop Owner, but I am also a customer. As a customer I dislike silence. Makes me wonder if my order is complete.
Make sure to set up a friendly autoreply email for customers who make purchases. In this email thank your customer for their purchase and communicating to them what they should expect next. I have set up my email to say the following:
We really appreciate your business! Your Over The Top Topper is being created and packaged. A message with your shipping information will soon follow.
International buyers, please be aware customs fees may be assessed depending on the country. Purchasers are responsible for any customs fees or duties.
Residents of the UK may have up to a 20% tax charged on the value of their purchase over £15 plus an £8 handling charge on imported goods.
I encourage you to visit our shop’s policy for further information on custom orders, shipping, returns and other important information.
The last thing your customers will see is just as important as the first; packaging. This too has the power of making a lasting customer or a one time – never buy from you again customer.
I had a very constrained budget when I first started my Etsy shop. I would take home boxes from the recycle bin at work or other businesses and used newspaper as packing paper. I didn’t like it but it was I could afford at the time. As sales began to pick up I began to purchase boxes and packing paper at Walmart. The prices are reasonable and I could buy one or two boxes as I needed. Only a few months later sales became more frequent so I invested in buying boxes in bulk. The advantage of buying from a wholesaler such as www.theboxdepot.com or www.uline.com is you can purchase the exact box size you need. Walmart boxes worked but are not available in all sizes. Many times I would end up having to cut the boxes to size. It took time and sometimes added to my shipping costs. The disadvantage of purchasing from a bulk supplier is you have to purchase at least $100 and shipping cost are not cheap. On average I pay just as much in shipping as I do for the cost of the boxes. Although the box prices are comparable to those at Walmart (between $1 – $3 per box), the shipping can add up. Despite the hefty shipping cost, I still prefer to purchase from a box wholesaler. I find the exact box size I need, therefore my shipping settings on Etsy are consistent. Not to mention I avoid the hassle of having to cut the boxes to size, but the best part is my presentation.
Add to your packaging presentation by investing on some 2×2 or 4×4 labels and print your logo on it. Place one label on each side of your shipping box. Not only will your customer know who the package is from when it arrives, it also helps advertise your shop as its being delivered.
Never Stop Improving
Don’t be afraid to work with what you have. You can always improve as you go. Mickey Mouse is not the same mouse today that Walt Disney drew in 1928.
When I first opened my Etsy shop I didn’t know anything about Etsy or what it would take to set up the shop I have today. My photos where underexposed, I didn’t have a logo, and had never even heard of SEO. I started slow and with only a few items. As I grow my selection of cake toppers I also worked on developing (and continue to develop) my photo skills. To this day if I take a better photo of one of my items, I go back into my listing and update the photos with the improved picture. Here are some before and after pictures from my shop.
Branding is as important as your photos. It was through an Etsy team that I found Giny of Happy Logo (www.etsy.com/shop/HappyLogo). For a very reasonable price she designed several versions of my shop logo along with business cards and provided all the graphics. She is amazing! Not only did I get an incredible logo, but I am also able to use the graphics she provided to design coupon cards, fliers and other marketing material.
Invest time in opening up social media accounts. At the beginning I didn’t have any social media accounts. No Facebook, no Instagram, nothing. That came with time. I started with just Facebook, then Pinterest. Growing a following was a learning experience. I thought the more followers I had the more sales I would have. I spent money on various Facebook ads. Some ads were for Page Likes, other for Shop Now. Although I would see an increase in page likes when I advertised, I didn’t see an increase in sales; only a decline in my bank account. I quickly realized the two do not go hand-in-hand. Social Media is a great advertising tool, but I don’t suggesting spending money on creating ads. Instead use #hastags and your teams to help get your product out there. Here’s a small list of some of my favorite #hastags.
#EtsySeller, #ShopSmall, #HandMadeWithLove, #SmallBusiness, #CalledToBeCreative, #CreativeLifeHappyLife, #HandmadeSeller, #CreativityFound, #Etsy, #Handcrafted, #HandMadeGifts, #BuyEtsy, #MakersGonnaMake, #HomeStudio, #MadeByHand, #MakersMovement
The point is to get the ball rolling but don’t get too comfortable and forget to improve. Growing your business requires you to also grow your knowledge. Not only do you want to keep improving and innovating your products, you also want to keep refining your photos, social media posts, customer service skills, etc.