Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tip 4 l The Lesson in the Cracker Jack Box

by guest blogger, Shirley of ::Wild Blueberry Ink::

As a little girl I would anxiously await the mail, fingers crossed, hoping for just one letter or unexpected gift. Do we greet the mailbox with this enthusiasm anymore? Most of us reach in fearing what we will bring out. That’s why, when you ship your item out to your new (or existing) customer… you want to make it count.

One of my favorite sites to purchase from is etsy. The packaging itself is usually a gift. Artists turn unwanted magazines into bows, wrap recycled boxes in vintage lace, shred sheet music to cushion fragile pieces, place jewelry on a nest of linen… and almost always, there is a gift. As if this beautiful piece of handmade art, packaged so thoughtfully wasn’t already enough. There’s a gift. Maybe a cute trinket the seller thought I might like. Perhaps an extra pendant for my necklace. Just a little something extra to say how much they truly appreciate my business. Honestly, it makes me feel good and I make a mental note of that… I will remember them the next time I want to treat myself to something nice.
So how does your customer feel when they open a package from you?

You want your packages to arrive in one piece. Otherwise, it will cost you money and a potential customer.
I once ordered a glass pendant I was really excited about. I was going to use it to create my own piece of jewelry. I opened the plain manilla, bubble lined, shipping envelope and found three tiny individually bubble wrapped packages. In the first was a smaller version of the pendant I ordered… but it had a tiny crack in it. The second was a different shape…. but one side of it was completely broken off. The third I opened with fear… eyes squinting at the sight I was about to reveal… the pendant I ordered was in hundreds of little glass pieces. The artist was kind enough to include not one, but two gifts… but failed to consider the long journey they had to travel just to get to me.

When it comes to cushiness, try to recycle. Shred magazines, news paper, old wrapping paper… you can’t go wrong with this. It looks nice, it’s recycled, and you spent zero dollars!

Get creative with bubble wrap, ribbon, stickers, whatever you have laying around. Think about it this way. Each item you send out is a gift from you to a friend (the buyer). Package it as such and always check to be sure the item arrived safely. This shows the customer you care and allows you to receive constructive feedback.

You can use packaging to help brand yourself. Find a theme and use it on business cards, boxes, personalized stickers and ribbon. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as wrapping each box with newspaper comics and yellow twine. Keep it cohesive. The buyer will remember your attractive packaging and think of you when the holiday season rolls around.

Don’t forget the gift. Maybe you have some free samples of your other products you can include, or a gift certificate to use towards their next purchase. If they bought your felt birdie, you could possibly throw in a felt worm for free. They purchased three pink glittered eggs, but you include a bonus blue glittered egg. This could spark them to now order more blue ones and possible a green one as well.

Create a unique gift and they may just buy from you to get the cracker jack prize at the bottom of the box. I mean really, how much did we all love that carmel coated pop corn??? It was really the tattoo we licked and stuck onto our foreheads once the popcorn was all gone that we really enjoyed… and you know it! So make each package a treat for it’s recipient. They will begin to associate that warm cracker jack prize feeling with your items and they’ll continue to come back for more! Find some packaging ideas, keep it eco if at all possible, and make it your own. If you need a little help getting started, well, there just happens to be a flickr group for that. * tip *… once you decide on your packaging, take a picture and submit it to groups like this… it may just drum up a little business for you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tip 3 l A Thousand Words

by guest blogger, Shirley of ::Wild Blueberry Ink::

A picture is worth a thousand… BUCKS?!

Think back to the last products your purchased online. Why did you buy these products? Because the picture made them look AWESOME and a MUST HAVE! What was it about the photo that made you decide you must have the item? Did the dress look great on the model? Did the earrings dangle at that perfect spot along the neck that makes your face appear thinner? Was it the letter “R” embossed into the fabric of the purse? Did those stunning fuchsia plates pop in the exact way you want your table setting to pop at your Valentines dinner party? Whatever the reason was, you purchased those items because the photo convinced you.

That did not happen to me last night. I was browsing around ebay for vintage sun dresses (and yes, I’m well aware it’s January… I figure if I buy them, Spring will come). I came across a seller with some great dresses. She had about 12 items to pick from. Her items were fantastic. Her prices were very reasonable. As I clicked around her gallery, I noticed she only had one photo per item. Don’t get me wrong, the photos were creative. The wood panel walls and earth tone shag carpet really gave it a vintage feel and provided a great backdrop to the orange, purple, green, and white dresses I was considering. But I wanted to see the backs of the dresses. I wanted to see the vintage, lavender lace trim in detail. I wanted to see if the fabric was a light weight linen or a slinky jersey knit. A black “sun dress” caught my eye in the gallery. When I clicked to enlarge the photo, it was blurry. Not a little out of focus… I couldn’t tell if it was in fact a dress or a pant suit. I decided at that moment that if this seller couldn’t take the time to provide her potential customers with decent shots of this beautiful vintage clothing, then she probably wouldn’t provide very good service. So, I bought nothing and moved on to the next seller.

So, yes. Your product pictures may very well be worth a thousand bucks… or more. As an online seller, the photos are all you’ve got. Those photos are going to make or break the sell. You need shots that show scale and proportion as well as up close images that capture interesting details and textures.

Crisp, clean photos that detail your work make a world of difference. Stay away from busy backgrounds, they can be distracting. Most featured items on sites such as etsy or personal blogs, have very simple backgrounds. These do not clash with the photos of other featured artists and allow your product to be front and center. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and purchase back drops. When my sister asked me to shoot product shots for her vintage shop I used two tri-fold, science project boards (purchased for $2 each at Target) and they work great! Take a look for yourself:

You can even use your backgrounds to form a theme for your shop. Maybe you use a white wall of bricks for one photo, then white pebbles for another. I like to see jewelry arranged on sheet music, a page from a novel, or a hand written letter. All of these make great backgrounds and give your shop a cohesive look without being matchy or boring.

Once you’ve picked a background, it’s time to think about lighting. Again, you don’t have to have a home studio. I purchased my lighting from the creator of this universe… the cost… free. Natural light is your best bet. If you can get outside or by a window on a sunny day, do it! It’s the best way to capture the true colors and details of your item. Play around with the product. See how the light hits it from different angles. Photographing your item from several angles adds depth and allows the customer to get a better look at the product. You’re sure to get a few great shots, some that may even surprise you. The following shots were made around 3 in the afternoon in the backyard on a $5 mannequin my sister purchased from the local flea market:

Get some detailed close ups. But beware, blurry close ups are unacceptable. Do not, for any reason, post blurry photos. Get to know your good friend macro. Macro is a setting on pretty much every camera out there. On most, it is marked by the little flower icon. This allows you to get really close to the subject and take amazingly detailed pictures. Set your camera to macro and get in there. Experiment with your macro setting. Go snap some pictures of your garden, your shoe laces, forks and spoons, jewelry, safety pens… you laugh, but trust me… once you get going with this setting, you will not want to stop. Practice focussing on the details. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is and the professionalism it will add to your photos.

If you’re notorious for taking blurry pictures, you may want to invest in a tripod. Or, do like most folks and become the tripod. Rest your elbows on something sturdy and be as still as possible. It may take a few takes, but you’ll get the shot.

To breathe or not to breathe? If you sale clothing and are able to have a live model, do it. Seeing clothing on a actual human body sales so much quicker than a mannequin… and it in no way compares at all to hangers. If you can’t get a live model, find a nice back drop that works with all prints. Keep it simple. You don’t want to distract from the clothing. A background such as a gray stone wall will make even the white clothing pop. Think contrasting colors and keep it uniform in all your photos. This adds consistency… and we (the buyers) like that!

Before I wrap this up, let’s talk about the gallery photo. This is the one photo you see when browsing. Whether your shopping for Vera Wang or an ebay find, you see that one gallery photo. You’ll either click to see the details, or you’re going to pass it by. This is your one shot to grab the buyers attention. No pressure. And it’s such a tiny picture. How will you ever show all the beauty of your item in that one little picture? You won’t. That’s why you pick and interesting detail at an intriguing angle for your gallery photo. The only time we ever need to see the entire item in the gallery is maybe when we’re dealing with a painting or a photograph. If it’s a necklace, just the pendant will do. A pair of earrings… just one will suffice. A felt robot, maybe a cropped view of half his face and an arm. You want a shot that will grab the buyers attention… the bait shot.

Once the customer clicks on your item, you want to have at least 3 to 5 photos for one product. This allows them to view the item from different angles, see the scale of the item as well as the details. The more photos, the better. It’s like allowing them to actually pick the item up and hold it in their hands.

Go over to Etsy. Pick the category your item will fall into. Scroll through the gallery and see what catches your attention. While you’re there, check out the featured sellers page. Notice the types of product photos that get picked for the feature page and take some notes. The next chance you get, take your items outside. Experiment with the settings on your camera as well as the natural lighting and backgrounds. Before you know it, you’ll be taking professional product shots.

I could write a book on this topic, so I know I left out a ton of info. Please comment with your own two cents and link us to your creative shots!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tip 2 l Because Your Worth It

by Guest Blogger Shirley of ::Wild Blueberry Ink::

Who is your audience? What do you do better than everyone else? Why do you do what you do? What is your inspiration? What makes you stand out? Why do I want to buy your vintage-esque ferris wheel print and not hers? Because I like your style… it’s what keeps me coming back.

Your style is your brand and an essential way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. You want people to look at your items and say… “*insert your name here* made that, I would know her designs anywhere!”. On sites like etsy, developing a fan base is crucial. And you do that by having your own unique style.

What if you don’t have a certain style that stands out????
Then, create one.

Think about it like this:

If you were selling your products in a brick and mortar store, and you had to hire 15 employees… what would their uniform be? What sort of image do you want to portray to the public?? Maybe your store specializes in Granny-chic items. So, you make your employees wear crocheted shawls. Or maybe you sell magic wands, so everyone gets to wear those Harry Potter glasses. You know the ones… and you know the ones because that’s part of Harry’s brand. Throw a pair of glasses and a lighting bolt on anything and you immediately think of that messy haired magician. Find your style. It could be anything… a signature pink bead on the back of every necklace you make… maybe you make all the lights in your photos look like little hearts… or maybe all your drivers dress head to toe in brown. somehow one of they ugliest colors on the planet now all of a sudden makes me feel safe and keeps me asking, what can brown do for me? Thats what a style/a brand does for your business. It builds trust. Wether they like the vintage details of your work or how you the pull cord of all your elegant lamps have little doll parts hanging from them… put your stamp on the item and your customers will keep coming back for more.

Your brand is like your reputation. It’s the reason I don’t trust water bottled by the Coca Cola Company. It’s the reason I would buy a car built in 95… only if it was a Toyota Camry. It’s the reason I don’t think twice about letting my daughter watch any movie released by Disney (even after that Little Mermaid cover scandal). Once you build it you never know what other opportunities may come because of your popularity.

Comment and let me know what your niche is… and don’t forget to link me to your store, you might just be my next Louis Vuitton… and though your spring handbag may be the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen… if you put your initials all over it, I’m going to proudly purchase it because I am a loyal follower and admire your style!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tip 1 l The Name Game

by Guest Blogger Shirley of Wild Blueberry Ink

What’s in a name?

For some reason, it’s so much easier for us to name our children than it is for us to name our businesses. Just think of your business as your baby. You don’t want it to be picked on do you?? You want only positive connotations attached to the name. You want it to be cute when it’s young… but you also want it to work in adulthood. You want people to remember the name. Spell it with ease and pronounce it correctly. Be creative… but don’t over-do it.

Originality. It’s has to be original. Not just for legal reasons… but you want to get your customers attention. You want them to remember the name so they can tell all their friends about your business. Be careful. My sister and I once had a store front where we sold handmade gifts. We came up with out name without even trying by mixing magnetic poetry words around. This is a great way to get a silly creative name. Our store was called Petal Dust. We loved it. Our friends loved it. But passersby… well… they didn’t have a clue what kind of store it was…. which lead most folks… right on down the street. We had some people come in looking for cake decorating products… because little did we know, petal dust is also something you use to tint cake icing. So… be creative, but do your research. Also, avoid inside jokes. You and your friends are the only ones who get them… and you’ll spend they rest of your entrepreneurial days explaining the name of your business.
*tip from Etsy: take inspiration from others. Sit down with a piece of paper and writing utensil and ask yourself: “What sellers do I know the name of on Etsy?” It doesn’t have to be your favorite seller or any reason other than the fact you remembered their name. This is key. After you have your list of remembered names, take a look at them. Why are they so memorable? After asking yourself these questions, take inspiration from what these sellers have done to create your own memorable name.

Image. Our brains are wired to see an image when we hear or see a word, whether we want to or not. What do people see when they hear your business name? What sort of personality does it evoke? Consider the words mom, mommy, and mother. They all mean the same… but putting a word like Mommy with a word like Motorbikes will make you think of kids toys every time. Your name should reflect your style in one way or another. If you choose a cute, quirky name… you products should reflect that. If you design for men… they would probably respond more to a clever name. Older women tend to sway more towards elegant names. And for me personally… if your name isn’t creative, I feel your products might not be either. Consider your target audience and come up with a name that appeals to that demographic.
*tip: Incorporating a visual element into your business name can be a powerful aid to customers’ memory (and a powerful advertising tool).

Spelling. This one can get you in more ways than one. Try to limit your name to one or two words that flow well together, the shorter the better. This makes it much easier to remember. Make it easy to pronounce. Unique is good, but difficult spellings are bad. You want people to find you online. If you tried to get creative with the spelling… odds are, they will have a hard time finding you. Say it aloud. Write it down. Type it… it may one day be a blog or website. In this case, if your name is Gina… you probably don’t want to be Diva Gina’s anything (See if you can figure that out). On that note, make sure your one of a kind, play on words kind of name isn’t the name of an X rated film. ‘Cause if anyone comes up with creative names… it’s those guys.

Brand your name. Using your own name is a great way to be original. Unless you’re my sister… whose last name is McDonald. McDonald’s anything only makes you think of fast food… so, she probably wouldn’t want to name her business McDonald’s Baby Bibs… unless they were plastic and passed out for free with kids meals. When we (my sister and I) needed a name for the projects we work on as a team, we branded our daughters names. Emma Riley and Aubrey Rose became our brand… Riley Rose and we use it for everything from Photography to Jewelry. Using your (or your kid’s) name also works well if you would like to expand your product line in the future. If you are Sally’s Seashell’s today… that really isn’t going to work when you start selling homemade lip balm next spring. So don’t limit yourself if you plan to expand in the future.

Be Descriptive. Though you don’t want to limit yourself, if you only ever want to sell handbags… then you should most definitely include the word Handbags in your name. This will also help your business name to pop up in search engines when people google the word ‘handbags’. Including information about the products you sell makes it easy for potential customers to find you both off and online.
*tip: Use a key word in your name. ie) Hannah’s Handmade Handbags. This works well in search engines.

So, how did I come up with the ever so creative and memorable name Wild Blueberry Ink???

It’s a play on my daughter’s nickname. When I was pregnant with Aubrey I would receive a weekly email from Babycenter that would tell you where your baby is on the development scale. Well Aubrey’s Aunt Hayley would check in every Monday and one Monday she asked “WHERE ARE WE THIS WEEK” I told her “We are the size of a blueberry” and ever since she has been called Blueberry.

Blueberry is Aubrey’s nickname. Ink because I would be creating things such as stationery and digital art. Then I threw wild at the front, because that kid is no where near tame. And there you have it…
Wild Blueberry Ink.

Don’t jump into a name. If you come up with a good one, odds are you can come up with a great one. Mix some words around, test it out on people and take your time. You’ll find the one that works for you. And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky… make up a word like google… and the rest will be history.

Good luck.
Tell us how you came up with your business name. Link us to your store/blog/site. And please, leave us some tips!!!

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