Exciting news! Lazy Owl will soon be releasing our very first Crafting a Business 101 e-book and e-course, Creating a Business Plan. The e-book will be a thorough expansion of our popular Business Plan blog series, with lots more printable worksheets and valuable content added. It’ll also include some inspirational info and links to other resources and goodies. Since this will be the first release of our first e-course ever, for a limited time, we’ll be offering it for a very special rate to our email subscribers. Enter your email address below to be added to our subscription list, and be the very first to know as soon as the Creating a Business Plan e-book is released (and get it for a very special low price)!
We’re offering so much more than just a simple, boring, static business plan! Completing our e-course will help you…
Hone in on why you became a creative entrepreneur in the first place, and inspire you to keep on trucking through any bumps in the road
Research and define your ideal customer and your target audience
Determine the best outlets to both sell and promote your creative business
Spend your marketing time more effectively
Craft the best message and language to sell and market your products across all platforms
Stand out from your competition
Build a solid foundation for your creative business
Create a simple, usable business plan that you can use and get inspiration from both now and as your business grows
Our Crafting a Business Plan e-course and workbook will include:
An in-depth guide on how to create a usable and effective business plan for your creative business, whether you’re new to being an entrepreneur or just want to re-tool your current plan (or lack thereof!)
Printable worksheets and prompts for each step of your new business plan
Over 50+ pages of helpful content, printable worksheets, inspirational quotes, and other resources
As they say, those that don’t plan, plan to fail. A solid business plan is essential to succeeding in today’s competitive handmade industry. Enter your email address below to receive our newsletter and learn more about our upcoming e-course!
As small business owners, we are swimming in a deep sea of numbers, stats, and financial data on a daily basis (whether you choose to ignore this sea or not is a different story!). Luckily, what you may not know is that Etsy makes it super easy for shop owners to download their sales info in order to calculate their net income in a relatively painless process.
You can download your sales data from Etsy on an annual or monthly basis and quickly export this info to a spreadsheet, where it can be sorted, filtered, summed, and utilized with other data. This is a quick and easy way to calculate all sorts of helpful numbers, including your total sales and shipping, which will be especially helpful for tax time.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to download your sales data from Etsy, and what to do with it once you’ve got it (please note that I use Excel for my spreadsheets):
You’ll then see a screen that looks something like this:
There are lots of different things you can do from here. Etsy offers several items for download, including a spreadsheet of the listings you currently have for sale, your orders by item, your orders by total, your direct checkout payments, and your direct checkout deposits. Read the descriptions to see what else you might like to download. For now, we’re going to use the orders download to calculate our total sales.
Etsy also gives you the option of downloading any of these spreadsheets for a specific month of a year, or for an entire year. Right now, we’ll download all of our orders from last year.
Since I’m using Windows, I’m going to open my file in Excel. From here on out I’m going to give you some step-by-step instructions on how to format and set up your sales data in Excel. You can obviously format it however you’d like, this is just what makes sense to me, and may be helpful if you’re an Excel novice.
After you’ve got your file open in Excel (should automatically open if you selected “open” in the previous step), let’s first make the column widths all pretty so we can actually read all this data.
Now we’ll add filters so we can better analyze all this nice data.
Etsy gives you a lot more information here than you probably need, like the names and addresses of all your customers. While the ship state might be helpful to filter for sales tax purposes, we can hide a lot of columns to make our data more manageable. If we decide we need it later, it’s easy to unhide a column.
I like to freeze my top row so that as I scroll down I still can refer to the column header to know what I’m looking at.
Then we format all our financial data to actually look like money rather than just a number.
Now it’s time to use a simple formula to get some great data, like our total sales, total amount we got paid for shipping, sales taxes collected, and credit card fees.
Excel makes it easy to use the filter function to sort by all sorts of things. Here, we can put our sales in chronological order. We could even choose to only look at one month or one quarter’s worth of sales (also helpful for quarterly tax returns or payments). We can use this function to look at only paypal sales, only international sales, only sales over or under a certain dollar amount…the possibilities are endless.
Let the big green letters below represent the following:
Don’t forget that your gross sales on your tax return should include everything you got paid for shipping as well. You’d report A + B as sales on your tax return. E, your credit card processing fees, would be a tax deduction.
You can copy F, your Etsy net sales, to your personal bookkeeping spreadsheet and then add in any other revenue streams and subtract all your other expenses to get your business’ true net income.
So there you go, a step-by-step guide on how to utilize this wonderful asset that Etsy provides for us! If you didn’t know this existed, I hope you found this helpful. You might also want to check out our ongoing Etsy Shop Stats series of articles to get help on another free asset that Etsy provides!
Do you have any questions on how to download and intrepret your Etsy sales spreadsheet?
Happy Holidays! Whew! I apologize for my radio silence for the majority of this year. I promise 2014 will be back on track around here!
I think I had a pretty good excuse for my distraction. You see, in 2013, we had a little baby owlette! Being pregnant and having a newborn kept me pretty busy!
baby girl hazel
Now, I know this isn’t meant to be a lifestyle blog, so I will keep my gripes about being preggo and gushing about our new little hazelnut to a minimum. I’m now running Lazy Owl Boutique (the business and the blog) as a full-time stay-at-home-mom of a 3-month old (that was a lot of hyphens).
Business aside, 2013 was a great year for Lazy Owl, and I hope it was a record year for your creative business as well. I’ve revisited my blog posts from the end of last year, Planning for Positivity and a Year in Reflection. The lessons from these articles can easily be re-applied to this year. First, let’s review what we’ve accomplished in 2013!
Positive notes for me and my creative venture in 2013:
Continued to generate new content for this blog over the first quarter of the year, gaining new followers and ever-increasing stats (even without updates, the hits keep coming! make a website yall!)
Maintained steady sales orders and revenue over on Etsy
Became a vendor at a new local shop in Houston for handcrafted goods, The Tinderbox
Sold for the first time at Pop Shop Houston, a handmade holiday market, and it was AMAZING!
Got a new camera, learned to (sort of) use it, and upped my listing photography skills
Continued to re-do my branding and imagery (I updated my banner, Facebook look, and business cards so far), and learned how to use Photoshop to do so on my own
Experimented with some new product line ideas, and figured out what did and did not work (like I am never going to be good at calligraphy haha)
That was the good stuff. Considering all that happened for me personally in 2013 (mostly baby stuff), I’m glad I was able to accomplish anything business-wise. I will admit that my sales did not increase nearly as much as I had hoped for this year, but the limiting factor in that equation was myself. I just did not have the time or energy to put as much effort into Lazy Owl as I had planned, and without constant effort, you’re not going to get the bigger payoff. However, I think that’s what’s so great about being a creative entrepreneur…you’re in charge of your destiny. The business is here when you need it, and if you need to step back for a while to focus on other things, you have the flexibility to do so.
I’m re-posting the same free printable I posted last year, but with a few new tweaks to really get you thinking about what you accomplished this year and ramp up your planning for the next. I added the “Personal” section, along with a capstone question – What did you learn this year about your business and yourself as an entrepreneur? If you had to sum up 2013 as one big lesson to lend toward your success next year, what would you say? For me, I’d say that in 2013 I learned that Lazy Owl can only be as successful as I’m willing to make it. I can only make so much money and generate a certain level of success by letting it (and myself) coast along. It really is important for me to do a little something to benefit my business everyday if I truly want to reach the goals I have in the near future.
Here’s the downloadable printable in all its glory. Click to download and dig deep into what you’ve accomplished this year. Even if you’re just starting out, it’s important to give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve gotten done thus far!
SIDE NOTE! I just have to use this venue as my free plug for shopping Lazy Owl for the holidays. There’s still a few days left to order some fun handcrafted jewelry in time for Christmas! If you use code OWLBLOG you can get $5 off any order $15 or more!
Last post of 2012! We’re running out of time to think about our goals for the new year. Like we’ve talked about before here, here and here, it’s time to brainstorm and put in writing a set of measurable, specific goals for your creative business to strive for in 2013.
Here are some guidelines to consider when brainstorming goals for your creative business:
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Examine what you achieved in 2012. What were your sales, revenue, and profit-levels like this year? What are some realistic goals for 2013? Your goals should require some challenge and “stretch”, but still be attainable with a bit of hard work.
Your goals should be specific and measurable. Don’t just say “I want to increase sales”. Come up with an actual benchmark dollar amount (like “I want to make $5000 in sales.” or “I want to average $2000 in sales per month.”). Giving yourself specific benchmarks will increase your motivation to reach them. Plus, they make it easier to measure whether you were successful or not.
Your goals should have deadlines in order to hold yourself accountable. If you’re like me, you work better (and harder!) under a deadline.
Think about the path to achieving each goal you set from every angle. I want to increase profit. To do that, I can work on increasing sales revenue and decreasing expenses and overhead.
Sometimes it’s about quality and not quantity. One of my goals for Lazy Owl is to increase my sales numbers, but if I make a whole lot of $10 sales, I’m not really boosting my bottom line as much as if I made more $40 sales. Thus, my goals also include increasing items sold per order and to offer more higher-priced popular items.
All your goals don’t need to be about sales numbers or dollar amounts. Maybe you need to keep better track of your sales and expenses for tax records. That can be a goal, with a specific measurement of updating your records at least once a week. You might also think about increasing your fan base numbers on your facebook page or other business-related websites. There are many other business areas you can think about improving that indirectly increase sales and profits.
Here’s a basic two-page worksheet to record your 2013 goals on. Feel free to print and include in your creative business binder. There’s a space at the top to include your business name. I split the worksheet into four categories of business goals, and each table has space for you to write your specific goal, how you will measure your success, and that goal’s deadline.
Write your goals down and keep them in a visible place. Throughout the year, you should take some time once a month or at least once a quarter to review your goals, determine your progress, and adjust as necessary. Seeing your goals will give you the kick in the pants you might need every now and then to get back on track.
I hope this helped you to begin thinking about planning for next year. I wish you, your loved ones, and your creative business success and happiness in 2013! See you next year yall!
What are some of your most important goals for your creative business in 2013?
I was inspired by this post to reflect on the year 2012 and what I’ve accomplished. I agree that it’s all too easy to think back on the year and focus on all the things left undone, all those goals I didn’t reach or things I didn’t achieve. Sure, we can always do better, but that’s what planning for 2013 is for right? Let’s take some time to focus on all the things we did achieve this year.
Quit my day job and switched to a new part-time teaching job to have more time to spend on my own business!
It’s important to boost yourself up with positive thinking every now and then (or all the time really, haha). Take some time to reflect on the year and all the great things you accomplished. Feel free to use the printable worksheet below.
Because I feel really strongly about doing everything you can to live out your dreams and have your dream job happen for you! At the end of the day, after all the excuses, the only thing holding you back is you.
Last year I read an amazing, life-changing book called The Art of Nonconformity. If you’re contemplating making a life change, job change, or just have this gut-deep feeling that sticking out your 9-5 day job for the next 30 years is not going to work for you, I highly, highly recommend this book. Really, I recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
I can already tell this is going to be a long and wandering blog post. I stayed up late last night catching up on an old friend’s blog; she has some very emotionally raw, vulnerable entries. While that’s not necessarily the style or purpose of my blog, I think a little opening up by myself has been called for. Why should you want to listen to what I have to say when you know so very little about me or what kind of person I am? So now I’ve been inspired to have a little bit of “share time”.
I went to college for six years. School has always been something I’ve been really good at for some reason. I think I’m good at memorizing, so that helps. I’m a rule-follower and I rarely missed a class for those six years. I started out as an Electronic Media major; my dream was to be a film editor some day. I loved filming my friends just goofing off, then creating fun musical montages from the footage. That was my thing. I interned as a copy editor for a tool and gas company, I took journalism, advertising, and PR classes, and I went to the UK for a semester and studied film. It was all very nice and easy until about 2.5 years into the program I realized it would be very, very difficult for me to ever find a job utilizing my Electronic Media degree. I never quit at it (by the time I decided to change I only had a handful of classes left to fulfill the degree’s requirements), but I decided to go into something much more practical, accounting.
This is why I am often talking about how I am such a weird mix of left brain and right brain. My logical, practical, numbers-crunching side is always at war with my creative, dreamy side. Looking back, I can see that my adult life thus far has been a continuous struggle between being practical and making “sensible” decisions and taking leaps and jumps and trying to express my creativity. It’s a constant tug-of-war!
I made straight A’s throughout all my accounting classes, even the grad-level ones. The summer after I got my Masters, I sat for the CPA exam and passed all four parts on my first attempt. I interned for two summers at a prestigious public accounting firm, and started there full time soon after I got married in 2009. I set myself up on the road for long-term corporate success. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, I’m just establishing that I invested a lot of energy into creating this “corporate” life for myself…and that I thought this was the path I “should” be on.
I had already heard how awful and soul-crushing public accounting was supposed to be, but I told myself I was ready for it. This was where the cream of the crop was supposed to end up. This was where the lucky top-of-the-class students with their freshly printed CPA licenses are supposed to go and soak up learning and knowledge and make a name for themselves. I dutifully wore my heels and my ironed skirts and blouses to work everyday for exactly one year and six months before I admitted defeat.
I wanted to quit within six months of being in the workplace. I worked in an environment where people regularly went into the bathroom to cry. There was a lot of yelling, phones being hung up, late hours, long hours, weekend hours…the saying “sh** rolls downhill” was repeated a lot. The goal was to get to the top of said hill. But it was just not a good place to be. I knew that, but I also thought that I was really lucky to be there, right? I felt guilty for not feeling grateful for the “privilege” of working there. I wanted to leave, but I doubted myself for a long time…what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just stick it out like everybody else? Was this just what being an adult meant? Was this just how working full-time was? Were all jobs like this? Doing something you didn’t really like everyday to make ends meet?
I finally gathered up the courage to quit. Happiness is a choice, and if I didn’t choose it for myself, then who would? I took a job in corporate accounting. My new job was such a breath of fresh air. The people were nice! There was smiling in the workplace! I only worked 40 hours a week. I began to develop hobbies. I had time to explore my long-dormant creative side. I started Lazy Owl Boutique. I trained for a half marathon. I became an active member of my local community. Life was better, but after a few months I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my head that this was not what I was meant to “do” for the long term. I had so many ideas and outlets I wanted to explore and delve into as a new entrepreneur. I just didn’t have the time or motivation. Reporting to my cubical for 8 hours a day and staring at spreadsheets began to seem like a waste of my time when I had so much else on my list. I sat in front of a computer all day, but at the end of the week, I couldn’t really explain to you what I’d done, what I’d accomplished or created, or how I’d contributed any good to the world.
Quitting my corporate job was more difficult than quitting my first horrible job in public accounting. I knew I had a well-paying, stable job in a great environment. Was I totally crazy for wanting to leave that all behind? I spent 6 years in school and had a CPA license. Wouldn’t I just be flushing all that hard work down the drain if I quit to pursue a JEWELRY business? How do I tell my family that I’m quitting to sell things online and write a blog? What would people say? Again, isn’t this what adults were supposed to do? Sacrifice free time and work hard to rise up the corporate ranks? Live for the weekends? Why were my priorities so seemingly screwed up?
Well, as you may have guessed, I did it. I quit my day job and took the plunge into the scary, mysterious world of working for myself. I struggle everyday with making this work, and getting this baby off the ground, but I haven’t looked back for a second. And I’m loving it. I make my own schedule, I am my own boss. I have the flexibility to work when, where, and how I want to. At the end of the day if I fail, I have no one but myself to blame. I KNOW what I accomplish and create each and every day. I can create things with my own hands and put them out into the world and feel like I am contributing. I work with purpose and feeling instead of in zombie cubical mode.
I will admit… I am still working on growing confidence in myself and my abilities. When people ask what I’m doing with all my free time, I sheepishly attempt to explain that I’m working on providing bookkeeping and other business materials for creative small business owners. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I honestly do not know yet if I made the right decision to quit a stable job and pursue this dream of being an entrepreneur. But I will tell you something, if I don’t try, then I will never know. So now’s my time to give it all I’ve got. We owe ourselves that, don’t you think?
Coming full circle now, this is why I brought up The Art of Nonconformity. Perhaps as a creative entrepreneur, you can relate to my story. Maybe you’ve been there in the past or maybe you are there right now. Why are so many of us afraid to take the plunge? What is holding you back? Money? Guilt? Self-doubt? Fear of being different? Fear of what other people will say? All of the above?
inspirational quote – free printable
It’s easy for us to buy into the concept that “good” or “smart” people work hard for thirty years at an okay job, play hard on the weekends, and save up for retirement. This is just how life is supposed to be, right? That is what you’re supposed to do. Well you know what, this is YOUR life. At the end of your time here, are you going to say, “Gee, I’m really proud of all those awesome spreadsheets I made for my manager?” or are you going to say, “I wish I had spent more time doing the things that made me feel alive, I wish I had spent more time with my friends and family, I wish I had done something that really contributed to my community and made the world a better, happier place”?
Maybe you are saying, Janet, that’s nice and happy-feeling and all, but it’s really not practical. I have to have a steady income to support myself and my family. And maybe you are right, you’ve got to do what’s right for you and your own. But don’t sell yourself short. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try. And if you never get rid of your safety net, you might never really work as hard to make your creative business work for you as you would otherwise.
One thing that really helped encourage me to take the plunge was asking myself the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”. I quit my steady job, I try to make my business work, and I fail. I lose money. I make an ass out of myself. Everyone tells me “I told you so”. You know what? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I will go back to full-time work as an accountant. At least I will be able to say I tried. Is it really the end of existence as you know it if you quit your job? If you fail? We convince ourselves that we can’t handle these changes and we become paralyzed with fear. But really take some time to think it all the way through. If you quit your job and later fail at making your own gig work, what would happen to you? Would you have to live in a cardboard box by a dumpster? I doubt it.
Staying in a job you aren’t 100% passionate about isn’t being fair to yourself…it’s taking the easy way out. It’s hard to break away from the world, to go against the grain, to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into making your job and your life something completely authentic and completely your own. The people that stay in their “okay” jobs are really the ones who are taking the easy path, the path to mediocrity. Is that what you want for yourself?
I have seen too many people sit and sit and sit in jobs they hate, or even jobs that are just mediocre. You will eventually become numb…you will spend your mediocre days doing mediocre, soul-numbing work until you don’t even realize that you aren’t truly LIVING, you’re just coasting. Life’s too short for that. And more importantly YOU are worth more than that. No one is going to swoop in and make your life fabulous for you, you have to do it yourself. So stop doubting yourself, stop wondering if you are crazy, and just give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance to follow your dreams and make your business work. What’s the worst that can happen? More importantly, what’s the BEST that can happen?
I will step off my soapbox now. It is just important to me for anyone out there doubting yourself to know that you should TRY. You are worth it! Happiness is worth it!
Remember that post about planning out our goals for 2013? Well, we need to get some specific, measurable goals laid out. Just like with the creative business plan, I like to start thinking about things from a big picture point of view, then slowly zoom in to the nitty gritty details.
Before I come up with my specific 2013 goals, I’m going to brainstorm what my ideal work day looks like. Then I can work backwards to see what exactly I need to accomplish with my business to be able to have that “ideal work day” every work day! Make sense?
8:30 – 9:30 – Wake up, have morning coffee and (healthy) breakfast whilst reading daily blogroll, taking notes on any business ideas or inspiration that interests me. Commenting on my favorite blogs and doing some social networking!
9:30 – 11:00 – Fill and package outstanding Etsy orders. Respond to customer emails and questions. Work on updating inventory and sales records. Evaluate supply and inventory levels. Re-order supplies if necessary. Do other Etsy admin tasks as needed.
11:00 – 1:30 – Run to post office, run other errands. Take the dogs for a walk. Have lunch. Take a break or go to the gym (hey, I said ideal day right).
1:30 – 4:00 – Work on website & blog. Draft and post new article(s). Brainstorm new topics and series ideas. Social media marketing and networking.
4:00 – 5:30 – Photograph new Etsy listings, list online.
5:30 – 9:00 – Break time! Do household chores, eat dinner, spend time with husband, etc.
9:00 – 10:30 – Crafting time! Work on new jewelry items or whatever else I’m crafting up.
Bedtime at midnight.
Ok, so it was actually quite weird for me to write all that out on an hour-by-hour basis. It made me feel like there’s so much time in a day, but in reality I am always scrambling to fit all these things in. I don’t know if that schedule is actually livable for me, but my goal is that during my ideal day I would love to be able to squeeze in:
Time to research what’s going on in the blogosphere, on Etsy, and with other Etsy businesses (this is my biggest problem, I find content I want to delve into, open it in a new Firefox tab, but then end up with 60 open tabs that I never seem to have time to go back and truly read)
Write for the blog
Generate meaningful content for my website, market and connect with other businesses and potential customers, promote Lazy Owl to my target audience
Create new products, photograph and list them
Take time for myself and for my family – be outside, exercise, be healthy, have some fun!
Run errands and do household chores without falling behind
Support local businesses and connect with my local community
Realistically, I can probably not do all of these things in one day. But now I know what I would like to do with my time, and what is most important to me. That is half the battle. I can make goals to get closer to be able to have this ideal day now!
#8. How Do I Successfully Reach My Target Customers?
Sound the trumpets and ring the bells, because we’ve finally made it to the 8th and final question of our creative business plan! Question #8 is really a capstone question, summarizing all the details, data, ideas, and thoughts we’ve poured into answering the previous questions into one big important blob of goodness.
We’ve narrowed down our business’ vision from vague and broad to a honed and detailed plan of action. We’ve researched our product, our possible sales venues, marketing approaches, our competition, the market, and our target customer. We now know everything about anything to do with our product! If you’re beginning your creative business, it’s time to take the first step in the right direction. If you’ve been around for a while, it’s time to re-harness your creative forces and align your business with your new amazing business plan!
We now know where we need to spend most of our precious time marketing, promoting, and selling our products based on our defined target customer. We know the best sales pitch for our product based on what are target customer is looking for, and what emotions or values to appeal to when describing our items. Together, these answers lead us to the answer for question #8, how to successfully reach your target customer.
You can reach your target customers by promoting in the right places, by reaching out on Facebook and via blogs, and also by taking steps to ensure that your products are being found in searches. If someone out there is searching for an item like yours but can’t find it with the keywords they’re using, then you are missing out on an opportunity to make a sale. Include in your plan the efforts you will make to increase your SEO and keyword relevancy. How do you plan to research keyword optimization? How often will you tweak and update your tags and listings? How will you measure your success in this area?
This leads to an important more general question – how will you measure your success PERIOD? How do you know if the answers to your creative business plan questions were “right” to begin with? What if you were totally off-base with the demographic you defined as your target customer? What if the sales venue you thought was going to mesh awesome with your products ended up as a total flop? It’s important to set up some standards for success measurement in advance. Give yourself a timeline for trying out your new action plan that includes periodically stopping to measure for effectiveness and results. (We’ll talk about measuring success and how to effectively interpret and use key metrics in a later series of articles here!)
And if things don’t look like they’re working, don’t worry! This business plan is flexible. It’s a learning experience. The more you work at your business, the more you’ll learn about yourself, your products, your goals, your competition, your customers…the list goes on and on. You can always change your answers and your plan as you go along.
After you’ve completed all eight pieces of your creative business plan, consult your plan every few months for a refresher. As mentioned above, you might find that as your business evolves, your answers change. You may also need a little reminder of your initial purpose for creating this new venture. A review every now and then can help get you back on track when challenges arise. It can also breathe new life into your venture and provide new ideas and inspiration.
We are so thankful you joined us for our first Crafting a Business 101 series, crafting your own Creative Business Plan! We’d love any feedback, questions, suggestions, or comments you might have about this series. We hope you found this information helpful!
#7. How do I distinguish my brand and my products from the competition?
This one is a biggie. We know all about your brand, your business, your products, and your target customer now. Let’s shift our focus a bit and zoom out to view the entire market.
Competitors come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s say you’re like me and you sell jewelry. I have a long list of competing businesses. There are big box stores like Target and Macy’s that also sell jewelry. There are smaller, local retailers with physical locations that offer jewelry, not to mention craft fairs and pop-up shops. There are tons and tons of Etsy shops and other online retailers as well. The list goes on and on. Take some time to brainstorm your main competitors. For me, I believe my biggest competitors are other Etsy shops that sell jewelry. How do I set myself apart from all these competing jewelry sellers?
Unless you are really lucky and really a genius, you are probably not the only business out there selling your type of product. Even if your handmade product isn’t really unique, you don’t necessarily have a problem. You just need to brainstorm a couple of things –
What makes your product, shop, brand, customer experience, and “story” different from everyone else?
How can you get your target customers to find YOU first?
The first question has a lot to do with your marketing plan. You may not be the only person out there selling your widget, but we can build a brand and a story around your product to make it unique in the eyes of a buyer. Here are just a few ideas for some of the concepts you can focus on to make yourself stand out as different:
These are just a few ways to set your business/brand/product/customer experience apart from the competition. Feel free to brainstorm ideas (you can use the worksheet below) and figure out what works best for you!
A quick example of just a piece of this process with my own shop, Lazy Owl Boutique… Something that sets me apart is that I am both a Certified Public Accountant and a jewelry designer, two things that seem pretty different. Most designers on Etsy are probably not also CPAs. I can tell the story of my journey from the cube to the craft studio in my Etsy profile and my About Me page to connect with my potential customer and make myself a little bit more memorable. The handcrafted marketplace is unique in the sense that a customer has the opportunity to connect with and learn about the artist that actually designed and created what they are buying. Take advantage of that!
To further my brand’s uniqueness, I ship all my jewelry in decorated packaging that is immediately ready to be gifted if needed. My product descriptions focus on my use of titanium ear posts for those with sensitive ears, a niche to which I’m currently marketing. I aim to use consistent, cohesive language and imaging in both my Etsy shop, my website, and my individual product listings. I also strive to respond to customer inquiries as soon as I possibly can. These are just a few ways that I try to get the Lazy Owl brand to stand apart in the over-saturated jewelry market.
Your next goal should be to do everything you can to make sure your target customer finds your products before they find the competition’s. Yes, a lot of buyers will shop around several venues or shops before making a purchase, but it’s still important to try to get your stuff in front of their eyes first to make that lasting impression. This concept dives into the realm of SEO, tagging, relevancy searches, and a whole other field of business and marketing that we’ll save for another day. It also relates back to the best places to market and sell your products, which we’ve discussed with past Crafting a Business plan questions.
So, we’ve covered all the basic 5 W’s of journalism – who, what, when, where, and why (but not in that order). We are now back to our second WHY – as in, why does anybody out there in this great big world want to actually BUY my product?
We’ve already hammered out the important cornerstones of our business plan in the previous questions – what motivates us to sell, the definition of our product, our target market, and the best outlets for selling and promoting our business. Everything next is just extra fun to enhance our plan and outline some action steps.
So, with our already answered questions and established ideas in mind, let’s ponder question #6 – why should someone use my product? To really sell your item, you need to know how it will directly benefit your customer AND be able to effectively communicate that to them in a short, powerful message. Think about all the benefits your product can provide and focus on those when writing your listings or product descriptions.
Being able to express to your customer why they should buy your product leads them to take action. Picture this…you’ve already placed your item for sale in an environment where your target customer shops and visits (since you’ve successfully followed these steps of your business plan, of course!). So here’s your potential customer, we already know they are “more prone” to buying a product like yours…they’re reading your product description, listing, or ad…and now’s your chance to really drive it home! What will you say to them to increase their changes of hitting that “Add to Cart” button?
Don’t focus solely on your literal product. Remember those emotions and values you are “figuratively” selling? Mention those. Do you offer any extras with a sale, like gift wrap or a free card? Do you have a recognizable or high-end brand that lends some prestige to your items? These are all additional reasons someone might buy your product. And most of all, let’s not forget what makes YOUR product different from so many others out there – it’s handmade by you! Let your customer know why buying handmade is awesome.
This question and your answers will tie in with the next question, how do you distinguish your products from the competition? Another way of asking that is to expand on question #6, why should someone use my product instead of another product?
You will need to answer both of these questions to effectively sell your products. First, why do I need to buy a pair of earrings right now? Ok…now I think I do need some earrings, but why should I buy Lazy Owl Boutique earrings instead of another shop’s earrings? Tune in for question #7!