From makeshift home offices to Zoom happy hours with friends, 2020 has reshaped so many aspects of our lives. As the holiday season approaches, artisans and entrepreneurs must continue to adapt. Without craft fairs and markets to sell handmade goods, holiday sales will be centered around the virtual world. This was the focus of part two of our three-part webinar series, “From Making to Selling.” Michelle Freeman, of Witty Gritty, and Aisha Formanski, of Everthine Jewelry, offered some expert advice on how to sell without craft fairs and markets this holiday season. 

 

Online presence means long-term growth

Aisha started off this conversation by saying, “thank goodness people are so creative in this community” and she could not be more right. Aisha herself was forced to move her jewelry business online, building “a dynamic e-commerce reputation” over the last few months. Michelle and Aisha both have a very positive take on these changes, emphasizing that whatever website, online shop, or social media account you create now will last forever! 

Getting into online selling is real business development that will make you more adaptable as a seller. If you’re a home-body who’s only ever sold in Delaware and Philly, this is the perfect time to push your audience nationally or even internationally. Since you’re not putting the time and money into in-person events, you can invest in the training and skills to develop your online marketing. Since you’re stuck at home, now is the time to get your digital presence in order! 

 

Prioritizing social media platforms

Where to start? Aisha said that Instagram and Facebook were must-haves, offering access to large audiences and opportunities for sales and promotion. Our panel also recommends using Facebook and Instagram to find virtual craft fairs in your domain, as there are lots of opportunities this year. One great example they recommended was the American Craft Council.

 

 

How to boost your followings

If we think of social media as a recipe for a delicious meal, creating an account is like buying a cookbook. The next step is getting the ingredients (aka boosting your following.) Just as you need ingredients to actually make a meal, you need followers on your platforms to actually sell to. 

To increase your following, and therefore your potential customers, Aisha gave her recipe for social media success:

  • Get all your friends and family to follow your accounts and like your posts. 
  • Post every day to keep followers engaged and attract new people! Focus on your personal story and the process behind your making and selling (this is like sharing part of your recipe so people can see how much work goes into a delicious meal.) 
  • Use social media planning tools to schedule your posts in advance, You’re busy making and selling your wares, so by planning out a whole month you can effectively and efficiently build your brand on social media.
  • Take high-quality photos to show your products in the best light (literally, the lighting matters). 
  • Do a giveaway where your followers can tag their friends and share your account for a chance to win a piece of your work. This incentivizes current followers to recommend you to their networks and new people to follow you. If you don’t want to give away products for free, offer another incentive, such as a box of free Philly soft pretzels (you know what Philadelphians will do for free pretzels.)

 

Michelle gave some other ingredients for an effective social media platform: 

  • Find out which hashtags are popular in your market. 
  • End every post with a call to action. Some recommendations are “shop now,” “see the link in my bio,” “tag a friend,” or “sign up for my newsletter.” 
  • Engage with your followers. Reply to all comments and DMs on your platforms. No leaving our loving customers on read! 
  • Quality is better than quantity. Just as fancy restaurants serve small but delicious portions, a small but loyal following on your social media is much better for business than a large and disengaged one! (I promise this is the last food analogy). 

 

 

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A post shared by Witty Gritty (@wittygrittyphl)

 

Choose an online selling platform

Our panelists agreed that Shopify is the best online selling platform for small businesses. It’s pretty simple to use and has SEO integration and simple shipping methods, perfect for the novices among us. Here’s how to make the most of your online shop:

  • Offer deals during the holiday season to encourage new customers.
  • Link your shop to your social media so your traffic is connected.
  • Create holiday gift boxes that offer multiple products with a discount. Make your own or collaborate with other sellers to create a box, like JoyBox. You could use Facebook to find sellers or collaborate with your fellow NextFab members. 
  • Create hype before you drop a product! Aisha starts posting about her new product and the sell date two weeks before she actually ‘drops’ that product. This ‘drop’ is not a clumsy collapse but is about creating “excitement and then scarcity” before you make a product available.
  • As hand-crafters, our gifts are one-of-a-kind, so use terms like “when they are gone, they are gone,” “only while stock lasts,” or “limited supply.” 
  • Behind-the-scenes pictures and reminders about the drop date will keep people informed and excited. 

 

Good shipping and delivery practices

Once you’ve established your online presence and customers have ordered from your site, it’s probably a good idea to make sure they actually receive what they ordered. Shopify has shipping integrated into the platform, making this super easy! 

Shipping: Carefully count the cost to ship your product (postage and materials) and use that as a shipping fee. Aisha also said that she gives free shipping on orders over $50 to incentivize larger orders. 

Packaging: It’s really important to make the unwrapping process an experience for your customer. This is the closest contact you have with them these days, so make sure they can feel the love and care you put into it in that packaging! Tissue paper, pretty boxes, and hand-written notes are some really nice touches.

(Side note: We talked about the topic of shipping, receiving, and packaging in a previous webinar, “From Making to Selling: Delivering Value & Building Relationships with your Customers,” in case you want to check it out.)

 

 

4 key steps for someone starting out in e-commerce:

Even with all the tips and advice from Michelle and Aisha, it can be really daunting if you’re completely new to this world. Our panel came up with 4 things anyone can do to get started with e-commerce:

    1. Nail your pricing: Be competitive and realistic. Take into consideration all your costs. This can be a good time to talk to friends or do a Google search to see how much people might pay for your products. 
    2. Build a Facebook and Instagram presence: Think about these platforms as a replacement for your pop-up stalls at craft fairs. They should represent you and your products in the best possible light. 
    3. Produce a newsletter: If Shopify or Etsy closes your shop down overnight, you lose all of those followers and customers. A newsletter list could save you if things go wrong! Encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter and send updates every two weeks.
    4. Create a consistent image that fits your brand: Use colors and images that complement the products you are selling. Just because you’re a Delaware-based company doesn’t mean you need to use blue and gold. Get creative with your colors and your image. Sites like canva can be great for creating graphics and logos to share on your website or social media. 

 

If you are still full of questions on how to enter the online selling world, listen to the rest of this webinar series! If you’re in need of expert advice or access to space, tools, and a community to help with this transition, reach out to NextFab to learn more about our memberships.