Thursday, February 3, 2011

A few little tricks to help you begin on Etsy like you’re not a beginner

 Photograph by DitsyBirdDraws

First let me state I do not work for Etsy. Further, I don't have expertise in every area. My opinions are just my own. That said, I share a bond with anyone who dives into building an Etsy shop, ‘cuz I did the same thing. Emotionally, it’s not an easy thing to do, either—to put your work out there for the world to see and, hopefully, buy. But it is exciting so my hat’s off to you! Now, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up in my 18 months or so since starting on Etsy…

A word about starting…
Congratulations! You’ve opened your Etsy store, and you are now in retailing! That means it’s time to face this fact: In retail, the holiday season is the buying season. Personally, I sell about 80% of my items in the two months before Christmas. So you may well not see a lot of sales until next October if you don't do anything outside of Etsy. Fortunately, there are many things you can do, away from Etsy, to increase sales on Etsy...

“Yeses” will increase your Etsy sales year ‘round
Are you doing any selling, locally, in markets? Do you have a brick-and-mortar store? Are you active in your town’s community affairs? (Do you belong to a church, or health club?) Do you do any "publicity" around your neighborhood, about your craft? Do you have business cards?

Being an active seller "on the ground" is one of the best ways to generate sales at your Etsy store throughout the year. This is certainly an area where I need to do more (and I've resolved to improve in this way myself this year!).


Generally, I view shoppers as two kinds:
1) "hunter" types, who are looking for something specific, whether it's a color or material, or whatever.
2) "gatherer" types, who are just looking in a more relaxed way for something that will catch their eye ("browsers").

A word about words…
In a perfect world, you’d be able to know exactly which of the above two types of customers was reading your text at any particular time. (In a brick-and-mortar store, you’d just look into their eyes!) But, unfortunately, that’s just not the nature of an online business. So, the words you use in your shop and on listings need to walk a fine line to appeal to both kinds of shoppers.

Bio/profile words…
It’s OK at the beginning to have a short Bio and Profile. And I think you are wise to try to write short sentences that use simple words. This is especially true if you’re writing in a language that is not your native tongue. Keep your profile text short—at least, until you reveal to yourself what you would like to say about yourself. Then, in time, do try to fill in the details to give customers insight into what drives you to create your works and what makes them unique. And believe me, what you want to say will change over time, just as your concept of what your doing with your store will change.

Item-naming words…
Think in terms of what people will search for—not your clever name for the item (.e.g., “Dana’s delightful demitasse”). Be literal in naming things just what they are (“demitasse handmade”) and save the more clever “winks” and personal pet names of your piece for your item text (if even there).

On the other hand… There are exceptions to the above rule of thumb.

For example, if you’ve invented or patented something that has come to be recognized in the broader universe by your own unique name for it, go for it and use it in your item name. My FlashHarp® has been written about extensively on the Web so I feel I can safely use that name in my item titles now. (That wasn’t true at the beginning).

Listing text…
When writing listing text, it’s important to clearly state up front what exactly the buyer is getting when purchasing an item. If many of your items are similar in appearance, try to standardize your text so that the buyer can understand right away, in the first few lines, what the key differences are between one item and another. In general, I believe, the more "artful" the item, the more opportunity there is for inserting storytelling. For help unearthing the “story” latent in an item, read the two articles here:

Whatever you do, don’t confuse “storytelling” with the length of your item text (a picture alone can tell a thousand words!) Certainly some “story” is necessary to appeal to both hunters and gatherers but too much " wordstory," in my opinion, gets in the way for "hunter" type shoppers. So try to strike a balance in item text.

Primary tags…
Try to use as many primary tags as you possibly can. Don’t just settle for one primary tag if you have 20 items. Try to have at least 6 or 7 primaries. To help you widen your primary tag range, go through all the Etsy Categories, which basically comprise the entire Etsy primary tag list. You want to have an eye peeled for other tags you can apply besides the one that is most obvious to you (perhaps “Geekery,” "Accessories" and "Art" also describe your item). Since you probably have more than one item in your store, the more tags you can fit to your products, the more that different categories of hunters and gathers will get the opportunity to see your products. (In other words, more audiences will see your items if you use more primary tags).

Words aside, here are two key things to get ready for—before you start selling...
1) PREPARE for the time when you do start selling...
Most important: Get ready now to start to determine the best time of day for selling your items. To do that, you need to get ready to track your sales both by time-of-day and by day-of-the-week. The way I do this is as follows (and it took me longer than I care to mention to figure this out):
Make a table with the 24 hours of the day running down the left side. Across the top list the 7 days of the week. When you make a sale, put the first letter of the primary tag for that item in the box that corresponds with both the time of the day and the day of the week, for that sale. Track this data on every sale! Over time, this table will complete itself and you will start to see a pattern for both best days and the best times for selling your products. This is hugely valuable insight you can apply when you renew your listings.

2) Get ready to renew your listings. (This is probably the most valuable marketing secret for new Etsy Sellers to know about.) When you renew a product’s listing (for $.20), it moves to the top of the category's search results on Etsy. I've read sellers say they spend from $1 to $3 a day on relisting items. Now, the amount you can afford to spend per month on relisting products is entirely up to you (5 relistings/day costs $1/day, or $30/mo). If you are not selling anywhere other than online on Etsy, you need to look at this “relisting cost” as your "Marketing budget.”

Make no mistake—marketing is necessary.

If you don't “market” your product, it’s buried within a couple hours of when you listed it and no one will know your it’s there except those folks who ♥’d it during that brief “just listed” period. (Go looking for a product right now on Etsy; the items nearest the top of the results represent both the best matches with your search term and the freshest listings.) In other words, the best way to “refresh” your listing on Etsy is to relist it.

You should know about this ClockBot "app." It lets you set up items in advance to be re-listed at any designated time. This is especially convenient after you have some stats on when people are most likely to buy from your store (I just told you how to do that in #1 above). ClockBot is easy to use. Just log on with your Etsy info.

Also think about improving the photography for your store masthead, avatar and items… There are many Web designers who offer the service of designing mastheads and avatars. I have not taken advantage of these types of services (perhaps to my detriment) because I have strong opinions about these for my shop.

When I'm taking my own photography of my items…
I try to take shots with natural light. Recently, I traded one of my products with a professional photographer for the item pics that are now visible at my store. You might wish to search for a professional photographer who’s willing to trade photography for your item(s). BTW, this recent post on the SASSy blog will help you build a "lightbox."

Eight Online “Must Dos” once you’ve tackled the above…

8 Online Must-Dos

1) Twitter and 2) Facebook
If you aren’t already a Twitter and Facebook user, you need to register to use both of these (And don’t get upset just ‘cuz you need to learn a couple new passwords! Memorizing which password goes with which account keep the little grey cells from growing gray.) Just start. Over time you’ll begin to better understand the phenomena of social networking. Facebook and Twitter probably contribute 20% (or more) of the traffic that comes to my store (I know this ‘cuz of Must-Do #6 below). Once you have registered yourself on Facebook, you will also need to…

3) Register a "page" for your Etsy store on Facebook
This is like a "company" Facebook page. (Just go to your favorite search engine and enter, "how to create a Facebook page.")

On your Page, use your "Wall" as a place to tell the world about yourself and to post articles that you find interesting and worth sharing, relating to your craft. Your goal with your Page is to get people to "Like" it. To help you do that, send your friends and family the link to the Page and ask them to Like it. The Page, therefore, becomes a place where you build a database of good prospective customers.

With a database of Likers, you can begin to send update messages about goings-on in your store. (I'll be honest, I have not seen much effect from amassing this yet and that's because I haven't really offered many promotions yet. But I have big plans to. So I am building my Liker list for the day when I have meaningful product-promotion info to convey. Then I will update my fans with the valuable info regularly. (Don’t be a pest with your update capability just because you can! That’s a surefire way to lose Likers.) If you’re a Facebook or Twitte newbie, ask your family or friends who use these tools to help you learn and understand their usefulness and tactics.

4) Once you’ve created your store’s Facebook Page, get your Etsy store to show up there ( ). You’ll find you can apply your page settings to show people your "Wall" or your Etsy store as a tab on your Page. Personally, I believe it’s best to keep the default setting to show your Wall, otherwise, people may see you as a shameless promoter when they arrive at your Page and decide not to Like you. Use the Wall to inform your Likers about truly useful info and news; and, occasionally, do let them know that they can click the store tab right there on your Facebook Page.

5) Once you’ve created your Facebook Page, you will want to get it to connect to your Twitter account. I won’t go into the specifics here about how to do this, but it isn’t difficult. Just search online for, "How to make my Facebook page connect to Twitter" or something similar. Doing so will allow you to build a dual presence on Twitter and Facebook at the same time.

Google Tools to set up:

6) Web Analytics
This is Google’s Web-traffic, tracking tool. To activate it for your Etsy store, go to: Your Etsy> Shop Settings > Options > Web Analytics (Note, Etsy Web Analytics does not let you track actual conversions yet which is unfortunate, indeed!)

7) Base
This is Google’s product-indexing tool. To activate it for your Etsy store items, go to: Your Etsy> Syndication > Learn more. When you're ready, activate this. The step-by-step setup for activation is explained as you proceed. Use Google terms and questions to get more complete explanations for “Base” if you feel you need it).

8) Your Etsy Activity Feed
Here’s an important trick to do with this newly added Etsy tool: As a Seller, use it to follow your customers. That is, in Etsyspeak, “Add to Your Circle” all the people who buy from you. (Using the Activity Feed in this way lets you begin to understand firsthand the preferences of real, live customers! (Until you get customers, add any people who ♥/favorite your shop to your "Circle," instead).

DON'T EXPECT TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE MUST-DOs IN 10 MINUTES! IT MIGHT TAKE SEVERAL MONTHS (or a year!). DON'T GET OVERWHELMED—BUT DO THEM ALL. I know if you are not a heavy Web user all this may seem overwhelming. But look at it this way: You’re already ahead of the game because you now know what your “Eight Must-Do’s” are. And knowing those is half the job. And a job half started is more than half done!

Follow the above tips and you’ll soon find that there are many more musts than I’ve listed here that you can do to build your business!

About the Author:
Jim McLean, aka, The Backyard Harmonica Teacher, is the inventor and “soul” seller of the patented FlashHarp harmonica USB flash drive available at the “BackyardBrand” Etsy store.


Ditsy Bird Designs said...

great post with loads of tips! so many that I've printed it out to reread.
thanks for including my Learner Card as the top post image - a) for the exposure and b) so that I was directed to look here
I am now a follower

Emily said...

All I can say is WOW! How awesome. What great advice. I definitely am going to have to come back and re-read again. I've only had one cup of coffee so far, lol, and there's tons of great stuff here. Thanks so much for sharing.

ambette said...

Definitely all very good advice for someone new to Etsy!

Maria Wheeler, Simply Cool Stuff said...

Jim I thoroughly enjoyed reading all these tips. I have been an Etsy seller for exactly one year and it was my goal this past year to open a facebook and twitter account (check), add a business 'wall' to my facebook account (check) and get more involved in Etsy through a Team and making a few Treasuries (check - Team; no check - Tresury.) You are so right about all of this taking some time.....But, slow and steady is my motto and progress does happen. I still have to learn how to USE facebook and twitter to its fullest potential...but, a start is a start. Thanks for the terrific information.

Catherine said...

Thanks so much, this very impatient new Etsy seller has to absorb SO MUCH info all at once that it is really helpful to have such clear information.

3starsmom said...

Been on Etsy a little over a year, and have the facebook page, joined a couple Teams, haven't got the Twitter account (yet) and going to circle my next customer I get. I do have a "brick and mortar" presence via my 12 years doing face to face at art shows, farmer's markets and others. So, Etsy is my newest gallery and so far has been great--as always, it can always get better. Thanks for all the tips!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for breaking the tips into a step-by-step list; so much easier to grasp! Especially the info on the Google tools and how to set them up; I've heard about them but did not know how to use them. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

Kiki Polglase said...

WOW - and thank you ! There is so much food for thought and action in your post that - like Sarah from DitsyBirdDesigns and Emily - I will print it out to be reread and properly digested.
I'm finding it soooo hard to follow and understand all the good Etsy advice, still a 'greenhorn' after a year or so...... x

BackyardBrand said...

Thanks for the great feedback everybody!

Sher said...

This is an awesome article! Thanks. I'm keeping it in my files for reference.

BackyardBrand said...

Glad to hear that, Sher!

Anonymous said...

great advice! Thank you for sharing :) xx

Sophie Le Cuiche said...

I've just added Google Analytics to my Etsy shop AND my blog, thank you.

Also adding your blog to my Reader: great advice!