Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Sell Products Online

Recently Sandra of Mother Goose Dolls posted on a Facebook doll group asking for some honest feedback on her doll(s).  Her dilemma is so common, and I get asked this question so often, that I thought I would address it here on my blog for Sandra and others who might find the advice useful.  Sandra's question was essentially "What is wrong with my doll/product?  I sell well at craft shows but cannot seem to make many sales online".  I have some good and bad news.

The good news is that the problem is not with Sandra's product.  Her doll is cute, looks to be well made and the photo is clear and bright.  If the problem is not with the product, then the problem is with marketing.  You can have a wonderful product and a beautiful shop, but you HAVE to bring the customers to you.  The online world is huge.  Customers have many options for almost every product available.  You can not rely on Etsy or Google search engines to bring customers to your shop.  You have to go out and get them yourself.

This is where the bad news comes in (well bad news if you don't like marketing).  I personally enjoy the marketing side of my doll business, but I do find myself stressed sometimes trying to keep up with it, because to increase sales you must find time to market.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I find that I have a constant list of marketing ideas that I haven't even tapped into yet.  Let me give you some ideas of what has worked for me and others I'm hoping to have time for very soon.  (This list will be somewhat specifically for doll sales but you can adapt the ideas for any product.)

1.  Social Networking
There are two things to consider when using social networking sites; groups and business pages.

Most social networking sites have groups you can join that are relevant to your doll or product.  The two sites I use currently for this are Flickr and Facebook.  On both sites you can search groups and once you join, you can add your photos to the group pool.  The only thing to be careful with here is that you read the group description carefully and make sure you are posting appropriate pictures according to the group guidelines.  You don't want to step on any toes in your marketing quest.

Another thing to remember when searching for groups is to be creative in finding a variety of relevant ones.  Don't just search for doll groups.  Think about other groups that might contain potential customers for you.  For example, with dolls you might be able to join Mom groups (if your dolls are appropriate for children), or baby supply groups.  Also there are many Etsy seller groups on Facebook and Flickr.

Business Pages
I highly recommend opening a Facebook page for your product.  Here's mine.  One thing about business pages to keep in mind though, is that you need to post something frequently.  Now, you don't want to over post, because you don't want anyone hiding your posts because you filled up their feed.  I would say once a day is the maximum and you shouldn't let more than 2-3 days go by between posting.  The benefit of this practice is that you will motivate yourself to create content often so that you have something to post.  It's a good motivator.

A few things I like to post of Facebook are new products in my shop, Etsy treasuries that include my dolls, works-in-progress, blog posts, custom orders, news, etc.

2.  Forums
I only advertise on one doll forum: doll-fan but there are many forums out there for many topics.  Etsy also has their own forums where you can find a wealth of information and tips for improving your online sales.  This is one part of marketing a lot of sellers don't have time for, including me.  One way to make forums work for you is to post regularly and get involved in the lives of other members.  Forming friendships can be very beneficial to your business but it takes time to cultivate.  Read this post I wrote about being friends with your customers.  For this reason you might want to take it slow when joining forums.  Give yourself time to get to know the lay of the land.  If you join all the doll forums you can find you will come across as very artificial and you don't want to alienate people.

How do you find good forums?  Ask some of the groups you join if there are any forums they are members of, or just Google it.  I highly recommend doll-fan where I have been a member for over 10 years.

3.  Blogging
Blogging is a two prong approach; your own blog, and advertising on other blogs.  Read this post I wrote about advertising on blogs for that side of it.

As far as writing your own blog, doing so can open many many doors.  However, be forewarned, it takes A LOT of time and work.  When I decided that I really needed to work on making my blog successful I knew it was going to be hard work, and it is.  I don't recommend a blog unless you are prepared to work on it nearly every day.  You need time for planning, writing, thinking, etc.

But!  If you do decide to have a blog you will find that it brings you rewards in many unexpected ways.  For example, this blog post is inspired by Sandra.  I never would have met Sandra if it wasn't for my blog.  Recently I wrote a post about a dear fellow doll maker and she in turn shared my blog on the post Sandra wrote on Facebook.  Now I'm not sure this will translate into sales, or if there is any way to track these things at this point, but the fact is the more people seeing your work, the more opportunities you have to reach new customers.

I will need to write an entire other post about blogging to give you all the ways you can utilize a blog, but I will save that for next time.

4.  Linking
On my old website I had a place for links.  You might see a "links" page on other websites you frequent.  I am hoping to get this section back up on my new website in the near future.  If you don't know about linking here's what I know about it.  The more links a website has, the higher their SEO standing on the search engines like Google.  This means your website will come up sooner in relevant Google searches.  Of course, this really doesn't apply to you if you don't have a website.

However, you might be able to get your shop or website link listed on different shop directories or websites.  For example, during the holidays many websites have holiday shopping gift guides.  Some times you have to pay to be included and sometimes you don't.  You can find these through blogs, other artist websites, forums, Google, etc.

There is by far many more ways to market on the Internet but these are the ones that I am using currently and have been working for me so far.  My last advice is that you read, read, read.  Becoming a good marketer takes time and trial and error.  There is no quick fix but if you are devoted to increasing your sales and spend time every day working on it, it's possible.  You can do it!

No comments:

Post a Comment