Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Road to Etsy's Front Page

I've recently made a study of the items that make it to Etsy's front page. At first, I thought getting selected was equivalent to winning the lottery, but after taking a harder look, I now believe there are certain strategies sellers can use in order to increase their chances.

Beginning with Photos

I've been working hard on my photos (and I still have a way to go), but after reading numerous threads, surveying other sellers, and reading the photo FAQ's on Etsy, I am beginning to understand what it takes to not only take a good photo, but one that could get picked for a treasury, gift guide, or the front page.

1. Take your photos in as much natural light as possible, either outside or next to a window. For additional natural light - try an Ottlite. I found mine at my local Michaels Arts & Crafts store. I registered online and received an immediate 50% off coupon. My $100 Ottlite ended up costing me only $50. I find that it really helps me to see when I creating as well.

2. Set your camera on the macro setting for small objects like jewelry, and adjust your white balance.

3. The colors in your items will "pop" if you use a quiet background of gray, white, or beige. I've noticed that the majority of items picked for the front page use these basic background colors. Occasionally you will see an outside or indoor background, particularly with larger objects. Some items are displayed on a solid color background. Just make sure the color doesn't overwhelm your item.

4. Try to get a good closeup. I finally got a tripod to stabilize my camera, and it makes a huge difference. As still as I tried to be when I snapped my pictures, I somehow managed to take more blurry pictures than clear ones.

For more photo tips, see these Etsy articles from The Storque:

Observations About Front Page Picks

Photos are found through the Treasury, category searches, and search terms (using tags). The front page changes every half hour or hour. You will see all three types of searches throughout the day. Treasuries are chosen by sellers, and then picked by Etsy to move to the front page. Category searches and search terms are selected by Etsy staff.

There is always a dominant color (or color theme) on the front page that changes throughout the day. Most of the pictures chosen for a front page display have the dominant color in the item, but there might be one or two with a dominant color background. When Etsy staff picks items, they tend to select pictures with items that really make the chosen color "pop". I noticed a little more variety in the color schemes chosen in the treasuries, but they still have a color theme that blends well together.

Search terms appear to vary, but I've noticed categories of terms that might be helpful to know: colors, holidays, seasons, major world events, free shipping, and eco friendly terms. The search terms are based on the merchandising theme chosen well ahead of time by Etsy. I sent a convo to Etsy's administration team and asked them for the "front page criteria". They stated, "Some front pages are selected by our merchandising team. We try to consider relevant seasonal and holiday themes when selecting items for the front page. Read more about our merchandising in this series from our blog, The Storque:" I was excited to read their merchandising articles. They not only explain some of the key terms they use now, but they give sellers a "heads-up" on the merchandising plan for the future. Pay close attention to the key words used in this article.

Tagging Your Items for the Front Page

Appropriate and well thought out tagging is absolutely key (next to great pictures) for making it to the front page. I noticed a few things worth exploring. A number of Etsians who made it to the front page tag differently. I realized I tried to describe my items for buyers, but typical front pagers are describing their items for the Etsy merchandising team, and they are being found.

Here is an example of tags for a purse found on the front page: bags and purses, wristlet, leather, purple, grey, blossom, flower, summer, petal, midsummer, secret garden, lavender, meadow, grass.

It's obvious this seller is thinking beyond the buyer and choosing keywords that matches the "essence" of their item as much as the actual descriptive tags. This seems to be the key. Tag your items creatively (honestly, but a bit out of the box). When the merchandising team searches terms like lemonade, patriotic, nautical, picnic, and carnival (tags recently searched), then you want your items to pop up and catch their attention. Consider making items to fit into upcoming merchandising themes, or think about how your items fit into current themes.

Items are often searched by color, but don't limit yourself to primary colors. Think inside the crayon box. Is your item plum, lemon, emerald, coral, aqua, rose, seafoam, ivory, gold, metallic, cherry, grape, denim, or periwinkle? Try to describe the colors of your items with creative color words.

Holidays and season tags can be typical, such as Fourth of July, however, I noticed that Etsy searched for "Americana" and "patriotic". Think of descriptive words that describe both your item and the season. Christmas is also poinsettias, Santa Claus, red and green, and mistletoe.

Did you know the Tour de France is going on at this time? Etsy does, and so do a number of sellers. The theme of Tour de France has shown up on the front page several times in the last couple of days. I searched through the tags of each item for one of the front page showcases and discovered that sellers had one or more of the following tags: European, Europe, France, Paris, Tour de France, touring, bicycle, french, bike, and Marie Antoinette. Keep track of Etsy's upcoming merchandising themes and tag your items to match (appropriately of course).

I offer free shipping, but I never thought to put it in my tags until now. Etsy often puts up a front page based on free shipping or free worldwide shipping. In addition, they seem to like to use eco, eco-friendly, recycle, and organic a lot. If your items match these tags, I would use them.

This is based on a study of Etsy's front page for the past couple of days, as well as a number of Etsians who were kind enough to share information about their items that made it to the top. Getting on the front page apparently kicks up your views, and can bring you sales. It's worth your time and effort to take great photos, and to carefully choose your tags. No one can guarantee you a spot (I'm still trying to get there myself), and all of my observations are probably not true 100% of the time. These are attributes and trends I've noticed as I work to improve my own photos, and hopefully claim a front page spot in the near future.

Treasure Hunt

Let's go on over to Etsy for a Treasure Hunt. I love to "pounce" around and find innovative and unique handmade items.

In today's treasure hunt, I found beautiful wire wrapped pendants from Shellamie Jewelry. The work here is exquisite. She wrapped a Tiger's Eye bead with gold filled wire to resemble a tree.

I found a lovely stash of bowls perfect for using while baking or to fill up with ice cream at Dodge Station Pottery. The soft colors and the small size make these bowls a must have. This shop handcrafts a wonderful range of stoneware pottery.

I just found the perfect Christmas gift for mom or grandma! Dizzeelizzee makes adorable photo lap quilts. Email her your digital family photos and she will create a quilt just for you.

If you would like one of your items featured in a treasure hunt, put together 3-5 pictures from different shops (one may be your item) with descriptions and links, and send it to Handcrafter's Studio. Don't forget to include your shop link!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Offline Marketing for Your Online Shop

You can Facebook, Twitter, and My Space all day long, but what about marketing to your local market? The number one marketing strategy is social networking, a concept that was around long before the Internet. Word of mouth is what it is all about, so begin spreading the word through family, friends, and offline marketing. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. If you don't have a lot of money to spend, then head on over to Vista Print for freebies. Once you are on their emailing list, you will get offers of freebies on a daily basis (you will feel spammed, but when you want something, there is always a coupon for free items, and you can order more than one freebie at a time). They always offer free business cards. Is there a catch? Of course. You give up your email address for one; and for two, your freebie cards come with a small (but muted color) "Vista Print" on the back of the card. You must use one of their graphics, but they do give you a wide range of choices, so really, the positives outweigh the negatives. You could spend $50 at your local print shop on 250 business cards, or get them for free (less than $10 s/h) on Vista Print. I recently ordered business cards, a car door magnet, postcards, and a t-shirt for free. You simply can't beat that deal. Put your cards in your purse or pocket and give them out. Shyness won't get you anywhere. You don't have to bug the daylights out of people, but you can let them know what you are about. Ask family and friends to share the love as well.

2. A car window cling or door magnet is another way to get the word out. Put your website name on it (in large, clear letters). I often notice these things, and out of curiosity, look them up when I get home. This could lead to potential sales. It's also a way of getting your name out there in the general public.

3. Create a flier with tear off pieces of paper that have your website address on it. Keep a stash in your car, and when you go grocery shopping, or to other local places with community bulletin boards, put one of your fliers up. You can make a flier on your computer and print them off. Use colorful pictures on your flier to draw people's eyes. Create eye candy and the need to want syndrome.

4. I've created photo quality 4 x 6 cards to leave at various places (beauty shops, yoga studios, coffee houses, smoothie places, dance studios - any independent place where potential shoppers hang out). The cards have my website address and pictures. I also create a discount "code" for potential buyers. Offering discounts and using codes not only gives a potential customer an extra reason to try you out, but it also helps you track your efforts. Tip: Search for photo paper at dollar stores. I buy mine at the Dollar Tree (20 cards for $1).

5. I will tell you a secret. Teachers love to shop. Take a stash of cards to your local school (include a "teachers" discount) and ask to have them placed in the teacher's boxes (a treat for the school secretary might help). If you make food items, donate a batch to the teacher's lounge. Some schools allow vendors to set up in the teacher's lounge or workroom. This is a great way to build up clientele.

6. If you work in an atmosphere that would accept marketing, pass out your cards to coworkers (or ask your spouse to give cards out). Make sure you are not breaking company policy.

7. Write a press release and send it to your local newspaper along with pictures. Local magazines are another source to spread the word. Look for the free area magazines that write up articles about local businesses. Write and article and send it in. You never know -they just might publish it!

8. Get involved in local craft shows. Church bazaars at Christmas provide the perfect opportunity to make some sales and get the word out. Take along plenty of business cards.

9. Hold a craft party. Treat your products like Mary Kay, Avon, or Pampered Chef. Display your items in your living room, provide food and drinks, give out door prizes, and hold some sort of demonstration. Invite friends (and tell them to bring a friend) and offer a special discount.

10. Target your market. If you sell items for babies, provide goody bags for new moms at local hospitals. Do you have items for teachers? Add a freebie to the new teacher bags districts give out during beginning of the year in service. Do you sell jewelry? Make something special for your beautician and give her cards to give out. Think of creative ways to get to your target market. Where do they hang out? You might have to spend a little to make a lot -that's how it works in marketing, so target your efforts, and track everything you do. If a campaign doesn't work -don't use it again, or try it with a new twist. Watch for clever ways other independent businesses market to you and get your attention. They might be onto something. Give it a try!

Please leave comments sharing different ways you've marketed your online shop offline.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Welcome to Handcrafter's Studio

What is this blog all about?

Do you love all things handmade? Are you a crafter, seller, or shopper of handcrafted items? This blog is for you! Categories for this blog will include DIY projects, featured Etsy sellers (or other online independent makers & sellers of handcrafted produts), business topics on all things involving selling your handcrafts, treasure hunts (featured handcrafted items), and kid's craft projects.

What is the purpose of this blog?

I want to bring together people who love to make beautiful things with people who love to buy beautiful things. This is a place to learn how to make something new, discover beautiful handcrafted items you can buy, promote your handcraft's online shop, learn everything you need to know to sell and market your handcrafts, and raise little future handcrafters.

Who writes for this blog?

You! That's right. Come on in and submit an article, pictures, and video within one of the listed categories. Just send me an email with your article and pictures attached. Post your videos on You Tube and send me the HTML code. Please include the category, your name, your shop link or banner (or the HTML code for your Etsy mini - 2 rows, 3 columns) to add to the bottom of your article post. Once your article is posted for Handcrafter's Studio a permanant link will be added to the sidebar of this blog.

How can you help get the word out about Handcrafter's Studio?

  • Add a link to your blog or website.
  • Send out a tweet.
  • Share a link in forums.
  • Add a link in your Etsy profile.
  • Add a link to your email signature.

I am working on badges for writers and featured sellers to add to your sites.

Why should you support Handcrafter's Studio? this site is new, and it's not exactly hopping yet, but every site has to start somewhere. The idea is to join together to share projects, feature shops and items, and learn how to work smarter rather than harder. This is a place to come together as a community of crafters. And it's free advertising! As we build this blog together just imagine the opportunity to promote your shop. I will feature sellers of supplies as well, so if your bag is crafting supplies - come on. Everyone is always looking for a good deal on supplies.

Now this isn't a blog just for sellers. We want shoppers too! If you love to buy handcrafted goods, follow this blog to see all things handmade - find amazing products for yourself, your friends, and your family. Try out a craft or spend time crafting with your kids or grandkids. Handcrafter's Studio is for everyone who loves to dabble in crafts, go to craft fairs, or turn crafts into a business.

Handcrafter's Studio has to start somewhere. Who wants to be first?