Greeting cards are a hot commodity, and when you can design and sell your own, you have an extra revenue stream for your website or your Zazzle store.
If you are looking for art to use, then check out the backgrounds and images available on Creative Market. I used some sort of Creative Market image for all of these example cards. I have a soft spot for watercolor art.
You can get your own Creative Market art by clicking the ad below. I will earn a small commission for your support. Thank you!
If you need a place to host your creative greeting cards, then check out Shopify – I’ve been with them for seven or eight years now – or IndieMade where many of my handmade friends have shops.
Click the banner for more information.
If you don’t have a Printify account, open one today and start making extra income with your prints and photos. I use them for all of my hot rod mugs and prints!
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The next big shopping holiday is Mother’s Day for those of us with online retail stores, and now is a good time to start our preparation. Let’s go over the usual checklist, which is the same that we did for our Black Friday and Christmas rushes.
This list is included in this blog post on the subject: · Packing tape · Packing bubble wrap · Boxes in a variety of sizes · Priority supplies · Paper for invoices · Toner/ink for printing · Labels · Thank you cards – if you do them · Tissues for packing · Plastic bags for items · Business cards · Organza bags
If you’ve already done this, then one thing to think about when setting up your Mother’s Day store besides offering great discounts and promoting it in advance is to have lower price point gifts for those who are on a budget.
Some ideas for Mother’s Day gifts under $10:
Personalized tote bags
Charm necklace or charm bracelet
Tiny gemstone rings or earrings
Planner page for kids to fill out with the chores they will do for mom
There are so many little gift ideas that you can add to your ecommerce site that may appeal to those on tight budgets. Those little items can become impulse buys at checks out, so if you have your shopping cart set up to suggest before check out, then add the impulse items to your checkout process.
Don’t forget to decorate your store for Mother’s Day. Get great graphics from Creative Market where you will find all types of beautiful graphics to not only decorate your store, but set up a product line of print on demand items.
Online selling is hard. I do not get to see my customers face-to-face. I also know that the burden of trust is on them, and I must do everything within my power to maintain and nurture that trust. There are a lot of reasons for customer dissatisfaction.
Like you, I am sure we have all had hundreds and hundreds of online purchases over the years that we did based on the trust of the website or profile. I am sure that you, like me, stopped a few times and thought maybe this was not going to go well. We either turned away or went forward.
What do you do if a customer is not satisfied?
First, that customer must come to you for a resolution. If they cannot get it resolved by coming to you, they will take it to the card processor or their credit card. This is their legal right to get a resolution. The seller – you and me – is responsible to get a package to a customer no matter what crazy thing happens at the shipping company. This is our obligation. If a customer is not happy, you can bet they are going to do what they can to let everyone know they are not happy. I have seen this happen to a few sellers I know. It is not pretty and it was not handled well.
The first place many unhappy customers go to is the vendor’s website if they are a part of a marketplace like Etsy or any of the others. They file complaints there after they have tried to get you to resolve the problem. Independent website owners like me may find that our merchant account processor will let us know of a problem.
After that, they are headed for the social network tsunami. As much as we like to use social networks to get our products out, people who feel they are being ignored or wronged like to use them to take you to task for your negligence.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are several steps you can take to calm the situation down and turn it around.
First of all, no matter what the customer’s complaint, there should have been a resolution from the minute they yelled foul regarding the item. Regardless of who they first complained to, the first time you heard the complaint, you should have handled it. That keeps it from becoming a social media smackdown.
If for whatever reason you find yourself being blasted on social media or complaint websites or reputation websites, you must handle it.
1- Acknowledge the customer.
Let the customer know that you are there and that you hear them. They want to be acknowledged. This does not have to be public, but if you can, it does help your brand and reputation if you can acknowledge it publicly. This shows the many lurkers that you care and will engage in a civil conversation to rectify the situation.
– Hi, Jane, I heard you were having a problem with my widget. Can you let me know exactly what the problem is because I am not sure I understand what has happened here?
Open and friendly.
2- Understand the customer’s problem.
It is not enough to just acknowledge the customer, you must understand the customer’s problem. Until you can understand it, you cannot fix it. If you make your widgets, you know what needs to be done to either meet their expectation or refund their purchase.
– Your widget does not fit my widget holder. I want you to fix that.
Again, if you can do all this publically on your Facebook page or blog site, the more, the better. You can engage all the participants in the group in a discussion on how to resolve the problem. Maybe the widget will never fit because the two pieces are not compatible. You will want to refund and pay for return shipping. Maybe Jane is trying to fit the wrong end of the widgets together. Help her to make this work for her.
3- Sympathize with the customer.
You do not need to be disingenuous. Surely, you as a consumer can find a place to meet the customer where you understand their frustration and anger. If you have ever had to call the cable company or any other big business that does not care about you, you know how frustrating that is.
You can understand where your customer may be disappointed in the product. It’s not the end of the world, and your ego will survive an unhappy customer. This is about your customer, not you.
– Jane, I can see where you might think that those two widget ends would go together. Do you have Model 374747? If so, your new widget will not fit without an adaptor.
4- Gather information to help the customer.
Jane does have Model 374747, so her new widget will not fit properly without an adaptor.
Once the customer tells you what they want you to do to help them, prepare to do that.
If the customer tells you they want their money back, then it is okay to tell them you would be happy to do that once you receive your product back. DO NOT make this an issue. If you want the product back, especially if it is expensive or can be resold, then send them the postage to get it back to you. A public fight with a customer is not worth the price of postage.
For the customer to send the package back to you, create a postage label for yourself from the customer using whatever postage software you use. Then email a PDF file to the customer that they can print out and tape to the return box. This is the best way to get the product back with the least amount of trouble.
Send the postage with delivery confirmation and insurance. Do not leave this in the hands of the customer or make it their responsibility to get the product back. Help them to get it done, and explain to them how to attach the label and anything else they need to know. You are the professional; they are not.
5- Offer the customer a solution.
– Hi Jane, I am sorry, but that widget will not fit that model. However, I can help you with that by either sending you an adaptor free of charge, or you can return the widget for your money back.
Remember, this entire conversation and exchange is taking place in real-time in front of an audience. You must maintain a professional and courteous demeanor. If you need to charge them for the extra part, then let them know up front.
By using these steps in a calm and friendly way, you gain the trust of a lot of people, and that means a lot in the world of online retail.
If it should get so far out of hand because others are jumping into the conversation, just take it private. You are not trying to hide the fact that there is a problem, but you do deserve a chance to discuss this with the customer in a less hostile environment.
If you find that there are complaints against you on reputation sites, then by all means, go to the site and find out what the problem is. You only have your reputation and a few photos to gain the trust of your prospective customers. You should work just as hard on your reputation as you do your photos.
This is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. This is about business. It is about YOUR business, and what you may need to do to keep growing. You can write off postage and products if you have to, but you cannot buy a good reputation.
This scenario is assuming that the customer is a civilized individual without a vendetta or a mission to destroy you and your reputation as a seller. We all know that there are just some people who cannot be helped and we should part ways as soon as we recognize this. It is okay to stand your ground with an unreasonable customer. Even if you do find yourself with an unhappy customer, selling online is a lot of fun; you get to meet a lot of interesting people, and you are making money. Don’t have a website, then sign up for a Shopify free trial, or open your artist website on Indiemade. The companies pay me a little money (no cost to you) if you sign up. It helps keep me running my blogs.
When I scheduled this article into my calendar last year, Twitter was a stable platform with reliable levels of performance. Since that time, it has undergone new management and has become less stable with skewed reports. This article is based on the way it has performed for me in the past with the anticipation that it will return to a stable social media site in the future.
As a small business owner/writer/artist, the best way for me to get my products to the public is through social media platforms like Twitter. Like all social media, there are pros and cons of using Twitter for marketing. I wrote about a few of those in my Pinterest article. I have found that all of the platforms go through upheaval along their lifespan and sometimes changes are necessary on your end to determine whether or not to continue with your promotions on the sites. Since so many of the newly minted business school graduates like to disrupt to motivate growth, it is best to not rely on one place for all things. It will change.
There are a couple of types of marketing available to you on the Twitter platform. One is free and the other is paid sponsored posts. I do not pay Twitter to post, so all of my marketing efforts use the free version. This means that I do the posting and work with a networking group of handmade artists to retweet their posts.
Here are some of the advantages of using Twitter for business:
You can engage with people responding to your tweet on a personal level;
Feedback on your product or service can be instrumental in growing your business;
It is a good first step toward getting someone to look at more products;
You can build a community by asking people to follow you;
Tweets are short and sweet, so you can write several of them and schedule them to post at various times;
Your tweets go around the world while you sleep;
Hashtags help you track your reach;
You can connect with friends and set up a tweet network (this is how I manage my tweets);
You can hire someone to do this marketing for you.
Here are some of the disadvantages of using Twitter for business:
Getting followers can be difficult;
You need followers to get more eyes on your products;
You need to respond to tweets and keep them alive;
You are open to negative comments that can break your business;
Not all followers are engaged;
Your message may be considered spam that can turn followers off;
Your ROI can be low;
If you hire someone to tweet for you, make sure you know them and approve all tweets;
Trolls can break your business for fun.
If you are wondering how often you should post on Twitter for your business, my networking group posts at least three times a week, and we do retweets the rest of the time. Anytime I am on Twitter and I see tweets from my friends, I hit the retweet button to give the tweet a boost.
Twitter can be a toxic place, which brings me to the disclaimer I added at the beginning of this article. I have used Twitter for my business since 2008, and over that time, I have found that does a reasonable job of getting traffic to my website. Whether or not that will continue in the future is yet to be determined, but I hope that it will continue to give me and my handmade artist friends a place to share our wares and make some sales.
There are a lot of books on Twitter available, but if you want to really delve into marketing, this might be the book for you. It is an older book, so it won’t take into consideration the current 240 character limit and it is only available in paperback, but the marketing principles and the actual platform are the same. Check it out for yourself.
If you’re running a business, then you know how important word-of- mouth advertising is to your bottom line. This is particularly true when your business is online. Unless your business is very new, you ‘re probably already sharing on social media
While not a social media site, Pinterest is an integral part of online ecommerce. In 2010, this new site gave the public a place to pin (as in bulletin board) their favorite ideas, photos and content as a visual idea board.
Creatives will recognize this as an inspiration/design board and wedding planners may have been the first to really grasp the concept. Once people realized they could visualize their ideas, Pinterest took off.
As a jewelry designer and bead maker, I was on board from the beginning. Pinterest has made some changes over the years, but for the most part, pinning still offers artists and online sellers a great place to show off their wares.
Here are some pros and cons that I have found over the years:
433 million global users a month;
Qualified audience with an average income of $75,000;
The search engine is accurate without any “suggestions” from the site;
Conversions are higher;
Marketing budget can be almost zero;
Photographers and graphic designers can set up a samples board for clients;
Private boards can be set up for clients where ideas can be worked out;
All boards are public, so everyone has a chance to see your content;
You can add a link to your photo driving traffic to your site;
Users find it to be a positive site without negative images or advertising;
Posts have a longer life-span around 4 months;
It is a great source of inspiration and mood for artists and designers.
It takes a while for a post to gain traction;
It can be very niche oriented, which is good if you have a niche;
You need to constantly share in order to get traffic;
Images can be shared without the link to your site;
Images can be stolen and uncredited later;
Design ideas can be copied without your knowledge;
There are specific image requirements such as size and dimensions;
It can be time consuming to post several times a day;
Scheduling software can be expensive.
I know that Pinterest drives a lot of traffic to my site, but it’s also very easy to get into trouble with the site. They only want certain content, products and information on their site, so it can be tough to get your site okayed.
I’ve run afoul of their requirements by having the same “About Me” across the internet. I’ve been selling online since 1996, so yeah, it can be a duplicate. If they send you a rejection, just comply, as they are a great source of traffic and sales.
If you need a site, then check out Shopify. They have a free trial.
With Shopify, there is an addon that will do scheduling for you. I use Outfy to run all of my product posts. If you need help, you can hire a freelancer to do things for you.
The holidays are just upon us, and every year I wrestle with the conflict between “should I keep my store open, or should I close it and take some time off?”. The last few years I have been faced with a mountain of paperwork that needed to be done at the end of the year, and I have had an office/studio/bedroom that looked like a herd of wildebeest had run through it.
Veteran sellers always said they took the time off at the holidays because they had worked so hard. That was back in the day when eBay was hot and they were selling collectibles. Those times have changed, and now everyone scrambles for every dollar they can get since online sales are not the least bit reliable.
Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of keeping your store open:
More income as people spend holiday money
The chance to get rid of more inventory
Clearance and holiday sales to spur buying
People are home during the holidays
You have to work during the holidays
People expect things delivered quickly
No time to spend with family
Gambling the income will be worth it
Personally, I prefer to take the time off and work towards making up the income difference along the next year. I am less stressed, and it gives me a chance to breakdown my art studio, clean and reorganize. I throw things to the side when I am packaging orders one right after the other, so it’s a real mess by the time I shut down. I do the same thing with my bookkeeping, too.
This year, I am shutting down the second week of December. This helps me avoid the stress of people asking where their package is and will it get to them by Christmas.
In the meantime, during my holiday, I am going to catch up on some of my reading!
Happy Holidays! Julie PS – Here are a few things on my reading list this year:
Decorate Your Store for the Holidays! You wouldn’t shop in a mall store that didn’t have holiday decorations up in December, so why would your online customers want to shop at your website if there are no decorations to enjoy?
Decorating is really easy. There are so many freebie graphics available on the internet that you can use to spruce up your logo or even create a banner.
I’ve made all of these mistakes so you don’t have to. Not only are these mistakes a waste of time, but they can also become quite expensive. Especially if you have advertising dollars attached to your promotion, which I did. Social media ads and Google ads seem like they are inexpensive, but when everything is added up, they can be costly.
While my marketing failures are all around my handmade products, these mistakes can apply to any product, handmade or manufactured, product that you want to promote and sell. Even e-books.
Here are some promotion mistakes to avoid:
No Marketing Plan
When deciding to do a promotional event like a giveaway or discount, have a plan in place that covers all of the steps leading up to launch day. A plan starts with a goal.
Do you know what you’re trying to achieve with the event? Are you looking for more subscribers? Do you want to sell more products? Will you be collecting names? Or just more traffic to your website or blog?
Until you can define your goal, you can’t make a plan, and without a plan, how can you measure your results? Wrong Audience
If you don’t know who buys your product or reads your blog, then you’ll end up marketing to the wrong group of people, which is a waste of time and money.
Start your marketing plan by finding out who your customers are. It’s important to know things like their age group, financial situation, gender, similar interests and more.
If you’re using social media or search engine ads, you can narrow the groups down to a small, select target. It’s better to market to a small group than a broad target, and you can’t know what that small group is until you figure out who your customers are.
Fail to Track Your Results
When you finish your ad campaign or promotional event, you won’t know if you were successful in reaching the right people until you see the analytics from the event. If it’s a social media ad or search engine ad, then the analytics are available to you on the dashboard.
If you’re tracking traffic on your website, you should be able to tell where the traffic went and where it came from. While some web hosts make you pay for upgraded analytics, most have a basic traffic analysis on the admin panel.
You may be able to get an idea of its success rate by how many products you sold, how many people signed up or how many social media shares you got for your blog post, but they won’t tell you where the traffic came from or how they found you.
Fail to Measure Your Results
From the traffic information you get on your website, the advertising campaign or email campaign dashboards, if you don’t measure these results and apply them to your next campaign, you might as well just throw the money away.
No matter how hard you plan, how much your target your audience, how far you track your statistics and how you measure your results, some campaigns are doomed to fail. However, all you can do is tweak it and start over. Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Sometimes events out of your control happen like a hurricane hitting the place where most of your customers come from, and sometimes, your product falls flat like a deflated balloon because no one wants a trick or treat bag in June.
While taking these promotional mistakes to avoid into consideration, also consider that you aren’t the first to make a mistake. If you want to see some spectacular marketing fails, then check out this story from Eventbrite in the U.K. You are not alone.
You might find the following books helpful in creating your marketing and promotion plans. Some of them are Kindle Unlimited, which means you can read them for free as long as you have a Kindle Unlimited membership. Try out Kindle Unlimited here.
The following books are all available to read for free with the Kindle Unlimited plan, but they are also inexpensive to own.
So, you have this really great product that you think everyone would love to have, and you have a marketing budget of about zero. What do you do?
There are a lot of ways to tackle this situation, but most of the advice out there focuses on spending lots of money on social media posts and search engine ads. What do you do if you do not have a lot of money set aside for any type of advertising?
Here are some great little marketing tricks that will not cost you a lot of money, and most of them are quite simple to set up. The only downside to marketing without money is that getting the results you want might take longer than you had hoped. Not forever, but a little longer than doing Facebook blasts of your latest product.
Take a look at the following cheap product promotion ideas to see if anything inspires you:
Budget Marketing Ideas
If you are already on Facebook or Twitter, create a group for people like you who are struggling. Don’t focus the group on your products, but focus it on networking and helping other online business owners get sales.
There are so many groups on Facebook, and the web in general, that it is really easy to find like-minded people who are struggling every day to get traffic to their stores and listings. If you create a group where you can all come together, you can create an atmosphere where everyone helps each other independently of the group.
10 artists in a group can share the other nine artists’ work with their followers, which increase their exposure to more people. Networking has always been the key to getting more sales. From the first elixir wagon in western towns to today’s internet age, sharing information is the easiest thing to do and the least expensive.
If you have an email list, then send out emails to your customers. Email still gets the highest response rate of all advertising, and it is either free or very inexpensive. Take your time crafting your subject line, your header and your email body so that it reflects your perfect customer’s desires.
What if you don’t have an email list? It’s okay. You can start one by doing a giveaway of one of your products. You tell everyone on your social media accounts that you have a giveaway and ask them to sign up to be eligible to win. There are some rules around giveaways on Facebook, so make sure that you understand what you can and cannot do before your set out on a giveaway. Then take the email information you get and put them on your email list. Make sure that when they sign up, they know they are getting future emails from you. Even if you only have one sale, you have one person on your email list, so email them.
Put a THANK YOU sticker on every order you send out! Remind them that they are appreciated.
Do you already have great customers who have purchased your items? Ask them for a referral. It is easy to put stickers on your products that ask for referrals, or you can set up a referral fee or free products in exchange for referrals. This type of inexpensive marketing is done all the time from the top companies to the small business owner.
There are a lot of cheap product promotion ideas that won’t cost you a lot of money, so if these product promotion ideas do not work at first, keep working at them until you start to see the sales come in. From there, it will be hard to keep up.
Use a Referral sticker on all of your orders to ask for the next order! If you find this information useful, then please share it with your friends. If you have any suggestions on how to make it better, then please contact me. I am always open to suggestions. Looking for more tips? Subscribe to the RSS feed for more tips on how to market on a budget.
Read the 1 Page Marketing Plan book for even more tips and tricks. Sometimes, this is included in the Kindle Unlimited program, so you can read for free! Don’t have Kindle Unlimited? Get it here: