Coupons, Gift Cards and Deals

Etsy just sent me an email stating that they would be offering an Etsy Gift Card this year. While I think there are many positives for the handmade site and the movement to get more involved with buying handmade, I don’t really know that this will help MY sales, per se’.

Gift cards will be the perfect present for the Etsy-obsessed shopper in your life, but even more importantly they’ll be a way for us to introduce new buyers to Etsy. Our community of buyers has grown incredibly in the past year, which can be attributed largely to people like you spreading the word and marketing your shops. Gift cards will allow us to be more aggressive in our own marketing efforts by distributing gift cards to partners and creating promotional offers.

If I am reading it correct, someone could purchase an Etsy gift card for someone for a gift for Christmas, then that person goes onto the Etsy site and shops for an item to use the gift card by entering in a code. That would be when Etsy would send me the money for the purchase, if that person shops at Laughing Orange. I am thinking that I will be looking into offering my previous customers a coupon code that they can key in at checkout for a discount on a purchase. This is a way to thank my loyal customers and to bring in money to my shop instead of someone else’s shop. However, I do think growing the handmade movement will help all artists and craftsmen.

I’m trying to think of all the things to get done now before the holidays come around and I am scrambling trying to “make” things rather than have to worry with the online part of my business. One thing that I think will be helpful to add to my Etsy shop will be a “calendar of final purchase date” so that the customer will

Holiday deadlines

know how much time they are going to give me to make their item and still ship it to arrive before Santa comes. I think I am going to do a screen capture of a calendar and where I am allowed to add five photos of the item for sale, add in the calendar with the ship date on it as a reminder to them.

I need to look ahead to when to put the coupon codes into an email to send around to my base of customers so they have plenty of time to use it for the holidays. Having a black friday online might be fun so I would need to plan to have the email blast go out around the first week of November.

I also think that in planning for the holidays it would be fun to “decorate my shop” with some fun holiday images.Maybe the frog that is in the header of the logo will be wearing a Halloween costume, a pilgrim hat and a Santa hat. Want to send me ideas that you might think would be fun to see him wear?

 

In the past when I have received gift cards, I usually either worry that it won’t work when I get to the check out at the store or that I’ll forget that I have it. I am not one of those people that goes to the web and looks for deals before I go out shopping, however, if times get leaner, I may have to start. I have gone looking for coupon codes that I could enter at checkout online. Some work and some don’t. Some want you to give them information which only fills up your inbox with spam. That has been a deterrent in the past for me.

So as we get closer to the holidays and I start building inventory, if there is an item that you are thinking ahead as a gift for a relative or a favorite person in your life. Be sure and get me the information early so that I have plenty of time to get it to you. I’m not a planner either, but I may have to start focusing on a calendar in the future. I suppose Google Calendar is going to be my new friend.

Blahg, Blahg, Blahg…

I need to blog more. I know that I have heard that if you don’t blog consistently enough that your followers will not come back to read your blog. At only 8 subscribers, I don’t really think I have that many to worry about. Yet. But I would love to have more people to interact with. When I do write on the blog, I post it to my Facebook pages, both personal and the Laughing Orange page. Friends that are in both lists probably tire of seeing the duplication but not all the friends from one page are in both lists. Sorry for the dupes, guys.

Anyway, today, I sat down and thought I would make up a list of as many blog posts as I could possibly think of to write about so that in the future I could just look at my list, pick a topic and start writing. Well, have you tried to do something like this lately? I have to tell you that it is hard.

The 15 that I personally came up with are:

  1. How to photograph your work
  2. How to use clip art in your ceramics or in general
  3. Developing a daily routine
  4. the Packaging Gimmick
  5. Coupon codes and could I create a post in creating a “find the code” in the post to receive a freebie with an order
  6. Where I get my inspirations
  7. Testing glazes
  8. Glaze safety
  9. Social Media
  10. Google + and Hanging out
  11. The Artisan Trail in my county
  12. Local Artisans and Agroartisans
  13. I could feature a local artist
  14. I could feature a local agroartisan
  15. Giveaways, and how important they are

So I Googled “blogging ideas” and found several blogs giving out advice on topics. Most though, don’t really refer to my subject. One however, called Cynthia’s blog, has a list of A Year of Blogging and Journaling Ideas . I think this would be the best approach for me, because it is really generic enough that I could just complete the sentence and go from there. She also has a Facebook page for folks to post the posts they come up with using her year’s worth of topics.

Many times I think that I could do videos of tutorials or just processes that I do to get my final product or craft project. I don’t really know that I could add any more information than is already out on YouTube or some other site without just repeating. Honestly, I don’t really have time for re-doing someone else’s video on techniques.

In the mean time, I do think I’ll look closer at the A Year of Blogging and Journaling Ideas and see what looks appealing to me as a brainstormer of an idea for a new post later in the week. I suppose I could ask my readers or followers if there is something that they would like to have a tutorial of or to get inspired with. Sometimes I think that I am really too close to my situation and don’t really realize the amount of topics that I could really share because I am so immersed. The challenge is being able to simplify a project and help inspire others to want to try it for themselves.

The fun part about the blog is that I can help people through the web that may not live close enough to me to show them in person but can bring them into my studio through their computer into their own space. In some ways though this can be challenging because art can be a hands on experience. But pictures for visual people can make a project easy and fun.

 

Being Authentic

I’ve been reading a book by a marketing guy Eric Karjaluoto called speak human, Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal and it really ties in with information that I got at the ACV Conference last weekend. One of the workshops I attended was called the The NoBS Guide to Networking led by Sarah Beth Jones, of Nary Ordinary Business Services. Sarah Beth opened her workshop with the word “Authenticity”. I guess I never really put much thought into this concept, but last night I got to a chapter in Eric’s book that really made this term come into focus. For years, in my old job, I seemed to get into trouble for being authentic. The corporate world is one of secrets and professionalism that is truly based on untruths. We were actually asked to sign a document to not reveal secrets. Thing is, in this new world, there are no secrets. With Google, you can find out all that you want to know and some that you don’t want to know. My feeling was that if I was honest with my/their customers, the customer would trust us and trust our knowledge of making their product the best that we could make it. This was something I was reprimanded for on occasion. “Don’t discuss that with the customer”….WHY? I always questioned authority because I didn’t feel the authorities really understood the situation as being real or honest. Keep the customer in the dark.  If the customer did figure something our that we were doing there was a “damage control meeting” where everyone could get their story straight. This is just wrong.

As Eric brought to my attention last night with this…

“I open my personal life to business colleagues and like the idea that they see me as “human” first and “business-person” second. I tell other studio owners our business “secrets” and believe we have more to gain by sharing knowledge than by being secretive and paranoid. The truth is, few of our secrets are that good anyway. I’d bet that few or yours are either.We tell the truth for a few reasons. First of all, our moms told us to. I’m not trying to be funny here; that influence is still hard-wired into us. It’s also easier. We’re  not forced to remember which stories we told to which people. We don’t have to worry about inconsistencies from exaggerating. Aim for transparency and just put it out there. Edit as little as possible and speak as plainly as you can. You might be surprised by the results.”

Social media is changing the way we interact with people. When I first started using Facebook, I would lay in bed at night and try to think of a clever status update. One of my Facebook friends always has a very clever one liner and it is really refreshing to see what he has written. The longer I use FB, I find that I’m not sharing as much as I did when I began using the media. While at the conference I heard comments from folks of my own generation like, “it is TOO personal”. BUT, I think that is why it works. By being yourself and adding good days and bad day comments, others see you as human and they identify with you better. I no longer share what I am having for breakfast but I will share my successes or just check in to let everyone know that I am still alive. But from a business perspective, I think that since Facebook, Pinterest, my blog and my Etsy shop all have the ability for clients, customer, fans or friends to comment on my work, critique my work or praise my work, I can benefit from this interaction.  My business can benefit from this interaction. And I am being real, honest, reliable, genuine, trustworthy and AUTHENTIC.

Sarah Beth Jones’ workshop, “The NoBS Guide to Networking” addressed how to interact with someone that might end up purchasing from you. As a business person, making contacts, I don’t like a pushy sale. I like honesty. I want to build a relationship with someone before I let them know that I am in a business that they might like or want to purchase something from. Our group in the workshop came to the very same conclusion. Building a long term relationship with someone will be better in the long run than only showing up when you want something. This is what Eric refers to in his book about being open and personal with everyone. You feel much better about dealing with someone if you know that they have an interest in you that is other than business. You develop a connection to this person and you have a voice that is heard.

Herb and I love to go to the Woodstock Cafe! Coe and Jean Sherrard are the owners and they have built a wonderful business over the past several years. They do it by knowing their customers. They say hello, recognize if you haven’t been in for a while, ask you how you are, and LISTEN to what you have to say. Because they are friendly, personable and make you welcome into their environment, you want to go back. How many times do you get this service in a Walmart or a Lowe’s or a Rite Aid? We have lost this in our society and it is really a shame.

As I go forward, building new relationships and growing my small business, I have the ability to take each new “fan” as a gift, learning from them as they learn from me. Hopefully, I can develop the kinds of relationships that will make others want to know what I have to offer and how I can help them and that I really do care about their life.

In doing my google search of some terms for this post I came across an additional article on authenticity that you might also enjoy reading…Dan Erwin’s blog about Career Development

 

Take Home a Piece of Laughing Orange

Today I feel inspired to go to work because I attended the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference this past weekend and have to say that I have so many things on my list of things to do and add to Laughing Orange that I am certainly having to prioritize them all.

First though, I want to give a shout out to the ACV because I am thoroughly convinced that they have their act together better than any organization that I have been involved with for a long time. Sherri Smith, the executive director of the ACV is a “fireball” of energy. She and her board seem to have so many great things going that I am overwhelmed by their excitement about artists and helping artists in our state. I really enjoyed that they take a twofold approach to an artist. First, they seem to understand that an artist can be a different animal and at the same time they understand how politics work and that they need to use the approach with legislature that artists are small businesses that have a serious place at the economic table of our economic situation. Bringing these two things together involves a lot of discussion about how to bring the artisans out of their shells to participate and to also get the funding or support needed from local governments to see them as a viable resource for communities.

When I attended Berea College 30 years ago, Phyllis George, former first lady of KY helped to revive the craft movement and wrote several books to help promote craft in KY and across the US. I know that she saw the need for handmade items to be appreciated, but I also think she saw this as a way for the state of KY to bring in revenue and to help that state’s economy.

I’ve written about this before, but handmade items are not being sought after due to so many of our products being imported in from China and sold here so inexpensively. As a country, we need to put more value on handmade items, if for no other reason than to help bring back the jobs that have been shipped overseas. But more importantly, we need to recognize that mass produced items have no meaning to us. Vanessa Bertozzi, the Director of Community at Etsy was the speaker for our lunch on Saturday at the ACV conference and her talk was about the importance of handmade. She started her talk by asking, “if your house were to catch on fire, what would be the one item that you would take”, (other than other family members). My first thought was my laptop, but as she went around the room and I heard others say things like their old photos, their quilts, their grandmother’s doilies, I realized that I have all my beloved quilts hanging on the stair railings and I don’t know what I would do if something happened to those.  They are irreplaceable. They are extremely special to me. They are handmade!!!

When Sherri Smith came to our county several months ago to give a talk about our county possibly getting an artisan trail, she brought up that we have forgotten how we once had to craft a bucket to carry water, forge our own tools to work in the garden, grow our own foods and put them up for winter, quilt our bed coverings and build our items from our own hands. Even myself, the queen of “I could make that”, heard this and it took me back to a time when these things were commonplace and not mass produced. Today, we go into a Michael’s if we want to make something and they have basically, put all the parts in a package for us and we are assemblers as opposed to artists or craftspeople. We have built a society that assembles kits and thinks of ourselves as being creative. To me, Michaels is a “cheater store” where people can feel a sense of creating.

This brings me to another point that I thought about and was discussed this weekend, which is, the amount of hours that an artist or craftsman will spend on an item only to have to not really be compensated for that quality item in the end. I do this all the time. I will spend countless hours on an item and get really frustrated when the Walmarts of the world take the value of my handmade item down in the eyes of my customers. If our economy is going to improve, if the jobs are going to come back to the US, we need to value our local artists and craftspeople and understand that they may need to ask a higher price than Walmart in order to survive in this new economy.

So, with all my new sources that I have been introduced to this past weekend and with my items sitting downstairs calling my name I really need to stop here and spend some hours at my craft. If you have any topics that you would like to discuss or have me discuss by way of my new adventures, please send me your comments and suggestions. I want to do more of the blogging and sometimes am hung up on what to write about. If you know that I make something that you are interested in knowing more about, let me know. I won’t promise you a kit from Michael’s but I will certainly help you with steps and processes.

 

Preparing to Rise at the Artisan Center of VA Conference

 

 

This weekend I am going to be attending my first conference as an artist. I have signed up with the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference in Roanoke called “Rising Beyond Expectations”. I have been impressed so far with the energy of the Artisan Center’s efforts to help the artists and craftspeople of our state. I think they are realizing that we have a population of craftspeople that can add to the economy and add to the ability to create jobs and products here in the US. The conference is going to offer workshops that I hope to gain some insight as to how to continue to grow my business and market my work.

The artisan trail that our county is implementing in partnership with the Artisan Center and our own tourism department will help both Agri-artisans as well as craft persons to promote their businesses. Many of these workshops will address some of the issues that a artisan will be confronted with to get involved with this new adventure. I am really excited to get this going and to be involved with this county wide project.

 

WORKSHOPS FOR EVERYONE: ….artists, artisans, agri-artisans, entrepreneurs and all who desire to take their endeavors to the next level!

The New Horizon Is A Designer’s World: An engaging Panel Discussion with James Thurman- North Texas University, Alison   Pack- Radford University & Jennifer Anderson- Hollins University.

“There is Art in Marketing” Sandra Tanner, Virginia Tourism Corporation: Marketing plans made easy and lots of great insights and tips for reaching your markets.

“The NoBS Guide to Networking” with Sarah Beth Jones, Nary Ordinary Business Services: Discuss why networking is important, where and when networking happens, and how to find your comfort zone in situations that can sometimes feel daunting.

“Etsy 101” – with Vanessa Bertozzi, Etsy: Learn how to become part of a global market place in a vibrant community of 15 million buyers and creative businesses.

“A Gardener’s Odyssey: From Clay to Food ” with Jim Kvach, Master Gardiner: Find out how one gardener managed to change clay into food where clay is abundant and top soil thin in this informative and upbeat conveyance of lessons learned.

“Entrepreneurs, Artisans and Taxes: Can we all get along?” with Dennis Peltier, EA:  Find out the answers to your burning tax related questions.

“Educating & Inspiring the Next Artisan Generation” with Alison Pack, Radford University: Through the eyes and experiences of students at the Governor’s School as told thru images and narrative in this vibrant discussion of the importance of educating Virginia youth about contemporary craft.

“The Demo – Educating the Public and Customer Service with Fun in Creativity and Affinity” with Judy Ligon, Ligon Art:  Explore the importance of doing a demo as a means to engage public in what you love to do in this hands-on workshop.

“Art As A Business” with Marc Willson, Small Business Development Association: Are you ready to sell your work? Find out how to show your work in ways to make people want to buy it and how to talk and write about it in order to make it more appealing.

“Artisan Trails of Southwest Virginia Viewshed” with Debby Loggins, Round the Mountain: After Creating fifteen artisan trails throughout the 8,624 square miles defined as Southwest Virginia was a challenge three years in the making. What’s next?

“Pricing Your Work” with Neva Bryan, Round the Mountain: Discover why pricing is important, the psychology of pricing and a step-by-step to pricing your products.

“Think It! Ink It! The Craft and Art of Printmaking” with Jennifer Anderson, Hollins University: Join in a conversation on fine art printmaking….the history, types of print and how contemporary artists make art and develop community through printmaking.

“Global, Social, Mobile, Local – How Going Green Doesn’t Mean Going Into the Red” with Helen Nunley, Pretty Good Designs: Going digital and paperless no longer means spending tons of money. Learn about some of the many choices of free or inexpensive solutions from which to choose to help you and your business “go green.”

“The Artisan Mosh Pit”: A special session where you are invited to voice your questions, concerns and suggestions for a facilitated discussion with tourism, economic development, arts and cultural community leaders.