How to promote your handmade items online
You've made your products and created your shop online - now how can you tell the world about it? Here are some ways to promote your business and start bringing in those sales!
Often the easiest part of any business is making your products to sell - the really tough bit is making sure you are promoting your products to the people who are most likely to become paying customers.
Friends & Family
This is often the best place to start as it allows you to work on how you are going to present your products, without risking too much in the way of time or money. Ask your friends, family and co-workers what they think about your products.
Concentrate on the wording of how you describe your products and make note if anyone isn't clear on what your products do - this will help you to refine the words you use in your listings or shopfront. Ask them about how they feel about the packaging and photos - ensure you are asking for positive criticism so you don't just end up with praise (however nice that may be!). With this in mind, be prepared to hear some things you may not want to hear about your products - remember to take this as positive points to improve on, rather than something that means you will never sell anything. A positive attitude in this part of the process goes a long way!
You don't have to use your contacts only as market research - these are sometimes where your best customers come from. Friends of friends are often a great source of customers to expand your business, so try to get people talking about your products to others. Facebook in particular is a great online place to do this - the only thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you keep things in moderation!
Even if you don't use this yourself, there are lots of others out there that do - and some of them are bound to want to hear about your products!
Try to get a twitter username as close to your business name as possible. If you can't get your exact name, don't give up - try adding something like "shop" or "handmade" or "hq" to the end to make it unique.
Once you have your twitter account created, post a couple of things to get in the habit of updating - remember, not every tweet needs to be earth shatteringly exciting - sometimes the most interesting accounts are ones that chronicle a "behind the scenes" view of the business. Post photos of your workshop, your materials, works in progress - these all give a sense of the fact that you are passionate about your work, which is always attractive to customers that like to buy handmade.
Find people in the same field to follow - keep checking what they post to get a good idea of new tweets - don't be afraid to use this to network and ask questions as this only helps to make your account look active.
Add your twitter account to your business cards, your invoices and in your packaging to make sure that your customers know - this gives you a chance to sell again to your existing customers as they will be reminded of you when they see you tweet.
Again, this is a case where even if you don't use this personally it's worth creating an account for your business and posting your products here. It really doesn't take much to "pin" your products every once in a while - even if you only make a handful of sales from this option, it's still worth it!
Photo sharing sites
If you are taking photos of your products for your online shop anyway, why not post them on a range of photo sites too? A couple of good ones are Instagram and Flickr - there are sizeable communities there that could possibly be interested in your handmade goods, so it's worth considering as part of your marketing strategy. Remember to clearly title and describe your photos - and always add a direct link to your product pages!
This can be a little harder to get results out of nowadays due to the sheer number of blogs out there, but it is worthwhile to get in the habit of posting to a blog every once in a while. Your blog posts don't have to be lengthy or even regular...you don't even need to be able to write particularly well: if photos are more your thing, upload photos to your blog with captions. Writing good, interesting and unique content however can be good for SEO, which can pay dividends later down the track as your business grows.
Facebook Business Pages
Facebook offers a great feature for businesses - Facebook Pages. Pages give you a space on Facebook that is separate to your personal Facebook account that you can use to promote your business. Again, the same tips apply here as with Twitter - post as much as you are able to about your products and your work in progress. Facebook pages also offer interesting features like polls that you can use to ask questions to your fanbase - this can be really handy for deciding on new product ranges to offer.
If you are ready to spend a little bit of money to promote your business, Facebook Ads is a great place to start - it allows you to target very specific interests and other demographics so you can really narrow down to your ideal customer base. You can also set a maximum expense per day, so you can manage your budget quite easily this way. Alternatively, you can experiment with the $5 "Boost Post" feature to try and reach new customers.
Find blogs that write about the sorts of products you make and contact them to let them know about your product. If it is unique and interesting, they may wish to write about it in their blogs - which gives you free advertising! It all depends on the traffic that each blog gets as to how successful this can be, but this can be a very effective marketing strategy to use. Be prepared for some bloggers to request samples of your work, or even free products in exchange for coverage.
This is another form of paid advertising that is worth experimenting with. The key to this form of advertising is to make sure the page you are linking to is very engaging so that they stick around - StumbleUpon's users are notoriously fickle, so you'll need something attention grabbing for this to work!
This is a great ad network in which blog owners sell space on their blogs to the highest bidder - the highest bid a lot of the time ends up being very low (such as 1-2 cents) so it can be extremely cost effective. You can choose the blogs you wish to advertise on from a range of different interests and set your daily budget to fit with your planned expenditure.
If you sell on Etsy, make sure you create a Team for your shop - this allows your customers to join and to participate in conversations about your products. You can use this to announce new products or ask for opinions on your upcoming products.
Look for opportunities to ask your customers if they would like to receive a regular newsletter from you. This gives you a great opportunity for repeat sales - especially around holiday periods such as Christmas and Valentines Day. If your mailing list isn't large, you should be able to send your emails directly - when you get to a stage where you have a large list to send then use a specialised email newsletter app such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, which will handle the email templating and sending for you as well as provide you with indepth stats to see who is reading your mailshots.