Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best in Class: Third iCraft's Sellers' Bootcamp Starts November 1

Just in time for this most important holiday selling season, the third iCraft Sellers' Bootcamp will kick off on November 1, 2009 with a bang! The www.iCraft.ca site is an international selling venue exclusive to handmade items.

Designed this time specifically for the holiday selling season, this FREE online sellers' marketing class goes for 28 days (weekends off) and has daily marketing and advertising assignments (free and low-cost methods) to promote your shop that will take only 30 minutes a day.

What I like about the class is that it makes me accountable to prioritize what will give me the biggest bang for my efforts. This will be the third iCraft Sellers' Bootcamp I have taken and I have to tell you that I come away each time with new strategies. It is well worth my time for a third one!

The program leader is Christine Skaley (PillowThrowDecor) who comes from a 26-year career in sales, sales training, strategic planning, and instructional teaching. She is a fabulous motivator and leader and will lead us all to organized time management, marketing and advertising best suited for our shops, and other business tactics. (She is a master with fabric and sewing too!)

If you are excited to participate and are not yet an iCraft seller, you can become an iCraft seller now as your main shop or as a second shop in order to particpate. You will need to have at least 5 items listed. That is just as easy as pie!

In fact, if you sign up for an iCraft shop with a seller code (1c28439c38), you will get 6 months free for your shop! ($25 one-time registration fee does apply).

Who knows? You may be one of the iCraft Sellers' Bootcamp participants earning a free shop makeover (banners and avatars), an SEO makeover too! More free things will be offered by sponsors.

IndieCEO will be providing to all bootcampers an ebook on computer maintenance for PCs for small and home businesses - a street-smart must have! 

Join us! You will definitely learn some new things and the iCraft Sellers' Bootcamp goal is for all of us to come away with new customers and sales. You will love the atmosphere at iCraft as an all-handmade selling venue. See you in the iCraft forums on Nov. 1!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Speechless Advertising

We are so bombarded by visual and audio stimulation that it can become overwhelming clutter. Advertisers are quickly invading every nook and cranny of your lives to get their message to you. Sometimes, their tactics are self defeating.

We cannot even watch TV without a bottom scroll, animated images popping up in the corner, and reminder text of shows to come. It is frustrating.

As I thought about this, I was working on a design for new postcards for GalleriaLinda. I tried putting multiple jewelry designs on the card, then thumbnails on one side of a bigger photo, and it all just looked junky. There was no clear message other than “here, see EVERYTHING I have ever created!”

I came up with “speechless advertising.” This is not a new concept, although I put my own name to it. Speechless advertising for my postcard utilized one strong photo and my web address. That is all. The idea is to peak interest and curiosity. If a visual is strong, simple, and uncluttered, curious people will go to the web site.

When I look at these postcards, I breathe a sigh of relief. Relief felt from animation, pop-ups, voices, and all the other things that try to get our attention.

Less is more. Strip your message to its essentials. Try a minimalist approach to your advertising!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's 10 p.m. - Do You Know Where Your Shipping Package Is?

As online sellers, we have a love/hate relationship with our shipping process. On the one hand, we want our packages to happily wing their way in ecstasy to our wonderful customers.

On the other hand, we know that our package has to march through a threatening forest of dangers in order to reach the customer.

Due to volume, over-worked employees, and rush, shipping through the US shipping systems during the holiday selling season can be brutal to packages and frustrating to sellers and buyers,

I had an incident with a package that really enlightened me on this whole process. I had purchased some jewelry supplies from a handmade independent seller and never received the package. The two of us brainstormed but it was not insured (I, as the buyer, did not opt for insurance), and it was sent as first class. Therefore, there was no way to track.

The seller graciously sent the items again. I did receive a package this time that was mangled, torn, taped, dirty, and had a very odd item in it - not my supplies! I took the package to the post office and talked to the general manager. We deducted that the package - a bubble wrap envelope - got caught in the sorting machine and ripped open. The next thing he told me astounded me.
Sometimes the sorting machines will easily snag on corners, pieces of tape hanging off, or anything not securely sealed. When this happens, a bunch of envelopes and packages jam the sorting machine and rip and spill all the contents on the floor! It is up to the postal employees to gather up all the contents and ripped envelopes to try to match them up. If there are no clues - they just start piecing together anything.
Obviously, they did not match up my package's contents very well. Someone else received my supplies, while the person waiting for the content of my package would never see it. That is sad but avoidable.

Here are some tips to minimize threats to your shipping packages:
  • Because of the story above, I now put all my items into one large zip lock baggie before putting into my shipping packaging. That means that my sold items in my shop packaging, business cards, invoice, thank you note - are all in one contained bag. So, if it spills on the post office floor, at least the invoice is there with the ship to address and all the contents should be together. If you sell larger items, you can still figure out how to do this.
  • It is good policy to have the "ship to" and "ship from" addresses inside the shipping package. I insert an invoice as my shipping document that has both of these. If the shipping label gets ripped off the package or the package is ripped open - this is your second defense in getting it back on track.
  • Don't use inkjet printers to print out your labels. When they get wet, they run and sometimes can be illegible.
  • Do waterproof the inside contents, either with secured and taped bubble wrap, baggies, or some sort of plastic. Picture you package waiting in a bin outside for the truck to back up and a downpour starts - and yours is on top!
  • Tape, tape, tape - even US priority boxes. There are incidences where thieves will extract contents from the corners of even a priority box. They are looking for an easy and quick mark, so don't give them one. Lock down tight your outer package.
  • I suggest that you make your shipping package generic so not to draw interest to unsavory people who may be tempted to steal. Some sellers pride themselves with branding their outer packages with logos, shop name, and other branding. Even Etsy has a video on their recommendation to personalize your outer wrapping. I strongly disagree with this. The place for personalization is on your product packaging inside your shipping package.
  • Therefore, I suggest that you don't use your shop name or product identity on the outside of your shipping box. If you notice, big companies are now sending their products in packages that have very generic return addresses and names. It is my recommendation just to use your return address without a name or use your personal name instead of your shop name. And, never use the word "jewelry" anywhere! This just temps those who may step over the line and steal.
  • Be sure that your shipping package does not rattle. Use bubble wrap or tissue paper and packing papers to keep the contents from rattling. Rattles might invite postal employees to inspect, which is OK but can delay your package and ruin your outer wrapping. If you are shipping something that rattles no matter what you do….like baby rattles….write on the outside "Rattle OK."
  • Be aware that your package may face extremes of temperatures - sizzling heat sitting in trucks or below freezing temperatures. If you have a sensitive product, such as soap, candles, or cosmetics, research how you might best package your product for shipping. Call shipping vendors for advice.
  • Is it OK to use recycled packing materials? I think so and I do it. Be sure your outer packaging is clean with untorn edges. Any packing materials, such as bubble wrap, foam, and packing papers should be very clean and only very gently used. This is your choice, however, as some sellers insist on only the best new materials. That is OK too.
  • No, no, no smoking or tobacco odors hovering around your materials. This type of material will absorb odors! That is a turnoff. And that goes for pet hair too.
  • Newspaper as packing material is not the best. Inks from newsprint can get on hands that unpack it (yuck!) or on the contents.
  • No need to frustrate the customer by packing tiny loose items in a lot of fill material where the customer has to pick through packing and then not know if they got it all. This fill gets all over everything too. Paper shreds, peanuts, and other fill material can be used appropriately for larger items or tiny items put into one container inside.
  • Be sure your outer package fits your inner package. It is weird to receive a huge box with a teeny package inside. It can make a customer think they are paying too much for shipping. Likewise, if your outer package is so snug to your inner package, it may not protect the contents, or worse, may spit open.
  • Wrap breakable items well. Visualize boxes being dropped, other heavy boxes being thrown upon yours, and (heaven forbid!) your box falling off the truck! It happens. Plan for it.
  • If you send small items in a business envelope to save on postage - just don't - or be sure it is only paper. Any kind of ridge, lump, bump, or ripple (even a staple) from your item inside can jam that cranky ole sorting machine and you know what that does….you may never see the item again. Don’t send neck chains, flat earrings, or even cord in a business envelope. Package purposefully for the item.
  • Know the smallest and largest package sizes that your shipping vendor will take. Know requirements, such as addressing (One side? Both sides? Etc..), regulations on using string and taping (you are not to tape over any part of an international label), brown paper wrapping, and everything else.

You are the shipping expert in your customer's eyes!

Add your comments with other shipping tips!