This is Part 2 in a series - Things to Do During Slow Times on Etsy. Click here to read Part 1.
Many new greeting card companies start on Etsy. It's easy, convenient, relatively inexpensive and offers a built-in audience of faithful Etsy customers.
Unfortunately, there will be slow times on Etsy. These are due to lulls between holiday seasons, poor marketing by shop owners, shop age, limited product line, or any number of other factors.
Still, the smart shop owner knows to expect those slow times and plans to use them to improve his/her business, no matter what stage the business is in (new, mid-range, or established).
In a recent post, I offered 5 Things To Do During Slow Times on Etsy. In this post in the series, I offer 6 More Things To Do During Slow Times on Etsy. You might not need to undertake all of them - because you have already done so - but you should at least consider if your business plan can tweak any of these important areas.
One of the most basic rules of the greeting card business is that card sales usually align with important dates. If you sell holiday cards, your sales are probably going to increase in October, November and December. If you sell Valentine's cards, you know to be prepared for increased sales in January.
Of course, you probably have a number of cards that don't align to a calendar year - those for birthdays, anniversaries, and just-because. Those are the cards you promote throughout the year. For the ones that align to known holidays and events (Christmas, Kwanzaa, Graduation, Valentine's Day, Halloween, etc.), you should have a year-in-advance calendar on-hand at all times and know how long in advance of each holiday you need to roll out new holiday-specific cards, prepare for holiday sales, inventory your supplies and lay in a basic inventory.
To make your life easier, I am including two calendars - one for 2016 here and one for 2017 here - that should help you prepare. If you prefer a more detailed calendar that you can download and work off of, go here for 2016 and here for 2017.
There are hundreds of marketing opportunities available for greeting card companies, from guest spots on blogs, Facebook marketing, Pinterest for business, and Twitter, to Google Adwords, Etsy promotions, postcards included in your packaging, discount codes for earlier customers, etc.
Each marketing opportunity offers a number of pros and cons. You have to take into consideration the costs involved, the time required to implement each, whether they require a long-term effort or if a one-time implementation will do the trick, whether an opportunity offers a built-in audience, etc.
Slow days on Etsy are perfect times to delve into marketing opportunities that might make sense for your business. Unfortunately, with so many opportunities available - and each one screaming for your money - this job can quickly become overwhelming.
The key is to investigate each opportunity one at a time and take notes (because pretty soon they will blend together). Look at the opportunity's potential audience, the monetary and time costs involved in implementing it, and come up with an expected ROI (return on investment).
Next, do a Google search or search on Etsy forums. Look for people who have already implemented the marketing opportunity and find out what their results were - and, as important, what their cautions are.
When you've chosen a marketing opportunity that makes sense to you and fits your budget, implement it. First, though, make a copy of your shop stats. This will be your "before". As your marketing rolls out, keep track of your stats and sales to see if that opportunity was effective, whether it needs to be tweaked, and whether you should use it again.
For years I sold exclusively on Etsy. Eventually, I branched out to Amazon for my matted art prints. Still, these were only sale venues that offered very little opportunity to interact with my customers or to build an audience.
In mid-2016, I decided to expand off Etsy, not because Etsy hasn't been good to me, but because I wanted to add a blog to my business.
These easiest choice, in my opinion, is to start a blog on Wordpress. If you choose the basic Wordpress format, your blog can even be free. If, however, you want a blog with your own URL (web address), then you'll have to invest in purchasing a web address and paying for hosting for your site. You can still do this with Wordpress - and there are hundreds of companies that make this easy (such as Dreamhost, my favorite, Go Daddy, etc.) - and the costs are minimal, under $20.00 per year.
If you prefer to add an entire shop alongside your blog, then you might want to look into ecommerce platforms that offer built-in blogs, but that also include payment acceptance portals. For my shop, Kat Mariaca Studio, I chose Shopify, though there are any number of other ones you should look into including Big Cartel, Wix and Volusion.
While there are many social media venues you could include in your marketing, you really should choose one or two to concentrate on. Sure, if you have unlimited time to become proficient at all and to keep active at all while running your business, or if you have enough income to hire someone to focus on social media for you, then good for you.
For many Etsy shop owners there is not enough time in the day to spend on multiple social media venues. At least, not enough time in the day to become effective on all of them and to build an audience.
My recommendation is to choose one or two social media venues and build up an audience there. Spend quality time, not quantity time.
I chose Pinterest as my main social media venue because it is visual. I am selling something that would be difficult to describe in words alone so Pinterest's reliance on images helps my cause, as does its ease of sharing.
I am starting to build a following on Instagram was well. Happily, I set it up so that both of these venues - Pinterest and Instagram - feed directly into my Facebook Page and Twitter feed. This means that when I post to either Pinterest or Instagram, my pins are automatically sent to Facebook and Twitter.
When you have some down time on Etsy, look into the various social media venues available to you. Ask yourself if you'd enjoy interacting through that venue and if the time necessary to build an audience is worth it for your business. If it is, go for it.
Etsy does not encourage contacting other members directly - though it can certainly be done. Apparently, they are afraid that it will turn the site into one big spam-fest of shop owners hounding potential customers.
Regardless of the difficulty - or tediousness - of finding potential customers on Etsy, one group that you do have access to is your past customers. Another group is anyone who has ever liked your shop or a shop listing.
The first step in offering a discount to past customers - and to anyone who has liked yoru shop or products - is to come up with a coupon code you can give them. Etsy makes this easy to implement in your shop dashboard.
Once you have a coupon code, you have a number of ways of sending it out:
I'm going to write an entire blog post about this because it is that good. Like most good things, though, this marketing tactic should be implemented judiciously and in moderation. You don't want to be a spammer.
Basically, what you do is go to one of your competitor's shops and click on "Sales." Recently, Etsy has given shop owners the choice of showing what has sold or not. If you click on "Sales" and nothing opens up, then that shop owner has blocked access to their past sales data.
If "Sales" opens up, great, go there. If not, click on "Admirers." This is a list of everyone who has favorited a particular item or the shop as a whole.
Your next job is to come up with a short, sweet, non-spammy message. Something on the order of, "Dear _______, I noticed that you enjoy so-and-so's greeting cards and, because our themes are similar, thought you might enjoy mine as well. My shop is _________, and I sell greeting cards, ____________, and _________. When you're in the market again for cards, I'd greatly appreciate you considering my line. If you do so, please use this coupon code (insert coupon code here) for 10% off your order. Sincerely, me."
Set a reasonable number of these to send each day - maybe 20. Again, you don't want to spam. Also, while you are looking at these past customers and admirers, you might notice that a good number of them are shop owners themselves. Consider doing them a good turn by favoriting their shop and/or a specific product.
Again, if you missed the first post in this series, click here to read "Greeting Card Business - 5 Things to Do During Slow Times on Etsy."
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