Have you heard of The CraftStar? If not you better get with it!
The CraftStar is a brand new venue for handmade lovers! Sure you might already have your favorite handmade websites bookmarked but I assure you this site sounds like it’s going to be a hit. It’s set to launch any day now and the buzz is getting louder and louder. I’ve watched the site go from 5 thousand followers to nearly 10 thousand in a mere two weeks! That’s a whole lot of steam!
Ever since Baligate sellers and buyers alike are jumping off the Etsy ship. A lot of people don’t want to be invested into a place that doesn’t care about what handmade truly means. Don’t believe me? Go read Regretsy!
For now follow them on their Facebook page and participate in all the fun. Today’s color of the day is orange. Every seller following them is busy posting their orange items for the world to see. Do you have something to add to the fun? These earrings are from Lovely Luxe Jewels.
I started this blog. I think I can come here when I need to say things that I normally wouldn’t say. It makes me human. The problem is that I’m too nice. The other problem is that I don’t like hurting people’s feelings and when they upset me I tend to tip toe around them and act like things are all good. Only today, things are not all good.
Last October I had this brilliant idea to do a January bath and body only box. After the holiday craze things are always very slow in January for all of my beloved handmade businesses as well as for The Little Black Box. I figured that this would be a wonderful way to start off the new year. Sales would be great for the businesses who participate and boxes would fly out the door. Boy was I wrong.
First, if you know me and you follow my websites you know that handmade is really my true love. I’ve owned and operated my own candle business since 2005. I started advertising in the Little Black Box in order to gain new customers and it worked for me and when the old owner Amy Jagminas told me she was selling the site I jumped at the chance to purchase it because I knew just how dedicated I was to handmade and the promotion of my own candle business. The Little Black Box DOES work if you follow my guidelines and read the emails I send out each week as reminders. I know MANY businesses that have succeeded from The Little Black Box and I also know many who it hasn’t worked for. It’s not going to work for everyone but it will work for those that send in more then 20 samples and really put some thought into their promotions. I have seen samples arrive that I’m in awe of. I’ve seen samples show up that are thrown together and rushed out the door because they are late at meeting a deadline. Those arrive and I get discouraged later when I read that particular business knock my service. No one dares question how they were packaged or how much time they really put into them. Automatically they discount The Little Black Box and find other venues for advertising.
Now back to the January boxes. I had nearly 40 businesses who personally signed up to participate. Out of those 40 businesses who signed up I heard from 1 or 2 that contacted me beforehand with legit reason why they could no longer participated and then I had 15 or so businesses that just didn’t bother to reply to my weekly reminder emails saying they were not longer mailing their items in. It’s VERY discouraging! I’ve had people tell me to charge businesses to participate but I don’t want to do that! I want this to be a simple fun inexpensive way of advertising to people who want to learn about new handmade businesses. I know of many customers who purposely wait until their boxes arrive each month to order products based on what arrived in their boxes.
This morning I had to remove the boxes off the site. I’ve been waiting all week for a few stragglers to arrive and they never arrived for whatever reason and now I no longer have enough samples to make sure that each box has at least 13 samples in them. I’m beyond bummed. BEYOND! The businesses who did do as they were asked now have to have their wonderful samples rolled over to the February boxes because other businesses couldn’t follow through with a commitment that they made to participate. It hurts us all!
Those that know me through my online relationships and in real life know that I eat, breathe, sleep my businesses. Yes, I get paid to do this but I literally get out of bed excited every single morning because I’m doing something I love. I sit here from 8:30 a.m. until nearly 11 at night because this is what I do as a single mother. I do this for basically pennies. I do this because it makes me feel alive. I feel like I’m fulfilling a purpose and helping other people’s dreams come true. I love reading reviews about products that you love and I like sharing those reviews with the businesses I work with. It just makes me feel good. Today was the 1st day in a very long time that I just felt so completely discouraged because it seems like others don’t feel the same dream I do.
I’m not asking for much. If you sign up to participate PLEASE email me if you can no longer participate. If your dog ate your samples, fine. If your husband forgot to order a supply you need and you need to wait until next month, great! Just communicate with me!
Starting today I will no longer work with businesses who can not communicate with me. Last November I had strep throat and double ear infections which left me delirious and miserable. I called my mom to pack boxes and get stuff ready while I sat here printing off click and ship notices because it ate at me that I knew people were counting on me for their orders and to get their banners on the site.
So this is my communicating. If you want to succeed in the Little Black Box here are some great helpful hints that I’ve gathered from people in the past:
*Figure out what it is that best represents your store and always include a business card with your contact info on it as well as a coupon code. Customers like coupon codes and most importantly if they like your product they will place an order with that discount code.
Ideas for great promos:
B&B sellers – 1oz is key. Don’t send small slivers of stuff in. Send in a product that can actually be used and enjoyed rather then just sniffed. Soap, lotions, sugar scrubs, perfumes those are things that tend to work best. Small bath bombs and bubble bars are always a great surprise!
Jewelry artists – Super simple earrings! It doesn’t have to be expensive. Quality is important but look for supplies that won’t break the bank and you feel would represent your company in the simplest kind of way.
Paper goods – A simple note card, bookmark, gift tag, recipe card
The best sample in hand is one that gives the holder an overall idea of what they can find in your shop, and an impression of how they should view your business overall. Keep it professional, keep it clean. Whatever sample you hand out, or give to other sellers to distribute for you, you had better believe that you only get one shot at that first impression–so make it count. I’ve received samples that gave me the impression that the artist could care less what thoughts I’m left with about their store. The samples were in dirty packaging, the labels obviously reused and half peeling off, or the sample itself was faulty in a way (ie. a pair of earrings where one earring hook used was different than the other, etc.). All this will do is make a buyer think that all of the items in your store must be this way as well. And that your work itself is sloppy..or that if they order from you, they’ll get their items in dirty packaging, etc. A sample is one of the best ways to reach potential customers who like to try before they commit to buying..why ruin your chances of snagging them into your shop by passing them a less-than-acceptable sample that will turn them off from your store?
Packaging is just as important as the sample, too. Make sure your contact info is attached to your sample–or perhaps you could have hangtags made up with your shop info on it if handing out, say, earrings. Package everything individually–don’t rely on the person receiving your stack of promos to do it for you. If you’re sending yarn samples–package them so that one yard of yarn doesn’t get tangled up with another. Again, use clean packaging, well-designed labels, and include a stack of business cards. Don’t write your url in pencil on a piece of scrap paper attached to a hurridly thrown together sample…yup, I’ve received those too. Again, it’s all in wanting to give the best overall impression.
Make sure you think about yourself, too. Obviously, you’ll want to keep this cost effective. Especially if you plan on sending out a lot. I normally send out 10-12 packages a week filled with my samples to various places for distribution. If you can, and if there’s no deadline you have to meet, try to send your items First Class, NOT Priority. It’s much cheaper. Also, before you delve into making 50, 100, or 1,000 samples, ask yourself if it’s smart for you to do so, or perhaps instead you can make something else that’s easy (and not too time-consuming to duplicate).
Last but not least..send them effectively. Think about the target audience you are trying to reach.Promotional items and samples go much much further with a potential customer than just sending business cards or coupons. If a customer can see, feel, smell, and admire an example of your work up close, the more chance you have of their interest being taken one step further and them wanting to peruse your shop.
Thanks to KreatedbyKatrina on Etsy for her thoughts on samples. I saw them when browsing a thread a few weeks ago and thought that they needed to be plugged here!