Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Etsy Marketing 101 | Virtual Merchandizing Featuring Etsy Seller GemstoneIsle

First - let me get this little disclaimer out of the way - This is not an Etsy endorsed blog. I am an independent marketing specialist and when I joined Etsy I noticed that many sellers were asking for help getting sales in their shops. So I decided to put my marketing knowledge to work and set up this blog series. I'll be covering a wide variety of topics from social networking to actual tutorials on photography. So let's get started!

The visual appeal of your store is one of the most important ways to get sales. Dark, uninteresting, out of focus photos can be the death of a shop even if you have a great product to offer. In a brick and mortar store this would be a situation in which you need to consider your visual merchandizing. In this case we'll call it virtual merchandizing. 

Gemstone Isle - Otherwise known as Sherry Spiers - is a fellow member of the Help for NEWBIES team on Etsy. Sherry is actually a Lawyer from Florida and when the recession hit she "made lemons into lemonade" and decided to take her freed up schedule to follow her passion for jewelry design.

Visit Gemstone Isle at www.etsy.com/shop/gemstoneisle
Although she has no previous experience in jewelry sales, marketing or merchandizing, her shop is beautifully presented, has solid, high quality photos and a cohesive layout. Sherry was kind enough to do a brief Q&A with me when I asked her about how she decided on the presentation for her shop. 

Kwirk  - When did you first start designing jewelry and what was your inspiration to start?

Sherry I started designing and making jewelry about a year ago. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, but I never thought I had the time and wasn’t sure I had the creativity to do it. I am a land use lawyer and the recession hit my practice area pretty hard, so I decided to just go for it, turning lemons into lemonade, so to speak. I’m glad I did. Designing and making jewelry is relaxing, stress-reducing, and so much fun.

K - What inspired the theme of your shop?

S - Islands have been a persistent theme in my dreams and imaginings since I was a little girl and saw the movie South Pacific. I fell in love with Hawaii. I would make muumuu’s and hula clothes for myself and my sister Vikki and had a little ukulele I played. My sister now lives on the Big Island of Hawaii (a photo of Waipio Valley on the Big Island is featured on my shop banner). When I visit her there, I feel like I’ve come home. There’s something spiritual about the place, and the people are so beautiful, warm and welcoming. I live in Florida which has its own beautiful islands that I enjoy visiting, especially in the Florida Keys. So an island theme came naturally to me when I started my jewelry business. 

K - What sort of materials do you like to use most?

S - My material choices continue to evolve, but at this point I have four favorites. I love crystals, especially Swarovski crystals, because of the sparkle and the wide range of colors available. I love semiprecious stones because of the endless variety and beauty of what nature offers. It’s really quite amazing and inspiring. Karen Hill Tribe silver is a favorite. I like knowing that it is handmade by native people, and that buying it in some small way helps native people sustain themselves. More recently I have begun to appreciate handmade lampwork glass and incorporate that into my jewelry. It adds a different and complementary texture to other materials, and I appreciate the art and talent required to make it. 

K - What sort of preparations did you make before opening your shop? Did you do any market research?

S -  I just jumped in and am learning as I go. I don’t know much about market research and marketing in general and was na├»ve enough to think “if you build it, they will come,” which of course is not the case for most people. It takes hard work to establish a new business. If I had to do it over again, I would do some market research first or hire someone to do it for me.

K - Your photos are a great starting point for a newbie, how did you settle on the style of photography that you chose?

S - That, too, is evolving, but basically the style flowed from the shop’s island theme. I try to use props consistent with that theme, like the sea shell featured in a number of the shop photos. I also visited a number of etsy shops and continue to be inspired by the creativity of other online sellers.

K - What sort of camera do you use for your product photos?

S - I invested in a D3000 Nikon camera, which I like very much. For me, a point and shoot camera did not produce the clear, crisp photos that are so important for an online business. 

K - Do you use a flash on your photos or natural lighting?

S - I read a lot of advice about photographing jewelry and all of it says to avoid flash photography because of the harsh shadows it can create. I don’t presently have a light tent, so I stick with natural light, especially morning light, and that has produced the best pictures for me. 

K - If there was anything you could change or improve in your shop what would it be?

S - The photography, definitely. Photography is an art form in itself and seems to be the one thing online sellers struggle with the most. I try every day to learn something new to improve my photography skills.

K - What was your goal for opening your shop on Etsy?

S - My goal is to work for myself and build my business to a point where I can support my family and continue to indulge my passion for jewelry making. Etsy offers an opportunity for a lot of exposure, the sellers are so helpful and supportive of each other, and the fees are affordable, especially for newbies. I really enjoy this online venue.

K - Is there anything else you would like to share with our fellow newbies and readers?

S - I want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss my jewelry and invite all your readers to visit my etsy shop. I am always open to questions and suggestions.

Sherry is a bright and charming woman who took her good business sense and found a way to make her passion work for her. I have no doubt that her shop will be a big success and look forward to following her progress as she becomes more widely known. 

Here are some images of products from her shop.
Red Coral and Fresh Water Pearls
Blue & Green Swarovski Crystals
Vintage Italian Bead Earrings

Although they don't all have the same background the theme is consistent and clearly shows that all the pieces belong to the same collection. Also when you visit the page for each individual item you will notice that she uses all of her available photo slots and takes pictures of her jewelry from multiple angles. 

Sherry also mentioned doing research on jewelry photography. Researching photography styles for your particular specialty is key. You wouldn't shoot a necklace the same way you would shoot a bench. Fashion, product and editorial photography are all very different styles. Look into the styles that different people have used for a product that is similar to yours. If you find something that speaks to you, take note of it. Study what makes that particular style appealing to you. Do you think you can emulate it? Maybe you need a little help with the technical aspect. Look for online tutorials on photography, check your local library and start following blogs on photography.

Also, choose your setting carefully. Where you take your photos makes a big difference. An image of your product just sitting on your bed might not seem as well thought out as if it were taken in it's "natural habitat" or somewhere suiting the theme of your shop. 

In Sherry's photos she features her jewelry displayed on seashells and rocks and uses palm leaves as an accent. Not only does this bring visual appeal to her items, but it also takes her away from having bland catalog style images. In another instance you might be selling vintage typewriters. Displaying it on a desk with an accompaniment of coordinating office supplies sets the scene for your product. Or conversely it might be interesting to show it on a tree stump outside. The contrast in product and location creates intrigue and interest. 

Lastly - lighting! One of the most challenging aspects of capturing a good photo of your products is light. You may or may not have noticed that the flash on your camera is not your friend. Flash tends to create harsh shadows and can make your photos too "contrasty." Instead, take your photos somewhere where there is a good natural light source. Outside or near a window with morning light is usually ideal if you don't have access to professional lighting tools. Just be careful not to get into direct sunlight or else you'll be battling those harsh shadows again. Another good trick is to shoot with your back to the sunlight. That way you don't end up with an overly bright background. 

Properly merchandizing your shop to make it look cohesive, well thought out and established definitely makes a big difference in whether or not people will stick around to see what you have to offer. Take pride in your products! Show them off to their full potential. If you love them and treat them like they're something special people are bound to agree. 

I've taken the opportunity to include links to a couple photography tutorials for all of you. Feel free to visit them and see what other people have to say:

This site has a huge variety of "How To's" for a variety of different types of products

The title says it all - Professional Looking Photos Without a Professional!

Happy Merchandizing and check back soon for the next Etsy Marketing 101 topic!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kwirk Confessions | Maybe I'll Just Check on that One More Time...

When I put my mind to something I throw all my effort into getting it done.

Said in that way, it almost sounds positive. What it really is, is obsessive behavior. There have been times in my life that I've decided that I want to do something and by jingo it's going to get done! And I'm going to be the best at it. And it's going to be a breeze! 

And by the peak of my obsessive cycle I'm run ragged from trying so hard, emotionally fragile from waiting for the fruits of my labor to ripen and should probably be pried away from my computer to spend time with "Real" people. 

I've been wanting to start a design business of my own for years. But I've always put it off for one reason or another. But recently dear old Sallie Mae (or as I like to call her The Cruel Mistress of Student Loans) has been knocking on my door. Doesn't she understand that I'm a starving artist? I'm a single woman on the far edge of my twenties living alone in a tiny studio apartment in a not very nice area. Money is just a tad on the tightish side, okay? 

Not wanting to have to spend the rest of my life dodging the lovely student loans people, I decided to toss my hat in the ring and see what happens. It has now officially been a week that my Etsy shop has been open. I've been putting all of my marketing knowledge to use: solid branding, good virtual merchandizing, using social media to network and boost my reputation as a "serious designer"... (Please imagine me saying that with my chin up, striking a superhero type pose.) I even know that I can't expect for there to be any profit or to even any guaranteed sales for the first few months. 

And yet...

Every time I post a new item on etsy I rush over to craftcult.com to watch if people are viewing my items.

"Has it gotten a favorite yet?"

"No views?! But it's been a whole five minutes! Look, damn you!"

"Why doesn't anyone like that piece? I like that piece. Don't you like me??"

And it's not just craftcult. It's twitter. It's google analytics. It's even my blog.

Tonight, late, when I should be sleeping, I'm going to pull open my laptop and watch as the numbers slowly tick by.

One day I'll look back and laugh at all of this. But right now it's been a whole ten minutes since I last checked craftcult. 

Obsessively - Nic 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kwirk At Large - Who is This Chick Anyway?

It's about time that I introduce myself properly. I'm Nicole, Nicki, Nic... heck just don't call me "Nnnnn" and we'll get along fine. 

I am a professional graphic designer with a bachelors degree from the Art Institute of California. In my normal 9 to 5 I am the head of the art department at a small beauty company in Huntington Beach, California. I spend my days updating our catalogs, designing and sending out e-blasts, creating custom packaging, managing projects and I am now in the works of creating an internship program for my department. I've freelanced for several years creating branding strategies for small businesses and even doing a little advertising on the side. 

While I love my job in the corporate world, I miss working with clients on a one-to-one basis. That's where Kwirk comes in. I started Kwirk Creative as a way to get in touch with people who want custom designed stationery for special events, personal use or even for their businesses. I have a special love for wedding design and small business branding, but my portfolio is varied and I enjoy a challenge. 

That's me in a nut shell - professionally anyway. 

The personal side of things is bound to leak through here and there. 

Back to the Grind - Nic

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Etsy Marketing Tips | Just Keep Smiling and Talking to Yourself

These are hard times that we're living in. The economy stinks and everyone is searching for a way to make ends meet. Good credit is a myth our parents told us about when we were children. And for many, disposable income in a laughable subject.

So what do you do? For me, and many of the creatives out there like me, we've turned to our talents to make a little extra cash. Whether it's looking for freelance work or experimenting with e-commerce it's a rough path to take.

The market is flooded with people _just like you_ hoping to sell their greeting cards, children's clothing, restored furniture... anything that has value. So how do you stand out in the crowd?

There are lots of ways to show how unique you are and why your product is worth buying. Highlight the things that you can offer that nobody else can. In my case there are hundreds of artists out there selling greeting cards and design services. But I have years of experience creating customer service programs that allow me to offer a level of service that surpasses their expectations. Not only that, but for my design services I'm able to actually advise from a marketing standpoint as well as provide great design.

What makes you unique?

It's tempting to be disheartened by a lack of response when you've poured your heart and soul into what you have to sell. But keeping a positive attitude and remembering that results don't happen overnight makes all the difference in the world. And even if no one is buying, don't count out the people who have just looked at your products and services. They may come back to you at a later date. Think of them as one more person who has seen your work and may share about you with someone else.

Keep thinking positive for yourself. Put a smile on and don't get frustrated. You never know when the dam will break and the sales start pouring in.

Check back next month for a tutorial on how to take great product shots without a high end camera.

- Nic

Monday, April 11, 2011

Awkward I love You's

Boyfriend has trouble expressing himself in a traditionally romantic fashion sometimes. I blame the male experience as a whole. That and possibly ogres that threatened to set him on fire and make him dance the entirety of Swan Lake at some time in the distant past, but that's really just conjecture at this point.

Now don't get me wrong. The guy loves me to death and I know it. But romance as the majority of the world accepts it isn't his strong point. I'll give you an example. This morning I checked my Facebook newsfeed and saw this posted on my wall...

Please, somebody let me know if you know who is responsible for this gem. I would like to give them proper credit. 

Now I say that Boyfriend is weird, but here's the thing... This totally made my day! I couldn't stop laughing AND I felt all special and loved and stuff. 

And it gave me a totally awesome idea for a new project once I feel comfortable with how the invites are coming along. Are you ready for this? Cards that say "I Love You" for people who can't hang with the mushy love stuff. Genius right? That's what I thought. 

Anyway, Boyfriend rocks - Nic

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Fresh Start

The Kwirk Creative Blog has gotten a makeover and a new home!

When I first started Kwirk it didn't even occur to me how much work it would be getting what I thought of as a side project off the ground. I began the Kwirk project at the beginning of the year, thinking I would start with a dozen designs on etsy and just see where it took me. 

Well, here we are about three and a half months later and as of today my etsy shop has finally launched! Check it out at www.etsy.com/shop/kwirkcreative

The full line isn't up yet. Just a selection of wedding invitations. Over the next couple weeks I'll be putting up the matching Save the Dates and response cards, as well as my line of baby shower invites. Next on the list after those will be simple greeting cards, birthday invites, baby announcements and bridal shower invites. There's a lot to do but I think I'm keeping my goals realistic. 

I also have some new plans for the blog. I'll be posting work by other indie artists that inspire me as well as a variety of other lifestyle commentary. This is a fresh start for Kwirk and I hope you come along for the ride! 

Best - Nic