Tips for Successful Online Selling

Online shops and social media marketing can be the key to a successful independent venture, so we have rounded up some valuable advice from Crafty Fox regular, Anna at Custom Made as well as some top tips for traders from Folksy content editor, Camilla Westergaard.

Anna from Custom Made shares her tips for promoting an online shop with a good mix of marketing channels being the key to success: 

"My name is Anna Butler and I run a company called Custom Made. I design and manufacture a range of jewellery and accessories. We have been running since 2007. All our products are produced in the Custom Made studio in Oxford by myself and a small team. Our products are sold via our online shop, and we have around 35 stockists.

My background is fashion. I did a degree in Fashion design, and prior to starting Custom Made I was a menswear designer. I started Custom Made because I felt like I needed a new challenge, but I didn’t know what that was, so I took a big leap and left my job with no plan - it’s the best decision I have ever made. I love my job and I’m still blown away but the fact that people buy the products I design. I will never get over that - it’s the best feeling.

I strongly believe there is no one method of getting customers to engage with your brand and products. I use lots of different platforms to engage with customers. I would say, never put your eggs in one basket where promotion is concerned.

We use a mix of Social Media + Newsletters + Advertising + Events & Fairs with special offers promoted via those channels. I use social media on a daily basis - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. All of these platforms are great and are useful in different ways. Where else can you get free (for the most part) and instant advertising! It’s a no-brainer.

Instagram has been fantastic for Custom Made. It’s the perfect place to engage with potential customers and has helped us gain loyal customers to the web shop and wholesale customers. Using social media is built into my daily work routine as much as design, production, paperwork etc. I hear lots of people say they don’t have time for social media. I say make time and be consistent with it. It will pay off. Engage, engage engage!

We also have a mailing list that has been built up over the years. The list of contacts we have built up are very valuable to the brand. We run special offers too. I see this as an important part of promotion and a big thank you to our loyal customers. It’s fun too, planning the promotions, the codes and advertising to fit in with them. Lots of our male frequent customers engage with the special offers!

Another fantastic method for promoting your brand is face to face selling. Fairs and events like Crafty Fox Market are superb for promoting your products. Customers can see your products ‘in real life’, try them on, shop, chat (I’m a big chatterer!),  take business cards for shopping at home later, visit your site and sign up to your mailing list, follow you via social media etc...

I know this all sounds like hard work (don’t get me wrong- it is!) but it’s so important for your business to succeed. Once you get into a routine and really work on your promotion your efforts will pay off. Its SO worth it!"

Finally - Camilla from Folksy cites good photography alongside knowing your customer, an understanding of keywords and the importance of community.....

1. You need really REALLY good photos when you sell online. Having a webstore is very different from selling at markets. First of all you need to catch a shopper's attention when they're looking at search results or scanning Pinterest. So you need well-styled, well-lit, beautiful product shots that stand out (for all the right reasons!). They also need to show customers the size of a piece, suggest how they can use it – for example, if it's a badge, at least one of your photos should show it being worn, or if it's a print show it framed on a wall. You want people to look at your photo and instantly know what it is and want it in their lives.

You don't need fancy equipment to take a great photo (new phones can take crazily good pics these days) but it does take practice and you'll need to experiment with different props and backgrounds so you can nail your signature style. At Folksy we're also running a series of photo shoots with professional photographers Yeshen Venema and Kristy Noble, so it's worth looking at those because then you'll have a set of awesome product shots to use in your shop, share on social and send to press or bloggers.

2. Find your audience. Write a list of who you think your perfect customer is (and who they aren't). Which bloggers or Instagrammers do they follow, which magazines do they read, where do they hang out? Are they on Instagram or is Facebook their preferred platform? Wherever they are is where you need to focus your efforts. Don't expect them to come to you - it takes a lot of work to build up a fanbase. You'll need to interact with them as well as the people who influence them, and write content, post photos and share articles you think they'll like. Don't spam people though and don't just share your products - you will not be popular. Be genuine, be yourself, be interesting, and your fanbase will grow from there. More fans = more people talking about you and your work.

3. Learn what keywords are. Stay with me. Keywords might sound deathly dull but they're super important. Over 40% of all sales on Folksy come through organic search - that means people looking for things on Google and other search engines. So if you don't know what keywords are, you might be missing out on all those sales.

Here's our keywords cribsheet: Keywords are the words or phrases people type into a search engine. If your shop or product matches someone's search, Google will show it to them - the better match and the more links in to the page you have (ie the more times people have linked to you from their blog or social media channels), the higher you'll feature in the list of results. So do some research to find out what people are looking for, and work on writing really good, relevant, titles, descriptions and tags. Do the same with your maker profile (or About page) and your shop tagline. Think how people will find you and your products. What will they type in? Imagine describing your product to someone who can't see it, and then use tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner to see which words and phrases people are actually using when they search - for example, more people search for 'Pottery' than for 'Ceramics'. Experiment with different titles and track the results to see which ones lead to more views and sales.

4. Ask for advice. Being a maker used to be a pretty solitary experience, but social media and online forums have changed all that. Now you might be working alone at your kitchen table but you've got a community of people at your fingertips, all going through the same thing, with the same questions and worries. If you're feeling brave, ask your followers on Instagram or Facebook for their advice - you can even use polls on Twitter now to ask things like which design people prefer before you start making it. Or if you don't want to go quite as public, ask other sellers in a forum or come along to #folksyhour on Tuesday evenings and ask us. We have a different topic every week where we give advice and other makers share their top tips. Plus we talk about biscuits... probably waaaay too much.