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10 Ways Your Creative Business Can Beat the Summer Slump

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Does your creative business go into a slump when summer rolls around?

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. With the kids out of school, vacations planned, and more outdoor events and activities going on, your customers may be spending less time thinking about your creative business.

That doesn’t mean that you should resign yourself to the slump. Summer can be a time to take…or more to the point, “make” some productive and profitable opportunities for yourself. If summer has been a slow time for you in the past, here are some ideas on how to make this summer one of your best ever:

1. “Summerize” your inventory and promotions– There are some things just that sell much better in the summer. Items like summer clothing; hats, swimwear, beachwear, and related accessories typically do really well at this time of year for obvious reasons. Kids are out of school…so anything that keeps them busy like toys, games, DIY kits…will also be quite popular. Things that support outdoor activities like cookouts, camping, picnics and days at the beach also tend to see a spike in sales when summer rolls around. Does any of your work fit in with some of the more popular summer items? Can you put a summer-like spin on some of your regular best sellers to make it more appealing for summer sales?

You may also consider creating seasonal products or items that you only bring out during the summer. I offer anklets and jewelry with a patriotic theme during the beginning of summer and then retire them for the rest of the year after Labor Day. Think about putting a summer-like theme on your promotions and product imagery. This will help your customers imagine enjoying your items now instead of waiting until after the summer. And if you sell on Etsy, don’t forget to adjust your listing tags so that people looking for summer related items can find you.

2. Plan a summer special– Last year Amazon boosted their sales by planning a monster special right in the middle of July (and Wal-Mart boosted theirs by following suit). Is there a summer promotion that you can plan to help boost your summer sales? Remember that a promotion doesn’t always have involve lowering prices. You can always offer free shipping, bundle discounts, or a free gift with purchase.

3. Forge new connections– If your customers are out and about during the summer, why don’t you do the same? While the Internet can be a good place to find customers, it certainly isn’t the only place. Get out of your studio and get yourself out there. Participate in some local craft shows, think about selling at your local farmer’s market, hold an open studio, teach a class, or find an outdoor location with a lot of foot traffic and demonstrate what you do. Getting out more not only opens up some more potential sales, but can also direct more people to your website as well.

4. Network– If you haven’t already done so, get out there to your local galleries and gift shops or pick up the phone and talk to gallery owners. A lot of gallery owners them do their buying in the summer in preparation for the holidays. So this would be a great time to introduce yourself. If you’re going on vacation, keep an eye out for some potential sales opportunities.

Make an effort to network with local artists as well. Find some local artist’s groups and met your fellow artists. You can exchange information about shows, marketing ideas, and opportunities from other artists. See if you can organize some group marketing or sales opportunities with other artists by doing some joint open studios or exhibitions or co-op advertising.

5. Try new things– Use the slower pace to try something new in your creative business. Quietly introduce a new product or a new line to your best customers and see how it does. Learn a new technique and apply it to your work. Research other potential customers and audiences for your work and come up with ways to connect with them. (The Ideal Customer video in the Creative Business Toolbox can show you how to identify potential new customers). Launch a contest or try doing a flash sale and see what happens. If your experiment doesn’t work out, the slower traffic makes it less of a risk…and you would have learned something in the process.

Holidays_and_Observances_Cover.jpg6. Start preparing for the holidays– If things are slow, why not start preparing for the busy holiday season now? Start building your holiday inventory. Begin building up an inventory of packing materials and gift wrap. A lot of packaging companies are already displaying their holiday lines so you order now to avoid the last minute ordering rush.

Begin planning your holiday promotions now. If some of your promotion plans involve things that has a long lead time like booking ads and ordering postcards, get that out of the way now so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. You can use the Holiday Marketing Planner in the Creative Business Toolbox to help you plan your holiday promotions.

7. Try a new marketing technique– Have you been meaning to start an email list, but hadn’t gotten a chance? Been wanting a chance to see what Instagram’s all about? Or maybe you’ve been thinking about giving Facebook ads a try. Why not try it now? Use the slower summer months to learn and experiment with a new marketing technique. If your experiments go well enough, you can put them to use during the holiday season.

8. Plan an “end of summer” special– Consider taking advantage of some marketing opportunities that comes towards the end of summer, like “back to school” specials, end of summer clearances, or early holiday shopping promotions.

Maintenance_Checklist_cover.jpg9. Freshen up your branding– Does your logo need some updating? Are your business cards out of date? Perhaps it’s time to freshen up your Etsy store or website. Use the slower summer months to reevaluate and improve your branding materials. In addition to freshening up your website, consider catching up on some basic maintenance as well. The Maintenance Checklist for Websites, Blogs, and Etsy stores in the Creative Business Toolbox can give you a rundown of common maintenance tasks for your website, blog or Easy store.

10. Do a mid-year review– Summer-time marks the mid-point of the year. So it’s a good time to take a look at what you’ve been doing in your business in the past six months and making plans for the next six. Take a day (or two) to sit down, look over your accomplishments of the previous six months, see what you can improve, and then make a plan for the rest of the year. Click here to get a full rundown on how to do a mid-year review for your creative business.

Conclusion

If your summer months tend to be slower for your business it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to hustle. The sales and opportunities that you build for yourself during the “slow” season can benefit you for the rest of the rest year and for a long time to come.

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How to Use Holidays to Promote Your Creative Business

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If you’re like a good many creatives, the bulk of your art sales comes at the end of the year, during that magical and often profitable holiday shopping season. Then at the beginning of the year sales dwindle down into your usual pace. In some cases, that may just be a mere trickle that barely keeps your business alive. Or your sales may be mostly fine throughout the year, but there’s always a seasonal slow patch where sales just won’t budge no matter what you do.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just even things out for a change?

One way to even out your sales throughout the rest of the year is to take advantage of the other events and holidays that happen throughout the year. Holidays and events that can help you promote your creative business and keep you in front of past and future customers. Here’s how you can harness the power of holidays and events in your promotions.

Think Beyond Christmas and Hanukkah

Start by thinking past the year end holiday shopping season. What other traditional holidays could you use to promote your work? Valentine’s Day? Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? Grandparents Day? How can you adapt what you do to fit one of these days? If you make pet accessories, could you make themed items for Valentine’s Day? If you make jewelry, how can you adapt your line for Father’s Day? Look for ways to add or adapt your product lines to capture interest during these holidays.

How about non gift-giving holidays and events? Are there ways to tie your work to holidays that aren’t traditionally about gift giving like St. Patrick’s Day, Tax Day, or 4th of July? How about cultural holidays like Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, or Cinco de Mayo? Or national observances like National Pet Week, National Nurses Day, and Employee Appreciation Day? Consider seasonal events for promotions like “Back to School”, graduation, or the 1st Day of Summer or Spring.

There’s a distinct advantage to creating a promotion around a holiday like National Library Worker’s Day. For one thing, it’s less crowded and noisy. Pretty much everyone is promoting their work around Christmas. There’s fewer people promoting their work during National Tartan Day. Plus you can use unusual holidays to make your promotions more creative and make them fun.

You can pick observances and holidays that closely fit the personality of your business and the interests of your customers. You got a lot of sci-fi fans as customers? How about creating a promotion on Star Wars Day (May 4th) or on Isaac Asimov’s birthday (January 2nd)? If you need some more ideas on some of the more obscure or unusual holidays, there are several websites you can visit. You can literally find a different holiday or observance every day of the year if you wanted.

Don’t forget to consider dates that are important to your business, like your business anniversary, the date of a significant event in your business, or even your own birthday. Celebrating days like these with your customers can make you and your business seem more real. Heck, you can even create your own holiday if you want. Create it, hash tag it, and promote it. Why not? And FYI there is a “Make Up Your Own Holiday” Day (March 26th).

Pick your events

Now that you’re thinking about other holidays, take some time to brainstorm. Think of all the events, observances and holidays that would be a good match for your creative business. Do simply think of promotions. Holidays and observances can also make for great blog and social media content, both of which can also bring more attention to your work. Sometimes publishing a well written blog post that ties your work with a special holiday is really all you need to do instead of a huge sale.

Once you have a list of potential ideas, refine it. Take out a calendar and go through your list. Decide which ones really match your goals, your work and are a good fit for your customers. Take a look at your past sales history. Is there a slow period that your business encounters on a regular basis that could be boosted with a good promotion? Do you have busy periods where you should avoid scheduling a promotion?

Don’t overload your promotional calendar with too many sales and special offers. Remember that you will need preparation time for each promotion, plus you want to take care that you don’t burn out your customer good will with offering a promotion every other week. Look at what you already have on your calendar and make sure that you have the time and budget to carry out your plan. Decide on a maximum number of promotions you’re going to do during the year. You may not need more than one promotion per quarter. Or you may decide to schedule a promotion a month. It all depends on your customers and your goals.

Plan your promotions

Now that you have a good idea of which holidays and observances you want to target, you need to create a plan for your each of your promotions.

Every holiday promotion starts with a good offer. Why is your promotion special and why should your current and potential customers care?While a promotion can be as simple as a offering a time-limited discount code, take the opportunity to be creative. Try not to get into the rut of simply offering a discount. Here’s a few ideas to consider:

  • Introduce a limited edition item
  • Introduce a time limited service (personalization, customization, etc)
  • Hold a flash sale on specific items
  • Sponsor a charity drive
  • Hold a giveaway or contest
  • Co-sponsor a giveaway or contest with another artist
  • Donating a portion of sales to a related charity
  • Offer holiday themed items for a limited time
  • Offer holiday bundles or gift baskets for a limited time
  • Offer special or personalized packaging
  • Offer a special gift with purchase
  • Create a gift guide

Once you come up with your promotion offer, you need to think about how you’re going to get the word out about it. Are you using social media? Writing blog posts? Sending an email to your list? Advertising? Postcards? Sponsorships? Write down all of your ideas on how you’re going to advertise your offer.

Some of your promotions may require you to spend a bit of money, especially if you’re going to be doing some advertising or have to order special materials. Create a promotion budget by listing what you may need to spend money on and how much. Writing a budget during the beginning of planning process will help you keep costs down and keep your promotion from costing more than you earn from it.

Now you’ve decided on what your promotion is, how you’re going to get the word out, and what your budget is, schedule your promotion on your calendar and write out your task list. Remember that some promotions are going to require more lead time than others, especially if you’re doing a group promotion or you’re trying to get sponsorships or advertising, so schedule your time and tasks accordingly.

Holiday_Promotion_Planner_CoverOne tool that I use to help me with my promotion planning is my Holiday Promotion Planner. The planner includes a list of common and uncommon holidays that you can build your marketing and promotion strategy around and a handy worksheet that you can use to build your holiday marketing plans. Subscribers can find it for free in the Creative Business Toolbox. If you’re not a subscriber to the Crafted Webmaster you can sign up for free here.

Holidays and observations beyond the traditional shopping season can be a great inspiration for your next promotion. The key is finding the right holidays and planning. If you would like, please share your holiday promotion stories. What worked for you? What didn’t work? And what plans to you have for the rest of the year? Please share your insights in the comments below.

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Selling Art Online: How many products are too much?

Another lively topic on the Etsy message boards is the subject of how many products list on your online store. Many newbie shop owners usually border on too many or too few. Shops that have too few items look bare and uninteresting and people will leave because they feel like there’s nothing to buy. Shops that have too many items are overwhelming and people may leave because they can’t make a decision on what to buy.

So this begs the golden question…how many items should you put in your online store or shop? Some artists say that you should have a least 20 items in your online store…others say at least 50…others swear that you must have a 100 or more. So who’s right?

Well, like many things…it depends.

1. What kind of items are you selling? If you’re selling paintings, then it’s a bit difficult and overwhelming to have over 100 paintings to sort through online. Not to mention that it wouldn’t be too feasible to have that many paintings in inventory. So you’ll probably want to be on the 20 item side of the equation. But what if you’re selling something like jewelry or wearable accessories? In that case, people do expect to have a wide range in choice, so you’ll probably lean toward the 30 to 50 item range.

2. How complex is your work?– If your work is very complex and your customer has to take their time in order to appreciate each piece, you can get away with having 25 or fewer items in your store. On the other hand, if people can peruse through your work fairly quickly, then you can comfortably have online inventory in the 30 to 75 item range.

3. How fast is your turnover? if you’re lucky enough to have a very active online store where you sell your items fairly quickly, you want to make sure that you have enough items so that your shop doesn’t look bare after a couple days. However, if you don’t get a lot of turnover in your store, you may want to be strategic about how many items you put out at a time so that you can regularly rotate out older items for newer inventory.

4. How fast can customers see all that you have to offer? Customers that are really into your work should be able to see what’s in your store in a reasonable amount of time. You don’t want your customers to stop looking halfway through your shop because you have too much to look at. And on the other hand you don’t want your customers to be done with your store in 30 seconds either. Generally you want customer to spend between 5 to 10 minutes going through the inventory in your online store.

5. Test it! Of course all of these things are just suggestions. The best way to figure out the right balance in your shop is to test it yourself. Add more items to your store and see how well you do. If you have a lot, trim your inventory and see what happens. A great way to measure this is to actually have a friend or customer sit down and go through your store and time how long it takes them to view the items in your store. If they’re doing in less than 2 minutes, you should think about adding more items. If they look tired before they’re done, you should really consider scaling back.

So your turn…how many items do you have on average in your shop and how did you arrive at that number? How well is this working for you?

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