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293: What’s next? Continuous sales after launch

If launches create spikes and windfalls of income in your business, creating continues sales is how to keep a steady income stream. Learn more about creating sales between launches at TaraSwiger.com/podcast293

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How do you keep sales going? When you don’t have anything new? When you’re not launching? What can you do to stay consistent?

Today we are diving in to making more consistent sales!

Recently Starship Captain Brenda asked: “I just launched a pattern last week and had a good amount of sales, but now what?”

I’m going to share with you what I told her.

This is the second episode in a series about reaching your 2020 goal of increased sales. You can listen to the first, which was about launching and find the Massive Launch Resource Kit at taraswiger.com/launch

Ok, let’s get into it: what do you do to keep sales going?

The answer is simple: Send another email.

Yes, if you send 3-5 emails during your launch and now it’s over, get right back into it! Send an email! Post on Instagram! Use the momentum to establish a consistency you might not have had before.

I know you're worried your people won’t want to hear from you too much – YOU ARE WRONG.

They want to hear from you even when you’re not launching. If they stuck with you through the launch, they are VERY interested. In fact, they are closer to buying now than they ever were before.

(If not, they would have unsubscribed or stop opening… in which case they won’t see your messages anyhow!)

Always always remember: you are talking to people who WANT to hear from you. 

So what should you send?

Well, if you’ve just held a launch that made more sales than usual, then your products are landing in the hands of your customers – which is what you should feature!

If you’re a knitwear designer or yarn maker, you can see your customer projects on Ravelry. If not (or if no one is sharing them yet), you can ASK them to share, better yet, INCENTIVIZE them to.

Yep, offer them something for sharing. Maybe it’s free shipping code for the next 5 people who post a photo with your hashtag or you host a giveaway and everyone who posts a photo and tags it gets entered to win. Now, it’s not ethical to give anything in exchange for a REVIEW. I’m not saying to incentivize reviews, rather incentivize word-of-mouth – people sharing their product on their own social media, while tagging you and using your hashtag.

Then comment on every single one of those posts and ask the share-er if they give you permission to share it on your account!

Then you’ll have customer images and stories to post!

Be sure you also collecting customer feedback when it’s sent directly to you – via DM or email. Have a template that you send in response to nice emails. Mine says something like “Thank you so much, this made my day! Would you mind if I shared this on my social media or website? I will tag you or link to you when I quote you!” (Now, the testimonials for MY business might be private (eg, if someone shares their sales numbers, they may not want to do that publicly), so I also offer to post it anonymously, but most of you sell something people are happy to talk about publicly.

Almost every time I’ve shared this strategy with a Starship Captain, the maker or designer has been SO nervous to start asking their customers if they can quote them. They are certain their customers will not agree or be upset, but you know what? In every single case their customers have been THRILLED and really flattered. People LOVE to talk about what they love!

This has held true for product makers and service providers – tech editors, yarn shops, jewelry designers, glass artists, knitwear designers, home decor brands, life coaches, knitwear designers – your customers WANT to see you succeed and share their great experience with you!

So that is going to provide a new category of content. Every time you share a customer photo or quote, be sure you link to how to get the thing.

Another strategy that it’s easy to forget is to focus attention on your older, great products. If you followed the directions for a great launch, then you know that it takes some time and effort to really highlight what’s great and valuable about a product. Of course you should do this when you have a new product, but you should ALSO give this attention and love to your older products!

Answer the questions about both benefits and value that I posed in the Launch Plan, and then focus on communicating that for a week or two for your older stuff.

A few years ago I helped a knitwear designer increase her sales when she took a break from publishing new designs with this strategy. She was working on a book, so she couldn’t also be designing and selling individual patterns. She went through her back catalog, chose some customer projects to highlight, wrote up what customers loved about it and her inspiration and highlighted one older pattern in each email and scheduled them to go out once every two weeks for six months. She was surprised that very few of her email subscribers even knew that she had these older patterns (she kept getting comments like “I love the new design!”) and she was even more surprised that her overall sales increased, while she wasn’t actually working in her business at all.

That increase in sales happened for a few reasons: 

  • She was being more consistent, her readers started to look forward to her emails
  • Every time she sent an email about a “new” pattern, it reminded people to go on and buy the pattern they were considering last month.
  • The consistency and large back-catalog communicated trust and reliability, which built her brand’s perceived value (a.k.a. people are willing to spend more money when they trust you)

Nowadays I would also add in schedule Instagram posts highlighting the same patterns she was featuring in her emails.

Even though you may not be a designer, please think through how you can apply this to your own business! You could feature older products, or the craft shows that you’ve done, or the retail shops you’re in, or your bestsellers.

Note what worked – do more of it.

This may sound really obvious, but take a minute to think – do you really keep track of what’s working, really working (not just how you feel about it) and then purposefully re-use it?

You can use the same strategies.
The same photos.
The same captions.
The same sales emails.
The same schedule.

Will people notice? 

Not really. I used to use the same exact emails to launch the Starship every 3 months, with only a few updates…and they worked as well the 2nd year as they did the first year. Why? Because new people were seeing them every time. New people are coming to you, they don’t know what they used to do.

And if it’s the same people, they haven’t opened and read and looked at and MEMORIZED every single thing you’ve done. So try it!

You can also do more of what worked by looking at WHY it worked. Do pictures of your face do better? Take more! Are captions that are long or short do better? Do that!

You can see all of this on whatever platform you’re using – your email stats, your Instagram “insights” (you have to have a “Business” account to see them, and you should definitely upgrade in order to have access to that!).

Use those stats to shape what you’ll do next.

Keep Going

Above all, the way to keep sales going is to keep TRYING new things (and old things!), to not give up when you have a dry month. To not get discouraged when you need to step back or take a break or something goes wrong.

At the heart of this philosophy is to take responsibility – to realize YOU have a job to do to increase sales. Etsy isn’t going to do it, Instagram isn’t going to do it – YOU have to figure it out by learning and trying and iterating.

It is very easy to say, well, sales are down because of… the election, or Brexit, or Ravelry made a change. But there are businesses who thrive in every condition, in every change. Giving up and blaming outside circumstances is not the way to grow. Taking responsibility for what you can control (and letting go of what you can’t) is the way to reach your goal.

If you implement any of these strategies, let me know, I’m @TaraSwiger on IG. Be sure you come join our Facebook Group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger so you can chat about it with other makers and artists committed to their business in 2020.

Thank you for listening and have an enthusiastic week.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

276: Q+A: promotion, saying no, and balancing multiple businesses 

“Email is still the most effective place to make a sale.” -Tara Swiger Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast276

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What is the BEST tool to promote your business? How do you say NO without losing customers? How do you balance multiple businesses?

Today I am answering YOUR questions in this Q+A episode!

Thank you to my Patrons

Most weeks I teach a lesson to help your creative business, but today I am answering YOUR questions! I gathered questions from my community of supporters on Patreon, and my Instagram comment section. I am going to answer your questions about the BEST tool to use right now to promote your business, how to balance multiple businesses and how to say NO.

And if you want to learn how to avoid the three mistakes I see most creatives making, come to my workshop THIS week: TaraSwiger.com/foundations.

Before we get into answering these questions, I want to thank Sarah Schira of Imagined Landscapes for her support of the show! Sarah makes best Gnome puns around! If you need more gnomes in your knitting, check her out!

Thank you to Kim Werker, longtime friend, colleague and fellow Enthusiast. She’s starting a free community, that you should definitely take a look at.

The Questions:

A patron asks:

I would be interested in hearing ideas about how to balance multiple small businesses.  I have a vintage clothing business in a brick and mortar antique store, an etsy shop selling vintage sewing patterns (both of these are very established, but small volume), and a much newer fine art business making art toys.  I also freelance as a filmmaker and event photographer (my main source of income). I feel like if I picked only one of these, doubled down and really ran with it, I would get further, but I like the variety and I like having multiple sources of income.  So all of them kind of poke along slowly. Thoughts?

This is a lot of businesses! I think your intuition is right – the way to build fast would be to focus on one… but if that leads to a life you don’t want, why do it?

Why do you need them to get any further? Growth is not the highest good – your own wellbeing, enjoyment and the business doing what it needs to do is the goal.

So DO they need to grow faster? What gives you the most joy?

What do you need your businesses to do financially? What would that look like? How could they work together to do what they need to do?

Then divide up your time accordingly.

Kristina asks: 

How to say no to a potential or current client without being mean or burning bridges. Do I always need to give a reason or excuse? 

I have a whole series of articles and podcast episodes, on how to say NO, with scripts!

The first thing is that you need to reframe this! Saying no, especially when you simply can’t take on a job at all, is not mean, it’s a part of business. In fact, someone reaching out to see if you can take a job is probably expecting that you may say no. That doesn’t mean they won’t come to you with their next project. They may even appreciate that you are so in-demand, and book ahead next time.

Now it’s slightly different if you’re not just turning down a job, but you are saying no to a current client on a current job. Like no, I can’t ALSO do X, the scope of this project is Y. But you have to remember: that’s why they’re asking. You have the choice to say no.

In most cases I would NOT give a detailed reason or excuse, the other person doesn’t want to hear it! Also, the more you say, the more they have to argue with. They can delegitimize your reasons.

For example, I have had conferences ask me to do more than we had contracted for, “oh, could also be available during this time? Could you also sit on this panel?” Quite often I say yes, because I like getting chances to talk to more people. But if it doesn’t sound fun or it will exhaust me, I say “Oh, our agreement was X, so that’s all I’m going to be able to do.”

It’s hard, but don’t give any more explanation.

You can have a standard reply, like “Thank you so much for reaching out, I would love to work with you. However, I’m booked up with projects and my timeline is X weeks out, so unless that works for you, I’m going to have to say no.” And if they’re asking for more once you’ve started working together, quote a policy. “My policy is to not….” or even, “Our initial agreement is…”

Before I answer the last question, which is quite a doozy, I want to thank Brenda, who makes gorgeous knitting patterns. I’ve linked up to a blog post she wrote on her site about the experience getting her website made, because it’s really great!

Thank you to Erin, who designs beautiful shawls.

On Instagram someone asked:

What is the best tool to promote your creative business these days? When you are just starting and don’t have time to be on every platform and do email, blogging, in-person promotion, etc? 

My answer is the same as it was 5 years ago when I wrote my first book, Market Yourself, and I’ve seen newer data that shows it is still the right answer: Email is the most effective place to make a sale. So if you want to increase sales, and you want to REACH the people who want to hear from you, email is the answer. Email reaches those who have said they want to hear from you, and people take action from emails. It doesn’t take much time at all to set it all up, so the hardest part is getting people ON the list (who are you sending these emails TO?!) and then actually SENDING the emails.

The good news is – once you have decided what you’re going to regularly send, it doesn’t actually take that long to put it together each month or each week. If it is taking a really long time (because you’ve made your emails complex), then simplify it. Simplify it down to whatever you can consistently do. That can be as simple as hooking up Mailchimp to Etsy and having it populate your 5 most recent products.

So hook it up in an afternoon and decide what you’re going to send. Every email software generates a form that you can either link to or embed, so the “where do these people come from” question is simple – anywhere you already are. Put the form on your site. Link it in your etsy profile and your Etsy thank you messages. Link to it on Facebook and in your Instagram profile. Every time you send an email, do a post WHEREVER YOU ALREADY HAVE ANY CONNECTIONS about what will be in the email and share the link to sign up.

It could be that you have a personal facebook page, and you think your family and high school friends aren’t going to want your emails? Link it up anyhow, you may be surprised! They may be super into whatever you’re selling or they may have a sister or cousin who is. My husband’s uncle shares links to my work sometimes, and I’m surprised by how many people who he knows who sign up to hear from me.

So, you may be thinking, but Tara, it sounds like you’re saying we have to be everywhere to get people on our lists! And the truth is – you do need to be somewhere other than just in your shop and in your emails. You have to GO somewhere and meet new people. For you it may be having a booth at the local farmer’s market (one of my Starship Captains has absolutely CRUSHED her local markets and doubled her sales), or it may be a FB group with local moms, or it may be talking to your local yarn shop about carrying your work. But your work (and you) have to show up somewhere where people can encounter you. And when they do, invite them to sign up for your emails because that’s going to be the most effective way to make sales.

I hope that answers your questions! If you want to learn more about how emails fit in with everything else you have to do in your business and how to focus ONLY on what matters, join me in a LIVE workshop this week! Sign up at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.

Before I go I want to thank Marianne Weber of MWsDesigns , who makes notecards and greeting cards! And the artist Rowena Roberts, who does beautiful paper-cutting!

 

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

9 emails you can send for your handmade business tomorrow

How do you feel about the emails you send, right now? Do they result in sales and conversations with your readers? If not, it's time to experiment. Today I'll share 9 kinds of emails you can be sending for your handmade business. Listen to the episode and get the FREE transcript at TaraSwiger.com/podcast140/

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How do you feel about the emails you send, right now? Do they result in sales and conversations with your readers? If not, it's time to experiment. Today I'll share 9 kinds of emails you can be sending for your handmade business.

Links Mentioned:

Want the FREE transcript for this episode? Enter your e-mail in the box at the bottom of this post!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Abby Glassenberg on Email Marketing for Crafters

AbbyG

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Abby Glassenberg has built a thriving sewing pattern company, she is the podcaster behind the popular interview show, While She Naps, and the writer of my favorite blog. I was happy to get to talk to her about her own experience with creating a (massive!) email list with content I look forward to and how she helps makers do the same.

 Links we mention

 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

The Whys + Whats of Automagical Email Series

Yesterday I went on about how effective email lists are for your business, and today I want to talk about the easiest (and least time-consuming way) to use your list: creating an autoresponder.

An autoreponder is a series of emails that are sent, automagically, to subscribers on a schedule you set. The biggest draw of creating a series like this is that you only have to write it ONCE. And everyone will see it, in the order that you want, forever. Unlike a blog, social media or weekly newsletters, everyone is receiving the information in the same order. And you don't have to think about it again!

 

Although these are pretty simple to create (see the tutorials below), I don't find many of the makers or teachers I work with use them…I'm not quite sure why. We got to talking about this in the Starship, and it sounds like the main block is just figuring out how it would work for you and your business, whether you're a yarn-maker, a designer, or a writer.

 

Well, I've got some ideas for you! In today's video (the first lesson in the new mini-class), I explain the benefits and the three different ways you can use 'em in your business:

Reading this via email? You might have to click through to see the video.

 

Tutorials on how to add emails to an autoresponder using:

Want to use autoresponders to connect with your customers? Join me on a 5 day exploration!

automagic email series copy

This video is the first in a series of 4 lessons on using email series in your business. In coming lessons we'll cover, in detail, each of the ways you can use them, along with examples, and try-this-yourself worksheets. Get the exploration here.

 

 

Got questions about using or creating series? Ask me!

 

PS. Unrelated! See that picture in the frame behind me in the video? That's a picture of the Starship, commissioned from Amy. You can get art for your business from her!

PPS.Today's my mother-in-law's birthday and she sometimes reads the blog. Hi Rhonda! Happy Birthday! I'm sorry your gift will be late, but I promise you'll get it Friday! xoxo!