How to Establish Trust With Your Bio and Smile

How to write a great bio to establish trust with your customers.

I have mentioned the welcome kits we send to our new clients before. Today, I’m sharing one special part of our welcome kits, as well as the print source and what I’ve learned having them printed.

Our standards are high, and there is a lot of content that goes into putting a website together. When you work with Aeolidia, you have a whole team on your side. There’s me, who pops in for strategy sessions and decision making as needed, Sam, who manages the project (helping gather content, organizing tasks and keeping everything tightly on schedule), your graphic designer, your web developer, website quality assurance gal, and often, our copywriter, photographer, and marketing consultant.

That’s a lot of people to suddenly have on your team! As part of the welcome kit, I send a pack of “trading cards” to help you get to know your new team. These are held together with a turquoise belly band, and tucked into your bag of treasures.

Trading cards aren’t business cards

trading card, front and back

These aren’t business cards! They don’t have a URL on them or any contact info. They’re only used in our welcome kits. However, they are the same size as business cards, so our info on print sources will be helpful to you if you’re looking to have business cards printed. It was also important to me to be able to find a printer that would do low minimum business cards. Most printers want you to print hundreds, if not thousands, and I just didn’t need that many of these.

Writing a great bio

For the trading cards, I had my team each send me a head shot and some information about them, so I could write a bio. I wanted these bios to mostly show off each person’s interesting qualities, with just a hint of their experience and qualifications. I found this article from Paper & Stitch, How to Write About Yourself, to be a great starting point for asking them the questions I needed to get interesting replies:

1) “What are the things that make you “weird” to other people? Those are the things that make you stand out. Me? I’m fascinated by giraffes, head over heels for a couple of bluegrass brothers from North Carolina and swoon over anything French. These things get me going! They make me tick…I’m definitely going to be sharing them on my bio.”

2) “What makes your heart sing? We don’t need your life story, we need your magic. What do you get lost in? What brings tears to your eyes? Start here and you can’t fail.”

Take a look at your own bio on your website with this advice in mind – could it use some brushing up?

Here is a sample bio (and you can see the rest on our About page):

Kelly is perpetually seeking her next big adventure in the small, quirky towns she discovers along her travels. A former tween bowling prodigy—#1 in the state of Michigan!—she is still quite the champion, though she might go easy on you for a pint of craft beer or a slice of carrot cake. After getting her Master’s degrees in Public Health and Social Work, she decided to focus on mastering web development (ha! See what we did there?). With a decade of dev experience and years of working as an Apple Genius, Kelly is a meticulous communicator who loves empowering clients to navigate their new sites with confidence.

My hope for the trading cards is that our clients will be pleased to have such a creative gang of people on their side, and that it will break the ice when we first begin talking with them. Since we work remotely, and can’t all gather together with each client, we do our best to be personable from afar.

Sourcing printers and packaging suppliers

business cards with photos

print sources for marketing materials

I would like to share which printers and manufacturers we worked with to produce our marketing materials and packaging. In this many-part series, I am also going to tell you about:

  • any problems I had with printers
  • how we saved money when we could
  • where and why we splurged.
  • what I learned through the process (there were some mistakes!),
  • what I would do differently

People are always asking me for print and packaging sources, and this is proving to be a popular series! This information is going out to my newsletters subscribers only, and I will write once a month throughout 2016 about each part of our packages in detail.

Sign up for our newsletter below! The second post went out last month and is about our Christmas gifts to clients (which double as great promotional materials for any use) – you’ll get a link to that post in tomorrow’s email, which will have all the details about our trading cards. I’ll be sharing how (and when) to print business cards inexpensively, and how to have small runs printed so you’re not stuck with thousands of cards.

P.S. if you’re already on the list, you will get this series of emails automatically! You’re all set.

How to Find Effective Sales Methods That Fit Right

This post by Jess Van Den will help you decide if you should sell on Etsy or your own website. Read through to the bottom to find out how you can get your questions about this answered live on February 10.

Finding effective sales methods that fit right with your business and personality

If you’re in business selling your handmade goods… where and how are you selling them?

Are you selling online? Via markets? Consignment? Wholesale?

Is what you’re doing now working for you?

All businesses go through a constant process of evolution, and the way you sell your work is often a vital part of the puzzle that will make or break your business.

A question you should regularly ask yourself is: should you be diversifying or consolidating your sales channels and venues?

The answer differs depending on the stage you are at in your business – not to mention your personality, product, business model, and your customer.

(In this article, when I refer to a channel, it is a method of selling – online, or via wholesale, for example. A venue is a specific channel – so, Etsy would be one venue in the online channel.)

I’ve been through this very process time and time again with my own handmade jewellery business, Epheriell.

I’ve tried it all – selling online in tons of venues; selling at markets; selling via ‘rental’ spaces in shops; consignment; wholesale…

These days – after almost 8 years in business – I currently sell online only, and my focus is on just 2 venues – my own site, and my Etsy store.

This works for my range – which is all made-to-order, and the majority of which is wedding bands. Therefore, each piece is custom sized, and having a bunch of rings lying around in potentially ‘wrong’ sizes makes no business sense. Ditto for selling them wholesale or on consignment.

It works for my customer base, because they are all over the world. It works for my lifestyle – I live in the country, and don’t have anywhere nearby that I could open a shop, or do regular markets. Nor do I want to! I like working from home, and not having to commute anywhere to sell my work. It suits my personality – I like having the freedom to shut up shop any time in order to travel.

So – how did I come to this particular business model? I went through a process of experimentation over many years before I settled on the model I use now.

Below, I’m going to take you through a similar process, with my suggestions as to what you should consider at different stages of growth in order to ensure you’ve chosen the right sales channel and venues for your business.

When you’re just starting out.

When you’re starting out, you need to try as many different sales channels as possible. Your business is unknown and new – so the more places you get get your work seen, the faster your business will grow. It’s highly likely that you won’t have too many sales happening at this stage, so you’ve got more time to devote to researching and trialling different sales venues.

This is the time to really stretch yourself and experiment!

Try selling online, via retail (consignment, wholesale, rental spaces), markets… whatever channels and venues you can get into or set up.

The point of this experimentation is not only to get your brand out there in as many places as possible, but also to discover what avenue of selling best suits your personality, your products, your business model, and your customer.

This may be obvious from the beginning, but more likely, it will be something you discover as you trial different selling channels.

Your business may even evolve in line with your preferred channel or venue. For example, as I became surer that online was the way I wanted to go, I started making more reproducible products, and I actually created new product lines with the mentality that I wanted them to be easy and affordable to ship internationally – which meant keeping pieces as flat as possible so they could ship in the ‘large letter’ class rather than the ‘parcel class’ (a difference between $3 and $11 postage charge for two pieces of the same weight).

You may make large items that are heavy to ship – in which case, online may only work locally for you. Or, you might find it better to sell via wholesale so shipping isn’t an issue.

As your business grows.

As you grow your business, you need to get more focused. You are making more sales, which means more time making your products, and less time to research and experiment.

Your goal at this stage is to find the sales channel that works best for you and focus on that – which includes narrowing down the venues within that channel. This doesn’t mean you have to give up any other channels at this stage – but you should be getting clear on which one is working best for you via your experimentation.

It’s time to become an expert in one particular sales channel, and work out how to use it to its full advantage.

Online was my chosen channel – so I threw myself into learning how to take top-quality product photos; writing SEO-friendly titles and descriptions; and ensuring I shared lots of photos of me, my work and my processes in my shops and via social media to create a strong online brand presence.

Online may work for you, too – or, you may thrive selling via wholesale, or focusing on markets and shows. It will be different for everyone – the key is working out what’s right for YOU. Don’t just follow what others are doing – because what works for one person may not be the ideal choice for someone else.

As your business thrives.

As you become established, you no longer have the time to experiment with so many sales venues and avenues.

It’s time to drill down to the few that really work for you and your biz, and relinquish the ones that aren’t working. This can be a scary stage, because you’re shutting down potential channels and venues, which may feel limiting.

However, if you’ve chosen well, it’s actually incredibly freeing – both mentally, and of your time.

You can stop trying to make something work that isn’t right for your business. You can give up the mental space and time that juggling different sales channels was consuming, and instead, devote that time and energy to becoming even more of an expert in your chosen channel and venues.

Am I suggesting you have to give up everything bar one channel? No. You may find that concurrently selling via wholesale and online works perfectly for your biz – so keep doing both. But don’t feel obligated to hold onto a channel that isn’t working, or that you don’t enjoy.

If you don’t enjoy markets – stop doing them. If you don’t want to sell wholesale, don’t. I never do either, and I have a profitable, full-time handmade business.

There is no one ‘right way’ to run a handmade business.

That said, one thing I would recommend is that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. For example, I would never just sell on Etsy. Or just on my own site. I would never rely on one set of markets. Or one particular retail store.

Why? Because if you rely on one avenue of sales, and that disappears, so does your business.

Is this likely? Probably not – but if this is your livelihood, you need to be prepared for any possibility. And that means having a ‘fall-back’ option if one venue stops working for you.

Finally, do remember that when it comes to business, you are never, ever, ‘done.’ There is always more to try, more to learn, and new ways to do things. Just because you currently sell exclusively via one channel doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. Don’t close yourself off to new possibilities that might come along, but do be discerning as to which opportunities you pursue.

Join us for a live Q&A on Facebook

I’d love to hear what stage of your business you are at, and what channels and venues you are currently experimenting with! Join us in the Aeolidia Biz Tips group on Wednesday, February 10, at 4:30 pm Pacific Time / 7:30 pm Eastern time. You can ask questions specific to your business, and get advice directly from Jess.

Join Aeolidia Biz Tips on Facebook

 

This is a guest post by Jess Van Den

Jess Van Den is a self-employed silversmith working under the Epheriell label. She’s been making jewellery since 2008, when she opened an Etsy shop to sell her jewelry as a hobby, and turned Epheriell into her full-time occupation in 2010 – bringing her husband Nick on board soon after. She specialises in eco sterling silver wedding rings, and works out of her solar-powered home studio in the countryside north of Brisbane, Australia. An ex-teacher, she’s also the founder and editor of the Create & Thrive blog and podcast, where she teaches makers how to turn their handmade hobby into a full-time business.

 

How-to: From Farmer’s Market to the Big Time

Island Thyme is a family run, artisan producer of skin and body care products. The company has been making its soaps, balm, creams and lotions for nearly 20 years, on an actual island in the Pacific Northwest.

Eliza & Chris Morris at the farmer's market booth, before the re-brand

Eliza & Chris Morris at the farmer’s market booth, before the re-brand

Chris Morris, co-owner of the company, came to us when it was time to update the look and functionality of the Island Thyme website. He told us:

We have a logo that was designed long ago. We wish we had a good quality digital copy or the original but do not. islandthyme.com which runs on an old version of Miva Merchant has served us well but is outdated. The look could be richer and the style could be refreshed. The back end functionality certainly has room for improvement. Adding pages for wholesale customers with their own login is a priority, as is logins for repeat retail customers with order history and an easy checkout process. Quickening order fulfilment… better integration with Quickbooks… and I am sure there is more… We need an attractive site that we can grow with and maintain hopefully for the next 5+ years. We want to convey that:

  • our products are made in small batches
  • we sell a premium quality product
  • that Island Thyme is a professional company while simultaneously very personal and fun

Island Thyme before

Christine began by updating the Island Thyme logo and brand identity. Below is their original logo, which Chris had been reworking, unable to get the look he wanted. I’m also showing the website, which looks dated. There is just too much text fighting for your attention on every part of the page.

Island Thyme before they contacted Aeolidia

Island Thyme before they contacted Aeolidia

It was important to Chris to keep the feel of the original logo. He told us:

I just want to find a way to pick up upon what we are visually today, while also powerfully moving Island Thyme forward to something new and more dynamic for the future.

We asked Chris what about the original logo that was not working for the business, and he said that aside from looking too homemade:

It will not help us move into the future, like selling more in urban markets like Seattle & Portland.  We will need to really express ourselves more dynamically the further we move beyond our local base.  The urban market appreciates artisan producers and locally made products very much, but it also expects more sophisticated (hipper and more fashionable) packaging at the same time.

Using a vintage botanical illustration style, the updated identity focuses on the roots of the company — the raw materials from which the products are created.

From the farmer’s market booth to the big time

 

Island Thyme brand guide

Island Thyme’s new Shopify website

Christine took the new brand and designed a clean and welcoming new website. The concept is consistent with the new eco-modern branding, featuring sophisticated typography with a few handmade touches. The new site is friendlier and easier to navigate so that customers can do what they came to do—shop the fantastic products!

On the home page, there is a seal that Christine designed which quickly tells customers where the products are made, and an easy path to the About page on the website (important for mom & pop businesses like this one). Our copywriter, Natalia, joined the project to re-write the About page copy for the new website, so that customers understand the roots of the company, as well as its mission.

island-thyme-home

 

island-thyme-about

Results of the project

We asked Chris about his experience working with us and he told us:

We are very pleased to say that Aeolidia was everything we had hoped for.

After over a year of looking at shopping-carts and web design companies we selected Shopify and Aeolidia as two halves to a whole solution for Island Thyme’s e-commerce site redo. Aeolidia’s portfolio of projects was perfect for an “artisan” company like ours. And Shopify offered the structure and back-end we had been hoping for.

At Island Thyme we were used to doing everything, especially on the design end, ourselves. Letting go and trusting was not easy. But we could not be more happy with the results. Islandthyme.com looks so great. The project was completed right on schedule. The branding work Aeolidia proposed doing before the web site development has proved very useful. And Shopify itself has exceeded our expectations.

If you are an “artisan”, “hand-crafted”, “maker”, or just “young-fun-and-hip” company Aeolidia is definitely worth serious consideration. Coupled with Shopify they were a home-run for Island Thyme.

We improved our process at Aeolidia last year. The best thing we’ve done is made our launch dates law. We don’t take longer than we say we will, and we don’t let our clients get away with missing a feedback date or milestone of their own during the project. Chris did feel rushed at times as we worked, but saw the value when we launched their site on the dot in mid-November. Chris told us that they got very positive feedback and orders were very strong right after launch, making for a successful holiday sales season.

Is it time to upgrade the look of your business?

We’d love to learn more about your business and put together a plan for you! Come talk to us – understanding your business and its specific needs so that we can transform your online presence is our specialty.

How to Make Your Shop Pinterest Friendly

How to make your website Pinterest friendly and get more traffic from Pinterest.

Hi friends, I’m back again with another Pinterest installment!

Last time we talked about how to how to market your creative business using Pinterest, to attract more of your ideal customers and bring more traffic and sales to your site (if you didn’t read that one yet, please do, it’s an info-packed one!)

The flip side of that coin though, to get even more people spreading content from your site around, is to make sure your site is in tip-top “pinnable” state!

So, here are tips on how to make your shop Pinterest friendly, and easy for your site visitors and potential customers to share and spread all the good stuff you’re creating.

It’s all about the images

You already know how important your product photos are in conveying the item details to your customer, and in making the sale, but you also want your photos to get PINNED, shared and spread so that even more people find out about the good stuff you have to offer, yes?

In order for that to happen, your product images need to be TOPS: clear, well-lit, in focus, of course. Lots of product images on white backgrounds do well (and are great to have for press!), but it’s the “lookbook” sort of images that really seem to appeal to and get spread around on social media most, because they’re inspirational- aspirational.

People want to envision what their life would be like once they have what you offer in their hot little hands, so help them with the vision. Use your visuals. Images communicate online more powerfully than words- they’re what capture people’s attention to draw them into the words, into the details. Figure out what you want to say visually, what do you want to communicate with your imagery?

The better brand story you can tell through your images, the more people will be able to easily start to recognize what you offer as distinctly your own. And the more they’ll get pinned and shared and spread around!

*Great example: check out AHeirloom‘s beautiful, aspirational, very Pinterest friendly product photos:

aheirloom has pinterest friendly product photos

Think vertically

Speaking of images, think vertically with them! Square images are ok, but the more space they take up vertically, the better, as they’re simply more likely to be noticed and acted upon.

It seems portrait format images are actually becoming more prevalent on all social media now, for the same reason- they take up more space as you’re scrolling through a page. Even on Instagram, you can now post big, tall photos if you’d like.

The wider your photos get, if they’re in landscape format, the smaller and smaller they become on a Pinterest feed, and the more likely they are to go unnoticed, unclicked, un-engaged with! I don’t even pin any landscape oriented images anymore, because people don’t see them and they don’t get as many re-pins, if any!

So, even if your big beautiful slide show on your homepage isn’t super pin friendly in its wide width, if you make sure your product images are vertically oriented (or at least square), you’ll give yourself more chance of having your products seen on the feed when you, or customers, pin them.

*Great example: These simple, beautiful photos from Azalia Spa Goods.

Luxury bath and body packaging design by Aeolidia

Get your blog on

You only have so many products, right? So, what else are people going to pin off your site? Great content!

If you have a blog on your website, you can use it not only to promote your products and business related stuff, but also think about what sort of content your dream customer would be attracted to. If it’s either informative or inspirational, it’s great fodder for Pinterest, and social media in general, and can become just the thing that gets shared, and brings more traffic back to your site!

Then you want to share more great, clear, branded (vertical!) graphics and images on your blog that entice your readers to pin, like Grace does over on the Pink Olive blog, sharing great product roundups, notices and inspiration. Like we do here on the Aeolidia blog!

What sort of content would your customers, fans and followers be interested in, that would be a great complement to what you sell? Arianne has 260 ideas for you right here, if you’re stumped!

*Great example: Carolyn Cochrane, both in the Pinterest friendly images she creates for her blog posts and in the inspiring & personal content she shares

ccphotog_aeo

Don’t forget to button up!

You want to make it SO SO easy for your customer to pin something from your site, to encourage them to do so! Whether it’s the classic “pin it” button you can get from Pinterest, or some other social media sharing widget, you want to be sure you have a super easily accessible, recognizable way to share share share your stuff.

I like the “pin it” buttons that come up when you hover over an image because not only are they the easiest, most accessible buttons for people to find to be able to pin you’re stuff, they’re also effectively a call to action, whispering to the customer, “come on, pin me, you know you wanna!”

*Great example: Can you spot that beautiful pin it button on the Queen Bee website? I can!

queenbeeex_aeo

Enable rich pins

Pinterest rich pins are a little hassle to get set up, but worth it. They keep the meta data description, your Pinterest profile and link back to your site attached to all content that anyone pins from your site. This is good stuff, and helps people find you in searches! And then you can use the pin descriptions (like we talked about in this post) to add even more helpful content and keywords, so that people can find what you have to offer.

For product posts, it also adds your product’s price and name and is updated in real time, if you make changes. This is super handy dandy, and research has shown that pins with prices included actually get more click throughs and sales! Maybe because the customer already knows exactly what to expect?

Here’s how to set up rich pins on your site: Rich pins overview. You need to set things up on the back end, apply, and then you get approved in a few days and it starts working automatically from there on out, and even on things you’ve already pinned from your site! Easy enough.

*Great example: Mapamundi Kids has rich pins set up, so when anyone pins from their site it includes the business name, product name & price, a link back to their Pinterest profile with favicon, and a link directly to that item so they can SHOP!

mapamundi kids is a great example of using product rich pins

By following these tips for making your shop more Pinterest friendly, and these on using Pinterest to market your creative business, you should start to see your products and site content getting pinned and re-pinned, more and more!

Pinterest is a top traffic referrer for many creative business owners (including us here at Aeolidia), and a top sales referrer as well! With these tips, I hope it can become one of your favorite and most effective sources for generating more traffic and sales to your shop, too.

Have questions? Other tips? Stories about awesome customers who found you from Pinterest? I’d LOVE to hear – leave a comment below!

And psst: if you’re not following us on Pinterest yet, we’d love to see you over there!

An Ecommerce Upgrade for a Brick and Mortar Business: Tilde

An ecommerce brick and mortar business is the best of both worlds: you can build your brand and a loyal customer following in person at your location, while not restricting yourself to just the customers in your vicinity. When your brick and mortar shop is successful, focusing on your online sales is a smart next step to take. We used Shopify to take Debbe’s online business from ho-hum to wowza!

Founded in 2006 by Debbe Hamada, Tilde is a place where you’ll find treasures for yourself and your surroundings, and gifts made with extra thought and love. You’ll find bursts of color, clean lines, and a story behind every item. This is an interview with Debbe Hamada, who runs Tilde. Learn about the day to day work of running a brick and mortar business, and how Debbe balances running a shop both online and in person.

debbe of tilde

tilde shop

Interview with Debbe of Tilde

How did you your business start? Did you do any kind of market research or business planning?

I originally opened my business with a partner who was a buyer/merchandiser with a women’s clothing retailer. She was working as a buyer of women’s clothing at that time and had access to reports showing sales statistics on various categories in the fashion market. They were predicting the strongest area of future growth was women’s accessories and gifts. This was in 2005. Meaning jewelry and handbags and other items that I loved! We worked with SCORE through the Small Business Administration and took a free course and talked to an adviser in our field to write a business plan.  Then we talked to a credit union about getting a line of credit. This was in 2005 when it was much easier to get money from banks. We opened the business with our own money, but used the credit line to buy our first round of opening inventory. We opened with a quiet bang. My partner left within 3 months to go back to a ‘real job’ and I’ve continued to operate this growing business solo for the last 9 years.

How do you balance running a brick and mortar store and an online store? Is one significantly more profitable than the other?

Right now our brick & mortar is bringing in 98% of the revenue. We bring in only 2-3% through our online store. Rebuilding our website through Aeolidia and investing more in Google ads and other online drivers to our website is our focus for these last months of 2015. We are already seeing a much stronger visit/click through rate to our website. Regardless of online or not – our balance comes through a division of tasks within Tilde between myself and my shop manager. We each have areas we supervise and assist each other as needed. We overlap when working the desk and assisting customers and trade off who is working the floor or the office to get all the work done that goes into running a busy shop.

tilde-redesign by aeolidia

Is adding an ecommerce shop twice as much work as a brick and mortar, or is it easy to add once your have your business running in your retail location?

Again – see question #2. I believe it’s much easier since my brick & mortar is running smoothly. We have the storage, packing and office space to sell our inventory online without increasing costs of space or staffing.

How does a standard day of running Tilde go?

After 9 years I have a bit of a handle on the busy/slow cycles of this business which allows me to staff our 7 day-a-week operation pretty accurately.

I work 5 days a week within the shop. I usually wake up and check my email and respond only to issues needed – usually someone rescheduling a morning appt. Once in the shop I try to deal with what I feel are more office tasks for the first half of the day. That would be vendor issues, writing purchase orders, vendor visits to show a line, bill paying, email, writing social media and taking pictures, writing the newsletters, advertisements, payroll, facility specifics (alarm systems, lighting, heating, windows, leaks) for at least 6 hours when I have a staff person working the front desk. Then I spend at least 2 hours on the floor so customers can interact with me – and me with them – to see what is selling. Two days a week I’m the main person on the floor for half the day and try to work on office issues the rest of the day. Though if it’s busy I end up working the floor the entire day. I’ve been very good at taking two days a week away from the store (2 days off!). I hired a bookkeeper two years ago which has been invaluable for clearing tasks off of one of these days away from the shop. But I still spend at least 4-6 hours on one day off dealing with a problem or task that requires more concentration. My goal every year is to try to not work on the business on my day off – but I haven’t cleared that goal year.

A big challenge for a small shop owner is that customers expect to see you in the shop or on the floor. To the average customer they have no idea why you would not be just hanging out to talk to them whenever they come in. And this is a big perk of shopping at a small store – the idea that you can personally know the owner and have their ear. Yet adversely – this is what increases the hours we all work each day on the nuts and bolts of what keeps a shop stocked and running. I’m still trying to figure out how I can be off the floor more often so I can work less on my time off. I have a great staff that has been there for years. But customers truly want to speak just to the owner.

ecommerce brick and mortar business

What mistakes or setbacks have you weathered?

The biggest setback was having my partner leave the business right at the beginning of opening the shop. It would have been great to have had someone to ponder over business decision and a shoulder to lean on. It did show me how much I can shoulder on and make things happen on my own. I have skills! I’ve been fortunate to have a great shop manager who works full time and two amazing part-time employees who have worked with me almost as long as the store has been in business. So I feel we have a solid team.

tilde-about

How did you promote your business initially, and how has that changed?

When we opened in 2006 print advertising was still a happening thing. We placed ads in our neighborhood and city-wide papers. We also pitched these newspapers and local magazines for editorials more often – which did draw people in the door. Though we still have editorial mentions – it doesn’t have the same immediate result. And ads in papers do nothing for us.

Today we advertise on one key blog and then almost exclusively on social media. We just started doing Google ads and are on a few other online websites that don’t help us much. In this new year our plan is to pitch more online national blogs for editorial which has shown an immediate click through to our online shop.

How did you know it was time for a new website? What were you nervous about?

Our last website was built on a platform that required much maintenance. Its back-end SEO had failed so we found ourselves re-coding products that we had entered multiple times. And for a shop with over 500 products online that is a huge hassle! It also was not mobile friendly and visually looked outdated.

We knew we needed a new website built that had strong SEO and was mobile friendly. And with one of our top goals being to build our online business – a new website was an obvious must-do.

inside tilde shop

tilde shop display

What were the three biggest differences the Aeolidia-designed website made to your business?

I feel that a business’s website is part of the one-two punch needed to represent your business to the public. I feel completely confident that our new website tells the story of Tilde exactly the way we would describe it to someone we met on the street.

A. I feel confident pitching our products to national bloggers and press with a link to our website as it looks both professional and tells our story from the homepage.

B. It’s mobile friendly and we are seeing the majority of our click throughs coming from mobile devices.

C. The SEO works again! We are showing up on search engines and we know that as long as we hold up our end – our web sales are going to start growing again.

– –

Thanks so much Debbe for the inside look at running your business!

See this project in our portfolio.

Can we help you grow your business with a professional website?

Sometimes it is just time to start over with a smart and modern website. Come tell us more about your business.

We’re Going to the NY NOW Trade Show For You!

An introduction to trade shows, and get your questions answered about NY NOW!

Sam and I are headed to New York next week to gather some trade show tips for you, and talk to many of our favorite creative businesses in person. Would you like to meet us there, or follow along via our blog and newsletter?

Why sell at a trade show?

Once your product has proven itself to be viable and your branding is in place, you’ll start to think about new ways to reach your ideal customers. If you have any interest in selling your work wholesale to retail stores, a trade show can be a great way to meet and show your product in person, and share your catalog or line sheet with shops you want to be in.

Trade shows are meant to connect buyers and product designers with each other. If you’ve been emailing buyers without good results, your timing may be off. Many buyers focus all their buying energy on trade shows and your email may be coming outside of their buying season.

Trade shows are focused selling events. Think of it this way. If you create a website, your audience could be anyone and everyone. If you exhibit at a trade show, your audience is retail store buyers who are there with a budget and a focus to find new work for their shops. Every person who stops by your booth could be a valuable relationship to you for years to come.

There are many trade shows in different areas and for different niches. The big show for many of our clients (both the retail shops and the product designers) is the NY NOW gift show. This market is for the trade only, and features more than 2,500 exhibitors in the home, lifestyle, and handmade categories.

Jacob K. Javits Center, home of NY NOW © Javits Center

Jacob K. Javits Center, home of NY NOW © Javits Center

The NY NOW show is huge – the best of the best. If you exhibit at NY NOW, buyers from wonderful small shops around the country will be there, and you may find yourself chatting with a buyer from Macy’s, Anthropologie, Uncommon Goods, or West Elm.

We wanted to see what it’s all about in person and be able to have some quick chats about websites and branding with some of our favorite creative businesses, and of course meet many new ones. Sam and I will be attending NY NOW’s winter market next week.

What does our visit have to do with you?

If you’re exhibiting or shopping for new lines for your store, we would absolutely love to meet! Email me, please, if you’d like to meet up or have us stop by your booth and drop off a gift (and you know we make good gifts, if you’ve been following along with the newsletter).

If you won’t be there, but are considering doing the NY NOW show, or any other trade show, in the future, please ask us your burning questions! We’ll do our best as we walk the show to gather up this valuable info for you. It costs $300 to walk NY NOW if you’re not exhibiting or buying, so you can save the dough and ask us.

gleena-nynow02

gleena-nynow01

NY NOW booth photos © Asya Palatova of Gleena

Shows like this can be huge for your business, if you’re ready with what you need to have an effective presence there. If you haven’t set yourself up for success, though, it could be a huge, heartbreaking expense – both in time and money. I’d love to be able to bring back info to help you prepare.

Please post all questions about exhibiting or buying at the market in the comments, and we’ll be back to you on our return with more info.

Trade show tips for your website

Buyers will check your business out before and after the show, and they’re going to do this online. This is when you want your outsides to match up with your business’ insides. If your website doesn’t show your work off in the best light, doesn’t have a mobile solution, or doesn’t have an easy way for wholesalers to shop, you’ll lose that sale.

We have years of experience using your ecommerce website as a medium to tell your story in a compelling way to your wholesale customers. We have a few spots available in our schedule starting March 7 – these sites will launch July 1, in time for fall trade shows. If we hear from you soon, you’ll be able to get a head start.

Our next availability if you miss the July launch is May 9th, which has a launch date of September 9th. Our final block for launching in 2016 begins July 11th, with a launch date of November 11th, right before the biggest sales of the year. That block is our most coveted, so if it’s in your plans, best get in touch now and reserve the date.

During these 16 week blocks, we review your goals and objectives, and make a strategic plan for a brand and/or custom website that will help you meet them. We have a copywriter, photographer, and marketing consultant on hand to work with you on your content and strategy as the work is being done. It is intensive, purposeful work that is transformative! At the end of the process, everything you know to be true about the value of your business will be visible to everyone you do business with. It’s a remarkable experience. Come!

Our Favorite Creative Businesses on Instagram

We’ve been enjoying #followfriday on Instagram by featuring some of our favorite shops, designers, makers, and creative businesses on Instagram. I include a quick business tip on each #aeolidiabizcrush post, so you can get some insight into why each biz is so popular.

Here are a few of our favorites. The like/comment links will take you to the page on Instagram. If you don’t see these pics in your feed reader, please click over to our site! You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

See all #aeolidiabizcrush posts here!

Visit @aeolidia here! We share sneak peeks of projects we’re working on, businesses we love, and stunning branding and design.

Do you think we would love your products? Mention @aeolidia in a comment on a photo of yours and I’ll take a look!

Making Goals That Work: Project Management For Small Business

Eleanor Mayrhofer is the owner of e.m. Papers.  She joined us in the Aeolidia Facebook group for a Q&A about Project Management Strategies. Creative product-based businesses, come join us! We do these live typed chats once a month.

Eleanor worked at an international digital agency for 10 years, but left about 5 years ago to work full time on her printable business, e.m.papers. Like many folks in the Aeolidia community she is (mostly) a one woman show, so she has to be super organized. One of the good things about her corporate job was that she spent some time as a project manager. This role not only helped give her the organizational skills to run her business, but taught her a great deal about how to translate project management best practices and jargon into a language that creative people can understand.

We’ve tidied up the Facebook back and forth into something readable so we won’t lose this great info, and you can see Eleanor’s thoughts on project management for small business here. All quoted text below is from Eleanor, and all bold text is from our Facebook community.

eleanor headshot

Project Management Systems

There are 6 basic steps when it comes to getting organized and achieving goals. The first is setting goals, I like the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time Boxed). The second step is defining scope. All this really means is figuring out what projects and activities you’ll need to do in order to achieve your goals. The third step is estimating. Once we’ve set goals and come up with projects and activities, it’s important to step back and really try to estimate how long it’s going to take to get projects done. This is often the place we may have to go back and reduce the amount of goals and/or projects we set up.

The fourth step is planning – plotting out when at a high level (ex. yearly) mid-level (monthly) and low level (weekly/daily) we’ll be able to get things done. The fifth step is executing – in other words, doing the work. Pretty straightforward, but I’ve got some favorite ‘tricks’ and approaches I like to use. And finally, the last step is reviewing. Regularly pausing and taking a step back to see if you’re on track and assess progress as well as make course corrections.

six step plan for project management for small busienss
Here is where I get really stuck, do you do a step-by-step or how do you keep from derailing from actions that get you closer to your goals? For example, creating a listing in etsy vs. promoting listings that are ready… I don’t know if I explain myself correctly. Avoiding busywork I guess is what I mean..

Well, I basically think through the projects and activities that will help me accomplish my goals. I break those into smaller and smaller steps. So I know whether what I’m doing leads to accomplishing a goal, or if I’m just screwing around wasting time on busy work.

I struggle with organization. Once I get it in place I have an impossible time keeping things that way. What’s your advice on building systems and sticking to them?

This is where I think reviewing is key, and it’s a step a lot of people want to skip. First my advice is to use tools you like and will stick with, whether it’s Evernote or pen and paper to do lists.

Second, carve out some time each week – Just half an hour or even 15 minutes, to review your goals, your plans and what you need to get done. It also helps to do this monthly and quarterly.

I also find it’s really helpful to hang my goals up where I can see them every day.

I definitely struggle with carving out time to review and tidy. My inbox will go to zero only to creep back up to over 800 and my Evernote will be clean and then will get all clogged up again.

Think of it as maintenance, like brushing teeth, reviewing and refining consistently helps things from getting totally out of hand.

What are your favorite methods for staying organized in both the physical world (hacks, tips, tricks) and the digital world (apps)?

I use a mix of high and low tech. At the beginning of the year I re-read a great book called ‘Your Best Year Yet‘ to help clarify my goals (both personal and professional).

I reduce these down to 10 and hang them up at my work space.

Then I use Evernote to list out the projects and activities I need to execute to meet the goals.

I chart out some milestones across a 12 month calendar to use as a kind of ‘map’ and that also hangs at my workstation.

Finally, I use Asana to set up projects, and break those down into tasks. This is an online collaboration tool. So I can share tasks with project colleagues, my VA, my tech guy etc. This is the tool that I’m in everyday. But I regularly review the list in Evernote because it’s more of an overview.

One of my problems with my goals is just getting started. LOL! I always feel very scattered. This year, I am working at actually writing, planning and organizing my goals. I feel it’s the only way my business will grow. 

You’ll like the book I mentioned earlier. It’s really great, it asks you to review the past year, what your successes were, what your disappointments were and what you learned. It then helps you define goals in relation to both your roles in life and your values. It’s straightforward and easy to understand. I even got my husband on the BYY train!

I really like that you revisit your goals to see if you are on track and to make adjustments. Do you pencil in time for yourself as well? I’m trying to do that this year, instead of just hoping I’ll have time to swim. I also have a bench in my studio where I am prototyping new work. Do you set aside weekly time for that or just when inspiration strikes?

Absolutely! One of the things I learned was to get very very conservative with my goals. I took a cold hard look at the time I actually had in a day and did my scoping and estimating on what was realistic. I have a pic that illustrates this:

organizing goals - project management for small business

I don’t formalize the process enough, which means that I let myself get away with skimming over those important planning (and especially) reviewing steps. 

It’s easy to put them off when you don’t have a system. Over the past few years, I just find myself procrastinating and flying by the seat of my pants. I’m working had to change that this year.

It is especially hard to review yourself when the biz is mainly just yourself all day / everyday. My mind circulates ideas and problems over and over with no new information if I don’t talk about them to someone else and actually hear my own words and find out that it’s only my own personality problem OR that it is a real entrepreneurial type issue and have good feedback from a business person in another industry. I go to a weekly business networking group. 

Yeah, that’s tough. It can feel like the wrong thing to stop and pause, but that’s often what is needed. It also helps if you can find a like minded person off or online and schedule regular checkpoints to keep each other on track.

Now more than ever it’s getting harder and harder to combine my day job, my etsy shop, the everyday chores and having a life. I have made some sort of schedule and eliminated unnecessary tasks but still I feel all over the place and always tired! My biggest trouble is keeping a good inventory system for the supplies and staying organized!

When I feel everything is just too much, I revisit my goals and get rid of any goals or projects that aren’t absolutely essential. It can also feel counter-intuitive but I try to add more time for myself to avoid getting burned out. Simplify.

Yeah, thats a big goal for 2016… but it entails to stop feeling so guilty anytime I say no or cancel a project. 

Saying No is super important! Remember saying no to things you don’t want, is saying ‘Yes’ to things you do want.

Going back to the topic of reviewing, I’m pretty terrible at estimating (Eleanor’s Step 3) so I know that the review process would help immensely as a way to hone that estimating skill.

So true! If you don’t know how you’ve done before, how can you reasonably predict how you’ll do in the future? Good point.

Estimating is tricky. For something you’ve never done before (say, moving your online shop to a new platform) I recommend being very generous. Estimate how long you think it’ll take and then double it.

For something you do regularly, especially task based things, try to create a metric for yourself: time it a few times, so you know how long it takes, and build that into your planning

I actually just read your Design Sponge article this morning and sat at McDonald’s alone with Diet Coke to think through the information – a meeting with myself. Would you comment on the “Relevance” step, please? Trying to process that idea.

Sure. Relevance really means setting a goal that resonates with you. I like to say ‘What gets you out of bed in the morning?’

There are some things we have to do for our businesses (taxes, accounting) but when setting strategic goals, what gets you really excited? If you look at a goal and just aren’t feelin’ it, scrap it.

Learn more about project management systems

Eleanor has a project management course on Skillshare covering this very topic! Please do check it out. I wrote all summer last year about the behind the scenes business part of running a business, and you can learn more about planning, setting aside time, and doing the work here.

Make sure to join our Facebook group here! Chat with other business owners, some of whom are doing very well, about all the ins and outs and daily details of running a business. If you have a topic that you’re an expert on, and would like to answer questions in our group, email Arianne.

Designing Promotional Products That Aren’t Boring: Aeolidia’s Xmas Gifts

Every year, we design a Christmas-y card to send out to our clients. This year, we had some leftover ideas knocking around in our heads from our big branding session for Aeolidia in 2014, so we included some fun gifts as well. You can get your logo printed on almost anything, and most of what’s out there is cheap, tacky, or just unnecessary clutter in your recipient’s life. We have put a lot of thought into designing promotional products for Aeolidia that are fun to receive, and aren’t immediately tossed in the garbage.

For Christmas this year, we sent cards and tattoos out, and my favorite: branded chocolate coins!

Customer gift design and packaging

I’d like to share our design process in this post, and then I’ll be sharing all the details about the printers and product packaging suppliers in my email tomorrow (subscribe now so you can see where we got this all done).

Designing business to business Christmas cards

 

holiday gift packaging

Our cards are anything but corporate, of course! I gave Mariah, Aeolidia’s designer, free rein with these, because she knows Aeolidia’s brand so well and is basically a genius. She came up with the merman in a seaweed wreath, which is so perfect. The merman has been a real star lately.

Mariah came up with using the, “Let’s face unafraid the plans that we’ve made” quote, which is so great for this time of year, as our clients are all thinking about big moves they can make to distinguish themselves in 2016.

My email tomorrow will have info about who we ordered from, and the picky little problem I had with the printing.

Designing temporary tattoos

temporary tattoo design

I try to keep away from trends, but temporary tattoos are one trendy thing that I just love. Even if our clients wouldn’t wear one, they probably know a kid or two who would be happy to sport our merman, so it’s a fun gift to throw in. Mariah designed some nautical tattoos that celebrate creative businesses with slogans like, “make great things,” “born creative,” and, simply, “designer.” Mariah loved the idea of including a whole bunch of teeny tattoos to choose from, and we even have a wraparound waves for some slender wrists.

There was a moment where we considered metallic gold, but we decided on a dark charcoal, for a more aged, nautical look than 100% black (and more realistic than  metallic). The tattoos came out perfectly, and we’ll share the company we went with and what we liked about them in the email.

Designing branded logo chocolate coins

designing branded chocolate coins

I love these so much! Mariah had the idea for these over a year ago and we now have them! These make awesome Christmas gifts, and they work with Aeolidia’s nautical “pieces of eight” vibe year-round.

We started with a very detailed design, had a legibility problem, and redesigned with less fine details. You can see our first idea and our second, below:

logo chocolate coins

We had such a fiasco ordering these, and learned a lot about designing to imprint in chocolate. You’ll want to get tomorrow’s email to hear about the company that disappointed me, how I solved it (and got my money back!) and where we went for the final beautiful coins.

Putting it all together

Our Christmas gift box

Our Christmas gift box

It wouldn’t set the right tone to just throw all these things together into a plain padded mailer, so of course we considered packaging, too. We needed boxes, tissue, and bags for the coins. All this info is great to know for any business that sends gifts and other products in the mail, and it will all be covered in tomorrow’s email, the second in our print and packaging series.

Sourcing printers and packaging suppliers

I would like to share which printers and manufacturers we worked with to produce our marketing materials and packaging. In this many-part series, I am also going to tell you about:

  • any problems I had with printers
  • how we saved money when we could
  • where and why we splurged.
  • what I learned through the process (there were some mistakes!),
  • what I would do differently

People are always asking me for print and packaging sources, and this is proving to be a popular series! This information is going out to my newsletters subscribers only, and I will write once a month throughout 2016 about each part of our packages in detail.

Sign up for our newsletter below! The first post went out last month and is about our “thank you” lapel pins – you’ll get a link to that post in tomorrow’s email, which will have all the details about our Christmas gifts.

P.S. if you’re already on the list, you will get this series of emails automatically! You’re all set.

How to Avoid the Mast Brothers’ Scandalous Mistake

I received a bottle of body wash as a gift for Christmas. When it came time to use it, I hesitated for a moment before putting it on my face. The packaging looked kind of generic. Where did it come from? What was in it? Was it going to make my face feel lovely, or make it break out? How could I trust this body wash to not be garbage?

Skincare products are interesting, because a lot of your trust comes from the packaging. When you get those classy little bottles of shampoo at a high end hotel, do you ever wonder if the same manufacturer sells the same shampoo in a cheaper bottle to the lower end hotels? Is the lovely packaging masking an inferior product? Is all shampoo basically the same, and never worth the higher price?

When I search Google Shopping for “shampoo” and sort by price, the low end is 97 cents and the high end is $140. Since I can buy a bottle of shampoo for a dollar or two, I need a reason to believe that I’ll have a much better experience with the $140 bottle. This made me think of the Mast Brothers scandal.

There was quite an uproar in the world of chocolate last month! The Mast Brothers Chocolate company was revealed to be the “Milli Vanilli of chocolate.” Get the details in How the Mast Brothers fooled the world into paying $10 a bar for crappy hipster chocolate.  The title kind of says it all, but the short version is that these chocolate bars, and even the Mast Brothers themselves, were all dressed up and lovely, but it looks like the promises they made about the “bean-to-bar” nature of their product may not have been true. The article linked above claims that the chocolate that customers were buying was not what was promised.

What your small business can learn from the Mast Brothers chocolate scandal

Photo © Alexi Ueltzen, licensed through Creative Commons.

At Aeolidia, we believe in the power of your business’ story. On the surface, the Mast Brothers were doing everything right. The huge problem they had, of course, is that the story was just that – a story, without the substance to back it up.

The Mast Brothers found a tight, targeted audience. They convincingly told their story with their appearance. The look of their chocolate bars was beautiful. Their packaging stood out on the shelves, was perfect for gift giving, and appealed to people who were willing to pay a higher price.

These things are great ways to build a strong brand and sell a product. But of course it only works long term if your product is all that you promise it is.

So, as you can see from thinking about shampoo and about chocolate (and we could muddy the waters here with wine, where, “pricing is largely an artificial construct determined by factors such as scarcity and perceived quality”), pricing for products can be subjective. Particularly for our clients, who sell creative, design-based products, it’s hard to know what to charge. When are you honoring your work, creativity, and distinctiveness, and when are you conning your customers?

Our work at Aeolidia is about striking the right balance. For instance, with the Azalia Spa Goods  brand, we crafted a graphic look that reflected everything Aimee had told us about her company.

Luxury spa logo and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury bath and body packaging design by Aeolidia

Azalia Spa Goods packaging design by Aeolidia

If Aimee had packaged her products less carefully, her look wouldn’t sync with her high quality ingredients and her brand values. She would be doing herself a big disservice by not building a visual story around her brand. The graphical story of her packaging helps her customers understand what she does at first glance.

This type of storytelling only works in the long term if there is substance behind the promise your packaging makes. If Aimee’s products smelled bad, separated, or caused rashes (which they don’t! I hate to even say it as an example), people would soon learn to avoid her brand, and no amount of pretty would help her – much like what is happening to the Mast Brothers now.

So you can see, your insides need to match your outsides, and vice versa, for your product to succeed. All the beautiful design in the world is not going to help if your product is poor, and the best product on earth can be ruined by inappropriate branding and packaging.

Imagine what you could do with a great business – one you believed in, with high quality craftsmanship, a compelling story, and the look needed to automatically explain that to your customers. That last step is where we come in. Some of our favorite recent case studies are here:

If you know your business has what it takes to stand up to your customers’ scrutiny, let’s talk! We would love to make them see what you see in your business from the first glance.

I am sending my newsletter subscribers print and packaging examples this Friday that show you how you can pair a great presentation with your quality product. You can subscribe below.