How to Give Your Business the Competitive Edge With Design

I think most of us can tell when something is designed poorly, or when we really like the look of a design. You may be interested in developing your eye for design more purposefully. Switching from “design appreciator” to “designer” means you not only know what looks good, but you know the fundamental principles of why it looks good, and are able to use design for a specific purpose.

This is an excerpt from a guest post on Academy of Handmade

Knowing what “works” and what doesn’t with graphic design can be a great thing if you run a business. Good graphic design can make your brand stand out from the pack, may be necessary for your product development, and gives you a great base to start from on all visual projects – and when we’re talking about marketing yourself on the internet, most of it is visual.

I run Aeolidia, a web and graphic design studio that has been serving makers, designers, and other creatives for over a decade. Most, if not all, of our clients have a great eye for design. This can be a huge help, particularly when they’re able to step back and see the project from the eyes of their customers, instead of relying on their own personal preference.

I think most of us can tell when something is designed poorly, or when we really like the look of a design. You may be interested in developing your eye for design more purposefully. Switching from “design appreciator” to “designer” means you not only know what looks good, but you know the fundamental principles of why it looks good, and are able to use design for a specific purpose.

fox-and-clover-stamp-mock

Fox & Clover stamp design

Two books were very helpful to me when I was starting to get interested in graphic design.

Read the rest on Academy of Handmade

An Interview with Arianne Foulks, Captain and Founder of Aeolidia

Arianne Foulks of Aeolidia

I’m always fascinated by the paths people’s lives take, the detours, the reinventions. There’s so much we can learn from each other’s journeys as we navigate our own. In your mini bio on the Aeolidia website you mention your time as a marine biology student. How did you go from a life of being bitten by baby seals to your life now, captaining a brand identity and web site development company? Can you share a bit about your background and the journey that took you from there to here? 

Though my family doesn’t have a long or wide history of college graduation, my parents always expected me to go to college, in a way that made it a given for me. It did not seem optional. I had no grand plan, though, and I figured (correctly, it turned out) that having a degree was the important part, and what it was specifically about was less vital. Since I would be going into so much debt and spending so much time there, I wanted to enjoy it.

If you’ve ever had a teacher who absolutely loved their work and came to it with shining eyes, a bubbling-over of goodwill, and a desire to make each student passionate about their particular specialty, you’ll know what a huge thing this is. My passionate teacher was Mr. MacGowan, who let us call him Mac. He taught marine biology at our science magnet school to a bunch of kids who started out dubious, then found themselves strangely fascinated by the gooey creatures you can find living along the tideline. He had a Neil DeGrasse Tyson / Steve Irwin level of enthusiasm for nature, and it was infectious (particularly to me, who needed no special prodding to be fascinated by nature). So I applied to some colleges on the coast, and ended up in UC Santa Cruz’s marine biology program.

The drive from Seattle down to the Monterey Bay only took a day, but dropped me in a strange new world where wetsuits were hung to dry in the dorms before classes started each morning and our school mascot was a banana slug. I had an accelerated path through college, due to community college credits I’d earned in high school and summer school classes I took to finish early. I spent two years doing the basics (chemistry, calculus, physics), and only got to the fun stuff in the last year. But boy was it fun – I spent six months traveling in a van with my small group of classmates out to Año Nuevo state park to help collect data on elephant seals.

I’ve been promising (in my bio) to tell the story of how I was bitten by a seal for years, so here you go: baby elephant seals are huge. HUGE. A newborn seal can weigh 75 pounds, and they gain 10 pounds a day while nursing. One of our tasks was to weigh the seal pups and record their weight gain. The technique to do this was to sit astride the seal (don’t worry – this seal was much bigger and stronger than me, and was not overly concerned about my presence), pin down the flippers with your knees, then work with your team to roll the seal gently over onto a tarp, keeping the flippers tucked neatly in. Then the tarp is lifted a bit off the ground by ropes and pulleys hooked to the scale. You get the weight, roll the massive pup back off the tarp, and everyone goes about their business.

I had done this a number of times, but this time the seal had other ideas. She let me get settled in, then turned her head backwards over her body to gaze at me, grabbed me by the leg, her teeth just grazing the skin and connecting through my jeans. There I was, dangling upside down in the air from a seal’s mouth. I was quickly rescued by the other researchers and had a big bruise and scrape on my calf for a while. I didn’t blame her for messing with me, as I was messing with her. We called it a draw.

The story about switching from the sea to the web is less action-packed. I never intended to be a marine biologist, and I started college in 1996, when the internet was a toddler. So I got my first email account and was able to make my first website, and it was a hobby I never got tired of. It also turned out to be a useful skill, and slowly blossomed from helping friends out to getting paid, to what I have now: a strong team of 15 web strategists, designers, developers, and content creators, known for making some of the most lovely and effective shops in the handmaker/designer world. Everyone on my team is better at their job than I ever was back when I did it all. I pinch myself a lot.

aeolidia-brand-bundled

Aeolidia is named after “a shaggy mouse nudibranch.” Names are so important for businesses, especially creative businesses. In fact, at Aeolidia one of the services you offer is help with brainstorming and choosing a business name. Can you share a bit about how (and why) you chose to name your company after your favorite sea slug? How does this name convey the heart and soul of your brand?

Read the rest of this interview on on My Giant Strawberry.

How to Create Your Own Swag Bag of Custom-Branded Gifts

We send our clients lovely, thoughtful welcome kits when we begin each project. It helps us say hello, show our appreciation, set the tone, and send some tangible examples of what we can do for their brand. I would like to share which printers and manufacturers we worked with to produce our marketing materials and packaging. Read more about how to do this for your brand.

We send our clients lovely, thoughtful welcome kits when we begin each project. It helps us say hello, show our appreciation, set the tone, and send some tangible examples of what we can do for their brand. So far, I’ve covered these parts of the project:

  • Email #1: Merman lapel pins
  • Email #2: Promotional gifts: tattoos & chocolate coins
  • Email #3: Business cards (trading cards)
  • Email #4: Custom mailing boxes & embosser
  • Email #5: Thank you cards & envelope liners
  • Email #6: Custom ballpoint pens & packaging

For email #7, I’m tackling the most hands-on part of the project – we actually silkscreened the gift bags ourselves! And I’m showing you our custom post-it notes. Sweet! To read about all of these projects, just subscribe here. You’ll get this email on Wednesday, and links to all the others.

create your own swag bag

create your own custom-branded gift bag

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 newsletter 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 last post went out last month and is about our custom ballpoint pens  – you’ll get a link to that post in tomorrow’s email, which will have all the details about our gift bags and post-it books. I’ll be sharing where we found the post-it books, the bags, and how we did the silkscreening work (as well as easier ways for you to get this done yourself).

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

A Fun Logo for a Party Shop: Hip Hip Yay

No matter the age, everyone loves to party. No one knows this more than Charlotte Callaghan, owner of Hip Hip Yay, who wanted a new logo for a party shop that would appeal to both adults and kids.

Though her online shop was about a year old, she’d quickly realized it needed a complete redo, starting with her logo. With a stronger brand identity and a cleaner, more user-friendly navigation on her new site, she hoped to see an increase in pageviews and email signups that would convert to sales. Charlotte knew she wanted something that was cute, fun, and could stand on its own without being influenced by current trends. And, she really, really had a thing for gold foil.

“I know gold foil is always going to cost me more for everything, but I do love the look and class it presents.” Also on Charlotte’s wishlist: bright pinks, pastel palettes, and a bright, airy aesthetic.

Naturally, we were thrilled get an invite to develop this exciting brand. Christine put on her party hat and got to work creating a logo that was type-focused in order to let color, graphics and patterns play a big role in the rest of the branding. It was important to cater to fun and hip party throwers, but to also give the mark a timeless feel.
hiphipyay-logo
The above logo—which featured fun, non-traditional letterforms—was an immediate hit. With the concept approved, this logo development party moved right along to Round Two, which is where elements like the color palette, alternate logo marks, and icons (ideal for uses like social media and packaging) come into play.
The colors Christine incorporated into the design featured “the bright, happy hues you are drawn to —they also all happen to look really good with gold. While everything is fun and playful, the type and graphics are still simple and clean. This keeps your branding friendly but not trendy.” They gave the mark a bright, catchy feel that appeals to kids, while the simple sophistication of the design is equally pleasing to adults.
hiphipyay-quick-brand

Charlotte couldn’t agree more. Very minor changes, like adding an exclamation point to the logo (because of course!) led to its quick finalization followed by the creation of additional branding materials. Business card designs, packing tape and tissue, and these adorable pencils and stickers…we can’t help saying Yay! every time we look at them.

hiphipyay-print

When Charlotte saw her new logo and brand identity she told us:

I absolutely love all of it! I am so so happy with it all, you have honestly exceeded all of my expectations and I am so so excited!

See this project in our portfolio.

Join the Party!

Could your logo use an invite to our redesign party? We’re always taking new names for our list! Contact us to get started.

Ecommerce Blogging 101: Make Your Blog a Sales Tool

How to run a successful ecommerce business, and support your marketing efforts with blogging. How to use your articles to direct readers to make a purchase.

 

This article was originally posted on Tradeshow Bootcamp, and updated to include the information about promoting your posts in June 2016.

Katie of Tradeshow Bootcamp invited me to share some information on best practices for blogging with you, and I was glad to provide an overview. Our blog posts about blogging have received a huge amount of interest, and are a great start for businesses new to blogging, or who want to improve what they’ve been doing.

I spoke last spring to a group of creative businesses about creating a website content strategy. I showed some example websites from our portfolio that had very well-organized, goal-based navigation, and then during the Q&A time, someone asked me, “I noticed that all the sites you showed us had a blog. Do I need a blog for my business?” We talked about that briefly as a group, and when we chatted in person later, she thanked me for the insight and confessed to me that she didn’t have any idea that blogs drove traffic to a website, but instead thought that blogs were, “just something women liked to do.” This really surprised me, and I made a note to tackle this topic on our blog.

So, if you think that women business owners are blogging because they’re chatty and enjoy sharing their lives, think again. These women (and men, of course!), are strategically driving traffic to their websites, enjoying tons of love from Google, and making their other marketing efforts easier. Let me explain how.

What is a blog?

A blog is part of a website that displays articles. Your articles (or blog posts) are usually updated on an ongoing basis, listed in chronological order on your blog, and show dates of posts and an area for people to comment. Some websites are blogs (you go to the main page and see the posts), and some websites contain many pages, with a blog being one of the pages on the site.

Is blogging dead?

You may have heard one person or another say that blogging is “dead,” and that you shouldn’t be expending energy there. What these people are talking about is blogging as a business model. The kind of blog where you share what’s going on in your life, inspirational content, and interesting links, and try to make money off of advertising.

What you are trying to do is run a successful ecommerce business, and support your marketing efforts with blogging. That kind of blogging is not going anywhere. People have not stopped reading blogs (you’re reading this one! And think about all of those links you click on Twiter and Facebook – most of those are to blog posts), but it’s become harder to make money off of blogging if that’s your entire business.

You aren’t trying to make money from the articles you write, but instead you’re using those articles to direct readers to your shop.

What about social media instead?

I see a lot of people replacing blogging with social media – posts on Instagram and Facebook, for instance. This is good in addition to blogging, but you can’t put all of your eggs in a basket you’re not in control of. Your blog isn’t going anywhere. Facebook made changes that nearly killed it for small businesses.

People who were used to posting content to Facebook and having most of their audience see it and be able to interact with it were surprised when algorithm changes made it so less than 2% of their audience was reacting to what they posted. Instagram is enjoying a heyday, but guess what? It’s owned by Facebook, and I’m sure you’ve seen promoted posts showing up in your feed. Things could change at any time.

Absolutely post on social media. But if Instagram is bringing you 60% of your traffic, what will you do if they stop letting people see your posts? Or make it pay to play?

Use social media to bring people back to your blog and your website, which is where you want them. Get them to subscribe to your email list, where you can be in touch one on one with them. Keep your eggs in your own basket.

Why should I have a blog?

A blog can:

  • bring traffic to your site
  • be good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • establish you as an authority
  • make your other marketing efforts easier
  • humanize your brand
  • drive sales

For a detailed discussion of all six of these topics, see: Do I Need a Blog For My Business?

What if I don’t want to blog?

There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your site without a blog, and if you don’t have the time or the talent (or the money to hire someone) to start a blog now, it is fine to concentrate on other ways to bring people to your website and keep them engaged.

Is this you?

  • I don’t have time to blog
  • I’m not a good writer
  • I don’t know what to blog about
  • I feel like I have to blog, but I don’t want to!

The thing about blogging is that it’s not going to work for you if it’s halfhearted or grudgingly written. If you’re not interested in it, your content won’t be inspired, valuable, entertaining, or unique. People won’t stick around. Having a good-quality blog is going to be a huge boost for your business. Having a sporadically-updated mediocre blog is only going to waste your time. Time which you could be using to market your business in another way.

If you’d prefer not to blog, here are my recommendations for marketing your ecommerce site: What to Do if You Don’t Want to Blog

Coming up with ideas for a blog

If you have decided that you will start a blog or a newsletter, or you’d like some more ideas for an existing blog or social media, I’ve come up with a big list for you.

Ensure that you’re not stuck facing a deadline with no idea what to post about. This post will give you 260 blog post ideas (which you could also use for your newsletter or Instagram), introduce you to 9 ecommerce blogs that are absolutely killing it, and give you an action plan for generating more ideas of your own and getting started. If you read through the comments, where I share blog post ideas for individual businesses, you’ll end up with more than 600 blog post ideas. Some of these are sure to spark an idea in you!

260 Blog Post Ideas for Creative Businesses

My follow-up post, 5 Places to Find Blog Post Ideas on Your Own Site shares the method I used to think of this many ideas so quickly.

Making a foolproof plan for your blog

If you’ve decided a blog is an important way to build your business, you will need a solid plan to ensure that you’re posting the right content at the right time, keep ahead of the game, and stay focused. My post, 6 Important Steps to Plan a Blog for Your Business, will lead you through creating an editorial calendar and sticking with it.

Promoting each post on your blog

I really hope you aren’t just writing and writing with no one reading. So! You got your blog up and running, you decided on a schedule, you filled your editorial calendar with post ideas, you started writing and publishing and yet… it doesn’t feel like the blog is working. It’s not bringing you traffic, no one is commenting, and certainly nothing you’ve done has gone viral! Guess what? You may be talking to yourself.

My post, 26 Ways to Make Money by Blogging For Your Online Shop, will show you how to promote each post to get sales. Or just skip ahead to the freebie below.

Make a solid plan for your blog

We have three freebies for you today which will really help you get a great start or dust off the cobwebs of an old blog and make it start driving sales to you. Sign up for one, and you’ll get all three, plus many other guides for selling online.

How to Create an Editorial Calendar

Download our free guide and make a blogging plan you can stick to!

260 blog post ideas for creative businesses

Wondering what to blog about? Here are 260 ideas specifically for product-based businesses!

26 ways to market each blog post

Want people to actually read your post? Here are 26 Ways to Market Each Blog Post

What else do you wonder about?

If you’re planning to start a blog, or have recently started a blog, what is giving you the most trouble? I’d love to offer some advice in the comments.

26 Ways to Make Money by Blogging For Your Online Shop

Using a Shopify blog to drive traffic to your site is nearly a requirement, but I really hope you aren’t just writing and writing with no one reading.

I am a big proponent of blogging for your business, yes, even for ecommerce businesses with online shops! Using a Shopify blog to drive traffic to your site is nearly a requirement, but I really hope you aren’t just writing and writing with no one reading.

So! You got your blog up and running, you decided on a schedule, you filled your editorial calendar with post ideas, you started writing and publishing and yet… it doesn’t feel like the blog is working. It’s not bringing you traffic, no one is commenting, and certainly nothing you’ve done has gone viral! Guess what? You may be talking to yourself.

Maybe you have endless interesting, valuable, and witty things to say, but if you’ve gone to a party and closed yourself in the closet to say them, you’re not going to get much response. Sure, people could go over to the closet and knock on the door, but who’s going to do that? There are chips and dip to be had!

This article is about how to get your blog out there mingling with people who want to hear what you have to say. Metaphor over: we’re going to talk about how to drive traffic to your blog, so all the hours you spend writing, editing, and posting is going to make you money.

Does a using a Shopify blog really help with your search engine ranking?

People often ask me if they really need to blog to promote their business, and I tend to tell them about what I’ve seen with mine. I have a single post that I wrote in no more than 30 minutes two years ago, and it has consistently gotten 200 visits per day since Google decided to like it (9 months after I wrote it). That’s 6,000 essentially free visitors I get every month.

All traffic to my top blog post since I wrote it

All traffic to my top blog post since I wrote it

The left side of the graph, where it’s totally flat is what happened after I wrote it in January. Nothing. In September of that year, Google took notice of it. The small dip at the start of the graph and the major dip later on are both December, when people don’t tend to be googling the term “wholesale pricing” as much.

The traffic keeps growing and I keep tweaking the post to improve it and get people to sign up for my newsletter. As I adjust it, I hope very strongly that I don’t “ruin” the post somehow and make Google sick of it! But look, I added a nice Pinterest-style graphic to it and kept the info updated, and Google rewarded me with this little dude:

featured snippet in search

Aeolidia wholesale pricing featured snippet

From Google, “How can I mark my page as a featured snippet? You can’t. Google programmatically determines that a page contains a likely answer to the user’s question, and displays the result as a featured snippet.”

The funny thing about this post is that it’s nowhere near being my best or most informative post. In fact, the info doesn’t seem that helpful to me, so I recently beefed it up with a big fancy pricing guide PDF.

As you can see, this is a fun amount of traffic to be getting. The visitors aren’t all perfect for us, but they’re fairly well targeted (they are probably selling a product, though perhaps not a creative, design-oriented product, like we specialize in), and some of them do sign up for my mailing list. And that’s just one of hundreds of posts on our blog, each bringing in their own traffic.

Google likes regularly-updated sites

Hitting it big with a lucky keyword that Google ends up liking is awesome, of course. But even if you don’t get that lucky post, a blog still helps with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in other ways. One factor Google looks at when deciding how highly to rank your site in any search is how regularly your site is updated. Adding a new blog post weekly is only going to help.

Support your social media posting with a home for the content

And what about all that work you’re doing on social media telling people what you’re up to and trying to drive traffic back to your site? Sending people to a blog post is a great way to keep them interested. And that post sticks around forever, while most of your social media posts get lost in the stream after a while and stop working for you.

What makes people share your work?

Let’s not forget sharing. I know that people do share products with their friends, family, and fans. But if you don’t have a blog, you’re missing all the people who like to share inspiration, advice, ideas, and more that you could be writing about in your blog. Blog content tends to be more share-able and save-able than plain old product information is.

Promoting a blog post

If you are serious about building traffic to your website, you may now be thinking you should work on improving your blog. But please don’t spend all your time writing! Having a blog without a plan to promote each post is going to be an exercise in wasted time.

Writing the darn blog post is just a small part of making a blog work. I’m kind of sorry to have to break this to you, because for me, the writing is the fun part and then a lot of the rest of it is just like, ugh. But I do want people to see my writing, so I do a whole heap of other things for each blog post we write.

In fact (especially at the beginning), you should be spending more of your time promoting your blog than you do writing the postsIf you spend 80% of your time writing and 20% of your time promoting, it’s going to take a long while for your blog to get traction.

You should be getting sales from each post you make. Here’s how to make sure this happens.

26 things to do to make sure your ecommerce blog is working for you

Today I’m sharing a detailed peek into the 26 items on my blogging to-do list to spread the word around and get people talking. These are the things to do to get yourself out of that party-adjacent closet and onto the main dance floor.

Lest you think I’m at my computer 24 hours a day working on our blog, I will confess that I do not do these things for every post. Maybe one day, after hiring an assistant! I have a lot of other business building to do, and the blog sometimes gets neglected.

But the following is what I do when I know I am writing a “showcase” piece, such as our 260 blog post ideas article. One that I’m going to ask people to share and is going to be a big deal for us.

All these steps aren’t worth it if you put together a quick post in 20 minutes about a funny note from a customer. But if you spent three hours researching, planning, and doing a whole photo shoot, and you’re promoting something big for your business, you will absolutely want to take the time to spread that post out in the world. When I say big deal post, think new product collection or collaboration or any other important thing for your biz.

I explain the blog promotion steps in detail in my step by step guide: 26 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Reach a Larger Audience. Download it now so you can get started.

The purpose of your blog post

Before you write the post, you need to look at the big picture. The most important question to ask yourself is so important, I’m going to give it a line of its own:

  1. What do you want this blog post to do for you?

Blogging is a powerful way to drive traffic to your site. As you’re about to find out, it’s a whole heck of a lot of work. You don’t want to do all of this work unless you’re pretty sure it’s going to help you to meet an objective. Spending four hours on a blog post that doesn’t intend your reader to do anything once they’ve finished reading is a waste of your time.

So, the first thing you want to do is figure out what you want the blog post to do for you. I’m speaking to product-based businesses, since that’s our area of interest at Aeolidia. Product-based businesses usually want to sell a product. Perhaps a specific product, a new line of products, a collaboration with another company. But usually you want someone to buy from you. You may also have something else in mind.

Actions you may want your reader to take:

  • Buy a product
  • Join your mailing list
  • Share your blog post with their friends
  • Shop your sale
  • Like your new Facebook page
  • Attend your pop up shop or other event

Once you know what action you want your reader to take, you can do some more planning (before writing!) to make sure your post will have an impact and be worth all the time you put into the text, photos and graphics.

What to do before you write a blog post

I do these 8 things during the “editorial calendar” stage of bringing a post to life:

  1. Article focus – what to consider
  2. Providing value – ways to create quality content
  3. SEO keywords – how to research keywords that will work for you
  4. Content upgrades – when to use bribes to convert
  5. Headline – why to spend time on the headline in advance
  6. Collaborate – when to bring other people in to contribute to your post
  7. Guest posting or syndication – how to bring in fresh new readers
  8. Fit it on your editorial calendar strategically

I explain the blog promotion steps in detail in my step by step guide: 26 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Reach a Larger Audience. Download it now so you can get started.

How to prepare for success while writing a blog post

Okay, so you’ve planned a smart posting strategy, and you’re pretty sure you’ve set this post up so it’s going to get a lot of views! Now to write the dang thing, and write it in a way that’s going to pay off eventually, by getting new traffic to your shop – targeted traffic, meaning the sort of people who are in the mood to buy what you’re selling.

Here is what to consider as you write your post. I’ve put these roughly in the order that I think about these things. If my post is informational, I start with the text and add photos later. If the post is inspirational or aspirational, it may make sense to start with the photos, then write about them. So modify the order of photo taking and gathering according to what works for you.

9 things to do while writing the post:

  1. Rough draft – hint: yes, you’re going to edit this later
  2. Call to action – how to make it compelling
  3. Cross-link to others – an easy way for cross-promotion
  4. Edit and proofread – and the tools I use
  5. Photos and graphics – how to make them effective
  6. Social media content – what to prep to promote your post
  7. Optimize with headers and alt tags
  8. Cross-link to yourself – an easy way to keep people on your site
  9. SEO double check – how to be diligent without being penalized by Google

I explain the blog promotion steps in detail in my step by step guide: 26 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Reach a Larger Audience. Download it now so you can get started.

After publish: how to promote a blog post once you’ve written it

You’ve scheduled or published your post. You’re done! Or are you? Nope, sorry, you’re not. Now that you’ve written your article, you need to put some more effort into getting it seen, so your work isn’t wasted.

Here are 8 things you can do to give your new blog post the best preparation to succeed:

  1. Cross-promote – why to let people know about mentions
  2. Ask for favors – when and how to ask influencers to share your post
  3. Social media (in person) – how to create a buzz
  4. Social media (scheduling) – how to let robots take care of the rest
  5. Mailing list – why your list is your most valuable marketing asset
  6. Syndicate – how to let the post get back to work again
  7. Write a spin-off – keep actively linking to the post
  8. Email series – introduce new subscribers to this post

I explain the blog promotion steps in detail in my step by step guide: 26 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Reach a Larger Audience. Download it now so you can get started.

You did it!

Whew, your little baby blog post is off toddling in the world, and you’ve given it a much greater chance to grow up into a popular post, repinned thousands of times on Pinterest, ranked #1 for your keyword on Google, gone viral on Facebook, or shared by a famous blogger. Best of all, it’s a post that will make people buy your product and all your work has paid off. Way to go! Now do it again for your next post.

Get the guide and make money from each blog post

There is no point in blogging if you’re not going to make sales from it. Grab our guide today so you can figure out how to leverage your most important blog posts.

26 ways to market each blog post

Grab the Guide

Trade Show Booth Design: Most Modern or Colorful

Some more favorite booths from the National Stationery Show! Now, we weren’t there to judge booths, and we didn’t even get pictures of all of our favorite booths. But of the photos we took, these are the ones that stood out to me as being either the cleanest or most colorful.

Indie Olive

The map wall in the Indie Olive booth was so well done. The thoughtful placement of the state prints made people interested and the fireplace and mantel were a perfect touch.

Indie Olive NSS booth

1canoe2

The 1canoe2 booth had such an array of products, all with that perfectly 1canoe2 feel. The wall calendar hangers, paper flowers, and perfectly organized displays made you want to browse.

Snow & Graham

The colorful products and patterned fabric drapery made the Snow & Graham booth so cheery and cozy. It felt just like we’d walked into a real Snow & Graham shop.

Sea & Lake Paper Co.

These cheerful colors and painted wall went perfectly with the cards, drawing you in, but not distracting you. The well considered layout made it easy to picture their products in your shop.

Lala Grace

Wow, this heart wall! The framed prints and furnishings and this wall required a closer look.

American Heirloom

Amy’s booth was all about the details, and we love that our brand identity design for her has inspired such creative design from her. We particularly liked the cutting board stands that fitted the outlines of each state.

Lake & Loft

I liked the booths that created architectural details and used furniture to make their booths more than just a box. Lake & Loft’s textured walls and feature card wall made it feel like a little shop.

Fox & Fallow

The greenery at the top of the Fox & Fallow booth was wild and gorgeous, and the black wall showed off her chalkboard prints so well.

6 Things You Need to Be Able to Expect Retail Success

If you have been curious about what you need to make strong retail sales online, read on - I'm going to explain the six things you need to have and the six things our work is going to do for you. If your business is doing well, but your brand or website is not in tiptop shape, hiring a designer is likely your best way to prepare for holiday sales.

We are absolutely packing our summer schedule with design projects – let’s see how many businesses we can double sales for this holiday season! If you have been curious about what you need to make strong retail sales online, read on – I’m going to explain the six things you need to have and the six things our work is going to do for you. If your business is doing well, but your brand or website is not in tiptop shape, hiring a designer is likely your best way to prepare for holiday sales.

It was so much fun walking the National Stationery Show this spring and chatting with so many inspiring business owners. A lot of people were curious about what we do and how it serves them. Here’s a snippet of an email I received after the show:

I’m familiar with your beautiful work and I frequently dream about whipping my website into shape. But – to be totally honest – I’ve always been scared by the cost of building an efficient, functional, retail-driven website. Of course I know it’s worth it – I have no doubt about that. But I’m running a totally bootstrap business over here, and I’ve just never been able to come up with the money to put toward something like this.

It seems silly when I say that out loud, I totally know that this is a “spend money to make money” sort of thing… but it’s a reality.

This hard working business owner can’t be the only person wondering what to invest in and when, and specifically when to invest in a custom website, so I wanted to share some more info on that topic.

harvest-paper-feature

What you can expect from having a custom site created for you?

I appreciate that this is a big leap for any business. Our work is a significant investment of both time and money. I want you to leap with your eyes open and be informed about what to expect and what makes it work.

A project with Aeolidia should be an investment, that is, something you pay for now that will pay you back in the future with increased sales and profit. If you’re thinking of it as an expense, that tells me you aren’t planning to leverage our work to make it pay off for you. This is such an important topic, and I like all of our clients to realize that our work is in no way a “magic bullet” that’s going to take a failing business and bring it back to life with no effort on the business owner’s part.

Instead, where we are most effective is when we are able to put a high quality tool in the hands of a skilled business owner who is on her way up. So let’s think about a hammer. I could give the very strongest, best balanced, hand forged hammer to a beginner carpenter and it’s not going to make a big difference in the quality of her work. However, if a skilled craftsman has been using shoddy tools and then gets this “master hammer” built specifically for the type of work she does, she is going to know just how to use that hammer to get the results she wants with less exertion. We aim to meet you in that sweet spot where you know enough to use the tool well and improve what you do.

Another stationery business owner asked me for data and stats about what her business could expect after hiring us. This is different for everyone, of course, and largely up to the business owner. To use another analogy, you can think of your custom website as a very fast car. Once we’ve built your car, it’s up to you to drive that baby, and results are going to vary based on what you know about your own business and how much work you’re ready to put into promoting it. We want to toss those car keys to someone who knows how to race.

So, what can you expect from a project with Aeolidia? I’d like to double or triple your retail sales (or if you have been concentrating on wholesale and retail is somewhat new to you, let’s make that number exponential), and the results are ultimately up to you.

azalia-photography-3

What you need to have in place to see retail success

We like to get involved when we know our work can be transformative and trigger exponential growth. That is why we evaluate each business that asks us for a project quote, to make sure we feel that we can make it more than worth their investment.

These are the six things you need to have in place to anticipate a good return on your investment with Aeolidia. You need these things whether you work with us or not. The good news is that if you are serious and smart about what you’re doing, the below should be a piece of cake. If you’re not there yet, use this list as a guide for improvement.

  1. A product that people are excited to buy. It’s best to invest in the next step for your business when you have a proven interest in your products. You want people to order enthusiastically, anticipate your new products, and share with their circles.
  2. A strong understanding of your brand, your target customer, and what differentiates your business from even your closest competitor.
  3. A measurable, attainable goal for the project that you will then put your energy into achieving. Do you want the site to double your retail sales? Help you triple your wholesale accounts within six months of launching? Change your audience’s perception of your business? How will you know if the project with us was a success or not? We need this marker of success as our beacon during the project.
  4. High quality content for the site, or the budget to hire us to create it. Beautiful, clear photos that answer all customer questions about the product. Copywriting that answers questions as well as sells the product.
  5. A plan for getting traffic to the site, or the budget to hire help. You can hire our marketing consultant and SEO team, or this may be something you work on yourself. Many of our clients have a plan for this or are already driving traffic to their site, and want the custom site to increase their conversion rate.
  6. A serious work ethic! The clients that we’ve seen go on to become superstars in their field do not do anything halfheartedly. They take that bull by the horns and do what has to be done to grow their business.

bespoke_home

What a custom site does to aid in achieving your goals

Why a custom website designed by professionals instead of hiring your cousin or using a theme from Shopify’s theme store? Our work doesn’t make sense for a brand new business owner, just testing the waters with an unproven product and no client base. That’s the time when you should hire your cousin or purchase a pre-designed theme. There comes a time for every successful business when the website will start holding you back. It will get harder to use,  it won’t have the features your particular business needs, it won’t look appropriate for the level your business is at. Here is what we do for businesses that are growing:

  1. Completely remove the “amateur” elements of your web presence, so you can confidently promote your work as a legitimate business. This can be HUGE for business owners, and the base for your work growing your company.
  2. Provide you with a website that is completely user-friendly and caters specifically to your perfect customer; something an “off the shelf” design is never meant to do. Your new site will tell your story in a way that makes your customer want to get involved, rather than just displaying your products and hoping they’ll care.
  3. Create features custom to your shopping experience. We build in the features your particular business needs to sell to your particular customers. Whether this be creating a smooth product customization process, catering to your wholesale shoppers, or eliminating tons of busywork from your internal tasks, a custom website can save you and your customers huge amounts of time and hassle.
  4. Take the confusion and drudgery out of running your website. We use Shopify (that’s an affiliate link, my friend), and we set everything up so that you can easily make your own updates to the content and products, while letting Shopify quietly make updates and improvements to the software behind the scenes.
  5. Establish you as a serious business that is willing to invest in your brand and customer experience. Even if your customers don’t know why your site doesn’t feel as trustworthy to them as the other sites they shop on – even if they aren’t design or internet savvy – they are going to have an instant “first impression” of your business based on what they see, and if it’s not totally polished and well-designed, they will click away. Society as a whole is much more design-aware than we used to be, and expectations are high.
  6. Create a “sales funnel” that maximizes conversions. Your website will be designed to lead visitors from your social media posts or Google to your home page, right to shopping, and off to the cart, without missing a beat. We know how to eliminate distractions, attract eyes to what’s important, and move your visitors to a sale.

Handcrafted HoneyBee, product photography hero shot

What will a strategically custom-designed brand and online shop do for you?

I could talk to you about the stationery stars we’ve worked with, like Rifle Paper Co., Emily Ley, and Emily McDowell – who wouldn’t want to get there? And you know you’re not going to see any of them fumbling around with a theme from the theme store. We started working with them at the tipping point in their path, and that’s where we want to meet you. It’s going to be more applicable for you to think about the younger businesses who are more in your boat right now.

Handcrafted HoneyBee begins again with a new brand

Our current “valedictorian” client is Stacia Guzzo of Handcrafted HoneyBee. Her project has gone AMAZINGLY, and it’s taught us a lot about what it takes to succeed. Stacia and Robert came to us because they had been floundering at craft fairs and trying to reach out to wholesale clients. Finally, at an Etsy Wholesale event, a few large retailers told them that their branding and packaging was holding them back.

We started from scratch on their brand, packaging, and now we’re doing their website. Even before the website is finished, they have taken their brand and awesome packaging, found a sales rep, won an award for best new product, and in general have been totally killing it. Our professional design plus their incredible understanding of their brand and work ethic are making this a very profitable project for them.

Here’s a post they wrote on how they made the decision to hire Aeolidia

Little Hip Squeaks redesigns with a bang

One of my favorite stories of a business struggling with the tools they had is the story of Little Hip Squeaks outgrowing Etsy, which you can read here. This post talks about the return on investment they saw from their project with  us. Amy’s website paid for itself almost immediately, because she used it to reach out to wholesale clients, who now saw her as a legitimate business.

Island Thyme steps up their homemade game

Another fun story is the husband and wife team of Island Thyme. They had been doing their own thing for years at farmer’s markets, finally decided it was time to do their brand and website right, and instantly saw a substantial increase in sales when we launched right before holiday shopping season.

trendy feminine business card design

Getting started with Aeolidia

This is the time of year when our work at Aeolidia can have the biggest impact and quickest return on investment. Let’s finally get your brand and/or website in tip top shape to work perfectly for your customers and really capture the potential of that long Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend coming up in November.

We work to get everything you need taken care of so that nothing will be holding you back when you go all out promoting your business. You’ll have a whole team on your side for two to four months, and we aim to make it a transformative experience for you.

If we are going to do this, let’s do this right. With goals and objectives, and without cutting any corners. Tell me where you’re business is aiming and I’ll help you point your boat in that direction.

We were fully booked, but still talking to so many creatives who were ready to make the most of this summer. Rather than make you all wait for a 2017 launch, we’re adding designers to our team to meet you this summer and help you with those 2016 sales figures. These spots are going to go like hotcakes, my friends, so let’s talk today. If you’re not 100% sure you’re there yet, email me anyway. I would love to learn more about where your business is at and discuss your best next step. We need to hear from you by the first week of July to launch your site before the holiday sales season in November.

7 Surprising Wholesale Tips from a Memphis Store Owner + Maker

The owner of Falling Into Place shares the surprising thing she’s learned about the best way to approach store owners, what she really looks for in an email pitch, and the key thing that you need to do in your story-telling to prompt a sale.

This is a guest post from Etan & Emily from Wholesale In a Box. More info on them below.

Falling Into Place is one of those stores that are community institutions pretty much from the day they open. Mary Claire started Falling Into Place just last year, but she already has a devoted following in Memphis, an impressive roster of makers, a gorgeous space, a lust-worthy workshop calendar. The store is the culmination of many passions and experiences for Mary Claire. A former school teacher, and a passionate supporter of arts education, this store owner also has a thriving candle line. In fact, she just did a gorgeous relaunch of the line, with a percentage of proceeds going to childhood arts education.

We had the chance to talk to Mary Claire the other day and the conversation ranged from the surprising thing she’s learned about the best way to approach store owners, to what she really looks for in an email pitch, to the key thing that you need to do in your story-telling to prompt a sale. So much of what she shares is resonant with other conversations we’ve had with store owners, from Moon + Arrow’s unique sensibility and approach to makers, to the owner of Select Shop’s emphasis on a warm, direct, respectful approach to pitching.

Mary Claire’s generous spirit, curious mind, and courageous work shines through in everything she does — and the “pro tips” she shared in our conversations for makers growing wholesale are no exception.

Falling Into Place shop, photo © Mary Claire

Falling Into Place shop, photo © Mary Claire

Candle line, photo © Mary Claire

7 Tips for Makers Growing Wholesale:

1. Email works great to pitch your line — but do it thoughtfully.

I don’t go to markets. All of my buying is done through things I stumble on, Instagram, suggestions from friends or customers, or submissions. If I like somebody, I mostly go ahead and order. But I do have a folder in my email for products that are under consideration or that I like but don’t have room for. Or that I like, but I don’t like for right now.

The tone of the email is really important. Trying to inject something warm is really key. Most of the letters I get are obviously form letters. A perfect pitch is really warm and references a couple of specific things in my store. That way I can tell that you really do think you’d be a good fit, you’re not just saying that.

Also, I love it when there are a couple of thumbnails in the email that keep me from having to go to the line sheet without knowing what the line is going to be like. It’s an easy and fast way for me to see if it’s a fit.

2. Make it easy for me to order — and to reorder.

What I’ve discovered is fairly personal to me because I’m a new store owner. One of my favorite jewelry designers out of Portland — her stuff sells like hotcakes. And I just send her an email and whatever she wants to send me, she sends me, and it’s really informal.

But I sometimes find it confusing ordering through a line sheet because I write down the item numbers and put it in the email — and when I look back it is just item numbers that don’t match to the products.

Or, some people would say print out this order form and fax it back. And I hate doing that because my printer is not that great, etc.

This is me being “new school” but my favorite is shopping online through a wholesale store. Whether it’s a separate store, or a code that you get at checkout that gives you 50% off everything — both just make it easier to order and to reorder.

3. Consider reaching out through multiple channels

Sending a postcard out of the blue is super cool. And the main reason is that if you send a postcard, it’s very different from getting an email. Depending on the photography, it’s just kind of laying around and looks great. This is what happened with one jewelry line. They sent me a postcard. I said, “Interesting. Not going to place an order, but I’m interested.” Then they sent me another postcard and I said, “Look at you, little tenacious thing.” Then they sent me an email offering free shipping. Loved it. Placed an order. Then I reordered 3-4 times with them.

4. Be firm, but flexible, when it comes to your terms.

I will ask for a lower minimum if the minimum is too high. If you need to do $250 on an opening order, absolutely say that in your terms, but if you can come down, be flexible on that. Stores will always ask if there is something that they want. Because they know better than to be intimidated. I think people who own a store have the balls to ask.

I like to deal with really new wholesalers and they’re sooo accommodating. Be confident and firm and flexible and kind and warm. It’s so great to think about somebody as a person. Even if I don’t know a story behind a product, if I at least know the person is nice, that makes all the difference — and I’m able to tell that to my customer.

5. Make your 2-sentence story your selling point.

What’s really important for retailers is to have a 1-2 sentence, succinct story about the maker because THAT SELLS PRODUCT.

The best stories are like Fashionable out of Nashville. They work with women in Ethiopia, and name each piece after one of the women they work with.

I have to be able to say the story in 2 sentences because that is the amount of attention the shopper has.

6. Cover your bases with packaging, but you don’t need to go overboard.

Jewelry is no big deal, but packaging for other stuff is a big deal. Thinking about how it’s going to look on my shelf is really important. If I’m going to have to do something special to get it on the shelf, that’s not good.

[Wondering what retailers want to see as far as product packaging? 6 Product Packaging Design Tips From Store Owners]

7. Follow up and don’t be afraid of silence at first.

I don’t mean to ignore people but it happens. For instance, I’ll be in the car and mean to come back to it and I just forget. We don’t mean to be rude. So if you’re ignored – don’t worry about that. If you get one that says they’re not interested then that’s pretty definitive. That’s a pretty square rejection and move on from there.

But reach out again in 2-3 weeks and touch base — that’s good and reaching back out with a reminder is totally fine. Even if you’ve been in contact with someone before and it didn’t lead to a sale, I’d say to reach out again if it’s a new season because things change.

 

Thank you so much for your insight and your gorgeous work, Mary Claire!

This post was shared with us by Etan and Emily from Wholesale In a Box, a service that can help your handmade business grow wholesale. Etan and Emily will be answering your questions in a live wholesale Q&A on Tuesday, June 14th 2016 from 1-1:30pm PST in the Aeolidia Facebook group. Request to join our group today, and put it on your calendar. They’ll be available to answer any and all questions that you have on getting your handmade work into more stores! They will cover some of the biggest mistakes they see makers make when jumping into wholesale, answer questions on anything from line sheets to emails to wholesale terms, and share the simple things any maker can do TODAY to grow their wholesale business.

Most Elegant Booth Design at the National Stationery Show 2016

We didn’t even take pictures of half of the booths we loved at the National Stationery Show – there were just so many. However, we did keep our wits about us and capture photos of some of these beautiful booths. Booth design at the NSS is stunning! These ones were among the most elegant booths at the show.

Katherine Watson

Katherine’s booth was about as gorgeous as possible. Wallpapered with one of her patterns, and perfectly laid out, this corner booth was the most beautiful booth at the show. The wooden sign, elegant furniture, plants and details and careful arrangement of her products made this booth a must-see.

katharine-watson

Katherine Watson National Stationery Show booth design

Katherine Watson NSS booth design

Scotch & Cream

These booth was perfectly on brand and totally polished, from the furnishings to the gilt molding at the top of the booth. Everything went perfectly with the retro cocktail aesthetic of the brand, including some gorgeous promo materials and catalogs.

Scotch & Cream booth design

Scotch & Cream trade show booth

Lily & Val

Lovely architectural wall details on this one that helped you to feel like you were stepping into a shop. The walls were unique and the chandelier was a nice touch as well.

Lily & Val NSS booth design

Lily & Val booth design for the National Stationery Show

Pences Design Studio

The marble patterned wall, furnishings, and careful layouts made this booth stand out from the others.

Potluck Press

This origami crane wall was a standout, and the spinning card racks made it feel like a little shop.

potluck press nss booth

Potluck Press booth at the NSS 2016

Made in Brockton Village

The black wall in this booth really made the cards pop, and we also liked the painted flower details. Simple and clean made this booth stand out.

Brockton

Made in Brockton Village stationery show design

Idlewild Co.

Another lovely painted wall, and the wooden shelves were a great touch.

Idlewild Co. stationery show booth

Idlewild Co. trade show booth

Clap Clap

The Clap Clap booth was perfectly polished, and we were bowled away by her scented card display. The cards smelled realistic, and so great! Unique color scheme for the booth, and products perfectly in sync with each other. One of my new favorite stationery brands!

clap clap scented cards

Clap Clap Design booth display design

We will be featuring advice and stories from NSS exhibitors throughout the summer! Sign up here to be notified when we have new stationery business info to share!