How to Switch to Shopify from Another Ecommerce Platform

Have you been thinking about making the switch to Shopify? Here’s what you need to consider before switching to Shopify, and why you might want to hire a Shopify expert (like us!) to help you make the move.

The image above features a custom Shopify design we did for Miss Design Berry, who we helped switch to Shopify from WooCommerce

Have you been thinking about making the switch to Shopify? Maybe your handmade business has outgrown Etsy, or you’re finding that Squarespace, Wix, or WooCommerce are no longer serving the needs of your growing online shop. There are plenty of reasons why we believe Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses, but that doesn’t make the task of migrating your online shop to Shopify any less daunting!

Here’s what you need to consider before switching to Shopify, and why you might want to hire a Shopify expert (like us!) to help you make the move.

How will your SEO be affected by switching to Shopify?

Different ecommerce platforms typically use different URL structures, which means that if you switch to a different platform, the links to your old product pages may not be the same as the links to your new product pages.

For example, it might look something like this:

OLD PLATFORM: https://mystore.com/accessories/wool-scarf.html
SHOPIFY: https://mystore.com/products/wool-scarf

There are a few reasons why this matters. First, what if that wool scarf of yours was featured by a popular blogger, and their post about your product is generating most of the traffic to that page? Well, you can (and should!) reach out directly to that blogger with the new URL and ask them to update it, but you’ll also want to take matters into your own hands and make sure that any place that links to the old URL will get automatically updated to point to the new version of the URL instead.

Second, you’ll also want to make sure that Google and other search engines get the memo that your URLs have changed. What you will need to do is set up URL redirects for all of your old links and product pages so that anytime someone clicks on the old version of a link, they will automatically get redirected to the correct version of the page.

While Shopify simplifies things by calling this feature URL redirects in your account settings, you might also hear this referred to as 301 redirects. A 301 status code tells Google that a page has permanently moved to a new location.

No matter what ecommerce platform you are switching to or from, 301 redirects are an important SEO consideration. One of the main reasons that people see a drop in website traffic after making a platform switch or going through a redesign is because they did not properly implement 301 redirects.

Will Shopify integrate with your POS software and other tools necessary for running your business?

Shopify offers their own Point of Sale (POS) system, which is a fantastic option for many retailers. But maybe you’ve been running your shop for awhile and you already have another POS system in place that works for you. Or maybe you need your ecommerce platform to communicate with other tools that you use to run your business, like your accounting software or an email marketing provider?

The Shopify App Store offers a seemingly endless array of ways to integrate with various tools that you can use to process orders and market your business, but to a busy store owner, this can often seem overwhelming. Many apps offer similar features, and evaluating which apps can help you grow your business and which apps will wind up collecting dust on the backend of your online shop can be tricky.

Do I have the time and resources to make the switch?

In addition to choosing the right apps to integrate with your new Shopify website, you’ll also need to allocate time to testing and making sure that all of your information gets moved over properly to your new online shop.

There are a number of different ways to migrate your shop’s data over to Shopify, depending on how big your shop is and how much data you have. If you have a very small shop, you may decide to simply copy and paste the content from your old site or transfer the data manually using CSV files. If you have a lot of products and customers, you may want to use a migration app from the Shopify App Store or use the Admin API to help pull the old data into your new store.

No matter how you choose to transfer your data, you’ll want to double check everything to make sure that it is transferred correctly to your new site. You’ll also want to test your new Shopify website in different browsers and across different devices, like a desktop computer, iPad, and mobile phone, before pushing your new store live. Don’t forget about placing test orders either, so that you know how your customers will experience using your shop.

Does all of this sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, we know that it IS overwhelming for a single shop owner. That’s why we have a whole team of people that work with our clients when they’re ready to switch to Shopify.

Waiting to upgrade from an ecommerce platform that is no longer the best choice for your business could cost you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run. If you want to see how much money you could save with a website redesign (and how much money you might be wasting by waiting), download our free guide on forecasting your ROI or contact us for our rate sheet.

What's It Worth? Forecasting Your Website Design ROI

How long will it take for your new website to pay for itself? This PDF helps you decide if it's the right time for your business to invest in design.

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Make More Sales with Your Shopify Blog: 26 Ways to Promote Each Blog Post 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! Your blog can be a great way to get more website traffic, but the only way you’ll make more sales with your Shopify blog is if you know how to properly promote your blog posts! 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 over four years ago, and it has consistently gotten hundreds of visits per day since Google decided to like it (9 months after I wrote it). That’s thousands of 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 this Google Analytics graph, where it’s totally flat is what happened after I wrote it in January 2014. Nothing. In September of that year, Google took notice of it. The dips in the graph are around December and January each year, 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 Ways to Increase Traffic & Make Money by Blogging

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:

  1. Article purpose – what action do you want the reader to take?
  2. Article focus – determine the topic of the blog post
  3. Providing value – ways to create quality content
  4. SEO keywords – how to research keywords that will work for you
  5. Content upgrades – when to use bribes to convert
  6. Headline – why to spend time on the headline in advance
  7. Collaborate – when to bring other people in to contribute to your post
  8. Guest posting or syndication – how to bring in fresh new readers
  9. Fit it on your editorial calendar strategically
  10. Rough draft – hint: yes, you’re going to edit this later
  11. Call to action – how to make it compelling
  12. Cross-link to others – an easy way for cross-promotion
  13. Edit and proofread – and the tools I use
  14. Photos and graphics – how to make them effective
  15. Social media content – what to prep to promote your post
  16. Optimize with headers and alt tags
  17. Cross-link to yourself – an easy way to keep people on your site
  18. SEO double check – how to be diligent without being penalized by Google
  19. Cross-promote – why to let people know about mentions
  20. Ask for favors – when and how to ask influencers to share your post
  21. Social media (in person) – how to create a buzz
  22. Social media (scheduling) – how to let robots take care of the rest
  23. Mailing list – why your list is your most valuable marketing asset
  24. Syndicate – how to let the post get back to work again
  25. Write a spin-off – keep actively linking to the post
  26. Email series – introduce new subscribers to this post

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.

Here’s more detail about the steps I take for each important blog post. Do these, and you’ll be sure to make more sales from your Shopify blog in no time!

Here are the things I do to make the most of each post.

1. Determine 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.

2. Come up with the article focus.

This is an easy one. What is the article about? In our case, we often want to showcase a client project. We know all about the project, and we need to decide which angle to write about (the path to choosing the right business name? The big realization the client had midway through design? A before and after showing the transformation?).

You want to steer away from stream of consciousness and make sure that your writing has a focus that relates to your objective.

3. What value are you going to be offering your reader?

This is another huge one. Every time you show up on the internet to promote your business, you need to bring value. What the heck is value, you ask? Value just means that you have written something that your reader will be glad she has read. You’ve given her a little gift. If it’s valuable enough, she may want to share it with her friends. Value can be:

  • Actionable information: tutorials, how-tos, ideas for her home or life
  • Interesting information: process details, intriguing product history, best vacation spots with kids
  • Inspirational content: motivational, beautiful, cheerful
  • Aspirational: beautiful homes, success stories, things people want
  • Cash value: discount coupons, sales, giveaways, contests
  • Entertainment: stories, jokes, funny or interesting photos
  • Community or connection: the “I’m not the only one!” feeling or a way to bring your readers together

4. Decide on a keyword for search engines.

I approach each post hoping Google will sink its teeth into it and start sending me a barrel of traffic. This has only happened for me a few times, but when it does, it’s good.

First, a keyword doesn’t have to be a word – it’s usually a phrase. So you might want to try something like, “best baby bonnets” or “spring break activities” or “vintage tea towels.”

When you’re thinking of your keyword, you need to imagine your target customer. She wants your exact product and she’s going to Google. What’s she going to type in? She might not know what the word “himmeli” means, for instance, and may be typing in, “geometric brass plant holder.” Forget your insider info and jargon when thinking of keywords for your customers. By the way, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the word “himmeli” in your blog post – you just want to have an option for people who don’t know it.

For extra credit, don’t just guess at what keywords people are searching for. Try to find out. The easiest way is to start typing some of your ideas into Google’s regular search box. Their “suggest” feature will start trying to complete what you’re typing with the most common searches.

If you want to go deeper into this, you can get some keyword ideas from Google’s Keyword Planner. Here are Google’s instructions for how to use their planner (and if you find this confusing, keep Googling for a “how-to” article – lots of people have explained it, some more clearly than others). You can also use Google Trends to see what people are interested in, and how your keyword idea has changed in popularity.

Once you pick your phrase, you can search Google for your phrase, to see who your competitors are. Make sure you are offering information that is new and different from what is there. Maybe more specialized, or with more detail. For instance, if there is a post with 20 ideas for decorating a home office, you can write one that has 50 ideas. Or you could write one that has ideas for decorating a home office with limited space.

Now that you’ve chosen your keyword, don’t go nuts with it and use it a million times – Google will probably think you’re a spammer. It is fine and good to use variations of your keyword (“best places to camp” and “favorite campsites,” for example), rather than just the same keyword over and over. If you’re writing a quality article, this should naturally happen and not be a lot of extra work. Think about these important places for keywords:

  • Your article’s title
  • Your article’s URL (mysite.com/vintage-tea-towels)
  • The alt tags for your photos (more on that later)
  • A heading tag in your article (more on that later)
  • The meta description (more on that later)

5. “Content upgrade” or gift for taking an action.

Consider whether you’re going to kindly bribe your readers to do something such as sign up for your mailing list. For most ecommerce blogs, you want someone to buy your product, and a bribe won’t be necessary. For my service-based business, it’s unlikely that many people will be at the right place with their business to hire us the first time they read a blog post, so we like to introduce them to our mailing list. If you’re focusing on building your mailing list, try a freebie that helps them shop for your product, use your product in their home, etc.

One effective way to get new subscribers for our mailing list is to give readers a “content upgrade” – more information on the same topic of the post, given for free in exchange for sharing their email address and letting us contact them when we have interesting information to share. You’re reading one right now. ?

Make sure that your content upgrade doesn’t feel like a bait and switch. The last thing you want is for your reader to feel disappointed by what they get after giving away their valuable email address. A good content upgrade can take a long time to put together, so I make sure to have that in my plans from the start if I’m going to do it.

6. Now we write the headline.

What?! Why are we writing the headline before we’ve written the article? This isn’t necessary to do – you can write the headline at any point. But I find that if I start with the headline, I can put more attention into what people want to know and why they’re clicking over to my site, and it helps me shape the article as well.

Your headline is important. I’ve seen recommendations to spend more time on your headline than on your article. There is no point to the article if people don’t read it, and the headline is usually the “bait” used to bring people over to the article. So writing a dull, dry headline puts you at a disadvantage (though you always want to be clear).

You want your headline to be intriguing and understandable. I use CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer tool, and improve my headlines based on the ratings of my attempts. I stop before it reaches ridiculous “clickbait” levels of catchiness, and I double check that people would have a decent idea of what to expect before clicking. Then I know I have a good headline.

7. Ask other people to contribute.

This doesn’t happen with every post, but it can make posts more interesting if you have another person’s perspective. We often ask for quotes, testimonials, photos, or do interviews with people. For these posts, we want to ask them well in advance, so we’re not up late the night before posting trying to get everything together.

When asking people to contribute to your blog, make sure there’s value in it for them, too. Link back to them, sell your audience on them, reciprocate on their blog – whatever makes sense for your relationship with them.

8. Where could your post go besides your blog?

You may want to consider making this a guest post on someone else’s blog, to attract a new audience. Or you may want to post it on your blog, but ask someone else to syndicate it (publish it again on their site). Plan for that now, and pitch the post idea to your intended blog before you write it.

One word of caution when syndicating or duplicating content: Google doesn’t always like this, so one of you needs to set the post up so that Google doesn’t “count” it. When I repost an article that someone else already posted, I set the post to “noindex” in my WordPress admin. This way, neither my site or the other person’s site get penalized by Google for being a spammer.

My personal method when I guest post is to put an excerpt up on my blog the same week that the other blogger posts my content. The excerpt links to them. After two weeks or so, when the content is no longer fresh, I swap out my excerpt for the full article, and state at the end of the post where it was originally posted, with a link back. This is an easy way for me to let my readers know I have new content elsewhere for them, and it keeps the info on my site (without “scooping” the other blogger), so it will always be available to my readers no matter what happens to the other site.

9. Put the post on your editorial calendar.

If you’re taking blogging seriously, an editorial calendar is going to allow you to do your best work. Plan each post for a strategic time based on your seasonal products, product releases, other events or collaborations you’re doing, and make sure to vary the content of your blog so you aren’t posting clumps of the same type of posts.

10. Write a rough draft of your post.

This is when you plop everything you know and want to say out of your keyboard and onto some kind of virtual paper (I write simple posts in WordPress, and more involved ones start in Evernote). Or maybe you prefer writing in a notebook and typing it up later. If the post is complicated enough, you might even want to start by creating an outline of your main points and sub-points, then writing the rough draft.

Don’t worry too much about search engine optimization at this point (though you should have your main target keyword in the back of your mind as you write – and you should make sure the article you’re writing makes sense with the title you gave it). Your purpose should be for your reader first, and Google second. Google agrees with this, because they want to find the content their users value, so if you jam your keyword all over your article, Google is going to penalize you for trying too hard. Keep it natural, and use your keyword (and its variations) where it makes sense for your reader.

11. Craft your call to action.

Remember when you decided what you wanted your article to do for you? Now it’s time to make it happen. Tell your reader what you want them to do next. And do it in a way that’s irresistible without feeling salesy. What’s in it for them? If you do it right, they should be tripping over their own feet to get to the next step.

Spend some time on this, taking good-natured advantage of your customer’s desire, curiosity, interest, etc., and making sure you’re delivering something during the next step that makes them glad they took action (P.S. I hope you’re enjoying this lovely guide I made for you!).

I also put a custom newsletter box on each post, letting people know if they want more on that topic, to join our newsletter.

12. Make sure you link to anyone you’ve mentioned.

Doing a favor for another blogger, business owner, customer, shop, craft fair, etc. is a great way to get their attention and maybe build a relationship that could be helpful to you in the future. And people just love knowing when they’re being talked about on the internet! So send ‘em some traffic, there’s enough for everyone. They may even re-share your article with their audience.

13. Edit and proofread!

Now your post is written, and you’re going to proofread it. I like to run posts through the Hemingway app when I want to improve my clarity. When I get really serious on a “masterpiece” type post, I print it out onto scrap paper and sit down in a cozy chair with a red pen. Don’t trust your spell check! You need to proofread to make sure there are no mistakes (for instance, in the first draft of this article, I accidentally typed “automaton” instead of “automation,” which spellcheck thought was just fine).

14. Now it’s time to add images.

These could be photos, or graphics you create with text or illustrations. I use Photoshop to do this, and I’ve heard good things about Canva. Make sure your photos are bright, clear, interesting, and the right size for your blog. You want them to fit the full width of your post, so people aren’t stuck squinting at shrimpy images.

Make at least one of your images Pinterest-friendly: a vertical image, and if it has text, it needs to be large enough to be readable at Pinterest’s small “thumbnail” size that they show on the front page. Zoom out on the image in your graphics program to about Pinterest size to be sure it’s still legible.

15. Prepare other social media graphics.

I create a special graphic for Instagram that’s the right dimensions (square, horizontal, or vertical), and prep that to post using CoSchedule. Maybe Facebook is important for your business and you want to make a special Facebook graphic. If you plan to upload and post images manually for your post, you can modify your existing photos to be just right for the social media platform you’re interested in (or make something new).

16. Optimize with headers and alt tags

Dividing longer posts up with headings is a great way to keep your readers’ attention, and help those that may be skimming to see if they’re interested. Google can also understand your articles better if you divide them up with headers (using the keywords you want to be found for). Headings are divided  with a numbering system. Each page on your site should have a title in a “heading 1” tag (<h1>). WordPress has these listed in a dropdown menu and you can select to have the headers of each post be “heading 2” (and “heading 3″ or 4 if you have sub-heads in your sections).

The code that builds your post will look like this to search engines:

<h1>The main title of your blog post</h1>

Intro paragraph here

<h2>The heading of a section of a post</h2>

Paragraphs about this section. Etc.

For every image you add, include an “alt” tag. This is a bit of text that people who are using screen readers have access to, but won’t show in your post on your website. Search engines are also interested in this content, so describe your image, using your target keyword if it makes sense to.

17. Cross-link to other content on your site.

Sometimes in my post I will mention and link to another article on my site, to let people continue hanging out on my domain and getting to know what I do. When I don’t do that, I always set up related categories, tags, and related posts for people to read. If they liked what they read, they can read more things on the “branding” topic, more things in the “case study” category, or go directly to other posts about that topic.

Taking a moment to set up some, “if you liked this, you may also like” action on your site is a great way to keep people around a bit longer and warm them up to buying from you.

18. SEO-specific double check!

I use the Yoast plugin for WordPress to guide me in making my content Google-friendly. If you’ve done a good job on all the preceding points, Yoast will just give you a green light (literally!) and you’re good to go. If it gives you a red or a yellow light, read the tips offered and make some adjustments until you can get Yoast feeling happy.

Now you can press “Publish” and share your post with the world!

19. Notify anyone who was mentioned.

They’ll like to know that you’re blogging about them. They may share it with their readers right away, think about sharing this or other posts in the future, or just have a warm fuzzy feeling about you.

20. Go a step further and ask people to share.

Email people who have the same target audience that you do and are not competitors to ask them the favor of sharing your post. Offer to share theirs in return or another type of favor. I only do this maybe once a year when I have something huge or noteworthy, because I’d hate to wear out my welcome and I want to be sure the person who’s doing me the favor feels like they’re sharing something that their readers will truly find valuable.

I called in favors three times for my blog so far (after three and a half years blogging):

  1. When I launched my blog
  2. When we entirely redesigned Aeolidia and the blog and were having a huge giveaway celebration
  3. When I wrote the “260 blog post ideas” post, because that one was so valuable

Don’t ask strangers to do this for you. They aren’t going to. Ask friends, colleagues, people you’ve helped in the past, people you’ve blogged for or been interviewed by, etc. The person you ask has to know who you are and have at least a small warm feeling about you, or you’re wasting your time.

Don’t know anyone like this? Start socializing more on the internet and comment on their posts, ask them a question, offer them a tip. You’re not faking a friendship for business gain, but I can tell you you aren’t going to get far in blogging if you keep to yourself and never reach out to other people. Blogging is a social-type activity. Go say hi!

21. Go chat about your blog post on social media.

Now is the time to manually post to your favorite social media platform(s), pin your post to Pinterest, etc. Share that you wrote it and offer to answer questions about it, chat in more detail, see if people want to share it.

When we publish a new blog post, I manually post it to Instagram (with the help of CoSchedule to have my content all prepped). I then spend 5-10 minutes on Instagram liking and commenting on peoples’ posts. Some people will naturally glance at what you’ve been up to when you comment, like, or follow them. It’s the equivalent to smiling, shaking hands, or striking up a conversation at a networking event.

For goodness’ sake, please don’t post a string of “nice pic” comments on every single thing you see! It is only worth liking and commenting if you’re talking to people who you are actually interested in and who are interested in you, and if you’re sharing genuine comments. This is the “social” part of social media, where you’re participating instead of just broadcasting your own information.

I also post my new post to my own Facebook Group (The Shipshape Collective – join us!), because that’s one thing people are there for. Then we can discuss the post in more detail. I let automation tools take care of the rest, which the next tip is about.

22. Set up a social media schedule.

I do this before posting, but you can do it at any time. Use your social media scheduling tool of choice (I use CoSchedule, but there’s also Buffer, Edgar, TailWind, Later, etc.) to plan out when you want to re-share this post. You don’t want to be annoying and repetitive, but remember that social media is a stream and people aren’t on there all day every day. They each have a different pace that they go by at (for instance, Twitter content lasts just minutes to hours before it kind of “expires” and quits being seen, and it’s fine to re-post content you’ve posted before, for people who missed it the first time around.

23. Leverage your mailing list.

I’ve talked about using your blog post to get people to sign up for your mailing list. Well, you also want to use your mailing list to tell people about your blog posts. My mailing list sends almost 10% of my total traffic back to my site each month. It’s good for the people who are most interested in what you’re doing to see what’s new with you and your shop, and to be brought back to the site to order. Building up a large, healthy, engaged mailing list is a big big deal, and I will talk about that more on the Aeolidia blog in the future.

Share part of your blog post in your newsletter, an additional thought or info about the post, and send people to your site to read the rest and get started shopping.

24. See if anyone wants to syndicate it.

I mentioned this during the prep steps, but if a post of yours has been popular and you want it to reach a larger audience, make sure you have a strong call to action and think about who might want to post it again to their readers. Again, this should be someone who has the same target customer as you, but doesn’t feel like a direct competitor who wouldn’t want to support your business. And always consider what the person is getting out of it. They need a reason to want to help you.

It’s only helpful to syndicate your post on another site if you’re working in your post to bring people back to your site, so make sure your post includes a call to action that accomplishes that.

25. Write a spin-off.

If you’ve written a post that is evergreen (meaning it doesn’t get old or go out of date), think about what future posts you could write that could link back to that post (“if you liked this, you may also like,” or “I went in-depth about Topic X in this first post [link], and now here’s Topic Y based on that”).

26. Add it to an email series.

Again, if this is a big deal post that introduces people to what’s so great about your business, convinces people to buy, and is evergreen, you don’t want to show it to people once and then let it quietly disappear. If you have a mailing list, it’s often a good idea to set up an automated email series to introduce customers to your product line and your story. This blog post may be one you want to link to from the email, so all new subscribers have a chance to see it.

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.

260 Blog Post Ideas for E-Commerce Businesses

In this downloadable PDF, I’ve put together 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.

Get your 260 blog post ideas PDF here:

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Why Shopify Is the Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Businesses

Are you wondering if you should be using Shopify for your website? Read on, because I have some thoughts about why Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses!

The image above features a custom Shopify design we did for Zinnia Folk Arts

Are you wondering if you should be using Shopify for your website? Or if you are using Shopify to sell your products online, do you wonder if you’re using it as well as you could be? Read on, because I have some thoughts about why Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses!

Someone recently asked me to compare Shopify to another ecommerce platform and wanted to know,

“Can you look at something like this and right off the bat see how it’s just not as good as Shopify?”

A couple big reasons I prefer Shopify for just about every business that’s come my way are:

The checkout process has been minutely perfected on Shopify, in a way that other ecommerce providers can’t replicate. For instance, the first time I shop on ANY website that uses Shopify Pay, I can check a box to save my info. Then, any time in the future when I shop on any other website that uses Shopify Pay, it recognizes my email, and asks if I’d like to be sent a code to complete checkout. It texts my phone, I enter my code, and I don’t have to enter in any other information.

Shop owners can also opt to use Apple Pay or Google Pay, which means a single press of my thumb and I’ve made a purchase. It almost feels like I’ve accidentally bought things from Shopify sellers, the process is so frictionless! This alone would lead to more sales on Shopify than on other platforms, and anyone who sees high cart abandonment rates could benefit from a switch to Shopify.

Shopify's POS software and hardware

Shopify's online store dashboard

Sales channels. Shopify allows you to sell all over the place, not just your website. A nice thing is that it all syncs with your Shopify back end, so you don’t have to do tedious inventory and order management. Here are the channels they offer (so far).

Shopify is also always the first, if not only, software that makes deals with other companies to allow you to sell in creative new ways. For instance, Buyable Pins on Pinterest, and shoppable Instagram posts. The thing with capitalism is that smaller ecommerce companies just don’t have the clout to strike the deals that benefit Shopify merchants.

Future-ready. In general, Shopify meets most of our clients’ needs, and when it doesn’t, we can adjust it to do so ourselves, or recommend an app to our clients. It is easy to use both for the shopper AND the shop owner. And it is constantly updated and improved, often with cutting edge technology that no one else is using yet. It seems like the best way to be sure you’re still in the game when whatever weird way everyone ends up shopping in the future rolls around.

There is so much available at Shopify, you might want help to be sure you’re taking full advantage of everything that will increase your sales. I hope you’ll consider calling on the Aeolidia team to get your website in shape before the end of the year.

How can we help?

The main services we offer are custom Shopify website design and development and logo and brand design. We don’t do little bits of things on their own, but we do offer our logo and website clients help with just about everything that goes into creating a strong brand online.

Our clients are usually pleasantly surprised by all we do for them during their website redesign. Which tells me I’m probably not communicating it well until after you’ve hired us! So here are some of the things we can take care of for you if you hire us for our design and/or development work:

  • Replatforming: moving your products, blog posts, customers, orders, gift cards, pages, and reviews.
  • Data analysis: integrating Google Analytics correctly with Shopify and mining actionable data from your stats.
  • Brand consulting: differentiating your business and creating a target customer profile.
  • Business naming: we name new businesses and rename ones that have shifted what they offer.
  • Marketing strategy: we help you create a plan of action for getting press and driving traffic to your site.
  • SEO: we make a plan for driving free traffic from Google — people looking for just what you sell.
  • Advanced MailChimp setup: help with segmenting, money-making automations, and cleanup.
  • Conversion rate optimization: we guide you through policies and strategy that make more sales from your traffic.
  • Print and packaging design: for a memorable unboxing experience.
  • Content creation: from product photography to ecommerce copywriting to illustration.

If designing or redesigning your website seems overwhelming… well, it is a lot of work! Your Aeolidia team may consist of seven different people, all taking care of one aspect or another of making the most of your web presence. I won’t suggest that it’s easy to move a busy shop to Shopify (it is pretty easy to have us redesign your existing Shopify site), but it’s absolutely do-able if you stick to your products and content and let a team of Shopify experts take care of the rest.

Have you been doing well with online retail sales, but have the feeling you could be doing much better? I’d really like to help you with that! Let’s talk about what the investment in our services is, how soon you might expect your new improved website to pay for itself, and most importantly: when you can launch your serious new sales tool! Start by requesting our rates, below:

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Top 7 Things I Learned While Crowdfunding For Our Creative Business

Setting up a crowdfunding campaign is no joke. Here are 7 lessons learned from a creative business owner who set up a crowdfunding campaign for her creative project.

This post was written by Ruth Rau, the founder of Mouse Loves Pig, an interactive handmade toy company. Her crowdfunding campaign for Travel Toys Without Noise ends on September 15, 2018.

1. Start EARLY!

Setting up a crowdfunding campaign is no joke. It takes months to set up a professional looking crowdfunding page. I started by combing through other successful projects within my niche market and made a list of the elements that were included on all of their pages. For me, this looked like:

  1. Video
  2. Brief introduction to our company
  3. Statement of the problem
  4. How our product solves the problem
  5. Details of the product
  6. Where and how they will be made
  7. Customer testimonials
  8. An option to share the project
  9. Our biggest press features
  10. How we’re gonna use the money
  11. What the timeline of the project is
  12. Who is helping us with the project (the team)

2. Get help – lots of it.

Define your vision and the build your team. Unless you’re a branding guru, hire a branding agency. (Aeolidia designed all of our new branding for Mouse Loves Pig, and they were worth every penny!) Unless you’re a videographer, let someone else shoot your video. (BirchFields was incredible to work with and helped take my ideas from just okay to woah that’s awesome.) Unless you’re a photographer, get someone else to shoot the photos. (You can see all of the various photographers who have helped us on our crowdfunding page.) Seriously, there are SO MANY moving parts to a crowdfunding campaign. Hiring experts may seem like a lot of money, but it is money well spent to make you look like the professional that you are.

Business card design for a handmade toy brand

Hang tag design for a toy brand

3. Make an amazing video!

Very few people have read through all of the text that I wrote, but they’ve all watched the video. Make sure you write your script with the crowdfunding ask in just one spot so that the video can later be edited as a brand video. Go the extra mile and have subtitles for sharing the video on social media (for those folks that watch with the sound turned off, and for those who are differently abled).

4. Start gathering emails and a support system as early as you decide to move forward with your project.

How? Aeolidia has tons of great articles for growing your email list. Use their tips. Offer giveaways of products, share in your networking groups and with your friends and family and let them know that you’re doing something big and exciting and that you want them to share in your process and in your success.

5. Make a goal that is achievable but enough to cover the costs.

I’m in the middle of raising $10,000. That seems like a big number for a handmade product. But we’re covering the costs of paying everyone who helped with the project, all of the materials needed for the toys themselves, the marketing of the project, AND adding in some cushion so that after the project we can pre-order more toys for customers who somehow missed the project itself.

6. Get over your fear and SHARE.

A lot. Every day. You think you’re being pushy or salesy or somehow annoying everyone. I promise, you’re not. Your friends and family are SO PROUD of you for chasing this dream. They want to hear about your progress and celebrate those milestones with you. Your potential backers are only seeing 10% of your posts on social media, if that much, so share, post, go live, whatever. Just get it out there. If you don’t believe in your project enough to get uncomfortable and ask people for money, why in the world would anyone else ever believe in it with you?

7. Pick the right platform for your business.

I decided to go with a smaller crowdfunding platform called iFundWomen.com for a number of reasons. The biggest was their excellent customer service and their coaching and support. They provide a crowdfunding course to walk you through the steps, a suggested calendar of what you should be doing to be successful throughout your campaign, and a community of other crowdfunding business owners with whom to dialogue about the nitty gritty details of running a campaign. They have been a HUGE help to me as a semi-solopreneur. As a small business who values customer service above all else, it made sense to use a platform that has a similar philosophy.

Child playing with an interactive handmade toy from Mouse Loves Pig.

Ruth Rau is the founder of Mouse Loves Pig, an interactive handmade toy company.

And my bonus tip: Make sure you’re inviting your customers on an adventure WITH YOU.

Make your goal crazy and big and something that you could never achieve on your own without the help of your supporters and bring them with you on the journey. Hit a snafu in the process? Let them know. Have a big success? Celebrate publicly with them. Give away as much product as you can. Make it a party. Make it a dream. Make it a grand expedition and then invite them to come with you into the unknown.

Ruth Rau is the founder of Mouse Loves Pig, an interactive handmade toy company. Her crowdfunding campaign ends on September 15, 2018 and can be found here.

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The Growth of A Successful Ceramic Artist: Molly Hatch

Ceramic Artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

With a formal education in ceramics and drawing, Molly Hatch was destined for success. She launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. Though Molly was a successful ceramic artist who had licensed her products and even sold her designs in fine art galleries, she didn’t have a streamlined online storefront where people could buy directly from her.

We worked with Molly on a custom Shopify design as well as ecommerce copywriting focused on improving the shopping experience and better telling the Molly Hatch story. And what a story it is!

We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

Did what you learned in school prepare you for running your business? What surprised you about selling your work?

I think that school prepared me to be a professor and to work with galleries. School did not do as much to prepare me to be a self-employed artist. Much of that education came from my parents who have been self-employed for most of my life. I learned a great deal in art school about creative problem solving and seeking out solutions or answers on my own; being self-critical in this productive way has helped so much in pursuing and achieving my career goals. School taught me to be assertive and communicative about what makes my art unique to me and this has proven to be a large contributor to my brand’s success.

I set out to be a professor with a career exhibiting my artwork. As a result of the economy in 2008 (when I graduated with my MFA) there were literally 2 open positions for ceramic professors in the entire country. Not good odds! I secured a part time teaching position at Dartmouth College which helped a lot financially transitioning out of school. I returned to making a living as a studio potter because it was what I knew how to do. I was selling all the pots I could make at that time through craft galleries and Etsy.

What surprised me most was that I hadn’t set out to be a designer or to license my artwork for manufacturing, but Anthropologie finding my work and approaching me to collaborate was one of the most fortunate and seemingly fated events in my career to date. I knew I didn’t want to sell wholesale or become a small handmade factory, I do not enjoy repeating myself in making and love the challenge of making something new. Anthropologie gave me a platform to launch my brand and I deeply appreciate the relationship we have had these 8 years of working together.

Ceramic Artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

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

I promoted my work through authoring articles for ceramics trade magazines, writing a blog and through social media posting. I took every opportunity that I could to have an article published and sought out publications with press releases and offers for exclusive content. I always have had professional photos taken of my artwork which means that you are well represented as a brand or as an artist when published.

When I started working collaboratively with Anthropologie there was a lot of buzz about it within the handmade ceramic community because not a lot of potters at that time worked with industry to have their art reproduced. The press around the success of the collaboration was extensive and valuable. I was still teaching as a part time faculty at a local community college and at RISD as the design work grew, so I was very much straddling two worlds at once.

Is your product entirely handmade? Could you describe who makes your product and how? How has that changed over the life of your business?

My product is entirely manufactured! Often hand-painted. I started making my work by hand, but from the time that Anthropologie and I first started collaborating in 2010, I licensed my artwork and forms to them to reproduce. I knew that I couldn’t make large volumes of my work by hand affordably for the Anthropologie marketplace. Licensing was really the only answer without sacrificing the integrity of the surfaces and concepts of the designs.

I now sell one of a kind wall installations and sculpture that I make exclusively for my gallery in New York to sell in the fine art market. At this point, all of my ceramic prototypes are handmade for my brand partners to reproduce. I rarely sell my handmade product through my shop.

Ceramic Artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

Ceramic Artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

How long did it take before your business started making a profit?

I have always made a profit actually. Early on I was creative about trading work for a place to create, got residencies and so on. I worked for 5 years as a bartender and waitress between undergrad and grad school to pay for day to day life. Whatever profit there was over the years from selling my pottery or licensing designs is what I am paid. Good years mean good pay, bad years are rough.

I think that in the first couple years after grad school (2008-2010) it was only a few thousand dollars profit, not amazing but it heavily subsidized my life — with a studio at home a lot of my expenses are written off as a part of my business. It was the combination of licensing and shifting my handmade into the fine art market in 2010 that really pushed me into a place where I was earning a good living wage (even becoming the breadwinner in my household!) and able to reinvest a lot back into the business to grow it.

How many people currently work with you? How do you know when it’s time to add a new employee, and how do you find them? Is there a certain size that will feel too big to you?

I have 6 freelancers that work with me on everything from managing my shop to design, bookkeeping, photography and styling. I am working to subcontract the shipping from my shop to a warehouse that I trust to ship items for me because I want to keep the number of people I have working with me to a minimum. I am far more productive with time alone in the studio and right now that is the most valuable way for me to spend my time. I often find help in different ways —- sometimes through word of mouth, sometimes social media… I don’t always know when its time for more help, I always try to get out ahead of demand for my time but it’s never that easy!

You teach workshops and classes. Can you tell us more about that? Are they a significant revenue stream for your business, or more about having fun and marketing your brand?

The workshops and classes are about connecting with others. I learn so much from taking workshops myself, connecting with artists I admire through their teaching. Often those artists become friends or mentors for me. I see it not only as a revenue stream, but as a way to stay connected to teaching and the reciprocity that comes from developing relationships with others. It’s a way to pay it forward.

Ceramic Artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

Ceramic artist Molly Hatch launched her first tableware collection from her home studio in 2010 and quickly landed a licensing deal with Anthropologie. We recently asked Molly to share more about how her creative business has evolved and some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

What made you decide to redesign your website with Shopify? What were your goals for your new website?

I wanted to combine my old site with my old shop—I wanted customers to more easily find me and see what I have to offer as a brand and as a designer. Rather than have multiple places to find me, I decided to consolidate my web presence.

Did you evaluate other Shopify design experts? What made you decide to choose Aeolidia to customize your Shopify website?

Word of mouth! I had talked with other web designers about making the changes I wanted, but they were not necessarily as well-versed in Shopify as Aeolidia. I asked two fellow designers/manufacturers about their experience working with Aeolidia on their own Shopify sites and they both came back with excellent reviews of their experience.

What surprised you during the website design and copywriting work we did with you?

I really wasn’t sure about how such a collaborative project would go. I am used to being the designer! But it was wonderful, and Aeolidia did what they do best. It was a great combination of skills and expertise and I felt my vision for the new site was realized. It was really lovely to hand off the copywriting to someone who knows it so well. I am used to writing my own copy for better or worse!

a before and after of the Shopify website transformation we did for ceramic artist Molly Hatch

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

Additional revenue from increased traffic, professional appearance and SEO!!!

If you could give the Molly from 2010 any advice about the path ahead, what would you tell her?

I think that I would tell myself to save — put more aside for paying taxes, not that this has been a huge issue for me — but at the beginning I didn’t prepay taxes and I think that would have been great to do.

I also have now set up the expectation from clients and partners that I can turn around artwork quickly, which I often can but it takes a huge toll on my personal life. Ah, work-life balance!

I am only just learning how to say “No” on occasion and I have come to believe that closing one door often leaves room for another to open. Work begets work—if you spend your time designing, then more design work will come your way and so on.

Thank you Molly!

Thinking of expanding your online footprint with a new ecommerce website? Contact us about a custom Shopify design for your online store that will help you turn more of your raving fans into happy customers.

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An Effective Ecommerce Website Is Like A Ballet

Let's talk about how to build an effective ecommerce website. Have you ever considered your website to be like a ballet?

Let’s talk about how to build an effective ecommerce website. I find myself thinking in analogies when I’m explaining things. Have you ever considered your website to be like a ballet?

Your products are the dancers. The dancers have to be exceptional, of course. But if any one thing is off, it can ruin the whole performance. If you put all your time into practicing the dance, it’s no good if the ballet itself doesn’t have a compelling story, if the costumes are lackluster, if the music is uninspired. And imagine the difference between having an audience of ballet lovers versus having a bunch of …anyone else! Teenagers or motorcyclists or whoever.

The times when we see the greatest success for a shop owner is when they understand this, and fling themselves wholeheartedly into all the pieces (logo, photography, product descriptions, etc.) they need to get their ballet near-perfect. And then it’s important to get the right audience in the seats.

So, as you’re thinking about your website, consider the strengths of your business and where you have great potential. How much time can you put into building and improving the areas that could use some work? Is there room in the budget for a remarkable brand identity, or to build an effective search engine optimization foundation? What do you have nailed and what could you use some help with?

If you’re thinking about hiring Aeolidia, we are able to help with most parts of your ballet. It takes a team! As you can see from our design schedule, it takes a few months to get everything right, so please get in touch right away so we can get started.

Take the first step to your Swan Lake by clicking the button below:

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Selling Wholesale and Getting Your Products into Stores for the Holidays

Are you a handmade seller with questions about selling wholesale and getting your products into stores for the holidays? Emily from Wholesale in a Box shares tips on wholesale outreach for the holidays, creating holiday-specific items, and incentivizing retailers to place their orders by a certain deadline.

Emily Kerr-Finell from Wholesale in a Box is back to answer more of your questions about selling wholesale and getting your products into stores for the holidays.

She’s previously shared her advice here on our blog on creating wholesale line sheets and whether you need a wholesale website.

Recently, Emily joined us in our creative business owners’ Facebook group to answer questions about the best timing for wholesale outreach for the holidays, creating holiday-specific items, and incentivizing retailers to place their orders by a certain deadline.

Topics covered:

  • When is too early or too late to do wholesale outreach for the holidays?
  • How can I give myself the best chance of success for wholesale growth this holiday season?
  • How to make it easy for retailers to place an order
  • When to start pitching for Valentine’s Day
  • Creating holiday-specific products
  • Updating your line sheets for the holidays
  • International wholesale orders
  • Incentivizing retailers to order by a certain deadline
  • How many items do I need to be a desirable wholesale partner?

Full transcript:

Arianne: Hey there everybody, I am Arianne Foulks, and I run Aeolidia, which is a web design studio for creative product based businesses. And you are here in The Shipshape Collective, which is our community for business owners to help each other out growing their business and figuring out all of the crazy things that go into running a business. Today we are talking to Emily Kerr-Finell from Wholesale in a Box, who has helped hundreds of makers grow their wholesale business. I am so excited to have you here today Emily. And I can tell our audience is too because they have so many questions for you. So I would love for you to introduce yourself a bit more and explain what Wholesale in a Box is and how you know all of the stuff you know. And then we can get to everybody’s questions.

Emily: Yeah, thanks for having me. I love The Shipshape Collective, I think it’s the most useful business space on the internet for makers. If you’re new here, hang out and take a look around, because it’s positive and helpful.

Arianne: Thank you.

Emily: Yeah. So Wholesale in a Box, to give you the 20 second overview for anyone that doesn’t know, we help makers get their work into more stores. So we started about three years ago because we kept hearing from makers how time consuming and overwhelming going wholesale was, especially when you’re a one or two women shop and you’re doing all of it alone.

So we started really organically, working with a handful of makers. And then over the span of a few years ended up helping over 500 makers with their wholesale business, which has been so rewarding and so exciting to see the personal and financial transformations that come from that kind of growth. So the subscription is, you get handpicked store profiles for you to introduce your work to, a system for how and when to contact stores, and one-on-one wholesale coaching and support every step along the way.

You can … I wanted to mention for anyone that is going wholesale this holiday season, we’re actually opening the doors to this free program today called the Holiday Wholesale Jumpstart. So that’s at WholesaleInABox.com/HolidayJumpstart. I’ll put the link in the thread for anyone that wants to check it out. And I know we have a lot of questions today, so if we don’t get to something or you want a clarification, always feel free to reach out either on the Facebook thread or directly to us at team@WholesaleInABox.com, and we’re happy to help. But I know we have a lot of questions, so should we jump right in?

Arianne: We do. That is great Emily. That sounds like an awesome service. And it sounds like you work with people who have not done any wholesale before, and also people who have been doing wholesale but want to improve it, is that right?

Emily: Yeah, we work with the whole range, from never sold to a store before, to I’m already in 150 stores but I want to grow.

Arianne: That’s perfect. So I see some people commenting that they’re excited and they want in on the Jumpstart, which is great. Sadly you guys, I cannot in my software see your names right now. But I’ll check it out later, so I hope not to seem impersonal, but the Facebook API is not letting me be personal with you right now.

So, number one most important question. When is the best timing for wholesale outreach for the holidays, and is there a time that’s too early or too late and you just shouldn’t even bother?

Emily: Yes, it’s a good question. Now is great. Generally, with holiday wholesale outreach, people end up doing it too late, not too early. So July, August, early September are optimal times. If someone comes to me and they have their stuff ready to go or they have the ability to get their stuff ready to go now, start now, start early.

On the other hand, if it’s October and you feel like you’re way behind the 8-ball and you just can’t get it done, that’s valuable too. And ultimately it’s about taking the long view of cultivating relationships. But if you’re really trying to make the most of this holiday season, the summer is the time.

Arianne: The time to reach out to wholesale buyers.

Emily: Yep.

Arianne: I have a little side question that I thought of while you were saying that, which is I know for instance the NY NOW trade show is happening in August. Do you find that it is better to try to beat people to the trade show, or contact people when they may be in trade show mindset and thinking about what they’re ordering? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Emily: It can be either. I think in terms of timing, right before or right after, pinpointing the trade show timing, I haven’t really found a really strong pattern around that. If you reach out before, sometimes people say that they’re waiting to see what happens at the trade show and they’ll circle back. On the other hand, sometimes you catch them before they buy at the trade show. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the timing precisely around the trade show.

Arianne: Yeah. But it is good to know that people are definitely in that mindset right now of shopping for holidays.

Emily: They’re in the mindset, yeah. Also, if you’re planning to be at the trade show, combining a trade show with other kinds of outreach can be really effective. So I mean, you’re reaching out … sometimes people reach out through Wholesale in a Box, but then they’ll say, I’m gonna be at NY NOW in August, I’m at booth X, come by and see me. Or they’ll reach out afterwards and follow up with people that they met. So it can be a good combo kind of approach.

Arianne: Okay. So my next question here, and again I don’t have names but I promise I’m thinking of you all very lovingly. One of our shipmates asks, how can I give myself the best chance of success for wholesale growth this holiday season?

Emily: Yeah, I think there are a few pieces of it. Probably it depends whether you’re brand new to wholesale and you’re using the holidays as your time to jump in and get your feet wet, or whether you’re already really well established. The fundamentals are the same as any kind of wholesale growth, with the addition of timing. So we already talked about the timing piece, early is good. The other pieces are looking at your outreach materials and making them as good as they can be, as efficiently as you can so that you can still work within this period.

Probably now is not the time for overhauling your line if you’re trying to grow this holiday season. But doing things like line refinement, like removing products that aren’t working well or updating a handful of photos that aren’t working well for you, those kinds of … I would say this is a great time to step back, review what’s low hanging fruit in your outreach materials and your line, and then as quickly as you can, start prioritizing the piece of connecting with stores and building those relationships for the holidays.

Arianne: Yeah, that is good advice, especially not trying to do everything at once. We were having a conversation in the group a few weeks ago from someone who wanted to do a trade show but she also wanted to overhaul everything about her brand, and rebrand, and all these crazy things. And we were like, I don’t know if you have time for that, that’s a lot.

Emily: I get it though. I feel like as business owners we feel that way so often. It’s like a never ending list of things that we want to do and they all feel like top, urgent priority. But you know, write them down and pick the top couple. Doing something and finishing it is always so much more worthwhile than getting stuck and trying to overhaul everything.

Arianne: Yeah, and I find that getting the experience of just trying, even if things aren’t perfect, you’re going to learn so much that you’ll know what to do when you’re working on making things more perfect.

Emily: Right, yes, absolutely.

Arianne: Yeah. So let’s see, we have a question here. What would you recommend is the easiest format for retailers to place an order? A password protected page on a website, and editable form that is emailed, or something else?

Emily: Yeah, and Arianne if you … so we did a great collaborative article together with Aeolidia a couple months back on this exact topic of do I need a wholesale website? Do I not? Can I send people to my regular site? Do I need a line sheet? How can they order? So check that out, we’ll link to that in the thread below the video.

Arianne: Yeah.

Emily: Short answer is any of the above can work. Go as simple as possible for you. So usually the simplest thing, especially if you have less than 80 to 100 stockists that you’re selling to, which is probably many of the people on the call, is to accept orders via email. Have a strong place where people can review your products online, whether that’s a PDF line sheet or your regular retail website. And then let them just go ahead and place orders via email.

You can also use your regular retail site and do a wholesale coupon code. I know that sounds a little strange, but it’s becoming more and more popular. It works if you have 50% wholesale to retail markup across the board. And then there are some shipping and minimums things that can come up with that, but if you can deal with those three variables, that can work well.

Or, if you feel like, “I just switched to Shopify, it looks great…” Maybe Aeolidia helped you build the site and you’re really proud of it and you do just wanna setup a situation where wholesalers can login and place an order, that’s good too, as long as the ordering process is super, super simple. And this is my take on it, as long as people that you’re reaching out to don’t need to create an account just to view your line. Because when you create a situation where they have to create an account to see your products and pricing, it ends up being just too high of a bar for many store owners to jump over. And it’s too big of an obstacle and they don’t end up looking at the line at all.

Arianne: Yeah, that makes sense. So if they just want to browse and are not necessarily ready to commit, it’s good to make that easy for them.

Emily: Yeah. You can think of it like, imagine if you were window shopping and the store owner made you create an account or put your email down just to walk in the store. You’d be concerned probably. I would.

Arianne: Right, you need to signup for a store card first.

Emily: Exactly.

Arianne: I have a question live right now from somebody asking about the Wholesale in a Box subscription. They want to know if you’ll take a look at where her business is at and provide feedback about her product mix and that kind of thing?

Emily: Yeah, we love to do that.

Arianne: Are you guys that hands on?

Emily: Yeah. We have a ton of training materials that people love, but we’ve also found there’s no replacement for one-on-one collaboration and feedback and advice. So all of our makers have a scheduling link to place a call, as much as they want, for a coaching call. Or we get back within one business day to email questions. So yes.

Arianne: That is great. And I have another person here who says yes, with many exclamation points. “I just signed up for Wholesale in a Box last week and it has already been so helpful,” all caps.

Emily: Oh yeah, oh good. We don’t know who you are, but good.

Arianne: We’ll know who you are once we’re done with the call, thank you anonymous commenter. I have another good question for you about the holidays. As retailers deal with the holidays, what’s the best time or approach to start pitching Valentine’s Day?

Emily: Oh I know, this can be so overwhelming for people. It’s like, I’m not even done with the holidays, I’m not even done with holiday production, to send off my store orders, and I’m already behind for Valentine’s. So it’s hard. Obviously this applies to people like paper goods or really gifty kind of lines that have a specific holiday offering … I mean, sorry Valentine’s.

Arianne: Jewelry.

Emily: Yeah, right, that have a specific Valentine’s Day offer. Yeah, jewelry. I think there are two ways you can go about it. One way, if your Valentine’s collection is more or less ready to go already, one thing that you can do is basically promote both your holiday stuff and your Valentine’s Day stuff from now until the end of the year. So that’s a simple way to do it. They’re both in your line sheet, they’re both there, maybe you mention both of them when you’re reaching out to stores.

Another way that you can do it, because I think for a lot of people it’s like, yeah no, my Valentine’s Day collection is not ready yet, I cannot do that. So if that’s the case, I would just in terms of pure timing, just make sure to not wait until January to start promoting your Valentine’s Day stuff, A. And B, don’t reach out to stores during the two week period directly around Christmas. They’re too crazy. You can reach … I know it is a busy period, but you can reach out to them between Thanksgiving and December 15th let’s say. That’s not an exact number, but you can to introduce your Valentine’s line. So just stay away from Christmas, don’t wait til January, consider promoting Valentine’s and holiday at the same time.

Arianne: Yeah, I think that makes sense. And you might get Valentine’s orders at the last minute, but that doesn’t mean you want to hold off on promoting it until the last minute.

Emily: That’s right. Yep, exactly.

Arianne: So while we’re on that topic, is it advisable to create holiday specific items?

Emily: It depends who you are. I feel like I most often get this question from people who are just starting. And if you’re just starting my answer is probably not. Okay, first let’s divide everybody into two groups. Your group is the people that we were just talking about who have paper good lines or very, very specifically holiday linked lines. Yes, you need holiday stuff. You can’t be a card company and not have Christmas related cards for instance.

For other people, let’s say you make home goods. And let’s say you’re pretty new. In that case, to do all of the product development, product photography, line sheet creation, to do all of that well right now, to add holiday themed items, is usually not feasible or worth it. It’s usually better to focus on the line that you already have, especially if you’re newer, and focus on framing and promoting that line in a holiday context. Maybe pulling out individual pieces that you think could be great for the holidays, even if they’re not specifically holiday pieces.

So speaking to that piece of things, for stores, without having to launch a whole new product is usually the way to go unless you’re like, “I’ve been selling this line for 20 years, it does great, I have the bandwidth to launch something new…” In that case, that could be good. But for most people it’s about framing and speaking to the line you already have in the seasonal context.

Arianne: Yeah, that makes sense. So I have another live comment about your services. I think these ones are good to take while we really have you here to answer them directly. This person wants to know if you offer email templates or phone scripts to reach out to buyers?

Emily: We … so email templates yes-ish. So we’ve found that when you’re reaching out to stores when it’s in your voice, when it’s in your tone and your writing style, it works much better than if you’re using a cut and dry template from somewhere else. So what we give is a guide, a checklist, examples of great emails and not so great emails. We’ll even rewrite or copy edit your email for you or with you. But you’re ultimately the one that’s drafting that email with our input and guidance.

Phone scripts we don’t do. Very, very rarely will a store owner prefer phone as their contact method. Usually they prefer email, sometimes snail mail, very rarely phone. So we don’t focus on what to say on the phone, although there is a post on our blog, on our website, on if you do need to call a store, because sometimes they do prefer that, what could you say, and how not to panic if you do need to call a store. So that’s free and on our website.

Arianne: How not to panic as a business owner is always a good thing.

Emily: Yeah, I feel like I want to title every blog post, How Not to Panic About X.

Arianne: Yeah, I think we just need a whole page on our websites, how not to panic. I can write a page about how not to panic when selling eCommerce and you can write a page about how not to panic when doing wholesale.

Emily: Exactly.

Arianne: I think that sounds like a much better service to me than having email templates because you guys serve so many makers that you wouldn’t want retailers to start getting the same email over and over again from multiple people.

Emily: Yes exactly.

Arianne: You want to get different things from different people.

Emily: Right.

Arianne: I have a good question here live about shipping. When is the best time to ship holiday product? She says, I may start reaching out to shops with my holiday products in August, but I may not actually have the product yet. So when do they expect to get the shipment?

Emily: They expect to get the shipment according to the turnaround time that you set in your wholesale terms. So this is me being an advocate for one of my other things, which is have very clear wholesale terms that are present and clear from the first moment that you contact the store. And part of those wholesale terms should be, what’s your turnaround time, how do you ship, how long does shipping take. And then you just stick with that. If a store owner wants something different, so if they see your turnaround time is four weeks and we’re only in August and they don’t actually want the shipment until November first, they can feel free to let you know. But otherwise you should just adhere to what you promise in your terms.

Arianne: Yeah, that makes sense. And I have a similar timing question here. Someone asked, I’m considering offering an incentive to retailers to place their holiday orders before a certain date. Is before September 30 too early, too late, too weird?

Emily: Yeah, no this was a good question, I remember seeing this one. I think that if you have the margin for it, which this question asker actually clarified she did have the margin for it, an incentive could be great. It’s a nice to have, it’s not a must to have, it’s not something you need to do to be competitive. But if you can do it, offering free shipping or offering 10% off can both be wonderful. And I think it does help for a store owner to be like, I was debating between these two lines, but then one offers free shipping, I’ll go with this one. So it’s a nice thing to do.

In terms of the timing of it, September 30th I think would be a little late for an early bird incentive. You might want to do … for the holidays you might want to do something more like latest mid-September, maybe even September 1st if you were gonna say, “if you’re ordering early you get this incentive.” Because by late September it’s already kind of normal ordering time.

Arianne: Okay, that is good to know. I have somebody asking about packaging. It sounds like she’s going in person to some stores, and she wants to know if packaging is important. “I do have a matte black box and a faux suede pouch for it.” Is that something stores look for as well? And she clarifies that prices start at $149, so she knows it won’t be sitting on a “twirly rack” or anything like that.

Emily: She didn’t say what kind of product she has, did she?

Arianne: Not yet. But commenter who’s going to the coastal town, if you could pop back in and let us know the type of product, we could be more specific. And I can just fill in for a second saying that we have definitely heard from retailers that packaging can be one of the most important things about your product. In fact, somebody once told us that the packaging matters more than what’s inside it in many cases. So I would say that in general that is important to think about.

Emily: Yeah, I agree. I agree 100%. I think that if you’re a maker who doesn’t have great packaging, it doesn’t need to be an obstacle. And if your product is gorgeous and the price is good, and you have the other pieces in place, you can still succeed at wholesale. And we see people do that every day. But if you have great packaging and you can offer it affordably, it’s a wonderful … it’s just one more … it’s kind of like what we were just talking about with free shipping. It’s one more great thing that you can offer stores that lowers the risk for them and lets them know that once this is on the shelf this is gonna move for me and they’ll have that confidence in your product.

Arianne: Yeah. Our original commenter is running off to get a picture. I am not 100% sure I’ll be able to see a picture here in our video broadcasting software, so just a type of product could be pretty cool. An example I like to use for packaging is bath and body products. If you have lotion, the lotion really isn’t anything to your customer until you package it. It’s just a blob of goo to me. To be a little rude to lotion. I mean, if you had three different kinds of lotion sitting in plain white packaging, I feel like customers wouldn’t even know what to do there. But once you add that packaging and you decide if it’s illustrated, or if it’s classic and luxurious, they start to understand if it’s for them or not. So depending on your product, packaging can really make or break it.

And then if you sell anything that is at all not self-explanatory, it’s really helpful to have packaging explain how to use it or who it’s for. One example that comes to mind, we have a blog post about this so I should stick a link in there for you. We had a client – HipCity Sak – who created a little kid’s, it was like a waist pouch, like a small bag, kind of a fanny pack sort of thing. But it also clipped on and off and it had all these different features that weren’t apparent by glancing at it. So it was really important to make packaging that first drew people in so they would understand what it was, and then when they flip it over they can learn a little bit more about what age of kid it is for, or how you use it, how you snap the accessories on and off.

So your packaging can be a good stand in for you, when you’re not able to be there to explain it to the customer, especially if you’re used to doing things like craft fairs where you get to talk to people about how it works. You just don’t get to be there when your stuff is in the store, so it’s nice to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Let’s see here. Okay, I’ve got some comments happening. Okay, I have somebody asking about candles. She says, candles are very popular for holiday season and most of the potential stores I’ve been reaching out to told me they already have candle lines. How can she make a difference when she’s reaching out?

Emily: Well, it’s tricky. You know, I think when a store owner says that they already have enough of X category, sometimes that means that they just couldn’t … they love your line and they couldn’t possibly buy more of that thing. And something like candles you can only have so many of in the store without feeling like the lines are hurting each other, for sure.

Other times, it’s a polite way of saying that your product is not a good enough fit for them to effectively replace a different line that they have, or add it to the store. Because if a store owner’s crazy about what you’re doing, they will often either add or replace to something else that they have, because it’s … for them when they add something new, that’s a draw to bring in new customers.

There are categories that are more crowded than others like candles, jewelry, stationery. They’re all product categories that are more competitive than others because there are just more makers in those categories. And so when you hear store owners say that, if you’re getting overall orders, orders are coming in and people are excited about what you’re doing, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. That’s just part of the process.

If you’re really not getting any orders and you’re just hearing that over and over again, I would personally take the risk of trying to dig a little bit deeper with this store, if it’s a store that you think could be a really awesome fit. And just say, I so respect your time. Also, would you be open to giving me some brutal feedback about what you could see being more useful or better in my line for this store (outside of how many lines you already carry). And asking a handful of stores, that can be really helpful if you’re starting to get the feeling that it’s every store you reach out to that already has enough candles.

Arianne: Yeah, that is great. And I love the advice for getting brutal feedback just in general.

Emily: I know.

Arianne: Brutal feedback can be so helpful. If you are able to separate yourself a bit from your business where it doesn’t feel so personal, I’ve just been writing an article about this. I like to think of my business as a lifetime science experiment. And I have finally gotten to the point where I don’t take things super personally if somebody’s upset about something we’ve done, or some way that we have communicated something. I like to try to just think to myself, how interesting, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I wonder what I could do differently next time.

So if you’re able to just really brace yourself or gird your loins or whatever and ask somebody for brutal feedback and then actually, instead of getting discouraged, take that feedback and do something new and different with it, you can really do amazing things with your business.

Emily: I think that is so well said and so important. And some people get really lucky from the start and they pick just the right product, at just the right time, and just the right packaging. But most of the rest of us need to experiment and need to get that feedback, feel the sting, and then make the changes to make it even better for sure. So I love that. I can’t wait to read the article.

Arianne: Even after 14 years, we ask every single one of our clients, what was a pleasant surprise about working with Aeolidia? What was an unpleasant surprise about working with Aeolidia? And then instead of just reading it and weeping, we try and act on everything that we get, and it’s really been so helpful in growing our business.

Emily: I love that.

Arianne: You guys, we have a million questions here and we definitely are not gonna be able to get to them all. Some of these questions are really good. If we’re not answering your question it is not because it was a bad question, it’s just because we have an overwhelming amount of questions here. And they’re popping in all the time. I love you guys, thank you.

I saw a few people ask this one, so we’re gonna try to answer it. How many items do I need to be a desirable wholesale partner? Although I’m certain the answer is it depends on the type of business you have, but maybe just a little guidance for some types of businesses you see regularly, Emily.

Emily: Yeah. Probably fewer than you think. One to two can be a challenge, but if you’re somewhere in the three to 15 products range, you’re probably good if the products are amazing. Usually people are good in terms of this, and need to focus more on the products themselves being amazing, more so than having a really extensive line.

Arianne: Yeah, and I think there are definitely types of businesses where that’s different. I’m pretty sure stationery businesses need to have quite a few more cards than 15 for example.

Emily: Yes, good point, yes, yes.

Arianne: So think about what people do in your industry and maybe see if there are any guidelines for things such as trade shows and things like that, to sort of get the idea of what makes sense for you. I happen to know for stationery for example, it’s really important to have not only quite a few types of cards, but there’s specific types. They’re really looking for a variety and you need thank you cards and birthday cards. You can’t not have cards for certain holidays.

Emily: Right.

Arianne: So it’s important to consider what stores want to carry.

Emily: Perfect, yes. Thanks for drawing out the stationery, yep.

Arianne: Yeah, I think that one’s maybe a little bit of an odd ball. Okay, I’m trying to see if I can pull out one final question or … oh, this is an interesting one. On the topic of competing or overcrowded categories, would it help to include numbers to prove sales? So is it helpful to indicate to wholesalers that you do have a large following and people really want to buy your stuff?

Emily: Yes, it is helpful. You have to do it subtly. So a little word-smithing there can go a really long way and we can help you with that if you’re somebody that already works with us. But yes, saying something along the lines of, the stores we currently work with have found X and Y. It’s flying off the shelves. It’s selling $1,500 plus a month, month over month. So pulling out some of those evidence pieces can be really helpful if it does sell really well.

Arianne: Yeah, and if you phrase that in the way where you’re giving them some advice on what’s a great thing to buy from you. You’re not bragging, you’re helping them make their order.

Emily: Yep, exactly.

Arianne: Okay, so for some reason I have scheduled all of these videos to go on garbage day in my neighborhood. So if you hear a lot of clunking in the background, the garbage truck is coming past right now, I apologize. Let’s do one more holiday question and then wrap up here. So someone asked if it is best to add a holiday themed page to their line sheet, which is currently about seven pages, or send the line sheet and a one page holiday themed mini line sheet? So a little addition.

Emily: Yep, you can do either. I’m usually a proponent of having one attachment, one thing that people need to open. Because if you attach two things, you risk that they’ll only open one of them. So probably put it in your main line sheet, unless you’re really just trying to get … unless your holiday line is amazing, spectacular, and you really want people to order that, then I might separate it out to really put a spotlight on it. But usually it should be in the main line sheet.

Arianne: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, this has been wonderful and so helpful. What if we each offered a last minute “don’t panic” piece of advice. So I think my don’t panic piece of advice would be, things don’t have to be perfect. I think what’s more important than perfection is just your enthusiasm about your own business and excitement about what you’re doing, because that will translate over to the people you’re talking to and they’ll get excited too because excitement is contagious. So don’t be perfect, just be really into what you’re doing.

Emily: I love that advice. That’s probably … we could have just said that and the whole video would have been worth it. That’s great.

Arianne: Forget the details, just don’t panic.

Emily: I would say my piece of advice is similar. Which is, take the long view. You’re trying to grow your business over two and three and five and ten years. And so look at it, as Arianne said, as a process of experimentation and growth. And even if this month or next month you don’t grow in the ways that you want to, try to process what you’re learning so that you can grow in following months and years in the ways that you want to.

Arianne: Yeah, you don’t have to get it right all at once. That was a great answer, and I just sprung that one on you. Quick thinking on the feet. Okay, thank you so much Emily. Where can people find you if they want to learn more about you? Can you remind us too about your offers today for people who joined us midway through, and where people can find those?

Emily: Yes. So generally you can find us at WholesaleInABox.com, we have a ton of free resources on our website. We have a free wholesale training center, and there’s a lot of stuff on our blog. So go poke around there. There’s a free email course you can sign up for that people rave about, thankfully.

The thing that we’re launching today, which is gonna be so fun and is gonna be really helpful is called the Holiday Wholesale Jumpstart. It’s at WholesaleInABox.com/HolidayJumpstart. Check it out, it’s totally free. So if you’re really looking to grow and to focus, it might be for you, and we’d love to have you.

Arianne: That is great, I love it. And we will pop some links into the comments here to direct you towards some of the stuff that we had more details about, like product packaging, and I know there were a couple other things that you had, Emily.

Emily: Perfect.

Arianne: And to find me, anybody who has joined us from Emily’s group, you can go to Aeolidia.com, which is A-E-O-L-I-D-I-A dot com. And we also have a ton of free resources for people on The Shipshape Collective page. So if you click over to resources you can join our mailing list, where I send a weekly email that usually has some actionable advice for you to use to grow some aspect of your online presence. And everybody’s favorite thing is the 30 page PDF that I wrote recently about how to get more traffic to your site and then get more sales out of that traffic, which is what probably 80% of people ask me every day, so I put it all together for you. So I hope you will join us both and grow your businesses. And good luck everybody who is reaching out to wholesalers this summer.

Emily: Yes, thank you so much Arianne for having us.

Arianne: Thank you Emily.

Emily: Okay, thanks everyone.

Arianne: See you guys later.

Emily: Bye.

Arianne: Bye.

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Consumer Product Safety Compliance For Small Businesses

Among the many legal issues facing artisans and small businesses is consumer product safety compliance. What is it and what should you know if you’re selling physical products? Learn more in our expert Q&A with Misty Henry Consulting Services.

Among the many legal issues facing small businesses is consumer product safety compliance. In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates how products such as children’s toys and textiles are manufactured, labeled, and tested for safety.

Misty of Misty Henry Product Safety and Consulting Services, LLC teaches artisans and small business owners how to officially say, “Meets CPSC Safety Requirements” by helping them navigate the requirements surrounding labeling, testing, tracking, and record keeping. Her favorite part of what she does is brainstorming about an artist’s new designs and what safety concerns they may come up against.

What is consumer product safety compliance, anyway, and what should you know if you’re selling physical products? We interviewed Misty, and she shares some of her knowledge below.

What type of businesses need to register with the CPSC?

All businesses that create or import a consumer product should register at SaferProducts.gov. This website is the contact point for any safety concerns that may come up.

While you can report without registration, the online portal makes it more streamlined. Safety concerns submitted to you from your consumers should be reported within 24 hours and investigated immediately. Safety concerns submitted to the CPSC will be sent to you through your account and/or email linked to the account.

There is a secondary registration that is for qualifying small batch manufacturers. These are businesses that create, or have created for them, less than 7,500 units of any given product per year or gross, in total, under $1 million (the exact dollar amount is on the Safer Products website and may change year to year).

At what stage of business should a new business owner begin looking into consumer product safety compliance?

At the brainstorming stage is best. Because much of compliance is based on the components of the products as much as the product itself, it is a good idea to at least start looking into what safety compliance is and what it means for your chosen product lines.

Think of it this way, would you rather purchase a ton of flannel to use for scarves and clothing just to find out that you need to send them in for flammability testing yourself, or would you rather know that need ahead of time so you can search for suppliers that already have the testing?

What are the risks of not registering with the CPSC?

Registration is actually optional as long as you are able to still report your safety issues within 24 hours of receiving notification of an issue. Registration is free and if you never end up making or importing a CPSC-regulated product, then it doesn’t hurt you at all; you just let it expire at the end of the year. Registration, though, is also what allows a small batch manufacturer to utilize some testing reports on components to limit or eliminate the need to test their own products for things like lead, flammability, and phthalates (BPA).

Legally, there are financial risks to not being compliant with the regulations. The fine amount can be in the thousands per violation depending on the circumstance and situation. There is also the financial risk should an injury occur. Between the CPSC investigation and the potential for court and hospital compensation, the financial burden can be outstanding.

Above the financial risks are the conscience risks. The majority of the regulations are in place to protect children from undue harm. Having a product that is not compliant can create an increased risk for safety issues. Do note that a compliant product does not necessarily mean a SAFE product. A product may be deemed compliant by following the required regulations, but simply may not be safe by design. For example, a new product design for a child’s bag may comply with the required lead levels, but may have studs that come off posing a laceration hazard (see the recall on children’s jeans March 7th, 2018).

How do you determine if the materials you’re using are compliant?

By reading the Code of Federal Regulations. Don’t worry, I’ve actually made it really easy and have created a couple of flow charts for those that make children’s products or clothing products.

Flow chart showing lead requirements for children’s products (12 years old and under)

Flow chart showing lead requirements for children’s products (12 years old and under)

Typically, we are worried about lead (children’s products) and flammability (clothing products). For lead, pretty much any fabric without a painted design or non-fabric addition will be exempt from lab testing, aka, “compliant”. With flammability, we are looking at if it is raised (fuzzy like flannel, velour, fleece, terry, etc.) or if it is plain (knit, cotton woven, etc.). If it is raised, then we look at the fiber content. If it is made of one or any mix of polyester, nylon, acrylic, modacrylic, olefin, or wool, then it is exempt from lab testing. If it is plain, then it is exempt from lab testing no matter the fiber content.

If you are a registered small batch manufacturer, then if you have something that requires lead testing (for example), you can contact your supplier to see if it has already been tested and use their statement as your own. Keep in mind that lead and flammability are only two of the more needed tests that may be required of a product. Some tests depend on the finished product as a whole such as toys requiring “Use and Abuse” testing on the finished product. In the case of finished product testing, we cannot rely on a supplier’s statement.

How do you track components and finished products?

The hardest part is setting up a system that you love AND that works with your creative flow. You need basic information on your components and finished products and some of it actually overlaps with what you should be recording for your tax compliance needs.

Remember the ‘5 W’s’ from elementary/primary school? We are going to basically want to track that information: Where (or who) did you get it (from)? When did you get it? What is ‘it’?

If you are using a spreadsheet system, you’ll want to give it a reference code. Some components have a SKU or Style Number already and many utilize that for ease. The idea is that we can list the exact components (or ingredients!) in the finished product tracking. That is, we need to know that you used Material A purchased in May 2017 vs Material A purchased in August 2017. The finished product tracking notes what ‘it’ is, lists what components were used, when it was finished, and what code you put on the permanent tag (if required). The idea is that you are able to answer questions from just that code on the permanent tag, conduct a recall based on a component recall, and a customer will know if they are involved in a recall.

Booties from EG Baby Design; Teether Toys from HABA USA and The Beaded Muse

Handmade infant booties from EG Baby Design; Teether Toys from HABA USA and The Beaded Muse

What type of labeling is needed for products?

This greatly depends on the product. All children’s items require Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) tracking information for the manufacturer or private labeler name, city and state of production of the product, date of production, batch or run number, and “any other information to facilitate ascertaining the specific source of the product” like a website or email.

Clothing requires fiber content and care labeling from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), country of origin from US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP), and, if it is for children, the tracking information. Toys should have age grading on the tag (0+, 0-6y, 14+, etc.) for CPSC compliance. Bath and body products should have an ingredient list to comply with CPSC or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

What is a statement of compliance, and where should it be posted?

A statement of compliance is your official word that your product complies with the required CPSC regulations. You may also include any voluntary standards and/or required international regulations followed. This statement is created by you and can be done in a word processing program saved to your computer, cloud, and/or printed off as desired. This statement is only required to be accessible by retailers or any business reselling or redistributing your product and must be furnished to the CPSC immediately upon request.

You are not required to provide this document to a consumer, though a short statement indicating your compliance is always welcome; “Meets CPSC Safety Requirements” is official wording for labels and online listings. Note that only products directly under CPSC jurisdiction will be required to have a statement of compliance. Other agencies such as the FDA may not require such a statement to be kept in your records. For the CPSC-required statement of compliance, there are 7 parts that describe what the product is, what regulations it must abide by, who manufactures the product, who maintains records of compliance, when and where the product is manufactured, any testing done, and any exemptions from testing allowed.

Could you give examples of the type of testing needed for bath and body products? Jewelry? Handbags?

For some items, there won’t be any testing required. For example, adult handbags don’t actually require any testing under the CPSC nor do they require labeling under the FTC!

Children’s jewelry requires a number of heavy elements testing, but adult jewelry doesn’t. Bath and body testing depends on if it is covered under FDA or CPSC.

What concerns might a maker/handcrafter have that may be different than a business owner who has their product manufactured? What should each business owner look out for with product safety?

Both must follow the same steps; the difference between the two usually comes down to eligibility of being a small batch manufacturer. Those who are eligible as a small batch manufacturer can register and then utilize component part testing done by their suppliers for things like lead, flammability, and phthalates.

Those who import finished products typically are not eligible for this testing relief as they are not considered a small batch manufacturer due to the factory creating more than 7,500 units of that item in a year. When importing, I highly suggest watching testing reports very carefully. Many have come back as incomplete, outdated, or with incorrect test results. I always recommend spot testing at a lab every year or so to make sure things are still in compliance.

When having products manufactured domestically, it is like a middle ground between handcrafters and importers. Handcrafters have the benefit of being so familiar with their products and their customers, that tracking and recalling are usually simple and quick. When having larger amounts manufactured, tracking is a bit more tricky and recalls can be less effective. Even large companies complain about their recall efficiency! Once a product leaves your facility, you don’t have much control over what a consumer chooses to do, or not do, with it when faced with a recall decision.

Misty Henry and her family

Misty Henry and her family

Misty Henry wakes up every day ready to encourage and support small businesses like yours so that every person has the tools they need to support their families the best way they can. To work closely with her, you can join one of her membership levels at MyProductSafety.com or join her Product Safety Course. If you aren’t quite ready to dive in with the added personal assistance, she offers digital mini-books and digital tracking templates to still provide you with the tools you need to succeed. If you have any questions you can always contact her at info@MyProductSafety.com. To follow Misty and her quick tips, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Custom Art Print Mockup Photography For Stationery Brands

Have custom "stock" photography styled for your art print business.

I have something cool to show you if you sell stationery or art prints. Custom art print mockups! Taking photos of your artwork can be a chore, and it’s hard to do well, unless you’re a photographer. There are lots of options for stock photo “mockups” that allow you to drop your art into the photo using Photoshop. Once you’ve used these for a while, though, you’re bound to come across someone else using the same photo, and feel unoriginal. And even worse, maybe your customers have seen the same photo before, too, and it makes you look like a copycat business.

Having custom photos shot and styled for every one of your products can be daunting, though. Especially if you have a lot of inventory or are regularly designing new artwork. Custom mockup photos to the rescue!

Jen, our photographer, does these sometimes for our logo and web design clients. Just another perk of hiring a team who can take care of all your website content for you! We just need to know what dimensions your artwork uses, and what applications you want photos for, and we then take our vast knowledge of your brand, customers, and vision, and design photos you can easily use over and over for your website. And we can shake it up a bit so your customer doesn’t see the exact same photo repeated up and down each page.

Here are some photos Jen styled for Adoren Studio. Aren’t these lovely?

Custom art print mockup flatlay photography

Custom art print mockup photo

One of two options Jen provided for a single art print flatlay mockup. Artwork can be added in Photoshop.

 

How custom stock photography works

Here’s the second option with Adoren’s art prints dropped in, and optional props added.

 

Art print mockups for Etsy shops

A custom styled tabletop scene to add matted or plain artwork using Photoshop.

 

Styled wall art product mockup photos

Styled custom art print mockup photography

Jen styled a dresser scene using props that will appeal to Adoren’s target customer. The shop owner can drop her photos into the custom art print mockup using Photoshop.

 

Drop in art print photography

Here is the same photo with Adoren’s art dropped in.

 

Custom hero photo mock up stock photo for art prints

Here is a “hero photo” feature for the home page of Adoren’s website, using the stock photography. Artwork can be rotated for each new collection.

 

Product photo mockup for nursery wall art

Hero photo mock up

This simple styled photo of a nursery can be adjusted and added to to display wall art for sale.

 

Custom hero photo mock up for stationery

Here is the same photo with artwork, graphics, and text added. The color of the dresser was changed using Photoshop.

Tiffany, owner and designer at Adoren Studio, told us, “I love that you left me a blank slate to create the scenes that make sense for the products. We actually saw a full 1% increase to the conversion rate of our bestselling animal set when we a/b tested our lead photo with Jen’s mock up of the set of 4 against our current one – that’s a big difference! Photos really matter so much and it’s a great reminder to always be tweaking and testing new mock-ups to see how they resonate with our audience.”

View all we did for Adoren Studio in our portfolio »

Visit the Adoren Studio website »

Hiring a photographer to create custom product mockup photos

When you hire Aeolidia to design your logo or website, we can include a photographer, copywriter, marketing consultant, and even help you out with your web stats and MailChimp setup. We aim to make your website highly successful, and that involves a lot of content and marketing strategies.

We would be delighted to do this for you. If you’re curious about the investment, please grab our rate sheet to help with the decision.

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From Brick and Mortar to Online Flagship: How Sugar Paper Gained a Third Store

A custom Shopify redesign for a stationery shop

When you own a thriving brick and mortar shop, it can be easy to think of the role of your website as a supporting player in your business. But what happens when you consider that your online presence can be an extension of your IRL store that is equally important?

We worked on a new web design for Sugar Paper, a Los Angeles-based stationery studio providing luxury, custom letterpress products for all of life’s noteworthy moments. The handmade nature of Sugar Paper’s products lends itself very well to an in-person experience. At their two brick and mortar locations in Brentwood and Newport Beach, customers stop in to browse their collections, hold the paper in their hands, and create custom sets of invitations in their studio.

To keep this experience fresh, co-founders Chelsea and Jamie regularly redecorate and reconfigure the space. By “turning” the store to showcase new products, themes, color stories, seasons, and occasions, Sugar Paper reminds customers of the many things in life worth celebrating.

Sugar Paper brick and mortar location. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper brick and mortar location. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper production. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper production. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper's two retail stores. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper’s two retail stores. Photo © Sugar Paper

Creating a Blueprint for Your New Online Flagship

Chelsea wanted their new site to have a friendly customer experience that made shopping more joyful. They also hoped to find ways to incorporate storytelling into the customer experience. This story—that their custom stationery is made in-house with a meticulous eye for detail—would be instrumental in inspiring customers to purchase on their site, something that they previously did not have the capability to do.

Before we got to work on the look and feel of the new Sugar Paper site, we carefully planned how it would function. Over internal meetings and lively discussions about which features would most benefit the Sugar Paper business model, we created a wireframe that outlined what exactly the website would do.

To make it easier for customers to make a purchase, our designer Do-Hee shifted the site’s navigation from an informational one to a shopping-focused navigation. Key features included a category that highlights what’s new at Sugar Paper, a main shop menu that features the most relevant collection so that customers can easily find what they’re looking for, and a new Collections feature that helps them shop in a more curated way. This is especially useful during the holidays or a time of year when the shop might want to feature products based on a seasonal theme.

“I tried to think about the different ways that customers shop for stationery and home goods, and presented them in logical and varied ways,” Do-Hee explained.

Custom Shopify design for a stationery store

 

Make Your Invite Space Inviting

With the wireframe in place, Do-Hee shifted gears to design. Her goal was to elevate the sense of storytelling and bring in analog elements to communicate the handmade and human aspect of the brand, all while keeping the vibe of the existing site. This would help new and existing customers alike forge a deeper connection to Sugar Paper.

“Overall, the homepage has a warm, contemporary look and feel that introduces your customers to the world of Sugar Paper and invites them to stay a while,” she said.

The large feature spot below the navigation is where the hero photo truly shines. It showcases a beautiful campaign image, supporting text, and link to shop THE strongest thing Sugar Paper has to offer at any given time. This feature is easily updated so that (just like the brick and mortar shops) the online shop can be regularly “turned” according to seasons and occasions.

It doesn’t stop there. Following an intro that gets to the human element of the brand with brief, but effective copy, we included a section for two “flex marketing spots.”

“We imagine the Sugar Paper team using these spots flexibly to link to the range of content on your website,” Do-Hee said. “You’d be able to swap out the images and text to best suit your content marketing needs.”

Sugar Paper Custom Shopify website for stationery designers

Sugar Paper Custom Shopify website for stationery designers

Now Open: An Additional Location

Take a stroll through Sugar Paper’s new online space to get a feel for how inviting it is. Even with more than 500 products available, the site does not overwhelm. Rather, it intuitively presents visitors with options so they can easily find what they’re looking for, and inspires them to continue browsing along the way.

Sugar Paper inspiration board. Photo © Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper inspiration board. Photo © Sugar Paper

Also inspired? The Sugar Paper team.

“We were so moved by how cohesive the site looks that we have decided to consider it a third store that will be ‘turned’ as well. You have put so many lovely elements in it that we realized pretty quickly that we couldn’t look at it as just a sales site, it is a store and it needs to nurtured and maintained as one. So now, as we move forward with marketing, we will be considering that and keeping that in mind to bring the best we can with content and design to this lovely little spot on the internet.”

View this project in our portfolio »

Are you ready to transform your little spot on the internet into a functional, inspired place that works to drive sales 24/7? Contact us about your new flagship site design!

 

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