Small Biz Rant: “How Do I Get Noticed?”

blogRecently on Tumblr, someone asked me about how to get their Etsy shop noticed, and I kinda get this question every now and again, so I thought I would write a blog post about how to start spreading the word about your shop/brand/business. I don’t know of any special magic, and my shop is certainly not the most popular or anywhere near there, but here are some initial ideas if you’re just starting out. I’ve never done anything super fancy, so all my advice is kinda basic, but it has worked for me so far!

The first thing that comes to my mind is how we’d always get asked, “What’s the secret to making a bestseller?” when I worked in publishing. Well, if there were a secret, and if we (or anybody, even the publishers) knew that secret, then all the books would be bestsellers. Let’s face it. There are duds. You could be the dud.

1. Be a trend-setter not a trend-follower – I say this a lot in blog and magazine interviews, but I believe it super strongly. Be unique. Don’t just see something popular and think, “Hey, I can do that,” and just put MORE of the same thing into the universe. Add something new! Add something YOU! That’s how you will become memorable. Not everyone will love your work; some people will even hate it (years and years ago, someone in an online crochet group said my old-school rocket pop scarf was stupid and looked like a penis). But you will be memorable if you make the effort to be creative (who’s laughing now, penis-hater?!). If you are the only person making a certain thing at a certain time, people will HAVE to go to you for that special product.

When I first started, I googled and searched all over eBay (Etsy wasn’t really a thing yet and totally not on my radar in 2005) to see if I could find anyone else who was making what I wanted to make. My mom was like, “Maybe you should focus more on colors that remind people of food, rather than actually crocheting scarves that look like food.” Moral: it’s ok to be weird. It’s probably good to be weird, even if everyone hates your peas-n-carrots scarf, and you never make one ever again in the history of ever.

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2. Have a voice – Sometimes I’ll browse Etsy shops and feel like their products are all over the place. I’m not saying you have to pigeon hole yourself, but … I sort of am. In the early stages of your business, I think it’s important for people to be able to easily associate your brand with a particular style, philosophy, aesthetic, and/or product.

“Crocheted, food-themed scarves” is pretty specific as a focus, but I think it really helped people to remember my work and who I was. When I worked in an office, I used to DIY random and weird gifts for my boss. She was always hounding me to open a store. But my crafting was really unfocused, and I didn’t feel like I had a THING to offer the world yet. It took a while to find my THING, but I think it was worth the wait.

3. Don’t hate the internet – I know people who are like, “Ugh, I hate the internet. Twitter is dumb. I have no use for blogging.” While blogging and social media aren’t natural funtimes for everyone, I think it’s foolish to completely ignore the powerful tool that the Internet can be. Get into it. Use it to market yourself and your brand. Use it to find others like you. Find your people. Form a posse. You might like it. A lot of the opportunities I’ve encountered have come from befriending other bloggers and crafters. There’s a real community out there, and it’s waiting for you!

Blogging and social media are 2-way streets, unless you are already famous. While creating content for your own blog, also take the time to read other people’s blogs, comment on them, leave your website URL everywhere. If there’s a spot for a company name or website while I’m ordering stuff online, even just personal clothing items, I always stick my business URL in there. When I was on the Sharpei Forums, trying to figure out all of Bibi’s health issues, I stuck my url in my profile, and some people from the forum purchased stuff from my shop. You never know who is watching. You don’t have to be obnoxious about it. It’s just a little hint. That’s how I got friendly with the gals of the former All-Mighty clothing brand. And that’s also how I got a nice note from a yarn site I ordered yarn from. It was like, “We checked out your site, and we love your work!” But then also in different handwriting there was another note that said, “Your photo gallery gave us a virus.” Ooops. (Don’t worry. We fixed it.)

5. Be a real person – I think that people like getting to know the person behind the brand, especially for a small/indie business. We all have certain boundaries as far as what we want to share on the internet, but your customers are likely to connect to you more if there is a YOU to connect to. Being a little personal also creates a sense of a lifestyle – be it cute, or colorful, or elegant, or weird – and not just an item, that people will want or admire.

I started blogging before I had a business. I’ve always loved stories and learning from other people and just kind of became enchanted with the whole idea of hunkering down with some stranger’s blog and getting a glimpse into someone’s life. If all your posts and Tweets are business-related and boring, people might not want to follow you anymore. Show your personality. Share a picture of your cat. There are people who like cats. There are like a kabillion people who like cats. I have dogs, but I still do okay.

The other reason why I like blogging is that it is a way for me to feel connected to my customers and provide new content or stories on a more regular basis than I can churn out crochet product. My chosen craft is pretty time consuming, and I can’t list a new item everyday on Etsy, but I -can- make the effort to tell you guys a funny story!

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6. Think about how YOU discovered your new favorite indie brand – A solid way to approach your business is from your customers’ perspective. How do you, as a customer, discover a new brand, fall in love with a new company, become a repeat-buyer/visitor, etc? DO THOSE THINGS. Did you find a new brand through a Twitter giveaway? Or by clicking on a cute little ad on your favorite blogger’s side bar? Or at a local craft fair? Or from a pin on Pinterest? Or in a small ad at the back of BUST Magazine? Or from a fun video on YouTube? Or from some kind of contest? DO THAT. What is it about your favorite indie brand/company that you love so much? Can you incorporate some of those elements in your own company? For instance, cool photography, cute packaging, fun social media, detailed and unique item descriptions, promotional videos, etc etc. This is sort of related to and bleeds into the next point:

7. Diversify your portfolio – If you’ve tried one way to promote yourself, and it doesn’t work, don’t give up! Try something else. For some businesses, making cool YouTube vidoes or vlogging is a successful tool. For others, it’s posting photos on Tumblr. And others, attending craft fairs and art walks.  There’s all sorts of different stuff out there, so research it, and try it! You just might not have found your -thing- yet.

You really have to be active about promoting your work, unless you are super duper lucky and awesome and people just come to you. We can’t all be super duper lucky and awesome, so some of us have to try out a lot of different things to see what works for us. Like, Tumblr isn’t really working for me, and I think I’ve been trying. I’m a Twitter-girl (edit: an Instagram-girl). For a while, I hated Facebook for my business, but I’ve changed my attitude about it and make an effort to post regularly – and not just copy/paste my blog entry URLs –  to see if I can connect to more people, and just changing my attitude really made a material difference. My Tumblr is still pretty much a ghost-town, though. Tumblrweeds. But it can work for other people.

There are a million other tips, like posting on Etsy everyday, maintaining a mailing list, making all your branding cohesive, taking good photos, hiring a street team, etc etc, but I just threw out some general, broad strokes to get you going.

Also remember that there isn’t just one answer to all of this, and many of us may arrive at a similar place from very different paths. You know they say you gotta pay your dues. I still feel like I am paying mine. BIG TIME! Keep at it, though! If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

I sort of feel like I ought to bang out 3 more tips so I can have 10 altogether, but now I’m just sitting here staring at my monitor.

8. Get yourself on a reality show.

9. Have a snack. Keep your energy up.

10. Be nice.

🙂

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50 Responses to Small Biz Rant: “How Do I Get Noticed?”

  1. kimmi says:

    tumblrweeds was all i got out of this

  2. Rini Sapphire says:

    Hi Twinkie, I liked this blog post! I personally am not into this, but I like hearing your thoughts 🙂 I like how you highlighted being yourself and being a real person. The common everyday person (like myself) enjoys reading what regular things famous people do. Regular people also like hearing back from famous or semi-famous people, and if a connection is made, the regular person is more likely to be interested and support them 🙂

    And actually, those are some reason why I read your blog – you are unique and you interact with regular people 🙂 You’re not “better than us.” Thanks for sharing, and have a great day ^_^

    • TwinkieChan says:

      THanks, Rini! Actually, I am going to do a survey soon on my blog so I can see what percentage of people are here for what kind of info. I’ve just always been curious about who came here as a crocheter, small biz owner, customer, or just fellow lover of pink and sprinkles 🙂

      I do like to reply when I can, but I know there are times when we all get busy and it becomes kind of impossible to keep up! That’s human, too! hehehhee

      • Rini Sapphire says:

        You’re welcome! I’m looking forward to your survey thing. I personally am a fan of your crocheted work and pink/sprinkles 😀

        I do understand that you can’t reply to everything (nor would I want you to; that’s not a good way to spend your days!) but, I appreciate it when you can “talk” us 🙂 Please do take care of yourself 😉

  3. Bonnie says:

    Great post! I love #8! There’s some great blogs and books out there too. There’s http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/ or http://www.copyblogger.com and plenty of guerrilla marketing books

  4. Angela says:

    Great tips! Simple yet down to the point. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! I think that first of all and above all one should have a great idea/product that’s unique and noticeable. you’ve done well by not listening to others and kept chasing your dream. 🙂

  5. liz e says:

    I found this from Facebook. I love your stuff 🙂

  6. Aw I loved all of your tips and completely agree with them too. I get asked these things a lot too and you said it very well! Must remember to get your happy flower done. This just reminded me haha, keep being amazing Twinkie Chan <3

  7. Jenny Quest says:

    Thank you so much for this post! You may remember that I, too, had written you about this very thing (amongst other related topics!) a while back, and I was so incredibly grateful when you took the time to actually answer my questions- this post goes a bit more in depth and I will certainly be looking into some of these recommendations! I’ve actually been throwing a few ideas around recently- things I haven’t yet seen done that I’m thinking will be a lot of fun for me (and possibly the reader, haha). It is so nice to find a crafter/artist/business owner who is OPEN to sharing tips and advice of this sort- I have found that many seem to hold fast to such things, as if you’re looking to steal their success or something. I’d understand if you were asking how to duplicate their products or asking for free work or something- but marketing tips that ANY person/business could find useful?! C’mon now!
    Anywho, thank you for taking the time to offer advice and tips to those of us who struggle with this sort of thing- your willingness to help others looking to find their own success is just another thing that keeps you at the top of my most respected artist list ♥ Keep up the awesome, girl!

    • TwinkieChan says:

      Aw thanks for reading! Yeah, I wish I had some super awesome fantastic super secret amazing tip, but the truth is, I don’t happen to know of one! 😛

  8. Kelly-Anne says:

    Flaw-free blog post, my love!

    you can tell that I read the whole thing and really absorbed it all because I’m linking my etsy in my comment. https://www.etsy.com/shop/tinytangerines

    …I would also like to join your posse and be your people. Let me be your people. I have a lot of experience in the being people department, and I think I could really be an asset to your people posse.

  9. Dina Fragola says:

    It seems I can only manage #9 >< All the other points are more or less about networking…I am terrible at that…but I'll keep trying 😉

  10. Akiyo says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog! 😀 Your posts always make me laugh. <3 "tumblrweeds"! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  11. HattieBizzle says:

    Nice article, I really enjoyed it, and have some things to think about. What is a “Street Team”

    • TwinkieChan says:

      I usually associate street teams with bands. Your street team are volunteers/fans of your work, and you can send them stickers or postcards to leave around their town, and in return, you can send them coupon codes or a little gift. For bands, it seems their fans just enjoy spreading the word and feeling part of something, without much need for something in return 🙂

  12. Candy Cowan says:

    Love your work and a great post – thanks

  13. Vanessa says:

    Thanks for all of the great advice! One of my problems when making new merchandise is that I only ever make things that I would use/want. If I wouldn’t use it, I won’t make it. This means that some of my hats turn out too big for people with littler heads, and that I don’t make that many boy friendly items. This has been an issue at the bazaars, but I don’t want to put something completely useless out there. The things that I would have liked to keep for myself though are the things that usually sell the best.

    • TwinkieChan says:

      I have a gigantic head as well! So I size mine down for sale 😉

      I’m with you. I make what I would wear. If that does not include boys, so be it!

  14. Super fantastic but… where’s the rant? 😛

  15. Sami says:

    Awesome post, loads of great advice which can be applied to many things 😀

  16. Ellie says:

    I love your carrot and pea scarf- really digging the peas… Are they popcorn stitch?

    • TwinkieChan says:

      Hmm I don’t think it’s popcorn stitch. It’s a stitch where you like YO and pull through a million times until you have a puff and then pull through. AH there ya go. It’s a puff stitch 🙂

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  18. Cicely says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! So many awesome points! I need to work on the being a real person part just a bit more. I just feel like Im so much of a dork that I tend to get shy about sharing certain things. Im working on it though! Your post gives me the encouragement to get out there more and share my process, failures and successes.

  19. Lee says:

    This is probably your most responded-to-blog. I come here to see what you are up to!!

  20. zambicandy says:

    IVE NEVER HEARD OF A STREET TEAM BEFORE OH MY GOD

  21. Cami says:

    Great post! 🙂

  22. Granny May says:

    Oh Twinkie! I love you!!! I live in Australia and had never heard of you until a friend in America gave me your URL yesterday. You’re absolutely *gorgeous*. I love your bright, cheery way of speaking, your sense of fun, and your advice got me off my seat and thinking. I’ve just started my own craft business recently so this post was perfect and incredibly helpful for me.
    So… just following advice you know 😉 My shop is http://www.grannymaycrafts.storenvy.com or I have a vacation story blog at http://www.mayl.id.au and, thanks to you, I’ve turned the last page of that into another photo gallery for my crafts – so far – *lots* more being made right now 🙂

  23. HattieBizzle says:

    I had never heard “street team” either. Now that I know, I LOVE IT!!! You are so smart to think of that!

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  25. Jane Reiter says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post–you have shared meaty, gritty insights–much appreciated! I needed to hear your encouraging words!

  26. shinypigeon says:

    Such a great post. Aiming high to make my little business take off and finally be my sole income, and these are such fab tips to help me achieve that. Thanks!

    SP

    http://Www.thepigeonsnest.com

  27. ella says:

    Great post and really honest, love it! Having followed your work when I first saw your wondrous cupcake scarves years ago I would say it’s you, the person behind them that has been a massive part of the appeal and how in touch you are with your audience and unprecious too and of course the fanbloomintastic originality of what you do!

  28. I loved this! I tried blogging but can’t get into it, but this makes me want to try one more time but have a dedicated time to actually blog.

    Thanks for putting this out there!

    ^_~

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  30. Charlee Ann says:

    Great post! You’re awesome!

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