September 23, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Hooray it’s Friday! Don’t forget we’ve just opened up I Shop Indie for holiday season members, get more details here. Now on with the links…

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August 5, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Check out the links below, they’re the best business articles I read this week from other blogs:

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May 4, 2011

Marketing With Videos: Tips & Inspiration

Filed under: viral marketing — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 6:44 am

Megan over at Crafting an MBA has a really cool project going this month, it’s a video challenge. She wants to encourage more businesses to do promotional videos. It just so happens that we’d been working on such a project for Ex-Boyfriend so here’s what we came up with:

Here are a few things we ran across:

1. If, like us, you do design work on your computer, and that’s what you want to share, Quicktime’s screen recording feature is awesome. We used that, along with iMovie, to make our video. (We actually originally taped the sketch portion of the design process but realized Matt’s head was blocking a lot of the sketchpad and we had some trouble getting our mini DV to play well with our Mac. Since most of the designing was done on the computer, it turned out not to be a huge deal. I guess the lesson here is make sure you test all your equipment and camera angles carefully.)

2. We suck at animation! But, you can kinda cheat using screen recording. Simply make frames of everything you want to have happen and hide your layers. Then you can use the layers tool in Photoshop or Illustrator to make things appear and simulate animation. The screen recorder will capture it all and it will look sorta animated. Again, we’re not animators, this is a non-animator way of getting a somewhat animated effect. I am sure anyone with real animation skills could give better tips, but doing great animation is its own art form.

3. Our very awesome friends, The Outdoors, were kind enough to let us use their music for our video. (Wasn’t their music pretty? They are amazing and will probably be huge rock stars soon.) If you don’t have awesome musician friends to lend you permission for music, check out Incompetech. It has a nice selection of royalty-free music for your video-making needs. If you need more general sound effects (i.e. phone ringing, footsteps, ticking clocks, etc.) check ot SoundJay, nice assortment of sound effects that are free and royalty-free.

If you need more inspiration, Megan posted some other really nice examples of promotional videos on Monday. You can check ’em out here.

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March 10, 2011

FREE GOODIES! (Two Reasons You’re Going to Love Me Today!)

I have two really awesome FREE goodies for you today!

1. I just launched a totally free conversion calculator you’re gonna want to check it. It calculates the likely results of your ad campaigns! Check it out and tell all your friends.

2. I just put together a list of 49 resources I love. I am including websites, vendors, services, online apps, the works! These are resources that are either FREE or the best priced I’ve found. I’m giving you my list for (almost) FREE. All I’m asking for in return is that you spread the Smaller Box word. Click the “share to get button” below and a free copy of my resource list is yours! (If you’d rather not trade a tweet for this download, you can purchase the download for $9.99. To do that click the “Pay $9.99 to Get” button.)


Crazy! Why are you doing this?
I’d like to say it’s just cuz I’m nice (which I totally am), but in addition to that…

I’m testing out the idea of social media as currency. When I hear a marketing guru say “social media is currency” my eyes glaze over because it’s one of those statements that sounds like nonsense if you don’t have examples and evidence to back it up. So I’m here saying it: “Social Media is currency.” You’re paying for access to my resources with word of mouth. You get cool resources, I get your word of mouth, which translates into opportunities for me to sell products and services. (Plus link juice for my SEO, whee!)

I think it’ll work nicely, but it’s up to you to prove me right or wrong. I’ll let you all know how it goes. If you like what I’ve done here and are going “but how would I apply this to my product-based biz?”, well you’ll need to get my resources guide. I’ve included a tip on where to get ideas about that too.

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November 23, 2010

Delight Your Customers & Get in a Little Viral Marketing

Filed under: Branding,viral marketing — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 7:41 am

Over the weekend my partner and I designed a bunch of free downloads for our customers. We created gift tags, mini note cards and gift card sleeves. Here are a few reasons we did this:

1. Viral Marketing

All the items we designed have our company URL on them. This means everyone who downloads and prints our stuff is spreading the word about our company. We designed items that were colorful, cute and memorable, so that when someone receives a gift adorned with our creations, they’ll take notice. Even if our gift tags are used to adorn a gift that’s not from our shop, our company is still part of the experience.

2. Gives Gift Card Sales a Boost

Gift cards are usually a hit with friends and family, but delivery can be lackluster. “Here’s this piece of plastic, go buy yourself something.” We designed cute note cards and gift card sleeves to hold our gift cards. That way ordering a gift card goes from a ho-hum purchase to a gift with a little wow factor. We even linked our downloads on our holiday shipping deadlines page and our gift card page, so customers can easily find these free accoutrements if they’re planning to order a gift card.

3. Delight Our Fans

We think our customers are awesome people and we wanted a way to express our thanks for their support. Creating these downloads was a simple way to give them something fun and unexpected.

Not sure how to get started with making your own free printables? Kind Over Matter has a terrific kit for this!

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March 22, 2010

5 Neat Things From Ecommerce Shops

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , , , , , — Meredith @ 8:03 am

For those that follow this blog regularly, you know I post a list of my favorite articles each week from around the web. I preface this by saying that I do a lot of reading, and only a small percentage of it is worthwhile, but that small percentage is really great. The same thing is true of surfing the web in general. I look at ecommerce sites all the time. I look at them for inspiration for Smaller Box posts. I look at them for ways I can improve my own ecommerce site.

So here are 5 things I’ve seen in recent travels that I thought were neat.

1. Scratch and win coupon codes
At Kir Devries shopping is an adventure because each visit is a chance to get a different discount code. You’ll see on their product pages (scroll down) they have a scratch and win graphic where you can virtually scratch a coupon to receive a discount. Neat!

2. Invoice optional
We had a great debate here recently about whether customers want to see invoices in their packages. Numsi solves this problem by asking customers at check out if they wish to receive their invoice in their package.

3. Product Options Above the Fold
Laying out a product page with a ton of information is extremely difficult. You need to convey a lot of details and make it all very easily scanned and digested by customers. I’ll probably be tweaking my product pages from now until the end of time. They’re never perfect.

That said, check out how the Olympics Store arranged their product pages. Their 3 column layout makes it so that both product description and product options are above the fold (meaning customer doesn’t have to scroll down to see either).

I liked this layout so much that I implemented one like it for my own site. It allows me to convey to customers that products are available in a variety of sizes, styles and colors as soon as they see the page. It eliminates the risk that customers will see a product page, not like the color on display when they land and leave before realizing that they can select a different color.

4. Spreading the word = discounts for all
I’ve seen this model on a few different Facebook pages and it’s an interesting idea. (If anyone’s used it let me know how it worked for you.) The shop owner tells fans that once a certain number of fans have been amassed a special discount code will be shared exclusively with all the Facebook fans. It gives existing fans incentive to get their friends to become fans in order to get a coupon.

5. Discounts with a sense of humor
I saw this list of discount policies on Passive Aggressive Notes. I know, it’s a funny source for ecommerce inspiration, but I take it where I can get it. The list outlines a long list of bizarre ways customers can get discounts. It’s amusing and memorable and maybe inspires you to think of a way to offer discounts for creative customer behavior (discount if you send a picture of yourself in my product, discount if you make a funny video about my product, etc.).

Seen something inspiring in the land of ecomm? Let us know about it.

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January 20, 2010

Three Ways To Get Started With Youtube

Filed under: Branding,viral marketing — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 1:44 am

Youtube is a terrific free way to market your brand. It’s inherently social and potentially viral, so why not give it a try? Chances are you already have tools at your disposal to film a short video. Many digital cameras now have video capability, but if yours does not, you may be able to borrow a video enabled device from a friend. One of the biggest hurdles in getting started with Youtube for business is what to film, so here are a few ideas:

1. Behind the Scenes
Invite your fans on a tour of your studio or show them how your products are made. Make sure you keep your audience in mind, and edit together a video that’s both entertaining and informative. For an example of this done well, see Spreadshirt’s video on how their products are made (below).

2. Your products in use
If you’re lucky enough to have your products placed in a movie or on a TV show, you should definitely have a clip featuring your item up on Youtube. Here’s a great example of a dance shoe retailer that uses video to show their products in action (see video below)

If you’re not fortunate enough to have product placements, don’t worry. You can film your friends out on the town in your products or ask your customers to film themselves using your products (you can tie this in with a contest to encourage customer participation).

3. Something silly
Sometimes all it takes is something silly to get attention. The clever folks at Agency Fusion (a web development firm) enjoyed quite a bit of viral success with this silly viral video (see below).

Your silly video does not even need to be related to your brand necessarily. You can make a silly video with your pets or yourself dressed in a gorilla costume (that’s what we did over at my t-shirt company Ex-Boyfriend, see below). The goal is just to entertain people and give them something to share with others.

Whichever route you go with your video, make sure you do the following things:

  • Create a channel on Youtube and link your website to it
  • Put your business URL in the video, so people associate your brand with your video
  • Share your videos via your website, newsletter and social media accounts so you have an army of fans distributing the video

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January 14, 2010

Your Blog is Boring

Filed under: Blogging — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 1:22 am

I am not a seamstress. I am not a metal smith. I am not an electrical engineer. I like clothes and earrings and gadgets but that doesn’t mean I care how they’re made or who makes them. This is why I don’t want to read your blog. The vast majority of the blogs I’ve seen that belong to artisans or indie businesses are all about them and not enough about their target audience.

If you sell crafting supplies, by all means talk about new crafting techniques; your customers make stuff. If your goal is to sell a finished product, talk about stuff that interests your customers.

This isn’t to say a customer won’t enjoy the occasional peak behind the scenes. You can also argue that some customers do find your creative process interesting. Generally speaking, however, most people don’t care that you just got a bunch of new fabrics or that you’re too swamped with shipping chores to eat dinner. These boring personal details will not bring customers to your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Youtube.

Think about all the stuff you read each day. You probably read those things for entertainment or information. If your communications to your customers offer neither they’re going to lose interest, no matter how much they may like your products.

So what should you communicate to your customers about?

1. Product news (sparingly)
If you’ve released a new fall collection it certainly makes sense to tell customers. However, do not make all of your communicaitons about product releases. People don’t want to feel like you do nothing but sell to them. Most of the Twitter feeds I see from Etsy shop owners look like this:

Did I put you to sleep yet? If you want customers to follow you, you have to give them a reason to do so. If you really want to post lots of mundane personal details to your blog or social media accounts set up separate accounts for business and personal use. Keep your business accounts focused on your customers’ interests.

2. Behind the Scenes (sparingly)
If you have a particularly funny anecdote about how you came up with a product name, share it. If your product is now available nation-wide at Whole Foods, tell people. Just make sure your communication isn’t all about you. Constant and uninteresting updates about your life will not keep anyone coming back.

3. Their Ideas (sometimes)
People like to be asked their opinions. It’s totally fine to ask customers to participate in your creative process. Ask them to suggest a concept for a new product. Ask them which color fabric they prefer for your new line of dresses.

You can even turn this kind of thing into a marketing effort. Tell your customers to suggest names for your newest product and let them know you’ll have a vote to see which name is most popular, with the winner getting a free gift. This gets your customers engaged in the process and encourages them to ask their friends to engage (i.e. vote for their ideas)

4. Information (often)
Giving customers useful information is a great way to keep them coming back to you. If you sell kids clothing why not blog about how to cope with colic or post a list of great craft projects to enjoy with the kids? Your target audience is parents, so give parents a reason to follow your brand and share it with their friends.

Providing useful information isn’t just a great way to keep existing customers coming back, it’s also a good way to improve your search engine optimization so new customers can find you.

5. Entertainment (often)
Everyone loves to be amused; my RSS feed is about 50% entertainment and 50% informative. If a website or twitter account makes me laugh I add them to my list of daily reads. This is why sites like Cuteoverload and Perez Hilton are so popular.

At Ex-Boyfriend, we aim to share one entertaining thing via our blog every week day. We have regular features like WTF Wednesday where we discuss news of the weird, and Fuzzy Friday where we share the cutest and funniest animal pictures and videos. We throw in the occasional tidbit about a new product or something funny that happened in our personal lives, but we try very hard to keep our focus on what will amuse our audience.

When you entertain people they tend to share your content with their friends. Providing entertainment is a great way to introduce some viral marketing to your mix while keeping current customers interested in what you’re up to.

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