Friday, October 30, 2009

Sneak Preview

Here is a sneak preview of the new site :)

Status of New Site

Yay!!! I am so excited! Hubby just told me he is 99% done with his portion of the work for my new site, and he just gave me access to the content management portion, this is where I will add my products, shipping calculators etc. Sadly, I have a ton of stuff I have to get done today (make stuff, ship stuff, deliver a wholesale order, and pick up supplies, then take the girls to cheerleading practice and to the cornmaze). Tomorrow I have the farmers market until 2:00 and then halloween activities with the kids. will probably be Sunday before I can start messing with it :( . My *goal* is to have the new site up and running by middle of next week. I want to thank everyone that has been supportive of my venture of moving to a new site.

For those that are wondering (or have asked), I will keep my Etsy site up as long as I have active listings (since they are already paid for). If anyone prefers to shop thru Etsy I will still be willing to set up custom listings. Even after my listings there are sold or expire, I will "keep" my account active to still use as a buying account as well as for anyone that still wants a custom listing thru Etsy.

And if I was wrong, and changing my focus from etsy to my shop leads to my sales totally dying...well then I will be eating crow and running back to etsy adding listings as fast I can lol.

Have a safe & happy Halloween!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Experiment Part 2 - Advertising

Ok, to continue from my earlier post (To Etsy or Not to Etsy), in this post we're going to delve into what I did for advertising the last 6 months.

***Disclaimer: I come from an advertising background and I really believe you need to have consistent advertising for about 6 months to get true results. But this will give us a basis to go by. Also different things work for different peeps, so what may not have worked for me , may work for you :) ***

Before I get into what advertising I tried and my results, let me share some basics. There are two forms of advertising campaigns:

-Branding , which usually takes a minimum 6 months just to help make your name recognizable. In order for branding to work you need to pick an ad medium and stick with it for 6 months, preferably a year. Do not expect an initial on slaught of sales (if they happen, great, but that is not the point of branding). This is all about building name recognition with your target audience.
If your not committed to sticking with it for at least 6 months, then just don't do it, it will be a waste of your money and you will walk away thinking advertising doesn't work.

-Immediate Response- Everyone that owns or manages a business wants this, but it's harder to achieve (and more costly). In order for this to work you have to be willing to plop down a larger amount of money in a shorter period of time. You also have to have the right message and be targeting the right audience. And your offer has to be compelling enough that it pushes people to the buying point (which makes you more excited 10% off or 25% off?). I am not saying go broke on discounting but figure out a decent offer that will get them in the door. Running an immediate action campaign is about more than just driving sales and making some quick money, it's about introducing people to your product and the experience of shopping with you, this is your chance to shine, to get them through the door. There is no sense in paying for an immediate action campaign if you are not willing to back it up with a decent offer, because again you will be dissapointed and walk away thinking advertising does not work.

Now as small business owners, we need both of these, and unfortunatly our budgets are much smaller than the big guys :)

What I tried:

Project Wonderful: is a site that you can register at and bid on ad placement on numerous blogs. Most of the ads are relatively cheap - anywhere from 10 cents/day to $4/day depending on the amount of visitors the blog has. A lot of etsians like this because it is a low cost solution that allows you to get placed on multiple blogs. You can search for blogs based on tags/keywords, location and amount of visitors. I only stayed with Project Wonderful for a month (I know , I broke my own rule lol), but it's because I grew tired of finding a good blog, getting approved, having my ad placed and then being outbidded 30 mins later. I am not sure being placed on blogs where you are constantly at risk of being bumped is a great thing. What I spent: $20, How long: 1 month , Results: Low ad click thru's and one sale.

Showcases on Etsy: the consensus on Etsy is these don't work, and I would have to agree, I tried numerous ones in different categories (Bath & Body, Candles, Weddings) , I got low views and no sales. Cost: $7/day , How long: 1 day, Results: Won't do it again

Blog Ad's: There are so many wonderful blogs out there, and as long as you find the right one for your niche these can work for you. Aside from the blogs I was placed on thru Project Wonderful, I did purchase ads on a few blogs. Prices can vary , so be sure to check, a newer blog may run $10/month where as a older more popular blog could run upwards of $100. This is a type of advertising I would use for branding to your target market, if you can some sales from it great, but don't expect them to just come rolling in! If you are going to use a blog ad for an immediate response campaign, then do your homework and pay the money to get on the right blog (target market, good placement, good amount of visitors), have a nicely designed ad (there are plenty of graphic designers on etsy that will design an ad for $10-$20) and make sure you state in your ad exactly what you're offering. For me the best exposure I gained from blogs was by sponsoring give aways/drawings/reviews- free for me (aside from donating products) and I have found that tying into a blog organically brings me more customers.

Small Groups/Communities: There are a variety of groups out there that will help you promote your product. There is one in particuar that I really like ( ), the fee (for 2009) is only a one time registration fee of $10. Beginning in January 2010 the fee is $15/year for one shop and $10 for each additional shop. I love the Handmade Highway and think they do a wonderful job promoting their members (and I have gotten several wholesale request & sales from being listed with them).

Community Paper/ Magazine Ad's: At the beginning of summer, I took out a small business card size ad in a local print magazine geared towards moms. Cute magazine, but high cost and zero return (the ad ran for 5 months and cost $100/month).

Facebook Ad's: This has been the one that really worked for me. But it took some trial and error. When I first set up my fan page on facebook I decided to try their ad program. You have the option of setting a daily budget and choosing to pay for clicks or impressions ( I always choose clicks). At first I had the ad direct visitors to my website (for a few days), then my etsy store (for about 1 week), during this time I received lots of clicks but no direct sales. My ad budget during this time was set to $3/day which got me approx. 4-5 click thru's (I used targeted keywords like handmade, candles, soaps, etsy, artfire, crafts and chose to advertise nationwide to women age 25-54). I then started looking at it from a different perspective, I was getting clicks, but that was it, no info on the potential customer, no way to market to them in the future, no way to build a relationship with them. I was throwing my money away on the off-chance that today would be the day that someone would click my ad and say "ah-ha today is the day I HAVE to buy a candle". I mean that' snot how I shop, so why should I expect my customers to? So I changed my tactic and started advertising for fans to my fan page- I then made sure to actively engage with my fans (which I love doing anyways). My budget has increased with time- but I don't necessarily run my ad daily- I usually pick one or two days a week and run my ad for $20/day , which usually brings me approx. 15-20 new fans. Then it is up to me to convince them to try my product! As time goes on you will get more comfortable with figuring out your conversion rate (how much money spent on ads=how many potential customers=actual sales dollar).

I am continuosly trying new venues and methods and will add to this series as I do. I'm sorry this long, I hoped it has helped, feel free to ask questions or share your own results!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tips for the Farmers Market

This year has been my first year participating in craft shows and farmers markets, at first I was hesitant to do so because it just seemed so daunting, carrying stock is hard sometimes, especially when I make so many diffenet products in so many different scents. Then there is the issue of loading up the jeep (meaning I have to make sure I have at least two of my production tables cleared off and ready to use), setting up the tent, working from 9-2 at a market that may or may not be good, then driving 30 miles home only to have to unpack the jeep again! So, yes, it was awhile before I convinced my self to commit to working markets.

And now that I have participated in them since May, I have to say I love them! And I am growing really sad as end of the season nears (November 21st).

I have made some good friends and loyal customers through working the markets. The opportunity to meet and talk with other artisans/crafters has been priceless, and it has been great to be able to receive customer feedback real time.

Looking back on when I first started, I cringe thinking about the set up/display (or lack thereof) I used the first 2 months. Since I didn't know if I would last all season I didn't want to invest a ton of money up front. So my initial set up consisted of:

- 1 8 ft table
-1 ugly bright striped plastic table cloth
-2 small wooden trays for soap
-about 2 dozen candles
-2 dozen glycerin soaps
-folding chair

Now don't get me wrong, I did ok at first and there were even some days that I did great, but as the weeks grew on and I realized that I enjoyed doing the markets, I decided to start investing in a new set up- and it's only been in the last month that I'm finally happy with the way it looks, my set up today consists of:

-2 tables, 1 8 ft and 1 4 ft (set up in a L configuration)
-tent and 2 chairs (never know when a friend will stop by)
-2 taupe colored cloth tablecloths
-a banner that hangs on the front of my big table (company name, products offered & website)
-2 vintage looking blue cabinets/shelves
-2 wooden shelves
-numerous baskets in different shapes and colors
-business cards & holder
-product & pricing signs (nicely printed and either clipped to baskets or in frames)
-credit card swiper, paperbags, calculator etc.
-8 dozen candles
-60-100 bars of soap (and I now individually fully wrap each bar)
-speciality item (salves, creams etc)

Since I made the investment in myself (or my booth I should say), sales have become consistent and increased (nearly doubled what they used to be). I'm not telling you this to brag, but to share, I know of many crafters/artisans out there that are thinking of working live shows and I hope sharing my experiences can help. The minute I took my shows/markets serious, so did my customers. So some simple tips:

-Make the most of your available space, the more stock/ variety you have, the better chance at better sales.
-Business Cards! I did not get these until about a month ago, customers love them, and I have gained repeat business, wholesale accounts and facebook fans because of them.
-A banner for your table. Many times people walking by may not know what it is you sell. In the days before I had my banner, I would hear people walk by and exclaim "oh look lotions, I don't need any of that" - I didn't even have lotions there! They were looking at my candles and from far away they thought they were lotions- having a sign that boldly states "Soy Candles & Handmade Soap" has helped alleviate this. Also if you are in a busy market (on Saturdays our market may have 50-60 vendors and thousands of visitors) and you are not in a permanent booth, a sign will help your repeat customers recognize you from afar.
-Product & Pricing signage. Most of the time I am able to talk one one one with customers concerning the product, but inevitably there will be that time when you have several people at once in your booth and having signage that talks about your products, explains it usage or origin and tells what your pricing is, you have a better chance at turning lookers into buyers.
-Get set up to take credit cards. If you are an Etsy seller, you can sign up through ProPay for their premier account for only $29.95/year and it is so easy to use! Even though I use an old school knuckle cruncher machine, I have been lucky and not had any problems (and yes taking credit cards your sales numbers will increase!).
Well those are some of the tips I have from my first season, I am sure by the start of next season I will have some new ideas :) .

Here are some pictures from todays display:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome to our new blog! I figured this would be the easiest way to communicate with our customers & friends. We will still continue to post updates daily on Facebook but sometimes we need a little more space than updates provide, and it's easier to have everything in one place!

Important Info about Facebook Fan discount & Holiday time frames :


-You may shop with us online at , Etsy does not have a way to auto calculate the discount, so please enter the code FB20 in the notes to seller section at checkout on Etsy- Please do NOT pay at checkout- we will send revised invoice with the correct amount. OR you may send us an email to and we will set up a listing for you!

-I am working on adding the new products/scents to our actual website as well ( - once they have been added you will be able to shop directly on our site and use the same code FB20 and the cart will auto calculate your discount.

-We understand the holidays are a busy, busy time, so to make it less stressful on everyone we want to post some important reminders. All items in our shop are handmade, we try our best to keep items in stock, however because we sell on multiple venues and participate in weekly markets, please understand when you place your order that sometimes your items will need to be made. During the holidays please allow 4-5 day (business days) turn around (time before order ships). For US orders we ship Priority Mail - that typically will mean an additional 2-3 days in transit. International orders ship either First Class or Priority and may take anywhere from 6 days- 3 weeks in transit.
Cut off Date for Christmas Orders is December 10th, any orders placed after December10th we can not guarantee delivery by Christmas

Bulk Orders & Wholesale
If you plan on placing a wholesale order or bulk order (bulk discount available for more than 10 candles, please ask for details) or private labeling/formulation, please allow 7-10 business days for order processing, cut off date for Christmas orders that are bulk/special request/wholesale is December 5th.

We're looking forward to a great holiday season! As always if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

Additional Holiday Incentives:

Place your holiday orders early and receive the following incentives:

Orders placed between now and November 10th:

$20 order receives 1 free bar of soap (chosen by us) and additional 5% discount

$21-$49 order receives 1 free 4oz candle tin in holiday scent (chosen by us) and additional 10% discount

$50 and above receive 2 free 4oz candle tins in holiday scents Gingerbread House and Home for the Holidays, and additional 15% discount. Also order over $75 (after discount) will receive FREE US Shipping.

Orders placed between November 11th and December 1st:

$20 order receives additional 5% discount

$21-$49 order receives additional 10% discount

$50 and above receive 1 free 4oz candle tin and additional 15% discount

To Etsy or Not to Etsy - My Experiment

First & Foremost let me begin by saying this is not intended to be an Etsy bash posting, I love the Etsy community and love the concept behind Etsy, and were it not for Etsy I may not have decided to go back into business this last year.

***Also this is my personal experience, not to say it is the same for everyone***

That said, however, I have done some experiments these last few months and sadly my findings may lead me to focusing efforts on my own website (this is completly factual- not due to any personal reasons or vigilant stance on etsy changes etc).

While Southern Alchemy is new to Etsy, I am not. I used to buy and sell on Etsy back in 2006, similar products as what I offer today (candles, bath & body). Even back then it felt like Etsy was this huge sea and that as a new shop you had to struggle to be seen. But in the six months or so that I had my shop I did relatively well (interestingly enough I sold way more bath & body back then where as today my candles are my top sellers - different story, different day). Then I landed a new job and decided to close my Etsy store.

This past year when I decided to focus on my business full time, it seemed only natural to go back to where I had seen original success - Etsy. Why not? It's cheap (20 cent per item listing fee plus a transaction fee), they have millions of users (tap into an existing market), it's easy (not nearly as complicated as setting up your own website), so Southern Alchemy on Etsy was born.

But this time it was different, it used to be that I would list a new item and that same day have hundreds of views for the item- now if I renew an item I maybe get 5-6 views (if I don't promote it myself off site). First time around I could purchase additional exposure on the site (a showcase for $7) and not only get a ton of views but also a sale or two from it- these days I purchase a showcase and I get nothing (no views, no sales, zilch). The first time around my items managed to make it to the front page maybe 5 or 6 times in a three month period, this time I have made it there once (which I am thankful for) - even though I feel my pictures and products are much stonger now then they were back in 2006. Interestingly enough (and I am not the first Etsian to notice this) you have some shops that end up featured on the front page mutiple times in one week (sometimes in one day).

Since I added my first products to my Etsy shop in May of this year, I have sold a little over 400 items - some would say that is proof Etsy is working for me. I beg to differ, and will explain why. Let's take a look at how I have handled my shop/advertising my shop since May:

-May 2009 Launch- My Etsy bill came to $152 this month (not billed until June but for May activity). This included initial listing fee's for 50 items, paying to renew/relist items 3-4 times a day (many times this is the only way to stay high enough up in their search categories) and multiple showcase purchases (both main showcase and category showcase). I did not do any paid advertising outside of Etsy in May, my Etsy sales total for the month was $489, my website sales from my own website were 5 times that amount (no advertising paid, repeat customers, wholesale etc). So my cost associated with my Etsy sales (not even taking into consideration my supply costs) was roughly 30%. On the other hand my site did cost me only $12/month in hosting and brought in a higher amount of sales at a higher profit margin. At the time (before crunching my numbers) I thought my first month on Etsy was succesful, looking back, not so much.

June 2009- this month I stepped away from promoting both my Etsy site and website and focused more on local sales (shows/markets/home parties etc.) My advertising cost for the month was $100 (for a small ad in a local mommy print magazine- which brought me zero sales). I did very little renewing on Etsy this month, did not purchase any showcases etc and started the month off with a trickling of sales. My Etsy bill was only $21.81, and my Etsy sales were $289 (most of that came from a wholesale order). My website still only cost me $12 for the month and brought in 3 times the amount in sales.

July 2009- I continued working some markets (but put some on hold due to the heat), towards the end of July I started refocusing my efforts on promoting my Etsy shop (did not put any focus on my website). My Etsy bill was only $9.67, did not purchase any showcases, renewed and listed a few items and by the end of the month sales started coming back in, my Etsy sales were roughly $276. My website still beat that number (even though by this point I had completely stopped promoting it).

I am not going to bore you with details for the next few months of Aug, Sept. & October, but needless to say I have been primarily advertising my Etsy shop, my bill has increasingly gone up each month ($62, $99, $131). Seeing that Etsy also charges you a transaction fee for each sale (and they don't have any way to apply discount codes), they actually made more money off of me than they should have in September and October due to sales that I ran (seeing as they base their percentage on my sales amount and not my adjusted/discounted amount).

As my bill went up, did my sales increase? Yes, they did. But I do not think it was due to Etsy or their "built in market of buyers" that woo's so many sellers initially, and here is why:

I am spending more money (and time) advertising my shop now then I have ever before. When I noticed that views were slowing down and sales were coming to a halt, I decided to take charge and reached into my wallet for advertising bucks. I am spending on average $200-$300 per month advertising my shop (I will have a second part to this story later this week that covers what I did for advertising and my results). Am I profitable? Yes. Have my sales increased? Yes. But this is my full time business, I saw that I was not going to be able to rely on organic traffic from Etsy and bit the bullet and paid for advertising. Had I not done that my sales would have been dead in the water. I did not start off paying $200-$300/month for ads, I gradually grew to that over a couple months by monitoring my conversion rates. And I only advertise now on places that I can change my ad & budget at any given time (like google or facebook).

Most importantly I know my customers (90% of them anyways) are coming from my advertising efforts vs. Etsy because of a coupon code I gave them (so I can track where my orders are coming from). Which means if I was not paying for my ads and utilizing social networking my sales would only be about 10% of what they are now.

Do I appreciate Etsy and all the hard work they have put into building the site? Yes. Do I enjoy the community? Yes. But is it worth ot for me as a business owner? I'm not so sure.

If I were to take the additional money that I pay monthly to Etsy for my shop (another $60-$130) and add that to my ad budget, my sales would increase even more.

Right now my husband is in the process of redesigning/redeveloping my site. Once that is done I am going to put my Etsy site on hiatus and experiment with running my sales (focusing my advertising) on that site alone. If I see a decrease in sales then I will know I need to balance both, but we'll see.

Will it be hard for me to walk away from Etsy (if and when that time comes), YES!! It is like an addiction. Crack for crafters.

But it's not personal, it's business. To be continued...