There are two very distinct schools of thought, as I recently discovered whilst lurking around in Facebook last weekend. They’re very far apart in their message too, which makes trying to get a business built up with enough volume to be viable as a business rather than a burden on time and money all the more difficult.
In one direction, there’s the firm belief that getting your face, your product & business entity, including logo & branding out in the public eye via farmer’s markets, fairs (Craft, State, County, RenFayres, etc), events, special parties either home or in another venue, are the only way to get your company built up enough to pay the bills and have some left over to pay yourself and replenish stock. This mindset makes sense. Logic will state with conviction that there’s no other way for anyone to ever even know you exist unless you’re peddling your wares in a public place, thus increasing your presence in the open physical market. When you are seen you become known. Out of sight, out of mind, blah, blah, blah. This widely cast business net can then translate over to the virtual market and expand exponentially. Like that old Wheat Germ Oil & Honey Shampoo commercial that played endlessly on television in the 80s – “I used Wheat Germ Oil & Honey Shampoo and loved what it did for my hair, so I told 2 friends, and they told 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on………” I’m quite sure I just dated myself there with that one, but it’s what pops into my head every time someone tells me I needs to network more or spread the word more widely.
On the other hand, there’s another set of soapers who’ve sold exclusively online because, to put it in the simplest of terms, they are timid. I happen to fall into that category. I cannot go out into public and be a huckster for my goods. I was never good at vocalizing my products’ merits. I like for the product to speak for itself. Yes, I’m much better online, as you can see I have no trouble dialing it up in here or in Facebook to talk about what I’m making now, what was done to improve this thing or change that one, but if you’d asked me in public, I’d probably start blushing and stammer through some mangled mess of a description. So how to get the shopping public to buy something if you aren’t any good at public speaking? Tricky. Social Media helps a great deal, but there again, people have to know you exist in order to hunt you down online, know what to look for, or at least get them in the neighborhood. Very tricky indeed. Personally I believe that Pinterest, FaceBook, Twitter, Linked In and blogging was invented to help just such people as myself and others of our ilk who would rather let their goods and services do the talking for them. Still there is that tricky identity & presence issue to get past.
I know of several extremely talented and very popular soapsters who’ve made it into the big leagues with their soaps selling out before they’ve ever reached the cure dates and I’ve been nervy enough to ask them how they got where they are now. They’ve kindly answered my questions with patience and great thoughts on why, where and how. The best example was one from Ireland, who, if I gave their name, you would recognize them, but I won’t say here for their own privacy. They described themselves as quite similar to me in the public speaking issues. We neither of us can do so without a great deal of anxiety. They, too, said there was a time when they’d go months without hearing their Inbox ping with a new order notification, calling into question their reasons for getting into the business in the first place. They told me there’s not so much a reason that is direct such as “I do it for the money”, but rather that we are making these things to fulfill a need for the consumer. We create something that fulfills a need that they possibly never even knew they had. We create a niche in the market that only we can fill, staking our claim that this is better while all the rest is simply good.
What I learned from them is that we have to approach our business in the manner that works best for us because when we do it our way it works better, seamlessly. It flows from one phase into the next with grace. We must work with joy, a keen sense of fun, let our personalities shine through in every aspect of what we do, say, & create. That is what the shoppers will identify with best – someone who’s more like them than they think we are. Tell about your process, what inspires you, what you enjoy doing the most, maybe even give a glimpse of what you like the least because it keeps you human. Maybe provide a video that shows how you do what you do because consumers like to know ‘where it’s been’ and if it’s safe for them to use. If they see it through every step, they know exactly what they’re getting, thus putting their mind at ease, especially if it’s something to be used for little ones. Enjoy what you do and let it show. Be yourself. Even if yourself is having a bad day. Letting the process take you into its embrace and letting it work all those mean kinks out will also be helpful to shoppers as they know that what ever they get from you, you did with serious ferocity of purpose.
Social media is a genuine boon for those of us who are socially challenged. I do not do well in crowds. I shrink. Literally. I try to find some way to hide because all I feel is awkward, no confidence at all. But put me behind a computer in a virtual ‘room’ filled with scads of people, and I’m all over the place, talking away in dozens of conversations at once. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a response in the wrong place and blushed to the very tips of my toes! Just too embarrassing when I lose track of where I am.
Yes, I’m taking all the right steps. So many places try to get you to buy the book, take the course, listen into conversations and they all speak about the same thing. We can grow your business in three easy steps and for only 5 easy payments of 59.99. Really? No thanks. If I do that, I’m not helping my business grow, I’m helping yours.
So, I’ve put my brand out there in facebook – www.facebook.com/neecysnecessities.
I’ve put up a web site at great initial expense out of pocket with no guarantee of recouping any of that initial investment – www.neecysnecessities.com.
I’ve joined the Titter Nation. Find me at DNeecy in Twitter.com.
Of course I’m in here too, and then there’s LinkIn and Google Circles.
So, no one can tell me that I’m not putting my name out there enough in the Social Media market enough, because that’s not so at all. I’m everywhere. So I guess the answer to why there isn’t a bigger number of hits on my site or Facebook page is simple – they aren’t looking hard enough. Maybe my car needs a business logo magnet. that’s one suggestion I’ve read somewhere for getting your brand out there into the public eye, raise awareness of your business and with luck their curiosity will get the better of them and they’ll shop from you enough, just enough, to get hooked on handmade soap. Once they do, they’ll never go back. I’m doing my part, now it’s their turn.