designing an mba

Why I’m not at WDS this weekend

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m almost always constantly on the go. (In fact, as you read this, I’m probably on a bus to NYC for the day.)

But there’s one place I’m not headed this year, and that’s Portland for the annual World Domination Summit. (Or WDS as it’s also known.)

Now before you get excited, this isn’t a post about why you should or shouldn’t attend this conference (or any other for that matter). It’s actually a post about understanding your own creative flow and limits.

You see, I’m not at WDS because I’ve placed a priority on NOT traveling in July. As a designer who travels frequently, I’ve learned the importance of blocking out some solid studio time. And as a creative entrepreneur (ok, workaholic) who’s always on the go, I’ve learned the importance of down time to my creative process.

And July is the month where those two needs (studio/design time plus serious down time) collide.

Two years ago, I did head out to WDS. And while I did have a lot of fun hanging out with my friends (and drinking my way through Oregon) I often found myself wishing I was back home in my studio. (Which is strange for a conference loving extrovert like myself.)

But I realize now it’s because July just needs to be one of those months I claim for me.

Because some of my biggest time/travel commitment (trade shows) are out of my control, I have to be strategic about carving out time in my schedule to be in the studio (and time for rest).

January, February, and August will always be trade show (and travel months) for me. And my habit of taking a big trip in March works really well with my schedule. Throw in miscellaneous travel and speaking and I’m left with keeping April for studio time, July for relaxing (and a little more studio time), and September for post-trade show, stay home and fill orders time.

Anytime I’ve made major commitments in those months, it’s just thrown me (and my business) out of whack.

(And just to be clear, I don’t consider today’s day trip to NYC “travel”. New York is actually where I go to clear my head and reset anytime I’m feeling off balance.)

So while I’ll be scoping out the WDS hashtag on Instagram this weekend, I won’t feel bad about not being there. It’s the smart decision for the health of my business.

What about you? Do you block out time for studio play, creative inspiration, and rest?

three myths about wholesale that are holding your business back

When it comes to my business, nothing has had a bigger impact than selling to stores. It’s where over 90% of my sales of jewelry and other products comes from. It’s what’s enabled me to hire someone to do production and truly grow my business.

If it wasn’t for wholesale, I wouldn’t have a business.

But I see so many makers resisting getting into wholesale because of a few misled beliefs. And these beliefs could literally be costing your thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue.

Here are three common myths that might be stoping you from diving into wholesale:

Myth #1: Selling to stores means giving away half my profits.

It’s a mistake to think that when you sell to stores, they take away half your retail price. When you sell to stores, you set a wholesale price and stores mark up from there. Which means you need to price your products so they’re profitable at the wholesale price.

This is the biggest shift I see most makers needing to make in order to get into wholesale, but once you get it right, it can have a major impact on your business. Because not only does pricing so you’re profitable at the wholesale price point mean you can start selling to stores, it also means that any time you do sell retail (like in your online store or at a craft show), your profit margin is a whole lot bigger.

Myth #2: Everyone is just shopping online these days.

You hear it all the time. Brick and mortar is dead. Everyone is just shopping online these days. But while online shopping is certainly growing, in the US, only 6% of all retail sales are taking place online.

Only 6%.

Where are the majority of sales transactions taking place? Still in stores. So if you aren’t selling to stores, you’re missing out on a big chunk of potential customers.

Myth #3: I can’t afford to do a trade show, so that means wholesale is out for me.

First off, let me say that I love trade shows. They are a huge accelerator for most wholesale businesses.

But you can certainly start building a successful wholesale business without them. (I know someone who picked up hundreds of stores simply by waking up every morning and sending lots of emails.)

And if you want to do a trade show? It may not be as unaffordable as you think. Picking the right show and budgeting accordingly can keep your costs down, and with social and crowd funding sites becoming the new norm, there’s never been more creative options for funding your first trade show.

Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments: what’s holding you back from getting into wholesale?

And be sure to join me on June 19, 20, and 21 for my FREE workshop on Creative Live all about Selling Your Products to Retailers. We’ll bust these myths (and many more) and get your business ready for wholesale. Click here for all the details.

guest post: how to improve the SEO for your online store in less than 5 minutes

Today’s guest post comes from SEO expert, Liz Lockard. I must admit that, in the past, I’ve haven’t cared much (ok, at all) about SEO. But thanks to Liz, I now realize that SEO isn’t about gaming the system, but rather getting inside the minds of your customers. (Something I LOVE doing!) Liz’s strategy is all about small, actionable improvements that you can take to improve your traffic. Thanks for sharing, Liz!

Ah, SEO, what a confusing little stinker. Am I right?

If you’re new to the term, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization – put simply, the art of getting found by your ideal clients (if you’re doing it right) through the likes of Google.

How can we get more of the traffic we actually want? In less than 5 minutes, no less?

how to improve the SEO for your online store in less than 5 minutes by liz lockard via designing an mba

It all starts with using words your customers are using.

No seriously. Start using THEIR words. Not yours.

Get out of your own head on this. Is your customer looking for a copper pendant necklace in particular? OR is your customer looking for a great necklace for a scoop-neck blouse? (Are they? This question is for you to find out from your customers)

Perhaps SOME of your customers know exactly what they want – and search for your products with the tech-spec words like “navy boy sandal size 4” – and those words are still necessary and valid…

But think of how much MORE traffic if you either incorporated these what-do-I-really-want-the-product for words into your product descriptions. Or better yet, Write up a blog post on the best necklaces for v-neck dresses and showcase what you’ve got.

Where do you use these words?

Use them in your Product Names (which are often the default SEO Title of the page in most online shop platforms)

Use them in your URL of the page (instead of random SKU #s)

Use them – most importantly – in your product’s description! Get creative here. Dry manufacturer descriptions are yesterday’s news. Let’s go with something original – both your customer & The Google will thank you.

….and that’ s just in 5 minutes.

Why? Because your ideal client’s aren’t using special Google language to search for you online… they’re using their own words to find what they’re looking for. Do you show up?

Okay, what if you had more than 5 minutes?

You might want better photos. Say no to stock or poorly lit images. And to use those words we were just talking about in those photos.

You might want to encourage reviews of your items to add to the content to the page.

Perhaps an FAQ section would not help only your customers but also The Google for capturing more content on the page.

And… that’s just what you can do ON your site.

Your Turn

Have you ever tried to improve the SEO for your site? What have you tried? Where do you get stuck?

About the Author:

Liz Lockard is a Google nut who loves helping small businesses get more of the right kind of traffic to their websites so they can actually get more customers and clients from that traffic. Her SEO program, Your SEO Roadmap, is currently open for enrollment. If you’re ready for more traffic without the hassle (and the headache), you can check it out here.

Please note that links to SEO Roadmap are affiliate links.

why you should focus on winning one social media platform

(Instead of dabbling in all of them.)

why you should focus on just one social media platform

With all the major (and minor) social media platforms that now exist, figuring out where to focus can be a real challenge. Every day, you get bombarded with information about why every social media platform is crucial to success.

Well today, I’m going to simplify your life.

Just pick one.

Pick one social media network that you think you can win at and focus 90% of your energy there.

(One quick caveat. Claim your name or business name (or your name) on all the others, because it’s important for your digital real estate. But then just add your pic and profile and let them chill.)

Lately, I’ve been reading a few really amazing books that support this idea.

In The One Thing by Gary Keller, he shares a quote from Andrew Carnegie (the second richest man in history). “‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is wrong. I tell you ‘put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.’” Carnegie goes on to say that it’s much easier to carry (and not drop) one basket than many.

And that’s where most people fall short on social media. While trying to spend a little time on every network, you fail to invest the big time into one platform that really gives you total growth and impact.

The other problem with spreading yourself too thin across every platform is that you tend to quit too soon.

In 80/20 Sales and Marketing, author Perry Marshall shows how almost everything in life can be translated into a power curve.

In a power curve, results build on each other until tiny, incremental growth turns into a meteoric rise.

The problem with trying to spend a little time on every social media platform is that you never build the momentum that takes you from incremental gains to crazy growth. Most people get stuck in the lower part of the power curve, and seeing very little return for their investment, bow out before the momentum kicks in.

There’s still a danger in quitting too soon when you just focus on one social media outlet, but when you really focus your energy, you should see growth sooner. (And don’t misunderstand what I mean by sooner. Based on everything I’ve seen, it will likely take six months to a year of focused, smart work to really grow on any platform. So don’t give up too soon!)

So, how do you choose the right social media network?

Go where your customers are. (Not your peers.)

Connecting with your peers is important, don’t get me wrong. But if I were to ask most people why they were on social media in the first place, they’d probably say to make more sales. And in order to do that, you need to go where your customers go. In countless interviews, Susan Peterson of Freshly Picked talks about how she chose to focus her attention on Instagram because it’s where her customers – mothers of babies and young children – already were. Because Instagram started as a mobile only platform, it became the perfect one handed activity for breastfeeding mothers, something Susan capitalized on to rapidly grow her followers (and her business).

Take some time to think about which platform your ideal customer is using and what they are using it for. That’s most likely where you should be.

Play to your strengths.

Winning at social media means creating great content. And you’ll have a much easier time coming up with great content if you choose a social media platform that plays to your strengths. If you love photography and getting every image right, Instagram makes sense. If you’re able to write in short, punchy sentences, go with Twitter. Love being in front of the camera? Focus on You Tube. I have a strong design sense and aesthetic, so Pinterest is the perfect platform for me.

You may need to play around with several different platforms to see where content creation feels the most natural, and that’s ok. But once you know you’re strengths, you’ll be able to focus on one social platform and really try to crush it.

Decide where you’ll most enjoy spending your time.

Let’s just say that, instead of picking a social media platform, you were deciding where to put a retail store. Now, obviously, you’d study traffic patterns and demographics. But ultimately, you want to put your store in the city and neighborhood where you’d want to spend the most time. You want to love that neighborhood – it’s people, it’s atmosphere, it’s culture – so much, because it’s where you’ll be spending a lot of your time.

The same is true when picking a social media platform to focus on. If the culture of Facebook makes you feel icky, you’re not going to want to spend time there, and so there’s no way you can win. Pinterest is a natural platform for me to focus on because I love being there and would be spending my time there even if I wasn’t using it to promote my business.

When you naturally want to be spending your time on a social media platform, you’ll be more likely to put in the work needed for success.

One final note when it comes to this (almost) all or nothing social media strategy, because I know it’s going to make a lot of you nervous.

The challenge with social media is that you don’t own the platform, which means that a major change (like with Facebook’s algorithm) can have a huge impact on your business. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still focus on one social media platform.

The goal with any social media strategy needs to be getting followers back to your website and signed up for your email list. That way, you’ll always have a direct way to connect with your audience, regardless of what changes in your chosen social media platform.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Want to focus on growing your business through Pinterest? Practical Pinning, my new e-course with Dannielle Cresp, starts Monday, May 5th. You’ll learn how to grow your followers, create content that drives people back to your website, and how to convert that audience. Click here for all the details. But don’t wait. We won’t be running this class again until November, so if you want to succeed at Pinterest in 2014, click here to join us now!

how to capitalize on your Pinterest followers with great content

creating content for Pinterest

One of the biggest questions I get when I share my strategy to rapidly grow my Pinterest followers is “Why?”

“What’s the point of gaining all those followers?”

It’s a fair question, but I can assure you, I didn’t just work on building a Pinterest following of 15,000 (and counting) for vanity.

There’s an old episode of South Park where gnomes are stealing one of the character’s underpants. When the group asks them why, the gnomes share a three phase plan:

Phase 1: Collect underpants.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit.

I have to admit, when I first started building my Pinterest following, I felt a little like those gnomes. I was clearly in Phase 1, but I wasn’t sure exactly what Phase 2 looked like.

But after a few months of experimentation, it became clear:

Phase 2 = Content

The goal of expanding my Pinterest following was to increase my reach. I wanted to be sure that, when I pinned my own images, products, and content, I would have as many people see it as possible, and ideally, those people would repin and continue to spread my own content.

Of course, this means pinning my products from my online store on a regular basis.

But I also wanted to give followers who weren’t ready to buy something a reason to come back to my site. So I began creating content that was optimized for Pinterest.

When we talk about content creation, we often think of blogging. And it’s true, the majority of the content I was creating was published to my blog. But I don’t really think of it as blogging. Instead, I think of my blog as a container for my Pinterest content. Content whose primary goal is to drive traffic from Pinterest back to my site. (Oh, and to engage my audience and strengthen my brand. And also to establish me as an authority. It’s ok for content to serve more than one purpose.)

But what do I mean when I say content?

Well, content is going to be different for everyone, and, when you’re thinking about content specifically for Pinterest, your approach will need to be slightly different than you’ve likely taken with your blog in the past.

When creating content specifically for Pinterest, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

Your content needs a strong visual or graphic component. Pinterest is all about images, so any piece of content should start with a well designed image or series of images. Vertical images are much more likely to be repinned than horizontal images, because they appear larger. One of the best ways to start your content creation is to use your current Pinterest boards as research. Whether it’s styling a photo shoot or creating an image for my blog, I always start by looking at my Pinterest boards to see what gets the most repins from my audience.

Your content needs to be of interest to your ideal customer. This is one of those things that seems so easy in theory, but few makers truly put into practice. Typically, the majority of content that I see makers creating only appeals to other makers. This could include behind the scenes images, tutorials, etc. (I’ve seen this first hand when I check my Pinterest analytics. The only people who pin images of my trade show booth are other jewelers and product designers.) Spend some time thinking about your ideal customer and the types of images she is likely to repin. You can even use Pinterest for this research by looking at followers who fit your ideal customer profile and seeing what boards they have and what types of content they pin.

Your content needs to drive traffic back to your website. It’s not enough to get your images pinned and repinned. You need people to click through your images and land on your site. (And from there, you need them to convert, by signing up for your email list, making a purchase, etc. But that’s Phase 3.) You can use your pin’s descriptions to encourage click throughs, but in truth, your images should do a lot of the work. Use text, graphics, or other visual cues to let people know that there’s more waiting for them when they click on a pin.

And finally, your content should match the brand and aesthetic you’ve built with your Pinterest boards. The content you create should feel like it’s a natural part of your Pinterest feed.

You certainly don’t have to grow your followers to any magic number before you begin creating content, and I’d encourage you to pin existing content and product images now to gauge their response.

But I also know how much work it takes to consistently create great content, and I wanted to have a solid follower base before I really turned my attention to content creation.

Because ultimately, I knew that building my followers meant nothing if I didn’t then take the time to capitalize on them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Want to learn the best ways to make Pinterest work for your business? Do you need help with content creation? Want to learn how to drive Pinterest followers back to your site and make them convert?

Join Dannielle Cresp and I for a four week online course designed to help master Pinterest and use it to grow your online business. Click here for all the details and to register.

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why I made the switch to shopify

Why I Switched my Online Shop to Shopify - via Designing an MBA

Every year, I like to set a focus for my business. Something that keeps me, well, focused, and gives me a goal to work towards.

For 2014, that goal is growing my online retail business.

I’ve always had some level of online sales, but that level has been small compared to the main component of my business – wholesale.

I’ve been happy with the growth of my wholesale business, but I know that increasing my online sales is a big growth opportunity that can really help improve my profit margins.

For the first few months of this year, I started implementing a few strategies (mostly via Pinterest) to generate online sales, but I couldn’t really focus my energy on my online shop until I had made it through my three trade shows and some travel plans.

But now that all of that is behind me, I’m turning more of my energy towards growing my online shop.

And as I put more energy into my online shop, one thing became painfully obvious. It was time to make the switch to Shopify.

I’ve been a long time Big Cartel user, and for the most part, have been happy with the service. (In case you’ve never heard of them, Shopfiy and Big Cartel are both e-commerce platforms that let you create a fully custom, secure shop at your own domain name.)

So if I’d been happy with Big Cartel, why did I make the switch to Shopify? A few reasons:

Analytics. If there’s one area that Big Cartel is lacking, it’s in stats and analytics. And if I’m serious about growing my online shop, I need to know where traffic is coming from, how many people are visiting my site, and what they’re doing once they get there. Shopify lets you (easily) connect with Google Analytics so I know exactly what’s going on with my traffic and I can do more of what’s working.

Better navigation. This is actually a two-fold reason. When I say better navigation, I mean for my customers and on the back end for me. Now that I’ve expanded my product offerings, one of my main concerns is making sure browsers can clearly navigate my online shop. I tried several Big Cartel themes (both free and paid) and couldn’t find one that really made my shop’s navigation clear to customers and aesthetically pleasing. In Shopify, I was able to find a free theme that did exactly what I want, navigation wise. On the back end, I’m also finding Shopify easier to navigate, especially since I now have so many products and product categories to wade through.

Apps. Because Shopify has an API, other developers can design apps that plug into your Shopify store. This gives the platform so much flexibility and power. One of the apps I’m most excited about is this one that lets you create bulk redirects for individual pages. One of my biggest hesitations in making the shop switch was losing all my individual links I’d worked so hard to build. This app took away that problem with a few minutes of work. And as I continue to build my online shop, I’ll be testing out other apps to help with my marketing.

Rich pin integration. Because Pinterest is such a big part of my marketing strategy, I want to be sure that my pins are driving as much traffic as possible back to my online shop. One of the clearest ways to do that is with rich pins, which give product details and pricing right in Pinterest. Shopify is already set up to easily enable rich pins, so I’m able to take advantage of it.

The big guys (ahem, girls) are using it. One of my primary learning tools when it comes to growing my business is to pay attention to what other businesses are doing. Particularly, businesses that have achieved success in the areas where I want to grow. And when I look around, many of the online shop success stories I love (like Tattly) are using Shopify. But perhaps the most compelling example is Susan of Freshly Picked, who made the switch from Big Cartel to Shopify to manage her (rapidly) growing baby moc business.

There’s more potential for growth. At the end of the day, I just see Shopify giving me more potential to grow my online business in the best and most efficient way possible. I love Big Cartel, but at the end of the day, I’m running a business, and a big part of my job is understanding when I’ve outgrown a tool or platform.

It can be painful to acknowledge that it’s time to leave your roots behind, especially when somethings been good to you in the past. But ultimately, the goal is always to do what’s best for your business. And for me, that meant making the switch to Shopify.

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Want to know more about how I’m using Pinterest to grow my online sales? Join Dannielle Cresp and I for a four week e-course on using Pinterest to grow your online business! Click here for all the details.

How I Grew my Pinterest Followers (Part 2)

pinterest_followers

Back in September, I ran a guest post from Dannielle where she shared her strategies for growing her Pinterest followers.

Since that post ran, I’ve been using Dannielle’s strategies to grow my own Pinterest following and I’ve gone from around 1,500 followers to 10,000 followers in four months.

Since then, I’ve been consistent in my pinning, putting her strategies into use and experimenting with a few of my own.

So today I want to share some additional lessons that I’ve learned, plus answer some common questions that have come up since Dannielle’s post.

You don’t need to follow a lot of people to gain new followers. This was a question that came up a lot after Dannielle’s initial post. As with other social media advice, many people wondered if there was an expectation to follow and follow back. But this is not the reality on Pinterest. Both Dannielle and I rapidly grew our followers without greatly increasing (or even increasing at all) the number of people we follow. In fact, both Dannielle and I each follow less than 300 people.

The reason it’s not worth worrying about how many people you follow is simple. One of the keys to getting more followers on Pinterest is to curate great content. And the easiest way to do that is to be selective about who you follow. When I go into my Pinterest feed, I know I’m going to see a lot of images that already match my aesthetic and point of view. And those images will lead me to more great images. This helps me quickly find lots of things to repin.

Know what it means to pin a lot. The biggest thing I did to grow my followers was to pin a lot. But I think it’s important to define what a lot means. Because when I’ve given this advice to people, I haven’t necessarily seen them pin in the quantities required for rapid growth.

So here’s my definition of “pin a lot.” On a regular day (where I’m not super active on Pinterest) I’ll likely still pin 10 – 30 times per day. But on a day where I’m in active growth mode, I’m likely pinning 50 – 100 pins. Per day!

Hitting these numbers doesn’t take me a ton of time each day either. That’s because the bulk of my pins come from within Pinterest itself. (This is the other key to pinning a lot. Don’t go trolling the Internet looking for things to pin. Pin from within Pinterest itself.)

I have two or three times a day (depending on my schedule) where I focus on generating a lot of pins. These are typically first thing in the morning (I ease into my day with Pinterest and Instagram), sometime in the afternoon (when I need a break from other work), and in the evening when I’m hanging out around the house.

My strategy for finding pins is typically the same for most days. I start with my feed, repinning things that catch my eye. Then, if something in my feed is particularly interesting, I’ll scroll down to the “related pins” and continue pinning from there. If I’ve exhausted my feed (and still want to get more pins in) I’ll head over to the categories search (I have a few categories that are my go to) and again, use “related pins” for images that catch my eye.

I do pin from outside Pinterest when I find something interesting (or when I want to promote my own stuff), but the bulk of my pins come from within Pinterest itself.

Aim for lots of pins on strategic boards. One of the tricks that Dannielle mentioned was to split up really broad category boards (like home) into narrower boards (like dining, living, bedroom, etc.). And I completely agree. (This is one of the strategies I used as well.) But, I’ve also observed that it’s possible to go too narrow.

Splitting your boards too narrowly (and having too many boards) can actually backfire. That’s because in order to really gain followers, a board needs a critical mass of pins. (There are exceptions to this rule, like if a board becomes a meme, like My Imaginary Well Dress Toddler Daughter. But for the most part, boards need a lot of pins to gain followers.)

What I’ve found is that the critical mass is somewhere over the two or three hundred pin mark. Boards under that amount just don’t have the momentum or the visual interest to gain a lot of followers. And when you take a look at my boards and Dannielle’s boards, you’ll find plenty of boards in the 500 plus pin count.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have boards with fewer pins. (Some boards are for special projects or still in the building phase.) But you want to have a core group of boards where you really pin to a lot. Splitting boards worked for Dannielle because she had a HUGE board (with over 4,000 pins). But if most of your boards are under 200 pins, your time is better spent pinning more to those, rather than constantly adding new boards.

Know who and what you are pinning for. Yes, I pin for me. (Because, well, I love Pinterest.) But I also pin with a clearly defined aesthetic and audience in mind. I want someone who sees my boards (or even my individual pins) to know that it’s me. Even though I pin a lot, I’m still very cognizant about making sure that those pins are within my brand and my aesthetic. The result is a carefully curated collection that encourages people to follow. (And I use my secret boards to keep track of resources and ideas that don’t quite fit the look or feel I’m going for on my public pins.)

I think it’s important to state here that pinning with an audience and aesthetic in mind hasn’t made Pinterest less fun for me. I LOVE Pinterest, and I love that I can curate a space that (let’s be honest) might be the best visual representation of my brand. Even before I started this experiment to grow my followers (and really started strategically using it as a business tool) my personal aesthetic and brand still came through very strongly. I just amplified that over the last few months to help grow Pinterest for my business.

For me, it made sense to just amplify my personal board. (Especially since my brand is my name.) But if you’ve been using your personal Pinterest boards primarily for well, personal stuff, you can always create an account specifically for your business.

Share your own stuff (in the right ratio). One of the first questions that came up after Dannielle’s post was “why?” What’s the point of growing your Pinterest followers? Just like with any social network, growing your followers on Pinterest is about increase your influence and trust so that when you do share your own stuff, people are interested. Dannielle has a blog and I design products that are very much in keeping with what you’d find on Pinterest. Increased reach on Pinterest means increased visibility for our work.

Which makes the final piece of the Pinterest puzzle sharing your own stuff from time to time. When it comes to sharing my own content, I aim for three to five pins a day featuring something I’ve done. (The goal is to aim for a 10-1 ration – at least ten pins of other content for every one pin of your own content.) These pins generally come from three places – my online shop (which is where the majority come from), my blog, and my Instagram feed.

It’s important when you’re sharing your own stuff to spread the love in terms of where you’ll pin your content. I have a few boards (like my “shop megan auman” and “behind the scenes” boards) that are exclusively for my stuff. But I’ve also worked hard to create a number of boards where I pin lots of other content that are still very much appropriate for my products. (Boards like “scarves,” “fashion,” “black and white and sometimes grey,” and “art displayed.”) Because these boards get pinned to more frequently, these are the boards that have the most followers, and that’s where I want my content to appear.

One of the biggest challenges in sharing my own stuff is having to remember to jump off Pinterest to go to my own site or shop to pin an image. So recently, I started using a service called Viraltag to schedule my pins. For five dollars a month, I can preschedule up to 100 pins. (There are bigger plans too.) This has actually made it much easier to promote my own stuff. Once a week, I’ll go in and schedule pins for the times of day when I’m typically active on Pinterest. (That way, they become part of my feed.)

I’ve also used my popular pins and boards to create content. For a recent model photo shoot, we spent time looking through my Pinterest boards to see what images were popular and styling our images in a similar way. That way, all that time spent on Pinterest becomes market research to see what my audience responds to.

Oh, and one more point about Pinterest. Vertical images rule! That’s because the way Pinterest is set up makes vertical images appear much larger than horizontal images. And those vertical images are way more likely to be repinned. So whether it’s product photography for your shop or content for your blog, stick to vertical (or at the very least, square) images, and they’ll be much more likely to get shared!

Want more Pinterest inspiration? Follow Megan on Pinterest!

Want to turn those Pinterest followers into more traffic for your website? Check out Part 3 of this series!

And feel free to share in the comments: have you been putting Dannielle’s tips into practice to grow your Pinterest followers?

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what should I focus on in 2014?

2014 Business Focus

With 2014 just around the corner, you’re probably thinking about setting some goals for your business. If you’re anything like me, you might have some big ideas about where you’d like to see your business go in 2014.

And while having goals and dreams and plans can certainly motivate you to take action, having too many goals can actually backfire. With so many things to work on in your business, where should you start?

If you have too many choices, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and simply do nothing. (Or just do more of what you’re currently doing.)

That’s why, for 2014, I’m advocating FOCUS.

Instead of trying to do everything, I’m picking one area of my business that will be my primary focus for the year.

(Now, this doesn’t mean I’ll be abandoning the other areas of my business. Far from it. But I’ll be focusing on one area that I really want to GROW in 2014.)

To help you with your 2014 planning, I’m sharing the same questions that I’m using to establish not only my focus for 2014 but the action steps I can take to make that happen.

Click here to download the free printable worksheet.

Then, grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage, a pen or pencil, and read on for help in answering the questions for yourself!

What is the one area of my business I want to focus on growing this year?

There’s lots of things you may want to improve in your business for 2014, but the goal here is to think about the one area you want to focus on growing this year. It could be something like your online sales, wholesale accounts, or perhaps launching your first e-course.

Why do I want to focus on this area?

Once you’ve established your focus, it’s important to articulate why you’re focusing your energy here. (This will help keep you on track when things aren’t going exactly the way you like.) Why is this area important to your business? Why is it the best area to focus on for 2014?

What are three things I can do to make that happen?

When you think about your goal for 2014, what are the main things you’ll need to do to make that happen? This is another area where it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so the goal here again is to focus on three main things that you’ll be focusing on. For example, if your goal is to grow your wholesale accounts, your main focus areas might be improving your line sheet, store outreach, and exhibiting at a trade show.

For each of those three items, what can I do each week to make them happen? (Or if not a weekly activity, what are the major things that need to happen?)

This is where you turn each area of your focus into very actionable steps. These action items will give you something to focus on each week as you try and grow your business. The goal here is to be specific and actionable, so don’t be afraid to go into a lot of detail here!

What can I measure to ensure I am working towards my goal?

To be certain your making progress towards your goal (of growing your focus area) it’s important to set some measurable goals and track your progress. If your goal is to increase your online sales, some measurables might be Instagram followers, website visits, email subscribers, and your actual sales. If your goal is to increase your wholesale business, measurables might include number of stores, average dollars per wholesale order, percentage of reorders, and of course, your actual sales.

Try to focus on 3-5 concrete areas that you can measure and list your current stats and your goal for the end of 2014. (It may be helpful to create an additional spreadsheet or chart for yourself where you can chart your progress from month to month!)

What areas of my business do I need to maintain while working on this new goal?

While your goal is to focus on growing one particular area of your business for 2014, you don’t want to let other areas slip. By listing the other revenues streams for your business, you can keep tabs on those while putting more of your energy on growing your focus area.

What do I need to do each week to maintain those areas?

Remember, the goal here isn’t to try and grow every area of your business. So just list the key tasks that have to be completed to maintain your other revenue streams.

Who can support me (or give me guidance) as I’m working on my 2014 focus area?

When the going gets tough, it’s helpful to have support. When you’re having a bad day or just need someone to bounce ideas off of, who will you turn to. Your list might include fellow makers, friends and family, or a mentor or two. The goal here is to find people who will be positive, but objective. (Because that’s what you need to help you reach your goals. No negativity allowed!)

What resources can I use to help me work on this area of my business? (Books, courses, coaching, conferences, etc.)

When it comes to growing your focus area, you might not have all the answers. Are there books you should put on your reading list, an e-course you might want to take, a conference to attend, or other resources you need to budget for?

With a little planning and a lot of effort, 2014 could be the best year yet for your business. Once you’ve filled out your worksheet, post in somewhere in your studio or workspace so that you’re reminded of what you’re focusing on and working towards.

And please, share in the comments – what area of your business will you be focusing on in 2014?

should you have one shop or two?

one shop or two

Your business has been chugging along. You’ve been making a product you’re excited about when suddenly, you have a NEW IDEA!

You’re excited! You dive in! You start making like crazy.

But then you get to a crossroads.

Because your new ideas is different from what you’ve been making. Perhaps it’s a different material. Or a different product category. Or it just feels different.

And that difference raises one big question when it comes time to sell. Should you put it in your current shop or start a new one?

Should you have one shop or two?

This is a question I hear a lot, particularly since I’ve run multiple shops in the past.

And let me tell you, running multiple shops is hard.

I mean, really hard.

It’s essentially twice the work. Twice the promotion. Twice the management.

Not to mention twice the confusion for your potential customers.

I learned this lesson several years ago when I tried selling the cozy/cuff in it’s own shop. (I eventually just moved it over to my shop at meganauman.com.)

Except I didn’t really learn the lesson.

Because when I started painting, I decided to open a new online shop.

And it really did make sense at the time.

With the paintings, I wanted to tell a different story. That meant a different about page. Different language. And that seemed like a good reason for a separate shop. (It still does.)

But then I started designing textiles. Now, I was back to product design. And since the textiles were based on my paintings, I put them in the shop with my paintings.

But that didn’t really make sense to my customers, especially with the scarves. You wear scarves. Just like you wear jewelry. So why weren’t they in the same shop?

After two conversations (and a beer) yesterday, I made the decision to move everything into one shop.

This makes sense to me. After all, I see myself as a lifestyle brand. And that means all my products should be under one banner.

One brand, one purpose, one shop.

Is one shop or two the right solution for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Am I telling a different story with these new products? Be careful with this question. A different story doesn’t mean different materials or different products. I mean the idea behind the products themselves. Let’s say that you’ve been making high-end bridal jewelry, but you suddenly have an idea to make t-shirts for dogs. Your bridal jewelry is about elegance and timelessness. Your dog t-shirts are about humor. That’s two drastically different stories (and the way you talk about yourself as the owner of each brand would be very different) and so that likely calls for two different shops.

Is the customer drastically different? If your new idea is serving a very different customer, then that’s a good case for different shops. But again, be careful. We’re talking about drastically different here. If you’re current work would appeal to a woman in her forties who lives in a city and your new idea appeals to a woman in her fifties who lives just outside the city, that’s probably not different enough to warrant two shops. But if your jewelry appeals to young women who come from money and your new idea appeals to gay dog owners in their forties and fifties, that’s a pretty different audience.

Do I see myself developing other new ideas in the future? Are you the kind of person who’s always dreaming up new products and ideas. (That would be me.) If so, creating a new shop every time can be very draining. (I should know.) If you see yourself constantly adding new products to the mix, one shop for everything is going to be easier down the road.

What kind of brand am I building? Despite spending the last few years really focused on growing my jewelry business, I’ve always wanted to be more of a lifestyle brand. And that lends itself to one umbrella shop for everything. When you think about adding in a new shop, ask yourself, what do I see myself becoming? What kind of brand do I want to be? If the answer is a lifestyle brand, don’t waste your time setting up that second shop!

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Enrollment is now open for the 2014 Honors Program! Whether you have one product line or many, whether you want to grow a lifestyle brand or just sell more of what you’re currently making, the Honors Program can help you get there! Click here for more info!

you are a brand

you are a brand - designing an mba

The other day, Bonnie Glendinning interviewed me for her upcoming event, The Thriving Artist Summit.

In our conversation, I mentioned to Bonnie that I viewed myself as someone who is building a lifestyle brand.

The idea that I view myself not just as a lifestyle brand, but as a brand at all, was really fascinating to Bonnie.

“Do you think it’s important for artists to view themselves as a brand?” she asked.

Not to give anything away, but the answer is unequivocally a YES!

If you are running a business, you have two choices. You can be a commodity or your can be a brand.

Commodities are interchangeable. Commodities compete on price. Commodities thrive on huge economies of scale. Commodities are all work and no play. In short, it’s hard to be a commodity.

But a brand…

Brands are full of infinite possibility. A brand can be anything. Brands stand for something. A brand is what customers respond to.

Brands are where the money is.

(To be fair, there are bargain brands and discount brands. But there are also high-end brands and luxury brands, and brands that we fall in love with, and dream about, and obsess over, and declare our loyalty too. These are the brands I’m really interested in.)

Whether you operate under you own name or the banner of a business name, thinking of yourself as a brand is essential to your success.

Having a strong brand is what allows you to charge higher prices, what makes you instantly recognizable, and what turns buyers into loyal customers and raving fans.

So what do I mean by brand?

Your brand is made up of three key elements – purpose, people, and presentation.

Purpose is what your brand stands for. It’s your WHY. It’s what you and your customers believe in.

Purpose is what helps turn your product into a statement. A rallying point. A symbol.

People are you, your team (if you have one), and your customers. People influence how your brand is perceived.

Some brands are personality brands. They thrive on the personality and celebrity of the owner or figurehead. Other brands are customer brands that focus on the mentality of the tribe. (Think DVF verses lululemon.)

One isn’t better than the other, but it’s important to understand which one is your primary branding strategy.

Presentation is your visual story. It’s everything from your products to your packaging to your website to your fonts, colors, mood, and more.

When most people think of branding, they think of presentation. But presentation, while 100% essential, is only sticky when it supports the purpose and people behind your brand.

Like it or not, we live in a brand-obsessed culture. (Personally, I think it’s a good thing. It provides endless opportunities for you and your business.)

As makers, it’s so easy to get caught up in the process or the product. But it’s the brand that your customers really want to buy into. It’s the brand that provides the potential for growth and opportunity.

It’s the brand that can really catapult you into success.

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Because building a strong brand is so important to your success as a business, I’m making it the January focus of the Honors Program. And because I want to make the Honors Program as affordable as possible, I’ve added a twelve month payment plan option! Click here for all the details!