Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Some Thoughts on Making Room for New Things

I was having a conversation with a friend this morning about trimming things from my life to make room for new opportunities. I have some new ideas that I just haven’t had time to pursue and I truly think the only way I can make room for them is to cut back on some of my current projects.  

After reading Jonah Berger’s book Contagious I came up with some pretty exciting ideas and I can't wait to implement them. So that leads me to this blog post. 

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NEWSLETTER SIGN UP 

It's taken me awhile to figure out the set up of this but yes, I finally have a newsletter sign up form on my blog!! This has been on my learn-how-to-do-and-implement list forever! You will find the box right under my photo to the right.

For now, signing up for my newsletter will get you updates, news and special information delivered directly into your email box. I’ve got some ideas for some other fun stuff in the future!

UPDATES & NEW ARRIVALS
Although it seems to take me forever to implement new things I’m confident that the process time will become shorter and shorter as I get comfortable and more acquainted with the mechanics of it.

My new website is a good example of that. It took me all weekend to create some new slideshow photos for the front page. It would have been easier for me to jump onto Picmonkey.com as I always do, but in the long run I knew that putting in the time to learn how to create templates that I could use over and over again would be awesome. I learned a lot and by Sunday night my brain was fried but hey….it was worth it!!

Stitched Calligraphy Cosmetic Bags

Mama Bleu Designs

Wreath Motif Monogram Bags


FEEDBACK & QUESTIONS ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

I really like sharing all the things that I've learned about small business and that I think you will benefit from. I’m trusting that my information here is helping you and I would love to get your feedback. I’d also like to hear your questions about specific issues you are facing in your small business.

In an effort to get my new ideas worked out and launched I will be posting less frequently here. I post almost every day on Instagram and you can see what I’m currently working on and several of my newly listed items.

But, to be completely in the know, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Have an awesome week!!












Friday, October 9, 2015

Why Things Catch On - A Review of Contagious by Jonah Berger

Every once in awhile I’ll find a business book that I can’t put down. Contagious, by Jonah Berger, is one of those books. He explores why some things catch on and other things don’t. His research is compelling and his collection of stories made this book a page turner for me. 

Contagious - Why Things Catch On - by Jonah Berger | MamaBleu.com


SOCIAL TRANSMISSION 

Beginning with the premise that people love to share stories, news and information with those around them he explores the concept of “social transmission”. We are so much more effective at sharing ideas and influencing the purchasing decisions of people we know than any paid advertisement method.

Our daily conversations are filled with opinions and recommendations aimed toward the topic at hand. We share about a new restaurant we just tried, a great movie we just saw, a new product we just bought. And depending on who we are talking with, our recommendations are targeted specifically toward their needs and interests.

Even though we would all agree that we are great at socially transmitting information to each other, it’s thought provoking as to what makes some things more contagious than others? Are some products and ideas just born more contagious while others aren’t?

SIX PRINCIPLES OF CONTAGIOUS 

Jonah Berger’s book explains what makes content (stories, news, information) contagious. His research reveals a “recipe” for making products, ideas, and behaviors more likely to become popular.

He and his colleagues narrowed it down to six “ingredients” or principles that are often involved and cause things to be talked about, shared and imitated.

PRINCIPLE #1: SOCIAL CURRENCY 

Knowing about something cool, having the inside scoop on something big or being the first to own the hottest new product, it all make us feel important, and socially speaking it makes us look important. Sharing information that make us look good - that's social currency!

One of my favorite stories in the book is about how Snapple came up with the idea of adding a message on the inside of their bottle caps.

During a marketing meeting someone suggested that the space under the cap was unused real estate. They tried putting jokes under the caps with little success and asked if “out of the ordinary” real facts might work better.

Have you ever opened a bottle of Snapple and found yourself ready to share it with your friends like you have a big secret? This is genius! This is social currency!

This idea causes me to ponder how I might create social currency through an aspect of my business. Does this stir ideas in your head? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

PRINCIPLE #2 TRIGGERS 

Triggers are words or ideas that we automatically associate or connect together. Peanut butter reminds us of jelly. The smell of suntan lotion triggers thoughts of the beach.

Some of these are personal but many of them have been programmed into us through advertisements or our social patterns.

I was first surprised by Jonah’s stories about how our environment can influence our decisions but it all makes sense. From the music they play in the market to the location where we cast your ballot at election time.

As consumers we make associations that we aren’t even aware of and I appreciate how the stories in this chapter highlight the negative and positive impact that our brand, our photos, our words, etc can make.

Jonah suggests that we take advantage of existing triggers that will work to our benefit. What ideas are triggered when you think about this? 

PRINCIPLE #3: EMOTION 

It is so true that when we care, we share. If it touches us in some way we can’t help but share it by word of mouth but especially through email or social networking.

When it comes to our business, it’s easy to focus on the function of our product, but what if we turn our focus from function to feelings.

Part of the discussion in the book is about how some emotions will increase sharing and others will decrease it. I appreciate how Jonah dives into this subject because so much of our business promotion is done through the internet - either by us or our customers.

What makes one image on Pinterest get pinned and repinned 100s of times when others don’t? What ingredient of a facebook post causes a page fan to click the share button? This kind of information is necessary for us to understand if we want to use this free resource to increase our sales.

My biggest take away from this chapter is that I'm merely skimming the surface of this subject. Have you tried anything lately that seems to be working? 

PRINCIPLE #4: PUBLIC

How public is my product? That is a good question.

This is a hard principle to integrate into a small business. A bigger brand is more visible and has valuable social currency. So what do we have that is visible and can work to our benefit?

The first thing that comes to mind is our customer feedback. It is public information for our customers. Not only is it visible in your online shop but also on the web. Have you ever searched for your business on Google? If not, take a minute to do that. Your custom feedback star rating is right there on the Google page for everyone to see without even going to your shop.

So this is only way for us to be "public". What are other ways that we, as a small business, can use this principle?
 
PRINCIPLE #5: PRACTICAL VALUE

With so many beautiful photos coming to us on Instagram and so many amazing ideas flowing through our Pinterest page stream sometimes what catches our attention most is a tip or practical advice that adds value to our lives.

In some cases it may seem like a crazy question to ask ourselves, but what problem are we helping our customers solve with our product or through our service?

Most of my customers are looking for a way to thank someone special in their life. My custom made personalized items are a solution for them. Until I heard it summarized like that I didn’t understand how this question could apply to my business.

Jonah explores this concept of practical value on so many levels and it can get a bit overwhelming to consider all the different ways we might do this in our business. I’m not suggesting that we dive all at once into making videos and recording podcasts and jumping onto Periscope, etc, etc. My personal guiding motto is “just because I can doesn’t mean I should”.

Perhaps there is a new way of offering a valuable service to your customers that you’ve already thought of but you’ve been putting off for a while. Is it time to make an action plan and get that started?

Good customer service speaks volumes to me and I know I'm not the only one. What are some ideas for pumping up the value of your customer service? 

PRINCIPLE #6: STORIES

I mentioned up front that the stories in this book kept me engaged. Although Jonah includes statistics about his research, I stayed interested because of those stories.

If you put a bow on a box it becomes a gift. The narrative of our message can become a beautiful part of our business “package” if it’s wrapped up in a story. I’ve always know that but have struggled in how to do it. Jonah’s insight has helped me unwrap some of the mystery about that.

Our stories can become contagious content and I'm eager to explore how I can make that work for me. What are your thoughts on this concept?  

Needless to say, I’m intrigued by this book and eager to brainstorm how I can weave some of these concepts more thoughtfully into my business. 

I found Contagious at my local library but if you want to purchase it you can find it on Amazon. Jonah also shares the short version of this book in this YouTube video.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An Interview with Elisheva Manekin from Loop Design Studio

I'm excited to introduce Elisheva Manekin from Loop Design Studio to you today. She is a fellow shop owner on Etsy and has also opened a beautiful shop with Shopify. She graciously accepted my invitation to answer some questions about her businesses on each e-commerce platform. I appreciate her insight and tips and hope you find them helpful in deciding if Shopify is a place you want to use to establish your own website outside of Etsy and/or open your eyes to some great ideas that are bringing her success in her business.

An Interview with Elisheva Manekin from Loop Design Studio


Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got started as a Maker and when you opened your Etsy shop
Hi, my name is Elisheva and I'm an industrial designer and maker. I'm also a Mama of two (very soon three). I live in a really small town in Southern Israel with my husband and kids.
I studied Industrial Design and never really planned on being a maker as well. In my studies mass production was considered a more serious route, and we never really talked about the option of a handmade business. It was considered more of a hobby, and not inline with the design world. After deciding to pursue my passion and go into home ware design, I found it nearly impossible to find small scale manufacturers to help me out with my designs, and I had to compromise a lot of ideas and details just to be able to manufacture. This moved me towards manufacturing things myself, but only after diving deep into Etsy did I realize this was something that could be celebrated and actually be good for my brand. I stopped hiding the fact that it was me doing all of the making and everything about my business became a lot more personal.
Elisheva Manekin from Loop Design Studio
 At what point did you decide to also open your Shopify shop and how did you come to that decision?

I had another website from the get go, first on Big Cartel and then later on Shopify. Selling on Etsy is great, and it's still where most of my sales are coming from (even though that is slowly changing) , but I don't think it's enough when you're looking to build a sustainable brand with a clear calling to your ideal customer. When someone buys something from me on Etsy and gets asked where he made his purchase, I'm pretty sure most of the time the answer is Etsy and not Loop Design. I love having control over the look and feel of the site, and being able to change things around. I look at my website as a place to really explain who I am and what I'm all about, and build a community around. I can also check what's working in terms of conversion rates, and what I can be doing better with the sites design and flow.
Felt Storage Bins | Loop Design Studio

Felt Storage Bins | Loop Design Studio
Are both of your shops carrying the same merchandise or are you selling some of your items exclusively on Shopify?

I'm actually selling one design exclusively on Etsy! It's a holiday ornament which I feel isn't exactly on point and cohesive with my collection, and Shopify is kind of like a showroom for me in that sense so I'd rather be really precise with what I list there.
What Shopify app is your favorite or that you've found to be most helpful?

I've actually just discovered a new app which I absolutely love! It synches any reviews you have from your other selling platforms with your site, so if you're just starting out or haven't gotten around to setting up a review app (like me) your customers still have the chance to see reviews from Etsy. This has been really helpful with conversion (something you can check on Shopify as opposed to Etsy - another reason to open up shop:) since people don't see you as a newbie and you get a chance to prove yourself before you've made any sales.The app is called eRated and the free version is great for when you're starting out. I also like Klaviyo for automated emailing.
What is your best tip for attracting customers from Etsy to your Shopify shop? Or how are you attracting shoppers to your Shopify shop?
 
I send a coupon code with every order that only works on my site, not on Etsy. This has really proven itself - I have a lot of repeat buyers and this way they have an incentive to go to my site rather then buy from Etsy again. Once they purchase I also can try getting them on my mailing list, keeping them as customers.
I use my website url exclusively in all of my social media, and any marketing I do. Etsy is only for inside traffic on Etsy, I don't push any traffic there. 
Plant Hangers | Loop Design Studio

Wall Hooks | Loop Design Studio
Other business building tools that you'd like to recommend: podcasts, books, websites, etc. 
The shopify blog is really great and has a ton of tips and lessons, and you can sign up for updates even if you don't have a website. 

Because I'm in a different country with a completely different set of holidays etc, I find it really helpful to be a part of seller Facebook groups, Etsy teams, anything to get me in the mindset of working in a US based year and calendar. 
Handmade Tray | Loop Design Studio
You can visit Elisheva's website at www.loopdesignstudio.com
and follow her here:



If there are other questions you'd like my guests or me to address on this topic I'd love to here what they are. I'd also appreciate your feedback about how helpful this was for you. Thanks so much everyone .... and thanks again Elisheva!!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Setting Goals for Updating your Online Shop

The truth is, I know the importance of keeping my online shop updated but I haven’t been good at following my own advice. As anything in our business that needs to be tracked, documented or updated on a regular basis, it should be scheduled in on the calendar. A renewed goal of mine is to put a plan in place so I can stay on top of this. 
 
I do my best to look at a goal, break it down with the end in mind and write down monthly and weekly tasks that will help me move closer to achieving that goal. I don’t work very well with digital calendars so I have a printed one that I write just about everything on. It’s not pretty but it helps me get the job done.

Because of my years of experience with Etsy, I know that good photos are an important part of setting your shop up for success. What I started to notice is that many of my shop photos are pretty “stale” right now. Although they get my point across, they were taken over 3 years ago and some of those fabrics are no longer available. 

Personalized rainbow bridesmaid clutches

Gold monogram wedding clutches


During this past summer when I had periods of slow sales I created dozens of sample bags so I could shoot some new photos. Knowing that I wanted to have fresh pictures posted for the Holidays I knew I needed to schedule this task on my calendar much earlier than October or November.

So now I’m in the middle of afternoons of photo shoots so I can give my shop a facelift. This has been a huge task but I can’t tell you how good it feels to get a lot of the work behind me so I can finally make some changes. 

personalized rainbow wedding clutches | bridesmaid gifts

Gold monogram wedding clutches | bridesmaid gifts

What tasks challenge you the most in your business and how do you work through the goal of tackling them?