Thursday, September 11, 2008

Un-scary Tech for Fiberists

The word strikes fear into so many of the small businesspeople I know.
It scared me too, until I accepted that, as an online business, I was only going to get to know my customers by sucking it up and plunging in. The only word scarier?

When normal folks think of marketing, they think of TV ads or used car salesman or Mad Men. I did too and my avoidance of the "M word" kept my yarn business stagnant for over a year.

BCB has had a website (and has been a legal entity) for over 2 years but I've only sold yarn online for about 10 months. The difference between actually selling and having a website?

Marketing. Using Technology.

Now, keep in mind, I'm not a rush-er into projects. I'm a planner. And a reader. Before I started BCB, I read every book about selling crafts, art businesses and small business that I could get my hands on. Barbara Brabec remains a favorite but all the books I read were seriously outdated (even those that were just a few years old!). But I didn't know that. I launched BCB and I thought I was ready to go.
But then nothing happened. I was prepared for sales, I was organized, but...nothing. I had a lot going on personally at the time, so I let BCB sit alone and unloved for about year.

But then I started reading again. I found the wealth of information that is in the Etsy Forums. I had a few skeins to sell, so I took them off BCB and listed them on Etsy and started reading about marketing my Etsy shop.
When I read about creating a marketing plan, it dawned on my : "Oh, I need a daily plan for marketing this or no one will know I'm here". A silly, obvious statement, but it was the shake up I needed. I dove futher into Seth Godin other marketing blogs.

I got a Flickr account, then this blog, then Ravelry, then Twitter, then Disqus. I just keep discovering new ways to connect with my customers and talk with other fiberists.

While I'm certainly still learning myself, I've been hired by a few local small businesses to help them grasp the basics of technology (email, forums, effective websites). I love seeing when they have their own lightening-strike moment, when it becomes clear that:
a. Social Media is not scary
b. they need to be active every day, in effective ways, to be 'top of mind' for their potential customers.

I've had such a great time learning about new technology and using it in my own marketing plan and I love others figure it out. In that spirit, I'll be writing a series of posts giving some advice and resources that I've given other small business about using technology to market a small (fiber-based) business. This stuff is usually referred to as "social media marketing", but that's just a fancy name for new-technology-that-lets-you-get-to-know-your-customers. These posts will be specifically for those who feel a little anxious about marketing, or about the internets or about seeming like a slimy salesperson or feel just a bit lost by the plethora of options (IndieFinds, Myspace, etc, etc, etc). This isn't really marketing advice: its advice about using a good mix to meet your customers. Mostly it'll be pointing to the blog posts, books and experiences that have taught me how to best use what's available.

Everything I've learned is through books, marketing blogs and personal experience, so we won't be doing anything official here, just chatting about how to apply it to a fiber-based business. Of course, if you have some other internet-based business, this might be helpful, but what I know most about is a business focused on those in the fiber world - the magazines, the websites, etc.

To aid our discussion, I'm trying out some new technology in my comments, Disqus. I don't have advice about using it yet, because this is the first post it's on! Help me figure it out by commenting below, letting me know what piece of "social media" you don't get..or what new application you'd like to know more about...or how you use technology to market your business! I won't have all the answers, but I'll point you to those that do!
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