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So you want to sell online.... #1: Getting Started

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Blog entry by cajunpen posted 2552 days ago 1926 reads 6 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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A few people have expressed an interest in finding out more about selling some of their woodworking projects on-line. We all dream of making it big on the Internet – but I’m afraid that those days of people getting rich quick have long ago passed. Having said that, the Internet is a good way to market your product or yourself.

Please don’t be mislead – selling on the Internet is not as easy as posting your product and waiting for the sales to roll in. It takes a lot of HARD work, especially in the beginning – eventually it settles down into a manageable routine and you can have some fun waiting for the order to come in. I don’t claim to be an expert – but I have had a pretty fair amount of success and have made a decent living as a result of selling my products from my web site.

A little background on my limited success. I’ve been a full time Police Officer since 1968. Policeman, as most of you know, don’t make a ton of money – but I’ve always made enough to provide for my family. I’ve worked off-duty details, and always had a hobby that produced some extra money. In 1998 my life long love of woodworking took over and I could not resist any longer. I built a small shop and started turning ink pens on my lathe. I gave away as many as I could afford to – and I decided that if I wanted to keep making pens I’d have to start selling some. The Internet was pretty new in 1998 and a friend talked me into setting up a web site to try and sell a few pens. Like most people do in the beginning, I set up a Free Site with Excite (one of those homepage sites that used to be so popular. Well, that was a good learning experience – but I never sold a single pen. I then decided that I would have to either go forward with the idea or give it up. I paid $250 for an on line Marketing program (my wife thought I was nuts). I got all of the materials and set in to make my fortune.

What I learned from that course was extremely helpful – but the real eye opener was that I could have the best site out there, have the best product available and sell it at below cost – and I still would not get a single customer UNLESS THE PUBLIC COULD FIND MY SITE!

I set out to build a site that looked professional. At that time, the only way that you could produce a professional web site was to learn HTML (the language of the Internet). This was not an easy task for a dumb cop – but with a lot of help, I made it and put my site together. Relax, building a web site is a LOT easier now – now you can buy development programs that give you WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). the process is much easier now. Once you get your site built you will need to find a way to get it listed on the major search engines. You can submit your site yourself, but it’s not likely that your efforts will be successful. Most of the major search engines, like Google, Yahoo, etc. have very strict submission guidelines (and they change them often and without notice). If you deviate, even in the slightest, you site is dropped – and all of your hard work is gone. There are Companies out there that will take care of this task for you. Prices vary (I spend about $3,000 a year for site submission service). What I get for this money is a monthly submission of my site and optimization of my site to make sure that it complies with the new search engine guidelines. The company that I use is Main Street Hosting Another thing that you will need to do is accept payment via Credit Cards. For this you will need a Merchant Account (another sizable expense). And then you will need a Shopping Cart so that your customers can place orders (you guessed it, this is another monthly expense).

Before you give up your dream, thinking that it will be too expensive, there are sources out there for the small seller to work from (when I say small seller, I’m not trying to be offensive – just mean people with a limited number of products – my site has probably 1,200-1,500 items.) In my next blog I will try to list some of the options that might be more appropriate for us woodworkers to sell their wares.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased." http://www.cajunpen.com/



28 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#1 posted 2552 days ago

This is wonderful, Bill.
First of all, congrats on your business success!! Not everyone sticks with it, waiting out the beginning stages.

Secondly, this will be very helpful for those who are considering going professional! Thanks for the input and I’m looking forward to chapter 2.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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Skinna

29 posts in 2561 days


#2 posted 2552 days ago

Hi Cajunpen, I found your blog on ‘online selling’ to be very interesting reading, for several reasons, firstly… you’ve been a police officer for longer than I have been alive, I just thought that was pretty impressive, not too many people have stuck with the one form of employment for that many years.
Secondly, for a police officer you seem to have acquired quite an amount of knowledge about Web Sites and their workings, do you work in the IT area of the police department or something similar to that? Just curious is all – if you don’t, maybe you should! I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but the websites for the Australian Police departments really are quite poor, in design as well as information and the ability to find it.

I too have looked into the online selling issues over the years, and now that I make my main income from Designing and Developing Websites, this is something I have studied carefully over that time. Everything you’ve mentioned about having a only a website online not being enough to sell products if people don’t find the site easily and before they find your competitors is correct, and obviously you’ve also done some hard yards in researching this area, however, I really don’t feel that it is necessary that you spend $3,000 per year for a site submission service – while yes it is true that there are guidelines for being submitted to search engines, it is also helpful to know a little about how search engines work. I could sit here and go into great detail about how they work and what they look for when indexing sites and information, but that would be pointless, even though this is something I’ve studied greatly there is still a hell of a lot about it that I don’t know. I guess if you are satisfied and happy that your $3,000 is working for you and you’re making a good earn from your site then by all means continue to use it.

The point of my comment is this; I have a full knowledge of HTML programming, and although now I mostly create “Flash” websites rather than full HTML pages, I still use the HTML element to make search engines find websites. For instance if you search www.google.com for ‘skinna’ you will see that it finds me before 48,300 other sites that have the word ‘skinna’ in their keywords, title, or content, or otherwise listed in their site somewhere. If you look down the page maybe 6 or 7 results down you will see a search result from right here at lumberjocks.com. This is there because the lumberjocks.com site has quite a high level of visitors, and high traffic is a part of how search engines base their listings and who shows up at the top of the list. Basically by studying how the search engines and in particular Google works, I’ve managed to find that yes, search engines can drop you without warning for not adhering to their guidelines, but the most common reason for search engines dropping your site is ‘over-submitting’ or basically submitting your site too often or rapidly. One of the most important rules of submitting your site is to have patience, it may take a month or even several months before a search engine finds your site. Submit once only to each search engine, otherwise the search engines can mistake your site for something similar to ‘spam’ (or think that your site is being submitted by a computer or software program and therefore possibly classed in the same category as spam) and we know how we all hate spam. The guideline for this is submit once to google for instance www.google.com/addurl and then be patient. I mean REALLY patient. in 6 months, submit ONCE again. Take some time, maybe a few hours or possibly even more, search Google for your ‘product’ or ‘main keyword that you think people might search for’ eg: Turned Bowls… go through page by page of results until you find your site. It may be 20 pages down the list of results, it may be 100 pages, depending on the popularity of the particular words you searched for (your product). When you find your site, click on it and visit your site.
THEN delete your browser cookies, and open Google in a new page, and search for the same thing again.
AGAIN go through page by page until you find your site, and click on it again.
Repeat this process as many times as you have time for (as I said, take a few hours if you can)and then the next day, Repeat the process again. Keep doing this as often as possible – one of the ways in which search engines index sites is by how often they are visited in relation to the search phrase used.

NEXT STEP-
SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT IS THE POWER OF LINKS – put a link to your site using correct html WHEREVER YOU CAN WITHOUT PUSHING IT SO FAR PEOPLE THINK THAT YOU’RE A SPAMMER – even put links to your site on your competitors sites if they have a free link section – but this will help their search engine ratings AS WELL AS YOURS! Put links on your friends’ sites – on your friends ‘myspace’ sites, put links on free links sites – there are plenty out there – put links in your ebay listings (EBAY gets a LOT of traffic and search engines LOVE the traffic factor) put links wherever you possibly can.
THEN go visit the sites of those who have kindly donated their link space to you – and CLICK ON YOUR LINK and visit your site.
THEN delete your browser cookies and click on your link in their site again and visit your site.
THEN search Google for the site who has your link – scan through page by page until you find their site. THEN CLICK ON THEIR SITE and visit their site. THEN CLICK on YOUR LINK in their site and visit your site.

MAKE this step a process you repeat as often as you have time for – it will greatly improve your search engine rankings -

although – NONE OF THE ABOVE is any good at all without the correct use of Keywords in your site’s META tags. Search Engines recommend the use of no more than 255 characters in META tags, although its only a recommendation and NOT a necessity. Use keywords that describe NOT ONLY YOUR PRODUCTS, but try to think of other things that visitors might search for that are similar to your product, for instance if your main product was a toilet roll holder, your main keywords would obviously be toiler roll holder, but it would also be beneficial to include words such as toilet paper, toilet tissues etc – not that people are going to be searching for toilet tissues online very often, but this is just for the point of information, I’m sure you are clever enough to adjust this information to suit your own business and products. It’s a general misconception that search engines may drop or block you due to ‘over-use’ of keywords or using the one keyword too often within the 255 characters. My view on this is to use your MAIN keyword(s) definitely more than once, but there is no need to over-do it and use it 50 times. 5-10 is probably well and truly sufficient.

I know all this information is probably a lot to digest, but that’s why people pay so much for site submission tools and services. Basically all I’m saying here, is if you have time, then there’s probably no need to spend all that money for something you can more or less take care of yourself.

If you have any questions or if you don’t understand anything I’ve mentioned here, please feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to help as much as I can. Hopefully this information can and will save you $3000 a year!

Good Luck!!

-- Skinna - Australia... I won't stop at murder if that's what is necessary to get the job done

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#3 posted 2552 days ago

this is definitely a great blog! Thank you; thank you ( Cajunpen AND Skinna AND whomever is also going to add their tidbits of wisdom).

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3030 days


#4 posted 2552 days ago

good stuff Bill and Skinna.

Debbie, I doubt I will add “wisdom,” but maybe some support of what they are saying.

Bill, I’m trying not to steal your thread, but I wanted to support what you are saying, and add a few things that that I wouldn’t want the public to see so blantantly stated in my own blog.

Here it goes:
I’ve had a website for several years now, maybe about 5 or 6, I forget exactly. I do remember remember one number though, it is “2” which represents the two orders that I can surely say came because people found me on the website. I still had to work hard to close the SALE with emails back and forth, but the MARKETING on those 2 orders was done only with the Website. But, it has been just “TWO” which is an easy number to remember.

I remember the first Saturday morning I was “launching” the website. I was filled with giddy excitement, sort of like a 6 year old girl getting ready to leave for a birthday party. For the big “launch”, I scheduled to show my work at a great juried show in Kansas City that weekend, and so I passed out business cards with my website name printed on them like I was passing out free movie tickets. I even made up a cool carved sign with a moosehead on it with the website name carved in wood.

People at the show would stand there and read the cards, or the sign, and say, ”wow, you have a website….wow, hey Marge, this guy has a website, look at this…..”

Marge would then come over, and she would say, ”_wow…..Ethel, get over here, you gotta see this, this guy has a website…...”

I’m not really exaggerating, just changed the names to protect the innocent.

In those days, in a show of about 100 artists, there were only a handful of us that had a website. We were a novelty then, and people would “buzz” about it. That was then.

People at a show that I meet now find that my having a website, “is no big deal.” People don’t even comment on it anymore. We have been so bombarded with website names in every form of advertising, that it has no meaning to people in the “image” category now. I see now where the advertisers don’t even worry about printing the “www” before the name anymore, we all know it. It didn’t used to be that way.

I was so thrilled by the public response that first “launch” weekend, that I figured I would be quitting my day job the next week. As things worked, nobody ordered anything, and I don’t know if anyone actually looked at the website or not, as I didn’t have statcounter then. In those days, I couldn’t tell who, or what they were visiting.

But, I do know this, I didn’t get any emails, or phone calls, not even for quotes on my work. I pridefully figured it wasn’t my “work” that was the problem, but the publicity of my website that was the problem. So, I spent more money get to more exposure.

And it is funny, in a sick and sad way, that from the $7,000 I spent lat Fall going to the Western Design Conference, I have gotten ”2” orders from that also. Seems I’m stuck on two’s.

I hear what you are saying Skinna. But, I for one, will not be sitting at the computer following my own links back and forth. Not that I don’t believe it will help, I believe you.

But, I just would rather be making things in the shop, I know that time will be profitable. If my kids were older, I would pay them to do the link jumping for me, sit on the computer and follow links for an hour after school each night….....no, maybe not, I don’t want them seeing the stuff I bump into on the internet, it’s bad for me, and I know better.

The only form of marketing that has worked for me has been word-of-mouth. Despite prestiguous national shows, expensive national magazine ads, and a professionally developed website, I seem to be only selling to people that know me, and people they tell about me.

Happened again this past two weeks. New order from an old customer, and a new order from an interior designer who met one of my past customers. However, don’t stop reading, I have more to say on the use of my website below.

I blogged several months back about how lumberjocks was helping me with the flow of traffic to my website.
Here is the link to that blog: http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/decoustudio/blog/144
Not that my blog was a great read then, but it is still true this morning, some 8 months later.

I’m wondering now, if I really need the www.decoustudio.com website. What if lumberjocks could become my only “webpage” for my business? It gets more traffic for sure.

Hmm, I’ve been wondering about it for several months now, maybe a year since Martin and I first started emailing about it. If Martin could do the credit card secure ordering stuff, and I ship the item to the home address he provides me, and then he transfers the “money” to my paypal account, less his commission, maybe I don’t need the “decoustudio” website anymore. It hasn’t produced much for orders anyway. I could spend my money and time on something else besides my website, juried shows, and magazine ads…..maybe I could buy some new tools I need badly to help get my labor costs down. Hmmm. I spent about $10Grand on marketing last year, that would surely buy me some great Grizzly tools I need. Hmmm.

I get about 10-20 unique visitors a day to my website. I follow it through statcounter every day. I had my third highest day since May 2006, this week with 70 unique visitors on Tuesday. I tried to figure out what happened, but I couldn’t, just more people following the same paths that others before them have followed. The next day, it was back to 10 visitors. For the rest of this week it is back to normal, 10-20 unique visitors, with “no” orders.

I used to excitedly tell my wife about the daily traffic, assuring her that all my work was worth it. She is so skeptical nowadays, that I don’t even tell her unless someone is coming to visit, or I get an order. She is patient with me, but I’m sure there are times she wondered “what” she married. I used to wear a suit, carry a briefcase, drove a classic Corvette, made good money, had health insurance, a 401K, and showered every morning. None of those exist anymore, but she does get to see me now everyday, something she used to only reserve for 1-2 days a week in the old days. Some weeks I think she likes it, other times, I think she wishes I was taking a “trip” somewhere. I’m trying to be funny. There is more of that story here: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/46

Daily, I watch the key words that people are using to stumble onto my website, and how they find my site. This week I saw a “hit” from a person that used the key words “scrimshaw powder horn” and they had a “2nd Page” google path. WOW, a year ago, I could type “DeCou Powder Horn” and not even find my own website in the list. Nowadays, you don’t even need the “DeCou” and you get a 2nd page hit. As Skinna says, it just takes “time.”

I get a lot of requests for shared links. For the most part, I don’t do that unless it is an actual artist asking me for the swap. I don’t list any of the Mega Listing Websites that ask me to post their link on my links page. If they want to list me, I’ll take the time to do that, but I don’t share those links. Maybe I should. For instance, a few times, those Mega Listing Websites had pornography listed with their links, and I don’t want to publicize that on my own site.

I get every week a unique visitor or two, from Sawdust’s, or Tony Ward, or ScottB’s blog. They work, a few people follow them each week. Nobody has ordered anything, but I have gotten some “hits”.

I have had a lot of Arts & Crafts work on my website, and a lot on lumberjocks. Still, to this day, not a single visitor to my website has ever come with a Key Words related to the Arts & Crafts movement. I wish they would, it would really help me sell some more stuff, I think.

I spent a wad of money and put an ad in American Bungalow magazine last year. They assured me that I would be beating customers off with a stick. The stick is still sitting with dust on it in the corner of my office.

Just two weeks ago, I got my first response from that magazine ad, a lady from Wichita called to ask me about building her a Morris Chair set. http://lumberjocks.com/projects/57
This lady that called said that she has held on to my magazine ad for over a year, and finally called that day. I’m hoping we can do business now, but so far she hasn’t placed the order. The Marketing was done with the Magazine, the Sales is up to me and the customer.

The salesperson at the magazine promised me that people would keep my ad for years. She told me when I was considering the ad, that unlike other magazines, people do not throw away their issues of the American Bungalow, but rather go back through them looking for ideas and artists when they are ready to do something. I was sold on that concept, and wrote out the check. Well, actually after the “wife” agreed that I could write the check. We are in this “thing” together in all aspects, as she doesn’t work outside of the home. Eventhough she works hard at our home, I don’t pay her for it…...I couldn’t afford it.

So, I’ve been struggling with how to sell more work, and actually gave up a couple of years ago that a WEBSITE would be the one silver bullet I needed. What I have learned is that a website is just part of the package. It is like having a business card.

Sure, it does help “my ego” to have 10-20 people a day get introduced to my work, but that doesn’t mean that any of them are standing in line to pay me $10Grand for a piece of my work. The bottom line for me is that “hits do not equal sales.” I realize that the concept doesn’t sell books, or how-to pamplets, but it is what I have experienced.

I think if I was selling less expensive things, the impulse decision buying process would kick in more. People used to say that an impulse decision needed to be in the $20 range. I think for Americans it is higher now. I still think it is under $100, but it sure isn’t several thousand dollars. Those decisions take time for people to make, and it should take them time. I decided several years ago that I was not going to appeal to the impulse buying factors, and that I wanted people to invest in me, my work, and do it for many years repetitvely.

So, I purposely have not built small things that I could sell on eBay. Well, not since I tried that once with a walking cane, just to give it a shot. I sold a walnut twisted cane with a tiger stripe maple sculpted handle for $40 bucks on eBay. A cane that regularly sells at a store in Wichita for $120. I’ve haven’t tried eBay since.

To be honest, I’m not really looking for a lot more customers, as I can only do just so much work in a year. But I am looking for a couple of new customers a year that are passionate about functional-art. On the other hand, I am searching for a handful of people that will let me spend whatever time it takes to make whatever I want, and pay me for it handsomely. I can have a dream, can’t I? After all, my local banker believes in me so much that he says I can borrow whatever I want to…....as long as I have the collateral to cover it.

Right now, I am limited by the customer budget each time to the point that most of my creative and artistic efforts on my projects go without being paid for. They can afford to pay me to build the furniture, but not the carving and artistic part of my work. I do that almost for free each time. I’ve been doing it because I wanted to, and I knew that if I was ever going to get paid for it, I had to be seen doing it, and have pictures of what I have done. Now, after several years of this process, people are asking for carved pieces of furniture. 3-4 years ago, I had to beg for permission to do it, now they are asking for it.

Here is a key thing about a business:
Just getting someone to look at your website, is analagous to having someone walk into your store. They may be inside enjoying the air conditioned air and background music, but if all they do is finger through the racks and turn over price tags and then walk out, what good is it? Not any good, especially if their kids leave smudges on the merchandise and spill their juice boxes on the carpet. Not to mention the shoplifters (spammers).

I can assuredly tell you this:
“If you have a website, you will get a lot of SPAM, and too many opportunities to have your website maximized-for-google by companies that say that doing that is their specialty.”

What I have discovered is a key principle that my professors were trying to tell me years ago when I took MBA classes, and didn’t listen well.

Getting people to look, doesn’t make a profit. Selling to people who look, doesn’t mean that you will make a profit. Making a profit from things you sell, is what you are in business for. Demand creates sales. Profit is made by selling the item above the cost to produce the object. My input costs have no bearing on Sales Price, only Demand determines Sales Price. Seems simple, but it has taken me 20 years to really “understand” it.

However, the time may not have come yet for my efforts to reap a return.

Just this week a guy from Los Angeles found my Maloof-Rocking chair on lumberjocks (it isn’t posted on my own website) and emailed me to say that he wants to come and visit me when he is in Kansas in late-September. WOW, the power of lumberjocks.

I had decided to try two experiments in the summer of 2006. I decided to build two pieces of furniture in the style of woodworking Icons Maloof, and Nakashima. I decided that I was going to post them on lumberjocks with the Icon’s name in the title of the project, and NOT post them on my own website. Just to see what would happen.

My theory that I am testing is that my efforts on lumberjocks is much more profitable than doing it on my own website. Why? The lumberjock synergy of getting us all together in one place, selling, sharing, talking, the Traffic Wizards, must love it.

This guy from LA is an example. He wouldn’t buy a $10Grand rocking chair from me off of a website and photograph, but he is going to take time out of his schedule to come and see me. What more could a guy ask for from a website?

If he orders a rocking chair, or something else will depend on our visit together, not the website. However, the “marketing” was done with the lumberjocks.

What I have been telling people lately that want to sell their woodworking, is to get on lumberjocks, and develop a great personal page. Martin has recently upgraded these personal pages. He says that we can also attach his page to our domain name, so that when someone types in our domain name, they get redirected to the lumberjocks page. I like that concept. So, I have been telling folks to spend their time on lumberjocks. Then, at least if they want their own website later, the content will already have been typed up. Sitting at a computer typing is not always easy for woodworkers, and paying someone else to do it is expensive.

Ok, to sum it up, I’ve said it before, but will repeat it here again:

Marketing: getting people to look at your work, and remember your name, and something about you.

Sales: getting people to stop looking and to buy something.

Profits: are made by selling something for less than it costs to make it.

Sales Price: is a sole function of Demand, not production costs.

I feel that in today’s world, a professional woodworker should consider having a website, just as they must have great photographs of past work, business cards, & brochures. I am not one that will tell you that you can quit your day job because you started up a website.

The Furniture Society website has articles on this subject as well. I was quite surprised this summer to see articles there from a few years ago that said the same thing…..If only I had read them then, I might have saved a lot of key strokes and dollars.

I’m still up in the air on whether juried national shows, and national magazine ads are of any help. They are hugely expensive for a small mom-and-pop operation like this one. Time will tell.

I’ve come to the conclusion that having the website gives me some exposure, but that word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing, and the only profitable method I have discovered.

Thanks Canjunpen and Skinna for posting this information, there will be a lot of us lumberjocks that will learn from it.

Thanks,
Mark

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2939 days


#5 posted 2552 days ago

Thanks everyone. Mark that has pretty much been my experience.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#6 posted 2552 days ago

it sounds like different types of projects benefit from different types of marketing. People shop for different things, in different places. So another good point to make is to know your customer before they know you—where would these people be looking for products such as your own and then target that area.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3030 days


#7 posted 2552 days ago

Debbie:
I think you are very wise in that observation. People that buy pens might also buy furniture, and vice versa, but the market for pen buyers is significantly different than for furniture buyers, and signficantly again different from functional-art buyers.

Where they shop, what they buy, what they will spend, the amount of buyer trust they need to make a purchase, etc. are all different than from what I am doing.

Strategy must match the research and the target market. The research must be based on facts, not gut-feels. I’ve learned that the hard way also. Also, there is a lot of “mystery” involved with a mom-pop operation. We often don’t have any idea whether something will work. The nice thing about the word-of-mouth marketing is that I get to learn what people like, want, and will pay for. I learn that from personal one-on-one communication.

In the 28,000 hits to my website in the past 15 months, I may have gotten feedback from a dozen people on what they thought of my work. I learn those things first hand with customers, and also from shows where the hallway is filled with “opinions.” Also, I’ve never met a person that thought they had bad taste for decorating. But, I have met a lot of folks that think that other people don’t know how to decorate. Funny, how humans are to each other. However, the feedback is crucial, and for that one reason alone, I think a new woodworker needs to be at shows often. That immediate feedback and customer response is critical to flushing out the “gut-feels” truth from fiction. But, if you do it, wear your thick-skin and big-smile that day of the show, you will need it at least a couple of times, if not more.

Loved having you down at the DeCou Picnic!! I’m not sure why you wore your winter coat when it was 104 degrees that day. ha.

You gotta love a guy that spends 28 years doing anything, much less protecting the rest of us. You go Bill!

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

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Thos. Angle

4435 posts in 2587 days


#8 posted 2552 days ago

Maybe it’s just like Carleen says,”all those that walk by with out looking are just part of the 499 we have to get past to find that 500th one who will buy. We are building the website now to hook it into the Homeshow Daily display and then see what else we need to do. I think part of what is going on right now has to do with the economy and the fact that the media started the election year a year early.Thanks Bill, Skinna, and Mark

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2786 days


#9 posted 2552 days ago

Thanks for getting this started Bill, and for Skinna and Mark for their thoughts as well. There is a lot of information and experience behind what is said here. I appreciate all of you taking the time to write this down.

I am in the middle of deciding what I want to do for a shopping cart on my web site. If Martin has that available, I would be willing to have him collect the money, take a commission, and then forward the funds. That could be a great alternative compared to paying for my own shopping cart, a merchant account, and their usual monthly fees and commission rates. Depending on what Martin could set up, his rates could be lower than the alternative, and still make money for both of us.

In the meantime, I keep adding items to my web site, such as new photos and such. I found that one of the main traffic drivers for me (besides Lumberjocks), is my monthly newsletter. I write this to update folks on what I am doing each month, plans for future projects, and the like. I think they enjoy reading it, because I do get quite a few hits from email links. Right now, I am trying to get more people to sign up for my newsletter. The more hits I have on my web site, the more likely it will appear in the various search engines. That is the start, to at least get the word out. Now I need to take a more local approach as well, like Mark suggested. If I get local people to know me and my work, then I can get more customers and orders.

Nice work Bill. I am looking forward to your next installment of your online sales guide. I am also looking forward to more thoughts from Skinna, Mark, and others too. Isn’t it great how the Lumberjocks can share this information rather than each one having to learn it themselves the hard way?

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

12909 posts in 2607 days


#10 posted 2552 days ago

thanks Bill and everyone. This is a great topic. Will check back often.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#11 posted 2552 days ago

Thos., I heard that once when someone was talking about their rejections. He said that he’d get excited because if 1 out of every hundred was a yes, then he just got another “no” out of the way!! :) (Exactly what you said).
I guess the rejections are “research”, rather than seeing them as rejections, use them to fine-tune your sales strategies.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View cajunpen's profile

cajunpen

14375 posts in 2690 days


#12 posted 2551 days ago

Skinna and Mark have both made valid arguments. Skinna I know all about the relevance of reciprocal links and search engine submissions. I used to do it all myself, but after turning it over to Main Street Hosting, my hits more than doubled as well as my sales. If you are trying to run a small “mom & pop” website it is feasible to manage this all yourself. My site averages 2,750 individual hits a day – 250,034 hits from May 1 – July 31 of this year. I’m not bragging, because a lot of the major players’ sites have over a million hits a month. What I guess all of this means for us, as woodworkers, is that unless you have a lot of product to offer, it’s going to be tough to justify the expense and work that it takes to successfully manage an on line presence.

Mark struck on a brilliant concept! If Martin, or someone else, would be willing to form a co-op web site and allow interested woodworkers the opportunity of posting their wares for sale – that might work. The idea of LJ using their Merchant Account to process the credit card orders would solve everyone’s problem. If anyone has any interest in Mark’s idea – I’d be more than happy to help as much as I can to put it together.

One thing that anyone thinking about an on line store needs to think about is – how much product can you realistically turn out for sale? How much do you need to have in sales (income) to make it worthwhile? Can you keep up with production and still have time for your “regular” clients? One of the things that made me rethink my objectives was an order just 3 weeks before Christmas (several years ago). I was turning pens and having a fair amount of success selling them on line – I’d average 10-15 pens a month, which was great for me. Then the day came that a customer called and asked if I could produce 500 pens – and have them laser engraved – before Christmas, they wanted to give them to clients and employees. I did back flips (ok, it was only in my head) and ran inside all excited to tell my wife. She looked at me like I was crazy and said that I had better get back in the shop and start turning! What I failed to realize in my excited frenzy was that i did not have 500 kits in stock, nor the blanks to turn that many. The customer wanted all of them turned in Paduck. I ended up filling the order, but I had to take 2 weeks vacation and turned and assembled pens almost non-stop – then I had a friend in the engraving business laser engrave them and we shipped them. The money was great – but I did not have a spare minute for anything else and swore that that would never happen again! My hobby had just become a job that I did not like.

Hopefully Skinna, Mark and I have given you guys and gals thinking about a web site something to think about. It may not be what you hope it will be. If you still want to give it a shot, let me know and i will try to help.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased." http://www.cajunpen.com/

View MattD's profile

MattD

149 posts in 2569 days


#13 posted 2551 days ago

In addition to submitting your site for indexing on search engines, you can also pay search engines for keyword based ad placement. A few woodworkers seem to be doing this (Try searching for “custom woodworking” and you’ll see the sponsored link ads). You can be very specific about which keywords or specific combinations of keywords will trigger your ad. You can also prevent your ad from being displayed when your keywords are used in combinaion with words like “cheap” or “low cost”. At least with the big search engines, you basically only pay when someone clicks on an ad that goes to your web site.

Mark – maybe you could try paying for keywords like “custom arts and crafts” and I’d bet you’d get some hits.

I’m not sure how this would translate to a woodworking business, but several years ago, my wife and I set up a web based shopping cart type business selling children’s books and we had -some- success with this sort of advertising. We probably spent about $100 on adwords, went from zero to about 500 visitors from it, which we thought was pretty cool, and sold about $70 in books to 3 customers as a result of it. That’s a “customer aquisition cost” of $33 each which we thought was pretty good, as we expected some repeat business and perhaps some additional customers from word of mouth if we maintained communication with them. We really never found out.. long story short, we were too busy with other things and decided to close the site, but it was fun.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6646 posts in 2604 days


#14 posted 2551 days ago

Ah, websites;

I got a message from my friend Thos Angle, to check out this blog. Some interesting and relevent things have been pointed out here.

I don’t subscribe to the idea of paying $ 3,000.00 dollars a year on a marketing or site submission program, for most woodworkers. But I wll admit that I dont get the amount of hits that Bill is getting. But again, I’m not selling anything other than myself.

I use my website as a tool to establish credibility with potential clients. When I visit a potential client, I suggest they check out my website, prior to my appointment with them. If they haven’t checked it out, I have them do it while I’m there. It saves me from having to “sweet talk ” them into doing business with me. The can see I know what I’m doing. They also don’t normally try to talk the price down. They feel it would be futile, and they’re right. I don’t try to talk the quality down, so I won’t let them talk the price down.

With my other website, the one designed to sell ezee-feed systems, as Ms Debbie so accurately pointed out, knowing what your customer wants is key to sales.

I can promote ezee-feed systems all I want, but if a person doesn’t have a need for it, they won’t buy it. This is another reason for the prowoodworking tips site. It establishes me as somebody who just might know what could help woodworkers, in their everyday efforts to make their work easier. After all, it’s what I do for a living.

In a round about way, prowoodworking tips introduces woodworkers to my product in a very non threatening manner. If someone see’s it, and want’s it, they will buy it. I don’t need to stand on a hill and scream that I have something for sale.

When I was first trying to sell this product, I was renting four booths a woodworking shows, at a pretty high price, and demonstrating the system. People looked at me like I was a used car salesmen or one of those guys at a carnival, trying to lure people into their booth. They would watch me demonstrate the system, and still think it was some kind of smoke and mirror trick.

It wasn’t until they looked at my porfolio, and realised I am a professional woodworker, did they consider that the product might be a good one. Then they would want to see the demonstration again. This time they weren’t looking for the trick, they were looking at the product.

I have since stopped doing those shows, and sell exclusively on my website. And with better results.

And as Mark pointed out, advertising in a publication can be both extremely expensive, and very ineffective for alot of us. We can’t afford to commit to a long term advertising program, in a major magazine. And, without a long term commitment, it’s throwing money away. Advertising is a program, not a hit and miss deal. Repeated exposure is the only way for a magazine ad to help us. A minimum would be seven exposures, according to marketing professionals.

The same rings true for websites. Unless, as Mark said, you have impulse priced items for sale, without repeated exposure to the potential client, you won’t sell anything. You need a way to keep them coming back to your site, in order for them to make a large purchase, and even then, it has to be something very special for them to order it from someone far from them.

Word of mouth is by far the cheapest form of advertising, and probably the most effective. The potential client knows something about you even before they meet you.

Many client’s say that I am expensive, but good. When they tell that to a friend, the friend is expecting a high price, but a good job. I have no problem with the good part, because I don’t equate a certain level of quality with the client. I equate an extremely high level of quality, as something that I must do, even if it were for free. I can’t allow less from myself, just as most, if not all of the lumberjocks here require from themselves.

After all if it weren’t a search for higher levels of quality, and knowledge to produce higher levels, none of us would be here.

For MOST woodworkers, a website is a tool, not a saviour. Unless you have an already recognizable name, it won’t generate enough sales to cover the cost of producing, and maintaining it.

Just another point of view.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

645 posts in 2758 days


#15 posted 2551 days ago

WOW! This woodworker/woodcarver is just taking this all in and sorting thru it.

I like the idea of Martin being the middleman or go to person. I think that there are so many of us LJ’s that don’t want to mess with all of that tech stuff. I would rather pay someone like Martin a reasonably amount to take care of that computer crap.

As I have said in the past all of what I sell is by word-of-mouth and for me that’s OK for now because it is still just a hobby but if it were to become my main source of income I would have to market it such as you all have described.

I want to thank Bill and all the rest of you for giving me and LJ’s very good info.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

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