Selling your Woodwork on the Internet

Selling your Woodwork on the Internet

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To Blog or Not to Blog. That Is the Lesson

Wooden Toy

Everyone else seems to have one. Does that mean you should you have one with your new woodworking business site?As popular and powerful as blogging has become, I can whole-heartedly, unequivocally, without a doubt answer with a resounding…It depends.I know. Real hardcore stand on that position, right? Seriously. It really does depend. As much good as a blog can do for a business, there actually are some types of websites and online businesses where a blog isn’t the best thing to add to the lineup. It’s true.

So, how do you decide whether a blog is right for your site?

To sell or not to sell

The first question to ask is whether or not you are going to sell your work directly from your site. Personally, I am a big proponent of this. An estimated 2 billion dollars is spent online every year in just the U.S. $50,000 cars are sold online every day. So, yes. People will pay for your high end work over the Internet. But I digress.

If you plan on selling your pieces online, then you can go one of two ways with a blog. What I mean is, you can set your site up to be strictly a retail site. Simple, clean, and engaging. Design it around the ideal experience for the ideal customer. Make it simple to find the pieces for sale and buy them. A site like this can certainly do very well without a blog. This is due to the fact that all the emotional connection is done through the experience on the site.

If you do a great job telling your story and letting people into the work through the information on the site, you’ll give visitors all the info they need to trust and buy from you. If you choose not to sell directly from your site, as in you book custom orders only, then a blog will really help establish the trust and relationship people need before contacting you for a commission. It can also establish authority as an expert craftsman and maker. Which is what people want reassurance of when coming to you.

As you read the above, keep in mind that I can easily change my mind tomorrow on all of this. That’s because blogging is an ever evolving thing. It’s a rapidly changing tool and what’s true today may not apply tomorrow. Don’t let that keep you from engaging your ideal customer in greater ways through a blog. It’s something that, if done right, can only help your business and online presence.

Stop writing to the wrong people

The key is what you write about. You see, a great blog is built around an underlying core message. It’s not random. 1997 blogging was random. 2010 blogging is message and purpose driven. Here’s the key: it’s all about the perfect client. Yup. Once again it comes back to that. Get used to it. And that’s precisely why you won’t blog about woodworking on your new site.

Your little woodworking blog over in Blogger isn’t of any interest to the client. As much as that hurts, it’s true. Yeah, your ideal client cares about how the piece is made, and the high level of craftsmanship that goes into it. But, they’re not into woodworking. At all. And they never will be. That’s why every blog post on your new site will always be written with that one ideal customer in mind. The one you profiled the other day. Answer their questions. Solve their greatest pains. Deliver their most coveted fantasies.

Never write a post from your own self interest or for other woodworkers. Why? You aren’t your ideal customer and neither am I. It’s a hard truth to swallow for some. But it’s essential to delivering the greatest experience and value to the potential clients who visit your site. It can mean the difference between a random visitor and a commission client.

It’s Time to Get Social.

There’s literally thousands of social media type sites all over the web. They range from world renown (think Facebook) to small and niche-specific (your favorite woodworking forum). So, how do you decide where you should be and why?The key to understanding your best use of social media for your woodworking business comes down to a few simple rules. Then, I’ll introduce you to the big 3 social media venues you need to get familiar with.

Rule #1: Be where your ideal client is.

That’s pretty simple sounding isn’t it? What are the best sites for interaction and building a relationship with your ideal client? Are they a Facebook junkie? Perhaps they use Twitter like they own it. Or, are they in more obscure places like hobby forums?

Now, I’m not telling you to hang out in the flower arrangers forum if you discover your client is into that. Unless you share an interest with them in that area, your interaction there won’t be genuine. The key, as always, is to learn your interests, hobbies, and desires of your ideal client so you can meet them on common ground in social media. Do you both share a love of fine dinning? What about cigars? Or, your pets?

Just because you have a shared interest in these areas doesn’t mean you instantly join a forum or social group around that interest just to find clients. Only be in those places if you actually want to be a part of that group.

Believe me. Your clients aren’t dumb. In fact, they’re actually some of the most brilliant people you’ll encounter. And they can spot anything that’s disingenuous a mile away. So, only participate in places that you have a desire to be in. Places where you can give and contribute to the value of others. Transparency and honesty are the secret to social media.

Rule #2: Your customers aren’t woodworkers.

That’s no secret, right? Then why did you instantly begin to follow every woodworker you could find on Facebook or Twitter? Are they going to buy your work? Not unless you’re selling tools, plans, or how-to information on woodworking.

Don’t get me wrong. Networking with other furniture makers isn’t a bad thing. You can certainly send each other business. But, social media is also about conversation. If the majority of your conversations are with woodworkers, your ideal client will either see this and have no interest in you, or they’ll never see you because you’re not actively talking with them. Did you catch that “talking with them” part?

Rule #3: You are a conversationalist. Not a bullhorn.

The world is bombarded by blatant advertising that interrupts constantly. So much so, that venues that were once successful like TV, radio, and newspaper ads, are ignored by many people today. It’s all noise and people are intolerant of it now.

When you bring a constant stream of disruptive noise to a place like social media, you will be ignored quickly for someone with a more interesting and genuine message. The key is to be active in conversation and interaction. Talk about what your people are talking about. Be a thought leader. Be the nicest person they’ve ever met. Have something unique to bring to the venue. Show pictures of the kids.

Be human.

The biggest way to stand out in conversation is to be a problem solver. Be on the lookout for people that you can help at a moment’s notice. It can be anything like a link to a web page, a simple answer to a question, or sharing a bit of expert knowledge and experience.

Be useful. Be helpful. Be relevant.

Free Doesn’t Cut it Anymore.

You’re building a business, so it’s time to put on your big boy pants and ditch that freebie blogspot thing you call a website. Because it’s not. It’s a blog. A personal page for ramblings. Your ideal customer expects you to be a professional. Don’t give them any reason to think differently when they see your current “web site.”

Not only does a .com site show people you’re in business, it’s also the best choice for your business. Search engines favor the real thing, and the range of customization and marketing ability is almost limitless with a .com site. It’s an investment you can’t afford to overlook any longer.

Getting a website up and running isn’t difficult as it seems.

Wood Bench

It’s actually pretty easy to understand. Like anything worth knowing, it takes time to learn the ins and outs but the basics are very simple to grasp.If you’re not tech savvy or don’t have the confidence to set up a site, there are numerous people you can hire to do it for you and for a reasonable price. If you’re starting out, and don’t have the cash for a custom built site, you can easily do it yourself. Really. Hey, if I can do it, I know you can too.

The Big Three

Like I said earlier, there are literally thousands of social media sites you could be at, but here are the big three you shouldn’t ignore.

Facebook - Everyone and their mother seems to be on Facebook these days. In fact as I write this your mother is probably signing up right now, if she hasn’t already.

It has literally changed the way our culture catches up with old friends and long lost relatives. It’s also a very viable platform for building a fan base around your business.

A fan page can be a wonderful lens to the inner workings of your business. I recommend that over a personal page because it will keep you from all the Farmville, Mafia Wars, and mindless surveys that seem to plague your personal page.

Twitter = Twitter is my personal favorite. A revolution in itself, Twitter changed the face of business, by giving your business…a face! It’s brought the human factor back into a rather inhuman place (the Internet). Twitter seems like just a giant instant message platform, but that’s not quite it. Twitter is best thought of as a giant table at a restaurant and thousands of people are having discussions all at once. It can seem confusing but like anything it will take time to get your bearings.

The key to Twitter success is to follow people you genuinely have an interest in. People whose messages are of value to you. Doing it that way will allow people to follow you back for the same reasons. And that’s exactly how small circle and communities are built. Around shared ideas and core values.

LinkedIn - For professional connections, LinkedIn cannot be beat. It’s the place to gain referrals, professional and commercial clients, and have an instant profile of your business. It’s also very under utilized by most of it’s users. The key like any other social network, is participation. Keep your profile current, and join some of the discussion groups that are on there. With thousands of professions represented there, you’ll definitely find a relevant group to associate with easily.

Social media and social networking can be very powerful marketing for your business. The crucial thing to remember is you’re there because you have a message. You desire to be there to build relationships around that message. Be conversational, interactive, extremely helpful, and genuinely interested in other’s well being.

Now, I’ve listed the big 3 but that doesn’t mean you have to be on all of them. You need to exist on the sites where you can have genuine interaction with people the way you’re supposed to.

Here’s what I mean: I used to be on Facebook. Tried it for a solid year, then left.

I really disliked the way I connected and communicated with people there. It wasn’t my style and didn’t feel right. Sure, it would make business sense to still be there, but I wouldn’t be participating the way people need for me to. Instead of taking up dead space, I put my efforts into the places I can be the most help and provide the most value.

Don’t try to force yourself into a mold. Find the places that are easy for you to give value and participate wholeheartedly. You’ll soon be making connections you never thought possible. And your business will love you for that.

5 Essentials You Need to Start Selling From Your Site

So, now that you’ve taken the crucial steps in each lesson and laid a solid foundation for your woodworking business, you’re probably chomping at the bit to get your work out there and sold.

Before you jump head first into the world of online sales, it’s important to make sure the right tools are in place to ensure your clients have everything they need to seal the deal. Here are the 5 essentials that you need to start selling from your site right away.

High quality photos.

Enough can’t be said to the value of using the highest quality photos you can. Cheap pixelated photos with a sheet draped in back are not going to work. Using photos like that tells your customer you could care less about their perception of your work. It also shows just how unprofessional you consider yourself.

Get the best quality you can. Use a photographer with a studio set up and proper lighting. Even better, get your pieces shot in a home using a photographer who’s got experience with interiors.

P.S. – This is a service that is easily bartered for.

Obvious navigation

Do you enjoy games? Well, your client doesn’t. They don’t want to have to hunt for the seemingly obvious when it comes to finding their way around your site. Make your navigation simple and easy to see.

Remember, design your site around the action you want visitors to take. If you want people to buy your work, make it obvious that they can.

A button that says “Buy Me.”

Well, ok you’re gonna want to change the text to something better, like “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart”. But you get the idea. Unless you have a way to take payments, how are people going to buy?

PayPal is the easiest solution when you’re just getting started. It’s easy to sign up and its’ free. From there you can get payment buttons to post on your site.

If you want to take it a step further, get a shopping cart solution like e-junkie. It’s only 5 bucks a month, and it integrates with PayPal.

Why e-junkie? A shopping cart system allows you to manage all kinds of products, assign discounts and promotions, and take credit cards in the event your customer doesn’t use PayPal. Plus it’s easy to customize e-junkie’s payment buttons by adding your own button images for a more consistent look.

Detailed descriptions and compelling story

Give all the details that people need to decide your work is right for them. List the dimensions, specific materials used, and any important elements that need pointing out (i.e. custom hardware, or special antique glass, etc.). Now, wrap that basic description into a brief but compelling story about the piece.

Connection is made through emotion and emotion is best communicated through story. Write a brief story about the piece, it’s inspiration, historical connection, etc. The idea is to let people in to the internal connections you experienced in the making of the piece so they can experience them too.

Easy way to contact you.

A contact page is a must, and it should be very easy to find on your navigation. This is where people will go for answers and additional information about you and your work. Make it easy for them to accomplish this. List clearly your preferred methods of contact. If you prefer phone, list your number followed by the best hours and days to call. Is email better? Let them know and then place a simple contact form in the page.

In other words, eliminate as many steps as possible for them to contact you. Make it instant. This is also where people will come to when they want you to do commissions and special request work. Don’t give them a reason to find someone else by making it difficult to contact you.

Remember, the easier you make it to buy your work, the more sales you stand to make. Couple that with designing your sales process around your customer’s ideal experience, and you’ll be selling your work in no time right from your own web site.