I haven't been selling my crafts for an extensive amount of time but since I started my on-line adventure, I have met a lot of fellow crafters, had some serious conversations, read some amazing advise about how to be successful, and learned a few tricks. This is not a how-to, but rather a how-not-to! I decided from the very beginning I would always treat my customers exactly the same way I would like to be treated. My clients always come first, I have always said, "Yes! I can do that" and I go above and beyond to surprise them with my attention to detail and the extras I throw in free of charge. I ship quickly and often use priority mail at my own expense just to deliver even more quickly. With all that in mind, I give you my tongue-in-cheek list of how to lose customers more quickly then you can say, "How may I help you?
1. Don't respond to messages. Your potential customer is on-line, browsing through Etsy, looking for something but she isn't exactly sure what she wants. Then, she sees your product. It looks pretty close to what she wants but there are a few things she's not sure about. She decides to email you a few questions, just to make sure this is what she wants. After she sends the message, she continues to look through other listings, possibly messaging other sellers as well, trying to decide what item to purchase. Unless you want this potential customer to become an actual customer, don't respond to her message. If you actually answer her questions in a timely fashion, while she's still interested in your product, she's probably going to buy from you. Instead, give her time to navigate right out of your shop and into someone's who actually has the time and effort it takes to get her what she wants. You, however, hardly ever check your Etsy messages anyway, so you probably won't even see her message until way after she's already bought an item from someone else. Phew! Missed a potential sale there--close one!
2. If you decide to respond to a message, be as short and impersonal as possible. Customers want to relate to the artists they are purchasing items from. They like to feel as if they are creating a relationship with the person who has crafted this item for them. If you want your customer to feel like they don't really matter and you don't have time for them, you can let them know this by answering their questions in vague and unfriendly terms. Don't tell them how happy you are that they got in contact with you. Don't tell them that you're honored they are considering you for their project. Certainly don't tell them why your product is better than the competition or what you can do for them to really make your item shine. Be nonchalant, possibly rude, and make them feel like you don't have time for them. This is the sure-fire way to make sure they never buy anything from you.
3. If you actually sell something, take your time in shipping it. Chances are your customer doesn't really want their order that badly. They probably don't even really need it. So, why bother to get it in the mail? If you happen to be passing by a post office that day, maybe you could drop it by. Otherwise, be sure to hold on to it for as long as you possibly can and make them email you four or five times to make sure they really want it. (And don't respond to the first four--see rule #1). If they really want it, they'll use the words "grievance" or "misdemeanor," maybe the phrase, "file a complaint." If they aren't threatening, they aren't serious so you may as well hold onto that bad-boy as long as you can.
4. Mess their order up. Badly. If you actually get an order while following these rules, please pay attention to this rule because it's very important. Be sure to mess the product up in some way so as to irritate your customer and prevent them from every visiting your shop again. So, for example, if your customer orders a t-shirt for her husband, send her a skirt. If she orders a blue necklace for her mother, send her a painting of cats. You see, if you send her something she doesn't want, she'll be sure to leave you alone and never buy anything from you again. Chances are she'll want a refund or something, but you'll never know that because you don't answer message (again, see rule #1.) At the very least, get the size or color wrong. If it's exactly what she wants, she'll be back, and you'll have to make more stuff and then you'll have more money to pay taxes on and who wants that?
5.Let your potential customers know how important you are by having a ridiculously long waiting list. Now, I know some people really have a lot of orders that prevents them from getting custom orders done for sometimes up to a month. And that's fine. Clearly, those crafters are making different choices than we are--they are actually selling their products, while we are trying to avoid that. However, we can take their waiting list and make it beneficial for our goal of keeping people from buying our items. Simply put a disclaimer at the top of your Etsy shop page, in the announcements section that says, "Due to my own personal procrastination and in an effort to prevent myself from ever having a single order, the wait list for all orders, custom or otherwise, is now 2 years. Any item that you may wish to purchase from this shop will not be ready in the foreseeable future. If you have any questions, please don't bother to message me, as I never check my messages." If all else fails, this should keep people away, unless of course your customers don't read it and then you'll just have to let them know about your 2 year policy when they file that grievance against you with Etsy that you never shipped their item. You can just make sure that Etsy sees your message in the announcement section and that you will ship just as soon as your item is finished, in 2 years, if you happen to pass a post office.
In all seriousness, the reason I feel I have so many repeat customers is because I strive to do the opposite of what I have advised here. I always respond to messages within a couple of hours. You want to catch people while they are interested in your product. I always take a professional tone in my messages but I also approach my potential customers as if they are also new acquaintances and potential friends. Not only is the customer always right, but they are the boss. Whatever they would like for me to create for them, I will make it, unless it's something beyond my capability, and even then I will always give it a try. Some of my best items have come from suggestions from clients. I ask just as many questions of my clients as they ask of me because I want to make sure I understand exactly what he or she wants. If my customer says purple, for example, I will make sure I know which shade of purple they want--I have 5. I've never gotten an order wrong, but if I ever do, you can be sure I'll do whatever it takes to get it right. I'm also very upfront and honest about how long I think it will take to complete an order but I almost always get my orders finished ahead of schedule and never, ever late. Most of the time I ship next day but some more complicated orders take several days so I will say a week and make sure it's out in 5 days. People want their stuff! They are delighted when it doesn't take as long as they anticipated and if you can ship priority for a few cents more, why not? It's just another way of showing that your customer is important.
I know some of you have been doing this a lot longer than I have been. What tips do you have for turning potential clients into repeat customers?