Cinderella Tutu

Cinderella Tutu

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The 5 Easiest Ways to Alienate Your Customers and Lose Sales

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?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Giveaway Winner!!

Congratulations to Ursula Iris Vallejo, the winner of a Valentine's Day tutu!
I love giveaways so please check back often for your next chance to win!

The Making of a Monster: On the "Set" of the Zombie Photo Shoot

Yesterday I posted pics of my new tween/teen line, including the new Zombie tutu, which totally fits the needs of the Undead and those who love to hunt them.  Today, I would like to give you an inside view of what happened during the photo shoot for this new line, just to allow you a little insight into how my small, one-"man"-band operates.

The very first shot of the photo shoot.  I had to crop out her shoes!
I started toying with the idea of making a zombie tutu a few months ago when my youngest sister Braidi's boyfriend started playing a zombie hunting game on his university campus. Real kids, running around pretending to assassinate each other and/or eat their opponent's brains. While I'm not necessarily into the whole zombie/vampire/werewolf thing myself, I understand it's popularity and I wanted to incorporate what I do into what these kids may want to wear--while they are running around pretending to eat each other's brains.
The concept behind the zombie tutu is a girl has been bitten by a zombie and she is starting the transformation. One side of the tutu shows what she was wearing before the change began, the other shows what she will eventually turn into.  The normal side is white, transitioning down to shocking pink.  The top layers are longer than the bottom so that the tutu has an extra poof to it.  The zombie side is black transitioning to red--blood red.  Again, top layers are longer than bottom layers.
The Zombie side
The Human side
It didn't take a huge amount of convincing to get Braidi to agree to this photo shoot. She's pretty cooperative! I considered the possibility of putting at least half of her face in full zombie make-up but I decided not to do that.  I thought, real girls don't walk around wearing full zombie make-up, probably not even when they are playing this game, so why would she have that on her face when she's wearing the tutu?  I don't think she would. I wanted it to look like a normal girl wearing the tutu in a typical situation.  I don't think the tutu screams, "Help! I'm turning in to a zombie!" But it is extremely interesting and people would certainly ask what the story is and then "get" what's going on with the tutu as soon as she says, "It's zombie inspired."  Oh, yes, of course it is! That isn't to say that a girl couldn't wear it in partial or full zombie make-up.  It would be PERFECT for any kind of a zombie/monster/Halloween party, too.  But it's also (in my opinion!) a gorgeous skirt that has a lot of unique features, is fun to wear, and looks great, regardless of what one is doing while wearing it.
We live in a partially developed subdivision in a rural part of Texas so there are lots or interesting locations to photograph my "models."  I chose the gate house in front of our subdivision for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it has interesting architecture.  I love the columns and the Travertine.  Secondly, it was within walking distance of our house so that was convenient.  Finally, it's falling apart.  Our subdivision was foreclosed on last year and the building has been in disrepair for some time.  I thought it went along with the Zombie Apocalypse idea that the building was a little dilapidated.
Normally, I don't photograph the "models" myself.  My husband usually does that while I direct the shoot--and if you've seen who my models usually are, you'll know why I use the term "direct" loosely. My daughters are not usually very cooperative.  Yesterday, however, I decided to go ahead and take the photos myself.  Braidi's boyfriend, Cristian, came along to make her feel less nervous and to carry all of the stuff we needed.
Braidi isn't used to being photographed in a modely situation so she was a little nervous, but she didn't need to be.  She did just great. Cristian was doing everything he could to make her laugh, including putting a tutu on his head, which I wish I would have taken a picture of just in case I ever need to black mail him. I told her I wanted her to look natural and I think the best shots happened when she was either laughing at Cristian or trying not to laugh at him because she wasn't thinking about the camera.
Braidi trying not to laugh at Cristian

We photographed four tutus yesterday in various locations in my subdivision.  I'm lucky that I live in a place where there is both interesting architecture and plenty of beautiful landscapes.  We have towering evergreens, lots of groves of trees, views of the lake, and several ponds to choose from.  There is an old barn on my neighbor's property I think I would like to use someday and my own house is a French Chateau style so there are some interesting features to use at home as well. I'm always thinking about how the setting  can enhance my designs and help tell the story of my tutu's inspiration and where girls could wear them.
I'm also always looking for tips on amateur photography.   I love taking pictures and I have a pretty good camera but I also always worry that things aren't going to be quite the quality I hoped for.  There were a few shots yesterday were the shadow was in the shot.  If I had a professional photographer or some lighting, I could have avoided this.  I also had to constantly think about whether or not Braidi was going to be looking into the sun.  I didn't want her squinting.  Sometimes this meant changing locations, which wasn't ideal, but we made it work.
Overall, I'm really happy with how the photo shoot went and with how the pictures turned out. I think we did a pretty good job of showing off the tutus and leaving the impression that, even though these designs are inspired by specific themes, they are not costumes and you don't have to be going to a party or dressing up as someone to make them work in your life. They are gorgeous, flirty, fabulous,  and perhaps most of all, they are a whole lot of fun to wear.  I don't think there should be an age limit on wearing something fun that makes you happy!
As much as I love using my own daughters in my photo shoots, it was really nice to use someone else. My children tend to be uncooperative in these types of situations and Braidi was anything but. Of course, she's a lot older and that probably makes a huge difference, but I am also not her mother!  I would definitely like to find some other models in my area that would be willing to model my tutus.  And by models, again, I mean people who will wear them and stand in the location I ask them to and attempt to pose how I envision they should--not actual professional models. While that would be nice, the tutu business is not that profitable!

I like to use nature in my photographs and models that aren't "modely."
I hope this provided some insight into both the creative process I go through in designing and creating my tutus and into the process of taking the photos I use to market, advertise, and sell my products.  I would love to know the process other's use! If you are a designer, crafter, photographer, or model, please leave a comment! I'm sure we'd all like to hear your perspective!