Websites & Branding - Arianne of Aeolidia
This miniclass is part of our Wholesale In a Box Mentor Intensive, which is offered free for Wholesale In a Box makers. You can find the rest of the miniclasses here.
Arianne Foulks runs Aeolidia, a branding, design, and custom Shopify website shop. As she says, “There’s really nothing you can’t do without the right people helping,” so her team pulls expertise from a variety of disciplines and they offer a fairly wide range of services. All of that means she’s seen a huge range of handmade sellers and product lines, and helped many people cross the chasm between “I started making this and put it on Etsy” to “I have a professional business, brand presence, and website.” Specifically, she has some interesting packages for makers, like a logo package for makers who want to see their products on store shelves, as well as options for setting up wholesale on your website.
In this miniclass, Arianne shares why Shopify really is the best website platform for makers, when to DIY and when to hire a pro, and where to focus if you know your brand needs work but you just don’t have a lot of time or money.
When to invest in professional versions of things and when to start with “good enough”
I would much rather that a business stick with what’s “good enough” during the early stages of their business. If you’re new to business and testing out a new product idea, you want to see if people are interested before investing a lot of money in the brand.
If you’ve been in business before, have the budget, and have solid reasons to believe that your product will do well, then it can be a big benefit to hit the ground running with a brand that looks professional. Professional design skips you right past the "awkward teenage" phase of your business, and makes your marketing efforts easier. There's nothing quite the same as the boost you get from doing everything well, right from the start.
Be willing to change and evolve, regardless of past decisions or investments
One mistake I see makers make is feeling stuck by decisions that you made in the past! For instance, I’ll often see makers using a business name or a logo that no longer (or never) really fit their business. But they invested a lot of time and/or money into the design or print materials. Or they are scared that they’ll lose their customers if they make a big change.
I like to consider what’s best for each business right now rather than feel mired in the past.
Improve what you have, even if you’re not going to make a huge investment in something new
Arianne confirms that you don’t always need to invest in a whole new website to make big strides and see significant results.
The most important thing Arianne says makers can do with limited or no budget? Make sure the content of the website is top notch! This means the product photography, the product descriptions, the wording on the home page, and any other photos or videos on the site. Even the most well planned website in the world can’t save you from terrible product photography.
That is not the lowest hanging fruit, though it’s the most important fruit. So I’ll also say for quick fixes:
Make sure it’s clear to someone brand new to your business exactly what you sell and what’s special about it.
If you can’t tell if it’s clear (and most people can’t), ask some people who don’t know your business well to take a look at your homepage and tell you what they think you sell, and if they can tell what makes it different from similar businesses.
Be thoughtful about your mailing list signup.
Make the wording you use to invite people onto your mailing list something specific, relevant, and tempting. Please don’t have it say “sign up for news or updates” or “we promise not to spam you.” Make it something your perfect customer would want.
Ensure that terms and policies are accessible.
Make sure your policies (returns, exchanges, shipping) are easy to find. You want to reassure your customer that purchasing will be easy and that they’ll have some recourse if they don’t like what you send.
Consider a simple offer to increase sales.
Arianne shares one tip that seems simple but that she’s seen lift sales for makers, without a big effort or expense. The tip? Offer free shipping over a certain amount. This amount should be slightly, but not incredibly, higher than your average order value, to encourage people to spend a bit more than they usually do.
If you’re setting up your first website, here’s what Arianne recommends
We always recommend Shopify, for dozens of reasons, no matter how big or small your business is. Specifically, the way that it syncs with other platforms (like Instagram), its great checkout process, and the way it’s always improving are all wins for Shopify. Unless your business is so small that you don’t plan to sell enough products to pay for the fees. It’s a great place to start, a great place to grow, includes a lot of seller support, and seems like it will have longevity.
As for makers considering a wholesale website
We often work with businesses that have more advanced needs for wholesale and we do set up a separate site, to deal with inventory, payment method, pricing, and shipping differences between wholesale and retail.
But for someone just starting out, I’d recommend keeping it as simple as possible for both you and your wholesale customers. Maybe just a contact form, or an app such as Locksmith for Shopify, that allows you to restrict certain parts of your site for different customers.
Showing potential wholesalers that there is an eager customer base for your products is great, because it makes it feel like less of a risk to carry your products in their shop. Showcasing your major press mentions, your large list of stores, reviews, and/or customer photos from social media can be a great way to show off your popularity and make them more interested in buying.
Two other tips: First, make it very easy to request more information or sign up to buy wholesale. It should be clear that you offer your products wholesale and what to do next if they’re interested. Second: Don’t undercut your wholesalers’ pricing for your products on your own website. They don’t want their customers looking for a cheaper price online.
Analytics may sound scary but they don’t have to
The simplest way to jump in is to get a Google Analytics account. It’s free and it will tell you pretty much anything you ever need to know. But it can’t go back in time, so you need to have that tracking code on your site right away. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything else right away, install the Google Analytics code and just let it sit there.
I also strongly recommend you connect your Google Analytics with your e-commerce software, so you can not only see visits in your stats, but actual dollar amounts. This way, you can see exactly how much money you earned from Pinterest visitors as compared to search engine traffic, for instance, and make informed marketing decisions.
Finally, find out where your traffic is coming from and which traffic performs the best for you. This is the Acquisition > Channels report in Google Analytics. We have some more tips on this here.
Where to focus if you’re worried that every element of your brand needs work
Where to focus your branding efforts depends on what your business’s goals are. For instance, if getting your products into brick and mortar stores is your main focus, getting that brand and packaging just right is going to be of utmost importance.
If making strong sales on your website is an important goal, then the brand and website have to be fantastic.
Etsy is a great place to start out, but once business starts taking off there, I tend to recommend that improvement efforts be shifted over to your own e-commerce website, to provide security and protection from Etsy’s changes as you grow.
I see a lot of makers spending a LOT of time on social media, sometimes to the detriment of other, more effective avenues of marketing. I like to suggest really looking hard at your stats to see if you’re getting adequate results from your social media efforts. If not, give yourself permission to dial it way back there and focus on something that does make you money, such as your mailing list.
When to DIY and when to bring in an expert
At the early stages of a business, you just have to DIY things. But don’t let the habit of DIYing be a roadblock to your growth once things start taking off. Even if you are a great graphic designer, is that the best role for you in your company? Or does your business need you at the helm in a leadership role?
As your business gets to the point where you’re able to invest in help, think hard about what you bring to your business that only you can bring. Then hire experts to take care of the rest for you, freeing up your time to be the visionary for your business.
Arianne has such a lovely perspective, in terms of knowing what it looks like to really “go pro” with a brand, but also being realistic about the parameters of smaller makers.
If you’re interested in improving your brand presence, or in improving or launching a website, these are some key takeaways and action steps from Arianne’s miniclass:
Focus on making your website CLEAR first -- it should be crystal-clear what you make and what’s special about it, even to someone who isn’t familiar with your business.
If you don’t love your website but can’t invest a new one, spend some time getting the content (writing, photos, etc) as excellent as they can be.
Never undercut your stockists’ retail prices on your website.
Install the Google Analytics code on your website, if you haven’t already!
Consider whether social media is really giving you the results you want. If not, think about investing more in the places that really get folks “in the door”.
DIY as much as you can in your business at first… but hire experts to complement your work when you have the budget. Ideally, move towards eventually only doing what you do best.
Have questions or need a hand?
This miniclass is part of our Wholesale In a Box Mentor Intensive, which is offered free for Wholesale In a Box makers.
As always, we’re here to help! If you have clarifying questions, want us to take a look at what you’re working on, or would like to schedule a coaching call, just drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.