Why Artisans May Want to Rethink Selling to the Low End Market

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

I have had a lot of very successful small businesses, who are technically having great success selling on popular online marketplaces, come to me and ask for advice as to why that despite this success, they are still not making money.

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 3.57.31 PM

Here is the conundrum. When you try to sell to the low-end market (which these businesses are), you have to be able to produce significant volume in order to make any money because your profit margins are so thin. To meet this significant volume means you have to hire additional labor, which again cuts into your profit margins.

Independent artisans will always have a tough time competing in the low-end market if their products are labor-intensive, simply because they cannot afford the economies of scale needed to produce large volumes at decent profit margins the way large manufacturers can.

Case Study: The Low Priced Artisan

Take, for example, the person selling trendy knitted gloves. These gloves are aimed at the low-end fashion market and were originally selling for $25 but became such a huge fashion hit that more competition came in and drove the prices down to $15. The maker is getting tons of orders, let’s say 250 orders a day at her online shop. On the surface, that looks great. But let’s break it down a bit more.


She is grossing $3,750 a day (250 x $15). But there is no way she can make 250 pairs of gloves a day all by herself. So she needs to hire people to meet this demand. If one person can make 10 pairs gloves a day, then she needs to hire 25 people. And this is not to mention who is going to be packaging up and shipping these 250 pairs of gloves every day. So before she can pay herself, she has to pay her staff of 25. Let’s say she pays them each $125 a day, so that amounts to $3,125 ($125 x 25). Then let’s say that her material costs per pair of gloves is $1, so take off another $250. Then there is her packaging costs, which may be $.50 per pair of gloves, so take off another $125. Then there are her selling fees, which can be around 3%, so take off another $112. Then her transaction fees (credit cards/PayPal) also 3% so take off another $112. That leaves her with an overall profit of just $26 per day (and not all business expenses have not been taken into account). Obviously, this is no longer a successful business model. In fact, the irony is she actually makes more profit ($119) if she sells just 10 pairs of gloves a day.

So are artisans and indie sellers better off in the moderately priced, higher-end or luxury markets?

Case Study: The High Priced Artisan

Take the artisan, for example, who is making high-end leather bags. She charges $800 for a purse. It takes her several hours to make the purse, so most of her day. Her material costs are roughly $100. So if she sells one bag a day, she makes $800 less $100, less selling fees, packaging, etc., all pretty minimal. Therefore, she profits around $637 on the sale of one bag, in other words earning $637 for one day’s work. Not bad. If she sells only sells one bag every other day she profits $9555 a month or $114,600 a year. She has no problem meeting this quantity on her own and will never need to hire extra staff or take on more costs and she will still earn a great living and all she has to do is sell 15 bags a month.


Again, I am talking about labor-intensive products where you can only produce a few to several on your own a day.

I’m also not saying you have to go really high-priced, but you may want to consider the possibility of having two brands – a lower priced brand and a mid to higher priced brand, to tap into both markets and then decide which is more profitable for you.

Remember, you are in business to make money. If your business model isn’t working, you need to rethink it so that it does.  Otherwise you may find yourself working very hard to make little money.

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Marketing I Love! BaubleBar.com

by G.B. Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 2.36.08 PMOne online store that markets itself really well is Bauble BarSpecializing in fashion jewelry, they offer some really unique and smart marketing tactics that you may want to consider for your E-comm business.

1. Uses Instagram to Get Customers to Share


At the bottom of their home page, Bauble Bar displays photos from customers wearing their jewelry. They offer an incentive for their customers to upload the photos by giving away three $100 gift cards each month. The key is they also have to include the hash tag #BaubleBar. This is a great way to also connect with your customers and get them to recommend you to their friends on social media. Continue reading “Marketing I Love! BaubleBar.com”

3 Tips Your Online Store Can Borrow From TV Shopping Networks

by G.B. Oliver


TV shopping networks have been a huge industry for decades and continue to bring in billions of dollars a year. They can definitely be seen as the predecessor to online shopping, as people like the ability to shop from the comfort of their home.

So what do the TV shopping networks do correctly that you can apply to your online store?

They Create a Sense of Urgency

Basically, you get a limited time to buy an item, and there are limited quantities. So if you want it, you have to act. They have a clock going in the bottom corner with the time left to buy and the number of quantities available is ticking down quickly.

How You Can Apply This To Your Shop – Your online shop can do the same thing. You can have an icon, like a circle or star in the corner saying “Only 5 left” or “Almost Sold Out”. One Kings Lane does this and it will get people to act quickly.

They Create a Sense of Exclusivity

When you buy from one of the television shopping networks, they remind you that these are not products you are going to find in stores. So the buyer gets the feeling that they are buying something exclusive that no one else will have. That raises the value of the product in the buyer’s mind.

How You Can Apply This To Your Shop – Remind people, “Not sold anywhere else, exclusive to our shop”, or, even better, this is where customization can play a huge role. Tell people that if there is any little detail they would like changed, such as color, materials, size, etc., that you are able to do that (for an extra fee), but that will definitely ensure a one-of-a-kind piece. And the shopping networks can’t do that!

Double Team Sales Approach

When they are pitching products on shopping TV, they have got the creator of the product as well as an “objective” host both doing the sales pitch to you. The creator lets you in on their inspiration for the product and gives the story behind it, and is always the best person to describe the uniqueness, the special features, the benefits, etc. Then you have the host, who you have come to know and trust, and they are raving about it.

How You Can Apply This To Your Shop – In your product copy, do your pitch, just as they do on TV. All the features, all the benefits, what inspired you. Don’t run on too long or you will lose them, but you could refer them over to a blog post where you go into more detail, or, even better, a YouTube video. As for that host who is essentially endorsing the product, show your own endorsements by detailing all publicity that your product has gotten. If you don’t have any publicity, mention customer reviews or how many visitors have favored or “liked” your product. They want to hear from you, but they want to hear from other people too.

FINAL WORD: The TV shopping networks have had a lot of success not only getting people to buy, but to buy quickly. It couldn’t hurt to check them out once in a while, and see what factors make you want to buy from them, and apply these to your own business.

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4 Social Media Sites You May Not Be Using … But Should

by G.B. Oliver

NY TIMES SMALL BUSINESSWhen you think social media, the top sites always come up Facebook (750 million users), Twitter (250 million users), Linked In (110 million users), Pinterest (85 million users). But there are others that also host millions of users that might be better for your type of business.


DeviantArt  (26 million users) – if you sell any kind of art, photography, artisan craft, you should profile your business on DeviantArt. They allow you to post your products, include a detailed profile, link to your website, and will actually sell your creations for you. Now, you don’t have to sell on DeviantArt, they will let you link directly to your own shop to purchase.


BuzzFeed (15 million users) – BuzzFeed was founded by Jonah Peretti, who co-founded the Huffington Post, which is the most-read blog on the Internet. BuzzFeed is a magazine/blog with a variety of articles on different subjects, but there is a celebrity/lifestyle/politics/entertainment focus. You set up a profile and can post an article you write, images you like, products you like, etc. There is content already on the site written by their writers, but if the staff likes your post, they may put it on the main page exposing you to their millions of readers. For example, if you sell baby products could write a post entitled, “10 Crying Baby Santa Photos”. It has to creative and it can’t be blatant advertising. While you can include links to your shop, you cannot include links to your blog.


Indulgy (3 million users) – Indulgy is a lot like Pinterest. You add photos of things you love and it links right back to the direct source on the Internet. It is a little more streamlined than Pinterest with no categories to search on, just the main board or the popular category. Photos appear here with a board title listed, so you can click on the board to narrow down to something more specific. As I said, it is much more streamlined. Also, the sizing of the photos is more uniform than on Pinterest, making it easier to get noticed. Fashion and decorating photos definitely dominate the popular board, so if you sell these types of products, Indulgy may be for you.


Metacafe (11 million users) – This is a video channel, an obvious competitor to YouTube. I would definitely recommend it if you have a technie, geeky or gadgety type product as that seems to be the more popular posts. Also, pop culture such as movies, tv and music is big on this channel, so if you have products in that vein, ie. Fashion Inspired by Mad Men, your target market is definitely here.

FINAL WORD: New social media sites are always popping up and will continue to do so. To try and be on all of them isn’t the answer. Pick and choose the ones that are right for your target market and marketing efforts.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Google Search Phrases On The Rise

by G.B. Oliver


I love looking at Google Trends and seeing which search phrases are popular, but also which ones are on the rise. The great thing about Google Trends is you can customize it by country and by time period (i.e. last 7 days), so it is a great tool to keep on top of the marketplace. So I entered some product categories to see what the top rising search phrases were, for the last 3 months, worldwide.


For the jewelry vendors out there, and I know there are lots, these are the top rising search phrases:

  • Cheap Body Jewelry
  • Hematite Jewelry
  • Amethyst Jewelry (amethyst is the February birthstone)
  • Bridesmaid Jewelry

For wedding products vendors, typing in wedding was too generic, so here are the top rising search phrases, worldwide, in the last 3 months for “Wedding Invitations”:

  • Fun Wedding Invitations
  • Coral Wedding Invitations
  • Country Wedding Invitations
  • Homemade Wedding Invitations

For vendors of baby products, again, typing in baby was too generic. So I tried “Baby Clothes”, and these were the top risers:

  • Baby Summer Clothes
  • Neutral Baby Clothes
  • Crochet Baby Clothes
  • Handmade Baby Clothes
  • Unisex Baby Clothes

For vendors of art, I typed in the phrase “Wall Art” and this is what resulted:

  • Kitchen Art
  • African Wall Art
  • Bathroom Wall Art
  • Beach Wall Art
  • Kitchen Wall Art (Kitchen seems to be in big demand)

For vintage sellers, these were the breakout rising searches for “Vintage”:

  • Vintage Valentines
  • Modern Vintage Boutique
  • Vintage Swimwear
  • Vintage Prom Dresses
  • Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses
  • Vintage Style Dresses

For sellers of home products, it is a little tougher to narrow things down. So I entered “Decorative” and these were the results:

  • Decorative curtain rods
  • Decorative baskets
  • Decorative bird cages
  • Decorative wall hooks
  • Decorative ceiling tiles

FINAL WORD: When you look at searches in lesser time frames, like the last 3 months, it helps you to see popular cyclical searches, such as Valentine’s, and also how far in advance people start searching for different events or seasons. For example, people are already searching for summer items. Use Google Trends to help you find where that next opportunity lies for your online business.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

How Getting People To Ask You a Question Increases the Chance of a Sale

by G.B. Oliver

Have you heard the phrase “Engaging Your Customers?” The feeling is that once you make some sort of personal contact with a potential customer, the greater chance you have of selling to them. That is much easier when you are selling face to face, so how do you engage someone when you are selling online?


Encourage People to Ask You a Question

Social media pundits will always say engage your audience by asking them a question. My theory is a little different. Engage potential customers by getting them to ask you a question.

The other day I was looking at the product copy of an online seller. For each of her products she had written a very long, detailed description. So detailed, in fact, that she answered every question I could possibly have if I had decided to read everything she wrote. So absolutely no reason for me to contact her unless I was going to buy. Now, this, in my opinion, is kind of a mistake.

Sometimes, not giving all the information, leaves the door open for communication. But you have to ask for it. Simply state, “If I have forgotten any details you need to know, please feel free to contact me (no obligation, I answer questions all the time!)”. When they do contact you, here is your opportunity to make the sale and close the deal with a friendly, helpful conversation similar to face to face selling.

Why do you think real estate agents never put the price of a house on the For Sale sign? So you’ll call them and ask.

Now, it can be time consuming answering people’s questions, but if you are just starting out and need those initial sales, it is a good way to get them.

Questions Help Create a Dialogue

When you answer a question, your customers can see that you are a real person that does exist and not just some online entity. Plus, it proves you know what you are talking about, which assures them that you are not just getting all your information from somewhere else. Plus, if you get back to them right away, they will see that you are serious about your customers.

So try to get your visitors to ask you a question, that will open up a dialogue, that can lead to a sale.

By the way, feel free to ask me a question at attentiongetting {at} gmail.com, but you can always get my very best marketing advice (I don’t put all my secrets on my blog!) in my new marketing guides that will tell you EVERYTHING you need to do to successfully sell online, whether you are established or just starting out. Click here for more information.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Want to Expand Your Market Quickly? Repurpose Your Products

by G.B. Oliver

People are always asking me why their products are not selling. A lot of the time there is nothing wrong. Usually they are in a saturated market where there is a lot of competition. Then they don’t know what to do with the inventory they have sitting around. The answer is often simple – repurpose it. I’ll explain what I mean.

Glass Vase Fillers at Pottery Barn
Glass Vase Fillers at Pottery Barn

Christmas Ornaments Become Vase Fillers

The other day I was speaking to someone who had these beautiful acorn cap Christmas ornaments that were rolled in silver glitter. Really stunning. But Christmas is over and no one is buying ornaments so what to do. I told the vendor to sell the ornaments as vase fillers (just remove the ribbon). Vase  fillers have been a decorative trend for years now and these ones, because of adding the glitter (which just happens to be a big trend in 2013 – please see my post Product Trends for 2013) made them a unique entry in this market.

Necklace Pendants Become Drawer Pulls

Another person I was speaking with sells these lovely stoneware necklace pendants. At first look, I thought some of the round and square ones would actually make really beautiful and unique drawer pulls, especially for a kitchen or bathroom or on a rustic piece of furniture. Again, another possible revenue stream for the same product by simply repurposing.

TOMS White Crochet Wedding Slippers

Crocheted Slippers Become Bridal Slippers

Another person was asking why their crochet slippers were not selling. When I looked at the white ones they were offering, they reminded me of the white crocheted TOMS shoes that have become a huge wedding trend for brides to wear at the reception (on the TOMS website they have a section now called Wedding Collection as a result). So simply add a few pearls and start selling to the bridal market.

My point is, don’t give up on products that are not selling. They could have a new, very lucrative life in another form.

NEW SERVICE! My Product Consultation: I am offering a new service called my Product Consultation. It is very difficult to be objective about your own products because you are too close to them. So, if you have items that are just not selling and you don’t know why, please get more information here.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.