The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Biz #8 - Get Online!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quilt Biz #8 - Get Online!

It's Sunday and time for another Quilting Business post!  Today I really want to nail in the fact that being online, no matter what type of business you have, no matter how you make money, is absolutely essential for your success.

Let's first discuss this from an established store front shop perspective.  Let's say you opened a store front quilt shop 3 years ago and have done quite well in your small town.  Why do you need a website or to be online?

#1 - Expanded visibility - Does everyone in town know where you are?  Really?  Unless you're in the center of town and in order to drive anywhere, the entire town has to drive by your door in the morning (highly unlikely) then I'd bet there are a few people in town that don't know you exist.

Having a website, or at least spending some time linking up and posting your business to listing sites will expand the visibility of your site to those that may never drive by your store, may have never come to your town.

What's the first thing I do anytime I'm traveling to a new town, even for an afternoon?  I Google "quilt shops" and the name of the town.  Run a search right now.  Do you come up #1?  In the top 10?  Are you even on the list?!

This is important because dedicated quilters look for shops when vacationing and visiting family.  If you're not visible online, how will anyone know you exist?

#2 - Create buzz - A website, unlike a phone book listing, can share so much more information about you and your shop than just your phone number.  When I went to Texas this last spring, the shop I was most excited to visit advertised an open time on Friday nights to sit and stitch and work on projects.  That sounded like so much fun!

Even if you're not offering an open time like that, consider sharing photos of your stock, the beautiful fabrics you carry, the notions display.  If someone is looking for AccuQuilt dies, won't they feel good seeing the photo of your display and know without a shadow of a doubt that you will carry what they are looking for?

Your website builds buzz and can connect you with people you've never met and wouldn't have been likely to meet if you hadn't taken the time to build it.

#3 - Additional Sales - If you've got the staff and capability, why not start selling items online?  Quilters are online all the time and looking for cute patterns and fun ideas.  By sharing the items you're already selling in your store, you can essentially extend the hours of your store to 24/7.

Normally, you have to be physically at your store to generate sales (you have to have the doors open and lights on).  Online, you don't have to be physically on your computer.  Customers can order from you while you're eating dinner!

This additional sales revenue can make an enormous difference for quilt shops struggling to make ends meet.  Not only will the internet help you find more customers, it will also allow you to make money even when the store front shop is closed.

Of course, I've heard a million excuses for getting online, even in the most simple way (a blog).

Usually the excuses start with:

But there are big fabric sites like fabric.com!  How can I compete with them?

Yep, there are big sites, and yep, they do have lots of traffic.  But there is an upside and downside to being huge.  With fabric.com, it's such a huge collection of so many different kinds of fabric, it's can be a confusing muddle to get to the area you want.  The more clicks it takes to get you where you want, the fewer people willing to hassle with it.

If you're a quilt shop, you're going to carry cotton quilting fabric, not all the jerseys and knits and synthetics quilter's don't want!  By being small, your shop is going to be easier to browse through and find the items customers want.

It might sound crazy, but seriously stop worrying about competition.  It's pointless to fret about all the big guys and how small you feel in the giant sea of the internet.  Get over and start blogging!

The other excuse I hear the most is: I don't have time for that.

Dude, make time for it!  Do you not have time to order fabric this week?  Do you not have time to host that workshop next weekend?

If you can make time for those obvious things, you can make time for this.  These days there is seriously no viable excuse not to be online in some form, even if it's just a single page with your hours, address, and phone number.

And just in case this still sounds extremely intimidating and scary, here's a list of listing sites you can start with to get you feet wet.  It seriously helps to also have a blog or website, but this will at least get you started:

MerchantCircle.com - this site links you up with all the listing sites like yellowpages.  You'll need to work through it step by step to create a complete profile, then keep it updated in case your store hours or number changes.

You can also offer coupons through this site which can be fun just to test how many people are finding you through this service.

Google yourself - Yes, this sounds weird, but you should regularly google your business name and see what is being said about it online, if anything.  Also check what comes up for "quilt shop, your city"  If you're not on that list, your #1 goal will be to get on that list within the next month.

Regular searches for business listing sites - my rule of thumb is to never pay for anything.  Don't buy ads or pay for listing services.  They're usually a rip off.  If you find a free service, create a profile for your business and see what comes from it.

Of course, the best possible way to be online is to START your business online.  This way you build not just content and traffic, you have an established business BEFORE you open your physical doors.

Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:


So that's it for this week!  Enjoy your Memorial Day and when you get back from this holiday, take some time to get online!

Leah

3 comments:

  1. Those are very wise words. A friend of mine owns/runs a small cafe/restaurant in a rural setting. Beautiful. She is struggling. Visibility is lacking, among other things. One suggestion was a Facebook page and updating her website. Response was "I don't have time for that"! Cost to get "out there" on the net: $0.00!!! How can you afford NOT to??? Thank you (many times over) for your post today.

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  2. I completely agree, Leah. I find it frustrating when I can't find the hours of a quilt shop on their website, and worse--I'm not sure I know about every bricks-and-mortar quilt shop in my area. Shop owners sometimes make it difficult for new customers to find and visit them!

    PS Consider, even just one evening a week, being open late to cater to those quilters who have full-time jobs. It's not very convenient to only have Saturday as an option to visit quilt stores.

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  3. I've tried to google myself but there is a British actress with the same name so it never does me any good. I only get her results and never anything about my stuff. I've tried a digital scrap booking business in the past and selling hand made bags on Etsy. I just can't get name recognition.

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