Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Does The Word FREE Turn You Off?

Some things just plain puzzle me.

The effect that the word
'FREE' has on some people is one of them.

Now, I've done lots of promotions (and still do fairly often) in my online stores offering free gift with purchase, some more successful than others. And I know that the success of this strategy is completely dependant on the number of people viewing the offer, and are willing to buy. But this particular topic is one I'll save for another day.

What I'm talking about here is offering something totally free, no strings attached, no hidden fees, not even a self-addressed-stamped-envelope.
A few months ago, I posted a Squidoo Lens titled "Find Free Mineral Makeup Samples Online" (www.squidoo.com/freemineralmakeupsamples)- offering a list of companies that offer free (and almost free) samples of their products on their website. Of course, Bellissima is one of them, but there are many other fine companies listed as well. I've twittered about the lens, promoted it on my sites and in listings and tagged it properly for search engine optimization. Not one person has visited it this week!

Another aspect to this is my website, where I promote our free sample offer. We will send 5 free samples to anyone in the US who requests them - totally free of charge. It's mentioned on both the Home Page and on the Contact Us Page, where there's a simple form to fill out (http://www.bellissimamineralmakeup.com/). Now, I know that my site has had over 350 visitors this week and at least 65 have viewed the Contact Us page, however I haven't had one request for free samples!

Statistics tell me that thousands of women are trying mineral makeup for the first time every day. Is it that we're so jaded that we, as consumers, think there's a catch? If it sounds too good to be true, it is? Am I being a bit naive in thinking that by offering free samples, I'm not only getting Bellissima products into the hands of prospective buyers, but I'm also initiating a relationship with my potential customer, establishing a sense of trust and loyalty and promoting a healthy alternative to traditional cosmetics? The phrase 'I can't even give it away' comes to mind. And it's a bit baffling - to say the least! I just can't seem to wrap my head around it.
So tell me, why does the word 'FREE' turn you off?

Friday, March 27, 2009

A First: Etsy Treasury Feature

I'm so excited!

I opened my Etsy shop in late December, but was so overwhelmed during and after the Holidays that it went horribly neglected. I've just recently been able to focus both my attention and my efforts on my store and have learned a lot, made wonderful friends and even had a few successful sales.

And for the first time, one of my items is currently featured in an Etsy Treasury!

For those of you unfamiliar, Etsy, as the http://www.etsy.com/ states, is "an online marketplace where you can buy and sell items that are handmade, as well as vintage goods and crafting supplies." As I've discovered, it's also a community of incredibly talented artisans willing to share their knowledge and experience and motivate others to success.

Now, an Etsy Treasury, also from http://www.etsy.com/, "is a member-curated gallery of short-lived lists of 12 hand-picked items each. Members can feature their favorite items, items selected on a theme or just whoever they like. The Treasury is not intended for self-promotion, but instead to acknowledge and share the many cool things for sale on Etsy." Many people choose a theme for their Treasury, making them interesting and fun to view. And as an added bonus, Etsy Aministrators often choose an exceptional Treasury list to promote to the homepage hand-picked items. The dividends for both the Treasury owner and featured artisans are clearly added exposure for their items and shops.

Treasuries are highly valued commodities among etsy artisans, and nabbing one is incredibly difficult. There are only 333 available, and very few are up for grabs at any one time. And, of course, only 12 items can be chosen per Treasury. The odds of being featured, as far as I can tell, are pretty astronomical. I thought for sure that it would be months - or possibly even years - before I'd see one of my items featured!

But, as you can see, I've made it! Emma of emmasfancies has graciously featured one of my handcrafted soaps in her Treasury "Pretty In Pastel: A Few of My Favorites". I'm honored to be among such a talented group of artisans and that my Avocado & Lime Soap with Olive Oil & Shea Butter is among a group of incredibly gorgeous items! Doesn't Emma's Treasury just make you think Spring? She reminds us that it's right around the corner.

Thank you, Emma!
And be sure to visit Emma's Shop and say Hello! http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6333959

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are Perfect Photos Really the Key to Online Sales?

Every online retailer will tell you that awesome product photos are an integral part of their recipe for success. Who doesn't love browsing through pages and pages of fabulous photos of beautiful items? The continued popularity of catalogues - even in this virtual world - proves my point. But they are the bane of my existence.

I understand implicitly how important great photos are to attract buyers online. I know they need to be pretty and eye-catching as well as depict the product as accurately as possible. There's nothing worse than seeing a photo of the perfect cocoa brown eyeshadow online, buying it and having it delivered, only to discover it's really an espresso shade. Beautiful, but not what I wanted - or thought I was buying.

Now, I understand that electronic media is not the perfect showcase for the nuances of cosmetic colors, but with more and more buyers turning to ecommerce as a way of life, it's impossible to avoid. And to be honest, I love online sales. I will gladly trade a few returns for the opportunity of global exposure. And I'm proud to say Bellissima has experienced an incredibly small percentage of returns. But it's not due to our insanely gorgeous and impossibly accurate product photos, that's for sure.

Photography is just not my strong suit. Never has been. I remember my first polaroid, then instamatic, then 35mm and now Fuji digital camera. And I really, honestly tried. I learned everything I could, studied and researched, practiced and practiced. I drove everyone I knew nuts taking candid and not-so-candid shots of just about anything and anyone. But the shock of seeing rolls and rolls of overdeveloped, out of focus, fuzzy photos time after time nearly killed me. I wasn't discouraged, I just realized that I had no talent for the art of photography. I didn't pick up a camera for years.

In all the time it took to develop Bellissima, the subject of product photos weighed heavily on my mind. When the time came to start taking pictures, panic really set in. But, I decided to just relax and take photos that looked good. I already knew that setting up artistic or 'glamour' shots was out, so I didn't even try. I set up shots that focused on the product, depicted the colors as accurately as possible, looked attractive and enticing and looked like something I would be interested in buying.

They are not perfect photos, some of them aren't even pretty, but I work hard to balance that with truthful and precise - not flowery or ethereal - product descriptions. I believe that buyer's will receive no suprises when their Bellissima purchase is delivered. When they open their box, they'll be able to say "That's exactly what I wanted!"

And if I've done my really job well, they'll say "This is even better than I expected!"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Adventures in Liquid Soapmaking

I am not a master at liquid soapmaking by any means...
but, boy, I can't wait 'til I am!

When I first started making soap, I eagerly added liquid soapmaking to my list of things to learn. But it took some time for me to actually make my first attempt, for two main reasons.

The first is that I am utterly smitten with making bar soap - to the point of addiction. It's a very soothing and therapeutic endeavor for me. I think I could make soap every day for the rest of my life (and believe me, I'm trying!) and never fully explore all the traditions, techniques and methods of soapmaking. And while I tend to specialize in bringing something different to the table with my soaps, there is an infinite number of oils, herbs and additives to discover and experiment with.

The second reason is that I feel a bit of a hypocrite. I believe that the advent of liquid soap has somehow diminished the soap bar - as if squeezing out of a bottle is so much more convenient that using a bar of soap. My goal with this entire process is to promote great skin health with handcrafted products made with incredible ingredients, and soap is the ideal place to start. How can I help the public recapture their love for beneficial and wholesome bar soap if I'm also promoting liquid soap?

But I managed to resolve my internal moral dilemma, and all it took was reading the labels of a few bottles of shower gel, shampoo, hand soap and dish detergent. I've been reading labels for years and can tell you what most of the ingredients are and what they're for, even if I can't pronounce them. And one thing not included in most of these ingredient listings is soap. Oh, they may contain a chemical that makes it clean like soap, another chemical that makes it emollient like soap, and even one that makes it bubble like soap. But is it soap? Nope.

So I took to my crockpot and started making liquid soap.

I did my research and experimented and came up with specific formulas with ingredients to target very specific needs and began bottling up laundry detergent, dish detergent, shampoo, shower gel, hand soap - even dog soap!

My clothes have never been softer, whiter & brighter.
My dishes and glasses have never been sparklier.
My hair has never felt healthier or softer.
Bella (my in-laws' black lab) has stopped scratching and her coat is shiny and bright.

And my skin?

My hands in particular are thanking me. My hands, like so many others, spend more time in water than out. This is the first winter my hands haven't dried, cracked or peeled. My nails appear much more healthy. No itching. No flaking. Just smooth, pink, healthy looking and feeling skin. Oh, and handcrafted liquid soap is the absolute best to shave with! No more nicks, cuts, scrapes or scratches!

So, I'm making time these days to gain more experience in making liquid soap. However, I think I could make liquid soap every day for the rest of my life (and believe me, I'm trying!) and never fully explore all the traditions, techniques and methods of liquid soapmaking.

Lucky Me!