The children's boutique world can be pretty competitive. I've found a few other boutique owners who were willing to share tips on how they built their business, and I greatly appreciated their time and help. It can be hard when you're just starting out. When I opened my boutique, I thought, "This won't be too hard, you just make stuff and sell it." Wrong. There is SO much more to running your own business than just the products.
Where to sell/ market:
I started out selling on a fan page on Facebook. I've seen some pages that have a zillion random photo albums which can really confuse people. This will deter customers from browsing, which is not what you want. Treat the photo albums like a catalog. Put each type of product in an album and make sure to go through the albums periodically to "clean them up."
I recommend going to "edit page" and working your way down the list on the left hand side. Fill in as much information as you can. Be sure to choose a username (ex: www.facebook.com/annaliesbabyboutique) to make it easier to direct people to your page.
Keep your eyes open for giveaways that you can enter one of your products in. Generally speaking, people will have to like your fan page to enter to win so it's a good way to get your numbers and traffic up on your page.
The good thing about using Facebook is that it's easy to network. The bad thing is that people can't search for the type of products you sell on Facebook. They basically have to stumble on your page. However, it is definitely a good marketing tool and a great way to interact with your customers. There are a multitude of free promotional pages on Facebook that you can utilize to get your name out. Here's some of the ones I use. Make sure you read each page's rules before advertising. Some of these pages also have websites you can register on.
USA Proud Shoutouts
The Craft Show
The WAHM Hub
Handmade Show and Tell
Made in the USA-A Boutique Collection
Top Mom Shoppes
Hot Mama Network
Mama Made USA-Products made by WAHM's
Mommy Link-Promote Your Page
The Mom Shoppe
Facebook rules state that you can't actually sell on Facebook, but can direct customers to an outside site to purchase from which is why I also started a site on ecrater. Ecrater is free, and anyone can sell whatever they like on the site. It's easy to set up and use. The only downside to it is that not many people have heard of it, so your traffic may not be very high.
Set up a twitter account for your business and link it to your facebook fan page so your activity on your page will be sent out as tweets.
Most people have heard of Etsy which means that there's a lot of traffic on the site. Everything you need to know about making your shop on Etsy successful can be found here.
Start a blog to help advertise your business. I use blogger for mine. This is also essential if you plan to have any giveaways on your Facebook page as there are some strict rules about giveaways and promotions on Facebook. If you're caught breaking the rules, Facebook will close your page down. NOT a good thing to have to rebuild from the ground up! Here's a link to the current Facebook rules.
How to Sell/Market:
- Use models whenever you can. There are a ton of boutique modeling sites on Facebook that connect boutiques with models. One of my favorites are Little Diamond Models.
- If you can't get a model, invest in a good mannequin. These can be found on Ebay for reasonable prices.
- Take pictures using natural light-NO fluorescent!
- Take pictures against a plain white background or a natural setting. Outdoors is the best, but you can also create a "photo studio" indoors with a white sheet and natural lighting.
- Use a photo editing software such as picmonkey to edit pictures and add watermarks.
- Show as much detail as you can. Get closeups and faraway shots. Try all different angles. If you haven't already, invest in a decent digital camera so you can take a ton of shots and then choose the best ones.
- Be unique, think outside the box. If you make the same thing as everyone else does, what's going to bring the customers to you versus someone else?
- Find what you're good at and specialize in it. I tested a lot of products before realizing that my niche is boutique style children's clothing and accessories. Don't spread yourself too thin, some people told me that they were overwhelmed with all the selection I had at first. Also, the more variety of products you have, the more stock you're going to have to have on hand which means more money up front and overall.
- Brand yourself. Get business cards, address labels, etc. At Vistaprint, you can get business cards, t-shirts, address labels, bags, banners, car magnets etc. for the price of shipping as long as you watch for their specials. Get labels or hang tags for your products so people will know where they bought them from and come back for more. Labels also make merchandise look more professional.
- Find your target market (my target market is moms with kids ages NB-8 years)
- Set your pricing to reflect your target market. Don't underprice as people will undervalue your work and won't buy from you. Don't overprice as obviously this will also deter customers. Do a google or etsy search on the type of product you're trying to price to see what others are charging for it. My rule of thumb is to not be the lowest or the highest priced. Don't forget to take into account the cost of your materials and time. For more information on pricing, go here.
- Always keep business cards in your purse to hand out to people. When I go out, I sometimes put my kids in clothing I've made and then when people compliment their outfits, I hand them a business card (or to up the cute factor, have your kids hand them out :) Hand out business cards everywhere you go, put several in packages you're shipping, if you do craft shows, hand them out to everyone who stops by your table.
- Advertise at daycares, homeschool coops, mom forums (on many of them, you can add a "signature" which will automatically be added with your post. Use your website as your signature), review blogs, parenting groups, facebook, twitter, etsy teams, etc.
- Be sure your packaging looks professional. Wrap your products neatly in tissue paper, add a handwritten note to thank the customer for their order, etc. People remember the little details.
- For more information on how to ship your products, go here.
- Save all of your receipts for supplies, keep track of mileage to the post office, stores, etc. Ask your tax preparer for advice on what you can and can't write off as a business expense on your taxes.
- Keep records of your orders in the order they're received so you don't forget anything. This will also serve as a record of your income. I use googledocs so I can access the records from any computer and don't have to worry about files getting deleted on my computer.
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