Tue, 25 August 2015
It seems like there's a new form of social media popping up every day. How do you decide which ones to invest in and which ones just aren't worth your time? Well, you may never know unless you test things! Cheri Tracy is a master at testing new forms of social media to see if they'll result in sales for her cosmetics business, Orglamix. But she tests in a way that doesn't consume her entire week. With as little as 15 minutes each week, Cheri can be active on a social media platform and see sales as a result.
Find out where she's promoting her products and where she's seeing results - along with tons of other e-commerce tips!
On the Podcast
01:13 - The Business that Started on Bed Rest
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below
The Business that Started on Bed Rest
When Cheri was pregnant with her first daughter, she was on bed rest at the end of her pregnancy and bored out of her mind! She already had a business private-labeling cosmetics (buying existing formulas and putting your own branding on something to sell it.) but as she sat in bed, she started reading and researching all of the ingredients in the cosmetics. Some of them had 30-40 ingredients in them, and she didn't think they needed to be there.
Cheri realized that she could build a better product. So she started Orglamix to create cruelty-free, natural cosmetics that felt more fun and glamorous than the current granola make-up brands in the marketplace.
Cheri started out on Etsy, and sold there for several years. It was really slow in the beginning, but she kept at it and grew year after year.
One year Cheri looked back and she had sold 10,000 units over the previous year! She thought, "I can do this! I have a business here!"
As Cheri's business grew, it got to the point where she was working 80 hours per week to keep things going, and her husband was across the country for his job each week. She was overwhelmed, so she stopped everything and took 18 months off from Orglamix.
Cheri just relaunched Orglamix on the Shopify platform a year ago, and it's been growing quickly!
Why Shopify is Worth the Price
After trying several platforms such as a Wordpress plug-in that constantly crashed, and other e-commerce sites like Etsy and StoreEnvy, Cheri just can't get over how incredible Shopify is!
Cheri was hesitant to try Shopify at first because of the cost. The base price is around $100/month, and that doesn't include other apps and features you may need. However, Cheri's so glad she took the plunge.
It's simple and easy to use. Everything is pre-configured for you so that your site looks like a professional designer did it. But the wonderful thing is that Cheri can manage the entire site herself.
The other huge benefit to using Shopify are the sheer volume of Apps that integrate with the platform that will make your job as a seller so much easier.
Must-Have Apps for Selling
Cheri uses several Apps in conjunction with Shopify that help her e-commerce site to run smoothly.
1.) ShipStation. ShipStation can pull in shipping labels for orders from any platform that Cheri has integrated with it. Every morning she just pushes a few buttons and off her labels go to the printer.
2.) SEO Apps. Cheri uses several SEO apps that help her to get found in search more often.
3.) Email Marketing App. Cheri uses an app that's completely integrated with her site so that it can send out automatic emails if someone has a dropped shopping cart or if she wants to announce a new product.
Cheri's biggest response is from a simple little email she sends out the day after someone makes their first purchase from Orglamix. She essentially says, "Hi I'm Cheri, this is my company, it's so nice to meet you! I'm super excited for you to try my products, and please reach out if you have any questions."Cheri gets about 25-50 responses back each week from people who are so excited to hear from her and have that personal touch!
4.) Receiptful . Receiptful sends an email that asks if the customer is happy with they're order. Then they can click to rate Orglamix. This rating system also helps Cheri to stave off any unhappy customers and resolve the issue quickly.
Receiptful has another great feature. If a customer shares it with their friends, they get a coupon for $10 off their next purchase, and their friend does too.
So how expensive are these fancy apps?
Cheri says that the fees for most apps are quite minimal. Some are free and some are $6/month. Ship Station is the most expensive app and it costs $99/month.
What is Wanelo?
Of all the social media platforms that Cheri has tried over the past year, Wanelo has been one of the most effective sites for her. We completely understand the feeling of social media overwhelm! You likely feel like you just can't add another thing!
Cheri gets that too, but what changed her mind were the traffic and sales that came rolling in without too much effort on her part.
So what is Wanelo, exactly?
Wanelo stands for Want, Need, Love, and Cheri says it's best described as a social marketplace. It's a way for shoppers to discover and buy products.
What Cheri loves about Wanelo is that users aren't saving DIY projects or recipes or reading quotes, they're all there for one reason... and that's to shop. Small indie brands can grow and make sales right alongside large brands like urban outfitters and anthropologie.
Wanelo's demographic is majority female, and 50% of its users are between 18-24 years old. Products that cater to young females tend to do well, but Cheri says that her market is considerably older, and she still gets high engagement and conversions with the site.
The Buy Button
One additional benefit to using Shopify is the "Buy on Wanelo" app that Cheri can use to sell her products directly on the site rather than redirecting Wanelo users to her site.
If you have a shop that doesn't have an integrated app, you can simply redirect potential customers to your site, but often, a few sales may be lost in the process.
Cheri says she pays Wanelo 10% commission for the feature, and they send her a check for her sales each month.
How to Get Found on Wanelo
You can get found in several ways on Wanelo.
1.) Create Collections. A collection is a group of your products featured together on your Brand page (the equivalent of your profile page on other social media sites). So if someone sees your brand page, they can browse your collections of your products.
2.) SEO. Use keyword -rich descriptions for your collections so people can find you on Wanelo via search.
3.) Create Stories. Stories are generally a mix of your own products plus others' products. It's kind of like a treasury and an Instagram post mixed together. When you create a story, your followers may see that story in their feed on Wanelo. They can then add your products to their own lists, collections and stories, and you'll continue to get discovered by other users. (In this way, it's similar to Pinterest in that your content can spread from one user to another.)
An added bonus? Since Wanelo is very mobile-driven, many of its users are receiving push notifications when new things happen (like a new story from a brand they're following!)
How to Connect with Influencers on Wanelo
When you first sign up for Wanelo, the platform will suggest brands and shops you should follow, along with super users to follow. Cheri calls these the Influencer accounts.
You can also find these influencers by heading to "My Feed" then choosing "Find People to Follow". Wanelo will suggest top influencers to you, whose follower numbers range from 20,000 to several hundred thousand.
When you check out the profiles of influencers, many will provide their email address so you can reach out to them for potential partnerships. You can work with an influencer to create a sponsored "story" in the same way that you might do a sponsored post with an Influencer on Instagram.
Cheri just started reaching out to influencers, and she's in the process of doing 3 sponsored stories - she promised to report back to us on how it went!
Basic pricing for a sponsored story is about $10 per story per 10,000 followers. So if you want an Influencer with $50,000 followers to create a story with your product, you'd likely pay about $50 for the story. An Influencer with 250,000 followers will generally charge about $500 to post a story.
Once Upon a Time...
We're pretty sure Wanelo stories don't have anything to do with Snow White... so how do they work?
A story generally has about 9 products in it. Users create stories that have a certain look or feel. The products all pair well together and tell a "story" about a certain person who would use those products.
When you save a story to your Wanelo feed, it goes out to your followers. Each product in the story has a photo as well as a link to the product so customers can either purchase the item on the site or be redirected to buy off site.
Cheri shared Several Tips for Using Stories:
How to Get your Brand Page on Wanelo
If you don't have a Shopify store, it can be a drawn-out process to create your Brand page on the site.
You have to submit your feed, Wanelo will approve it, and then you can manually import your products into your feed. Wanelo is made up of a small team of people, so it's a drawn-out process to get your brand going on the site.
However, if you're on Etsy, you're in luck. Etsy is a bit more tightly woven into the set-up process, so getting your feed approved for your Etsy shop is a bit easier.
There's a new tool for e-commerce sites called Outfy.com, and Cheri is really excited about it!
It helps you promote and schedule your products on social media and e-commerce networks. Outfy integrates with Polyvore, WeHeartIt, Keep, Instagram, and Pinterest.
You can schedule 10-15 of your products to go out to each platform each day of the week in just 5-10 minutes' time. You can try 50 shares for free if you're a new account.
Cheri has been using Outfy for two weeks, and she's already seen a dramatic increase in sales as a result.
Cheri's Secret Weapon
Since Cheri sells directly on several sites such as Wanelo, Amazon, and her own website, we were curious about how she keeps her orders straight.
Cheri says that Ship Station is her secret weapon! All of the platforms where she sells are connected through Ship Station. She pushes one button to import all of her orders, and a few clicks later she's printed out all of her labels for the day. Cheri says it's like having a shipping assistant!
Some Features of ShipStation that Cheri Loves:
Cheri often gets 100 orders or more each day, so staying on top of her workflow is incredibly important!
When your Business Feels like Cleaning the Toilets
Cheri strongly believes that you should price higher for custom orders and for products you simply don't like to make! Your time, effort, and sanity are worth that higher price. (We agree!)
Cheri makes a pressed eyeshadow that takes her more time, and she doesn't like making it. But she has customers who really want that particular product. So... she raises the price... by a lot!
We all agreed that the same premium pricing should apply to our household chores. Triple the price for cleaning toilets :)
Cheri's Magical Mom Moment ;)
Cheri had a really sweet moment with her two girls the other week. Maybe they haven't outgrown the magic of childhood just yet!
Stay in touch with Cheri
To connect with Cheri in our Facebook group, you can sign up for our list and we'll send you an invite!
Thu, 20 August 2015
I have heard this question voiced so many times: which business expenses for bloggers are tax deductible?
Many business expenses that bloggers incur are similar to other fields, or are clearly deductible. However, when it comes to the supplies and materials that bloggers purchase for their projects and posts, the waters get a little murky. These supplies and materials expenses will be the focus of our discussion today.
Can you deduct blogging supplies and materials as a business expense?
Most blog niches (DIY, home décor, food just to name a few) rely on blog posts with a project of some type. Spending money on supplies is necessary in order to offer tested instructions and beautiful step by step photos to your readers. Readers don't flock to a DIY blog with no projects or a food blog where no food is made! But all the supplies, materials, and ingredients can really add up! How much can you treat as a business expense? What can you deduct on your taxes?
Why am I qualified to talk about business expenses and taxes? I am an accountant, and I do have my CPA license. However, the tax code is lengthy and complicated, and I do not presume to know everything about taxes. The advice offered here is my opinion. I have done my best to present accurate advice that is well researched based upon my knowledge and the resources provided on IRS.gov, however you must use your own best judgement and that of your tax professional when preparing your tax return.
What does the IRS say?
Although the IRS tax code covers many topics in depth, they have yet to publish any definitive guidance to bloggers on how to specifically handle many of the financial situations that bloggers encounter every day. In the absence of direct guidance, we must lean on general tax advice to determine what constitutes a business expenses for bloggers.
According to the IRS, a business "may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for conducting a trade or business." The IRS deems ordinary business expenses as any that are "common and accepted in your trade or business." So ask yourself, what do others in my industry have as business expenses? The IRS views necessary expenses as those that are "helpful and appropriate for your trade or business." The IRS does state that an expense does not have to be "indispensable to be considered necessary."
The other area related to expenses that you need to be careful about is determining whether an expense is truly for a business purpose, or whether it has a personal use as well. Some items are both personal and business related. The IRS does allow you to pro-rate and deduct the business portion on your tax return.
For the purpose of this discussion, keep in mind "business expense" and "tax deductible" are interchangeable terminology.
Business Expenses for Bloggers
Let's discuss a few examples that I made up!
Let's say you are a home décor DIY blogger who is re-painting a table you bought at a thrift store. You are taking step by step photos as you go along, and do a nice post about the table when you are done. The table then becomes a permanent fixture in your home. There are several things to consider when deciding what is tax deductible. In my opinion, most likely many of the supplies required to repaint the table are tax deductible. These materials were an ordinary and necessary expense in order for you to blog about fixing up the table. Some of these materials might include sand paper, primer, or paint. And most likely any left over will be used on future blog projects. The table is where it gets trickier. Although the table was ordinary and necessary for your blog post project, you now use the table everyday so it certainly has a personal component. You might consider allocating only a portion of the table as a business expense. If however you are a blogger that fixes up furniture and then sells it, or you gave the table away when you were finished, then it seems as though the entire cost of the table would be tax deductible.
Lets say you are a food blogger who blogs only about cake. Each time you go to the grocery store, all the food you buy for your family to eat for their every day meals is not tax deductible just because you have a food blog. The ingredients you buy to make your famous German Chocolate Cake which you blog about would be tax deductible. If your son is having a birthday party, and you need several cakes for the party, so you buy the ingredients for 3 of your famous German Chocolate Cakes, then I would say that only the ingredients for one chocolate cake are tax deductible, not for all three.
I would urge you to err on the side of caution. Don't push the envelope to see what you can get away with. Be conservative on what you deem is ordinary and necessary for your blog, and what is for personal or business use.
Keep Excellent Records
It is also important to keep excellent records. When you go the grocery store and purchase the ingredients for your german chocolate cake along with your families groceries for the week, pay for the german chocolate cake items in a separate transaction. This is where keeping your business finances separate is important. I discussed this in Episode 46. Jot down on your separate receipt what the materials or ingredients were for. Possibly even mark down the date the blog post went live. The more information you can provide to substantiate that these items were for a business purpose, the better.
What About Sponsored Posts?
In the case of a project you do for a sponsored post, I think you can make a stronger argument that the expenses you incurred were ordinary, necessary, and purely business related. Expenses incurred for the direct production of revenue are more than likely deductible, and often these purchases are not items you will continue to use for personal use. They are items you needed in order to complete the project and get paid by the sponsoring company.
Although I'm sure you wish I was able to give you a much more straightforward answer, I hope you now have the tools to judge for yourself which items are deductible on your tax return. Each bloggers situation will be different due to what they blog about, and each post will need to be evaluated based on the IRS criterion for business expenses. Remember to ask if the expense is ordinary, necessary, or of a personal nature.
I discussed this tax issue as well as several other tax topics with Abby of Just a Girl and Her Blog as part of her Building a Framework video series of 16 experts. Abby interviewed many bloggers on their area of expertise, and has compiled a great resource for other bloggers.
You can also find other accounting and tax related small business topics on our Small Business Accounting and Tax Help Pinterest Board.
You can find me in our private Facebook group if you have questions related to this topic. To join the Facebook group, just sign up for our email list and you'll receive an invitation by email within a week or two.
In accordance with IRS Circular 230, we advise you that any discussion of a federal tax issue in this communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the recipient under US Federal Tax Laws.
Direct download: Episode2010020Blogger20Business20Expenses20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST
Tue, 18 August 2015
Is it possible to create a business with little start-up funds, and make money doing something you already love? Christy Wright says yes! Not only is she a Certified Business Coach, she's started two side businesses herself. Christy is so down-to-earth yet incredibly wise. You're going to love this farm-girl-at-heart's story and advice!
On the Podcast
02:24 - What the Beach has to do with Big Goals
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear from Christy Wright
What the Beach has to do with Big Goals
Every year, Christy and her girl friends go on a trip together. Several years ago, they were at the beach. They sat around and dreamed about what they wanted to do by the time they got together for their trip the next year. One friend wanted to buy a house, and one wanted to further her music career. Christy said she wanted to become a life coach.
Christy realized in that moment how much she loves to help people and work with them one-on-one to accomplish their goals. She's helped people to complete marathons and working for Dave Ramsey she works with people one-on-one to help them become debt-free.
Since Christy wanted to go all-in on this goal and make things official, she found the most credible organization she could for coaching. It's called The International Coach Federation. You can specialize in many different types of coaching, and Christy decided to become a certified business coach.
3 Tips for Going Pro as a Speaker
1. Just start! Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Christy says she spent more Friday nights than she can count speaking at Kentucky public libraries to an audience of 5 people. She's spoken in High School cafeterias, and even huge auditoriums meant to seat 1000 people where onlny 3 people showed up! (One person fell asleep and one person was on her cell phone...)
Christy loves the quote: "Comparison is the thief of joy." She says that if you compare yourself to someone who's much farther down the road than you, you'll get discouraged. Just get tons of practice and experience, and you'll get better. Getting great at something takes time.
2. Video yourself. Set up a tripod with your iPhone, and give your talk. Practice by yourself with the camera or gather a few friends or family. Watching videos of yourself can be brutal, but it will make you so much more aware of any tics you have, words you always use, posture or fidgeting. It's eye-opening to see yourself on video.
3. Take notes. When you're at a conference or at church, and there's a great speaker, take notes! Don't just write about their content but on how they did it. Did they make you laugh within 2 minutes and get you involved in the talk within 7 minutes? What methods did they use to keep your attention and impact you with their words? Christy says there's a strategy and a science to speaking that we may not be aware of.
2 Tips for a Brand New Business Mom
When we've just come up with our great big idea or goal, it can feel overwhelming thinking about everything we need to do to get started. How can a busy mom get past the overwhelm and make progress?
1. Make a Plan. The unknown is the root of so much stress in our lives. Christy encourages women to make a simple list of everything they need to do to get going with their business. Make a plan for how you'll get started. When you have everything down on paper, you'll be so much less overwhelmed because you can clearly see what's in front of you.
Writing things out on paper also has another benefit. It keeps you focused. When you realize you've just spent 8 hours choosing themes, colors, and photos when your true priority is getting customers and revenue, having that plan with solid tasks will help you to stay on track Christy encourages women to just get started! You don't need anything fancy to get going. "Start simply."
2. Get Others to Help. There are tons of people around you that probably have skills, resources, and connections that can help you reach your goal. Maybe you have a graphic designer friend. Or maybe when you mention your new business plan, an acquaintance will know someone great who can help. We have so many resources at our disposal than we realize.
Remember that One Time When Christy was a Farmpreneur?
Christy's had a few side businesses of her own, so we just had to ask her about them! (We're so glad we did!)
Instead of starting from scratch, Christy used what she had. She already knew how to take care of horses and she had an 11-stall barn at her disposal, so she started a horse-boarding businesses.
For years Christy was able to live the farm dream with this business! She had horses, goats, and a miniature donkey, but Christy also says she had to spend her weekends cutting and baling hay.
She'd love to live on a farm again someday, but she plans on having more money at her disposal so she can pay someone else to do all of the heavy lifting!
Christy's first side business offers a great tip for all of us: When it comes to starting a business, think about what you already have. What are you good at? What resources are at your disposal? You can remove the barriers to starting and growing a business when you don't have to start completely from scratch.
Stop Selling and Start Sharing
When Christy does research on women with side businesses, she asks them how they feel about selling. They say things like, ""I'm uncomfortable, I don't know how, I don't know what to say, or I don't want to be pushy."
A couple of questions later, Christy asks them, "Tell me about why you want to do this" and the women would talk about the joy it brought them...little girls at church wearing dresses they made.... or websites going up that they designed. These same women just came alive when they shared their story. And just by listening to them, Christy immediately wanted to buy their product!
Start Sharing: When you're in your comfort zone and sharing your heart with people, the sale will follow.
Are you married? That's sales! You convinced someone that you are awesome enough to marry!
Did your kids eat dinner last night? That's sales! You convinced them to eat their broccoli!
Use your influence to be likeable, persuasive, and share your story. The sale will follow.
Christy addresses so many of the issues women face when starting a business at her Business Boutique Event happening this Fall in Nashville.
How to be Authentic
Related to sharing our story, an important aspect of influencing others is being authentic. How can we do this when it comes to our business?
Christy believes that everyone should write out a mission statement for their business. Write out your big vision and goals. Why are you doing what you're doing? To keep that focus, Christy recommends the book, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. (Or you can watch his TED Talk.)
In "Start with Why" Sinek says that people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Once you've decided on your "why" along with the big goals that will help you to get there, it will help you to stay on track. There are so many opportunities in the marketplace, but when we keep our mission in mind, we won't be so easily distracted.
The Wow Person and the How Person
Christy shared an adorable analogy that described Sarah and my work relationship so well!
The Wow Person is always saying things like, "Wow I have a new idea! Wow this is amazing!" But the How Person thinks, "How are we going to do this? How will it be executed? "
(Can you guess who's the Wow and How Person between Sarah and I? Also, can you guess whether Christy or her husband is the Wow person?)
Christy's Advice to make the relationship work: When the Wow Person comes in with 5,000 ideas, the How Person should not ask any How questions for at least 24 hours. They just have to be excited. After 24 hours, if the Wow Person is still talking about the idea, then they can ask some questions! (But chances are, the Wow Person has already moved on to 5,000 new ideas!)
Juggling Tips (i.e. Keep your Eye on the Ball!)
Juggling life and work as a busy mom is not easy. Christy shared a few tips that have been so helpful to her as a new mom.
1. Focus on what's in front of you. If Christy focuses on what she left behind, for example - her son being at daycare - she won't be able to focus on the important work that's right in front of her. Conversely, if she's at home with her son and thinking about problems at work, the same thing happens. Christy chooses to look through the front windshield instead of in the rearview mirror.
2. Set goals for yourself to keep your priorities in line. This goes along with point #1. When you've decided what's most important to you, and you've set aside time for those most important things each week, you can leave the guilt behind knowing you've done what you set out to do.
For example, maybe you've set a goal to work on your business for 10 hours a week and spend quality time with your kids for 10 hours a week. Since the need is unending both in business and at home, you can eliminate the guilt if you've met your own goal for the week. Feel good about what you've done and how you've kept your priorities in line.
Maybe you didn't get to braid your daughter's hair tonight, but you're going shopping this weekend, did homework yesterday, and you went to her soccer game today. Feel good about meeting your goals.
Don't compare yourself to other women and other moms, but decide for yourself what's important to you and focus on meeting your own goals. (Not anyone else's!)
A Closet and Some Make-Up... why they could be the key to your productivity!
Christy shared two great tips on how to make working from home work for you.
1.) Set aside some space. Create an area in your home that's dedicated to the business. Otherwise, you'll find yourself with piles of laundry...on top of orders... on top of takeout...on top of tax forms. It starts to feel like the business is taking over because visually, it is taking over! Block off a space in the house where you go to work.
(If your space is tiny like Beth Anne's maybe it's just a corner of your closet!)
2.) Set a schedule. When you're working from home, it's easy to stay in your PJ's until 2 in the afternoon. But even if you got a few things done, you'll probably feel more scattered and distracted if you don't get up and get ready for your day. Create structure for yourself. Have a set time to "start at the office" and take a shower and get ready so you'll feel more energetic, productive, and focused.
Christy's Initiation into #MomLife
Tune into the podcast to hear Christy's funny story of her initiation into the real world of motherhood! It happened on her first day back at work... when she had a gig on TV....(of course!)
Stay in touch with Christy
Or see her in real life at her brand new event in Nashville :)
Tue, 11 August 2015
Did you know there are some bloggers who make most of their income by creating awesome sponsored content? What if you could do the same? And nope, it doesn't involve being a sell-out. ..not for a second. Kristy Ellington has a unique perspective on the world of sponsored posts because she's a blogger herself but she's also a Brand Content Strategist for PopSugar. She works directly with big brands to help them develop their campaigns through sponsored posts.
Kristy has tons of great advice to share . I walked away from our interview with her feeling so much more prepared to tackle sponsored content in a way that felt great for everyone involved. I know you'll grab lots of practical advice to grow your blog too!
On the Podcast
01:04 - The Changing Face of Advertising
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Learn How to Create Seamless Sponsored Content
The Changing Face of Advertising
For the past several years Kristy Ellington has been working directly with brands as a Brand Content Specialist at PopSugar.
Many brands approach PopSugar for advertising space, but Kristy has a much better solution for them: a brand content strategy. She's learned the ins and outs of what makes people respond well to a given blog post or brand message.
A content strategy is incredibly powerful for a brand, because unlike a banner ad, people will often share a blog post that really resonates with them. If a brand can create sponsored content that's helpful and meaningful to a given audience, their message will be shared and make a much bigger impact.
Who's More Important? The Reader or the Brand?
Kristy's number one goal in working with brands is to create content that's valuable to the reader. This comes well before she considers what the brand wants to get out of the partnership.
If the content doesn't resonate with readers, they won't remember it, interact with it, or share it with others, and the brand's campaign will be pointless.
Four Ways to Earn More Money through Sponsored Posts
Which Metrics Matter?
When it comes to blog metrics, monthly pageviews is just one piece of the puzzle.
Many brands are now focusing more on engagement or attention metrics. These include:
When you have strong attention metrics, your readers are consuming more of your content. The brand's message will come across more effectively as well.
Kristy likes to say that 100 passionate readers are so much more valuable than 10,000 passive readers. Passionate readers comment, share, and provide word-of-mouth advertising for you and your blog. A brand can leverage this same power through a sponsored post with you.
How to Create a Smooth Sponsored Post
Below is an example of the same exact brand message working for two very different bloggers. They can both promote the brand well, but they had to get creative to make sure the way they wrote both highlighted the brand but also fit seamlessly into their regular blog content.
The Brand: Nordstrom approaches bloggers to talk about their fall sale. Their goal is to get more clicks on their landing page introducing the sale.
Fashion Blogger Approach: This blogger could go the extra mile and ask if she can get a few items on loan to use in her post. She creates a fashion tutorial on how to style flannel in 5 different ways. She intersperses links back to their sale but also provides incredibly valuable, helpful content to her readers who are bound to pin that post or share it in other ways on social media.
Mom Blogger Approach: A mom blogger who talks about parenting tips and shopping can write a post on How to Teach your Kids Shopping Etiquette. This blogger is equally excited about the sale, but she knows her readers want to know how to keep their kids from going crazy while they're in a busy store. They want both mom and child to have a great time and feel equipped to hit the sale.
How Much is Too Much?
Every blog is different, but there are some general guidelines you can use to determine if you're sharing sponsored content too often.
For example, if you post 5 times per week, then 2-3 sponsored posts per month is a completely acceptable number.
However, you could also choose to do just one sponsored post per month, and in this case, you can charge more for that sponsored post because of scarcity. That one post packs a big punch because they don't happen often.
Kristy's advice is to start out slow with sponsored posts and slowly increase the number. You have to remember that you're blogging for your audience first, and you don't want to go too far and alienate people.
There's your Sign:
4 Tips on Fostering a Long-Term Relationship with Brands
The Personal Touch that Will Set You Apart
While a wrap-up report is generally done at the agency level for the brand's campaign as a whole, you can set yourself apart as a blogger by doing one yourself.
A Wrap-Up Report Lets You:
The Pros and Cons of Blogger Networks
Pros: Networks are great for bloggers who don't have a lot of time to act as their own PR agent. The networks send you a message about a given brand campaign and ask you if you want to be involved. They have a set price, so you don't have to negotiate. You just apply for the opportunities you're interested in - easy-peasy.
Cons: Blogger Networks can limit your exposure to the brands you can work with because all of your income has to come through them. In many cases, you sign a contract saying that you won't approach a brand outside of the agency. They're obligated to act as your PR agent.
Pros of Going Solo: Partnering with brands on your own allows you to be more flexible. You can negotiate terms and fees, add and subtract things, and come up with creative new ways to earn revenue. For example, you could start with a sponsored Instagram post, but come up with the idea for a great blog post later. If you're working on your own, it's easy to contact the brand and see if they're interested in more sponsored content from you.
The Formidable 7-Letter Word
It sounds scary and complicated, but it's really for your protection and peace of mind, as well as that of the brand's. Kristy always recommends using a contract when you work with a brand. In general, they'll supply the contract, but there are certain things to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line.
The Pretty Little Package Every Blogger Needs
Kristy recommends that every blogger create and have available on their site a Sponsored Post Package.
Below is an example of three package tiers you could offer:
Package 1: A sponsored post, 3 social media shares, and a traffic number guarantee.
Make it easy for a brand to say yes to working with you! And make it easy for you to get paid what you're worth.
A Form of Blindness that Affects us All
Kristy says it's been proven that banner blindness is an actual occurrence. Internet users have become so accustomed to ads on a website that they simply don't look in those areas anymore. No one pays attention to banner ads anymore.
The other reason banner ads are dying? The increase in mobile traffic across the web. Websites that are mobile optimized might not even display the ads, and non-optimized sites are so small you'll never notice them.
What should you do with that space instead? Promote your own work. Link back to other blog posts, put your Etsy shop there, or add a Pinterest widget. Use the sidebar and banner areas to keep people in your ecosystem. In this way, your readers are used to seeing you and your great content there and will be more likely to still pay attention to those areas of your site.
Kristy does not recommend you offer banner ads when you work with brands. There are much better ways to communicate their message to the world.
How to Price your Posts
Kristy has a great podcast episode and a free worksheet on how to figure out your rate for a sponsored post. There aren't any industry standards or hard and fast rules, but she discusses several factors that play a role and considers blog the blogger's perspective and the brand's.
In general, Kristy says that bloggers tend to underestimate what they're worth and price themselves too low. In the past, they've become too accustomed to accepting products in exchange for a review. That's not enough anymore.
Brands that reach out to you have done their research. They know that your blog reaches the audience they want to reach - that's worth something, so don't underestimate it.
Are you Costing Yourself Readers?
Kristy says there are two things every blogger should keep in mind with every single post they write. If they don't consider these two, they're costing themselves readers and the potential for growth.
1. EMOTION. Your content should always have emotion. Decide ahead of time what emotion you're trying to convey with your post. Ask yourself, "What do I want people to say when they share this with their friends?" Did it make them laugh, make them cry, or inspire them? The more you can convey emotion in your posts, the more you can touch your readers and cause them to share your content with others.
2. ACTION. With every post, you should have an objective for what you want your readers to do. Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to read another post? Know what action you'd like your readers to take, and if you can't think of any, ask yourself why you're writing the post in the first place.
Kristy's Adorable Mom Moment
Kristy and her son, Fisher, had a secret for a few months. It's kind of funny! But at the time, Kristy was frustrated beyond belief that no one else would believe her. Tune in to hear the story.
Stay in Touch with Kristy!
Tue, 4 August 2015
When you make a sale, what happens next? Are you excited and head for the nearest person to give a high-five? (Or maybe a high-paw with the cat will do!) Are you overwhelmed and wonder how you can fit more work into your day? Are you a mixture of the two?
If you've lost that lovin' feelin' when it comes to your business and the sheer joy that happens when you get to make your customer's day, you've got to listen to Jacqui Nelson's story. Every day, she heads out to her warehouse (otherwise known as the garage!) and steams, folds, writes a hand-written note, and wraps her clothing up like a present. Jacqui says fulfilling orders is her favorite part of running her online women's boutique - SwankyJBoutique.com.
You'll fall back in love with it too when you hear Jacqui's passion for her work and her love for making customers happy.
Seriously - her enthusiasm is infectious!
On the Podcast
01:05 - A Natural Saleswoman
A Natural Saleswoman
Jacqui says she was born as a natural sales person. Although part of her hates that phrase, because it somehow it brings us back to a used car lot. Jacqui views her sales ability as the knack for finding just the right thing that will make someone happy.
From door-to-door selling as a girl to selling jewelry with a team of women, Jacqui's done it all. She's sold over 1.5 million in real estate and coordinated events too!
When Jacqui had her first child, Skyler, she cut back on her work hours, shifted away from real estate, and chose to work part-time at a local clothing boutique. But Jacqui's passion for marketing couldn't be squelched! She loved working at the boutique and came up with the idea to build a website for them and manage their social media. Unfortunately, the boutique didn't bite.
Jacqui couldn't get this passion for an online business out of her head, so after lying awake one night thinking about it, she turned to her husband Kenny and said, "I think this is it, I'm going to do this!" That was December of 2014, and by January of 2015 - SwankyJBoutique had been filed as a legal business. In March of 2015, the online store was launched.
Jacqui, believing she could juggle anything, thought she would keep her part-time job while also running her online boutique. She didn't view her business as competition because she was solely online, and the other store was completely brick and mortar. But the boutique wasn't happy with Jacqui's move and they made her choose: her job or her boutique. Jacqui chose SwankyJBoutique! And looking back, she's so glad her former employer made her choose so she could focus on her business full-time.
"I want to create a lifestyle that my daughter will be proud of someday," Jacqui says.
So... how fast can you launch an online business?
December 2014 - The idea for Swanky J Boutique was born.
January 2015 - Jacqui and Kenny formed an LLC, got their business license, and submitted paperwork for their trademark.
At the end of January, she and Kenny attended Fashion Market in Atlanta to buy inventory for the store. While Jacqui's parents watched baby Skyler, Jacqui and Kenny shopped their hearts out for 3 days!
February 2015 - Jacqui set up photo shoots with models and a professional photographer.
March 1, 2015 - The online store launched to the public!
Jacqui says "I felt like I have actually birthed another human with this business!"
How to Free up Cash for Inventory
During Fashion Market in Atlanta, Jacqui's husband Kenny came up with a novel idea for freeing up more cash to get their initial inventory for the store: develop the website themselves!
They had earmarked $5,000 to have a professional develop their website, but instead they did it themselves and used that money for more inventory.
And SwankyJ's first website was great! It looked lovely and had all the features that an excellent online shop would have. (You won't have a chance to see it because their new website is launching any day now!) No excuses for these two - they just made things happen.
Jacqui's Knight in Shining Flight Suit
Jacqui's husband Kenny (a Marine pilot) has been her biggest supporter in her business.
Despite his demanding career, Kenny has been with her every step of the way. He came to market and helped Jacqui picked out inventory.
He helped her pick a business name and develop the website. Anytime Jacqui has a new idea, she always runs it past Kenny because she knows he'll give her solid advice. "He loves the business as much as I do!" Jacqui says.
Since we've never been "to market" Jacqui was kind enough to give us the inside scoop on what it's all about!
There are markets all over the U.S. each year - in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and there's a great one in Atlanta that's within driving distance for Jacqui. It's called Atlanta's AmericaMart.
It's a humungous building - 11 stories tall - and every square foot of that building is filled with a product that people sell in a store. They have mens wear, children's wear, women's wear, shoes and accessories. There are thousands of vendors who have designed and manufactured these clothing pieces, and they want your business. They want boutique owners like Jacqui to purchase products from them at wholesale prices to sell in their online or brick and mortar shops.
This is the general idea of "markets" although from Jacqui's description, it seems hard to put the chaos of the event into words!
Tips on Going to Market as a Brand New Business Owner
What should you ask? Jacquie found a guide on how to go to market, so she was ready with questions for every vendor she visited.
What's the minimum order? A lot of vendors just require you to buy 1 pack which equals either (2, 2, 2,): 2 smalls, 2 mediums, and 2 larges of one item, or (1, 2, 2, 1) 1 small, 2 mediums, 2 larges, and 1 extra-large. However, some vendors do have a monetary minimum. One vendor Jacqui works with has a minimum order of $100, while another has a $400 minimum, so it can really vary.
How much should you buy? At her first market, Jacqui was looking for a large variety of items in smaller quantities. She wanted to start with a large variety so she could test out what her customers wanted before committing to one particular style or piece of clothing. She started by buying just one pack of each clothing piece.
Do you have to go to market to get your inventory? A lot of vendors have great websites where Jacqui can re-order items. She's done this quite often since launching, and she doesn't need to see the clothing in person once she already carries it and knows that it's high-quality.
How to get in "the club"
How does a new boutique owner get approved to go to a market. Clearly, they have to weed out the fashion lovers who are just looking for a deal!
You have to have your business license, retail license, and EIN number to go to market. You're also supposed to have proof of sales.
So how do you get proof of sales as a brand new business owner? Jacqui spoke with a coordinator and learned that she could get a guest pass for her first day, and once she placed her first purchase order, she could come back to the counter and get a legitimate buyer's pass.
The approval process is similar to order from a vendor's website. Jacqui has to email them her business license and retail license, then they approve her for buying powers on their site.
Shopify vs. Squarespace
Jacqui told us that it was a difficult decision on whether to use shopify or squarespace to set up their online store. They ultimately decided on Shopify, and they've been so happy with it.
Jacqui says it's an amazing tool for their business. The analytics and detailed reports are so helpful. She checks the reports page every day to see where their sales are coming from, what's selling, and more.
How expensive is Shopify?
While their made-from-scratch site has served them well for several months, Jacqui and Kenny are ready to move on to a completely custom site! They've hired a web design company, and their brand new site should be launching soon!
As much as they love their site and are proud of what they did, Jacqui wants SwankyJ to be the next big online retailer, and the only way to do that is to have an extremely professional site. Jacqui wants a customer to be able to search for a red dress in a size 6 and find it immediately. Her current site doesn't have a database system that powerful. The easier Jacqui can make the shopping experience for her customers, the more her business can grow!
Let the People Speak!
One of Jacqui's favorite things about her site is the fact that a customer can leave a review on any product they buy.
Jacqui knows from experience that when she buys something online, she reads every review that the product has first. You want to make sure that whatever you buy you won't have to send back.
To enable reviews, Jacqui pays a monthly fee for an app called Yotpo. Every customer gets an email 7 days after a purchase, and she offers them a coupon code if they rate and review the products.
Jacqui always writes back and thanks customers for their feedback, because she knows their review will help another customer to make a purchase in the future. Most items on the site are 5 stars!
The people have spoken... and the people like SwankyJ.
Jacqui says that fulfilling orders is her favorite part of the business. She heads out to her swanky, upscale warehouse (the garage!) finds the piece of clothing that's been ordered: steams it, folds it, puts a hand-written note in, wraps it like a gift, seals it, prints shipping label, and takes it to the post office.
Jacqui knows how excited she gets when she makes an online purchase, and she wants each of her customers to feel like they're receiving a present when their order from SwankyJ arrives. Not to mention, since she steams each item, her customers can show off their brand new clothes right away!
Growing a Boutique with good 'ol Zuck
Jacqui currently has 13,000 Facebook Fans, and she's only been in business for 5 months! Her growth has been impressive, and she shared four great tips on how she's done it.
Jacqui is willing to spend money on advertising a giveaway for 3 reasons:
Jacqui says she encounters skeptics or want to know if she's paid for her likes. She says, "absolutely not" She pays to advertise on Facebook, but those fans have seen an ad and chosen to interact with her page and like it. They are genuine followers who are interested in her brand, not random people being paid to click like on a page.
Jacqui's Adorable Mom Moment
Listen to hear what happened when Jacqui brought her little girl Skyler to work in the "warehouse" one day. It's so cute!
Stay in touch with Jacqui!
Jacqui's new site is launching soon! She's got an adorable girl boss tee, so feel free to bookmark the site so you can stop back when it launches.