Monday, July 7, 2008

How to best advertise your very cool products?

Despite encouraging sales figures in our first month, Laura and I have been grappling lately with how to best go about marketing her products to the world. We obviously have to say something, we're just not sure what to say, how to say it, or to whom it should be said.

So what's our next step?

We consulted a wise man on the mount, but even after a lot of climbing, the only thing he could offer us was the meaning of life (which, by the way, is surprising and has something to do with the number 42). A voodoo priestess in the French Quarter read our palms, but all she could tell us was something about really long life lines and lots of money. Blah, blah, blah. We also consulted the Magic 8 Ball, and it just said, over and over, that "it is decidedly so" (which made absolutely no sense, considering the question).

Finally, we turned to the Etsy forums - an online board where sellers and buyers alike trade tips, quips, jibs, and jabs - for advice. While the suggestions offered have ranged from the obvious to the sublime, we have soaked up every word of it and are working to incorporate these pointers into how we present our products and market our work.

However, one post in particular really stood out, and I wanted to share it with our readers. BeaG (pronounced Bay-Yah), one of Etsy's most far-flung international members (located "in a lovely village near Gent, Belgium) and maker of a huge assortment of all sorts of goodies (you gotta check out this little guy), has a sales record that would rival most retail shops, so I figured if anyone knows something about something about selling, it's her. Here is what she had to say about being a successful Etsy seller:

1. Have truly unique products that are both pretty and functional and that people want to own.

2. Present them in the best way possible (perfect pictures, clear and to the point descriptions, appropriate tags, etc.)

3. (Re)list often, to get more exposure.

4. Let as many people as possible know about your products (also known as: promote, promote, promote).

5. Have excellent customer service, so your satisfied customers will return and will spread word of mouth.

6. Don't ever think you are done, but keep improving your products, your pictures and the overall appearance of your shop.

7. Never be negative in public, don't complain about lack of sales on the public forums, don't ignore (not answer their questions) or disrespect your potential customers.

8. Don't go sit and wait around during slow times, but instead use that time to work on new products and on improving your listings and existing products.

Here are a few other suggestions from in and around the forums...

** If you're listing on Etsy, make good use of you shop sections. As eneefabricdesign points out, some buyers jump into a shop and then jump out, so offering them the option to view the items they are looking for in one place may increase your chances at a sale.

** SugarAndSpice, a talented dollmaker on Etsy, suggests doing your homework. Read books and websites focused on running a home business is a definite path to success.

** Looking at it from another perspective, FearlessFibers, yet another incredible Etsy seller, suggests a new seller should "step away from Etsy, go to the library, find good informational sites, get a mentor through your local SBA, or whatever else you can think of and get yourself armed with the knowledge to develop a solid plan."

All good ideas, indeed.

So, all my fellow Etsians (and to any other readers out there contemplating starting your own online business), there you go. Words of wisdom from some of the greats.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to be a better online seller of your own, feel free to share! Leave them as a comment and, if we really like what you have to say, we'll highlight it in a later post.

Now, get crackin'!

Friday, July 4, 2008

A salute on this, the 4th of July

Baby Boss salutes the men and women who have, since the beginning of this democratic experiment called the United States, sacrificed life and limb to provide us with the freedoms and liberties we all enjoy today.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily melodrama that is life in this country - from a faltering economy, to out-of-reach gas prices, to a Presidential campaign that is more soap opera than substantive discussion of the facts - and forget that, behind it all, is a set of ideals no other nation in the history of the world has ever dared implement. That there is a document, signed by men accused of treachery by an absentee king, that enumerates our rights as citizens and guarantees we will all have the opportunity to live life the way we want to live it, to pursue our dreams, our hopes, our happiness on our terms.

We are unique as a country and as a people, and because the liberties we enjoy on a daily basis are so essential, so basic, we take much of it for granted. So tonight, as you grill your hot dogs and hamburgers and sit back with your friends and family to watch the fireworks, take a moment to remember those who blazed this path to freedom, for without them, none of this would be possible.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Baby Boss, even through the lean, mean times...

Let's face it. Times are tough. Gas prices are into the stratosphere and food prices are not far behind. The economy is sluggish, almost at a standstill. Companies large and small are feeling the pinch, some even shuttering their stores as a result of the tailspin. And caught in the middle of the maelstrom is the American Consumer who is being forced to scale back on every little extra these days just to make ends meet, and even then they're struggling. It's not pretty out there, folks. It's not pretty at all.

So it comes as no surprise that Baby Boss sales - however meager they were before - have slowed to a crawl. And by crawl I mean stop. And by stop I mean dead stop.

For an established business with a solid customer base, the lean times, while difficult to be certain, are not a death knell. Odds are they have been though similar slumps and know how to loosen up for the long, bump ride. Cut back on unnecessary spending, thin the employee ranks, dip into reserves. They come through bruised, battered and maybe even bloodied, but still breathing.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, do not have those same luxuries. Dips in the economy that lead to drops in consumer spending strike fear in the heart of many a small business owner, who is likely beholden to a bank and facing a mountain of bills from vendors and service providers. These businesses - and their employees - typically sustain themselves in a hand-to-mouth fashion, so when the cash flow in the front door is restricted, much scrambling ensues to figure out a way to make up for the difference of what has to flow out the back.

Fortunately, Baby Boss is not a brick-and-mortar business yet. Operated out of our home, and with only two "employees" (three, if you count our son, who periodically helps cut fabric), it has blessedly little overhead, so the effect of the economic downturn is less financial and more psychological. Simply put, it's hard to continue spending every second of our free time devoted to building a business and a brand when there is so little return on your investment.

We have discussed this issue on the Etsy forums and the results have been mixed. Many people have responded with experiences of similarly sluggish sales but encourage us (and themselves in the process) to stick with it, while others remind us that 12 sales in a month is extraordinary for a new store on Etsy and chastise us for needlessly whining. Although I do not think we come across as whiners, I have to say I agree with both camps. Sales are down, but the market has not bottomed out, so there is still money to be made, and the only way to get a piece of the action is to be strong. On the other hand, as compared to other stores our age, we are ahead of the curve and are in a market that will always be alive (unless, of course, people stop having babies).

Regardless, even in the best of circumstances, running a small business takes tenacity and fortitude, and between the two of us, I think Laura and I have what it takes to stick it out.

And to all of the other little business owners out there who can share in our pain, I offer a salute. Say what you will about the old guard - General Motors, IBM, GE - but the little guy is the life blood of this country. Without our determination, our ingenuity, our absolute need to find a better way to do things because we have no other option than to improve on the status quo, this country would still be mired in the 19th century.

Hang tough!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Writing Ad Copy the Baby Boss Way

Ever since I started writing the ads for Baby Boss (see this, this, or this), I have tried to create a formula that, when boiled own to its essentials, is fairly easy to follow and provides all of the information our customers want to know about whatever product they happen to be looking at. Granted, it is equally important to have a vivid imagination, a strong vocabulary, and a command of the English language (yes, that means grammar and punctuation), but the formula is key. Without it, you might ramble on and on and on in the most eloquent prose to have ever been read by human eyes and never really say what you need to say. And to do that you start with...

1. The Story

Whether it's silver wire that traveled by container ship from Shenzhen to Long Beach or it's a country quilt that was made by hand by a mother and daughter team in the Peekskills, everything you sell has a story that is begging to be told. Rather than just jumping into writing the ad, stop and consider the item. Think about what inspired you make it, what it reminds you of, or what it had to go through to get to the pages of Etsy and then write it. Limit the story to just a couple of sentences, though. That's enough to capture your customer's attention without losing their interest.

2. The Descriptors

The point of an ad is make your products attractive, and the only way to do that is to point out all the features that set you apart from the rest. The best way is to use specific names or terms of art. Crafting jewelry? Identify the stones or the metal by name or origin. Making clothes or accessories? Tell us who the designer is, or what kind of special stitch you used. You dedicated precious time and energy to selecting the materials to make what you're selling, and the only way a customer is going to be able to appreciate that is if you tell them.

3. The Specifics

Rarely do customers buy something just to buy it. Whatever they are looking for has to fit their specific need at that particular moment, and this where product specs come in. List the dimensions of that blanket, the length of the necklace, the size of the skirt, or the size of the watercolor print. The more information you provide regarding the technical aspects of the item, the more likely a customer is to buy it and be pleased with the purchase. There is nothing worse that a disappointed customer, except maybe a customer who feels like they've been bilked.

3. The Close

Now that you've given the item an identity and you've pointed out all its best features, you have to close by personalizing the telling the customer why they simply have to have it. This is the tricky part, especially since you don't know who is looking at your store at any given time, so you have to imagine who your typical customer is generalize the benefits for them. What does it go with? How would it compliment the average shopper? Where could you imagine it being used, or worn, or hung? Focus on how the item would draw attention tot he customer in a good way, but you have to do it without being pushy. Too soft, and they walk. Too hard, and they run.

Considering the fact that I offer an Ad Copy Service on our Etsy shop, some people may think that I'm crazy for providing this sort of insight into how I create my ads. To that I say nonsense. Donald Trump has penned several books about business that millions of people have read (and some likely memorized), but do you really see that many more millionaires or billionaires running around? Of course not. He provides guidance, advice, and inspiration, but he cannot impart his midas touch on his readers. I'm just here to do the same thing...

Hopefully this helps point you in the right direction. It definitely takes some time, and practice, and patience, but you'll eventually get the hand of it.

And if not, either drop me a line or head over to our Etsy shop and I'll do it for you...

Baby Boss on Safari

When Laura first set out to create the Baby Boss brand, she started out with the since-been-sold Giraffe Bib. Created at 6:30 the morning after she bought her first sewing machine, and made using some very cool Alexander Henry fabric and an authentic horn as a toggle, this was the piece that launched a thousand ships.

From this bib was born the Giraffe blanket and the Giraffe burpers, both of which have also been big sellers. In fact, the original bib was the inspiration for the Serengeti Collection as whole and served to spark my ad writing. The fabric remains one of my favorites. It's crisp and mocern and cool, but something about it makes me imagine a scene from a turn of the century safari.

So when Laura moved toward making loveys (aka security blankets), it was only natural that she add to the Serengeti line with a Giraffe Lovey, and I think it compliments the other pieces perfectly. Purposefully cutting the fabric so as to capture the full grace of these towering animals and wrapping the back in her signature ultrasoft minky dot, this lovey really stands apart from the rest. Not that the other loveys aren't nice - they are, all of them - but this one is catalog-worthy. I can easily picture it gracing the pages of Pottery Barn, draped over the arm of a thick leather couch or hanging on the back of a rocking chair in a nursery.

You never know...

Maybe one day you'll have a Baby Boss catalog laying open on your coffee table, the Giraffe line of products splayed in every imaginable pose, ready for the purchase.

Interested in seeing the Giraffe Lovey in all its glory? Click here ---->

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Baby Boss Milestone

Granbury, TX (AP) -- Baby Boss Designs, a global design firm that manufactures high-quality, and highly fashionable, handmade baby gear reached a milestone this afternoon. Less than a month after opening their doors to the world, Baby Boss founders Laura and Gavin Smith listed their fiftieth item at their shop on the Etsy network, an extremely stylish South Seas Blanket that is part of their popular Tropical Breeze Collection.

"We've been working day and night on this project, and to reach this milestone is not only exciting, but a bit mindboggling, " a breathless Laura Smith said, as she toiled over her newest creation. "Who would have ever thought we would have 5 items listed, much less 50?"

Baby Boss broke ground on May 29th with the introduction of the Giraffe Bib, the keystone of the Serengeti Collection. This collection, which recently sold to a customer in California, was followed by a variety of other pieces, and with that the brand was born.

Since then, Baby Boss has diversified its offerings, from bibs and blankets to dresses, pants, and one-of-a-kind vintage items. They have even started offering an ad copy service, all of which have received widespread appraise.

Gavin Smith, co-founder, ad man and spreadsheet guru forBaby Boss: "It has been a hell of a ride. I can remember our first sale, the Circle B bib. Laura and I were sitting at the computer one Saturday morning, drinking coffee, and looking over the store when an email from PayPal came in. I think we both about peed our pants. I know I did, anyway. It was a watershed moment for us. We knew, right then and there, that Baby Boss would eventually become the Microsoft of the baby gear world."

That may be aiming a bit high, but then Baby Boss has recently gone international with a sale to a customer in Paris. Paris, France, that is - world capital of extremely high fashion- so maybe it's not too lofty of a goal.

"To have the Baby Boss brand walking the streets of Paris is something we would have never expected when we started this whole thing. It definitely makes you set your goals higher. We're thinking about advertising in the Super Bowl next year. We just have to make a few more sales." Laura shouted out from behind the closed door of her R&D lab/third-world sweatshop, where she has been known to churn out 10 new items in a day.

What's next for these two? Who knows. But one thing's for sure. They are eyeing the day when they have 100 items listed, 20 sales per day, and are signing the papers on their dream house in Napa.

"We may have to win the lottery to get that last one, but you never know til you play."

So true.
To view Baby Boss' 50th listing, as well as all of their other items, go to

I'm baaaaack...

Now that I'm back in town and in familiar environs, the Baby Boss Blog will back up to full speed in no time.

First, let me thank you all for your patience with my half-hearted posts over the past few days. Something about hotel rooms sap your energy and completely drain your creative juices. Rare are the times I sit in front of the computer with absolutely nothing to say, but it happened every day this past week. I have a lot to make up for.

Second, let me give a shout out to the very honest American Airlines cleaning crew that found my cell phone on the plane yesterday and handed it over to DFW's lost and found department. When I got home yesterday and realized I had misplaced my phone somewhere between Omaha and Dallas, I was upset (ok, that's understating my reaction a bit). I called people at every stop I made, but to no avail. Until this morning, that is, when Tabitha at DFW confirmed my phone was safe and sound and awaiting my retrieval. Thank you, thank, thank you.

Third, I have to raise a glass to Laura for holding down the Baby Boss fort while I was gone. Not only did she cruise the Etsy forums, but she joined Posh Mama and mailed out a huge stack of marketing letters to local brick-n-mortar stores, all in an attempt to get our little business some attention. This morning, as I stare at the veritable mountain of new items she made this week and ponder the work that I have cut out for me, I am still amazed by the relentlessness with which she has pursued this project. Keep it up, babe.

That said, I am going to roll up my sleeves and get to listing. We are going to list a couple of pieces today that I plan to highlight on the blog later, so be sure to check back with us this afternoon.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Heading home...

This has been a long week. As I mentioned in my previous posts, I have had a countless stream of meetings, conference calls, meet-n-greets, lunches, dinners and town hall meetings. It's been up at 5:30, bed at 11, and lots of yawns in between. My rental car was a tiny, tiny Toyota Yaris that I had to fold my 6'3" self into each and every day.

It was a week of hot dinner dates with my book, of constantly answering questions of why it's been so long since I last visited HQ, and of dealing with my tad-bit-too-warm, smells-like-the-steakhouse-next-door hotel room.

It was a week of stupid questions and my constant struggle to answer them with a straight face.

It was also a week of revelations and big ideas, so I am returning to the home office with a new direction on a few issues. This week also allowed me to reconnect with the rest of my team, as opposed to only meet with them via conference call. From a professional standpoint, it's been a good week.

But, most importantly, a week up here gives me a new appreciation for the comforts of home and the contentment of being around my family. There is something a bit unsettling about living out of suitcase, eating meal after meal by yourself and waking up to an empty hotel room. It grounds you a bit and gives you a new appreciation for the little things at home that make it, well, home. The tick of the clock in the living room. The hum of the a/c that runs nonstop during the summer months. Feeling Laura next to me when I first wake up.

I know a lot of you are thinking "You've only been gone a week. Try being gone for [insert longer period of time here]." And to that I say, "it's all the same." A week. A month. A year. However long you're away, the fact remains that you're away. You're not at home. You're not with the ones you love. And that's always discomforting.

Babe, I'm heading home...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I know, I know...

...I skipped a day. I promised my readers a daily post and I dropped the ball.

But I have a good excuse. The dog ate my post...


Just kidding.

I have been trying. I really have. I have started at least four different posts and deleted them because they were boring, or silly, or peetered out after a few sentences. It's been frustrating. Very frustrating. And as any writer knows, that frustration just compounds the problem.

Granted, this has proven to be a stressful week. From 4-hour marathon meetings to back-to-back-to-back meetings to team dinners to business lunches, I really have not stopped over the past couple days. But I think the main culprit is that I am tired. Not just a little tired, but to-the-core-exhausted.

As Laura will attest, I may fall asleep easily, and by easily I mean in mere seconds. It's a wonderful side effect of having had my thyroid removed a few years ago after a battle with cancer. Unfortunately, I also wake up at every little noise, so, when I travel, my light sleep, coupled with a general inability to fall asleep in a strange bed, makes for a restless night...and a miserable morning. My tossing and turning leads to burning eyes, dragging feet, and a distinct inability to easily coherent thoughts, much less blog. No amount of coffee, tea or other source of pure caffeine and sugar seems to help.

And for someone like me who truly enjoys whipping out an entertaining blog post, it's as annoying for me to stare at a blank screen and fight a foggy brain as it is for you to log in and not have anything new to read.

But believe me when I say I am trying.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Am I caught in a time warp?*



That's the number of toes a person has. What a face card is worth in a game of blackjack. The number of dollars I have in my wallet right now.

That's also the number of items Laura has finished since I left for Omaha...a day and a half ago.

36 hours.

Where have I been? Did I black out? Did I lapse into a coma? Did I drink some of whatever Rip Van Winkle sipped before his nap? How does someone finish 10 brand new pieces AND work a full time job AND be an awesome mother to our daughter in the same amount of time it has taken me to sit on a plane, sleep a little bit, attend a couple of meetings and go to company dinner?

I'll tell you how.

She is a sewing macheen.

She is Baby Boss, and I'm just the guy who can type...

I'm kidding.

Sort of.

I'm so proud of you, babe. Keep it up!

*I know I blogged on this last night, but I'm still dumfounded by her progress. I joke about our house being a sweatshop, but at this rate, I'm preparing for an OSHA investigation.