Monday, November 30, 2020

Cyber Monday!

 Happy Cyber Monday, friends! Enter the coupon code CYBERMONDAY at checkout to get 15% your purchase at Fine Mess Pottery, today only!

Let me take a second to walk you through the steps to create a coupon code in Square, because it's not at all intuitive. At the dashboard, there is a menu of tiles on the left.
Choose "online" then "Go to Square Online."
There you will see a menu on the left: click "Items" which will drop down a submenu. From the submenu, choose "Coupons, " then the blue button at the top right which says "Add Coupon." A form will open. From here it's pretty clear:
  1. Type in the code you want people to use as a promo code - something that will reference the reason for the discount.
  2. You can enter a number if you want your coupon's use to be limited; like, "First five customers get 10% off!' or whatever. Or you can leave that field blank if you want anyone who uses the code to get the discount.
  3. Choose a start and end date. These can be the same for a one-day event, like, say Cyber Monday!
  4. Choose your discount. It can be a specific dollar amount, or a percentage, or free shipping.
  5. Choose what it applies to: Everything? Only items from a specific category? Only orders over a certain dollar amount? The default is "Everything," so if that's what you want you don't have to change anything here.
  6. Click "Save" and then share your coupon code with your social media - no one will no to use it if you don't tell them.
Happy Cyber Monday!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Email Marketing: Small Business Saturday!

 Remember last year, when I was making resolutions for this one? You know, "20 for 2020" and all that? That was funny, wasn't it? 😄😄😄 Not at the time, really, but the idea of doing anything other than just clinging on with our fingernails during 2020 turned out to be sort of a tragedy of the absurd. 

Nevertheless, I will probably try to put together a 21 for 2021 list, because it actually was a very successful approach in 2019. I didn't achieve everything on the list, but many I did, and the others I got much closer than I would have otherwise. When I make the list for 2021, it will surely include more regular email marketing. I've been meaning to do this, anyway, but have been reminded & inspired to do it after reading Milly Welsh's book

Toward that end, I sent out a Mailchimp email for Small Business Saturday. I was feeling discouraged because fewer than half the people who receive these even open them - only 49.8%, of the last campaign. (Approximately. 😉) Then I learned that two percent is a more common number, and I felt better! Getting folks to open them is half the battle. 

Only half, of course; in addition to building relationships, reminding my customers that I exist, and telling them where in the real world they can find Fine Mess Pottery, I'd certainly love it if a few sales resulted from this campaign. Since time immemorial (as evidenced by multiple posts over multiple years on this very blog!) that has been my dilemma*: how to turn engagement into sales. Would love any tips on this that you guys have learned from your email marketing experiences. 

Anyway, if you would like to check out the missive, click here. If you'd like to receive updates & news from Fine Mess Pottery, let's take this subscription form for a test drive: 


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ETA: OMG that actually worked! Thanks you guys! 

*I hate how that word looks! When I learned it in 3rd grade, it was spelled "dilemna" - which I acknowledge makes less phonetic sense, but hey, welcome to the English language, where nothing makes any sense, at least not consistently. The phonetically correct version - which is now the actual correct version - looks ignorant to me. Turns out I am not alone

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Far Apart But Near In Heart: Thanksgiving 2020

In an ordinary year, I would be chopping root vegetables right now, and Doug would be rearranging furniture in preparation for the family. 2020 is no ordinary year, so instead it will be just us today, a small turkey, a couple of side dishes & a pie

It's been a challenging year but we nevertheless have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of a vaccine on its way, and a new administration in January. I'm grateful for loved ones near & far, to still have work, that everyone here is healthy, right down to the turtle. 
I am grateful for all the dedicated medical professionals who have served us this year at great risk to themselves; many of whom are working this very day. 

I am grateful for good coffee, and fluffy pillows. For clay and the alchemy that is firing. For a warm dry home, for fuzzy socks, for the sound of cats purring. 

I miss my family and the busy occasion this ought to be, but we will be together next year. Stay safe & well, my friends, and Happy Thanksgiving to you. 

ETA a secular prayer for Thanksgiving: 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Adapt or Perish: The Covid Edition


One thing I've learned in the Time of Covid is that I could really stand to up my online game up. I try, but there's just so much I don't know! 
Like a lot of artists, when I first started selling online, I kinda thought it would be easy-peasy. List the items, then watch the sales roll in! As we all know by now, there ain't no free lunch for nothin. Getting a website is like opening a store in your basement; nobody is gonna know it is there unless you get the word out. That's where I really need help. 

Luckily there is a solution to not knowing much about a thing you need to know, and that is learning about it. I've been meaning to get this book for a while now: Guide to Marketing Art & Crafts Online. Milly Welsh, the author, is a friend & the webmaster for the Maine Pottery Tour.  

I skimmed through it briefly upon arrival - it is absolutely packed with helpful information - enough, even, that I felt a little overwhelmed. I took some time to digest it, reminded myself that I don't have to do everything, then started reading again. As I said, there's tons in there, but let me share a couple of bits that I found especially helpful: 
  • In the section Make Your Customers Repeat Customers: 
    Provide a great unboxing experience....Sellers who do this right make opening their packages part of the experience. Some examples of improving your unboxing experience are: packaging your products with branded materials inside, including swag (think pens, stickers, & otehr useful items with your branding on them), you can even decorate the outside of your boxes with stickers or graphics.
  • On photographs for retail sites: Show your product in use
    (Honestly that makes sense & it's something I almost never do. Look for that to change!)
  • On Keywords: One thing to consider is that you probably won't be able to compete right away for highly competitive keywords. I'm pretty good at SEO, but even I wouldn't necessarily go after a really broad term like "pottery." Instead I might go after a really specific keyword like "Pottery Coffee Mugs" (because even a term like "coffee mugs" is likely just oing ot be a little too competitive.) 
    Again: makes sense! But I wouldn't have thought of it. 
There's a section on keywords generally & how to use them, a big section on Etsy. You may remember that I hate Etsy (at least as a seller) but I know it's a good option for many people, especially if you are just starting online sales. Milly also explains the strengths & best uses of the various social media platforms, how to use Google Analytics, how to create a Facebook ad, and ways to drive traffic to your website. 
If you, like me, are looking for ways to expand your online sales in these pandemic times, I really recommend it. It's $20, + $4 shipping, at this link.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Procrastination Energy


I haven't fired as often this year as other years, because obviously. I am gearing up to do a glaze firing soon, though, and for weeks have been putting off grinding my kiln shelves. I enjoy nearly every aspect of #claylife - even stuff like mixing glazes, although it took years to appreciate the calm zone of concentration that requires - but I can't really feel the love for kiln maintenance, so I put it off. And put it off, and put it off. 

So I don't feel guilty for not doing the dreary job that I know needs to be done, I do every damn thing else. I can get a crazy-lot of stuff done when I am procrastinating kiln shelves! I built websites & took photos, posted items online, packed & shipped orders, raked my lawn, cleaned my house like crazy, even applied to refinance my mortgage. Anything, anything other than grinding kiln shelves!

Which is silly. So today I put on my big-girl pants & did the deed. The whole thing took less than an hour, and I was extra thorough! Will I remember that it's really no big deal, next time? 

Probably not. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Lot to Learn: A tale of Some Ridiculously, Laughably Terrible Photos

 In olden times, before the internet, I only needed photos of my work (in slide form) to apply to art fairs and send to stores. The photos were representative of the body of work, not necessarily intended to sell that individual piece. Once or twice a year I'd take five or ten pieces to a photographer who specialized in ceramic art, and pay him a hundred bucks or so, and he'd shoot the photos I'd use for my applications. 

Then along came the interwebs, and online sales, and suddenly I needed photos to sell individual pieces. Getting a pro to shoot these was out of the question, in terms of time - I'd have to schedule a shoot after every firing! - and money. Luckily digital photography appeared on the scene at the same time, so I learned to shoot my own photos

I'm not Peter Lee, but I can shoot adequate enough photos of pottery to get me into art fairs, and that's been good enough for me. Today, tho! Today I shot some Christmas ornaments, with the intention to list them online. Damn these were hard to photograph! The first shots were so ridiculously, laughably terrible that I had to show you. 

These were shot in a south-facing room on a sunny day, with three true-white photo bulbs around them. They look like they were shot at midnight in a mine shaft! I think my mistake was choosing a white background for them - just some freezer paper I had around. The camera tried hard to balance the reflected light, and this dreadful gloom was the result. Next time I will choose a grey background.

These are just some fun little doodads - I plan to list them online, but I won't be applying anywhere with ugly sweater ornaments, I assure you, so I don't plan to reshoot; I'll just "fix it in post," as the cool kids say. 

Was it Jimmy Buffet who said, "If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane?" I think that's especially true for laughing at ourselves. Anyway, enjoy my terrible horrible no-good-very-bad photos. I've got some editing to do. 

ETA: You can see the listings, and the photos after editing, here

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Just Saying Hi!

Checking in with my peeps! What is going on with your lives? I hope you are all staying safe out there, wearing your masks, social distancing, all that. Like a lot of families, we have atomized our Thanksgiving plans: each household celebrating individually. Doug & I will have a scaled down dinner; not the whole nine yards, but turkey plus the extras we like best: stuffing & mashed potatoes for him, garlic parmesan brussels sprouts & pumpkin pie for me. 

Though it seems like we are coming into an even worse covid-19 spike than we have seen yet, we all continue to learn how to keep our businesses afloat when in-person events are risky. The Central Maine Clay Artists* , a professional group I belong to, has for the past 11 years rented a vacant storefront for the month of December to hold a pop up shop, the Holiday Pottery Shop. None of us were entirely comfortable with that level of public interaction this year, so we accepted an invite from Clare Marron, the proprietor of Monkitree, a handmade good shop in Gardiner, to host us. 

We'll be setting up late Saturday afternoon, and on Tuesday, the shopping will begin. 

Portland Pottery will forgo our usual end-of-year bash - that one is a no brainer - but is still planning to hold a show & sale. That event happens December 14th - 17th. 

In addition, like many artists, I am trying to do better about my online presence. I know what to do - basically - I just need to do it. Staying afloat during Covid-19 has also required me to be a little creative about my income stream: I make a lot more cat urns now (RIP kitties; sadly just as many die in pandemic years as any other time) and I have been building websites for artists who, until now, didn't think they needed one. If you need a website, BTW, give me a shout! A basic site starts at $300. 

Today I have some pots to ship, some photos to shoot, a website to update, and a class to teach, so I best get going. 

*Go ahead! Click the link! I built the site.