Sunday, October 28, 2012

Social Media and the business world

I know that I talk more about what it is like to be in business and less about how I make soap. Perhaps one day, I will start talking about making soap, but honestly, during the times when I am on the computer, it's the business end of things that I am focusing on. I can hardly stop stirring to go update my blog! (oh what a soapy mess that would make!)

Because my website is hosted though Artfire, I have a unique opportunity to work with other small, handmade businesses.We share stories and suggestions. We ask questions and get professional opinions. We see, share, and buy each others products. Most of us have never met face to face, but we meet in website forums and get to know each other.

Social media. It is an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.

When I was a young lass, I had a boyfriend who was a stand up comic. He still is. It used to drive me NUTS how he would make sure that comedy would come up in every conversation. He would trade passes for dinners, movie tickets, anything he could. In hindsight, this was awesome because we got to go out a lot more than we would have if he hadn't because we were young and our income was low. He became a master at promoting himself. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Wanelo, or any of the other multitudes of social media that there are today. This was more than 10 years ago. Not everyone had email, and very few people had a website. (I think I had one before he did!). Younger me hated all that networking even though I understood why he did it.

That man is a professional comic now. I follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I used to help moderate the forums on his website. I see him promoting himself still, using these wonderful tools to maintain his fan base and to keep himself and his wonderful girlfriend traveling around doing what they love.

And I do the same. But differently. Because I get to sit in my little cottage and snuggle my dog in between posts.

I'm not as focused on Social Media as my friend, but I still use it.  I cross promote with the other Artfire Artisans and they are likely to return the favor. I'm lucky. I don't have to talk up my soap to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that I meet (although I will mention it casually if the opportunity arises) because I can talk about myself on my blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I can take pictures of what I am up to and post them to Instagram, using hash tags to attract new followers. I can choose where I will share them on Facebook, to keep my family from getting tired of looking at bars of soap that are welcomed by my Facebook followers. I can post my products on Wanelo and reach a worldwide audience. I can get to know what is trending on Pinterest (and keep track of all the awesome I find on the internet!) I use these tools (as well as the interactions I have with other Artisans both on Artfire and the other sites where I have become a community member) to allow the public to get to know me. They see my website and if they like me, want to go see what is going on. They follow me on Facebook and Twitter. They read my blog (HELLO!!) to see what I have to say.

Social media, I think, is stronger than the TV, and it's generally free. It allows the public to get to know business owners on a personal level. I'm talking to you, not some corporate spokesperson who is out of reach. In a way, it allows me to reach out and touch customers and potential customers in a way that I couldn't before. Not with the frequency with which I can do it now. My catalog came out once a year. It was fun mailing it off, but I reach far more people on Facebook than I ever did slowly trying to gather addresses to send to. And oh my goodness, I can do it from my phone.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the social media outlest I listed above, Please check them out. I have linked my accounts below and given a couple of examples on how I use the service. Follow me if you'd like.

Facebook (I update here most frequently because it's easy. Here is where I post successes and current projects.)
Twitter (Facebook updates directly to twitter so I don't use it directly as often)
Wanelo (Wanelo {WAnt NEed LOve} is a social media shopping place. You can go there and find things that people are buying or want to buy. I post my products there directly and other products that I love. Especially the handmade ones. It's hard for the little guys to get the attention that big guys get. Because we're little. and on tight budgets)
Pinterest (This one is a bit more of a personal filing system for me. I pin pretty soap, yarn, recipes, outfits, anything that catches my fancy on the web. I love Pinterest because I am constantly inspired by other people here and can get ideas that sprout new ones for me)
Instagram. This is a phone app. Now that I have a smart(er) phone, I can take pictures and upload them to various places. I love it. This allows me to capture pictures of my products, events, and other random things I find along the way. search for gracenmotion, which is my derby name. all my other monikers were taken. :(

I still use snail mail! If you would like to receive things in the mail from me, please email me your address at I promise that I will not sell your information and that I am far more likely to send cookies than to fill your mailbox with junk. My mailing list is a fun place to be for those who like to get mail.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Customer Service Week!

One of the things that I love about being in business us the opportunity to interact with my customers. I mean, I love making soap. I do. But I also like talking to you.

Today though, I had a great customer service moment and in honor of Customer Service week, I wanted to share.

Over the last couple of days there has been a man trying to get in touch with me regarding my Yelp account.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I recently dealt with another company where the call for more information on the account I was setting up turned out to be a sales call. I explained that the costs they were requesting for the service were not in my budget, and the woman on the other line kept pushing more and more payment options. No matter how many times, I told her that the service she was offering was not in my budget, she kept on pushing until I was angry, frustrated, and no longer wanted to do business with the company.

I understand that she has goals to keep, but when someone tells you that they are not interested and give a reason, I firmly believe that you should listen. Heck, I didn't even have to give a reason, I was the customer. Telling her it wasn't in my budget, was a courtesy to her.

Meanwhile, lets talk about Logan over at Yelp. After a couple of days of phone tag, we finally spoke in person. He asked a few questions about my usage of Yelp and then asked me if I had considered advertising. I explained that advertising is not really in my budget right now.

His reply? That he would save us both time and end the call.

I appreciated it. Not only did he save me time by not pursuing a "dead" lead, but he didn't force me to keep telling him "no". I really appreciated that he respected my time, and my feelings by not forcing me to keep turning him down. If I really wanted advertising right now, it wouldn't have been difficult to get me to buy, just like my coworkers didn't have to try very hard yesterday to get me to eat a piece of birthday cake. Because despite my objections, I really wanted that cake.

In my experience, customer service is often more about listening to what your customer wants than actually providing it for them. Most people, even the angry ones, really just want someone to listen to their issues and fix them. And if you can't fix them, find someone who can.

In the cases above, the sales people contacted me. Lets pretend that they were both selling advertising. At some point, I'm going to have that in my budget. When I do, I'm calling Logan.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Get Organized Week!

Today marks the start of Get Organized Week.

If there's one thing I have learned about organization, it's that no one system works for everyone. I don't know about you, but my systems change constantly. When something stops working, I look into it and change it.

Yesterday I was flattered to hear someone ask if they could see my binder, and I had to ask, which one?

I have three. But I also run three different "businesses" not including my regular day job. the regular day job, since I only work on it when I am at my desk, is organized using a combination of an online program called "SalesForce" (which I love but it is more than Bubbly Creations needs. Right now.) and a "tickle file", one of those brown accordion files I use to keep track of what happens on what day.

My Reno Roller Girls Binder is my oldest folder purchased when I took over the Merchandise for RRG and more recently expanded to handle my duties as secretary. I didn't seem to need it when I was the executive director but now, I am almost never without it. I use it to track Fresh Meat and the different committees which answer to me within the organization. It's a full size binder with a pocket for index cards, pens, and anything else I don't think I can live without. I think this one is going to evolve again soon, but I am still settling onto my new position.

My "Control Journal" has evolved from The Flylady System. It's my personal binder and is the adorable half size one you can get at Staples. It holds my personal calendar, a tab for every room and area of my house with a list of what needs to be done in each room (from painting ceilings to cleaning the carpets) There are coupons in there and other things I might need. It's open on my desk at all times so that I can refer to it or jot things down as they surface from the depths of my brain. When I am at home, it tends to be open on my multipurpose table - a small folding table that is both a TV tray and crafting spot since I don't have a dining room table and I like to create and watch TV. I live in a weird household, I know.

And the Bubbly Creations folder. It's the same size but keeps track of ideas and processes for Bubbly Creations. It's the newest of my binders, having expanded beyond my control journal. It's definitely a work in progress.

All three binders are with me most of the time. They make for a pretty heavy bag, but without them, I would have to keep all that information in my brain and since I forgot where I put my purse 3 weeks ago, that just isn't acceptable.

How do you keep track of your life?