Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Time Has Come ... The CraftStar Update

From the start, I had a dream of building a community of small businesses (it was handmade and crafting supplies at the time … which we lovingly added vintage to along the way), who all had a common interest (growing their business), based around a broadcasting platform.

From the experience I gained during my 25 years in the production world, (which included a lot of business, advertising, promotion, licensing, and many other factors I use now in my day to day work), from my days of selling on E, and through my consulting for the likes of The Home Shopping Network, I knew there was a gap in the market, and I wanted to fill it.

Community and broadcasting was what I wanted to be the backbone of our e:commerce site – The CraftStar.   And if there’s one single thing I am most proud of, is the community we have on The CraftStar.  I have never seen a group of people who are so willing to support, encourage, welcome new people (even competitors in their field) and help each other along the way.  It’s amazing, and until you’re part of it, and involved with it, I don’t think you can really understand how important that “community” aspect is in our world of small businesses.

The broadcasting part of the dream has also been very successful.  We go LIVE two to three times a week, where we spotlight our sellers, pass on important information to help you grow your business, and invite guests on who are pros in fields that will help us.  We’re the only site in our sector that does these LIVE broadcasts … but I knew they were important because it’s pretty obvious:  moving pictures sell (look at the advertising industry).   We’ve been leading up to what we’re about to embark on for many, many months. 

Last week we did our first test run of LIVE SALES. (if you missed it, you can watch it here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/CraftStarTV/)   Many people may wonder: what is an e:commerce site doing live sales for?  Well … I can tell you!  One of the things I learned when I was doing the consulting job at The Home Shopping Network, was that you needed at least 20,000 of a single item to get on a platform like that.  I knew there was no way a small business (whether you’re handmade, crafting supplies or vintage) could have that amount of any single item.  I also found that those shopping channels are turning over around $3 billion a year.  BILLION!  That’s A LOT of people watching moving pictures and buying!

So, my brain got ticking.  There is a big difference (and a gap in the market) between a one-dimensional website and a LIVE broadcasting platform.  When you’re live with your products, you bring THEM alive.  Your passion shows through and whether you believe it or not right now, you DO know how to sell them because you lovingly created them or curated them.  Who better to sell a product than the person who makes it or curates it (vintage and crafting supplies)?  I’m sure you’ve all seen Mr. Dyson on TV commercials selling his vacuums.  Why is Mr. Dyson (who has more money than Trump) doing those commercials himself?  Because his passion shines through!  He LOVES those vacuum cleaners!  He’s PROUD of them.  And you can see it, or at least feel it … and it certainly makes me want one!  If only he offered a great Coupon Code.

THAT’S why we’re embarking on LIVE sales … starting next Wednesday (October 23), and I am so happy that the day has come to let loose on them.  We’ve been building towards it for a long time.  As I’ve said in recent broadcasts when we’ve been talking about them, I’m not expecting (and nor should you) a thousand sales the first week, or even the second or tenth.  It’s going to take time for this concept to build:  small businesses selling live.  But we’re focused on it and will keep plugging away to get the eyeballs on the screens.  That’s another thing someone brought up … but it’s online sales, not like QVC or HSN.  I really don’t think that matters.  How many people actually sit down and watch TV like they used to?  People are watching it from their computers, their phones, from where they want to and when they want to … that shouldn’t stop our dream and our plan … and who knows what might come out of it one day?  Another question recently sent to me was, could we use this format of live sales for auctions?  Absolutely!   There’s no reason not to … especially as TH is taking such a bite out of sales these days.

Just last week, I was told “Google is watching you.”  At first it scared me to death, what have we done wrong?  No …. “They’re watching you because of the unique and innovative way you are using Google + and the Hangouts.”  The Hangouts are where we broadcast live from.  HOW COOL IS THAT?  GOOGLE is watching US!!!

Speaking of Google + … again, if you’ve been watching our LIVE shows, you’ll know that we’re on the Google + bandwagon and have been encouraging all shops to have a Google + account.  I couldn’t tell you why it is working so well for us, but I could see the results … in Google searches and sales.  So, we’ve asked a Google + expert to join us in our live show this Thursday to talk us through Google + and why it’s so important for small businesses to grasp and jump onto.  I actually spent a couple hours talking to Ben, our guest, this past weekend …. And I was AMAZED at what Google + does.  I literally spent the whole weekend “playing” – finding ways to help build The CraftStar, awareness, and our LIVE SALES.  I felt like I walked through a fairy door and every way I turned there was a more exciting door to go through.  We’ll never cover all the ins and outs in one session, so let’s think of Thursday’s live broadcast as the “Dummy’s Guide To ….”  It really is quite incredible and I have a feeling Ben will become a regular guest so we can get more and more out of the wonders Google + has to offer.

There are TWO new features I would love to briefly mention here … and then you can head on over to the site to check them out yourself!  The Trading Post!  We’ve been talking about this for a while and it’s now LIVE (in beta form – so if you see anything weird, please use the contact button to let us know.)  The Trading Post is going to become a BIG draw to The CraftStar.  What you see now is only a tiny bit of what it’s going to be – and it’s cool!  There’s a HOW TO GUIDE on The Trading Post at the bottom of the front page of The CraftStar … check it out and jump on in!  It’s a great way to do your Christmas shopping!  I’ll write in more detail about The Trading Post and its functionality as we build it out to the next phase.

The other new feature, which is going to come in very handy, is the EVENTS link at the top of The CraftStar front page.  From there, you can see what’s happening on site, you can see who’s participating in the LIVE SELLING BLOCKS each week, our LIVE broadcasts and special guests (and what they’re going to be talking about) … and best of all, with a click of your mouse, you can add any of the events to your own calendar so you automatically get reminded of them.

As you can see, we’re moving on forward and I for one am super excited.  We’re moving into a new playing field … we’re taking another step away from the crowd and showing how unique and innovative we are.  Thank you again Google!

I hope you’ve been watching the live broadcasts over the past few months.  And if you have taken on board the tips and tricks we give you, you will have noticed that up turn in sales.   This is the reason why we do the shows, and the blogs, and the Facebook updates ... to keep you posted on how to get the most out of your shop.

I’m wary of bombarding you with unwanted emails.  BUT, if you do want more frequent updates, please subscribe to our newsletter on the front page of The CraftStar. 

Before I go … I want to mention that we had two resellers open up shops over the weekend.  They were both closed within an hour.  We REALLY do take the no-reseller policy seriously on The CraftStar.

If you’re not yet a CraftStar seller – now is a GREAT time to sign up!  Jump in the community, get the benefits of it, participate in LIVE sales, in the chat rooms, in the LIVE broadcasts …. There is so much that we offer to help you grow your business!

Hope to see you Thursday night – LIVE – with the amazing Google + expert, Ben Fisher, as our guest.  As a small business owner, that’s going to be a show you really shouldn’t miss!

All the best,

Bethan and The CraftStar Team

Here are links to our social media that you should be following:

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/103642489195745052292/103642489195745052292  (make sure you have The CraftStar in your Circles)

The CraftStar Blog:  http://thecraftstar.blogspot.com/

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