Thursday, November 23, 2017

How Online Companies Can Feel More Like Part of the Local Business Community

(This post originally appeared on the ThinkJanusian blog. It is republished here with minor changes)

We've learned that just because we run an online business, work from our home, and put in unconventional hours, We don't have to be isolated from other local business owners. Here some tips to make you feel better connected to the community in which you work.

Join your local chamber of commerce (or attend some of their activities as a non-member): Chamber events often attract hundreds of business people, last on.y a few hours, and are created to foster networking. Attendees are often given lists of other attendees. Don't just file it for later use: the quicker you act, the more likely you are to be remembered from the event.

Volunteer to teach a class or seminar in your areas of expertise. We believe strongly that everyone benefits when they share their strengths. Classes are also a great place to pass out print literature about your company to the attendees.

Do your work in public. Take your computer to the coffee shop or bookstore for a change of scenery. And don't just use their free WIFI and occupy a table for hours: give them a little business, too.

Donate products and services to local fundraisers to help get your company name out. Who doesn't want to help support their neighbors, while gaining a reputation for being generous?

ID five local businesses that complement yours, then make coffee dates with their owners. Even better if you can target someone who's already done what you're trying to accomplish.

Everything is an opportunity to get your company name out. Go to the gym? Wear a t-shirt with your company logo on it. Depending on your business, you may also want to use a vehicle as a "moving billboard". And always have a supply of business cards on hand to give to people you meet.

Join an entrepreneurs network, but only after attending a few times first as a guest. Gauge the feeling in the room. Re the other attendees enthusiastic, positive-thinking and well-connected or do they use the meeting to lament about "woulda/coulda/shouldas"? What past events have they run? Are meetings cancelled last-minute? Is there a revolving door of members? Who are the leaders and do they monopolize the meetings? Be wary of any group who wants your membership fees before welcoming you as a guest.

Hold volunteer positions in local organizations. This will help you stay visible in the community while giving back to groups in which you believe.


If anything looks familiar about this list, you're probably right. When it comes to effective marketing and promotions, there's no clear distinction anymore between online-only businesses and those which also have a physical presence.

What other tips and ideas have helped you, as an online business owner, network locally? We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a message below.

- Lynne Sabean

Like this post? Sign up for our e-newsletter. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Create Great Customer Experiences When Service and Fulfillment are in Someone Else's Hands

As an online business, we do lots of research on why people buy online vs at brick and mortar businesses. Most of the numbers we've seen indicate that 90-95 percent of retail shopping is done at a physical location. (Not as surprising as it may seem given that big ticket items like cars, boats, major appliances, etc. are things you definitely want to experience in person (not to mention items that can be extremely difficult and/or costly to ship.) But regardless of ***where*** someone buys, the ***how*** of what someone buys makes a world of difference.

We design for several print-on-demand vendors, including Zazzle, RedBubble, Society6, FineArtAmerica, Curioos, Merch by Amazon, and ImageKind. (See links at right.) Each company was carefully vetted at the time we joined to make sure their fulfillment standards were acceptable. But frankly, it can occasionally be scary to rely on someone else to help manage our brand. Following are some tips and techniques for creating an optimal customer experience.

1. Only work with companies with a great reputation for customer service. This can be hard to ascertain, because people who are dissatisfied with a particular vendor / manufacturer are more likely to leave feedback than those who are satisfied. Visit the web site and navigate around it the way a prospective customer would. Is the interface intuitive? Can you easily get to information and information you need? Ask Customer Service questions about a particular product and see if you get a prompt response. You get the idea.

2. Create great designs and content. One thing you can control is the quality of your designs and the accompanying text. While search engine optimization (SEO) best practices seem to change daily, the concept behind them hasn't: search engines reward web pages that deliver useful information and penalize zen those that don't. So use meaningful tags /keywords. Write product copy that makes site visitors comfortable, willing, and happy to buy your product.

3. Put your designs on the right products. Your customers want to feel that you really understand them and their wants and needs. We use personae (target customer "characters") to help predict what designs will attract which audiences and which products are most appropriate for those designs. For example, we'd never put a cartoon targeting toddlers on a cigarette lighter or a grownup-themed design on a baby bib. We also create sets of items to facilitate one-stop shopping.

4. Leverage all that technology has to offer. We love our print-on-demand vendors because they make it easy for buyers to order just the right item, in the right size, and customized to be truly one-of-a-kind. Help your customers create unique products by designing templates that are easy to use. Worried that computer technology makes it too easy for buyers to find someone else's product? Make your own pages so compelling that there's no reason to look elsewhere. Remind shoppers to pin or bookmark your pages to make them easy to find again. Be responsive to emails and text messages.

5. Buy samples of your own work occasionally. Odds are, the company won't treat your order any differently than anyone else's. (Which is just what you want if you're measuring the customer experience.)

6. Bring manufacturing issues to the manufacturer's attention. Got a bad review or a refund request? Our customers don't differentiate between us and our P.O.D. manufacturers. Nor should they. Ultimately, it's our responsibility to ensure a quality buying experiences from start to finish.

Does your company face similar challenges maintaining the integrity of the customer experience? What's worked for you? Leave us a comment below.

- Lynne Sabean

Like this post? Sign up for our e-newsletter. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Design: Pretty Poinsettia Invitations and Party Supplies

Today, we were lucky to have the opportunity to attend an open house at a local wholesale nursery, just before they started shipping their Christmas plants to nearly florists and garden centers.

The plants were outstanding quality and we shot tons of stock photography for future products. And even though we've sworn several times that we were "really, truly done" with our holiday designs, we couldn't resist making a collection for holiday weddings from one of our favorite photos:

Happy holidays from all of us at Janusian Gallery.

- Lynne Sabean

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Friday, November 17, 2017

New Design: Frosty Green Leaf Mandala

A few days ago, we took some early AM photos outside a local Audubon center while waiting for a meeting to begin. We liked this image:

but thought it'd look even better as a mandala:

We'll be posting it live to our Just Mandalas store over the next several days. (A little longer than usual because we're also shooting this weekend.)

- Lynne Sabean

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Planning a Holiday Wedding? Read This First...

We're from New England, so we know how attractive a "winter wonderland" or holiday-themed wedding can be. But there are unique challenges to scheduling an event at this time of year. Here are some things to keep in mind.

RSVPs: The harsh reality is that if you have your heart set on a holiday wedding, you may get more declines on your invitation. It's not always true that "the people who want to be there will be there; it's only one day; it's a once-in-a-lifetime event." And it's not that the people you invite don't want to be there for you. There's just a lot of other activities going on during the Christmas season. It's an expensive time of year and people's budgets don't always allow them to share in your big day. Your guests are traveling, traffic may be heavy, the weather is unpredictable, and hotel rates are expensive because there's no need to discount. Guests will have to juggle their holiday plans and traditions with yours. On the other hand, no matter what day you choose, odds are someone's not going to be able to make it.

TIP: Send your "save the date" cards out at least 6 months ahead of time. This extra notice will help your guests budget to be there. It also gives them time to get airline tickets at the best price. You can't control the weather and light, but you can make the most of them. There may be snow and/or ice. Work with your venue and other vendors to make sure your guests arrive safely and comfortably.

Holiday Surcharges: Caterers, venues, and florists can charge top dollar, if they're even available, because there's so much business during the holiday season. (If you're looking to get married between Thanksgiving and early Jan, you'll be competing with holiday work /corporate parties and other events. ) Also, flowers can be considerably more easily expensive if you live somewhere where's there's more white than green on the ground. On the other hand, weddings are expensive no matter what time of year. End with a holiday wedding, the venue has likely already done some of the decorating for you, with its own festive details.

TIP: Book your venues and vendors early. By guaranteeing them business far ahead, you're in a better negotiating position. Talk with them about their slow seasons and what's available when. Find out what days they're taking off for the holidays: you really don't want them on vacation or otherwise unavailable the week of your wedding. Consider selecting flowers and wedding colors to coordinate with the reception venues own holiday decorating for a cohesive look.

Lots of people can and do get married during the holiday season. With a little additional forethought and planning, you can have the ceremony and reception of your dreams at the most wonderful time of the year.

- Lynne Sabean

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

We attended Elke Clarke's Zazzle webinar today and this is what we thought of it...

This afternoon, we participated in Elke Clarke's free webinar on developing 5-figure income-earning Zazzle stores. We're a firm believer that success leaves clues and the articulate Ms. Clarke is undoubtedly successful at what she does.

The webinar targets new Zazzlers and those whose stores are underperforming... basically just about the entire Zazzle universe besides Ms. Clarke.

Ms. Clarke (elkeclarke.com) started on Zazzle when the print-on-demand site was still relatively new, so she definitely has an early entrant's advantage. But with Zazzle becoming increasingly competitive, she needs to stay abreast of new developments to remain successful.

She outlines the basics of researching trending products, stresses the importance of having products in all price ranges, and gives tips on general graphic design rules. This overlooks the fact that to stay above the competition, you almost really need to be a professional graphic designer (who does not need any reminder on "rule of three").

That said, we 100% agree with the philosophy of "Make the customer the hero." She also points out the interactive quality of social media, noting that is not a store catalog.

We think it's a little cruel to say "If I can do it, so can you," because starting a business on Zazzle today is far different than it used to be. While we didn't learn a lot of new things, it was wonderful to essentially get affirmation that we're doing a lot right. We also think that the information that Ms. Clarke would be very useful to those who unlike us, are not professional marketers and graphic designers.

- Lynne Sabean

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The Importance of Curating Your Designs

We spend a lot of time talking with other print-on-demand store owners about their design and marketing processes. One of the things we hear over and over again is how "embarrassed" they are by the old designs they still have posted in Zazzle, RedBubble, Society6 and elsewhere.

Frankly, there's absolutely no reason to have any inferior products in your shops, unless they happen to be best-sellers (which is highly unlikely). It detracts from the rest of the portfolio and collections and makes it look like your better work was a happy accident.

We routinely delete or hide designs that we think aren't consistent with the branding we're trying to cultivate. Our litmus test is : "Would I use only that image in a print or online ad? Would I enter only it in a design contest? Would I proudly give it as a gift?"

We totally get that it took valuable time to create, post, and promote the old artwork. But odds are, it's negatively impacting the way people see you and your business. Rigorously editing and curating your collections will give audiences confidence in your shops as places to go for fresh, quality work.

.

- Lynne Sabean

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Zazzle Store and Collections: Kawaii Dinosaurs

We've been working hard on our holiday selections, but we get that the majority of Christmas purchases are not holiday-themed. We call these "evergreen" products: those that are appropriate for year-long gift giving and personal use.

So we'd like to introduce you to our new Zazzle store "Kawaii Dinosaurs."

It features our "evergreen" illustrations of adorable dinosaurs.

We'll be populating it over the next few weeks. Looking for a specific product you don't see?

Send us an e-mail and we'll see what we can do to help you out.

Monday, November 6, 2017

We've Been Promoted to Zazzle Pro Bronze Designer

If our nine Zazzle storefronts look a little different these days, it's because Zazzle recently invited us to their Pro Bronze program, based on the royalties we've earned off sales of our designs and their impression of the quality of our designs. Thanks to our affiliates who helped us get here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Better Question About Online-Only Businesses

When we were in the planning stages for Janusian Gallery a few years ago, one of the questions we asked ourselves was: "What services do bricks-and-mortar businesses offer that we can offer online?" In retrospect, we should have been asking ourselves, "What value can bricks-and-mortar businesses offer that we can't offer as an online business?"

This is because even then, bricks-and-mortar businesses weren't necessarily the gold standard. In many cases, they can't come close to offering the inventory, breadth of offering, customization options, and 24x7 availability that customers can get via print-on-demand vendors.

What have your experiences been with online shopping, at one of our stores or elsewhere? Leave us a comment below.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

New Christmas Design: Jingle Bell Rock

We're happy to announce our newest whimsical Christmas collection, "Jingle Bell Rock":
Find it during the holiday season at Amazon (search for Janusian Gallery) and permanently on Zazzle:

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

New Christmas Design: Merry & Bright

We get it: not every one's into red and green during the holiday season. So we created this new minimalist black and white Christmas design.
Available for a short time on Amazon (just search for Janusian Gallery) and permanently on Zazzle:

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