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5 Important Unique Selling Points for your Craft Business

What is a Unique Selling Point (USP) and why is it important to my business?

A USP describes features and practices that make your business different and better (or worse!) than your competitors (for examples see below). Identifying your craft business USPs is very important because doing so will give you a strong focus and guide as to how you can run and grow your business in the face of competition. The reasons as to why businesses fail, survive, or thrive in the face of competition are numerous (if I knew and understood them all I expect I could get someone else to write this for me – he he!).

If you can identify your competitor’s USPs you can ensure that your business can provide something different (Unique). Being different to your competition (in a good way) will really help your craft business stand out from your competitors. Here are 5 examples of important USPs:

  • Price - you may decide that you want to be cheaper or more expensive than your competition. Either way be consistent in your pricing so customers can clearly understand that in your shop items cost a bit more or cost a bit less… If you are going to be more expensive than your competitors ensure that your products are higher quality.
  • Customer Service – I think any good business will rely heavily on this USP. Do you reply quickly to inquiries, are you friendly in your communication, do you dispatch your orders swiftly, do you keep your customers informed during the transaction etc? How do you handle returns, exchanges, and loss in the post etc? Besides leaving everyone with a pleasant taste in their mouth providing top-notch customer service is one of the best ways to build trust.
  • Keeping it Fresh – whilst we all have our trusty favourites we also like to try out new things (or least we like to look at them). Keep your crafty shop fresh by adding new items, having different offers, changing the look of your shop, and regularly posting in your shop blog etc. If you regularly ‘freshen up’ your shop folks will come to expect it and they will be more likely to drop in more often.
  • Ease of use – is your shop easy to use? Is your website easy to navigate, is it easy to view items, is it easy to pay, is it easy on the eye? Even if you have an etsy, ebay, or dawanda, shop you can still make shopping easier for your customers by providing clear product photos and helpful product descriptions for example. A pleasant no-nonsense shopping experience is attractive to everyone.
  • Extras – extras can be little treats or benefits such as freebies (small gifts, products, delivery, vouchers, samples, etc.) hand written notes, well-packed orders etc. Go the extra mile to make your customer smile :)


This is a USP that I would find really attractive in any Chinese restaurant – yummy!

Pic credit (and further reading) : Versa.

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Now you have an idea of what USPs are, identify USPs which you think will benefit your customers and then communicate them to your customers so they know what goodness you have on offer. For example; in my shop I provide next working day delivery for all domestic orders so I have written this USP on my homepage.

So what are some of your USPs?

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Customer Service can make you come back (or stay the heck away!)

I think that sometimes it not just the products or the price that makes you come back to a store (or avoid it like the plague!).  It’s the customer service that can make a transaction really memorable.  I’m obsessed with good customer service, I really notice it when cashier says and please and thank you, and gives you a bit of eye contact too.  I’m a real stickler for good manners (I can’t help it; it must be something to do with my Mum constantly nagging us as kids to say our Ps & Qs). 

Today I experienced really good customer service and also bad customer service.  First the good customer service. Last week I purchased an egg cooker (I cook a mean fillet steak, but I can’t for the life of me cook a perfect soft boiled egg) from a seller on eBay.  I received the cooker the following day (which was fast – much appreciated) and it worked fine on the 1st use however, it didn’t work the 2nd time, or the time after that.  I sent an email to the seller explaining the problem and he very swiftly sent an email in which he apologized and asked for my address so he could send a replacement.  In my book that’s brilliant service, no nonsense swift communication and pleasant.   Because of that experience it doesn’t matter that the cooker broke-down and I would be more than happy to shop with him again.

And for the bad customer service?  I’ve just taken up boxing training (it’s such ace fun).  I bought myself a pair of pink boxing gloves from a sports kit website mid-last week and I only got a confirmation email today that my order has been processed – this means that it has taken them 5 days to process, pack and dispatch my order.  I wouldn’t mind so much but the company is based in the UK (as am I), the postage is rather costly, and the website promises 2 days to process and dispatch.  Harrumph!  I may well need more boxing kit as I progress to Rocky Balboa standard, but I won’t be buying from that store again…

I think if you run a shop it’s good to make every single customer feel important (because they all are!).  This way there is a better chance that they will become regular customers.  I often get new customers who make small first orders to test the waters (to see if they like the quality of the products and to see if the service is up to standard) and I’m very lucky that a lot of them become repeat customers :)

What sort of things do you to do to give great customer service?  Have you experienced really crap customer service lately?

Not the best way to make your customers feel important!

Pic credit: College Recruiter

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How I set up my Craft Business website shop.

My handbag making supplies e-comm shop went live in Nov. 05. I first had the idea to set up the shop the previous winter and from planning and putting the wheels in motion it took me 7 months to source my supplies, get myself a website, and all of the other necessary stuff in between in order to be able to trade online. In this post I’m going to list all of the steps I took to get my e-comm shop off the ground, I’m hoping this will be useful for anyone else who wants to trade via their own website.

After a few seasons of selling my bags in a craft market I knew that I wanted to start selling bag making supplies online. There were several positive indicators that this could be a viable business. So armed with a loan from my family and no knowledge whatsoever of how to go about it I set up my first website. This was how I did it, in the order I did it:

  1. Sourcing supplies - I decided upon what supplies I needed to open my shop and then I ordered them to be made in the factories. I ordered my supplies first because I needed samples to be made and approved, the factories would need time to produce the items (which could be anything from 4-6 weeks) and the thing that would take the longest time was that I wanted the items to be shipped to the UK (rather than flown). Shipping is far cheaper than flying but it can take months rather than days, or weeks.
  2. Website design- I knew from the start that I wanted my own website rather than sell through eBay or Etsy. I phoned around LOADS of website designers from friends, to agencies to freelancers. I was quoted prices from £200 ($400) – £2000!! In the end I decided that agencies were too expensive and I settled upon a freelancer who seemed to be very knowledgeable in e-comm and I asked someone else to do the website design and logo. I found them both through this Freelancers site. The design process took approx 3 months in all – I intentionally gave them a long time to do this because there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing with asking my opinions on design and re-jiggling and testing. etc.
  3. I opened a business bank account – keeping your business finances separate from your pesonal finances makes life much easier.
  4. I set up a merchant bank account - this type of account receives funds from the sales of my items and sends them in my business account. I chose not to go with Paypal for website payment system because at the time there was bad press about Paypal’s security – this doesn’t seem to be an issue now, but at the time it was. I also wanted payments to take place completely on my site (rather the customer being taken to Paypal pages). Another advantage of having my own payment system is that (in the long-run) this method is cheaper than Paypal, so I can pass this saving onto my customers. Therefore I needed to set up my own payment system – hence the need for a merch, bank account.
  5. I set up the payment gateway - because of the above (and me not wanting PayPal) I had to set up a system that processes funds from the sale of my items. The payment gateway takes these funds and then passes them onto my merchant bank.
  6. The samples arrived from the factories – 8 out of the 12 custom designs were great so I ordered a shed load of them. The other 4 designs need modifying…
  7. I purchased office furniture - good old IKEA they have great office furniture.
  8. I purchased postage & packaging stationary - I looked at the dimensions of my smallest and largest items and chose padded envelopes accordingly.
  9. The admin part of the website is ready - the part where you upload items and make any changes to your website is now ready and I can start uploading products to the site (even though it’s not live yet).
  10. The finished goods from the factories, bag patterns, and the fabrics start arriving – sooo exciting, but loads of work. I have to check through the all of the orders to make sure I have been given the right amount of everything and that all items are in perfect condition. I now have heaps of photos to take and photoshop. I have to go through all of my invoice sheets for each item and price and describe each item. Before going live this process took me 3 weeks of working in it every day.
  11. I register myself as a self-employed person - oooerr…no going back now! I tell the tax people of my self employed status and I tell them that I am going to be a sole trader (which is the most basic form in which a company can trade).
  12. I’m live; U-handbag lives!!!! - The site goes live on the 11th Nov 2005 and I bite my nails down to my elbows (virtually sitting on my computer) until Michaela in UK makes the shop’s first ever order on the following day.
  13. I start looking into pay per click advertising with Google - this is bloody expensive (at least it was because I don’t need it so much now because of my blog).
  14. I start approaching various craft mags to let them know I have started my business - most of them aren’t that interested, but a few of them do mention me in their magazine which is great!

So that’s how I brought U-handbag.com into existence. I don’t know if that’s the best way to go about creating a website as I had no knowledge of how to go about it, but it all seemed to work out fine in the end  :) u-handbag-logo.tif

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Free widgets and tools to enhance your blogging life and boost your traffic.

We all spend a fair amount of time with our crafty blogs either reading them or writing them. As a crafter I’m fascinated by blogging (you might already have figured that out for yourself). I find that crafting and blogging go hand in hand and the joy I get from sharing my work with others and them sharing it with me has improved my crafting life by leaps and bounds.

In this post I want to share some blogging tools and widgets that I have tried and tested to make my blogging life more fun, easier, and er… fruitful.  You don’t need to be a tecchy geek, and you don’t need to know any HTML, or any of that stuff (I’d like to be a tecchy geek, but alas it’s all beyond me) to try these out.

Widgets to help with the traffic

  • Technorati – is an important place to have you blog listed on. This is what they do. I joined these folks from the beginning when I set up my bag making blog. Joining is easy and free. You create your own profile and you can get a profile badge to put your on your blog if you wish. To see my Technorati profile go to my bag blog and look on left hand menu toward the bottom.
  • Feedblitz – this enables your readers to subscribe to your blog via email. Some folks just prefer updates by email and this subscriber widget makes it easier for them. This is what they do. If you have a Typepad or a Blogger blog join up for this free service.
  • Feedburner - manages your RSS feeds. This is what they do. It’s free to join and the stats that they provide are in-depth.
  • Pingoat - this cool little gadget pings (notifies an update has been made) loads of different services all in one go . So when you’ve just written a post that you are proud of go to this site and ping loads of services in one fell swoop.

Some Blogsessories

  • Polldaddy – create very pretty polls/votes to put on your blog with this free service. I have used this in the past. The polls are easy to paste into your blog and they do indeed look nice with optional images, and coloured bars.
  • Box - I first came across this cool service on Meg’s blog. This is a user friendly way of storing your files online and sharing them with others. You can share images, text, or music. I use Box to share music. You upload files (from your computer) to box and then you are given a link to that file so you can share it with any none else. You can also get a Box player widget to you on you blog if you wish.
  • Sitemeter – this is a handy widget that tracks things like how many readers have visited you blog, where they came from, how long they visited etc.
  • Big huge Labs – I first came across these image tools on Ali’s blog. If you have images in Flickr you can have lots of fun with your pics on this site…
  • Babelfish – looking at my stats I can see that I am getting more and more readers from abroad so I have hopefully made it easier for them to read my content by adding a translator to my blog.
  • IconBuffet – free dinky doo icons. I don’t have a use for them yet, but they are so cute I’m sure I’ll think of something.
  • Qumana – my favorite blog editor. I wrote a post about Qumana on my other blog.

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Got widget fever? Then check out these mega lists by Problogger, and again by Problogger for Mac users.

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Widget mania! Pic credit: HardMacs Blog.

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20+ Quick & Easy Makes for Easter and Spring for your Craft Business

Happy Valentines everyone, I hope that you are being treated like Princesses or Princes, or you are least treating yourself today.

Right, so we are all getting pretty bored of the winter weather (not that it’s that bad in the UK right now) I miss those warm sunny days, dresses, and sandals. Now is the time (if you haven’t made a start already) to start gearing up to the warmer months. If you can, it’s perhaps a good idea to discount your wintery stock or shelve it for next fall/winter to make way for lighter brighter colours and themes.

Start having a look around on the web for what’s going to be hot in summer 08 in the craft and fashion world. I always think whether you are a follower of fashion or not (I’m not personally) it’s a good to keep abreast of what’s going on. Even if you don’t give a ‘monkey’s about the fashion world it doesn’t hurt to have a few easy to make and small in size accessories that reflect current trends. For instance my shoe designer friend (yes that right girls, my friend designs ladies shoes for a living!) tells me that Nautical is going to big this Summer. So we could for instance make nautical flavoured wallets, tote bags, jewelry, prints, t-shirts, stationary etc. All of which don’t require a large outlay and therefore, should be easier to sell.

Quick & Easy Easter /Spring Craft Makes for your Business:

  1. Pretty vintage style peg bags for washing lines.
  2. Aprons.
  3. Tea Towels
  4. Table runners, and coasters, and placemats.
  5. Pot Holders, and oven mitts
  6. Fabric wall tidies – Tidies with pockets.
  7. Bags – grocery totes, and bag dispensers, and drawstring laundry bags, and eye glasses cases, and shoe bags, and wallets.
  8. Journal covers.
  9. Cheque book covers
  10. Baby items – bibs, and burp cloths, and t-shirts, and towels, quilts, plushies.

NB: if you are going to use any of these tutorials for commercial use please remember to first ask the authors for their permission :)


“It’s a beautiful Spring day and here I am Spring cleaning! Harrumphhh!”

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Copyright – ways to protect your content from being stolen

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post where I talked about how I discovered another retailer was pinching my content for his own gain without my consent. This is what happened next: I had a polite rant on the phone to him and I later checked to see if had modified everything. Well, he has changed the copy, but it still isn’t completely his own and he is still using my product image (albeit a smaller size).

I am willing to accept this as a compromise, but only because I made him feel like a jack ass on the phone. When we first spoke (before he knew what I was calling about) I got him to confirm that he was responsible for writing the copy on his site, then I told him about the copying issue. He denied that he had copied anything and that he had been selling item X for years to which I replied “Look, instead of getting lawyers involved I have paid you the courtesy of calling you to give you an opportunity to modify the copy which you have OBVIOUSLY taken from me. I’d appreciate it if you’d begin to extend a similar courtesy to me by NOT denying what you have done…’ I’m not one for power trips, but my heart was beating like crazy and I could sense that he felt like shamed 10 year old boy being scolded by a scary headmistress heh heh!

Hey! Get your thieving hands off my work!

How can we protect ourselves?

It’s a sad fact that the accessibility of the Internet and our desire to share and show our work makes it easy for unimaginative, lazy, (and lets face it) sleazy copycats to steal our work to pass it off as their own. I’m going to look at some ways that we can protect our work from copycats (or at least try to deter them) . I understand that copyright laws differ country to country so I can’t list hard and fast rules that apply to everyone and copyright is a whole minefield in itself, but I can suggest a few things that we can all do:

  • Get yourself the appropriate Creative Commons License – the licence are free and you can obtain a ‘label’ for your licence to put on your site of blog. These licenses come in different flavours dependent on the level at which you are willing to share your work. For instance on my Handbag blog I have an Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license which means (amongst other things) I am happy to share any of my work and photos with anyone in the world as long as they credit me with them. You can see what my licence looks like on the bottom left-hand corner of my blog.
  • Make your intentions clear on your site – If you don’t want others to use your copy or your photos say so on the pages of your site or blog. You could say something like “Please do not reproduce my images or written content without my consent, if you like something and you’d like to use it just ask me :)”
  • Apply water marks to your photos – these things can actually be removed from determined and experienced copyists, but most copyist won’t know how (and they wouldn’t be bothered to learn) so they are a good deterrent. See below for Watermark tutorials.
  • Do a search on the web to see if your work is being copied - Carla showed me a post on Startup Princess which had a cool link (in the comments) to Copy Scape. You can type in your page URL into the search box and the engine will look for any copies of your content on the web. You may be surprised at what you find.
  • Search and destroy – OK so that’s a little over the top, but if you discover that your work has been copied and you’re unhappy with it don’t take it lying down. Contact the copycat and let them know that you know! If the copycat is a serial copyist this will often be enough to deter them from doing it (at least to you) again.

Further reading

Creative Commons Licence

Watermark tutorials

I hope some of that helps. Have you had any experience of having your work being copied? :(

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