On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful personally and professionally. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
This week's chat was sponsored by The Box Co-Op, custom boxes that won't break the bank.
Our guest this week was Marge Clark of Nature's Gift Aromatherapy in Madison, Tennessee. On #HandmadeChat, Marge shared her best customer service and small business marketing tips from her two decades as a successful online entrepreneur. She also shared a few tips to help stressed out entrepreneurs use aromatherapy to relieve stress.
Q1 WHAT IS NATURE'S GIFT AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?
Nature's Gift is an online supplier of aromatherapy products and essential oils. Our slogan is, “Balancing Body, Mind and spriti with pure essential oils.”
For those who don't know, aromatherapy is the use of pure, natural plant extracts for health and well being. Small business owners can benefit greatly from aromatherapy as the oils are great stress relievers. A few of my favorites for stress relief are the citrus oils, Cape chamomile and vetiver for grounding.
Q2 YOU STARTED YOUR ONLINE BIZ NEARLY TWO DECADES AGO, HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WOULD WORK?
I didn't know it would work! I just knew it was my passion. In fact, it was a money pit for two years! It just took me some time to get things moving and for me, my brand and our quality to become known and trusted. Over time, as the quality of our products increased, so did their sales.
Q3 WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS DOING BUSINESS ONLINE HAS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
You have to keep up with technology constantly, and mobile technology is changing everything.
On the good side, there is so much more help for new entrepreneurs than there was when I started. I invented the wheel, in a way, and now, others get to ride. When I started out, list serves were all the rage. Today, it's social media marketing and using it to know what's trending in your field. You've got to keep your brand and your expertise out there constantly.
Q4 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RESOURCES FOR KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY FOR #SMALLBIZ?
Google is great for “instant research” — with a bit of skepticism of course. LinkedIn groups are useful, if they are in your field of endeavor. I like HubSpot for good online marketing information.
Q5 WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES TO AVOID TO BE SUCCESSFUL SELLING PRODUCTS ONLINE?
Don't try to be everything to everyone. Some people are just not your market. Accept that. Pay attention to who is buying from you and who isn't, and focus on who is. Don't chase every potential sale.
As you grow in business, you become confident in who you are…and in who you are not. It's a process.
Q6 WHAT ARE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE TIPS FOR ONLINE MARKETERS?
Be real and let people know the human being behind the business. Don't be the “About Us” page without a name or human face. People want to know who they are buying from. If you have a business, you are here to serve, to solve a problem, to bring joy and pleasure. Do that. If your goal is to serve, you'll succeed. Maintain an abundance mindset. Serve well and the money will come.
Q7 WHAT ARE TIPS FOR SELLING SCENTED PRODUCTS ONLINE WHERE BUYERS CANNOT SMELL BEFORE BUYING?
I try to use marketing language that shares the experience a person will get with my products, and not just how things smells. You have to give buyers an impression of how something smells based on how it will make them feel. Will be relaxing? Invigorating? Will it calm nerves, soothe headaches, help with stress …
In my field of aromatherapy, you must educate your customers without running afoul of federal regulations — a definite challenge.
My passion is to educate and help people; it's a challenge to do that in today's regulatory environment.
Q8 WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO CLOSE YOUR RETAIL STORE?
There are very few, successful aromatherapy retail stores; customers are just not aware of aromatherapy. People thought we were a gift shop — which we were not. We spent hours in our store educating people about aromatherapy, and still missed sales because people just didn't get it. The shop was great, but no a good investment of our space and time. Our online business ended up taking over the store. Sometimes, we ended up in the store packing orders from the website. That was a sign for sure!
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST SMALL BUSINESS CHALLENGES, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?
Some people have abused my trust. Sadly, some have been service providers, and it has cost me thousands of dollars.
Another challenge is my age and health. I started my business when I was in my late fifties, and that was over two decades ago. Today, I experience daily reminders that it's time for me to slow down. Some of my work can be done by others, but I'm not sure we can replace me and have the biz continue.
Q10 WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESS BOOKS?
Most of my business books are aromatherapy books. I enjoy Kayla Fioravanti's books, especially the Good Manufacturing parts. I enjoy books by Emmett Fox. I also like The Four Agreements, which we are now reading now at #Indiebookclub. I like reading spiritual books to help me maintain perspective.
Q11 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS, AND WHY?
I love Facebook because we get immediate customer feedback there. I wish I could completely separate business form my personal lives on Facebook, but it's just not possible. I'm a bit active on LinkedIn. It's harder to keep up with twitter, but I'm there. I'm not on Google+ at all. More recently, Pinterest has been bringing in new prospects, and it's fun too.
Q12 IBN STRIVES TO BE SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCE. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO JOIN ORGANIZATION LIKE IBN?
IBN is the perfect place to ask “where to find” or “how do I start” or “has anyone ever…?” It's a great place to find people who have had the experience and are willing to share. IBN is also about sharing knowledge and our experience. As we help others grow, we all grow. The information IBN offers is vital.
More About Marge Clark
Marge has been an IBN member since 2000.
Marge is the founder and CEO of Nature's Gift and the author of Essential Oils and Aromatics: A Step-by-Step Guide for Use in Massage and Aromatherapy. Marge is an active and enthusiastic participant in every online website that reflects a truthful and accurate representation of the use of aromatherapy and essential oils for health and wellness.
Connect with Marge:
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, February 21, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Sarah Zahn of Sugared Beauty in Pennsylvania.
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