Category: Partner Resources

Announcing Dollabee

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on a new website project. The idea is
pretty simple.

If you want to sell a doll online, you think of using EBay or Craigslist, right?
And if you want to sell custom doll clothes, you can use those, or Etsy, right?

But there hasn’t been a really good marketplace exclusively for selling dolls, doll clothes,
and doll accessories. We wondered if we could solve that problem. So, we’ve
created dollabee – the Doll marketplace. It’s like Craigslist, but for dolls.

Here are a few of the features:

  • Listing an item is free, unless you want it to be a featured listing, in which case it’s $5 for a 7 day listing.
  • You can sell directly on dollabee, like how you do on Craigslist, or you can create a listing that includes the link to your EBay or Etsy item, and finish the selling on those sites.
  • The categories make it easy to buy and sell lots of different types of items including original (branded) doll clothes like AG Clothes, or custom clothes, (under your brand), or actual dolls.
  • The only items we won’t allow are non-brand-name, (made in china), products.

[special note for premium partners – as part of your benefits, we are going to give
you a special coupon code to use, which will allow you to list your items as ‘featured’
for free – ahh you’re welcome! – another good reason to be a premium partner! Check
the Partner site and look for Coupon Codes like you normally do for the monthly free
pattern]

This is the biggest online experiment we’ve ever done, and to be honest, we have
no idea if it will succeed or fail, but the feedback so far has been really really good,
and we’d like to invite you to check it out. We are hopeful that it will be a huge
blessing in your online selling efforts.

We are considering you our 2nd test group. There are 350 partners partners,
and probably only 250 will see this. And of those 250, not everyone will
go to dollabee.com and give it a try, but if you’re reading this – then we’d love to
have you go check it out for us. There is a blog entry on the site called, “dollabee
feedback”, which is the best place to leave your general feedback and suggestions.
Just remember, we are still getting the site fully functional. So there are improvements
to be made, and some specific technical issues to be resolved, but it should work
for you pretty well. The largest ‘issue’ is the page navigation sometimes errors out,
but we are working on fixing that as soon as possible.

Dollabee Launch Plan:

Starting 8/6 or 8/13 will begin to announce dollabee more broadly to attract
buyers via Facebook and our newsletter. On Facebook we have almost
11,000 followers – so that should begin to send good solid buying traffic to the site – so get
ready! Then, through our weekly newsletter, we have almost 8,000 subscribers. So
that should really pump it up too.

So the basic plan is – to have you start listing items on Dollabee, if you want, then
after you are familar with it we will ‘turn on the marketing’ to get buyers to show up.

Okay, ready to check it out?
www.dollabee.com

12 Common Digital Photography Mistakes

It takes more than a camera to take good pictures. It takes a certain eye, a way of seeing things, to take pictures that make people go “Wow!”. Fortunately, it can be learned. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

If you’re interested in becoming a good digital photographer start by taking a look at these most common mistakes people make when taking digital pictures:

1. Not knowing your camera. If you never read your digital camera’s manual and learn its features and how to use them, you won’t be able to make the most of it.

2. Not using a tripod. Tripods allow you to take the sharpest pictures even in low light. Use one as often as possible.

3. Not giving the camera time to focus. Digital cameras need time to properly focus and get the right exposure. It can take a fraction of a second or a couple of seconds. Account for this when taking pictures.

4. Relying too much on zoom. Using the camera’s zoom feature makes the picture grainier. Get as close to the subject as possible.

5. Taking pictures against the light. This makes the subject dark and the background too bright.

6. Relying too much on the flash. Natural light gives the best pictures, so use it as much as possible. Flash tends to make images look harsh.

7. Not taking enough pictures. It’s almost impossible to take the perfect shot at one try, so take many pictures. With digital photography, this doesn’t cost you extra. Try different angles and compositions.

8. Always putting the subject dead center. Learn the rule of thirds in composition, and you’ll have more interesting pictures.

9. Forgetting to check the horizon. When taking pictures with the horizon showing, make sure it’s level.

10. Selecting a low-resolution setting. Your camera will allow you to select different resolutions. Don’t be tempted to choose a low resolution just to save on memory space. Instead, buy additional memory for your camera and always take your pictures in high resolution.

11. Trying to take too much. Don’t try to include too many things in one picture, such as people and scenery. A picture is more effective when it’s focused on a single subject.

12. Not using the camera enough. You’ll never know when a good photo op will come up, so have your camera with you at all times.

It may seem like a lot to think about, but with practice, these things will become second nature.

For those who want to learn even more digital photography techniques, check out Karl Taylor’s stuff on Youtube – tons of great free tutorials.

 

Tips For Creating A Brand Name

 

Hi everyone,

Let’s talk branding! This is something I’m super passionate about, so if you ever have any questions, comment below and we can chat about your issues. In this article I’ll outline 10 techniques you’ve got to know about. Here are my top 10 branding building techniques.

1. Unique. When choosing a potential name consider using your name, (or a unique proper name), that when Googled, doesn’t have too many similar results, if any. In other words, choose something unique, and use Google to confirm it. It’s not impossible. Keep trying. If you fail to do this, you’ll be sorry. Wouldn’t you be horrified if you found out later your fun new name was already associated with something yucky, or gross, or morbid, or totally inappropriate. Finding a unique name is rule #1. The best book resource for this topic is Branding for Profit (Audio Business Course) by Trump University, (please don’t hate me, leave political comments, or get upset, just trust me when I tell you that this is the best resource I’ve ever found on this topic – and no – Trump isn’t even the instructor, it’s an amazing marketer named Jon Ward).

2. Abstract. If you’re not going to use a proper name, then instead of trying to be ‘cute’, go for something rather meaningless. (Example Nike). This is counter-intuitive, but you don’t want a brand name to have very much mental or emotional ‘baggage’ when you start your business. That way you can convey the deep meaning of your brand elements over time, and in peoples minds those elements will become the prominant memory, instead of any built in implications. If you use generic words, it’s like trying to stake a claim on a spot in your prospects mind that they’ve already assigned to someone else. You cannot have it. Think unique, like, “Smith & Hawken” or “Nike”. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is the best book I’ve found on this topic. This is what we did when we worked to create Pixie Faire! Avoiding generic or pre-positioned words is rule #2.

3. Avoid using the category as a default portion of your name. “so and so Doll Clothes”. If you use that name, you’ve used 2 generic words in your name, and you want to avoid generic words because they’ll never be associated with you. You cannot have them in your prospects minds, they are permanently muddled. They are associated with the concept, or the category. Not good. As a side note, lots of the mommy coupon bloggers are getting this all wrong right now. They are tacking on the category words in the hope that they’ll be remembered, but just the opposite happens. The entire category is growing, and some will be winners, but it will probably be the ones with the strongest brands. For example, as I’m trying to think of an example right now, the one that comes to mind is (uniquely named) “Northern Cheapskate”. No “Mommy” or “Coupon” anywhere in there. And that is part of why I remembered it. The best book about this is Positioning by Al Reis and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Avoid the category words is rule #3.

4. Create deep meaning. Don’t just choose a name. Choose a name that conveys attributes that are helpful to your cause. Attributes that reinforce what you’re trying to convey to the world. Nike means champion. That’s cool, right?! “Northern Cheapskate” makes it sound like the writers aren’t New Yorkers or from La La Land. They must be from someplace cold, harsh, rural, and frugal. Deep meaning. When we were brainstorming the name for our little company, we knew that it needed to relate to American Girl in some way. We kicked around lots of names, then realized our daughters name fit perfectly, (at least we think it does). It conveys americana. It does that because she was born around 9-11, and we were feeling particularly patriotic back then, and we deliberately chose a name that felt ‘American’ when we named her. In fact, we considered naming her ‘America’ at the time. Years later, we were looking for a good brand name to support the American Girl ecosystem and the stars aligned around “Liberty Jane”. Deep meaning. Harry Beckwith has great information on this in Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing. Rule #4 is – keep thinking until you find a name that accomplishes rules 1,2, and 3, but also allows for deep meaning.

5. Clarify your brand attributes. What do you want people to remember about you? Boil it down. Boil it down to like 1 word. Then try to have that word reinforced by everything you do. But here is the critical part… the attribute must be available right now in the minds of the consumer. It can’t just be what you want to ‘be’ it has to be what your customer can appreciate, recall, and attach to your brand. Ideally what they want and cannot find. Our words are ‘trendy’ & ‘exclusive’. It’s our guiding light. Brand attributes don’t just say what you ARE about, they also say what you AREN’T about. If we’re trendy and exlusive, how could we compete on price, or sell on Amazon? Nope, not exclusive enough. If we’re trendy, how can we do historical outfits? Nope, not trendy enough. Al Reis’ classic book does a deep dive into this issue –  Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It. Rule #5 is clarify your brand attribute and reinforce it in everything you do.

6. You can always own a niche if you go small enough. If you’re still reading this, and you’re thinking, but all the good attributes are taken, then there is one simple trick you need to consider – think narrow and deep. In every category, (as you search on Amazon or Ebay for example), there are category leaders. But part of the power of internet marketing is that if you want to own a single attribute, and become known for it, there is almost endless open territory available for a good solid brand. This is so incredibly true, we’ve listed a few business ideas we don’t have time to do, but you could easily dominate under ‘cinnamon’s updates. The most interesting new thinking on this issue that I’ve found is from author and video blogger, Gary Vaynerchuk in Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion. Rule #6 is niche thyself.

7. Your biggest brand attribute is your price. New custumers have an amazing sorting function in their brain, and the first filter is price. You will either be thrown into the expensive or inexpensive bucket. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, that’s how it works. Companies spend millions of dollars trying to manage their way aroud this, or convey deeper attributes of their brand, but most successful brands are very clear about this fundamental issue. They’ve chosen to go either high or low. Staying in the middle is a hard place to live as a brand. If you want to go deep on this issue, the best new book is Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). It’s amazing. Rule #7 is choose high or low, and stick with it. (And as a word of encouragement, if you’re making items at home, think long and hard before choosing low.)

8. Be real. If you’re going to be an exclusive hand-crafted artisan, then don’t act bigger than you are, or overly corporate. People buy from people. Your brand, after getting a high or low price tag in the minds of prospects, will get a ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ tag. And the single most important element in getting a ‘cool’ vote is authenticity. Be authentic. Tell your story. Have a really nice picture taken. Present yourself in the best light possible, (both for the picture and the overall message). You don’t have to be young and pretty to be considered cool. Just be yourself. The important part to understand here is that once people see your brand, and answer the ‘high’ or ‘low’ question, then they’ll start to judge you on the merits of what you’ve presented, and they’ll quickly make a determination about whether you’re ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’. In ‘Focus’ Al Reis and Jack Trout say that

“somewhere in the corner of the prospects brain there is a penalty box for brands they decide are loosers”.

Don’t be in that box. Rule #8 is be authentic, it’s cool. My favorite business book of all time has a great section on this. It’s Growing a Business by Paul Hawken, the founder of Smith & Hawken. It’s pre-internet, but so solid, it’s a must read for anyone interested in starting a successful business.

9. Polish it up. Now days, there is no reason you can’t have a professional looking website and logo. Check out our Get Started page for our list of recommended tools. Remember your brand is your most important craft product (and ongoing project). Make your brand a masterpiece.

10. Don’t be afraid to change! This is outlined beautifully in the Trump branding book. It taught me a lot about the true brand equity. Bottomline, if you need to change your name because it’s not effective, don’t be afraid to do it. If you do it carefully and systematically so customers are along for the ride, you won’t loose anything – and you’ll gain a lot.

Have fun building your brand!

Drawing a crowd for your auction, make it a top priority…

 

the larger the crowd of honestly interested potential bidders, the more bid action you’ll see and the higher final bid price you’ll achieve.

Why is this always true? The single most important reason to have a crowd is going to sound like a cliché, but it’s not. Here it is: There is safety in numbers!

 

As the auctioneer you’re nervously waiting to see how it’s all going to play out, right? And if you’ve believed my ‘low opening bid rant’, and you’ve set your opening bid price extremely low, you are taking a risk, right?

And the best way to mitigate that risk is to have a large number of people attend the event, and have them be armed with enough facts about your product to know when it’s selling for too low a price. The wisdom of the crowd will help protect you.

 

If you’ve followed my advice about creating comfort, and done a good job making people feel comfortable, especially by using quality pictures, then Ebay will deliver enough prospective buyers to generate some type of bidding war. Probably. But that doesn’t make you feel safe does it! Don’t depend just on Ebay. Your single biggest task to ensure success is to get a large crowd to watch your auction. Here are a few ways to do just that,

  1. Be very consistant in your ending times, (always set your auctions to end at around the same time so your loyal followers know when to show up).
  2. Collect names and send out a newsletter 4 or 5 hours before the end of your most important auctions.
  3. Use social media to gather fans and inform them on your auctions.
  4. Consider paying for greater exposure via Ebay. This can make sense depending on the price of the item you’re selling and the types of Ebay exposure tools (and their prices).
 

The digital touch, longer versus shorter descriptions, and why it matters

Physically touching an item is the single most important component of buying according to shopping expert Paco Underhill. (author of “Why We Buy”). When marketing goods online, your pictures and written descriptions become a proxy for the physical act of touching the item. Think about it.

Your bidders and/or buyers ‘touch’ of your item will be nice and amazing and fun to the extent your pictures and words (and templates) are nice and amazing and fun.

Use blinding Neon Yellow text and see how well you do. Use blurry pictures and no written description and see how well you do. If you do those things, don’t expect your bidder to have a a good experience, it’s impossible. Expect their ‘good touch’ to result in comfort with your listing. Expect their ‘bad touch‘ to result in them quickly leaving and never coming back.

So if your words and photos are a proxy for physically touching the item, then as David Ogilvy, the master of Direct Response Marketing, makes it clear, long-form copywriting clearly work better than short-form writing. You want to give them as much information as they can possibly want. They’ve stopped, looked, and are now seriously considering buying or bidding. They won’t mind if you have an extra paragraph about why your fabric is better than your competitors.

Paco Underhill goes on to suggest that the single most important factor in determining whether a customer is going to buy something, (in a physical retail environment), is the length of time they stay in your store. Repeat – How long they stay in your store.

Does this translate to the internet selling environment? Is time ‘on your listing’ an indicator of their likelihood to bid or buy? Ever wonder why most online guru‘s trying to sell you an information product have their sales pages go on and on and on forever? Maybe they understand this principle and have tested it’s value.

You have a choice in your item description, enter substantial details, say a little, or say nothing. If you choose to say little or nothing, you are absolutely choosing to make your buyers, or bidders less comfortable than you otherwise could have by adding substantial facts and details. That’s a mistake. Your wisest approach is to ensure you consider, then answer every question your buyers might have.

Who are you really writing for anyway? It’s really the people who are very interested right? And the people who are really interested and serious about bidding or buying, want as much information as you can possibly include. They will read it all. The people who aren’t really that interested won’t read anything anyway, so long-form descriptions are the only sensible approach. Make it a fun and memorable digital touch.

The 4 Pricing Paths

Let’s talk about your options for pricing!

Look at any seller in eBay or Etsy, (go ahead, go pick a seller), and observe whether they are listing a lot of things or just a few things, and whether they’re selling their items for a high price or a low price compared to their peers.

Over time every seller chooses one of these 4 paths, there are just four. What are the 4 paths sellers can choose from?

It’s like the sign on that old country road,

‘pick your rut carefully, you’ll be in it for the next 20 miles’

If you start your business selling a little for a low price, guess what you’ll probably grow into? Selling a lot for a low price. Is that where you want to position yourself? And if you start your business selling a little for a high price, guess what you may (or may not) grow into? Selling a lot for a high price! But here’s the hard part of your ‘journey’ to become a high volume high price seller. You’ll encounter several temptations that will try to thwart your efforts. They are,

 

1. Competitors that match your offerings and lower prices forcing you to compete on price or fail.

2. A strong temptation to lower prices to increase volume.

One of these is an external threat, the other an internal temptation. Both must be avoided if you’re going to become a high volume, high price seller. But even if you never become a high price, high volume seller, it’s often times better, in economic terms, to remain a high price, low volume seller, and just manage your brand and customer base carefully, (think Rolls Royce). How many high volume low-price stores can you think of that have horrible brands, and eventually go out of business? That happens more often than anything else.

It’s obvious that the best place to start is by selling at a high price. And of course, I’m not talking about absolute price, (like selling items over $10,000), I’m talking about relative price, (like 10 times your cost of goods). I’m talking about ensuring you start with a high margin item. And that you find a way to offer your goods at a premium price in your market. If there is tons of undifferentiated competition in your category, you won’t be able to do this, but if you’re niche is small enough to dominate, then you can position yourself as the premium brand.

Of course, you might be thinking, ‘how does running auctions fit into all of this? – because then I’m not setting my prices, the marketplace is doing that for me!’ Good point. In some ways, running an auction is like a democratic way of setting your pricing path. You let ‘the market’ help you find your way. If your designs, photography, and brand identity are all spot on, then the market will catapult you to the top of your niche. You’ll be a high priced seller. If something is off, then the market will penalize you for it. The great part is – once the ‘market’ has placed you into a high selling spot, then you can legitimately own that spot. It’s the strongest of all brand positions – a market reinforced statement of your pricing legitimacy.

Remember your pricing strategy is a reflection of your brand strategy. Price wisely.