Business truth #45,234 – not all marketing activities have to cost you money. No matter what marketing experts tell you.
In a world full of paid ads, promotions, influencers and even tweets, it’s sometimes hard to remember that. There are ways to grow your creative business without spending money.
Some growth can come organically. One of my favorite ways to market my business for free is by providing customers with amazing customer service.
When I entered my second year of running my Etsy shop, I realized that I wanted to grow even more. This was before Etsy ads and I didn’t really have a lot of money yet to reinvest. (Most of the money I made went to pay the childcare costs to give me a chance to work in the first place.)
So, I decided to spend the year focusing on customer service. I wanted to improve my customer communication, encourage 5 star reviews and make my shop memorable without a lot of jazz.
Many times offering good customer service for your Etsy shop is an after thought. It’s not easy to remember that people are the heart of your business. Especially when you are located online.
But providing amazing customer service to your customers online is just as important as a brick and mortar shop. And, if you think about it, even more is at stake.
Just because you can’t see you customers’ faces doesn’t mean that they weren’t disappointed when the product didn’t work properly or their order didn’t arrive on time.
And these reactions aren’t the best if you’re hoping to make a new customer a repeat customer. Over half of my business each year comes from repeat customers. And as I’ve realized over time, a customer sometimes remembers an amazing customer service experience. She always remembers an awful one.
So, back to my year of focusing on customer service. By using some of these easy techniques, I was able to put my Etsy shop customers first. And by spending the time improving my customer service, my Etsy shop started to grow organically.
Word of mouth is still one of the best marketing tools. And it’s free.
If someone has an amazing experience, they want to tell people about it. These days how they let others know about their experience just looks different. Today, your customers share through social media or just a casual conversation with friends. They might pass around your business card at a party. Your customers love to let their friends and family know about the things they love.
All of a sudden, their network stops by to check out your amazing Etsy shop. And when those customers have an amazing experience, they go tell everyone they know about it.
So, starts the organic growth of your shop. It turns out that you don’t really need any paid ads or promotions. Just a really good customer experience. And maybe a lot of loud talkers.
If customer service is not currently part of your marketing strategy and your shop is struggling with growing, it might be a good time to focus on your customer service. Here are some easy ways to improve customer service and grow your Etsy shop organically.
Recently, some of my Etsy customers have been responding to my conversation thread a little more grateful than usual. I’ve received a lot of thank yous just for taking the time to respond.
It turns out that a lot of Etsy sellers don’t even get back to their customers these days. I can’t always help everyone with their design requests. But I make it a goal to get back to most of the potential customers that reach out to our shop.
I know responding can get complicated if your shop gets really busy. But it’s really important. One of the ways customers decide if they want to make a purchase is the type of engagement they have with the shop owner.
It’s a little scary to make a purchase – especially a big one – if the shop owner isn’t responding to a conversation. Customers start to wonder if your shop is a good one to purchase from. They start questioning whether or not they should make a purchase from you. Will their order ever arrive?
The initial conversations that you have with your potential customers helps to establish a positive relationship from the start. By not responding, uncertainty and doubt develop in your customers’ minds.
I know this isn’t the impression you want to give. It’s never good to leave a thought of uncertainty in the minds of your customers.
Make sure this doesn’t happen by always getting back to your customers in a timely manner. I schedule a time after lunch to respond to all my shop’s messages. If you have too many messages, then consider hiring a VA to help you. This is an easy task to hire out so you can focus on the creating part of your business.
But what if I can’t help them?
I get a lot of questions every day from customers that I can’t help. That’s okay. The way you respond will still leave a good impression.
Although there are some conversations that I don’t respond to, most of the people who reach out to me get a response that let’s them know this. I want shoppers to feel free to go to another seller.
I’ve also found that many times when I respond to them – even if I can’t help them – they will still make a purchase in my shop. Cha-ching.
Some also follow me on social media or sign up for my email list.
You never know.
So, respond to conversations promptly and often. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your customer service and grow your audience.
Use Saved Replies Often
Saved replies. Snippets. Whatever Etsy chooses to call them this week.
Etsy has a feature in their conversation system that’s designed to save you time. Lots of time.
This week Etsy rolled out a new version of their snippets system called Saved Replies. It works in a similar way to the old one. The only difference is that they’ve provided you with a number of pre-written saved replies so you don’t even have to come up with your own any more.
A saved reply (or snippet – I really liked that name better) is a saved bit of text that you can paste into a conversation. Saved replies can range in length and can be used for almost any communication you might have.
I have saved replies that are whole conversations I customize for the customer. I also have saved replies that are short little bits of text that I plug in when responding to a common question.
Saved replies are accessible in the bottom part of the conversation box. When you’re answering a question, you can insert the saved reply that is most appropriate for the response.
Using saved replies often can save you a lot of time when communicating with customers. As you grow your shop, you’ll start to notice that you answer certain questions very frequently. Save these responses so you can reference them later.
Once you have a collection of saved replies, you can insert them into your Etsy conversations. After you paste it into your conversation, you can customize your saved reply with your customer’s information. This makes it look like you took the time to craft something personal.
Create a library of saved replies to answer different questions your customers have. It’s a great way to be prompt when responding and always make sure you answer all your conversations. You don’t want to be known as the shop that didn’t respond.
Always Answer with a Smile
Once your shop starts growing, you’ll notice that customers ask a lot of questions. And when I say a lot, I mean you will receive multiple conversations a day.
After awhile, it can be exhausting to constantly have to get back to your customers.
One policy that I adopted recently is to always answer with a smile. No matter how I’m really feeling. Your smile helps to set the tone for your response. And customers can tell.
Send Orders on Time
This might seem basic, but isn’t always easy. When customers make a purchase from your shop, your listing tells them when they can expect their product to ship.
Many customers will choose to order from you based on the amount of time stated in this space.
When setting up your listing, make sure that you choose an appropriate turn around time. Don’t make your turn around time too short or your orders will always be late.
I also add into the listing description to confirm current turn around times in the Announcements section. I close the studio sometimes for travel. So, the most accurate turn around time is located there.
If a customer needs their order faster than I can deliver, I do offer refunds. Decide on this policy early on and be consistent. It’s a lot easier way to manage your customer service.
Create Branded Shipping Materials
The problem with being an Etsy shop is making your shop stand out above all the rest of the Etsy shops out there. These days, when I hop onto the marketplace, it seems like a sea of similar.
Help your shop stand out and make customers feel extra special with branded shipping materials. When you ship your package, you want your customer to know that it’s from your shop and theirs something important inside. Even before they open it.
There are lots of ways that you can add your shop’s branding to your packages. You can create stickers for the outside of your box or stamp your logo on the mailing label. Or have custom shipping boxes printed with your logo or a easy to remember tagline on them. You can also add washi tape or other fun decorations to make your packages more fun.
Once your customer opens their box, make the experience memorable. One of my favorite independent party supplies shops includes candy and confetti in their box. You can just imagine my excitement when I receive goodies from their shop.
Think about something free you can easily stick in the box that is a fun little bonus.
You should also include the packaging slip and a business card. Throw in a couple of business cards so they can share some with a friend.
If you’re going to take the time to improve your customer service, it’s nice when customers recognize your efforts. One area that’s often overlooked on Etsy are your shop’s reviews.
Reviews are more important than many of us like to think. Not only is it a clear reflection of your customer service, but having high reviews helps your shop get priority in Etsy Search.
These days, though, it’s hard to get customers to leave reviews. Even if you knocked their socks off.
A gentle reminder is always a good idea. Include a postcard with your packaging. Add a request for a review to the bottom of your shipping confirmation email. Or even send a follow up conversation or email to check about your customer’s satisfaction (and ask them for a review to tell others what they thought).
Want some other ideas for encouraging reviews from your customers? Check out these ideas here.
Consider a Refund
Since starting my Etsy shop, I’ve always had the policy of not accepting returns. Most of my products are customized, so once the design work is completed, there isn’t much I could do with a return.
But, things happen when completing orders. Customers aren’t happy with the product they receive. The product arrives damaged. The post office loses their package and it doesn’t arrive until three weeks after Christmas.
Even if you state that you don’t offer refunds in your shop, at least consider them on a case by case basis.
In my shop, I have a lot of people purchase designs and not really understand what they are receiving. Especially if they are first time buyers.
My cancellation policy is that if the work hasn’t been completed, you can get a refund. Even though I state that I don’t give refunds.
Before opening your shop, decide how you want to manage refunds and cancellations. It’s okay to state in your official policy that you don’t give refunds. But how will you handle these situations when they arise. Decide early on so at least your consistent.
Write Clear Policies
Policies are an important part of any retail establishment. When written well, they state clearly to your customers what your shop does and doesn’t do.
Before opening your Etsy shop, take the time to write clear policies. The policies section is located under the Settings tab. Etsy also let’s you choose whether or not you provide refunds and cancellations.
Then you can layout your policies for returns, shipping and any other frequently asked questions.
Remember, that your policies are never set in stone. Visit them often and make changes as necessary. Things in your shop can change and those adjustments should be reflected in updated policies.
But does anyone really read your policies?
To be honest with you, probably not. But part of my listing description states that by choosing to purchase from our shop, you’ve read the policies. It’s the customer’s job to understand what your shop does and doesn’t do.
When I have gotten into a dispute with a customer over what’s included with their order or the services that I provide, I can reference the policies section. As long as it was written clearly, my policies are my defense if they choose to open a case with Etsy against my shop.
Be Up Front
At least a few times a week, customers ask me to deliver large handcrafted orders for their parties by the weekend. As much as I would love to accept these orders, I know that it’s impossible to hand craft the order in time. Not to consider the shipping time needed.
Don’t accept an order that you can’t complete. Be honest with your customers. Tell them if you won’t be able to make their order in time or if there’s not enough time for shipping.
I always try and offer an alternative solution if possible – such as a digital version. And this sometimes works. But accepting payment and not delivering in time for their event is not an option. Be the Etsy seller that’s up front and your customers will keep coming back.
Manage Negative Reviews with a Positive
When you own an Etsy shop, an occasional negative review is just par for the course. Not everything can go perfectly all of the time.
If your shop does receive a negative review, use your opportunity to respond as a chance to reflect positively on your business.
Craft a response that describes the things your business does do well and how you tried to help this customer.
And make sure you’re in a positive mood when you write it. Responses to negative reviews never come out right if you write them when you’re in a bad mood. Our lack of positive energy is apparent in our tone.
Before responding to a negative review, take a walk or go do something else for awhile. Give your mind a chance to reflect on the things that could have gone better with the transaction.
When you’re ready, you can write your response in positive light. Since all reviews and responses can be easily found these days, you never know when a potential customer might read it. So, make sure it’s crafted in a way that will make others want to do business with your shop in the future.
Providing amazing customer service to your customers should be one of the cornerstones of your business. It’s the easiest way to make your creative business stand out in a crowded landscape.
The best part is that it costs very little to improve customer service. Many times it’s just about putting on a smile and perfecting your email communication skills.
As you improve your customer service, your shop will start to grow organically. And no amount of marketing dollars can be exchanged for organic growth.
So, brush off your customer service skills and start working extra hard to wow your customers today.