Monday, June 30, 2008

Branding part I - An Introduction

Lately, I've been thinking about how to establish the Pass It On Plates brand. I expect several artists and/or moms out there reading this may wonder,

"Why the heck would Pam care about that?"

Branding is critical for any small business working toward establishing itself and standing out from the competition. While Pass It On Plates may not have a lot of obvious competition in the field of interactive traveling plates, we still compete with everyone else selling gifts.

If you are new to this "Branding" concept, it's simple to grasp. Think about who says "Snap crackle pop!", imagine a certain fast food restaurant's golden arches, or envision the shape associated with the phrase "Just Do It."

Branding is an image and/or phrase
that your customer identifies as "you."

At this writing, there is not a lot of branding going on here at the Pass It On Plates blog. Or website for that matter. We put our flying plate logo on the plates and we show it off in pictures. It's on some promotional materials that we give away, such as mugs and tote bags, but that's about it. How many times do you see it as part of our web presence? Let's count: Blog? none.Plate diaries? none. Website? none again. Etsy store? consistently, none.

Grand total: Zilch. That's not good.

At the top of this summer's To Do list is: Establish the Pass It On Plates brand. Branding is new to me and I am learning as I go. Throughout this process I will share what I have learned and I'll offer ideas on how to make this work for you, whether you have a creative business, a Mommy blog, or some other home-based business that you wish to grow.

Next: Developing a Logo

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Secret really is in the Sauce

Have you seen this button here and there in the blogosphere? If you have, good for you! It's brand-spankin' new. If not, listen up and pay attention: This is big.

Two very smart ladies with way more sass, energy, and caffeine in their blood than I've ever had have started up a new blog called The Secret is in the Sauce, or SITS. This new blog promotes other blogs.
Yah yah yah, sounds boring, lots of blog try to do this, whoop-de-do.
...but wait - this one is different.

Yes, they promote other blogs. They feature one blog per day with about three posts from the featured blog. They have contests. They are forming a bond within their network of readers and featured bloggers. That's all very good. But read on...

They started their blog on June 1, 2008 and on their VERY FIRST blog post they got 329 Comments. Yep, that's right. I'll spell it out for you in case you think you read that wrong.
Three hundred twenty nine comments.
They have a legion of regular readers called "SITS sistahs" and "SITSTAS" right off the bat and growing.

Anyone with a blog, or something to sell and a blog to promote it knows that readership is silver and comments are gold. So how did they do it? I haven't asked them personally, yet, but it's obvious that the bottom line is comments. They are self-professed comment junkies, and from what I can see when I visit the blogs of some of their first-post-commenters, is that they promoted the heck out of their new blog before they officially launched and they invited all their bloggy contacts and friends and email contacts to stop by and leave a comment.


Oh, and they have invested a lot of their own money into some pretty huge contests like their first contest to generate a lot of excitement and rocket their readership - and "commentership" - to unbelievable numbers as fast as possible. They are having more contests that are still also pretty darn huge. Can you believe those prizes??

Now for the tie-in between comments and contests: in order to enter the contests, you need to visit the (very entertaining and inspiring) blogs they promote. and LEAVE COMMENTS. That's the whole point of SITS. Comments.

Brilliant move, Heather and Tiffany. A blogging gal could learn a lot from watching you two. As I type this up most of your daily posts have over 100 comments on each one. With your keen marketing and branding techniques, I bet you'll hit a thousand regular daily readers within no time.

So why am I bringing this up? First, duh, is to tell everyone to go over there and check out the contests. Second, another duh, is to tell you to comment comment comment.

Third is more subtle, but if you look at how they're doing it and why they're doing it tis will become obvious. If you find a hobby that you love, think outside the box to figure out ways to make it more than just a hobby. I think Heather and Tiffany have created a new career.

Like they say at the end of every blog post:

And, remember, when you see this:


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Learning Curve

When the concept for Pass It On Plates first started brewing, I had no inkling that it would turn into such a huge new idea. I also did not know that there would be such a steep learning curve to getting these plates out there. With a product this fresh and new I can't put up a few nice pictures and hope someone will come along and buy one. Thousands of talented people on Etsy and other crafty shopping sites are able simply to do that, some with great success. These plates, however, are a totally new animal to be tamed and trained.

My search for a user-friendly plate diary introduced me to the world of blogging. I'd heard of it but thought it was just for political discussions. Politics bore me, so I had never taken the time to check it out. Turns out blogging is currently my best format for the plate diaries, and it wasn't long before this blog (The Pink One, as I refer to it) was born. (It is pink today. An upcoming mini makeover may change that; we'll see.) Nowdays, I love blogging and reading blogs.

The learning didn't stop with setting up a few blogs, oh no no no... Along with the blogs I've set up an Etsy store, sewed and painted up and glued and packaged an inventory of plates to sell, wrote up some marketing and promotional pieces, and built the main website that ties everything together. Whew, that's a lot of new stuff to learn! I still have business classes to take so I can learn more about what to do with all the paperwork I'm making for myself, but at least Pass It On Plates is officially "off the ground" now.

I've gotta say, though, that most of it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Starting a business and getting it registered was a lot easier than I thought. Ditto for pretty much everything in the above paragraph. If you are reading this and wanting to switch from casual crafting and turn your talent into a full-fledged business, check back here often. I'm going to start sharing some tutorials and tips to help you get your own business "off the ground," too.

As for what's the next step for Pass It On Plates, everything is in place and a big production goal has been met, so it's time to start introducing the world to Pass It On Plates. This means another learning curve: figuring out how to get the word out there.

And getting the plates out there.