A few months ago (seriously, like in June...), Hunting Handmade approached me and asked if I would be interested in sharing their new ebook called The Art of Audience Building for Etsy Sellers. As always, I was excited to bring new fresh content to Modern Soapmaking, and was happy to do so - if I could read it first.
Unfortunately, everything that happened over the summer (finding out I'm pregnant, traveling and teaching through morning sickness, and settling into our new lifestyle) kept me from cozying up with a copy of the ebook.
After launching my own new workbook on pricing, (available exclusively in Next Level) that I had been working on for months, I finally settled in with my Kindle & a copy of The Art of Audience Building for Etsy Sellers this week! (Better late than never, right?)
Hunting Handmade is the collective behind Etsy Hunter, so I had super high hopes for the ebook spilling all the secrets of Etsy audience building success. The ebook is more of a informational guide rather than a "how-to," which I much prefer as a format since step-by-step information misses out on tailoring business for your brand.
It's a relatively quick fifty six pages long (which makes me feel horrible that it took months for me to read!), and it's divided into seven sections:
- The Art of Audience Building
- Six Steps for Blockbuster Branding
- Success with Social Media
- Networking for Success
- Becoming a Thought Leader
- Back to Basics
- Tying It All Together
I was absolutely thrilled to see a section on branding in a book about.... well, not branding. The six steps gave some useful tips for someone fresh to thinking about branding, and laid a decent foundation to thinking about building an audience.
The section on social media was focused and thoughtful, with an overview on ways an Etsy seller can leverage social media marketing, as well as addressing which platforms are ideal for handmade products. The following sections addressed networking (yes, in real life), becoming a thought leader, and direct marketing (again, real life, oh my.)
I love that real-life marketing is wrapped up in this book, as many makers try to avoid (*shudder*) in-person interactions, and those moments can fuel business building fires of epic proportions. All of the sections provided an overview on ways you can utilize different avenues to market your products.
The keyword here being overview - if you find yourself needing in-depth information about a specific method (social media, networking, direct marketing, etc.), you will need to seek out additional resources. It's physically impossible to focus on these topics in the confines of a 50-something page book, so I completely agree with the approach. As long as you are aware you will not walk away with everything you need to know about social media, or whatnot, it's a fab resource for you to get an introduction into audience building.
Since the focus of the ebook is building an audience around an Etsy-based product, I was quite surprised that none of the audience building functionality found within Etsy's own ecosystem was addressed. Not a single paragraph was about treasuries, tagging, forums, etc. With Etsy's platform essentially working as an internal social media network, it would have been nice to see a section to devoted to the tools available specifically to Etsy sellers.
Two other words of warning I have to address for the soapmakers out there:
The First Caveat: A few of the suggestions to becoming an expert on your craft that are provided in the book are, in my opinion, not very good ideas. The book mentions someone selling crocheted products (a crocheter, I guess? Can you tell I'm not one of those peeps talented with yarn?) creating videos on how to crochet or make particular patterns on YouTube or giving away/selling their own patterns (among other actually fabulous suggestions) as ways to establish authority.
Sure, these things would establish your expertise in crocheting, but they would also attract an audience full of people who crochet.... not people who buy crocheted items per se.
Soapmakers already struggle with understanding their target market, and this line of thinking is one I try very hard to break. There are very few soapmakers who create soapmaking videos or give away/sell their recipes or techniques, and do so without solely attracting a bunch of other soapmakers as their main audience.
The soapmakers who do manage to pull this off successfully mix in other content in the same stream (such as video blog updates, reviews, etc.) that caters to both soap lovers and soapmakers (i.e. Katie of Royalty Soaps) or focus on their expertise in the eyes of the customer (show behind-the-scenes without all the technical jargon.) An example of rockstars focusing on their products through the eyes of their customers are the fab duo Danielle & Russ of Outlaw Soaps, with blog posts like these: how handmade soap is made, sourcing and choosing their soap fragrances, or a troubled batch of soap.
The First Caveat Fix-Up: As long as you remember that your audience building efforts should be tailored to serving your target market, you will be fine.
The Second Caveat: The introduction is all about the Hunting Handmade team's belief that building an audience should come first, even before financials and having a product. They even go as far as saying:
"Those long-held, traditional pillars of business: what your product is, how you will sell it, income and overheads, all of these things are no longer the most important step in building a successful business."
And that's just not something I can 100% get behind.
Building an audience is absolutely hella important, and I've witnessed soapmakers do this successfully (Zahida of Handmade in Florida and Holly of Missouri River Soaps both come to mind.) Both Holly and Zahida have masterfully produced content that present their products in a great light, and both built an audience before releasing their products for sale online (as far as I'm aware.)
However, hundreds of soapmakers I have worked with skipped the foundational (and traditional) business building steps of branding, product cohesion, and financial management in exchange for building an audience. And the reason I ended up working with them is because they couldn't grow their businesses to the size they wanted, sustain profitable growth, or monetize the audience they had worked so hard to build.
The Second Caveat Fix-Up: As someone who focuses on helping soapmakers build a business they can be proud of (with an emphasis on marketing among other business practices), I truly believe audience building is deadly important in the new age business world, but it should be done alongside smart business planning and building.
Do I recommend The Art of Audience Building for Etsy Sellers?
Both of these caveats are truly nitpicky types of things that I wanted to make sure to mention because I don't 100% agree with the wording and presentation of ideas. That doesn't change that the information is valuable or worth reading up on for quite a few folks!
Despite the warnings I'm throwing out here, I do think this title deserves a place among your digital shelves if:
- You are brand spankin' new to building your soapmaking business
- You don't have the slightest idea of how to build an audience to support your brand
- You want an overview of different areas of marketing to get you started
So, if that's you, you can head over to Hunting Handmade and pick up your own copy of The Art of Audience Building for Etsy Sellers:
While the title specifies Etsy sellers, there is very little Etsy-specific information. If the above factors apply and you don't plan on selling on Etsy, you will probably still find the information helpful.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of The Art of Audience Building for Etsy Sellers by the Hunting Handmade collective. In compliance with Modern Soapmaking's policies, the opinions within this review are solely my own and are directly correlated to experiencing and reading the content myself.
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