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The Handmade Highway!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stuck!


It's brainstorming day.

I'm sitting here in a completely quiet house trying to figure out what sort of changes need to be made for The Little Black Box in 2009.

Lots of changes.

Most importantly I need to drive more and more new traffic to the site. I need new connections and new online friends. Networking is key. One of my most favorite blogs right now is Momdot.com and I'd love to do something special with them. I'm also a big fan of Tip Junkie and I'd love to work with them as well. Any other suggestions?

I need to figure out a way to prevent businesses from signing up and then not following through with their commitment. This is a major one. I had 100 businesses signed up for October, November and December. I even turned businesses away in December because I was feeling overwhelmed. October and November were great! I had just about everyone follow through and I wasn't disappointed one bit. I knew that the box buyers would be extremely happy with the contents of the boxes and that the feedback emails I would get would be great. I LOVE happy box buyers because then I know that in return they'll support the businesses in the boxes leaving me with happy box contributers.

Our December due date rolled around and I was just about having a heart attack. 37/100 businesses had followed through with their commitment to the boxes that month. Bless the hearts of those that pulled it out during this busy season. I paid money for extra advertising for December expecting 80+ businesses to follow through and only 37 businesses sent in items. So I beat myself up a little and ask myself what I did wrong. Was it the holiday in the middle that caused people to lose track of time? Is it the economy and businesses couldn't afford to create their promos? Did those that signed up in August for a spot forget about their commitment? Nah, I send out reminder emails each week and didn't hear from anyone backing out. Or did businesses just not care that they had committed and didn't even care to take the time to let me know they weren't contributing? I really hope that wasn't the case.

Now, yes a handful of businesses did take the time to let me know. I'm forever grateful for their professionalism and very understanding too but as for the rest I'm pretty disappointed. It really truly makes you wonder how they treat their customers if they can't even take a second to send someone an email. It's a common courtesy! I can never let something like this happen again. I work my behind off to spread the news about handmade and the businesses participating because I love what I do but I expect to be treated fairly in return. I normally have enough items to make 300 boxes and we sell out each and every month but this month I was lucky enough to make 100. Not great!

So on to your opinion - What do you think I should do? As a box buyer what sort of changes to the boxes do you want to be seen made in 2009 and as a box contributer what do you want changed? I'm all ears! I value opinons! Customer service is key! I'm ready and willing and open to anything that sounds like it'd work.

Oh, and if you tend to follow blogs or other website you think The Little Black Box would fit in on you should link me so I can check it out. You never know where you might see us show up!

Thanks to Jelene for coming to the rescue last week when I was in a panic. She sent in the bestest promos as an addition to the December boxes. I'm adding her stuff in on top of all remaining bags. She's awesome!

December boxes have been marked down to 20 dollars! Get one quick!

14 comments:

Becky said...

I read 2 blogs that I think you should look into. First, The Nester is already featuring home based female businesses and would probably welcome some sort of joint effort. She is here: http://nestingplacenc.blogspot.com/

Second, I read Smart Bitches, Trashy Novels. It's a romance novel review site and I know it has very, very heavy traffic with people who value independent sellers- they added Powells on to a lot of their giveaways and whatnot to accomidate independent sellers. I know that this is directly related to black boxes but I could see a lot of overlap in readers. Their advertising might be rather pricey though.

Finally, would it be possible for you to have some sort of facebook presence- a way for people to friend you and updates about when boxes go on sale to get on people's feeds?

The Little Black Box said...

I could totally make a facebook for the boxes. I'm already on myspace but a facebook could be fun too!

Off to look into that!

abi said...

hey there! Here are some thoughts that I had...
For insuring that businesses send their product~ what about setting up a deposit system based on amount of samples that the business agreed to send ($25 for 50 samples, $50 for 100). You could refund the deposit when you receive the products. Also, what about featuring the businesses based on number of samples they promise. You could post an interview or "feature product" on your blog after you get the samples.
As for improving the boxes, perhaps you could require a sample size minimum (1 oz) so that they are more usable.
There is another box company that has a best packaging contest every month. The vendors who participate in the box get to vote and the winner gets a prize. Maybe your prize could be a product feature on the blog or something.
Good luck! : )

Carly said...

I definitely agree with having a page on Facebook and/or doing some advertising through them.

I don't really have any advice; just wanted to let you know what a great job I think you're doing!

Jeweltrinkets said...

Wow, that is so disappointing Kim! 37 out of a 100 participated. That really bothers me...I can't imagine why they would NOT want to market their product! People go through things, no doubt, but at least have courtesy to notify. Maybe if you charge a cancellation fee of $20 after committing, and or confirm that there are samples to be sent before they commit, that could help. You do a great job and I commend you on your work!

Gabbriella said...

Hi Kim :) I do know the economy is taking its toll on everyone right now. But I must say that if a business wants to sincerely live up to what they commit to they will find a way no matter what. Not to complain or anything but I am a divorced woman who was a stay at home mom & wife for 28 years who now has to live on my own, this year my alimony ran out in March, my bills are behind right now since I have taken ill & been in & out of the hospital & a couple weeks before boxes were due I had just gotten home from the hospital but I still made sure my samples got in to you in time. I did not get to send what I would have liked if I had more time but I still came up with an offering for the box. Possibly you could come up with a contract you email us & we in turn sign it as a commitment to you. If the contract is not honored then they can not participate in a box the next time. The deposit mentioned in a prior comment is a good idea but if I needed to do a deposit right now because of my own financial situation with my doctoring I would not able to leave a deposit & would miss out on a good opporunity for my advertising with you. Just remember you are planting a wonderful garden & all gardens need weeding out so you can see the beauty of the other things growing in there. This could just be a weeding process for your business... sorry to ramble on :)

KatieG said...

I would go with the deposit idea...maybe not for all months, but for months that are big sellers and you intend to have extra advertising, etc. then you could ask for a deposit. If the contributer does not follow through by a certain date you keep that deposit. One idea would be that could use the money collected from that deposit to pay another contributor (who has already followed through on their commitment) for additional samples? I would not try using a cancellation fee simply because it would be hard to enforce.

Ricki said...

I like the deposit idea.
How about having a few theme boxes each year? Like how January is vegan.

Lisa said...

I hope the businesses that backed out without notice didn't take spots away from other businesses who wanted to participate!

On a lighter note..I got the December box and it is GREAT! The businesses that did contribute did a wonderful job - I can't even pick a favorite out of them all!

Lisa

Becky said...

One last thing... I thought I would share that my husband orders the boxes so that he will have items on hand to use a small gifts on rough days- I'm a SAHM of 2 very small children so those days are frequent. You might want to think about advertising that application as well.

Also, we ordered a black box for a friend who had been in a rough patch and she was thrilled. But, there isn't any way to add a gift message or enclosure to the box on the order page. You might consider offering a way to make it easier to give a box as a gift. She was also excited to hear that you don't charge extra shipping to Hawaii as she is often caught by that.

LoveEtsyFeedback TagsAndButtons said...

Hey Kim! Im so sad that so many people didnt even bother letting you know that they couldnt participate! Unfortunatly people do do that, and I dont know why. I dont know if this idea will help but its what I do. For my blog:

http://www.loveetsyfeedback.blogspot.com

I have a calendar thats full right now through april (as far as I will go since I dont want to have to much stuff floating around) anyways, most people have followed through. Most of the few who have dropped out have let me know ahead of time or when I messaged. But, a few have been MIA and its frustrating as I spend nearly an hour or more on this blog working for each person featured, a day.

So what I do? around 10 days before someones set to be featured I see if they have filled out all the info. If they have perfect I tell them the features coming soon and when it goes up I send the link and ask that they let me knof all the info is correct. If they havnt sent me the info yet, then I send them the first message that I need it asap. 2 days later I send another message saying taht if I dont here back from them by XX date I will asssume they dont want to participate. I also ask that if they dont want to be featured to let me know, or if they want to be moved to a later date to let me know. If they STILL dont respond, then on that XX date I replace them, which is a pain because I have to go out with only a few days left and quickly get a new participant, but ill do it no worries.

For you, you could do something like this only changed a little. Like maybe 3 weeks before you send all the people who havnt gotten their stuff in a message saying that if you dont have their items or a message by XX date that the items will be coming, that youll replace their spot or drop them from the list. Then, to make it more worthy, maybe you can make a page "People not allowed to participate" which would be any shops that left you hanging with no items last second and didnt bother to let you know that they werent on there way. (Or something like this). Then everyone would be even more inticed to at least contact you if they cant participate, maybe theres a certain day each month where if someone cant participate they have to let you know by then, otherwise if no items show up then they get put on the naughty list. :D

--Tagsandbuttons.etsy.com

Peggy said...

Its so disapointing when 37 out of 100 failed to deliver. I would go with the deposit.When someone feel they would be losing money ,they will act.
I love your bags and will continue to order. I always find wonderful items and I will go to their site and buy but I need to see their works.
I hpoe you have a wonderful Holiday Season

Karen D. said...

I can't add any suggestions, becuase I think the ideas others have given you are great, but I just wanted you to know I love the boxes and will continue to purchase them every month. I hate that people committed to the December boxes, but I think posting a list of "naughties" would be a nice way to prevent this. I wouldn't purchase from people that didn't follow through with their commitment. Just wanted you to know your hard work is much appreciated!!!

Rasberryswrlgirl said...

I agree with Karen. I understand that sometimes things happen - but I think that a list of "Naughties" maybe not on the LBB site but on this blog might be a good idea. I wouldn't want to buy from a business that didn't keep their word. If they couldn't keep their committment to you, why should I trust them to send items after I send money?