Business | 18-12-2020

How to get more sales in 2021

You have designed and created your unique artworks, but where are the buyers? Glass Network digital’s Editor, Linda Banks, suggests that an optimised website with great content can bring them straight to you. 

Anyone serious about making a success of their business knows that working hours should probably be divided into 90% on marketing activities and 10% on everything else. This is because, if nobody knows your beautiful products exist, nobody will buy them. 

So, once you have carefully created your product range, how do you make it visible to the right people and start making sales?

One thing the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated is that you cannot, and should not, rely on selling in person. You must have a presence online. This means having your own business website, which is secure (https, not http). Websites that are not secure are penalised by search engines and may be blocked when people try to access them. This is not what you want.

 Who or what is visiting your website?

When designing your website you must consider your audience. You may be surprised to learn that over half of the traffic coming to your website is not human at all, but ‘bots’ and ‘spiders’. These visitors will not be interested in how pretty your images are or whether you have an attractive layout – they will be checking how often your website is being updated with new content and how relevant the content is to users. They use ever-advancing machine learning to ‘read’ your website content and decide whether it is valuable to humans. This means that the words on your website are hugely important – as is the frequency with which you update content. Useful blogs and content that are posted regularly to your website will be seen favourably by the machines and, as a result, your website will be moved up the search engine rankings and be more likely to be found by humans.

Search intent

The other part of your website traffic is humans. In order to attract them, you need to understand their ‘search intent’. Search intent can be divided into layers, depending on where the person is in the search journey. You need content that will catch visitors at all levels of their search, from the broadest, to the most specific. For example, if you want to buy a new lawnmower but do not know where to start, you may type into the search bar, “lawnmower”. This will bring up all sorts of results, but may not help you choose the type you want or need. You will also be faced with a lot of sponsored posts from companies trying to sell you lawnmowers. 

At this point, you may decide to define your search more cleverly to help pinpoint the types of criteria you want in the lawnmower. Perhaps you want one that is for a large garden, for example. So you type in a better description of your needs and find more relevant links. You discover a link to a blog about lawn care for large gardens that mentions a range of brands of mower that are suitable. You may be impressed by the informative content, which helps you to make your decision, and note that the same company sells a selection of lawnmowers via the website. You begin to see the company as trustworthy, with an easy path to purchase, and you are more likely to buy from it. This principle should apply to your own website design. In order to attract the widest spread of purchasers, you need to think like your customer and answer the questions they will be searching for at every stage, from a vague, initial search, to a specific query. You do this through having relevant words on your website and an active blog.

The home page of your website needs a succinct description of your business and what it is about, for the benefit of both humans and machines. People have short attention spans, so you need to be clear about what you offer. For the humans, you want it to look attractive, too, especially when your products are in a creative field. But make sure your images are web-friendly and not too large, or they will take a long time to load and your visitor may be frustrated and go elsewhere. 

Regular content creation

Your website blog is where you can really use your content marketing to draw in customers. Ideally, you should be adding new content once a week. This may sound an onerous task, but if you make a content plan for the year ahead, you will soon discover that there is so much you can say and content creation ideas will come readily. Blogs do not need to be long. Around 500 words is fine, but if you find you have more to say, then a piece of 2,000 words is great, too. 

Tailor content to the reader

When talking about your latest products, tailor your blog headings to what the reader may be searching for. For example, one of the stained glass services I offer is Tiffany lamp repairs and I write about them in my blogs. I use the words ‘Tiffany lamp repair’ in the heading and in the body text (naturally, not shoe-horned in), so the bots know my post is relevant to the topic and the humans searching for that service will be shown a link to my blog post and be tempted to visit my website. On my website they can read about the various repairs I have done and see photos of the work. They begin to understand that I am an expert in this subject and trust that I will do a good job for them. I freely share my knowledge of the processes involved, so they appreciate the complexities.

From there, it is a simple click on the contact form, a call or an email and the website visitor becomes a customer and is providing you with work.

If I had titled my blog post something like ‘Another project I have finished’, that tells the reader nothing useful and does not draw traffic to the website. You need to include the key words that are relevant to search. So, while my blog post headings may seem unimaginative, they are that way for an important reason. If you offer a niche service or unusual product, writing about it is an excellent way to publicise it and attract customers online. If you don’t tell people you do it, nobody will know where to find you when they want that service or product.

As well as talking about specific projects, think about broadening your topics to catch a wider range of searchers. Like the lawnmower company talking about lawn care, think about how you can link your products or services to interior design, tv shows or fashion trends, for example, that people will be interested in and searching for already.

Spread the net with eCommerce on your website

Another important part of your website is the shop. Yes, you can put your products for sale with online retailers like Etsy, Folksy and Not on the High Street, but these platforms are swamped with sellers and you have to pay their fees. You can also sell through galleries and shops (online or in person) but, again, they charge high commission for their services. You can continue to sell with them, of course, as it is wise to have a broad range of outlets for your products, but why not also sell through your website and bank more of the profits for your hard work? If you set up a WordPress website, you can easily add a WooCommerce plugin and have your own selling space. This also means that, when you are making all that effort with your blogs to draw customers to your website, they may look at different parts of your site and, if it is easy to buy with a click, they are more likely to make an immediate purchase. 

Again, you need good quality images that are optimised for use online so they load quickly. It is also advisable to have images showing the product from several angles and in a ‘lifestyle setting’ if possible. Think like the customer – what do they need to know about the product? Make sure you cover their questions in the product description. Include the dimensions and weight, as well as colour or size options. Who, or what type of occasion, is it suitable for? Depending on what shop setup you have, you may be able to add images of similar products nearby, to tempt the customer to additional purchases.

Build a loyal fanbase

Offering a sign-up to a newsletter via your website is an excellent way to build a loyal fanbase. Attract people with a free offer or a discount. Then, once a month (or however frequently you choose), you can send out links to the latest blogs and products you have for sale, perhaps with an exclusive offer for those subscribers. This method will bring hits to the website (good for traffic statistics and search ranking) and encourage them to look at other pages and products.

You can amplify your online presence with regular posts on social channels, too, of course. But, again, these are busy platforms and increasingly being monetised by advertising that drowns out anyone who doesn’t pay for promotion. If you maintain an active focus on generating content on your own website, visitors who come via social channels will be impressed by your offering. 

The goal should be to gain organic traffic from around the globe, tempt visitors with attractive products and useful information, provide a smooth buying process and, of course, excellent customer service. Remember, whether you like it or not, you are competing with Amazon for speed of delivery, and it is vital to keep the customer informed of any delays and respond to queries swiftly. 

Yes, a good website that works for you takes planning and ongoing effort on your part, but the rewards are there for the taking, 365 days a year. 

About the author
Linda Banks is the Editor of the CGS Glass Network digital magazine. She has an established stained glass business, Orchid Stained Glass, and has worked in publishing for over 30 years, as an editor and journalist on both print and digital publications. She also runs the content creation and editorial services business, Wordbanks, where you can read more of her blogs on business topics.

New courses for CGS members
If you want further help with improving your digital skills, the CGS will be offering two courses exclusively for members in early 2021. The ‘Introduction to Social Media’ course will run from mid-February to mid/end-March 2021. This will be followed by the ‘Sell More Online’ course, from the end of March/early April onwards for six weeks. If you are not a member yet, please join now to enjoy these, and many other, benefits.

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