The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing was first published in 2013. I’ve taken the time to update and expand this helpful book for those of you who are selling [or thinking about selling] bath and body products online. Back in 2004, I opened up my store, EverythingShea.com. I started off knowing very little about how to get people to visit my little website. I’m sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who wishes to get more customers.
Best of all, this book is still the same low price it was when it first was published in June 2013. However, one thing’s changed — there finally is a paperback edition!
Much of the information in this book is also helpful for those creative people who sell other types of arts and crafts online.
Soapmakers and crafters, learn how to grow your online presence! “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing” is packed with detailed information on designing, building, and promoting your website. Learn how to write a press release. Get loads of free and low cost promotional ideas. Attract customers by blogging, making videos, and showing off enticing photos of your soaps and/or other bath and body products. Written by the author of “The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting” and more than a dozen other soap crafting books.
♦ Successful SEO tips ♦ Free online and offline website promotion tips ♦ Helpful photo guidelines ♦ Video ideas ♦ 100+ updated links ♦ Getting product reviews ♦ Set up your work/crafting area ♦ Wholesaling and labeling guidelines ♦ Avoiding online fraud ♦ Tips on creating your product line ♦ Basic soap recipes ♦ More than 30 resources
Crafting books are always in demand, especially around the holiday season. In 2011, I published my first melt and pour soap crafting ebook. Since then, I’ve noticed a proliferation of other ebooks on all types of soap crafting methods, along with how to make other bath and body products. Many of them are written by authors who write about a variety of nonfiction topics.
Last month I was contacted by an author of a soap making book in search of a review. I was interested in seeing what types of soap it covered so I agreed to look at it. When I received the PDF copy, I noticed it had photos, always a plus, but the material seemed to be regurgitated. After reading it, I learned nothing new. Contacting the author to inquire about her soap making experience, I didn’t receive a response.
And that’s the problem with many of the newer titles; the author is just repeating facts they’ve either read online or in other books. Some of them aren’t avoidable, like the history of soap making, but others are. There have even been cases of ebooks that were “written” by authors who found content/recipes on websites, copied and pasted them into a file, and slapped their name on the content.
What I’d encourage you to do when buying nonfiction titles is to take a minute or two and see if the author is an expert in the field they are writing about. When it comes to soap, lip balm, lotions, perfume etc., see if they discuss how they make and/or sell the product[s]. If they don’t sell what they are writing about, then check to see how long they’ve been making the products.
Other tips on finding worthwhile ebooks:
~ How long is the book? Amazon posts an approximate page count, as do other online bookstores. Using the sample feature can give you a clue as to how long the book is, especially if it contains a table of contents. In fact, most nonfiction books should contain one.
~ What is the book’s price? Free. Well, why not take a chance if you have the room [and the time!] but for books priced at $0.99 and above, I’d recommend that you read the sample to see if it’s going to be of interest to you. Another gripe readers may have with a soap crafting book is that it might be about a different type of soap making technique than what they’re seeking. By checking out the sample you avoid downloading the “wrong” type of ebook.
~ Does the book include recipes? Does it only contain recipes? Are the recipes indicated by grams/ounces? Both? If it only contains recipes, does it give information that might be necessary such as safety tips, where to buy supplies, basic facts about soap and/or other body products? For those who make soap from scratch, recipes with accurate measurements are imperative as lye, oils, water and other additives must be carefully calculated.
~ Is a supplier/resource section included? I think it’s helpful to provide resources so that people can easily locate any of the ingredients that the author writes about. When I first began crafting melt and pour soap, I didn’t have any ebooks to read with lots of pictures and step by step instructions. Now all of us do, as there are many to choose from!
I’m no stranger to craft fairs and farmer’s markets as a customer. I’ve attended these types of events since I was a kid. They’re fun to go to and I know what to look for when shopping for soap and other bath and body products.
What initially attracts my attention is how the soap is displayed. Nice, neat rows of soap? Stacks of the stuff? Baskets, containers or little tubs brimming with it? Soap that needs to be cut for you like wheels of cheese [think Lush]. Soap loaves? Some shelves flaunting your soapy wares? For lots of brilliant examples, go to Google images and type in “soap displays for craft shows.” You’ll see loads of ideas in just the first few images.
The Scents of the Season
I’ve read and seen that there are certain scents that sell better in the warm weather than around Christmas or in cold weather. In warm weather, the trend is for lighter fragrances like florals, especially lilac, lily of the valley, sweet pea, anything with the word “blossom” in it, and fruity scents. Consider the fruits that ripen during the warmer months: Strawberries, peaches, watermelon, mangoes, papayas, blueberries, plums, etc. Vanilla is a warm aroma that is associated with baking but is good any time of year. You can’t go wrong with a fresh green herbal fragrance or one reminiscent of the garden, like mints, thyme, or rosemary. Then you have the perennial citrus favorites: lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. You’ll attract customers with fragrances that smell like the elements: ocean breeze, tropical rain, fragrant meadows, country roads, or forests.
In the fall and winter, the aromas are a little heavier. Say hello to pumpkin–that’s a perennial fall through Christmas favorite. And for Christmas, you’ll have candy cane/peppermint, eggnog, balsam, bayberry, cinnamon, Christmas tree/evergreen, mulberry, and frankincense and myrrh.
To Wrap or Not to Wrap?
Unwrapped soap, [naked soap], shows off the products to the fullest advantage. You can clearly see the size, color, and texture. The customer can get up close, and smell the aroma. The problem with naked soap is that it’ll be handled by anyone. Also, by not having labels people with allergies won’t see if it contains a potential problem ingredient. A label should be included with each soap whether it’s written on a chalkboard, printed on a sign, available on slips of paper or on the backs of business cards.
Which leads to how you bag your bars of soap. No matter what type of bag you use, always include a business card/flyer/brochure/postcard that has your vital stats like your website address, email, business address, phone number, and all-important company name. If you’re a wholesaler make sure that’s mentioned in your promotional literature. That customer might own a hotel, bed and breakfast, or shop that will be very interested in your products.
Who doesn’t love free samples? I do, but I don’t expect them. Unfortunately, some people think you should not only provide freebies, but you should either give your soap away or offer substantial discounts. And they’ll come up with some pretty wacky reasons as to why they’re so privileged. Including little bars or slices of soap [along with your contact information] is a goodwill gesture. It often leads to more sales. It’s also recommended that you clearly label the name of the soap/product freebie along with a brief description. Lavender Soap is usually sufficient for people to figure out what it is, but that perennial kiddie favorite, Monkey Farts, might need a few keywords to explain that it’s a fruity or coconutty soap.
Pricing – Buy 3 get the fourth bar free or any variation that promises a free bar of soap will get me over to your booth in a flash! People enjoy getting bargains.
Soapmaker, Salesperson—or Both?
Standing behind a booth all day selling your wares can be a challenging to the more reserved soapmaker. However, you’re the expert. You know every aspect of your soaps from ingredients to oils to molds to packaging. Sometimes dealing with various personality types can be taxing. You’ll encounter the inevitable free sample trolls and the free recipe trolls. In other words, there will be people who want to do exactly what you do. You can’t control that. I’ve seen and read about this countless times. Just be polite and don’t indulge them.
Some soapers prefer having a salesperson do their work for them. Whether an employee, or a relative or friend, as long as they can effectively answer questions and promote your products. And please be a conscientious soaper that has extensive knowledge of your product along with lots of experience when it comes to making it! Many times, I’ve wandered into a crafting forum and seen newbies in despair over their soaping boo-boos that have come belatedly to their attention during a craft show. That includes soap that started as sapphire blue in the morning but the sunlight faded it to pale blue or even bone white. Soaper, know your products!
Another advantage soapmakers have by selling their wares at a public venue is the opportunity to meet customers and listen to their needs. You’ll see trends in fragrances. After the venue is over, take inventory and see what your hot sellers are and what doesn’t do as well. You might consider offering a special ordering service to those that want unfragranced soaps or palm-free soaps, etc. Perhaps you have many fragrances/essential oils that aren’t used in your current product line—if you have customized scenting you’ll attract new customers.
Whether you sell soap and supplement it with other products, packaging it in a gift basket is another way to attract interested customers – no matter what time of year.
Have lots of fun, sell lots of soap and know that you’re making the world a cleaner place one customer at a time!
I’ve done two virtual blog tours. Both were for different contemporary fiction titles. Tours lasted for 14 days and they were with two different blog tour companies.
The second blog tour company has been around longer than the first, but longevity doesn’t mean scrupulousness. For my second tour, my optimism was shattered after receiving the interview questions. On five out of seven questionnaires, I was asked what inspired me to write my book?
Guess the blog owners didn’t tax themselves when it came to thinking up questions. Copying the questionnaires in a Word document, I read the rest of the prosaic queries. Then it struck me: not one single question pertained to my book. They’d all gotten free copies of it, had seen the cover, had received the blurb, and had ample time to read or at least skim it. Yet there was absolutely no level of interest in a novel that took me years to write and rewrite and have edited. I also checked out the various bloggers’ sites and noticed that most of them had a boilerplate template where they asked the same questions repeatedly and only the answers differed.
While I was aware that many of the bloggers preferred romance/YA novels and its subgenres, I also knew that a contemporary novel wasn’t that far of a stretch for blog owners to promote. As the second tour company allegedly had an extensive list of bloggers I thought that they would be able to effectively match up my book to blogs that were also contemporary fiction-friendly.
Another problem was the size of the blogs: some had as few as 20 followers while others had more than 2000. But how accurate was that? I’d once sent a nonfiction book to a blogger to review who had 500 followers. Sales of my book increased and there were also several comments on the book review and giveaway. But that never happened to me on either novel tour. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t giving enough of an incentive [bribe] for readers other than free PDF copies of my novels. No Amazon or B&N gift cards, no free Kindles or Nooks, nothing of any “value” other than my eBooks.
I was told to provide three excerpts and some of the interviewers asked for other excerpts making the total seven plus one blog topic of my own choosing. As the second tour progressed, I began seeing the excerpts repeating themselves. In some cases, bloggers were adding two excerpts instead of just one.
Blog tours are coordinated several weeks in advance, yet more than once during the first tour, I had to contact the blog tour owner and ask why my scheduled interview/excerpt/review hadn’t been posted.
Instead of opting for a review-only tour, I went for tours that featured interviews, excerpts, and reviews. The first time I garnered four reviews, but in my second foray in virtual booktourland I received one generic review.
I’ll admit it: twice I made time-killing mistakes. I spent a few hours answering the questions. I wanted to be sure they weren’t repetitive, which is tricky when faced with many similar questions. I opted for lighthearted answers to keep the content enjoyable for the reader. As a “veteran” of one blog tour with little upsurge in eBook sales, I wasn’t expecting anything different the second time around. As the tour limped on, I knew I was right but not in a good way.
I was paying to give any available blogger the tour company lined up free material. My writing was helping promote their blog. It was getting them page views, ad revenue and touted their own books and/or products. They got fresh content that only required them to format each post. Aside from the money and time spent on the blog tours, the sheer lack of interest became apparent — a blogger/reviewer often won’t bother to read your book. There are reviewers who’ll read an entire book and write a lucid review—but I have no idea what percentage that covers—it’s just the luck of the draw. Weeks after the second tour was over, I happened to look up my book to see how it was doing on Google. Randomly clicking a link to a blog where I’d contributed an excerpt, I saw the page was now blank — the blog owner had removed the post.
And that summarizes how I feel about doing a third paid virtual book tour…it’s not an option I would consider again.