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
I’m a huge fan of Pinterest. It’s like being in a library full of pretty pictures and filing them in your online card catalogue! Learning how to pin is incredibly easy and once you’ve created your first board, you’re off and pinning.
Here are eight tips about how to have more fun pinning pictures on Pinterest.
1. Pin Me!
You’ll see the red and white capital P which means it’s ready to be pinned to one of your boards, sent to a fellow member or given the red heart of approval. Additionally, you have the option of checking the Twitter box whenever you pin so you can share it with your Twitter followers.
2. Your Board Covers
These can be changed as frequently as you like. Each board cover should reflect what your pin board is about. For my popular Talented Soapmakers board, I always choose striking and unique looking bar/s of colorful soap.
3. Pinterest & Twitter
The following gorgeous photo of Chanel No. 5 type soap by Soproano Labs was found on my Twitter feed so I had to share it with my Pinterest followers. The two sites work very well together–much better than the early days of Twitter where you had to click links to see photos and videos.
4. Commenting and Likes
Choosing to comment on any pin that floats by is entirely up to you. Some pins seem to elicit more comments than others do – especially if an adorable baby animal is the subject. Liking is that heart-shaped button on the right hand side of any pin. I ‘like’ every pin I share.
5. Organizing Pins/Pinboards
How you choose to organize your pinboards is what can help make yours stand out more. Some opt for alphabetical order; other pinners group their boards according to subject. I’ve seen pinboards that show an entire spectrum of colors. Others are seemingly haphazardly arrayed, yet make perfect sense to the board owner. Pinterest people come from all over the world, so when it comes to pinboards, I like to include international boards–because beautiful photos transcend language. I’ve since learned the word soap in several languages. I now recognize jabon, savon, zeep, and seifen, to list a few–although there can be variations and I’ve left off the accent marks! Naming boards can also show a pinner’s creative or practical flair. Below you can see my top 11 boards. Click to enlarge image.
6. Group Boards vs. Your Own Boards
You may see some pinners with hundreds of thousands of followers. Don’t be fooled by large numbers as they may only follow group boards. Group boards allow you to pin your own pins or share pins. You can invite others to share pins. However, depending upon the size of the board, your contributions may get lost. Carefully read the instructions for each group board as some forbid commercial pins while others encourage them. Also, you may be limited in the number of pins per day you can add.
It’s always helpful to use keywords when you upload a pin. This way, your pin is easily found in the Pinterest search engine. For example, if you’re looking for a melt and pour soap recipe, you’ll certainly find them on the internet and especially on Pinterest.
In the example on the right, the photo is clearly marked as to what type of soap it is, along with the company’s URL. The keyword-rich description includes the name of the company and the fact that it’s a recipe. This is very intelligent marketing.
8. Pick a Board
This feature has gotten even easier to use, especially with keyword-friendly pins. Oftentimes, I’ll pin to my Squirrel-Friends board https://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/squirrel-friends and while many of the pins aren’t loaded with keywords, just by using the word “squirrel” the Pick a Board feature takes me to my Squirrel-Friends board, which saves me from having to scroll down. The example on the left doesn’t show any keywords but Pinterest recognizes it as a squirrel picture and offers the correct pinning option.
Pinterest is changing for the better and you can help it grow by pinning your pretty pictures!
When I go to a party store and see the vibrant luau section, I always want to buy the tiki lamps, hula skirts, leis, colorful napkins and paper plates and throw a big party. Doesn’t matter what time of year, it represents that perpetual summer—which can be good if you like warm weather and tropical scenes.
I decided to create a fun recipe to share with you. When the soaping bug hits, it hits hard and this’s the result. Tropical Paradise is a little more involved than a basic single pour method, but not much. Plus, the results are more 3-D!
I chose white soap base as that’s what I had on hand and I wanted a pastel colored theme rather than neon colors. Of course, you can use clear soap base and have a more dramatic looking contrast between clear soap and bright green or whatever color you choose mini palm tree embeds.
Both molds came from the discount store and cost $1 each. One is a storage container; the other is a plastic ice cube tray. Pictured here are the ingredients including, from left to right: containers of mica, white soap base, ice cube tray, and storage containers. The colorful tropical themed napkin is sold in a package of 20. The napkin can be used for wrapping but only after the soap has first been wrapped in cling wrap–otherwise the colors will run.
8 cavity mini palm tree molds [approx. 2 oz total]
Instructions for Palm Tree Mold:
Slice the soap base into small cubes. Just before the soap is fully melted, add the colorant. Adding fragrance to them is optional. Stir well. Slowly pour into the molds. Spritz away bubbles with rubbing alcohol. Allow soap to harden in fridge, freezer, or remain at room temperature. Remove from molds. This soap will solidify within minutes. Remove and set aside.
NOTE: If you live in an area with low humidity, it’s best to allow this soap to freeze so that it’ll be even easier to keep the little soap inserts/embeds from melting when pouring the second layer.
Instructions for Oval/rectangular Mold:
Prepare your molds by placing one to three of the mini palm trees on the bottom.
Slice up soap base into small cubes and melt. Stir well and add colorant. Add fragrance. Don’t pour it when it’s too hot, make sure it’s cooled down so it won’t melt the mini palm tree embeds. Then pour a small amount into molds, about half the size of your intended soap bar [2 ounces or so]. Spritz away any bubbles with rubbing alcohol. Allow soap to harden slightly. Test this by touching it gently with your finger. The surface should be firm but you’ll feel a little give as it won’t be completely solid. Now add more of the mini palm trees. Pour the rest of the soap so that it covers them, although you can have it so the palm trees stick out! Allow to solidify. Once it’s hardened remove from the mold. Make sure soap is at room temperature before wrapping. Wrap in cling wrap and label.
Learn more about soap crafting! Check out my book titles and articles here: soapmaking stuff
Discover how to craft rebatch/hand-milled soap base into a unique and versatile shampoo bar for most hair types. Also includes a recipe for Rooibos tea and apple cider vinegar hair rinse.
This ebook began as a blog post…but it kept on getting longer and longer and longer! As I’m giving a recipe for a soap base that is somewhat different from melt and pour glycerin soap base, I feel as though more background information is needed.
I’m also seeing a plethora of nonfiction ebooks flooding online bookstores that, in some cases, are written by those with little to no knowledge of their topic. Therefore, for those of you who haven’t read any of my books or articles, I have actually made and sold shampoo bars, as well as soap and other bath and body products. I made my first bar of soap way back in 1998. I still maintain my Everything Shea Aromatic Creations website but no longer sell from it. If you look at it,www.everythingshea.comyou’ll see some of my articles about fine hair care, virgin coconut oil, moringa seed oil, etc. I believe in keeping people informed about natural soap and bath and body products.
For many years, I’ve successfully used shampoo bars. I formulate my own unique blends using hair-loving additives like jojoba oil, moringa seed oil, shea butter, goat’s milk, green tea, and Indian herbs such as amla, shikakai, and aritha. I’m not a cosmetologist. I don’t have a PhD in chemistry. I didn’t attend soapcrafting school. Everything I’ve learned has been done the old-fashioned way: by reading and by doing. I’ve invested loads of time and effort into learning all I can about crafting soap, whether it is glycerin melt and pour, or rebatching. When I first began working with rebatch soap, sometimes referred to as hand-milled soap, I wasn’t aware of the difference. I found out after waiting and waiting and waiting for it to melt in a one setting, one-quart crock-pot. Talk about slow! But that was how I began learning.
I’m sharing some basic tips on how to launch a crafty eCommerce business website.
Your website is your storefront. Will you design your own website or hire a professional? Another option is to get a predesigned virtual store at Etsy, eBay, Artfire, WordPress, etc.
Buy Your Domain Name
Usually it costs less than $10 per year.
More than a decade ago, I bought the domain name everythingshea.com which I still own. Although people from China wanted to own it, I said no, you can use whatever you want in Chinese but in good old American English it’s still EverythingShea.com. After all, I started this company because I love shea butter, and all my products contain shea butter.
Internet History: Archive.org
If you’re not already familiar with http://www.archive.org you might want to be. If you start an online website, whether you’ll be running it as a store, or just as a nice online display case of your product[s], it’s a helpful site to visit. You can see just about any website’s history or find out if the website ever existed and/or what it looked like years ago.
PayPal Shopping Cart
I used PayPal as my shopping cart. It’s free and all you pay is a small percentage for each sale. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, PayPal is an option you’ll want to consider. Also, PayPal is the payment of choice on Artfire, Etsy, eBay and many other online shops.
It’s All About You!
Aside from having an eye catching, keyword-friendly main page, I recommend having an About page on your website. Visitors can get to know about you and your products. This increases customer confidence, tells us how long you’ve been making your products, and what inspired you to make them.
This page should feature information about the origins of your company. Share photos of your products—even if it’s only one. You can also have pictures of you and/or your workplace. If you have a soap site and sell soap bars or shampoo used for animals, show a picture of a dog being bathed in your soap. For an author’s website, display your picture, book cover, and/or workplace.
Expanding the WWW
The WWW is like the universe – expansive! It grows page by page, picture by picture, and video by video–every day and night. Like authors writing more books and uploading them onto Amazon, B&N NOOK, Kobo, iTunes, etc., the more titles you have, the more web pages you have, the more likely you are to be noticed.
Each page should accurately represent your product and not use any tricks. I’m a firm believer in quality versus quantity. Show and tell the audience why they need to buy your product. Be creative. Use photos and videos. Make it a visual feast that engages even a casual surfer. Lovingly describe your products, attracting people in such a way that they want to learn more—and become your customers!
Testimonials – Ask for them. Get them. Use them with the buyer’s permission.
Free Samples or Paid Samplers?
As I was running an online only store, I didn’t offer free samples. However, I sold samplers containing several varities of shea butter and handcrafted soap. I always included a sample with any PAID order.
However, for authors, offering a free eBook will attract more readers. And there isn’t any mailing fee!
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!
The following article is an excerpt from the eBook “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing.”
Pinterest is relatively new, but as it’s photo-driven, your soapy pictures will be seen and hopefully repinned, by many potential customers. This is my favorite social media site because of the emphasis on photos. You can create hundreds of boards all focused on your favorite topics. For example, as a soapmaker it’s in your best interest to post photos of your soaps. Create a soap board and pin your pics. If you make salt scrubs, create a board for that. Are lip balms your thing? Have a lip balm board and pin your photos. But don’t just limit yourself to your business board. Create boards for other fun crafts and hobbies, food, drink, travel, DIY and organization, movies, music and so much more. For example, I’m a member of a large Chocolate group board with more than 34,000 followers and the array of pictures of chocolate is overwhelming! Most of the pins aren’t just photos – they lead to websites that include recipes. That’s why having a blog is another big benefit – you and others can share your photos, get more blog hits/website hits, and that can lead to more sales.
You can put your boards in alphabetical order, numerical order, group by subject, or in any order you’d like. Once you name your boards, and you can be as creative as you’d like, add an accurate description. If you’re running a group board, indicate whether personal/company advertising is okay in the description.
When it comes to pinning, you can like a pin, pin it, or comment on a pin. Pinning means you can add it to one of your own boards or add it to a group board. For example, a picture of a kitten may have originated from the Kittens group, so you don’t want to repin it there, but it would fit in well with the Cute Animals group.
If you upload a picture of your lemon scrubby soap, don’t neglect to add that into the description. Also, you can add a line like Sally’s Soap Site – Lemon Scrubby Soap. Remember, descriptions are keywords and this is another way to advertise your soap site for nothing other than taking a few minutes out of your day to pin pretty pictures! Yes, I encourage you to add your gorgeous photos to enhance Pinterest, and you’ll win more followers and potential customers if you brighten up their day with a bright and breezy quote or a picture of a field of lavender flowers or a tropical sunset.
There are people that won’t join Pinterest due to copyright/trademark infringement issues. That’s entirely up to each individual. According to Pinterest, they “Encourage artists to create great work by linking back to their pages, and leaving polite comments when you see pins that aren’t correctly credited.”
When it comes to scents, I don’t fool too easily. I listen to my instincts. And here’s why: when working with essential and fragrance oils we learn that an OOB [Out Of Bottle] scent is taken as just that—something we can smell in a condensed form. It may smell like the real deal or like its third cousin. In other words, refrain from judging it too lovingly or too harshly, as we need to put it into a product to get its true aroma.
That bottle of grapefruit EO had enough to make a test batch of grapefruit soap. As soon as the soap was removed from the freezer, obviously still cold, the scent only half-awake, I wanted to use it. But I patiently waited until it hit room temperature. Then it was shower time. Wow! What an invigorating aroma. It was clean and fresh and – sparkling! Nothing like that bitter citrus smell I was used to. It smelled so good I wanted to bite into that bar of soap. But that wouldn’t happen as I knew only too well the difference between smell and taste didn’t work in soap as it did in food.
When purchasing any citrus oil, keep in mind that lemon, lime, orange, mandarin, neroli, tangerine, petitgrain, yuzu, bergamot and both pink and white grapefruit will have a shorter shelf life. Pink versus white grapefruit oils have a minor difference: pink is considered the sweeter smelling. There is also a ruby red grapefruit EO which I haven’t tried — yet.
Grapefruit is popular for more than just its sparkling natural fruity aroma. It can uplift your mood and it’s supposed to be able to help eliminate cellulite. All in all, grapefruit essential oil is a boost of good cheer in a bottle.
First off, learn what these initials mean. F.O. = Fragrance Oil. E.O. = Essential Oil. What’s the difference?
Fragrance oils may contain up to 200 components to make it smell like a fresh-baked slice of chocolate fudge brownie, a luscious ripe raspberry, or a just-picked jasmine flower. Fragrances may contain natural ingredients, but many synthetic ones. They’re created in a lab, and are less costly than essential oils. They are also more plentiful. Another advantage is that you can obtain your favorite perfume or cologne for just a few dollars an ounce!
Essential oils derive their substance directly from nature. Lemon oil comes from the expressed rinds of the fruit, rose essential oil is from the petals of this lovely flower, and sandalwood or cedarwood comes from the bark of the tree. Essential oils can be reasonably priced at only a few dollars per ounce [citrus scents], to more than $300 for Bulgarian rose otto from the Valley of the Roses!
Don’t Add Fresh Fruit or Vegetables
Please refrain from adding that pureed avocado. Don’t include dewy lavender or rose buds unless you want to see them turn brown. A fresh slice of cucumber would look gorgeous suspended in a translucent bar of soap – until mold grows over it. You can add dried herbs such as peppermint or rosemary, but expect them to turn brown within a few days or weeks. Glycerin soap contains up to 10% water. Water causes pretty dried lavender buds and green leaves to darken over time.
[The picture shows the Cucumber & Chamomile Glycerin soap I used to make. The cuke slices are just for show!]
Test Your Soap!
You have to be comfortable making your soap before you sell even a single bar. Don’t have your first batch be a complicated multi-color embed project. Start simply: use one color and one scent. You have to be certain that the colors won’t run or fade. Will your fragrances hold up for more than a month? Does your soap sweat? Will that lovely white vanilla or coconut soap remain that color or will it turn chocolate brown in a matter of weeks?
You’re the first person to test your soaps. Then your family. Let a few friends, neighbors and coworkers in on your soaping hobby that may turn into a business. Anticipate questions from testers/potential customers. Know the answers. Do this for at least six months, but a year is even better. Remember, you need to be happy with your products, as you’re now the soapcrafter.