as another year draws to a close, it’s customary for us to do a long, hard assessment of what we did right over the course of the last 12 months, as well at what didn’t work out quite as good as we had hoped. Here’s how it went this year.
First- the Good Stuff
1) Advertising Campaigns– We started making some BIG modifications to our advertising plans in 2011 and spent the better part of that year whittling down our print ad obligations. For 2012 we opted for a two-pronged change in our approach. We began running a couple of online ads in a few high profile blogs and newsletters.
First, we had to search for and identify suitable online opportunities for our patterns. It was hit or miss to start, with some of our ad placements being WAY more successful than others. but overall I’ve been pretty happy with venues we’ve worked with this year. We’re getting way more “bang for our buck” and getting our message out to a much larger customer base at the same time. Of course this is an ongoing process and we’ll continue to refine our plans as we move into 2013. Which leads me to the second change we made in our marketing approach for 2012….
2) Online presence– Let’s face it, we live in an online world now, and in late 2011, I finally came to my senses and realized that we were missing the boat by not including the Internet in our marketing plans. So as one of our official goals for 2012, we vowed to beef up our online “presence”. How did we do? Well… you be the judge.
Newsletter Subscribers– We began 2012 with 18598 subscribers and are finishing with 20215.
Facebook– We began 2012 with 1152 likes and are finishing with 5780+.
Twitter- We began 2012 with 64 followers & finished with 193.OK- maybe I need to work a little harder on Twitter.
RSS Feed– We started the year with 961 subscribers and finished with 1225+. Pinterest- After joining & setting up our boards in January, we’re finishing with 246 followers.
I think you’d agree- our online campaign has been quite successful and it’s helped our bottom line as well, translating into a 42% increase in online sales. So it’s a win-win. Increased sales AND freeadvertising, right?
Well, maybe not exactly FREE… which leads us to point number THREE.
3) Much Needed Help– One thing I really didn’t anticipate was the amount of time it would take each day to build our online presence and to handle the resulting increase in online sales from our website. It takes interesting and compelling content to attract and keep new followers and I didn’t realize how labor-intensive that process could be. By the summer of 2012, I was pretty overwhelmed. Long story short, we hired some much needed help in September and this has redeemed 1.5 to 2 more hours in an average day… and these are precious hours that I can spend doing what I love and do best… designing!
4) Added Two New Notions– In 2011 we added five different notions and six zippers to our product line. They were such a great success, that we added to two more new notions and two more zippers (in polka dot) this year.
5) QR Codes– One of our goals for 2012 was to begin incorporating QR codes into our promotional materials and advertising and we have actually had a good deal of fun doing this! For the most part the QR codes have linked our potential customers to videos we’ve made to demonstrate the features or uses of our products. Other places we’ve also placed them is on pattern covers, brochures and business cards!
and now… the Disappointing Stuff
1) The Recession Factor– Even though we’ve been dealing with an overall recession in this country since 2008, for some unknown reason, many aspects of the sewing industry have been relatively unaffected…that is, until this year. Our overall sales to distributors is “off” this year, roughly 10-12%, and in talking with other pattern designers, this is fairly consistent for them as well. Lucky for us, our “direct to consumer” sales are up enough to offset this loss.
2) Burned by Buyouts– What would you say if without warning your cellphone service informed you had 30 days to find a new service, choose a new phone and then transfer all of your data to it (without assistance). You’d hate it, right? Well… what if 3 short months later your Internet service provider did the very same thing. NOW what would you say?
This is kinda what happened to us this year…only worse! First, our postage provider got bought out by someone who gave us notice that they were going off line in 30 days. YIKES! 30 days to find a new service, learn to use it and customize it for our needs! THEN, our online payment processor informed us that as a result of a buyout they would close in 90 days, meaning that for all intents and purposes our website would be unable to process orders! It also meant that once we secured a replacement (which was no easy matter), that the code for each and every “Buy Now” button on our website would have to be changed! DOUBLE YIKES! And guess what else? We received word about this only 3 weeks before the Fall Quilt Market!
Well, somehow we survived and I know I’m certainly not the only person who was adversely affected by a buyout this year, but it sure would have been a lot worse for me had it not been for #3 (above).
So…there you have it.
The good, the not so good and the just plain ugly from 2011. Got any comments, or suggestions for improvement? As usual, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback!What do YOU think we did well? and how do YOU think we still could improve?(remember……..say it nice!)
And stay tuned for our next post in this series when we’ll detail a few of our plans and goals for 2013.