My biz coach, the fabulous Tara Swiger, says that listening to one's customers is the simplest marketing tool. As is usually the case, she's right. I've had some opportunities to listen to you lately and I have learned a ton.
As a business owner, listening isn't always as easy as one might think. First you have to figure out where your people are—which can be challenging in itself—and then you have to be there too, and at the right times. For me, like lots of makers, this means time on social media. There's lots I love about social media, but as an introvert who needs to spend a lot of time in my own head, the clamor can be exhausting. Some days it seems that there's a lot more noise than signal. On the worst days I feel like I'm just adding to the noise.
Recently, though, I've tried a few new ways of listening that have both felt really useful and have been lots of fun! One was my in-person meet-up with some of you at Maryland Sheep and Wool earlier in the month. A couple of you mentioned that, while you understand why Sheepspot's shipping costs are high (Canada, Canada Post, yadda yadda), shipping charges are often the thing that prevents them from actually buying what they've fallen in love with and put into their shopping cart. If you've ordered in the past and you get my just-for-customers newsletter, you know that I've been struggling to come up with special offers that you will actually use. The shipping conversation set my spidey-sense tingling and told me that I could reward my beloved and loyal customers meaningfully with free shipping. So I did that in this month's customer newsletter with a coupon code and am happy to report that several of you have already taken advantage of it.
This past week, I set up a survey on Survey Monkey about yarn clubs. I've been thinking about a Sheepspot yarn club for ages, and I had a very clear idea of what I thought the club should be and how I wanted it to be different from other clubs. But some little voice—a combination of the usually-right Tara's and my own—kept telling me that I needed to ask more questions first. So I did, and lots of folks filled out the survey. (If you haven't, I hope you will, too! You'll be entered in a drawing to win some free yarn or fiber!) And they told me what they wanted: options. Some want fiber instead of yarn. Some want to have a choice of colorways for each shipment. Some want to be able to choose a stripped down, no-swag option and some a posher, soup to nuts version. Some want to try out the club without making a full-year commitment.
My initial reaction to this was, frankly, dismay. It all suddenly seemed very complicated. But in a couple of days I had figured it out. And next month, when I launch the clubs (one for yarn, one for fiber), they will in fact have all those options. (If the club sounds intriguing, be sure you're signed up for the newsletter so you'll know as soon as signups start.)
My latest foray into listening was the first ever Sheepspot Monthly Chat, yesterday via Google Hangouts. I braved my fears of a) making a fool of myself for the entire Internet and b) having to watch myself on video, and I was so glad I did. In fact, I had a blast. I can't wait to do it again.
Have anything you want to tell me? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!