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Posts Tagged ‘directories’

I get asked this a lot.  And it’s a good question. People seem to think it’s hard to find ethical products, but it isn’t if you use a bit of initiative and are prepared to search. And actually, it’s a lot easier now than when Boutiko first launched. In the space of 18 months or so, ethical online stores have exploded in numbers, and now with all the ethical/eco/green directories popping up, both on and offline, it’s more straightforward than ever.

I have several methods, and I always have my ‘new product radar’ on, wherever I am, because sometimes you find things in the most unexpected of places. So if you’re planning to start your own online store, or just want to know how us professionals do it, read on. (Sorry, got carried away with the self-aggrandisement for a moment there. Ahem.)

1) Trade Shows – There are various well established trade shows throughout the year in the UK, such as Pulse and Top Drawer in London, and BCTF and Home and Gift in Harrogate, to name a few. I go to these to see what’s new, what my current suppliers are doing, and it’s good to get a general feel of what’s going on. (Also, it’s like shopping without the guilt factor, but we won’t dwell on such unprofessional thoughts.)

2) Tinterweb – I seem to be fairly unusual amongst my friends in that I can happily spend many hours hunched over my computer following links from site to site, checking out my favourite sites’ current offerings and finding new delights for Boutiko’s pages. It’s a bit naughty but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who checks out what my competitors are doing too. Actually, it’s kind of essential.

3) Fairs – These are great for not only meeting your customers face to face, always a pleasure when most of your business is done through the site, but also for finding new products and making new contacts. You will learn which fairs are worth doing/going to and which aren’t so successful for you. I find anything from September onwards is a good call because of it being the run up to Christmas.

4) Magazines – I’ve always enjoyed a good glossy, and now I can call it work! Hurrah. Shopping pages are great, and fashion spreads with accessories are good for sites like mine. Even better of course are those magazines that either have dedicated ethical product pages or are actually ethically minded as a whole.

5) Ethical Directories – A quick search on Google will throw up lots of these, and then it’s just a matter of making a cup of coffee, maybe cracking open a packet of biscuits, and trawling.

5) Actually, Google, or your personal search engine of choice, is your probably your best friend here (when is it not though, really). Chuck a bunch of phrases like ‘wholesale eco products’ at it, and it will duly reward you with something interesting.

6) High Street Shopping – I nearly forgot this! Hmm, too much time spent in front of a screen perhaps. Apart from being healthy (well, you know, walking), more and more shops, and in particular the independent sort, are stocking ethical skincare lines or fair trade toys for example.

7) Online Forums – It seems new forums (fora? forae?) are popping up every day, from those for the spiritually minded to pet lovers to vegans and vegetarians. Whatever the topic, these are great places to see what people are talking about and make good contacts. Yes they can get a bit silly (there’s some weird phenomenon at work which makes people bicker a lot it seems to me), but if you avoid the crap and learn to skim all will be well.  And there are lots which are useful to us ethical products peeps too; from anything ethically minded of course,  to wedding forums if you’re sourcing gifts, to crafts related forums. Which leads me to…

8 ) Folksy and Etsy – and the rest of the burgeoning crop of craft sites popping up. It’s official, craft is cool now (you knew this of course) (and if not, where have you BEEN?), and I’d say Folksy and Etsy are among your best bets for finding good quality, professional but accessible and affordable crafts of all kinds. Etsy of course is based in the US and operates in dollars, but if you are ordering something light like jewellery and can cover the importing costs, you’re guaranteed something really original. Folksy is based here in the UK, and although smaller, is growing daily. Go and have a look; I defy you not to find something you need to buy RIGHT NOW.

9) Newsletters – I sign up to newsletters all the time. You can unsubscribe whenever you like (usually, and if they don’t offer this I’m pretty sure it’s practically illegal) and they can draw your attention to all sorts of wonders without you having to do any more than open your inbox.

10) Blogs – This works in much the same way as the other internet methods; search and trawl. Most ethical/small businesses seem to have blogs now, as do crafters. Add the interesting ones to your feed and get out those biscuits again. (Don’t worry, you’ll be walking them off when you do your ‘outdoor research’.)

Of course there are bound to be a ton of other ways to source products that I have not covered here. Once you start, one thing will lead to another and you’ll find you have more choice than you know what to do with. It does become second nature after a while. Good luck. :o) And remember to take breaks for stretching and fridge raiding chores. Oh, and let me know if you have different/better ways to find your products. Spread the love.

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People often ask me how I advertise and market Boutiko, so I thought I’d share the different things I do.

1. Online Directories: There are literally hundreds out there, some you have to pay for and some you don’t. Some will contact you as they are relatively new, some you can hunt out on the web or through the links pages of sites similar to yours. Sometimes they ask for a link swap, which seems a fair exchange to me. Mostly I have joined ‘eco’ directories, for obvious reasons, and I have also joined a couple which require payment, although it tends not to be too much, and Google Analytics tells me which ones are worth sticking with.

2. Forums: Business forums are not only helpful in terms of advice and support, they also provide an opportunity to leave a ‘signature’ every time you post, which can include your business details, website url etc. Plus if you post regularly, you can gain access to areas for posting press releases for example. Different forums offer different benefits, so shop around and see what you can find.

3. Google Adwords: While I try to keep advertising/marketing costs to an absolute minimum, I find that Adwords can be helpful if you do the research required to find suitable keywords, and you can at least control your spending with this method. It’s a bit of slog, and I think I still have a lot to learn, but it can be very effective! Plus the beauty of it is you can change keywords or ad wording whenever you like, and switch campaigns on and off according to time of year or general suitability.

4. Fairs: Admittedly this can be a bit hit and miss in terms of successful selling, but I find fairs not only extremely enjoyable but a fantastic opportunity to get the name out there and meet interesting, like minded people. I always end up making new contacts, which can lead to other fairs or any number of useful things. It is also a great opportunity to get people to sign up to your mailing list.

5. Business Cards: Cards are fab – you can carry them with you as there’ll always be people who ask what you do, you can stick them in with every order, you can give them out at fairs, leave them in shops and cafes, the possibilities are endless! I have A6 cards with images of my products as well as the usual info – if you’re in retail this is a good draw.

6. Blog: I really started this blog mainly because I wanted to track the progress of my business through starting it and growing it, with all the ups and downs along the way. I didn’t necessarily imagine I’d end up with a huge following of readers, although the stats suggest that there are people out there who do read it! (Thank you so much!) But I have also learned (don’t underestimate the usefulness of stats) that people who read my blog also go on to look at my site. Also, I don’t pressurize myself to write every day or even every week. I write if I have something to say.

7. PR: PR is one of those things that takes a while to kick in. I have been extremely lucky to find a PR service which not only focuses solely on ethical businesses, but also provides excellent value and things I don’t have access to myself, such as a massive journalist database. Of course this is not free, but I do believe it’s an area worth spending on as it tends to have a snowball effect, and is a very effective way of sticking yourself in lots of people’s faces in a way that would otherwise be extremely expensive.

8. Competitions: A fabulous way to get those all important names on the database! People love free stuff, and there are sites which will host a competition for you, or you can do it yourself through the press. I did one which gained me over 1000 new names, for the price of a single product.

This is by no means an exhaustive list – marketing your business, especially on a budget, is really only limited by your imagination.

The most important thing is to take advantage of any and all opportunities to promote your business. You never know where it might lead.

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