By Peggy Jo Donahue
Originally published July 2013
The cry was basic: “Help! What is the best way to promote a website? I have had mine almost two years with not one sale. I need advice.”
The jewelry designer asking for help was Ruth Edwards, owner/designer at Pink Diva in Fort Worth, Texas. Edwards didn’t have to wait long: Her question was taken seriously, and other designers and jewelry makers freely gave her constructive advice about her website: www.pinkdivacreations.com.
While several early commenters shared the sad truth that competition to sell jewelry online has grown fiercer since the Great Recession, others quickly got to work to help Edwards beat the odds.
“You can’t get away with anything less than perfect any more online,” said fellow Texan Stefanie Somers, founder of and creative director at Stefanie Somers Inc., in Houston, Texas. “With that being said, I think you need to revisit your site. It’s very dated looking and filled with spelling and grammatical errors; it also doesn’t convert well to mobile. The photography needs to be brought up to a more professional level. Do you have a Facebook page where you can promote and market? That’s a great place to start.
“It’s a very slow slog, but with patience it will pay off. But if your site isn’t up to par, folks will go elsewhere. You might want to investigate Shopify or Big Commerce for more professional-looking options that are easy to work with and don’t require a developer. It is still possible to build a respectable business online—I know because I have one—but it takes a lot of work and patience, and you can’t take anything for granted. Google your competition and see what they’re doing, see who comes up high in a search, look at their sites—and dig down through the first ten pages of Google results so you get a good overview, too. Best of luck! You have a grand adventure ahead of you!”
Calla Gold of Calla Gold Jewelry in Santa Barbara, California, was next to offer advice. “I’ll just speak to the area I am active in. I looked on Facebook for your business page. I couldn’t find one. So I went to your website and clicked the Facebook widgets and came up with no page. This tells me that either you have a broken Facebook widget or you do not have a Facebook business page.
“Your Facebook business page is like a free website. You can regularly show your work and get a conversation going with various people who see what you do. Your own website is your hub and where your sales should occur. But you need spokes going out from the hub to drive people to your hub. I personally believe that you need to be active in social media [to increase the number of] visits to your website. When those visits increase, hopefully sales will follow.”
Edwards wondered if there was a fee for a Facebook business page, a common misconception among those who don’t use these pages.
“Ruth, there is no fee for a Facebook business page,” said Gold. “You must sign up as your personal self and get 25 friends before you can get a business page. Do not try to promote your business on the personal page as that is against the rules. The way Facebook has it set up is best: Put kitten videos and personal stuff on your personal page; put pictures of your jewelry and news about your business on your business page.
“My personal page is under Calla Gold; I’d be happy to be your friend on Facebook. And my business page—which you can access without being ’on’ Facebook as a user—is www.facebook.com/callagoldjewelry. My business benefits by being seen on the hugely popular Facebook. I have clients who don’t return calls or emails but who respond to my messages to them on Facebook. Bizarre but true!”
Armed with that advice, Ruth set up her Facebook business page, www.facebook.com/pinkdivacreations.
Her new friends commented with more advice and encouragement immediately: “That’s a good start, Ruth. I liked your page!” said Somers. “I’d suggest changing your name from just "Pink Diva Jewelry" to “Pink Diva Creations”—it’s a great name! If you want to get some fabulous Facebook marketing info, check out Amy Porterfield: www.facebook.com/amyporterfield. She’s helped me a lot and she has a lot of great info that’s free. Stick with it, and don’t get discouraged. It does take some time and a lot of patience to build up a following, but you can do it!”
Gold commented: “Ruth, I found and liked your new page. Well done on putting it up. Now ask friends and clients to like it and comment on what they like to help you make it a more vibrant page. Develop community and get a conversation going. And hopefully that’ll help your visibility and sales.”
Then a new voice brought up another issue that’s critically important to selling jewelry online: Photography. “Hi Ruth, I agree with many of the comments above,” said Alene Geed, author of Inside the Mind of a Jewelry Designer, who hails from Chandler, Arizona. “[However], your photographs need upgrading. In several I can see background images. Make sure you photograph against a solid background and use some kind of light box. The difference will really help. I would remove the testimonials link until you actually have some! Or gather a few from current customers and post them. I would also recommend [that you start] a blog. This helps drive people to your site. Good luck! Your designs are beautiful!”
Once again, Edwards took the advice constructively and began asking photography questions, which brought a new expert voice to the discussion. Edwards asked what kinds of light boxes worked for jewelry, and Geed directed her to a link for a “make your own” light box. “Try something simple like this at first until you get the hang of it. You might want to search “light box” on YouTube as well . . . for instructions. The light box I use is a pop-up style. I bought it locally at a camera shop.”
“Alene is on target—a light box will be perfect for you!” said Somers. “The other thing that will help you tremendously is a ‘macro’ setting on your camera. You may have one already—a lot of cameras these days do, but the info on how to use them can be very tricky to find. The macro setting will allow you to get in close enough to fill your frame with the jewelry piece without the image getting fuzzy or blurry. If you don’t have that on your current camera, that’s a must for your next purchase. It can be really confusing with all that’s out there. If you need any direction, please feel free to contact me, and I’ll hook you up with my photographer for some help!”
Edwards told the group that she was using the macro setting on her camera, but the photos were still turning up dark on her website. That’s when photo expert Wayne Emery added his thoughts. He owns two businesses, JewelryPhotoSolutions.com and the Gemcutter, in Davenport, Iowa, and has been a gem cutter and retailer, repairer, and re-polisher of high-value gems. He’s also a developer, manufacturer, and sales arm for photographic solutions to problems inherent in the jewelry, diamond, and appraisal industry.
Said Emery: “I’ve been involved in professional jewelry photography for 49 years, and I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can. Be cautious of light ‘boxes’ and ‘tents.’ Most are great for some objects, but a terrible choice for others, as they lack flexibility in lighting. Photography is about controlling light, not cameras and boxes. For most jewelry, there is a very easy and flexible lighting setup you can make that will handle small to large objects. You’ll need a little space, depending on how large your subjects are, but it’s not too difficult.
“One word of caution here: What was ‘good enough’ a few years ago isn’t ‘good enough’ any more,” said Emery. “You’ll need crisp, well-lit images on either a pure white or some sort of complementary decorative background. I’d suggest pure white is best as it always works and is the same from image to image, giving a look of continuity and professionalism to your images. And, of course, if you want good results, you’ll need good tools. These tools should be able to get the job done very quickly. [It shouldn’t] take all day to produce a crisp, picture suitable for web use, properly cropped, sized and sharpened, and color correct.”
“Great comments here!” said Geed. “I was using the Cloud light box system but abandoned it several years ago. It is quite cumbersome to use and I still never seemed to have enough light in the right places. My current one is easier to use but is not perfect (what is?), so I use Adobe Elements to help brighten the image and lighten the background. I am no expert by any means, and my photos still need upgrading. That being said, I just purchased a new camera and signed up for a class to learn how to use it properly.”
Emery responded: “Rather than [using] a tent (for reflective objects), I’d suggest a simple white opaque box and a single light source. It’s easier to control, can provide pretty good results to begin with and is a good learning tool, as well. In my own work, I use Photoshop CS6 via Adobe’s Creative Cloud, although I would not recommend that route or that software to a beginner. For most of my jewelry clients who are new to the digital editing process, I strongly recommend the most current (version 11) of Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. It has all the tools, including layers, which most will ever need and is available online for around $70.00. If anyone’s interested, I have a short tutorial that helps people get started cropping, resizing, color balancing, sharpening, etc. using Elements. Drop me a message with your e-mail address, and I’ll be happy to send it on.”
He continued: “It’s important to learn how to use our tools properly. Most people buying the compact ‘point and shoot’ style cameras do so because they think all they have to do is set it to auto mode and snap the picture. Nothing could be further from the truth, because of the nature of the subject. You are probably trying to take a picture [with auto mode] of some small object against a light background. This fools the camera’s built-in metering system in such a way [that it] almost insures your image will be underexposed (dark). The solution is to ditch ‘auto’ and use the manual settings. Your camera’s user’s guide will explain that, and it’s simpler than you think. If you can tell me the model of Fuji camera you are using and what you are using as a light source, I may be able to help a little.
“Wow, you have hit the mother lode with Wayne,” said Somers. “I wish I’d had someone like that watching over my shoulder 20 years ago!”
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