I hope you enjoy my new blog, with fluffy love and quacks, Mother Duck xxxx

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Our first six months in cyber space or the website is six months old and changes are afoot

Dizzy Ducks Creations website and facebook page are coming to the end of their first six months! What an adventure it has been ... navigating our way through technology has not always been easy but we are getting there. There are some tweaks we want to make to the website but that can wait until after our sale ~ oh I forgot to say we are having a sale on the website ~ 50% off everything with free UK P&P all part of our plans for change.

So what do we make of trading on-line? It's quite scary to take the step to create a web site ... learn from our experiences, if you can afford to get someone to do all the technical stuff for you, we didn't. There are lots of off the shelf programmes etc that enable you to build your own  and we have heard varying responses to them; some people have sailed through the set up and are successfully running their page and others have had a nightmare. We chose our domain hosts and started to create our site via them (free), they had a major technical hitch during the process and we had to find an alternative. We purchased software and went our own way, learning from a book as we went (when I say we read Richard) it wasn't easy and was pretty time consuming especially as he did it as when he could around his job. 

The biggest challenge to us is getting the website picked up by the major search engines, this is probably something that would have been done for us if we had been able to continue building via our domain hosts. We know that we need special tags and key words but working out what they are isn't easy. We paid a fixed sum to have a service to help us get noticed but we still haven't really seen a change. We are hoping to work on a way to help ourselves do this but again it is a time thing ~ I have very few computer skills above the basics and Richard has to do what he can outside work hours ~ from a very technical book. So is now the time to ask someone else to 'clean-up' the website for us? If you have any experience of building your website let us know what you did to get the big guys to notice you.

Once the sale on the website is over we will be loading new goodies through April BUT sadly we are going to have to start charging for all P&P. We are hoping to offer standard postage or special delivery (to be signed for) we haven't finalised the costing yet; should we do one fixed price across the board or weigh and price each item? We actually held the free P&P longer than we had originally anticipated, it should have ended after Christmas.

On a personal note, we have been listening to our son play his first gig with his newly formed band ... what proud parents we are! Who would have thought that young people not only want to play Jazz but are knowledgeable about the genre; a lot of people are surprised that this is his genre of choice but you can see the pleasure they all get from playing.  My daughter is revealing a talent for cake baking and loving it, her coffee and walnut cake is to die for and the ruin of any diet! Now I wonder whether she will change her mind from her Maths based ambitions and becoming a cake maker.

love & quacks
Mother Duck

PS we will be posting details of the Wedding fair we are doing in April and the craft fairs we are at during the year ... we are staying relatively local to us for the moment but who knows what the future holds?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

and so back to the beginning ... ... ...

Mother Duck is taking Dizzy Ducks Creations back to its origins ~ handmade wedding stationery and special occasion stationery; this doesn't mean that she is giving up on all of the other items we make. Our handmade stationery has always been a bespoke service but it was one of the things that was shelved when ill health took over. Well, believe it or not Dizzy Ducks Creations (formerly Dizzy Ducks Cards & Crafts, for 6 years) is now 6 months old, and the time has come for us to be creative with paper crafting and return to our roots.

We will be doing our first (for a very long time) Wedding Fair in April ~ details TBC ~ so we need to create a fresh portfolio of designs that will give people a starting point for their own wedding stationery. How exciting save the date,invites,order of service/day, menu etc etc etc ~ fresh, clean and far from dog-earred samples ~ mind you samples do get weary so very quickly with handling.

We will be creating a special section on the website for wedding & special occasion stationery but we will be offering not only our bespoke service we will also create some 'off the shelf' packs of small numbers of wedding invites, special birthday invites (18, 21,40,50,60,70 etc etc), children's birthday invites, special anniversary invites. This will be quite a small selection to start with that will grow over the coming months.    

So March and April will be busy paper crafting months, bespoke stationery, off the shelf stationery and our greeting cards will return too! This will all seem very strange having spent so much time with the sewing machine!

Things have moved on since we started six years ago; we will be looking into more computer aided design elements as well as our beloved hand stamped, drawn and paper based designs. Mother Duck is unsure whether the idea of using computers is a good one or a bad one, as a technophobe she is going to have to grit her teeth and give it a go.

So should we move with the times and create more via the computer or stick with what we know?!?! Mother Duck worries that heading into the more computer aided items the bespoke element will lose some of the originality.

No matter how you craft, or what you craft have fun
love & quacks
Mother Duck

ps I would so love a stack of papers like this to play with ... ... ...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Is networking too much effort for little return or should you be enjoying it?

As a small business Dizzy Ducks Creations are often encouraged to network, locally and further afield something that Mother Duck actually finds difficult. She hates fostering a relationship principally with sole purpose of bettering our business. Is there an ideal solution? No. Although we may not enjoy networking it does actually pay off.

There are a number of small business network pages on face book and Mother Duck would actively encourage any new small business to take advantage of what they are offering. It may take weeks or even many months for you to actually see fruition from your networking but by letting people know you are there, what you offer and your willingness to accommodate customers wishes, will reap rewards.

Mother Duck likes to say to her customers "if you like what we do leave a review but if you have a problem with what we do then speak to us and let us try to put it right." Although we don't like a bad review if it's honest then so be it.Your customers are a great way to network! If you have a good customer base then they will spread the word and you will get word of mouth recommendations. If you can regularly update your products, make sure they are fairly priced and have customer offers occasionally you should be able to encourage people to purchase from you. If you provide good quality products with honest and helpful customer service you will get repeat business.

So Mother Duck says get out there ... shout from the roof tops, let people know what you do BUT be polite! If you are networking on facebook don't abuse other pages; this means don't spam your sale/special offer/new products on their wall. If you want to try and encourage other pages to 'like' your page make your first visit to their page count; just leave a polite calling card, let them know who you are and what you like about their work/page and politely ask them to visit your page. Most pages love to see their 'like' or fan numbers going up but don't harass people to come back to your page and like it personally. Remember it is a choice and if you pester they will most probably not bother and possibly remove your page from their favourites too; if they are seeing your page on the news feed that is great. Remember that everyone seeing your page in some form is a possible customer ~ maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but you never know what they may want in the future.

Mother Duck doesn't do the hard sell on our face book page and likes to keep it friendly. Remember that your page when all said and done represents your business, so avoid using it as a place to rant. If someone has badly treated your page/business be firm but polite in your response, communicate by email if you can. Keep copies of all that has/is being said (screen shots) so that if it escalates you can report the abuser to face book. Again it comes down to choice, you can choose to delete/ban a person/page that is abusing your page.

Your face book page or website are your shop window, your store, a place to encourage your customers to call in and hopefully spend. So keep it user friendly.

Enjoy your networking, make it count but don't abuse it.

love & quacks
Mother Duck

Friday, 11 March 2011

Do I really need it, should I buy it ... are you sure you don't already have one?

As a crafter I will often see a new template, rubber stamp, stamp pad, pattern, fat quarters etc. that I just know will enhance my work in the workshop BUT do I need it? Dizzy Ducks are in the process of planning a full stock take and re-organisation of the workshop and Mother Duck is wondering just what we will find!

Mother Duck is aware of a couple of duplications on CD ROMs and at least one book that has an identical twin on the shelf. So how does it happen?! Truth of the matter is lack of organisation ... no catalogue of books & CD ROMs or even templates and they seem to be all over the workshop ... it just depends when I last used them and where I was when I was working with them. There are many stacks in the workshops that need sorting ~ all of the fabric is stored in boxes, the card & paper are in racks, all of the glass working materials are in just one area but everything else seems to be part of a free-for-all!!

So the time has come to sort it all out, especially if Mother Duck is going to have a Dizzy Duckling working with her! The sheer thought of doing this scares this old duck witless but it has to be done.

Having said all of that Mother Duck has this morning ordered a lovely template that will create a great base for a wedding or special occasion invitation *sigh* oh well it won't take up much space ... honestly it will go in a file with the other templates ~ when I find it!!

So how is your craft space? Is it organised chaos like Mother Duck's workshop or is it beautifully neat and  tidy - everything in its place and a place for everything ~ *Mother Duck drifts off into a dream of a beautifully organised workshop but wakes to the semi-organised space that she works in!*

In these frugal days we should all buy less, recycle more etc etc but any crafter will cave in the minute they see the perfect yarn, material, paper, stamp, paint etc 

So the answer to the title of this Blog is probably no I don't need it BUT I really want it, no I shouldn't buy it but I know that once I use it in the project I have in mind I will make the money back that I am spending. It's a brand new design so I know I don't already have it.

No matter how you work, chaos or neat freak, if you are producing items that people love & buy, should we be worried ~ no definitely not!

Have fun in all you do,
love & quacks
Mother Duck 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

All's fair in love & War or can I write graffiti on your shop front to let your customers know what I am selling?

All's fair in love and war ... or maybe not. When you have a business, unless you are someone that literally provides something nobody else on the planet does, you will have business competition. Some businesses in the big wide world do fight dirty when it comes to competition, after all they say business is business, but generally most take the view that to compete they have to be more savvy & produce better products at a competitive price. You advertise your wares where you expect your target market will see it or hear it, you get to know your market and play to it. What you don't do is write on the store front of your neighbouring stores to let their customers know what deals you have on right now. You produce a better window display, better advertising and create better deals for comparable,if not better products.

So why when you use face book to sell your goods do you ignore best practice? Good manners and common sense should come into it somewhere. If you are crafter that sells on facebook or uses face book to gain a following that you can steer towards your website, Esty or Folksy shop etc, then you will no doubt have found others selling similar or the same type of products as you. Look at it as healthy competition, use it to improve your product and services so that people will keep coming back to you BUT don't think that they are 'stealing' your customers, indeed they may even steer people to you if they don't make something they are being asked for but you do.

Don't get me wrong, I know that there are some unscrupulous vendors that will blatantly copy your work, try and pass your photographs off as their own and even directly ask your customers to go to them instead of you. But they are actually in the minority, the majority of vendors on fb do support each other, join business networking pages etc so why not make the most of it.

The problem is deciding what is acceptable, or not, for posting on another Vendor's wall. If they are happy for you to share a link great, but that doesn't mean they want your first visit to their wall to be an advert for your latest special offer, Auction, Sale etc etc  Some businesses would prefer that you never leave such information on their wall and you should respect that.

If you have a special offer, sale or auction and you are trying to get people to your wall to join in there are places you can post, that encourage such advertising & networking. Is it really acceptable to post the same information every 10 minutes or every hour so that it floods the wall of anyone that has signed up to your page? No, I don't believe it is, nor do I think it is acceptable to abuse the support from other vendors by directly posting on their wall about your special events without checking whether they mind or not. It's different if they are directly involved in your sale and are sharing the promotion of it. But why would you go to a page that sells the same or similar products as you and post repeatedly about what you are doing on your page, how would you feel if they did the same to you every few hours?

Manners and common sense should not go out of the window just because you don't have a bricks & mortar store. These things should be your guide in your business, that's not to say that it isn't sometimes hard out there to get customers, because truth be told it is hard for all small businesses to get and keep their customers. But if you forget manners and common sense and abuse the support on offer from other vendors you will find that your page remains hidden from their wall, sent to the spam box or deleted.

So what do you do? Make sure that you know which pages will let you post information on theirs, get yourself signed up to some of the small business networking pages, and get involved in any promotional events they run but don't abuse it; honestly, people really do send your page to the junk box if you over post on their wall.

enjoy your business, embrace the support offered by others and get involved in business networking.

love & fluffy quacks
Mother Duck

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Technophobe drowning in technology or a rant on technology

eeeeekkkkk isn't technology supposed to be getting easier? Mother Duck can do the basics but anything else scares her witless. So what to do ... find a free course that will teach the basics with a little bit extra that we can already do or push the boat out and spend money & lots of time on the complicated in-depth courses?

Most digital cameras come with some sort of photo editing programmes but why are they written/designed for computer whizz kids? Whatever happened to simple language instructions?

Mother Duck cannot be alone in feeling sidelined by technology ~ Face Book, E Bay, Folksy, Etsy all of these possible sale points often throw a curve ball for a technophobe; uploading photographs is just the beginning. People throw around technospeak all day and if you don't fully understand it they are often reluctant to slow down and explain something more than once in more simple terms; even mobile phones are complicated these days!

Don't get us wrong we are not against the move forward but we yearn for simplicity ~ so are there classes out there for people like Mother Duck? That have some knowledge but are too confused to gain any more? After all she doesn't want to design a website (although it would be nice) she doesn't want to run a huge international trading organisation reliant entirely on technology to create mega millions (ok so we would like to earn more) but this mad old duck would like to get through a day of business without pulling her feathers in frustration over one technical issue or another.

So what is the answer? At the moment it is relying on a Dizzy Duckling to get out of computer dramas; if the magic answer drops into the nest Mother Duck will be sure to let you all know.

love & fluffy quacks
Mother Duck

PS We forgot to mention that we are having our *SPRING SALE* on our face book page this evening 7-10pm (GMT) lots of lovely goodies from some lovely Vendors as well as Dizzy Ducks Creations