Have you read The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau? It’s excellent. Real, actionable steps to improve your online business, launch a new product, and build a community of customers.
I’m taking many of Chris’ ideas and applying them to my own creative business. Right now I’m focusing on writing an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
I’ve never had an FAQ before. Customers and blog readers email me frequently with questions, but I don’t mind answering them one by one. I have an About page and figured that was probably enough.
I stand corrected.
Chris explains that the mission of an FAQ is to “identify the main objections your buyers will have when considering your offer and carefully respond to them in advance.” If you think about it, customers are encountering your blog or online shop visually. They are looking at your photos, and reading what you’ve written. You aren’t there in person to reassure them when they express doubt. Instead, you’ve got to do it in 3 typed sentences.
Imagine one of my potential customers. They’ve wrapped up their day working at their job and taking care of their kids, and now it’s 8:30 in the evening. They’re relaxing by clicking around on Etsy. One of my patterns catches their eye and they visit my shop for the first time.
They add the pattern to their cart, but then begin to wonder, “Is this pattern really going to be easy enough for a beginner to make?” They remember a time a few months ago when they tried to make a doll from a pattern, found it frustrating, and gave up.
Them they wonder, “Hmmm….$9? There’s got to be something on Pinterest for free that’ll be just as good, right?” And then maybe they click away.
Chris points about that every customer has objections like these, to some degree, with every purchase. These objections are rooted in basic human emotions such as desire, fear, and need. When we’re considering purchasing something, especially online, we ask ourselves:
- How do I know this really works?
- Is this going to be a good investment?
- I wonder if I can get this product without paying.
Our job as shop owners is to preempt each objection by showing that we are trustworthy and we are an authority. Where can we do that? In an FAQ. That’s where we have the opportunity to:
- Explain why our products really work.
- Show that other people think our products are great.
- Prove that what we’re offering is superior to what’s available for free.
Chris’ next point is really key: don’t be defensive. The goal here is to create a set of sentences that will proactively respond to potential customers in a positive, affirming way.
I buy quite a bit online from creative businesses. I’ve bought craft supplies, patterns, graphics, finished goods, ebooks, and online classes. Every time I shop those same questions run through my head, but when I buy something from someone I’ve already associated as a trusted expert I hesitate less because I’m confident that I’ll get a quality product delivered swiftly and securely.
I’ve reworked my Etsy shop announcement to function as a power FAQ in the style Chris describes. And I recommend reading The $100 Startup. I think you’ll find multiple ideas you can apply to your handmade business right away. It’s an easy read, with a friendly storytelling tone, but it’s packed with useful content that will help you understand how online businesses succeed.
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