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Nov 06

A Guide to Building and Marketing Your First Zazzle Store

A basic guide to building and marketing your first zazzle store.

Starting your first online business isn’t as hard as you might think.

A basic guide to opening a Zazzle store

Zazzle.com – free online stores.

The hard part is making it generate money for you on a regular basis. With a little knowledge and a little time, you can make a zazzle store more than pay for the effort you put in, and that is the key word to point out here, effort.

You might get lucky with one or two great designs, but building a store that consistently provides income for you takes time and effort. Your success will be based on having a good range of designs and most importantly, good visibility. No one can buy what they never get to see!

My Name is Andy and I’ve been a pro seller at zazzle for 4 years now. I currently only have one store (www.atheistshirts.com) and have two more stores in development at the moment. This one store has only failed to meet the minimum requirement for pro sellers once, and that was the first month I opened the store. Since that first month it has generated a regular second income for me and only takes up the time I choose to put in.

 

Getting started.

Setting up an account is easy.

Simply go to www.zazzle.com to create and open your free account. That’s the best thing about creating a store with zazzle, it costs you nothing but time to open and manage. Using a verifiable email address, you can create a username and password, then immediately and easily open your first store. Simply upload a design that you own the rights to (more on this later), choose a product or multiple products to place your design on, and give your design a title and a description to help it be found. All at a total cost to you of zero dollars!

zazzle‘s online stores sell “on demand” products, which is why it’s setup costs up front are nothing. By an “on demand” online store, I mean a store that does not require you to hold any stock or pay any staff. This means you need not invest in manufacturing products and holding stock and you do not require any premises to operate from. Every time an order is placed from your store, that product is made “to order” or made “on demand”, processed, packaged and shipped by zazzle. All you have to do is open the email that says “Sold! Your Zazzle Product(s) have been purchased”. Their staff will even take care of all refunds and returns, you’ll never even know it happened.

 

Profit vs cost.

While the profit margin is smaller with on demand ventures than if you manufactured and distributed the clothes yourself, zazzle is a turn key, hassle free option for starting an online business. zazzle is a perfect financial risk free investment for those wanting to start an online second income. I say “financial risk free” because you are investing your time and risk investing it for nothing, but with effort and dedication, you can build a store that will continue to make money for you long after you stop working.

My zazzle store was my first successful venture into online passive income and has never cost me a cent. With zazzle you can create designs, upload them to your online account, and a few clicks later be actively selling your design on tons of great high quality products with no cost to you whatsoever! If your products don’t sell, too bad, you lost nothing. But if they do, you get paid a royalty for every sale and the best bit is, you get to choose what that royalty percentage is! With the added bonus of zazzle associates, you can make money off other people’s sales! If someone visits from your blog or website, but then chooses to buy from someone else’s store, you still get paid a royalty for the sale, even though it’s NOT your product. zazzle rewards anyone sending people to their site, so there are multiple ways you can have your store earn you money.

 

Note: Be careful – too high a royalty rate will make your products expensive and will result in lower sales.

 

Setting up shop.

Opening your doors for the first time.

Once you open your account, each member gets a free “online store” to showcase their products and designs. Essentially this is a webpage hosted by zazzle where you organize and display your designs and connect with customers. Along with your own personal store, all of your products will appear in the “Zazzle marketplace” and are searchable from the home page. Once your designs are made and uploaded to your “online store” you have two options; you can sit back and let zazzle do its thing – with a bit of luck you’ll make some sales and the checks will start coming in. Or you could spend some time learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and how to improve your store for search results.

You could build an “off site” website to build upon the theme of your products and promote your store. Remember any sales you send to zazzle.com from another website can generate an extra referral bonus whether it’s your product or not. You could create a blog, a squidoo lens, a youtube video, a Facebook fan page, the list of options available to you free of charge goes on and on. For now I want to keep it simple, I don’t want to overwhelm you, but instead to give you a basic idea of just how far you can push your store if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. That’s not to say you can’t be successful with a basic store, you can. But your chances of success are far better the more you use these techniques to promote your store and drive sales.

I go into greater detail in later posts about specific marketing platforms but this article says basic guide, so let’s start with the basics.

 

Be specific!

Don’t be a small voice in a crowded room.

The first step is to have a specific niche store. What I mean by this is to be as specific as you can about your store’s designs. For example, t-shirts for people who love bowling or photo calendars of birds. Whatever you choose, be specific. Opening a store with the theme “funny t-shirts” will leave you lost in a sea of search results and your awesome designs may never be seen, but more importantly never be purchased. It may seem like you’re ignoring a huge market but the truth is, it will take a very long time (if ever) for your product to show up in search results. Most visitors to zazzle sort search results by popularity, so if you’re new to a crowded market, you’re bottom of the pile. When was the last time you looked at page 24 of a search result? People rarely look beyond page 1. Having a targeted niche is the first step to building a zazzle store that sells.

Your store will get off the ground quicker the more targeted your designs are. If you start a store for “model airplane makers from Ohio”, you find you have little competition for sales but also probably very few sales to compete for. It’s all about finding the right niche. Try to find something you personally enjoy or are interested in. If you’re not interested in your own designs, you’ll soon get bored of trying to make other people interested in them. Don’t be afraid to have your store be too specific, you can always open multiple niche stores if you’re looking for a greater audience and combine those sales for your total sales bonus. A small niche needn’t mean small sales. Remember, there’s 6 billion people out there!

 

Tag like it’s hot!

Show search engines what your designs are all about.

A “tag” is a label added to your products or designs that enables search engines to know what your designs look like. These tags are not for your customers per se, but are more for the search engines powering their search. Search engines can’t “see” pictures, so adding tags helps you to describe what a picture or design looks like. Remember, just like there is competition for niches, there is completion for tags. Be specific and be relevant. Using popular but irrelevant tags may get your products listed in search results, but it won’t sell shirts. Not only will it fail to gain you any sales, it wont gain you any friends either. “Spamming” your products or your website with irrelevant tags is known as “Black hat SEO” and can earn you a ban from Google. I’m sure you can imagine how successful you could be without Google.

Understanding and using tags is one of the most powerful things for improving search results. Tags are labels that tell the zazzle marketplace as well as Google and other search engines what your content is about. Making good use of tags and taking every opportunity to add tags can dramatically improve your store’s sales. It seems like such a simple thing to follow, but it can be a pain to always have to do. Truth is, many people simply don’t bother to add tags when adding new products because typing in your products tags every time you add a new design is a pain in the butt. There are more designs to make! I got to get this sucker off the ground! These people opt instead to add as many designs as possible, but 1 product on page 1 of a search result will sell better than 1,000 designs on page 20. Take the time to add tags whenever you can, you’ll be in a better position to be seen than the majority of stores currently on zazzle, and most importantly your sales chart will reflect the effort you put in. Trust me on this one, you’ll be glad you put the time in.

 

People are NOT robots.

Don’t let them think you’re one either.

Having just told you to focus on your tags and writing for search engines, remember when writing articles or even just titles and descriptions, write for people. It’s important to know how search engines “see” your store and to keep it in mind when writing. If people don’t want to read it, you may as well not write it. Don’t simply write “dog cartoon shirt”, instead try to use those same keywords in an interesting and enticing way;

 

“Show your playful side with this bright and fun cartoon shirt. A must for all dog lovers.”

 

Good writing can make a huge difference to your products placement in search results and the likelihood of making a sale. This example of writing is known as “White Hat SEO”, which means you are writing relevant, interesting, quality content for visitors, and not just spamming. You’re not a robot, so do not present yourself as one. We all like to do business with people and companies we like.

 

Keep your store organized.

Don’t make finding your products hard work.

Having all your designs in one place is no fun for browsing. Try to categorize your store to help people find your designs, and easily relocate them later. An unorganized store looks very unprofessional and will only frustrate the short attention of any potential online customers. Also remember that zazzle offers customization of their products so you don’t have to add multiple different colors of a product with the same logo or design. Your store will look much better anyway with a range of different looking products. Who wants to scroll through pages of color options just to see the next design? If you want people to visit your store and buy your products you must make it simple and enjoyable to use. If it’s a pain in the butt to navigate your store, people simply won’t bother, and will click away to someone else’s store.

 

Be seen.

Get your store known.

Be visible in the Zazzle online community. Look at other people’s designs and see what other ‘Zazzlers’ have done with their stores. If you like what someone has done, join their fan club and let them know. Post comments on designs you like and leave messages on store home pages. People will often ‘look up’ people who comment on their stores. When you introduce yourself to someone with a compliment, you’re more likely to get a positive response. Get involved in the conversation in the Zazzle forums. There is a helpful and passionate community of Zazzle users discussing all kinds of things, from getting started to advanced marketing.  Or simply introduce yourself in the general forum. You can learn a lot from talking to others, asking questions and sharing your experience.

 

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Social media.

Getting to know you.

Continuing the theme of being seen, there is just no way any business can deny the power of social media. Businesses of all sizes, large or small, can benefit from social media’s ability to reach a global audience, and are lining up to get in on the action. What makes social media so powerful is its ability to spread information at an amazing rate. Every day millions of people across the world share and discuss all kinds of things and if you’re able to get in on the conversation, you can go from obscurity to household name overnight.

Start a Facebook fan page for your store. Be sure again to BE VISIBLE. Post content to other relevant Facebook pages as well as your own. Don’t be afraid to draw attention to competitors, the more you share, the more you get back. Share nothing and you’re talking to yourself. Open a Twitter account and link its updates to your Facebook page. That way you can have a presence on both Twitter and Facebook but only post to one.

The key to success is maximizing the time you put in so it continues to work for you long after you stop. You just start the conversation, your ‘fans’ will take it from there.

Just like with tags and websites, don’t spam your Facebook page with ads for your designs every 30 minutes, you’ll soon find you have no fans at all. You’re not the only page asking for their attention that day, so don’t annoy people or you’re one quick click away from being deleted. Keep your content interesting and relevant, don’t just beg for sales.

 

To post or not to post.

How often you post depends on your subject, current news, special events etc, but I try to post only once per day in the early afternoon (just as the clock watcher’s mouse clicks start to wander). The main thing to be aware of is over posting, saying anything to say something will soon annoy your “fans” and have them leaving you in no time. As far as what type of content it is that you should actually be posting, here’s a good rule of thumb;

 

  • One third original content.

Articles written by you or for your site about your niche.

 

  • One third product based content.

New sales announcements, special offers, general promotion of your store.

 

  • One third subject based content (Sourced).

External videos and links, trending articles, major news events, niche specific announcements.

 

Sharing the work of others isn’t copying (they will be grateful for the exposure), but always credit your article or video or whatever you share, and most importantly link back its original source.

 

The next level.

Take your store further.

Aside from all the tags you have added to your products for improved visability in search results and equipped with your new social media skills, how else can you drive traffic to your store?

An offsite website is one you build and host yourself, and at your own expense. For some, this is a bridge too far when first opening a store and isn’t crucial to initial success. But as you find you want to increase traffic to your store beyond zazzle, an offsite website can improve sales and referrals dramatically.

These websites are a great way to get your products picked up by major search engines, as they allow you to wrap your store around a bigger website and have more content and more tags arounds your products. If you build a website your niche finds useful, informative or fun, they will share your links and get even more exposure.This enables you to reach a wider audience as you can attract people interested in your niche, provide some interesting or useful content, and also earn you extra revenue. Any sales you generate also receive a referral bonus, so you get paid twice!

 

Utilizing Zazzle’s store builder (CSS and PHP), you can build a store from one of their templates or start from scratch. WordPress is (for me) the best option for building an offsite zazzle store or any website. In fact, I will be posting a detailed guide to building a zazzle store with WordPress in the future, covering some of the many free and useful plugins that help expand your websites reach, increase its users, and drive home sales.

If all that sounds like too much, you can make one of Zazzle’s store widgets to put on your blog or website.  It all counts toward your referral bonus and is quick and easy to set up.

 

Some final thoughts before you run off and make your millions……

 

Be patient.

Success won’t come overnight. Opening your first store in the beginning can be very frustrating. Will this even work? Will anyone ever buy anything? Will anyone even see my designs? Am I wasting my time? It’s natural to be worried that your idea won’t be successful, but that’s no excuse for not trying.

 

The hardest part is the start. Trust me, after your first sale email, you’ll need no further encouragement.

 

ThirtySomething.

 

*If you have any specific questions or comments, (or just want to suggest a subject for a future post) let us know in the form below.

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