I thought I would share some pictures of some of the projects I created for my new book, The Star Trek Craft Book. I had a great time stretching my imagination and creative muscles to come up with projects that would tie in with different Star Trek episodes.
The step-by-step instructions for making each of these projects are included in the book.
My latest book (my 4th), The Star Trek Craft Book, is due to launch at the end of this month! It's already been featured on several websites, including StarTrek.com, TheTrekCollective, The Memory Alpha, and of course the publisher's website, Simon & Schuster.
One very cool thing is that the publisher will be displaying the book at San Diego ComicCon, and they will be doing giveaways of some of the finished craft projects, including the cute little crochet figures and Spock Monkey featured on the cover. Now if I can just get them to sponsor an author signing at the show, I'll be set! :)
I will be setting up a page here on AngieWrites where I will be selling autographed copies so you, too, may Craft Long and Prosper.
As seen in the June 2012 issue of Creative Retailer magazine
More than simply a place to park your resume online, LinkedIn allows savvy professionals from all industries to connect with colleagues, co-workers, and friends around the world. According to its About page, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the Internet, with more than 150 million members in over 200 countries and territories. [via ]
Like many social networking sites, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available on LinkedIn, leaving you unsure where to start. Fortunately, LinkedIn offers a New User Starter Guide. This Guide walks you through the initial steps of setting up your profile and connecting with people you already know.
Pro Tip: Work towards “100% Completion” of your profile – this makes you easier to find and more available to opportunities.
Your Global Chamber of Commerce
Once you complete your profile, you can start taking advantage of LinkedIn’s collective wisdom. Think of LinkedIn as a local chamber of commerce meeting, but on a global scale. Hundreds of other professionals and business owners gather there daily, all with the purpose of making connections and helping each other out. Just like at a local networking event, you can use LinkedIn to ask your network for business partner or professional service recommendations, such as technical support or tax advice. Knowing that you have a pool of resources available on LinkedIn can help relieve the feeling that you’re alone and have to know and do everything yourself.
As published in Creative Retailer, August 2012
With the popularity of mobile gadgetry, it's easier than ever to get information on just about anything at any time. Need to learn how to unclog a drain? A few clicks online and you have a step-by-step tutorial. Need to know when the next movie starts? A few taps on your phone and you not only know the time, but also how to get to the theater. We live in a time when information, and access to it, makes our lives easier and more productive. When you offer content that makes your customers' lives easier, they'll remember you the next time they want to learn (and buy) something.
Content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is "a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience--with the objective of driving profitable customer action." CMI also describes it as "delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent." However you define it, content marketing is one of the fastest growing segments in business promotion.
Content comes in a nearly endless variety of flavors. It could take the form of a blog post, a PDF tutorial, a technique demo video, or even your class schedule--whatever provides information to your audience. And since not everyone is a fan of Rocky Road, it makes sense to offer as many flavors as you can.
In previous issues we've talked about several ways to distribute content, such as Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube. Content marketing focuses more on the actual information you broadcast. When you publish information online, your audience comes to see you as a resource. The key is to offer valuable and relevant information.
Valuable and Relevant
Many business owners struggle with that topics to address and what content their customers will find valuable. Those very customers can help break that writer's block! Keep these questions in min as you develop your content:
Once you figure out your customers' questions, you can answer them with content and gently guide them to your door.
Today's crafty trend of "repurposing" old into new doesn't only apply to that cool trunk you scored at the thrift store. Once you've created some useful content, take it a step further and repurpose it. If you've created a step-by-step tutorial on how to knit a pair of mittens, combine it with tutorials on how to make a hat and a scarf, and you have a great downloadable ebook. If you record a video demoing a new technique, also offer an audio-only (mp3) version for people to download and listen to while they work out. Or compile ten videos on a DVD to offer as a $5 upsell at checkout. You've already done the work to create the content--why not reap the rewards multiple times?
Creating and providing useful content will highlight your expertise and willingness to help. It will set you apart from your competitors. Don't settle for commonplace sales speak when you can inspire your customers with resources that WOW.
I'm passionate about Content Marketing, the practice of offering information to put yourself in front of your target audience so you can be seen as an expert resource. And I'm not the only one abuzz about this hot marketing trend.
Wikipedia defines content marketing as, "an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty."
The Content Marketing Institute says that, "Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
No matter who you ask, or how they define it, content, and the marketing thereof, is what sets you apart from your competitors. Say you and theotherguy both sell the same widget. If you post a PDF tutorial on how to use the widget, plus a video of 10 different ways to use the widget, and theotherguy doesn't...chances are good that customers will give you their business, because you helped them do something they already wanted to do.
More than likely, you're in whatever business or industry because you love it, and know a lot about it. Now is not a time to be stingy with that information. Share it. Offer it freely. Dole it out in great heaping mounds. Because when you do, your audience will start to see you as an expert resource. They'll know they can come to you with questions about how to use your products or services, and trust that you'll be able to respond knowledgeably, and with a fair amount of insider insight thrown in. When you can shorten someone's learning curve with your been-there-tried-that counsel, you've just saved them TIME, which is often worth more than price of the object.
The types of content marketing you can offer are limited only by your imagination and technology. This series of posts will highlight some ways to distribute content, including:
Be sure to chime in on the Comments section below with any questions you have about content marketing, and I'll try to cover them in future posts.
Walk on to any movie set and you’ll likely see a cast and crew of thousands, scurrying around like busy little ants -- makeup artists, cinematographers, producers, screenwriters...not to mention grips and gaffers. Observing all the controlled chaos may lead you to decide to leave film production to the professionals. But creating your own videos is easier than you might think and more rewarding that a gold statuette to gather dust on your mantle. In as little as 30 seconds, you can create something that will have your audience on the edge of their seats with their hands reaching for their pocketbooks.
HOW POPULAR IS ONLINE VIDEO?
Consider this: according to Nielsen, 166.9 million unique U.S. video viewers streamed almost 22 billion videos, in November 2011. [SOURCE: Nielsen Wire] Of even more interest to craft retailers, Nielsen also found that in one month (August 2010), over 25 million American women streamed video via social networks. [SOURCE: Nielsen Wire] So…why marketing with video? Since crafts are a very visual experience, it only makes sense to add a video component to your marketing mix.
"Seriously, it's the cutest, sassiest, girliest scrapbook store ever!" That's how one visitor described By Design Scrapbook Boutique in Houston, Texas. Others have described it as stunning, wonderful, amazingly tasteful, stylish, and yummy. Not bad for a store that just had their "soft" opening in late June.
Walk in to the By Design Scrapbook Boutique, and you realize immediately this is not your typical scrapbooking store - it definitely has a boutique feel. The retail space is graced with high ceilings, spacious rooms, beautiful ceramic tile and marble floors, domed archways, and detailed architectural molding. Owner Tracy Keith uses her store to offer a stylized scrapbooking experience.
After 20 years as a stay-at-home-mom to four children, Keith found herself at a crossroads, facing her 40th birthday. She told her husband she wanted a "challenge" - she wanted to open a scrapbook store. "He's been very supportive and that's what I wanted to do," Keith says simply.
The Boutique Look
Keith had a definite vision for how she wanted her 3,000-square-foot store to look. "I wanted something different than other stores," Keith explains. "I like things big and fancy and glitzy. I treat my store like a scrapbook page - I wanted to have fun doing it, and for the whole store to be fun. When people come in, whether they buy anything or not, I want them to leave inspired by something they see."
LinkedIn Groups are a great way to get more value out of your professional network. You can discuss topics with like-minded people, and get to know them on a more personal level - kind of the goal of networking in the first place.
I participate in a number of Groups on LinkedIn, including several for job seekers. One KC-local job club, New Landings, frequently posts job leads as "Job Discussions" on their LinkedIn board. Job "Discussions" are slightly different from regular job posts, and some newer members have trouble differentiating/finding the Discussions. So I put together this screenshot tutorial on How to Find Group Job Discussions on LinkedIn, to help them find their way to a "New Landing".
As published in Creative Retailer magazine, October 2011 issue, pp 40-43.
"If you build it, he will come."
While Ray Liotta’s words to Kevin Costner may have worked in "The Field of Dreams", a lot has changed since 1989. The "if you build it" philosophy cannot be applied to a website since people can’t visit your site if they don’t know about it.
One of the best ways to entice visitors to your site is to become more attractive to the search engines. This process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which involves a variety of tools and techniques, but it all begins with keyword research.
Think of how you find websites. Most likely, you begin at a search engine, like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, where you enter a keyword or phrase to start your search. If you are looking for a plumber, you might enter the name of your city and the word “plumber”. Then the search engine compares those keywords to online web content, and returns links to websites that are the most likely to contain them.
Your ideal customer will use the same process. She might search for the name of her city and her hobby, such as “Houston yarn” or “Kansas City beading classes”, or maybe an occasion like “graduation scrapbook”. The search engine gives her a list of sites that contain those keywords. Will yours be on it?
Target Keywords – Get Familiar with Yours
In order to make the most of your web real estate, you need to think about how your customers might search for a business like yours. Ask yourself what keywords your customers might use to find you. Also ask yourself for which keywords you want to be found. Perhaps it is for something your business specializes in? Jot down a list of possible keywords to add to your site.
You can also take advantage of online keyword research tools to identify what people actually use as search terms within your market. Play around with Google's AdWords Keyword Tool. Just type in one of your potential keywords, and you'll get a list of keyword variations to consider. For example, type in "Chicago knitting", and you'll see keywords like "knitting supplies" and "knitting workshop Chicago". Note the frequency of the searches to determine which keywords will bring the most traffic.
Remember that the goal of a website is to act as online ambassador to encourage visitors to come into your store. When brainstorming potential target keywords, it’s best to use more than two words. Be specific. It is an obvious choice to use very broad terms like "scrapbooking" or "quilts". But your target audience is probably looking for something more specific -- and more local. Location specific keywords like "Kansas City scrapbooking" or "Portland quilting classes" are more likely to draw your ideal customer.
A side benefit of keyword research
When you discover the top keywords on related topics, you’ll get instant insight into your target market’s interests. You can turn around and use those ideas for inspiration for classes or blog posts. For instance, when you do keyword research for “knitting chicago”, you see a related search for “chicago blackhawks knit hat”, which could inspire a specific class topic. Once you know what people are searching for, you can create the resources to give it to them.
Use your target keywords
Once you determine your target keywords, it's time to put that knowledge to use. Your goal now is to post valuable content and become more attractive to search engines. According to Google’s Webmaster Tools, “Original content provides useful information to users, and can help your site's visibility in our search results. Consider adding video product demos or other rich content, such as user reviews, to your site. The more unique and compelling your content, the more likely it is to perform well in our search results.”
Step 1: Use target keywords in your website HTML tags, meta description, and webpage URLs.
This takes a little technical know-how, but online tutorials abound, as well as knowledgeable web designers. Consult one of those resources and update your website with your keywords. If you’re a local retailer, make sure to include the name of your city or closest metro area.
Step 2: Use target keywords in blog subject lines and blog posts.
Let’s say you just got back from the CHA tradeshow and you want to let your customers know about the new product you ordered. Soon shipments will be arriving from the latest hottest designers, and you have make-and-take examples from the show. You want your customers to stop by your store next weekend for a CHA Show-and-Tell. Should your blog subject line be:
If you answered C, you’ve done your keyword homework! Mentioning your hobby market and specific designers in your website content makes you more likely to show up in related searches. Plus that headline is generally more appealing and enticing to your audience.
What Search Engines Mean to Your Business
Remember, people can't do business with you if they can't find you, and in today’s marketplace, they will try to find you online. Effective online marketing means you need to do some background research and legwork. Knowledge is definitely power – the more you know about what your customers are searching for, the more you can offer them.
NOTE: Read the full digital version of the magazine in the Creative Retailer online archive.