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No-Stress Notifications

notifications

Some days, technology feels like an added stress. If clearing out notifications is a trigger for you, check out these tips to manage that sense of urgency.

Turn off notifications

The best way to stay on task is to turn off notifications. If you have a schedule and stick to it, you don’t need to know every time a new email comes in or someone likes your photo.

If sticking to a schedule seems daunting at first, limit yourself to checking email and social media to every 15 minutes. Once that becomes easy, move it back to every 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and eventually to every hour.

Another healthy habit to get into is keeping devices away from your bed. Many of us are spending more time at home, and healthy boundaries are more important to keep than ever. Bedrooms are for sleeping, living rooms are for living, and the office is for working. Sticking to these rules and your life will improve in more ways than one.

Declutter

Sometimes apps that take us away from the task at hand. Clean out your apps periodically. Delete apps you don’t use anymore, but also consider deleting apps that are available online (Facebook, Pinterest, etc).

One great way to limit how often you pick up your phone is to invest in a smart speaker. This way you can set a timer, listen to podcast, or stream music without getting pulled into a phone blackhole.

Inspiration for this post came from “Digital Decluttering” by Beth Montpas published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Social Media Magic

Social Media Magic

If everyday tasks get in the way of daily social media posts, check out these tips and tricks.

Plan your posts

Choosing a topic is the hardest part of social media. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be; pick a theme, and post it. This could be a new line of fabric or an interesting tool. Some people prefer to post based off the day of the week, such as “Top Tool Tuesday,” “What’s New Wednesday,” and “Show and Share Sunday.”

Don’t be hesitant to repost the same topic again; in the world of marketing a consumer has to be exposed to a topic or product seven times before they’re compelled to take action.

Take the photo

Now that you know what you want to post about, take a photo. Use your phone and remember these three rules: lighting, background, and focal point.

Make sure your product is the focal point of the photo, there’s good lighting, and the background is not distracting. Be sure to take several photos at different views and angles. The more photos you post the better.

Write a caption

Writing a caption is the second hardest part of social media. If you’re struggling to come up with copy, answer these three questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Why do customers need it?
  3. What do you want them to do? (Call to action.)

Simply answer these questions as if you were talking to a friend. If you’re posting a product, don’t forget to tag the company and add a hashtag so your image is exposed to as many customers as possible.

Keep a consistent social media schedule

Now that you’ve got content down, create a schedule so you can stay up to date. Google calendar offers an easy, color coded way to plan your social media posts. Make sure to display holidays, events, and classes, and fill in accordingly.

Inspiration for this post came from “Social Media Magic in 5 Minutes,” by Kate Colleran, Joanne Hillestad, and Kris Poor published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Ringing in the New Year

New Year

Everybody is ready to wish 2020 goodbye, but unfortunately some of last year’s problems are still with us. Check out these ideas for your business as we kick off the New Year.

Safety Matters

Continue to let shoppers know what you’re doing to ensure safety. Consider addressing the topic under your “FAQ” section on your website, and make sure to keep (or create) signage in and around your store. Include a snippet on each of your email blasts, and post reminders on social media as well.

Go back to the basics with good phone etiquette. Thankfully our phones do much more these days and some retailers have offered personal shopping via video. Not all of your customers are going to be tech savvy though so make sure you know product specifics (such as dimensions) and remain helpful throughout the conversation.

Another way to ensure safety is to take the product outside. Don’t bring out random merchandise, but plan your outdoor goods like you would an indoor display.

Other Ideas for the New Year

Fallen out of habit of offering a bag stuffer? Make one and train your floor clerks to say a 15 second pitch as they place one in a customer’s bag. If you don’t know what to put on the bag stuffer, brag about your store. Put every brand, item, service, or offering your business provides. Customers want to know what’s available so don’t take this as the time to be humble.

Hopefully by now you’ve gotten rid of most of your 2020 inventory and are ready to bring in new stock for the New Year. Show off this new merchandise by going Live with an unboxing video that you can later post on your social media platforms.

Inspiration for this post came from “Ring in the Season” by Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Happy New Year from AQR

New Year

Happy New Year from your friends at American Quilt Retailer! Even though we’re all ready to say good riddance to 2020, now is a perfect time to reflect on some of the lessons we should take with us into 2021.

Lessons to take into the New Year

On a business level, 2020 showed the importance of digital media. Every aspect of your brick-and-mortar should have an online equivalent. Hopefully this year saw you try new mediums (anybody new to video? social media campaigns?) and expanded your horizons into trying more.

This year also highlighted how quilt retailers provide a source for community. Even though online content is important, it by no means replaces the real thing. Online options provide convenience, but brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay.

2020 has taken a lot, but it’s given as well. It’s given us time, even time to slow down. It highlighted priorities we have long been neglecting, and showed us our resilience with every punch we took. These may not be things we wanted, but they were given to us none the less.

And finally, as we say good bye to 2021, we would like thank you for sticking with American Quilt Retailer. Happy New Year and we wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2021.


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We Have More In Common Than We Have Different

Common problems

Businesses have more in common than you think. Often times, we get bogged down on the amount of resources another business has access to, or how different their products are.

This happens in the craft industry as well. Owners of a quilt shop think they have nothing in common with a needle shop, or (in some eyes, especially) a boutique.

Every business is unique, but our problems aren’t. Common problems, like dealing with landlords, insurance, inventory, etc. are problems every business faces.

Read on to discover what you can learn from the next guy.

Translate common ideas

Do you ever read business books about Nike or Coca-Cola and have a hard time translating the concepts into your own business? Even though our businesses operate on a much smaller scale, some of the common themes (such as consistent training, empowerment, etc) still apply.

This includes how other industries have learned to innovate as well. Instead of a wine tasting, have a fabric tasting. Instead of renting tools and equipment, rent out your long arm machine quilter. Simply ask yourself “how might that work for my business?”

Plan, evaluate, repeat

Once you start thinking of ideas, it can be easy to want to implement them all. Start with one to make sure you do it well. Evaluate the idea once it’s at its first evaluation stage to see if the idea is worth keeping in your store. If it’s not, scrap it and move to the next one.

Inspiration for this post came from “Play Big!” by Gwen Bortner published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Start a Business Advisory Board

Advisory Board

Networking during a pandemic is difficult. Now is the time to reach out to local business leaders to hear what great ideas they’ve had this year.

Local Advisory Committee

Pool your community for local retailers. The range can be everything from your local pharmacist to the local floor-covering business. The one thing you all have in common is that you pool from the same client base.

A breakfast meeting on alternating months is a great start to handle the logistics aspect of creating an advisory board. As for meeting quality, take turns hosting the meeting. If content ideas are running low, brainstorm hot topics during one of your sessions.

Leave time at the close of meetings for members to share how the ideas helped them (or didn’t help). And if ideas do start to run low, consider making a book list consisting of leadership and self help titles.

Quilt Market Buddy

Similar to a community advisory board, do you have an advisor for quilt markets? If you don’t, make a friend at the next in-person market. This could be someone you see frequently, and start with a simple introduction. The best advisor you could find is someone in a similar, but not necessarily the same, business as yourself.

Go out for coffee, and determine what vendors are on each other’s lists. Agree to meet up at agreed-upon times throughout market, and share the promotional information you gather. As this relationship develops, you could even attend meetings you, or your advisor sets up.

Inspiration for this post came from “You Dont’ Know What You Don’t Know,” by Tom Shay published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Q&A with Gudrun Erla of GE Quilt Designs

Want to know how other industry professionals responded to the chaos of a global pandemic? American Quilt Retailer picked the brain of Gudrun Erla of GE Quilt Designs to learn how she was able to transition from a hectic travel schedule to creating a community online.

Quarantine Quilt Along

Thanks to a well established email newsletter list, and already hosting two Facebook live shows a week, Erla had the foundations laid pre-quarantine to share information fast.

In late March of this year, Erla hosted her first Quarantine Quilt Along (QQAL). The event included a new quilt pattern she designed titled “Elvira.” The event was free, and included a quarantine playlist on Spotify for participants to listen to while they quilted.

The response was incredible, with over 16,000 quilters from 37 countries participating. From that initial QQAL, Erla has seen her mailing list, Facebook group, and online sales explode. GE Quilt Designs is still hosting QQAL’s, with proceeds from the pattern going to charity.

How Erla Creates Community

With the cancellation of quilt markets, Erla has been inviting guests onto her QQAL’s. Consumers love being able to still hear from representatives and designers.

Above all, Erla also remains true to herself, sharing what’s important to her and letting her personality shine. Erla’s significant other is African American and grew up in South Minneapolis, blocks away from where George Floyd was killed. On her first Facebook live after the murder, Erla urged viewers to stand up for what is right. The response from the quilt community was amazing, confirming what we already know—being candid always pays off.

To read the full interview, check out “Connecting Through Quarantine,” by Millie Kehrli published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Tackle Your Business Stress

Less Stress

Has stress been a big part of your year? If it has, you’re definitely not alone. Don’t let stress run your life. Practice some of these tips to reduce what’s on your plate.

Maximize your time

If interruptions get in the way of completing tasks, plan around that. The most obvious move is put your phone on do not disturb, set an alarm, and get to work.

If not being available for your business seems out of the question, work during the best time that you can avoid interruptions. If you’re a morning person, wake up an hour earlier to get work done. If you’re a night owl, plan an hour before bed to knock those to-do tasks out.

Ever consider NOT attending that webinar you registered for to give yourself breathing room? Give it a try sometime, and see if the world ends.

Lastly, do you have a constant stream of marketing efforts to attract new customers? Word of mouth is still the best from of referral, but social media is the next best. Develop your online persona so your customers can feel the personal touch your business provides.

Automate, Delegate, Eliminate

Do you still do the bookkeeping manually? What other tasks do you do by hand? Set some time aside to research how you can automate through apps, sites, and services.

Further, do you personally answer every email, return every voicemail, go through the inventory, etc.? Delegate those tasks to free yourself to more pressing matters that will take your business the extra mile.

Finally, eliminate the negativity in your life, including the unneeded stressers that your business may cause. Try some of these tips to get you closer to managing the stress in your life.

Inspiration for this post came from “Is Business Stress Ruining Your Life?” by Beth Montpas published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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The Art of the Pivot

The Art of the Pivot

This year has been full of pivots. As business owners, we are constantly pivoting to changes large and small. What’s different about this year is that some of the changes we’ve made ended up being permanent.

Re-evaluate your goals

With some of these more-permanent changes, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your business goals. Has new customer retention fallen or remained the same as last year? Don’t look at this like a con, rather take the opportunity to invest more time and energy in the customer base you already have.

Do you feel like you’ve spent all year focusing on short term goals instead of mid-to-long range goals? If you feel this way, you’re not alone. It’s ok to continue responding to you ever-changing short term goals until things feel stable again.

Change marketing

Part of the business shift this year is redirecting your marketing to mainly online efforts. Since we’ve had to remain at home people have been spending much more time online. This is a great way to reach your audience—find out where they are (Facebook? Twitter? Tik Tok?) and spend your marketing budget there.

Pivot from the sale

Selling to someone who recently lost their job or continuing your sales operations as if everything were normal is insensitive. Instead, practice empathy and let your customer base know what you’ve been doing to respond to the health crisis, as well as share that you know what they’re going through. This can mean changing your inventory to include more of what they need (supplies to make face masks) and less of what used to be a trend the same time last year (ribbon wreaths).

As we mentioned earlier, business owners are constantly pivoting to respond to market needs. Why should this pivot be any different?

Inspiration for this post came from “The Art of Pivoting” by Sommer Leigh published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Inbound Marketing and Your Business

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is a relatively new marketing technique that draws customers to your business through content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and branding.

Read on to find out if inbound principles are something your business should adopt.

The Five Inbound Marketing Principles

The five principles of Inbound Marketing are designed to make your business top of your customers’ mind.

  1. Know your audience. Before writing copy and blasting off messages through your social media channels, know your buyer persona. Identify your buyer’s problem, and cater your messaging to respond to that.
  2. Understand your buyers journey. One of the biggest turnoffs is when a business is desperate for a sale. What stage of the buying journey is your customer at? Are they looking for more information? How can you assist in that way?
  3. Provide value. If your sales clerks are trained to give a pitch, ask yourself if that pitch is always necessary. Be sure you train your employees to be able to respond to the customers needs, not just your business’s needs. In addition to in person changes, what about your website? Do you have a blog? Providing opportunities for education is the best way to add value to your customer.
  4. Promote it, and they will come. Search engine optimization is important during this step, but so is delivering the right messages at the right stage of the buying process.
  5. Trust is the most important value. According to Inbound Marketing, trust is built throughout the process. This means, in summary, you understand your audience and their needs, deliver the messages they want at the correct stage in their buying process, and remain helpful for current and future purchases.

For more information on Inbound Marketing, consider reading blogs by Hubspot.com, or purchase Inbound Content.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.