Etsy Jam

Etsy Jam Episode 3: Failing Forward

Welcome to episode 3 of Etsy Jam. Today our topic is Failing Forward.

Before we get into that, we wanna talk about things that we’ve learned through our feedback on our Rock Your Photos report. You can check out what Rock your Photos is if you click here.

Takeaways that we’ve learned from Rock Your Photos reports:

  • People find sometimes that the most clickable photos isn’t necessarily the one they’re currently using as the primary image.

When people are getting their scores back from Rock Your Photos, some might find that the ‘Clickability’ rating on one of their other photos is stronger than the one that they have as their primary photo.

  • Keywords Ideas

The reviewers will go in and they will come up with different keyword suggestions for your listing. One of the things that people have found is that people throw out ways of describing things that they didn’t even think of. Like different terminologies of your item that may not be at the front of your mind. It could be completely different than what you have in your head.

  • The images that are coming back confuse people as to what is actually being sold.

An example would be if I’m selling something in multi-color, I’d usually have a photo of a color palette/color swatch in there. That sometimes confuses the people who are trying how to search for that thing and the keywords don’t necessarily come back to be accurate for what that listing is. Maybe you could show the product in those different colors instead.

  • Pictures with busy backgrounds are less clickable.

On average, photos with busier backgrounds seem to get a lower clickability rating than photos with much simpler plain backgrounds.

Today’s Topic: Failing Forward

"Failing forward is still allowing yourself to fail but making sure that you've learned something from it so you'd actually make forward progress."

Someone commented about failing forward in a prior episode. I think that’s a super important concept to highlight. A lot of people are afraid to fail or think there is only one path to success.

“I tried this one thing, and it didn’t work, therefore nothing will work”. That’s where this whole “I’m doing everything right and it’s not working” statement comes from. You’re doing what you thought would work, and it’s not. That just means you found something that doesn’t work, that’s okay.

I personally like this quote, “The master has failed more times than you’ve ever attempted”. Every time I try something and it doesn’t work, I think that there’s other people out there that have tried so many more times than me and that’s why they’re seeing more success.

"The more you try, the more you get after it, the better things are gonna go."

I don’t really follow sports personally, but Kobe Bryant retiring was a big deal recently. In his last game, he scored more points than anyone his age. Commentators also pointed out that he took 50 shots. Apparently that’s a lot.

What will everyone remember even just a year from now? They’ll remember the 60 points he scored in his final game, not the 20 or so missed shots. From that, I’d say go out there and try more and fail more. Just try to increase your percentage as you go along.

So when something doesn’t work, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”. I think that’s the best part about failing forward, when something doesn’t work, what did you learn? Can you take that to the next experiment with you?

When you say experiments, what kind of experiments do you mean?

When you’re doing experiments, say Etsy – product pricing, photos, how you promote on and off Etsy – make sure you try those things, but don’t switch up everything at once. In an experiment, you want to have everything in control and change one variable and see how it changes. Don’t change them all at once.

In business and in life, keep switching it up. Switch it up constantly. You will fail at things. This is how you know you’re trying. The magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Take this Etsy Jam as an example. If you think this right here is comfortable, it’s not. Being on video and talking about this type of stuff. I’m not an anchor, or a broadcaster; this is new to me, and it’s not a comfortable thing. Hopefully it’s something that works; so far it’s been great. This is episode 3, will we make it to 100? I don’t know. Is failure possible? Absolutely. The distinction here is we’re not trying to fail.

"We’re trying to win. It’s okay to fail when you’re trying to win. It's not okay to fail just for fail sake. Just accept that it happens. Take it as a learning opportunity."

How do you find inspiration for different ideas and things to try?

One thing I personally like to do is to see what other’s are doing. I try to take inspirations from everywhere. If for example, you’re doing a craft shop, check out what other businesses are doing. Check out what IBM is doing, what they have going on. Not saying to copy that exactly, but try to model and take things. Just because it’s working for someone else, means that it might work for you.

It takes a lot of bad ideas to find a good one. It’s like panning for gold. You sift through a lot of worthless dirt to find a small bit of gold. That’s the game. That’s life. It’s the thrill of the chase you have to love. If you’re going to keep doing this, and you’re gonna be successful – however you define success – it’s gotta be the thrill of chasing that.

"There really isn't just a magic formula. If there was, everyone would be doing it."

Everyone wants an exact recipe for success. The blueprint to find the gold. Has anyone ever watched the show Gold Rush? Those guys fail a lot. They sift through a lot of dirt. They start every season with every hope, map, scientific reasoning, they take core samples; they do all this and they always think that they will find millions in gold. But season after season they’re failing in some way. Their machines break, gold is deeper than expected, weather freezes them out. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That’s Murphy’s Law and it happens to them time after time. They always manage to find the bright side though. They’re always glass half full. They always take the time to learn from their mistakes. They talk about the things that happened, things in their control, out of their control, how they could have planned for them. They keep baking those into the next seasons. So every new season they talk about what happened last season and what they’re gonna do differently.

When you’re looking at other people for ideas, how do you know what would be a good indicator that that’s something to attack or even try?

It’s all about what’s gonna work for you. If something is working for someone else, then it must work for YOU too. How do you figure that out? That’s where being creative comes in. Be creative. Try to figure out, “Okay, these people are doing this, can I figure out why it might be working?” When you see something, think about “That’s working for them, but WHY?”. “Do I have the similar environment that I can use and remodel it a little bit to make it work for me as well?”

That’s how I think you can figure out what might work for you. Figure out if you have the right kind of environment. Understand why it’s working and see if you can adapt it. If it’s working for someone else, it’s a good indication that it might work for you too.

Speaking about what might work, Marmalead is an indicator. Based on what we see is working, we show you what has a good chance of working for you, too. Nothing is definitive though. The Marma-meters aren’t definitive, they’re not the end-all solution. Beware of snake oil that claims to be the end-all solution. Nothing beats getting your hands dirty and testing.

The only part of SEO that’s science is how to rank. All those things like H1 tags, meta descriptions, keyword density and all that stuff don’t even matter on Etsy. It’s different for every search engine. We focus on Etsy because that’s where your shop is and the main value proposition for being on Etsy is that they bring the audience. So really, if you want to try to rank on those other search engines, have your own site, because that’s a whole another animal.

You’re on Etsy because they’re bringing the audience, same reason you go to a crafts fair. They’re bringing the audience. You show up and it’s your job to close the sale and be found and be the booth people wanna stop at. But you’re not the one advertising, you’re not the one promoting around the city saying “Hey, come to this crafts fair!”. That’s kind of like what Etsy is, just an online version.

What to target is all about testing if it works for you. Marmalead with Marma-meters etc… it’s giving you indicators of what might work. Now go get after it and try it. See if it will work for you. Just because you can rank doesn’t mean you should. That’s also what the problems are with Google Keyword Planner, just because it has high search volume doesn’t mean you should rank on it. It doesn’t mean it will help you.

When you’re doing a bunch of stuff, how do you know something is working and not working?

I’d say from the bottom up. You want to reverse engineer what’s getting you sales. You wanna reverse engineer what’s working. You want to plant seeds and look for sprouts. When you see them, do more of that. What works for you is what matters.

I see shops everyday that worry about numbers that don’t matter. Google Keyword Planner numbers, how often you tweet, post on FB, Google Page Rank which doesn’t even mean what you think it does. Because Google Page Rank is not your ranking in a page. It’s actually named after Larry Page (co-founder of Google). It’s his system for ranking the quality of a website. Well, our Etsy shops aren’t really well set up for that. Search engines love content and they gauge things based on content, how credible this website is, and what people are looking for. So be careful with page rank out there.

Gordon’s take on Social Media:

You can’t put a financial number or a return on investment number in social media. You can’t always track back what/which tweet brought you a sale. Frame it more of a “return on relationship”. It’s not about what you’re saying. It is all about who’s listening to you, who’s engaging with you and how you can use that experience to improve your business.

Your time is precious.

Do what matters because you don’t have time for the rest. When you’re looking at numbers, looking at what to focus on or what to test, make sure you’re using the absolute best use of your time. Keep focusing on what’s working. When you get a sale, figure out where that sale is coming from. Actually talk to people, talk to your customers. Find out where they came from, or why they bought from you, all those kind of stuff. You need to learn so much about them because otherwise it’s all just like running blind. You need a system for prioritizing what activities you think will help you most. Because whenever you do some brainstorming, you can come up with 100’s of ideas. But the time to execute those ideas is pretty scarce because you’re doing so much more.

"Above all, you are a creative entrepreneur. Be creative. If a machine told you exactly what to do, all 1.6 million Etsy sellers would do the same thing. Guess what, it wouldn’t work anymore."

You need to plant seeds and look for sprouts. When you see them, do more of that. Is it working for you? That’s what matters.
I want you to forget the top level numbers. They’re just noise. You can buy followers on Twitter and FB. That doesn’t translate to sales. You can have teams view and favorite your listings, I hope they’re buying from you or it’s hurting your conversions and probably your rank.
Everyone thinks they want a big dashboard full of numbers that look important. A machine that says “Do exactly this”. Numbers that go up and to the right all the time. That’s a distraction, you don’t want that.

What do you want then?

You want the simplest view of what might work and what is working that you can possibly have. The bare minimum. You want numbers for engagement. Sales, views, favorites. These are your currency.


That’s been it folks. I hope you enjoyed this episode. You’re welcome to attend next week! Etsy Jams every Thursday 9AM PST / 12PM EST.

Quote of the day:

"It's okay to fail as long as you're not trying to fail. You're trying to win."
It's okay to fail as long as you're not trying to fail. You're trying to win.

4 replies on “Etsy Jam Episode 3: Failing Forward”

Good question Pam. They lower your shop’s conversion rate ever so slightly because of the added views/favorites that don’t necessarily convert into sales.

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