Summary

  • Creativity takes time. Keep a creativity journal.
  • Strive to make an emotional connection with your customers.
  • Make sure they know that they are buying “from you” (a person or people) and not from “a website”.
  • Vulnerability, within reason, is exceptionality important.

I think everyone enjoys a good story of an entrepreneur who has invested blood sweat and tears to make their endeavor a success. Of course, many accept capital in the process, and that accelerates growth. But, I am often more impressed by those who hold off capital as long as possible. This is one of those stories—someone who has gone from “zero to hero” and has experienced a great degree of success in the process.

Johanna Miller, Chief Artisan, PotionYarns.com

Johanna started this business with almost no money. and through her creativity, her ingenuity has built it up to a place that it’s at today. This episode will focus on the content management side of her findings, and what she’s learned over these past three years.

Opera Glasses-Dryad Sock-Ready to Ship
An example of Johanna’s work.

On a very basic level, Johanna sells dyed yarn. The challenge is you can go to your local craft store and buy yarn for $6USD. Yet, she sells it for $30USD+. The fact that she is successful proves she has a solid market differentiation strategy.

How Johanna got started

  • Began as a hairstylist, focusing on hair color (intricate stuff like rainbow colors, unicorn shades and galaxy hair). Joseph’s side note: I had no clue this kind of coloring is possible. Definitely artisan work here.
  • Got into dyeing yarn through needing something custom for a project.
  • Johanna found that her expertise in dyeing hair was not all that different than yarn.
  • She dyed her first batch of yarn in her kitchen sink.

Like many founder’s stories, this company started with resolving a need and then scaling to help others.

However, artists have a big challenge known as “the starving artist.” Many are very creative (think musicians, painters, and craftspeople). Yet few make a reasonable living. Johanna has been successful in turning her craft into a business.

Content Strategy by Johanna

Yarn is a difficult thing to describe. There are some yarn descriptors that are objective:

  • What type of yarn is it?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How much does it cost?

At least two of those three bullet points are described on the packaging from any big box store that sells yarn.

Yet, where Johanna’s premium comes from is the subjective:

  • How do I describe the color?
  • How did I come up with this color?
  • What could this be used for?

Read this sample from her website:

What’s the best handdyed yarn for the fall season? According to Hoyle, it’s this beautiful blend of mustard gold, spicy pumpkin, blood red, and rich burgundy that calls to mind autumn leaves, pumpkin spice, and apple cider on a hayride. Edmond Hoyle was generally considered the ultimate authority on the game of whist and his book on the rules of the game were frequently consulted when settling disputes. Who are we to argue with such an authority? According to Hoyle won’t disappoint! 

This part of the description makes an emotional connection to something that we love. It tells a story of autumn. I remember playing in the leaves when I was a kid. Pumpkin spice and who would even turn down apple cider on a hayride. It’s really positive pictures.

The big question in our minds is how did this description come to life?

People want to connect when they buy products. This is especially true over the internet—which represents an impersonal medium for transactions.

We don’t just buy a product, we buy an experience, we buy a feeling, so we need something that people can connect to.

Johanna Miller

Johanna wanted to create stories for her yarn because that helps people connect with her and her brand. But because most of her business takes place online, no matter how great your photos are, everyone’s monitor will look different. In her case of selling hand-dyed yarn, a picture (that can vary) only goes so far. Potential customers can’t hold this yarn in their hands, thinking “wow, this is very soft and perfect for that sweater I’ve been planning on knitting.” As such, “picturing” the colors through words helps her customers know how well it will fit this project they intend to create.

Pictures (aren’t always) worth a thousand words

For this type of tactile product descriptions supplement pictures. This guides a visitor’s mind to build a clearer picture of what they are purchasing. Because of this (and we will dig in later), she has had very few returns and upset customers.

According to Hoyle is fall colors. It really does look like the leaves coming off the trees and I wanted to really get that whole experience going so people can envision those colors and think of those types of things in their project.

According to Hoyle-Dryad Sock-Super Fine Ready to Ship
According to Hoyle yarn

Let’s make making descriptions practical

  • Creativity often doesn’t come in an hour, but is a process over days/weeks/months.
  • Johanna keeps a notebook containing words/phrases/titles of:
    • Songs
    • Movies
    • Books
  • When something strikes her, she writes it down.
  • When needing inspiration, she flips through her notebook.

Case in point. Johanna has a yarn dye that is named Forty Shades of Green (many different shades of green, if you didn’t already guess). This was inspired by a recent trip to Ireland. Once she located the name in her notebook, she took this inspiration to write a description containing a store about Ireland and the Forty Shades of Green song.

The key point is the take advantage of the months preceding a product launch. Don’t rely on your creativity in one hour.

Practical example. Sign up for the Robinhood Snacks email. For the average person, investing can be dry and boring. Yet, I find it interesting to read every morning. There is plenty of good puns and dry humor. I’m guessing that this type of creativity doesn’t come overnight, but instead is built up over months and years.

Even if you don’t have immediate plans to use words you write in your creative journal, you will likely find this inspiring for the future.

Takeaways:

  • Begin a creativity journal TODAY. Moleskine (not an affiliate link, thank you) is my favorite.
    • When you travel, write billboard ads, write phrases that come to mind and write descriptions of places you visit.
    • After you watch a movie, write inspiring quotes that you hear.
    • When you hear a new favorite song, write the name of the song.
  • Remember that people love stories and appreciate an emotional connection.
    • Feel free to share your story of an awkward mistake.
    • Tell them about what led you to create this product.

Am I buying from a person or a website?

Websites can be perfected, but humans are imperfect.

I would opine that we relate best to other humans who show both their successes and failures. As much as I would like to be perfect, I’m not. And you probably aren’t either.

A success shows what can be attained. A failure shows that we are still on the same road together—a road called “life”.

But how does this relate to a website?

Johanna sells a premium product, hand-dyed yarn. You can also buy yarn from big-box craft stores. Johanna states that her product is not for everyone. Similar to a hamburger, you probably wouldn’t take your significant other on a date to McDonalds. But, if you are hungry, and need a quick meal—you definitely would stop there.

You must recognize who appreciates your product.

For luxury products, make sure your audience knows why this product exists and from whom you are buying this product (of course, and that it is great quality).

People buy from Johanna not only because she has a good product but also because she shares her story, what makes her tick, what inspires her, what gets her excited. She also weaves in additional value-added services that others in the industry aren’t able to offer:

  • She has a educational podcast which continues the personal connection.
  • She invests much time in providing helpful information on social media.
  • She responds to emails containing requests for help or additional information.

The emotional connection page

What does your “About Us” page look like?

In my experience (as well as the Nielson Norman Group), the “About Us” page is crucial to making an emotional connection.

Many of the website analytics that I have seen point to the “About Us” page being one of the most clicked pages from the home page. People want to connect with those from whom they buy.

Johanna puts herself out there as a real person. She doesn’t shy away from her house that is over a hundred years old—it is charming and sweet but, because of the age, there are some real issues. She shares about her cat. She makes those she connects with on her about page and social media, to a reasonable extent, part of her life.

Outside of the personal connection, it is difficult to compete:

  • Her prices are higher.
  • Her shipping is slower or more expensive.

As a result

Johanna’s return rate is less than one percent.

For the few cases, most of the time, friendly communication resolves the problem.

I believe this is entirely because of the effort she has put forth to:

  • Connect with her audience.
  • Provide excellent photos of the product.
  • Use captivating and unique descriptions to accurately portray the product.

Final advice

Content will create itself much easier and more organically when you find a bigger mission and connect with that.

Johanna Miller

Johanna shares her deeper goal: “to inspire people to create magic in their life.” We all crave meaning and hope. She wants people to learn that the magic is inside them and they can create it.

As a result, every Monday, she posts to her social channels a gratitude post where she describes how she starts the week better. She shares what she is grateful for. Of course, she will share a photo of her yarn, too.

By being vulnerable, she not only helps people connect but also encourages others to be grateful. Every posts begins or ends with, “So, what about you?”

This includes her visitors in her post of gratefulness. And she gets much positive feedback. She even gets great feedback from those who aren’t into the crafts of knitting or crocheting. Yet, they may be at some point, and I can almost guarantee who will be at the top of their minds in that case.

Book recommendation: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

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