Sunday, June 04, 2006

3 Girls and Us interview

Today we visit with Matt at 3 Girls and Us

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?

My partner is a fashion-junkie and very creative with it. She's also always been a huge fan of the simplicity of jeans and a T-shirt. And she's always talked about opening her own boutique "one day". So when I came across CafePress a while ago it sounded like the perfect outlet and when I went home that night we signed up right away. We've got 3 daughters so decided to theme our store around baby clothes and kids clothes, with a few designs for hip moms and dads. They also inspired the name of our store - 3 Girls and Us! As for me, my real job is in the technology side of marketing and I wanted the challenge of helping my partner build an online business with minimal outgoings - trying to build it with word-of-mouth-marketing and search engine optimization.

2. When did you open your store?

We opened at the end of May 2005

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

With virtually no budget for marketing, it's tough to build volumes of traffic - but it's also the challenge that I love! Our traffic numbers have steadily increased (we broke through the 1000 page views a day yesterday!) and we're now starting to see the real benefits reflected in our monthly sales figures. If you work out the hourly rate we're on for running the store it's terrible - I in particular spend a lot of time on marketing activities. I probably spend at least an hour a day promoting the store and so it's more time intensive than I originally thought. We're in a very competitive sector - there are lots of great stores selling groovy kids clothes, but our products are selling well so we feel we're definitely up there with the others.

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

The solution that CafePress offers is great - the store hosting, manufacture, customer service, payment and so on is great. I love that all we have to do is come up with the great ideas and market the store. It leaves us doing what we're both best at. And when the "You made a sale" email comes through it still brings a smile to our faces knowing that someone out there will be wearing our creations.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

We started off in the first month using standard CafePress templates. It took a while, but taking the plunge to a custom-designed template makes our store standout I think. And I guess I wish I'd known how much time it takes to drive quality traffic...but then again if I had it might have put me off opening the store in the first place!!! The effort is well worth it now though!

6. Could you share some of the marketing you’ve tried so far (on or off line) and what has worked and what hasn’t?

We've tried one off-line ad in a parenting magazine here in the UK (we live in the UK), but with little success. (We're looking forward to CafePress changing their international shipping model so our products are more cost effective for UK customers.)

Most of our marketing efforts are focused online at the moment. I spend a lot of time on search engine optimization (SEO) and link building. Plus contacting key sites in our market sector and asking them for reviews (I send them product samples).

We also do monthly free product give-aways (to get our products out there and encourage word-of-mouth) and a newsletter.

I tried Google AdWords in the early days, but the return on investment was too low so I cut my losses and stopped, preferring to focus on SEO to get us in the natural search results.

I've bought ad spaces on a couple of sites just to see if that works, but it's too early to say at the moment.

I also have a blog which we use to announce new products and which brings in a bit of traffic.

I've dipped a toe in the water of online PR (using and I'm now starting to look at writing articles to create content and submitting those to article sites with a bio and link back to our store.

In summary, if I were to say what works best so far it would have to be SEO. Oh, and the CafePress marketplace too - so I make sure I tag ALL of our designs with great keywords!

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any?

We have a couple of other sites:
Our blog: Baby T-shirts, Tshirts for kids, moms and dads

Affiliate site: Funny T-shirts

Nancy’s comments – I actually won one of their monthly giveaways several months ago! I got my choice and ordered a toddler “I (heart) My Daddy t-shirt which arrived in about 3 days!

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