Or "And My Husband Still Hasn't Kicked Me Out..."
I can't really continue with this story without talking about USWeekly's Shop-a-Thon. Yes, we used to be a regular advertiser in that section. I like to take partial credit for how that section came about. :-)
I used to take out a tiny classified ad in the very back. (Shown at left, actual size. Use magnifying glass if necessary.) You know, back there with the breast enlargements, dating services and diet pills? The classified advertising staffer liked that look and decided to start a feature called "Shop-A-Thon"-- just a picture of the product and a price. And since they were putting eight other products on the page, the price of the ad was much less than a regular "in-the-book" ad. (People also thought it was content, which helped the feature immensely.)
Did USWeekly Shop-A-Thon work? Yes and no. Man, do those readers get on the computer and look at stuff! To this day, I have not found a magazine audience that is so web-friendly. And buyers? Well, some did, but usually not enough to justify the cost of the ads.
Okay, so finally, I'm getting to jcaroline creative. Sometime in 2003, I had launched another website called jcarolinecreative.com where we offered any raw materials for sale that we used to make purses. So the black canvas we were buying 100 yards of at a time, the boxes of 400 magnetic snaps, those zippers and other items, I would offer on the jcarolinecreative.com site because I knew this stuff was hard to find, especially in small quantities. My only caveat is that I wasn't going to advertise it because that would defeat the purpose of an "overstock" site. If I was spending money to promote it, I wouldn't make any money on it. (Ding, ding, ding. Dumb decision warning goes off-- but only in hindsite.)
So I needed to attract more buyers to the purse website in a less expensive method than magazine advertising. Google Adwords was my choice for an experiment. Adwords is basically an ad on Google that comes up before and alongside your search results. Interestingly, in 2004, most users didn't realize those were paid positions, but we're so much savvier now, aren't we?
For a week, I ran a series of "purse" type keywords to drive traffic to the purse site. "Canvas bags", "designer bags", "bags full of money", you name it. I heard crickets.
So for the heck of it, I ran a series of "ribbon" type keywords for jcaroline creative. "Ribbon", "grosgrain ribbon", "striped ribbon", and approximately 8,000 other combinations (I exaggerate a bit). Holy cow. People were searching on those words, coming to the website, and wonder of all wonders-- they were buying things! So we added more products to jcaroline creative. And bought more search words. And added more products and bought more search words. And by 2005, jcaroline creative revenue bypassed the revenue from the purses. And it took less effort to produce the goods and less effort to drive traffic to the site. Oddly enough, I had to think long and hard before dropping the purses. But that's what we did in about May of 2005.
Fortunately, the people I had hired to sew and fill orders were easily transitioned to cutting fabric, ribbon and filling orders. And we could take back the space filled with sewing machines and fill it with more fabric and ribbon.
So that's how we got to jcaroline creative!
Next up... a walk down fabric memory lane.