Vianza Blog

Exclusively For Wholesale Brands And Retailers


profitable tips for designers + indie retailers

by Sarah Von

Finding Your Boutique's Ideal Client


Julie Merriman Wray has owned three brick-and-mortar businesses, attended great schools and now rocks online business and blogging.  Here she talks about how she found the target market (and dream customer!) for each of her businesses.

Friends, I’m about to let you in on a big, fat, juicy secret.  The secret that every super expensive marketing workshop or consultant will start with - after they’ve cashed your check. 

Behold: The Secret of The Ideal Client

No matter what field you work in, you need to hone in on who - exactly - your ideal client or customer is.  Knowing this will bring you more business, more money and probably more professional fulfillment.

Once you know who your ideal client is, you’ll know

* how to market yourself

* what your price points should be

* where you should advertise
* how to display and merchandise your wares

* who you [italics] don’t want to work with

Sounds great, right? And how do you figure out who your ideal client is?

Devote an afternoon to this project

Sit down with a journal and have a really big think about this - let your imagination run free!  Who is this person?  Where do they live?  What are their hobbies?  How much money do they earn?  How old are they? Do they have kids?  Which magazines to they read and which tv shows do they watch? 

Create a totally, completely fleshed out profile of this person.  Give them a name and hair color even!

Write a journal entry as this person


Now that you know who your ideal client is, get inside their head.  Write a few pages in this person’s voice.  What are they feeling when they think about shopping at your boutique?  What are their hopes and fears?  Would they say “I’m so incredibly busy with work and the kids, I love being able to stop at Primp and buy gifts for every one in my family - and it’s all within my budget.”  Or would they say “I hope it’s obvious that this necklace was really expensive.  I want everybody at the party to know how much money my husband makes!”

Start marketing towards your ideal client


Now that you know exactly who you’re angling towards, you can start marketing appropriately.  If your dream customer is an internet savvy twenty-something, start targeting blogs and Twitter.  If you’re aiming at a local client base of middle-aged, high income individuals, maybe you should buy a sponsor spot on your local public radio station.

Now that you know exactly who you want to work with, you’re going to be nearly unstoppable!  Get out there are start marketing to those dreamy, perfect-for-you clients.



Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler.  If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.


by Sarah Von

Choose The Best Online Marketing For Your Business


This is a guest post by Tegan McRae. Tegan is the Media Strategist for


Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SEO, blogging – it’s all a bit overwhelming to a small business looking to jump into the world of online marketing.  So many options and opportunities make the internet the perfect place to advertise on a dime, but also mean a lot of trial and error to find what works for your company.


When deciding what route to take when marketing online, the first step is to know your audience. This is easily the most important aspect of advertising campaign building, and one that too many people skip over. “Everyone”, “Girls”, and “Adults” are not audiences. Audiences are a specific type of person your advertising is targeting, not the general sort of person who shops at your store. For example, though Target may be for everyone, their back-to-school advertising campaigns specifically target mothers in their 30’s with children in elementary and middle school.


Once you know your audience, figuring out the best channel to market online is fairly easy – assuming you know what each one does and what audience it speaks to. Not sure? Let’s go over the biggies:


Social Networks

What It Is: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and any other site that allows users to communicate and share with each other. There are plenty of social networks with broad audiences, but also many smaller ones dedicated to niche topics.


The Audience: The majority of social networks will have a B2C (business to consumer) audience much larger and more accessible than a B2B (business to business) audience. Most social network’s audiences will be the under 40 crowd.


The Pros: These networks and their communities are easily accessible, content-hungry, ready to share, and are always looking for the next new thing to show their friends. The wide audience allows for both targeted and broad marketing.


The Cons: You can sometimes be another voice in a crowd. With hundreds of other companies marketing on social networks, people become apathetic to advertising messages. If you can’t stand out, you can’t cut it on social networks.


Content Marketing

What It Is: Blogs in all forms. Personal blogs, community blogs, corporate blogs, news blogs, etc. Any website that consistently updates with new content. Marketing through content is generally done through guest posting.


The Audience: Every blog audience is going to be different depending on the content being produced. While the audience may seem apparent for most blogs, it’s important to check out the profiles of the people commenting and follow the blog for a while to see what sort of content they’re putting up. There is nothing that will kill your content marketing strategy faster than sending off un-targeted, broad articles to bloggers who know their audience won’t care for it.


The Pros: Bloggers are always looking for more fresh content to post. Generally, most blogs worth posting to will have a guest writer submission policy that will make the process easier for you. If you can write well for the right audience, content marketing is the way to go.


The Cons: It’s a lot of work. Writing a quality piece of work can take a few hours to research, write, and edit. There are also risks to writing for another audience, and if your work isn’t well received then commenters will let you know of it and chances are, you won’t be writing for that blog anymore.


Search Marketing

What It Is: Search marketing is comprised of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (paid and promoted links). This sort of marketing is done through either organic link building or paid promoted links (AdWords) that put your site at the top of certain search queries.


The Audience: Knowing who your audience is and what they are seeking when they come to your website is key in search marketing. Your audience is whoever is searching for what you can provide, so target your search terms accordingly (IE, if you sell organic makeup, a targeted search query would be “makeup with organic ingredients”).


The Pros: Search marketing can be very effective, and for many it can function as their main source of traffic. If you have the budget and/or knowledge to put into it, search marketing can be all you need.


The Cons: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) costs money, and that amount increases the more competitors you have. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires a lot of time, knowledge, and dedication and often needs social and content marketing involved to make it successful.


There are many other methods of online marketing available – banner ads, affiliate marketing, viral advertising, press releases and networking - but that starts to tip into the realm of expensive, outsourced marketing. For small businesses, sometimes the best method is the rawest – dedicated, in-house employees who know the message and product marketing it directly to the customer.


Whether you choose one, two, or all three of these methods, keep your audience in mind, your creativity flowing, and your dedication unwavering. Strong marketing comes not from the methods – but from the people behind them.


Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler.  If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.


by Jen Wallace

Why You Should Share Your Story


Part of branding your business to your retail and wholesale customers and to blog and magazine editors is to share your story. And no, I do not mean create a piece of fiction about yourself, but instead tell the story of you and your business: how you got started, why you do what you do, your background, other interests, special training and experiences, etc.


In a world saturated with so many businesses, it is important to stand out. One way to do so is to personalize your business and intertwine the personal. Giving people a face to associate with your business can go a long way. This is especially true with small independent businesses where it's considered a real plus that you aren't a nameless & faceless mega-store.


Capitalize on what makes you different from the big box stores, and the other small indie shops, and tell people who you are.


Do you like salsa dancing or do you spend your off-time spelunking? Do you take vintage buying trips to NYC every season or vacation in South America to discover new artisans for your shop. Have you been a potter ever since 2nd grade art class or visited Japan to study the art of kirigami? These intriguing details should be shared on your about page on your website, posted on your blog, included in the backgrounder of your press kit and/or shared via Twitter and other other social media platforms.


If you want to stand out in a very crowded room, you don't wear a drab gray dress and stand in the corner, but instead you wear a smart little red number, walk right into the center of the room and start telling jokes. So, remember to share your story, because to get noticed you need to do things that will get you noticed!


Jen Wallace shares her indie life over at IndieFixx where she writes about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, loving, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy.

by Sarah Von

Indie Boutiques:: Wellington, New Zealand


Wellington is the gorgeous, windy capitol of New Zealand.  With a population of only 300,000, the city still boasts tons of amazing cafes, bars and boutiques - and more coffee shops per capita than New York.  Wellington native and Cupcakes and Mace owner Kim Laurenson shares some of her favorite haunts with us.


I don't buy a lot of things, so when I do I'm glad to be in a city full of indie businesses, vintage clothing stores, and art made for the less traditional buyer.


Eyeball Kicks


Art to shock the eyeballs. Bright, graphic, and beautifully printed. Here you can buy framed or unframed prints of the kind of "lowbrow" art you'd expect to see in a grownup punk's house. Eyeball kicks also offers custom printing and framing.


Eyeball Kicks-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand



Wanda Harland


My go-to for gifts. Martha fills her store with quirky designs from NZ and around the world. You'll find anything from tea towels and tea pots to garden planters and stationery. It's worth the trip to Petone for a visit.


Wanda Harland-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand


Madame Fancy Pants


Madame Fancy Pants herself has been offering up a selection of the cutest jewellery, stationery, and clothing since 2007. New trinkets, and beauty products are added to the shelves all the time, and it's the only place in New Zealand to get Sublime Stitching goods in a store.


Madame Fancy Pants-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand


ALC Headquarters


If you love tattoos and streetwear you'll be right at home in ALC. As well as shoes and printed clothes ALC hosts a few of Wellington's best tattoo artists.


ALC Headquarters-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand


Emporium 103B Cuba Street


Fairly new to Cuba St, Emporium relocated to Wellington from Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake. Emporium serves up cute vintage clothes and accessories mostly imported from the USA. Watch out if you're tall, many of the dresses have been hemmed to a more "modern length."


Emporium-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand


by Tara Swiger

MasterList:: How to Use Twitter


For the private, non-flashy amongst us, Twitter can be a bit of a mystery. It’s supposed to drive sales and create connections...but what in the world do I say?


This week I found three people that answer exactly that question for you:


Jane Hamill gets real and tells you not only what to say, but how to make actual sales from Twitter.

It’s a Must-Watch.


“Having a high follower count means nothing if they're unlikely to ever be interested in what you have to say, or sell.”

-Amelia, in How To Get Followers On Twitter When You are Just Trying To Make Sales


Ask questions to get input or crowdsource solutions. Looking for a recommendation for a nice restaurant? Want a review on a movie you’re thinking of seeing? Having trouble finding a piece of information you’re seeking? Ask. Chances are you’ll get responses that you’ll find helpful.

-James Howe


That’s how we use Twitter (are you following Vianza?) - we ask questions, share links to help you in your business and introduce you to our favorite designers and retailers.


How do you use Twitter? 


by Piper Toth

Find your Online Customers


So you opened up your online shop, hung out your shingle (so to speak) and did all the things you were “supposed to”, to find your online customers.


Guest posts on other blogs?  Check.

Store featured on blogs and online magazines?  Check.

Facebook page created?  Check.

Spending time daily doing the social media thing?  Check.

Advertisements on other blogs and magazines?  Check.

Writing your own blog?  Check.


And then you reach that point…where your traffic and customers hit that plateau.  And won’t budge.  And you start wondering…


WHERE ARE all the online shoppers hanging out? 


The thought becomes…well, I’ve done my part, I’ve set up all the online pages that I’m supposed to, got featured a few times, I’m writing my blog and keeping up with social media.  So how do I get past that plateau?  And then you ask again…


WHERE ARE all the online shoppers hanging out?


I don’t know about you, but I can count on one hand the number of friends I have who actually read blogs.  Or online magazines.  Or who have even been on Twitter.  Most of them have never even heard of Decor8 or Design*Sponge – um, what??  They’re like our rock stars! 


But here’s the thing – those same friends?  They ALL shop online.  Yep.  ALL.  So if they’ve never even heard of these blogs or magazines, how do we find them?


By getting offline.  It sounds strange and counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  We’re online shops – why would we find customers offline?  Because that’s where they’re hanging out!  At work, at home, at events, at parties, at school functions, you name it!


So let’s brainstorm some ideas for showing off your online store:


1. Pop Up Shops – Connect with some local stores in your area to have an evening or weekend “pop up shop”.  You can team up with a business that you’re not in direct competition with so that you can cross-promote. (ex:  you have an online retail store – you can set up event with a local cupcake bakery)


2. Home Parties – Have some friends or local customers have a “shopping party”


3. Advertise in non-online magazines – especially local ones. People love to support their local businesses.


4. Look for press opportunities in local, non-online magazines & newspapers


5. Offer your goods for giveaway at events, school functions and clubs.


6. Speaking engagements – show off your expertise AND promote your business.


Okay, indie retail shop owners, let’s continue brainstorming!  What other ideas can you think of for finding where YOUR online shoppers are hanging out?



Photo by Vladimir Kukorenchuk on Photography Served

Piper Toth happily traded the corporate world for the online world when she opened her online boutique, one sydney road. She authors the blog of the same name where she waxes poetic on the crazy roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship!

by Mita Patnaik

Co-Create A Private Label + Differentiate Your Shop


Private label product is created in partnership between a retailer and a producer. This partnership allows both retailers and producers to get what they want. A retailer gets a product made to their specification, with their brand, and the producer can create something knowing it has a market. The new brand is sold as an alternative to one of the major brands.


Big retailers such as Walmart, Target and others have long used this model as a way to sell similar, private label merchandise as an alternative to some of the biggest brands they sell in their stores. The focus was on higher margins and smaller retail prices.


While private label started as a way to provide cheaper alternatives to national brands, it is now a strategy for differentiation. The modern private label partnership comes in two flavors. One has the retailers brand on the label, while the other is a form of co-branding, where the label says “Producer Brand, exclusively for Retailer.” The newer form of private label partnerships results in an exclusive line of products co-created by retailers and producers.


Target has been experimenting with this by partnering with established designers (Missoni for Target!). Indie retailers can do it with small batch artisans or producers and highlight their unique story.


The partnership of retailer and producer is necessary because each party needs something from the other in order to succeed.


The retailer needs products that offer value and are unique in order to satisfy their customer base. The producer needs access to the customer base of the retailers in order to actually sell their products.


When both parties understand the relationship, they are able to work together to grow each other’s businesses and profit. The future is  a model where retailers focus on selling products from small, independent producers and manufacturers. Buying widely-distributed branded goods and competing on price is not a sustainable long term strategy for most indie retailers.


You can use this same model in your tiny retail business, by partnering with your vendors to create an exclusive line just for your shop. There are a few Vianza users who are using the platform to do just that. They search through the catalogs, find products they like and then talk to the producer to create a product line just for them.


Examples of Private Label Deals in Retail


A variety of industries are experiencing a trend toward smaller producers as consumers focus on value and quality instead of just price.


Sperry Top-Sider Brand Expansion


Popular footwear retailer and producer Sperry Top-Sider announced an expansion into other areas. The brand has partnered with independent manufacturers and brands to produce watches, luggage, eyewear and other accessory items.


The move highlights the trend of popular retailers focusing on independent producers. For Sperry, the move means a more diverse offering for their current customer base.


There can be a limit to the top line sales with any business that is focused on one product. Sperry looks to expand their sales by offering complementary products that their current customers will use with their boat shoes.


Sperry understands that the other products are outside of their core knowledge. As a result, they are partnering with producers that need the power of a bigger brand in order to achieve sales growth. While Sperry is looking to established brands there is also room in many industries for retailers to partner with newer, less established producers. These small and independent producers often need the power of a relationship to successfully launch their product while a brand like Sperry can benefit from the innovation and freshness of the new producer.


Surf Shops Get Back to Basics


Surf brand Billabong recently announced the closing of 150 stores. This came as a shock for some while surf enthusiasts may have seen it coming.


It appears that Billabong lost focus on what their core customer base - dedicated surfers - needed and instead focused on the more general population. The loss of focus alienated the core base and resulted in an expansion that did not pay off.


Today, the desire is for niche producers of surf equipment. The core target customer wants the independent style of small producers of boards, wax, and other equipment and accessories. Surfers want value and believe that independent producers traditionally provide the best equipment. This is where the opportunity for independent producers and retailers is.


By offering some of the smaller, newer, independent brands in their stores, retailers can still serve their core customer while offering the most popular brands.


Balancing popular, well-known brands with independent brands is the biggest struggle for retailers in the retail world today. There is a need for both forms of merchandise. Even as the smaller brands gain acceptance with consumers, the larger brands are still needed. It’s hard to replace decades of branding effort established brands have created. There are still a lot of consumers that want well-known brands.


But in order to succeed today, retailers can also focus on smaller independent brands where there is more profit to be made while also serving a growing portion of the consumer population.


Next Steps for Indie Retailers


The next step is finding independent producers of products. The Internet has allowed many independent producers - artists, designers, etc. - to create websites for their brands. Social sharing websites like Pinterest and other niche sites allow these small producers to gain an audience for their products.


The first thing a retailer needs to do when meeting with independent producers is to make sure the value proposition is profit and growth for the producer as well. A true partnership with the producer will help retailers turn their dreams of owning their own product line a reality.


Independent producers often have the products customers are demanding, but the retailers have access to these consumers. The partnership is beneficial for both parties, but each has to give up something in order for everyone to succeed.


Now indie retailers can build these relationships via Vianza.


Request an invitation and start browsing our catalogs for small-batch producers that you could work with, to create co-branded products. Its a win win all around!




by Jen Wallace

Bloom: An Indie Boutique Maximizing The Window Display


One of the keys to attracting customers to your brick and mortar boutique is your store window display. Bloom, an eclectic and inviting specialty boutique featuring indie made goods, understands just how important the window display is. With a background in fine art and design , owner/operator  Mimi Sullivan-Sparks may have an advantage over the rest of us, but we can all take a page from her book.


The overwhelming effect one feels when taking in Bloom’s window display is that part enchanted forest, part whimsical museum exhibit, part Versailles during Marie Antoinette's rein, and part work of art. It’s eye-catching and most folks walking down the street in Newark, Delaware (where the store is located) can’t help but sneak a peek.


Mimi updates her window seasonally, both to incorporate new products but to also provide a seasonal backdrop for which to curate those products. She also incorporates plenty of art, craft and diy in her displays that help to make them more than run of the mill.


Additionally, she uses props to complement Bloom's window displays---many of the items she uses are from her own home, which I imagine must be quite a showcase. Past displays have included: the most gorgeous chandeliers; a cast iron rooster; a toadstool table; birch branches, driftwood, starfishes and other natural elements; crystals; beaded curtains and more. Pretty much anything you can imagine, Mimi has incorporated into her displays.


One of the most endearing elements of Bloom's window displays is the way in which Mimi does blend natural materials with man-made goodies. Her displays come off looking more like a movie set of an alternative universe where gorgeous Jonathan Adler ceramics really do grow from trees! If that world exists, I want to step into that looking glass. Or, I could always just visit Bloom.


Jen Wallace shares her indie life over at IndieFixx where she writes about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, loving, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy. 

by Sarah Von

How To Get Followers On Twitter When You are Just Trying To Make Sales


Amelia divides time between quaffing as much green tea as humanly possibly, promoting a small publishing haus cum bookshop and herding cats writers at Silence Cupcake. Follow these exploits on twitter!

We're told, or someone said once, that people don't like to be sold things. This is a barefaced lie. People want to buy things, so long as it's what they're looking for. When it comes to Twitter, people expect conversation. So how can you make your sales-based stream engaging?


Who Follows You? Who Do you Follow?


Does your current Twitter following match your ideal customer base? Are you following potential clients? Did you set up an auto-follow app (based on keyword, or location) and now find yourself following all the members of the local cycling club when you specialise in personalised china cat sculptures?


Having a high follower count means nothing if they're unlikely to ever be interested in what you have to say, or sell.


When I started out tweeting for my bookshop cum publishing house, I followed every London-based person who followed the London Review of Books. They were already interested in books, and they lived in the area. I say 'everyone' but that would have taken hours. Every afternoon, for a week, I spent an hour finding people to follow on Twitter, who were following accounts with similar interests to ours. Book review magazines. AmnestyUK. Larger bookshops. This takes some personal legwork, but these people will turn out to be your champions.


Why should they Follow you back though?


The first thing your followees will do is click through to your stream. If all they see is “buy, buy, buy”, it's unlikely they'll click that all-important follow button.


Nowadays, we're used to content-based marketing. You've probably seen it with bloggers who write about their daily doings, inspirations, interviews, and then BAM, they've got a book coming out and it's a bestseller, before it's even published. How can you emulate this with your Twitter stream?


Tweet opinions, facts, tips, feelings.


Are you facing a busy day? Let your Twitter stream know. Excited about getting thirteen boxes of buttons packed and shipped? Tell them how you got it done. Trying a new carving technique? Enlighten us. When people feel as if they're gaining something, information or entertainment, they're more likely to want to hear from you. Don't have time to tweet constantly? Take a few minutes in the morning and use an app like HootSuite or Twuffer to schedule tweets throughout the day.


This can turn one-sided though, so engage! Converse with people who don't follow you yet. Let them know why you want to Follow them (“Your opinions about how cats are better than dogs blow me away!”). Thank everyone who follows – that's just polite.


We got a great response when I asked new followers if they planned to come to any of our upcoming events. People asked when they were, they RSVPd via Twitter. Do you have anything your potential followers can immediately engage with?


 Ask them if you'll see them at the next Trade Fair, how they got reviewed in China Cats Monthly, what they're doing about the postage price hike. Debate with that china dogs boutique two streets over about which is better, cats or dogs. Encourage your followers to pitch in. Turn it into a hashtag party! Offer a free piece of cat china to whoever comes up with the best reason that cats are better than dogs.  People want to feel a part of something, not just a coin-purse to be marketed at.


All of this sounds like a lot of hard work, and starting up will take some time and effort.


Eventually, fresh faces will start Following you, Tweeters will start to recommend your stream, you'll be touted as one-to-follow.  And your Followers will be so, terribly, grateful when you tweet that picture of the latest cat figurine (only $59.99!), on display in the window, and ask them to name it. 


Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler.  If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.


by Tara Swiger

Masterlist: Process + Prototype


Earlier this week I tweeted a great article from Fast Co, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. How do you know what your customer wants? How do you choose what to create next?

Here’s a round-up of advice on figuring out to what to make and developing a process.


 “People don’t want quarter-inch drills--they want quarter-inch holes.”


- 3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It



“As you continue to grow and make more products, your time becomes more valuable. Have you ever considered that being smarter about your creative process can actually allow you to be more creative? As a professional, I use a set framework called a design process. It’s a set of milestones that gets projects moving, but more so gets your mind moving. As a whole it provides a framework to bring ideas to life.”


Christine Marcelino, What is your process?



Protoype, prototype, prototype.

Prototyping and iteration is key to transforming a so-so idea into a game-changing product. Rather than being discouraged by your “failures,” listen closely and learn from them. Then build a new prototype. Then do it again.

-10 Laws of Productivity


Tara Swiger  is our Community Concierge, a crafter of independence, and a Starship Captain. She’s right in the middle of a writing a book on Marketing your IndieBiz and she’d love to distract herself by hanging out with you on Twitter


why do so many product lines fail? Too many designers, indie retailers, & suppliers rely on creativity alone—and guesswork. This blog is all about taking the guesswork out of making what you love, so you can make a living. With tips! And checklists! Read more about our not-so-covert mission.

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