The Product Drop Method – feat. Miranda of Chalk Designs by Me

March 23, 2021

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Looking for a way to get your customers engaged and excited each time you introduce a new product? If you answered yes, this episode is for you! Today, Miranda Gaither of Chalk Designs by Me is joining us to pull back the curtain and reveal how she uses the product drop method in her biz. Listen in as she opens up about the challenging sides of this strategy and how she navigates common mindset roadblocks like people-pleasing. Plus, hear about the tactical side of her social media strategy and how she keeps her audience pumped for each new drop! 

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Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in calligraphy and hand-lettering.

Miranda 2:00

I graduated with a degree in marketing. And what’s crazy to me is that there was no social media, like my marketing, education marketing background, there weren’t social media classes. So anyways, I was marketing full time in Dallas law firms, and when we had our first son I made him a birthday board. Then when  our daughter was eight. And I made her a chalkboard calendar for her birthday. And then a couple of my friends wanted me to make those two items for them. And I started doing it on the side. And then I decided to open up an Etsy but I just like, I needed a name right then because I’m, I’m like that, like I just wanted to do it right away, and came up with the name on a whim. And it’s one of those things now like I can’t change my business name, you know, but had I really thought about it and thought about what this could turn into, like maybe I would have come up with something a little more creative. So I started doing that. And an influencer that I still work with asked me if I could make some kind of name tags for her kids Easter baskets. And it got pretty crazy after that. 

And you do everything yourself right? Sanding, staining, lettering, etc.

Miranda 4:49

Full disclosure, this Easter was the first time that I actually did pay for help on that. I have always done it all myself, which is pretty crazy after Christmas, the sanding, which you girls know because your hand letter, just the lettering itself is very taxing, you know, on your hands. And so I found that I always was cutting everything and painting and sanding. And that repetitive movement of the sander just on my hand for hours. I think it was like three days total for sanding everything for Christmas. I was like carpal tunnel, my hands started hurting, it started hurting lettering, you know.

And then when you think about hiring your workout, it’s kind of scary, because that’s my baby, you know, like, this business is my baby. And I feel like any woman or any person that’s capable of helping me like what’s to say that they’re not gonna take my products and, and make their own, you know. So it’s one of those things like you really have to find someone that you trust when you’re hiring help. And I reached out to a friend of mine, who used to be one of my neighbors and just asked her, she is a builder. She builds a lot of cabinets and stuff and just asked her if she had time to help. And her response was the best thing ever, because she said that she had a crew and in between jobs, they would have some downtime. So she thought that I just need to help with sanding anyways, I wanted her to cut them for me. And when I got to her house, I found out that it was her sister and a friend. So it was two it was three girls, you know, and I’m all about empowering women. And so I was like, this is even better, that I can pay for help, but that it could be you know, other females helping me. So it ended up really being a blessing because we had the Texas storm, the winter storm. And had I not paid for help this time around, I would have been, it would have been a really big issue for my Easter drop. So yeah, I have always done it all myself. And for some crazy reason this Easter, I decided to hire help. And it was really a huge blessing that I did.

Your business strategy includes timed product drops instead of always open inventory. Can you tell us why you decided to go that route?

Miranda 11:37

So at first I always had everything open. You know, even when I first started doing the tags, or even when I first started with the baby boards, like, it was just there, you could buy it whenever you want. And it worked for me. And, and that’s how I always did it.

I want to say that last Easter is when I finally was like, you know, I have all these orders. And then this is the creative and me again, like I have all these orders. And I think I’m going to need to do like, a couple a day to be able to ship them by the deadline. But I could stay up later that one night and do like maybe I could do a couple more. But then this the shipping starts getting sketchy. You know, like, what day Am I going to need to have these all shipped by so that they make it in time for pictures beforehand and for the event. And I just knew that I couldn’t keep taking the orders because then I wouldn’t be able to ship the ones out which ends up working for local friends and customers that I have. Because they just know that after that ship day, I may have a week that I could get their stuff done. But then it wasn’t until I think like even Halloween last year. I opened super early and not because not because I want to be Hobby Lobby and have Christmas stuff in the aisle before Halloween or because I want to be a season ahead. I just have to be because I have to have time to get everything made. And that like making everything to order. Like I don’t ever have set quantities unless it’s on acrylic stuff. Like I just have it open and then you can order it but it just kind of evolved out of necessity. Because I knew that I would have to cap orders at a certain point because I am just one person trying to get it all done. 

And you know, I’m such a yes, man. Like I really hate saying no. And that’s the hardest part is that I did, I did have to make it into holiday product drops because I knew that I knew I couldn’t say yes to every order. And so now you do drop a specific amount, or you open it for a certain time I just order spell, I just still open it for a certain time. Moving forward and thinking into maybe Halloween, I am probably going to have to set set quantities on items. I’ve been just taking orders like okay, if I have six weeks until like, from drop date to when I need to have them shipped, like, I think I could do this many orders. But then that’s not even guaranteed at how many items like I might say that I’m taking 400 orders, but that could be upwards of 2000 individual items to letter. And not that’s not even names like that might be if a shelf he has three words, you know, then you have to think like, that’s a lot of letters. So I’ve just kind of done it based on how many I know that I could ship out by a certain date.

What have been some of the challenges with doing drops?

Miranda 22:00

The growth is hard. And I want to say like, I guess my my term because now I just keep catching myself saying it is things got crazy. So the growth happened. But then at the same time, I want to say like I always think in my head slow and steady wins the race. Like I didn’t just, this didn’t happen overnight. Guys, my so my son who I painted the first like board for he’s going to be 10 on his birthday. That milestone board that I made for him was his second birthday is eight years ago. And now I have been growing like I have been putting in the work for eight years of trying to figure things out and perfecting things. So and you know, I guess that’s a problem is that you want to continue growing your Instagram. And I’ll just refer to Instagram, because that’s where I focus, but you want to continue growing your social media presence. But then how do you how do you increase? So the demand increases? But how do you simultaneously grow your product offering? You know what I mean? So it’s like now I’ve built this huge following. And I want to be able to keep up with the demand. And that’s, that’s been the struggle for me. And that was kind of what my goal for 2021 was, is how do I keep up with the demand, so that I’m not creating this environment where I have too many customers that I can’t please because if I can’t please, if there’s if I can’t please a certain percentage, then they’re gonna go somewhere else, you know, I’ve got to keep them happy. And I’ve got to find a way to be able to provide more goods for them to buy. Right?

Elisabeth 23:30

So it sounds like one of your biggest challenge with drops is the people pleasing aspect, you know, or that people are like clamoring and and you have to respond to these messages and organize details. 

Do you have any tips for others to implement this strategy?

Miranda 38:13

Yeah, I would like make sure number one that you have the customers so I waited. And then I would maybe like do the math and figure out how many items that you could make per holiday. And then just based on your personal calendar, how long do you need per item to make like, you know, because for every one, it may be different. I just I know that for me. I know how many orders I can take I know is like what’s the average number in order, you know, so it is a lot of math. So just knowing how long it takes you like what’s your limit, I guess, being able to set your personal boundaries, your personal work boundaries on knowing what you’re capable of, and being able to set that date, right and being able to advertise for it. I don’t even know if that helps, like, is that common sense? Or does that? Does that even know? But think of the numbers first and think of what you’re capable, like figure out what you’re capable of, and then be able to convey that to your customers, whether it’s on Instagram, or however you market to your customers an email list of just saying this is the date, you know, and you don’t have to close it by a certain you don’t have to close it an hour, two hours or in two days. Like if you say this is when the product drop is and this is when it’s closing. I think it lets people know like, hey, I need to get on there and purchase or also I’m gonna miss the opportunity.

How do you get your audience to stay engaged for drops? And how do you communicate the times/decide the times? Holiday-based, etc.?

Miranda 32:18

I think for me being able to post pictures from the previous year to to tease you know what I mean? Or to show examples, or maybe even on my highlight reel on Instagram being able to keep that one highlight open from the previous year holiday. Yeah, oh, yeah, was December 30. On December 30, I was taken notice that’s unacceptable. Like I I need to be planning way before that. So being able to have those highlight reels to show how to use it. But then I tried not to post in my feed before the holiday, you know what I mean? By trying to keep my feed holiday specific, but then posting sneak peeks or inspiration and my stories. And I had asked about that one time, like in a stories pile I think and and that’s that’s what the people wanted. That was a suggestion from a lot was like let’s keep the feed holiday focused and then maybe keep stories for sneak peek. So I just tried to do some stories, sneak peeks. Maybe asking like polls, like is there anything that you want to see on a shelfie is there Any new colors that you want to see, like just making sure that what I’m offering is what my customers want.

But then also keeping them engaged, you know, and keeping their eyes forward to the next holiday so that they could plan and I think that’s sort of what happens to is what I see now, even with holiday pajamas, like Old Navy, or gap or whatever, like, they sell out really fast, too. So I was gonna say, I think that’s what happens whenever you shop small is that you just have to know that you’ve got to shop early. Yeah. And you’ve got to be, you’ve got to plan ahead. But then it’s even with big stores, like with holiday kids holiday pajamas, like those sell early too. So I think we can just keep our audience you know, I don’t want to rush the magic of these holidays. You know, and I don’t want moms to feel burnt out on Valentine’s Day before Christmas, but I, I do need to keep reminding them like this is a small business. So you’re gonna have to plan ahead and be ready to shop. Or else you do miss the opportunity.

Elisabeth 36:00

It’s always that like, catch 22 and irony that we live in an Amazon world where everything is like, today prime and then you’ve got a real people back in and be like, No, no, like, We here at chalk designs by me do not have our own shipping infrastructure. We are a small business. We do everything by hand. This is like weeks long of a process.

How do you know what inventory levels to set?

Miranda 40:41

Yes. Okay. In the past, yes, that’s what I’ve done. I have a couple of things like most of my acrylic stuff, I just don’t I don’t want to do a pre-order. So I guess you could call like, any of what I have done as pre-orders, you know what I mean? Because I’m having the orders open, and then closing the order, and then calculating what was sold and then making it. So I guess you would call that a pre-order on the acrylic stuff is the only stuff that I set quantities on because I don’t want to oversell something and then a machine malfunction, and me have to refund you know what I mean? And we have to refund all that. Because I trust my hand way more than I trust a machine.

With the personalization aspect, how do you stay organized?

Miranda 43:26

 I just have a tab on there for personalization. So they type in their name. And I had to put case sensitive because, you know, I feel like anywhere like if I got on pottery barn and ordered a backpack and I typed it in all lowercase. Like that’s how it would come right? Like it would come monogram typed like that. So I just had to put it on there case sensitive. Please type the name Exactly. You know, exactly as you need it. If I come to one where I’m like, I think maybe this name is not it’s not like a cute like spin on spelling of a name. But like a legit like I’m pretty sure this was supposed to be Joseph and it says Bossa, like I’ll message them and say, wanted to double-check with you like, should this name have been Joseph with the J? Not a B? But pretty much having the drop down menus and then having the personalization has helped a lot. Oh, cuz I’ve been on Etsy like I had to say like, I can’t remember how it was but it was like if if it’s this you know, if you’re if you’re selecting this like please send me a message and tell me Oh, it was the lettering style because it would only let you put in so many variables on those Etsy listings. So then it was like please message me and let me know if you want script or print lettering and then some message but then it was going in and adding that but then I was having to message people to like, Hey girl, thanks for your order. Did you want script lettering or print lettering So switching and that’s why I went from Etsy to Shopify as I felt like there were more options for me, more variables to be able to Make the personalization? 

What type of business owner could really benefit from this method and how do you make that transition?

Miranda 46:02

Maybe like seasonal like anybody who offers something seasonal. 

Cami 46:48

See, like seasonal just gives you like a built in launch schedule for drops. Yeah, like already is a very natural flow to be like, oh, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Now we’re gonna do this like and it just gives you like, like a reason to buy, like people are purchasing decor for these holidays. So you already have like a built in purpose. Like something to work off of it just like makes it a lot easier to do that. Like I mean, I just introduced the party pennants to my line, which is like newer, and they’re definitely like, becoming a seasonal product for me. 

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