1. Easy activity for peer support: Cross-Promotion Match-Making Directory
Cross-promotions on social media or email could be a peer support activity that requires the least effort and money relative to the mutual benefit it can generate and the portion of all indie sellers that can potentially participate and benefit from it.
These can be simple reciprocal “I promote your product on my Instagram, you promote my product on your Instagram.” arrangements. It would require nothing more to start than a Google document with a list of sellers of handmade/vintage goods who want other sellers to approach them for cross-promotions, with a description of their goods and a link to their social media accounts.
It could be called “Reciprocal Promotions Exchange”, “Cross-Promotion Circle” or “Mutual Promotions Match-Making”. Members could opt-in to be added to the “match-making directory” by ticking a box when they fill out their guild membership forms. Populating the directory would be almost like a “costless side product” that could be generated with little additional cost or effort from an activity the guild is going to do anyway: in this instance, going through membership applications.
There are various ways to gradually develop more sophisticated arrangements for cross-promotions. Stand-alone store builders like Shopify and WooCommerce enable shop owners to improve their store with new features by installing plugins which there are thousands to choose from. Numerous plugins enable sellers to cross-promote each other in different ways that can be installed in a minute.
For example, there is an entirely free, relatively unknown plugin called GoodCarts that enables stores to form “circles” for cross-promotions: with an already existing circle of artisans and other makers of handmade goods. The plugin creates a “digital version of coupons on the back of a store receipt”, in which customers who purchase from a circle member store receive an invitation after check-out to see offers from other circle stores. While the Goodcarts plugin itself will develop paid bonus features, they have pledged to keep this feature entirely free.
Many other free and open source plugins enable arrangements for mutual peer support and cooperation, especially if used inventively and creatively. And there are even countless opportunities to develop exciting new plugins in the future.
2. Pooling selling power through a co-operative
One simple and straightforward way to find customers could be to launch an email newsletter that promotes handmade and/or vintage goods by guild members.
Many indie sellers could recruit a minority of their most enthusiastic customers and social media followers to sign-up for the newsletter, generating many small streams that flow to add value to a resource the sellers co-own together as a cooperative. Perhaps instead of paying a membership fee, sellers could become members by promoting the newsletter and be reciprocally rewarded with promotions in the newsletter.
The shared email newsletter could be a costless but valuable side-product that sellers of handmade goods could generate from the “business-as-usual” emails they send anyway, requiring them only to copy-paste a paragraph promoting the newsletter or add a banner ad on a sidebar of a WooCommerce or a Shopify store with a few clicks.
It would be a “renewable resource” that could be utilised without depletion or additional costs. For example, when sellers recruit new readers to the newsletter, the reader can receive a weekly newsletter for the remainder of their life with little to no cost to the guild. This contrasts with paying per click or view on Google or Facebook ads.
Emailing is amidst a period where new technology enables upstart challengers to massively undercut pricing offered by even the biggest incumbents. Until recently, email pricing was based on a “the more emails you send, the less you pay per email” model. Cloud technology now enables effectively free email sending based on a one-time lifetime fee for an account. A service called Sendy is the flagship example, which charges $69 to set up an account, after which it costs $1 per 10,000 emails sent: 100 times less than the most popular alternatives. This makes email newsletters more feasible: emailing 10,000 people once a week costs nowadays $50/year with Sendy instead of $5000 with Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor.
The newsletter could grasp an opportunity opened by new technology to spark a virtuous cycle of compounding returns for the more comprehensive indie seller ecosystem: every new reader will make it cheaper and more accessible for future sellers to find a receptive and growing audience of interested consumers. Instead of relying on intermediaries that seek to extract monopolistic rents, the sellers would become more self-sufficient by relying on a newsletter they themselves co-own.