How this small business owner made $11,000 selling plants – with less than 1,000 followers
Gone are the days where people have to go on wild hunts to find their favorite products.
Thanks to Instagram, online shopping is tauntingly easy.
Looking for a hydrangea bouquet? A custom set of acrylic nails? A DIY picnic kit with artisan charcuterie?
A quick search on Instagram and you’d find exactly what you’re looking for.
Of course, this isn’t new information. Instagram is one of the best ways to grow your business and gain new leads.
Plus, it’s where consumers are looking first when it comes to gifts and goods.
The downside? It can be (okay, let me rephrase that, it is) a competitive market. As of 2017, there were 25 million active business profiles on Instagram. 😲
With a statistic like that, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
“How am I supposed to compete with businesses like that? Will it take me years to make a profit? Can I even make money?”
I hear you. But I’m going to let you in on a secret.
You don’t need a lot of followers on Instagram to make money.
The proof? Sarah Peel from Petite Soleil Studio made $11,000 in sales with less than 800 followers.
And her business wasn’t even one year old yet.
Let’s go back to the start.
It’s October 2020. Lockdown is in full swing and we’re all spending more time than we’d like to admit online and in the same pair of sweatpants. But over in Ontario, Sarah Peel came across my Story Vault.
Then in December 2020, Sarah and her husband Wes launched Petit Soleil Studio.
Out of their spare bedroom, they started selling plants, cards and DIY kits.
Just like Drake, she started at the bottom.
Zero followers on her Instagram account and a freshly-designed Shopify website waiting for customers.
Almost one year later, Petit Soleil Studio had 771 followers.
There’s no denying her business has seen amazing growth (pardon the pun) over the past year.
But, she also doesn’t have thousands of followers.
So how did she do it? Sarah focused on cultivating a highly engaged and hyper-local following.
One that resulted in her making $11,000. (I know I said that already but come on. That’s impressive.)
I had to connect with Sarah to hear which Instagram marketing strategies she found the most helpful.
Keep reading to learn the tips Sarah used to grow her small business – that you can put into practice right now.
1. She created Instagram stories that had value
Sarah wasn’t new to Instagram. She knew she needed to put out quality content if she wanted to find interested customers. But something that didn’t cross her mind before accessing my Story Vault?
Putting some kind of value or takeaway in your stories for your customers.
That way, “you’re not just yammering on stories all the time with no rhyme or reason. There’s an opening, there’s a middle section, there’s an ending and a call to action.”
Think about a hot person with zero personality (stay with me).
Nice to look at, but can’t engage with them. It’s the same with Instagram stories.
You could have the most beautiful, high-quality photos and videos in the world, but if they have no meaning or call-to-action – you’re not going to get engagement.
Now back to Sarah. Here are some examples of the content she shared that offered her customers value:
- Gave followers plant care tips
- Made behind-the-scenes videos of her business
- She featured products people could buy
- She showed off her personality by sharing content about her life
2. She used different Instagram features to find leads
We all know that the link sticker in stories on Instagram is a great engagement tool.
You can send people directly from your stories to your online store. Simple!
But as any small business knows, using the link sticker isn’t the end-all-be-all of generating sales.
That’s why Sarah came up with different ways to engage with her followers, and let them know how and where they could buy her products.
She created stories that had stickers, polls, Q&As and more that people could easily engage with.
Once someone interacted with a story, Sarah kept engaging with them through the Direct Messages.
“So using the sticker strategy to say, ‘are you interested in this plant? Yes or no. If they say yes, I can send them the link.”
By getting a little crafty with how she engaged with followers, she created multiple one-on-one opportunities to chat with the customers about what they were looking for, send them links to the products, and build relationships.
She even ended up having people asking for plant care tips, which led her to create a new plant rescue service she could offer customers.
“It’s about asking people to interact with you. And that is key.”
Take away: don’t wait for your followers to message you!
Use the different tools Instagram offers (stickers, polls, Q&As etc.) to interact with your followers and make leads happen.
3. She showed her personality through videos
It may seem like each one of these success stories feature some kind of video content – and you’re right.
A study in 2019 showed that video posts receive twice the amount of engagement than other posts (can’t argue with the facts 🤷♀️).
And after joining Story Vault, Sarah hopped in front of the camera to engage with her audience.
It can be intimidating for business owners to go in front of the camera instead of just showing their products. But by going on Reels, IG lives and IG stories, Sarah showed off who she was.
When your customers know more about the person behind the business, they feel more connected to you and are more likely to come back.
Customers love to get to know the creator behind the product and how the product came to be.
Her biggest advice for people looking to start posting more video content?
“Not letting perfectionism get in the way of just engaging with people and letting people see who you are and your personality.”
Be yourself? Sans filter?! *gasp*
Hot take: we’re all a little weird. And people love to see it.
Sarah didn’t worry about whether or not her videos were “perfect,” she just posted them!
“I’m not going to look perfect. That’s okay. Actually people like authenticity. They like it sometimes when, you know, you don’t have full makeup on, or you’re not using a filter and you’re just being your real self, it makes you more accessible.”
4. She sold a lifestyle, not just a product
Business 101: know your customers.
Sarah’s ideal customers lived a certain lifestyle (think, holistic, wellness-conscious, self-aware, etc.) and she wanted to show them how her plants could easily fit into that lifestyle.
How did she do it?
- Photographed her products with different lifestyle accessories she could imagine her customers using
- Created a video series acting out what each Enneagram personality type would be like as a plant parent (I’m SUCH a 3 🤣)
- Made videos showing her morning (and plant care) routines
Remember, the more someone can imagine themselves with your product, the more likely they are to buy it!
Sarah is even branching out (again, pardon the pun) and starting to offer a course called “Plant Killer Rehab.”
And the best part? She already has an engaged following made up of the exact client she’s looking to sell her class to.
Establishing your brand’s values can help your customers feel part of a larger community, something we all need after physical distancing for over a year.
Sarah’s advice for product businesses selling on Instagram
Okay, so I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover.
But let’s be real.
In the world of online shopping and aesthetically pleasing Pinterest boards, having good product photography to showcase what you offer is a must.
Here are Sarah’s tips for taking great product photos:
- Find different backgrounds that make your product stand out. Don’t limit yourself to a white wall
- Find lifestyle props you can use to compliment your product
- Professional photoshoots are awesome but also come with a big price tag – you can easily use your phone! Just make sure you have good lighting and edit the shadows out of your photos
If you don’t have a colourful wall or fun background?
Head to an art store and get poster boards that match your brand’s colour palette. And voila! A mini photo studio your wallet can handle.
Bonus content idea: Why not make a behind-the-scenes video of your photoshoot? Share it on reels, Instagram stories and TikTok.
Ready to scale up your small business and engage with your customers more?
It’s time for you to join Story Vault.
Learn the insider tips Sarah used to start putting out stories that got her a highly engaged following.
When you join Story Vault, you unlock 800 story ideas for your Instagram.
And don’t worry – this isn’t about flooding your customers with worthless content.
Join Story Vault and get ready to learn the Story Seasons Method™ – the proven method I’ve used to double leads and minimize the time spent on social media.
What do you get? Over 800 story prompts and ideas covering the four key seasons of business growth:
- Visibility 🙋♀️
- Engagement 😍
- Lead creation 🤑
- Closing sales 🤝
Learn how she started a product shop and brought in $11,000 with less than 1,000 followers.
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