Authenticity in Marketing: Q&A With Handmade Marketplace Etsy

etsy1Etsy – the online marketplace for homemade and vintage goods – is bursting at its hand-sewn seams. The five-year-old company now has over 130 employees, making its next undertaking more practical than many of the whimsical projects scattered throughout Etsy’s loft office in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn. The company plans to knock down a wall to create some much-needed space.

Etsy’s membership community is nearing six million, and the site counts around 400,000 active sellers, or people who have done something with their online shop in the past year.

ClickZ News stopped by Etsy last week to chat about the company’s relationships with brands and media partners. We talked marketing and potential revenue streams with Etsy’s director of marketing, Nizzi Renaud (above, right), and Christina Batch-Lee (above, left), marketing manager, partnership and special project lead at Etsy.

ClickZ: I imagine that you have a lot of advertisers and all sorts of companies coming to you that want to connect their brands with the Etsy community. Can you talk about that and tell me how you’re approaching it in terms of the Etsy business model?

Renaud: The name we give to it is partnerships. These are definitely not paid relationships, but we always say Etsy’s marketing mission is to bring Etsy sellers to buyers and to do it in an authentic manner, so we’re partnering with brands that make sense. So, from a partnership philosophy perspective…we’ll talk to anyone.

Batch-Lee: Etsy does not have third party advertising on the site. We really take the relationship with our members very seriously; there’s a lot of trust there and we don’t ever want to lose that. So it’s about the benefit…that we can offer our members through working with partners.

etsy2We worked with Sony and Apex on the Heart contest, just because it felt really natural to what Etsy’s about and what our members are interested in. It was a way to really highlight the fan that Etsy members often are. [Read more about the contest partnership Etsy ran to help promote Heart’s new album.]

Renaud: We have all this great editorial content. It’s a great way for other brands to connect with our members by putting their stamp on some element of that editorial content. So it’s either being a guest curator, or doing an Etsy Finds with us. [Etsy Finds are collections of items available on the site that usually relate to a theme such as Autumn weddings or eco-friendly goods.] We’ve worked with a lot of different media, because we don’t advertise with Glamour Magazine, or Lucky, or Martha Stewart Weddings. It’s a really authentic way for us to have a real authentic exchange in terms of the content that you can bring to our members, and in that we’re going to let our members know about you.

Batch-Lee: We’ll share items for slideshows or send items to magazines directly for feature, so there’s a lot in it for the designers on Etsy, in the coverage that you can’t pay for. Editorial is definitely – as you know – more valuable than any paid placement.

ClickZ: Are you satisfied with that collaboration that you have with your partners? Or are you thinking about potential revenue streams coming out of these partnerships in the future?

Renaud: I think that’s definitely a possibility for us. At its core though we have to make sure it’s an authentic model. I’m not sure we’d want just any old brand to be doing a curated marketplace on Etsy. It’s less about us setting up a deal with you… We’re looking from a marketing perspective to really be able to ask what is the best way for another brand to have a presence on Etsy that speaks well about the brand but still stays true to what we’re about? That’s really the strategic question for us as marketers.

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