I am currently having a fascinating and uplifting business experience.

Last week, I decided that I wanted to introduce a new line of designs into my range. Christmas is coming up, after all, and now’s the time to get these sorts of things sorted out!

I had previously made a few earrings in this design – with different beads on them – and they sold really well.

I kinda forgot about this, though, and let the design fall by the wayside when I ran out of beads. Now, I want to bring it back – but in a big way. I’ve bought up a huge range of small beads in different colours and styles to use for this new range – but I had myself a dilemma.

I have a number of designs in my Urban Eco range which would look really nice with beads added – but in the interests of keeping my business streamlined, I decided that I wanted to choose just one shape, and offer this with all of the different colours of beads.

But I couldn’t decide which shape to choose! Then I thought – hey, why not ask the people that really matter? My customers! So I did. I wrote this blog post over on Epheriell Designs, asking my readers to vote on which design would be their choice.

I encouraged votes by offering one pair of earrings as a giveaway (of the winner’s choice) once the voting had closed.

The result has truly astonished me.

I run giveaways on Epheriell Designs every week – and I run a giveaway of a piece of my own work monthly to encourage newsletter subscribers and facebook fans. But I have never had such a fast, overwhelming and enthusiastic response before!

So why has this particular post had such a great response?

I have a few theories.

1. I am valuing my customers, and giving them a real say in a business decision.

This post was not a gimmick – I didn’t come up with the idea purely to market my work – I really, truly needed help making the decision! I am taking the votes seriously – and they have given me amazingly useful feedback about my designs – because not only did people vote, many people commented on why a certain design go their vote as opposed to another!

That sort of information is priceless.

2. I offered a sweet giveaway – they will get to choose both the style and beads if they win, so it’s very personalised

This giveaway was not a one-size-fits-all, and it was not random. It’s intricately tied into the whole situation. People feel more invested when they have a choice – and they feel more valued.

3. It’s easy – all they need to do is pick a style, right there on the post, and leave a comment

Most giveaways I (and many others) run involve the entrant visiting a store, browsing, choosing their fave product, coming back, leaving a comment… in other words, work. This one involved simply looking at a picture of 4 designs, and leaving the name/number of your favourite in the comments. Simple, fast, and apparently effective!

4. I shouted it from the rooftops

Keep in mind – I didn’t just post this and forget it. The moment I posted it (at about 6:30 on a Friday night) I tweeted it, shared on Facebook, mentioned it in 4 forums, and sent out a brief e-mail to my Epheriell Designs mailing list telling them about it. Oh, I also submitted it to the Etsy Giveaway blog.

I wanted to share this experience with you today in the hope that it will inspire you, and make you think about how you can invite your customers and audience to become part of your creative process – rather than just watchers and consumers of the finished item.

How can you get your audience involved?