by Suzy Rai
We are lucky to have so many affordable outlets for our work today; Social Media and online selling platforms have opened up a global market place to even the smallest creative entrepreneur. But you will only sell your work, once people know who you are and where they can buy it. Seizing every opportunity to promote your business is key to achieving this.
Last week I missed a valuable opportunity to promote my business whilst waiting for a train home. I was knitting a new design and the lady next to me asked about it. I seized the opportunity by enthusing about my designs and explained that I sold patterns and kits as well as ready to wear items.
She was keen to see more of my work and asked if I had a business card, of course I do have business cards, but I had not brought them out with me on that particular day – Busted! I am ashamed to say I failed to stick to the first rule of effective promotional practice.
A card is by far the quickest and simplest way to promote your business, it is small and easy to carry so you should always have a few in your pocket, purse or jacket, just in case. Needless to say the first thing I did upon my return home, was to place a small batch of cards in my wallet.
My experience at the railway station illustrates that opportunities arise spontaneously and without warning so always be prepared. Here are a few pointers:
Build Your Brand
Creating an identity for your business is a vital ingredient for effective promotion. Having a simple logo, and strapline that sums up the ethos of your business goes a long way to communicating with your customers. This should then be used on all packaging, communications and display materials you produce so that your business is easily identified and there is some cohesion to your identity.
At the very least you should have the following produced:
- Business Cards
- Swing Tags (logo and product information)
- Letterhead (for invoices, correspondence, press releases etc)
- Simple carrier bags/wrapping/packaging with your logo (this will vary according to your product)
When your budget allows, invest in some point of sale materials such as banners, signs or merchandising stands.
Once you have produced your promotional tools, you are ready to start promoting your brand in the wider world.
Have an “Elevator” Pitch
Imagine you are in a lift and you have 15 seconds (the time it takes to go from one floor to the next) to sum up your business and products to another person before they get out. In that time they have to understand what you do, why you do it and why you are better than anyone else at doing it. Practice it and ask others to give you feedback so you get it just right. It will be so useful when you attend networking events or look to sell your work to third parties such as galleries or retail buyers.
Raise Your Profile
Armed with your business cards and elevator pitch, attend local networking events, meetings and support groups. They are often free to attend and are a great opportunity to practice and refine your pitch, direct traffic to your online shop and generate referrals from peers. They can also help you begin to build your audience for your social media outlets.
Your Business Cards should always include the following:
- Your Name
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Online shop URL
- Facebook URL
- Twitter URL
Always take a good stock of cards and give them out to as many people as possible.
Attend Art, Craft and Handmade Fairs
With a little thought and ingenuity we can exploit a humble craft fair to our best advantage.
See the fair as an investment in your promotional campaign as well as a showcase for your work.
Make sure everyone who visits your stand, leaves with your business card, talk to your visitors, ask them what they think of your designs, encourage as much feedback as possible. Ask them to find you on Facebook and show them your online shop URL when you’re handing over your business card.
Encourage them to visit your Facebook Page and online shop especially if they are undecided about buying something on the day.
See your stall fee as an investment in your marketing, especially during the early stages of developing your enterprise.
Build Your Mailing List
The bigger your mailing list the greater the opportunity to promote your business. Think about having a simple newsletter that you publish two or three times per year or send seasonal email shots promoting loyalty offers or new products. I offered all of my previous customers a 15% discount last Christmas via a simple image based email and discount code linked to my Folksy shop. This was closely followed by another email reminding them of my final posting date for Christmas orders. It cost just one hour of my time, but generated a significant number of sales. It is always good to remind folk that you are still trading and taking orders.
A simple way to start a mailing list is a giveaway competition at a fair or event. Take names and email addresses and a postcode if time permits from entrants. At this stage you have to ask if they would like to be included in your mailing list for special offers and future events. This will ensure you meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act.
Create a Social Media Presence
Building your social media audience does require time and planning, but it does pay dividends in the long run.
As a general rule of thumb you should aim to update your Facebook Page 2-3 times per week. For Twitter and Instagram, update daily, use the # to link to trending topics and try to link in with other initiatives #HandmadeHour runs from 7.30-8.30 every Wednesday and is a great way to promote new items you have for sale.
A good image is worth a thousand words every time. Even in the heavily restricted world of Facebook, where business page reach is deliberately restricted to encourage page owners to pay to promote their posts. With my own business page I have found my most popular images have achieved greater reach just through others sharing the image than posts I have paid to promote.
Share your best images on other pages with related subjects. The Rowan Yarns page for example, has nearly 30,000 fans compared to my 2500. I share my new designs on this page and extend my reach 10 fold for free. Since I use Rowan yarns in all of my designs, they have been very supportive of this. By building a good relationship with them I have avoided them treating my posts as spam. Each new post in general generates at least 20 new visitors and fans to my page.
Always keep your business page “on topic” avoid using bad language and remember this is your shop window so keep your interactions professional.
I have found that having my designs included in gift guides has paid huge dividends in terms of actual sales compared to having a personal profile piece. Whilst there is great value in building a portfolio of media profile, some of the more simple pieces generate a greater number of sales. If you have the time during the build up to busy trading periods such as Christmas it is well worth pitching your best designs and images to local and national press for inclusion in gift guides or buying guides. Remember that magazines often research and develop editorial up to 4 months in advance so generally Christmas giving guides are in production during July and August.
Make Time for Promotion
Make sure you commit time to promoting your business, aim to spend the equivalent of one full day every week promoting your work and NEVER leave home without your business cards.