The Fashion Exchange has again been hosted by Enterprise Nation. It was a buzzy, creative, exciting platform for fashion startups and small businesses to meet faces from the industry, tec innovators, and the media.
Two common themes which ran throughout the day were the importance of ‘pushing the brand’ for fashion startups, and really knowing your customer. These points were recommended by many speakers – from small, successful fashion businesses, media gurus and PRs, to high street giants.
So, given that previous blog posts have covered getting to know your customer, plus the basics of promotion, pushing your brand now should be simple for you! But just how do you do it the easy, step-by-step way, and which method is right for you?
Tips on easy promotion
There is an array of low-cost promotional options open to you. A good way to approach this is thinking about how you will communicate with your customers. Consider also who and where your customers are and what exactly it is you want to tell them. Keep it appropriate to your brand and relevant to your customer. In the sections below, I have tried to keep your costs to a minimum so this doesn’t include marketing brochures or catalogues or paid advertising.
These can range from emails and phone calls to face-to-face meetings to networking events. Here, you need to know your pitch and what you aim to achieve from the exchange. Be prepared for it (business cards, samples or brochure, thirty-second sales pitch etc), fully research your ‘targeted’ people, and don’t be deterred – it gets easier and everyone finds it hard! Be sure to research the networking events and target those that will suit your business the most. Remember, everyone you meet is now a future contact, whom you can follow up again at a later date – relationship building!
Some good advice I have been given in the past is to have three ‘core messages’ and, like we see politicians do, repeat, repeat, repeat! Your core messages – which make you stand out and are true to your brand DNA – might be ‘quality and affordability, innovating with upcycled materials, funky and original clothes for kids.’ Etc…
Generally, publicity is achieved through the media via local radio or TV, magazines and newspapers, or online from bloggers or reviewers. Always specialise here so that you are targeting the right medium for your offer, and that they are a good match for your customer – you are more likely to achieve coverage this way. So if your offer is childrenswear or hand-crafted ceramics, research blogs, newspapers and supplements suited to these. Local media tend to be interested in local businesses doing something new or novel, or with a touching human interest story, preferably a triumph over tragedy, phoenix from the flames hook! Also, all media want to focus on a current news story, so if your offer can piggy-back onto something happening in the news, push this angle!
To contact the media and bloggers you will need to: build a database of contact details such as job title/responsibility, copy deadline, issue date etc. Email a press release with images (low resolution included, high resolution on request) and include this in the body of email, not as an attachment, and make sure you capture attention in subject line. All information that the journalist (or blogger) needs should be in first two paragraphs as this is where they will cut off.
Ensure your contact email and phone number is included along with social media links. Ask yourself: Why is this NEWS? Why is this of benefit to them? If it’s possible, be brave and phone to pitch the ‘story’ then send it in and follow it up. Again, don’t be deterred – build a relationship with the media, and repeatedly contact them with new stories, images, angles – why not conduct a small survey to produce a relevant and new finding in your area of expertise?
And always, always return any phone call from the media immediately, or to any request to send information or images. Otherwise they will find someone else!
Here you might be giving talks or demonstrations, or co-hosting an event, or have a stand at a trade event. First, research some existing events and ensure they are appropriate – think about budget, attendance numbers, location and if it’s really the right audience. Be prepared to pitch yourself, your product/technique etc for a slot at the event and send the organisers images, links, video, testimonials, or details of your experience etc. If you have booked a stand at a trade event where you are hoping to attract buyers, make contact beforehand and invite them along or make an appointment.
Or you can network locally and find partners to create an event with – local crafts people and designer-makers, you all want to raise your profile and build sales! Ensure you have a photographer there and invite the press to come by sending out a (targeted) press release.
Think of events as opportunities to extend your network, find new partners or customers, and also to generate content (behind the scenes photos and video and quotes) for your website and social media.
I would bet that you are all pretty familiar with social media by now so I will just add a few pointers. Pick the platforms that you know your customers like using, post regularly (several times a week as a minimum) by sharing and commenting on relevant content that comes into your own news feed. Find and follow relevant people and organisations, try and build a relationship with them through a direct contact to say hello and compliment a post/their website etc.
In terms of preparation, have a content library ready in advance, where you have prepared posts ahead of time and ensure you have strong low resolution images of your work. Think about whether you could use video to illustrate a unique process of your work, and if your offer is visual, Pinterest and Instagram are a must. Link all these platforms to your website and set up free Google Analytics so you can track traffic.
Tips from Topshop at the Fashion Exchange included keeping the content short, sharp and shareable, use behind the scenes images and tailor this to different platforms, not just repeating it. Plus be original, but do piggy-back onto trends.
If you are newly online and trying to build your up communities, Topshop suggested to use Twitter to @ and other media to tag celebrities in their feeds, even send them products to endorse! Plus approach bloggers and identify influencers relevant to your brand and your customer, and build these relationships.
Blogs and e-newsletters
Could you be an expert in your field? Consider blogging, even brief posts, about the area that your work is in, commenting on items in the news or observations that you have made. Aim to do short, tight and edited posts once a week or so with, once again, those good quality low resolution images.
Start out by researching and following blogs relevant to your offer and area of expertise e.g. handcrafted in the UK, and start to post and ‘seed’ into these comment feeds. Provide helpful information with a gently placed link back to your own blog. Build up interaction, and always, always respond to comments on your blog. Blogs are surprisingly easy to set up using free platforms such as WordPress (as used by yours truly) and Blogger to name but two.
Lastly, think about e-newsletters. I have clients who use this successfully to update their previous customers (a good opportunity to capture their email addresses) on new ranges and events or recent successes. Keep your copy tight and show those lovely images! Issue these monthly or quarterly, whenever you have enough to say.
With all social media, blog, newsletter and website work, build up a content library – always have a camera with you, jot down ideas and quick notes as you have them, perhaps on your phone, then you are ready to post!
So, now that you are armed with this easy, step-by-step guide to pushing your brand out there, I look forward to seeing you take the media, and the fashion industry, by storm! Good luck!
If you have any questions after reading this, or would like me to work with you on your fashion or creative business, then feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a comment on the blog.