publicity

Promotion Shinjuku-style, Tokyo

Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 2

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.

One-to-one communication

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…

Publicity

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!

Events

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.

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 hallandco@outlook.com, or drop a comment on the blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Branded skyline in Tokyo, Japan

Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 1

Already, it is May, my favourite month. Spirits are lifting; sun-drenched holidays, or even just lazy days in parks, filter into our collective consciousness. Creativity abounds with Handmade in Britain, Clerkenwell Design Week and Graduate Fashion Week showcasing the UK’s finest emerging talent. May is abuzz with colour, innovation and loveliness! But how can your business be part of it? How can you make your work stand out?

Promotion for small businesses

This post and my next post will explore the basics of promotion for your fashion or creative small business. This will help you if you are promoting your business before its launch, for a launch event, or to reach existing customers and those who have lapsed. These posts will take you through the initial considerations, your promotional objectives, different types of promotion you can use, developing a promotional idea for maximum impact, and planning your promotions. But first, you need to do some thinking.

Consider the questions below. Too many times I have had conversations where these are still unknown. For your promotion (and business) to stand the best chance of being successful, you need to know these inside out. Otherwise you risk wasted time and money, two things in very short supply for a creative small business!

Promotion considerations

What is your product/service/experience? Do you know your exact offer? Can you describe it in one sentence?

Who is your customer? This is your target market or target audience that you will aim to reach. Think specifics about age, gender, location, income type, frequency of purchase etc.

What are you trying to promote? Is this for a new product, an event or launch, or nurturing an ongoing relationship to maintain their loyalty?

Where is your customer? Are they local? Market stall or boutique? Which social media platforms do they follow you on? Have they bought from you before?

What are your competitors doing? How and where do they promote their offer? Why are they different to (or better than) you?

What level of market are you? Value or luxury, high street or niche?

What is your budget, timeframe and ability to do or to outsource this? Does this match your personal strengths or is it better to find someone else who can?

Now we need to explore your promotional objectives – the reason for your promotion. ‘Sales, income, money!!!’  I hear you cry. Yes, all promotion ultimately leads – we hope – to income, but sometimes it is more of a soft sell than a direct sales push. We need to win customers, build and nurture our relationships with them – existing customers are more likely to buy from you if they are happy than new ones. Plus, it takes time to find new customers… Either way, how do we capture their attention and encourage them to buy?

Promotional objectives

I think there are three main areas that your promotional objectives fall into: the launch of your business or a new product range; building the relationships with your customers for long term sales; and short term sales. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Launching your business or product to create awareness

Obviously, this is when you are setting up the launch event or new product launch… But I always also recommend doing pre-launch marketing – getting a buzz out either locally or on social media (more later) before you start. This might be speaking to people and building up a following, asking them to spread the word. The goal here is to catch the attention of the event or opening and build footfall or traffic to it.

Building relationships for brand loyalty

Here you have your very lovely customers that you should nurture, thank and reward. Keep them close to you by promoting the benefits of the relationship – which might be VIP treatment or exclusive discounts or access – and attentive rather than being drawn instead to your competitors. If the customers are lapsed, try and win them back with the above suggestions – they valued you once and can do again! Here, you are in it for the long haul with a loyal group of customers who will, hopefully, recommend you online and off again and again…

Boosting short term sales

This is the direct sales push, probably discounted, to generate income, the go-to action of all small cash-strapped creative businesses. Bear in mind, however, that too much ‘shouting’ about money off and competing on price can dilute your brand when you are small, differentiated and niche. Here, I recommend only promoting the limited edition or exclusiveness of your special (discounted) offer, and piggy-backing onto appropriate seasonal promotions such as Christmas or St Valentine’s Day or, as one client has successfully done, the birth of a new Royal baby!

In all these options, I have emphasised the uniqueness and exclusivity of the promotion. You can’t compete on price with the big brands, but you can offer something different and better, more unique, so try not to get into discounting as a habit. Try and offer free gifts or extras etc rather than discounts. These should cost the same to your business as the discount and, conveniently, can be good quality stock that you need to clear…

One last tip here, use a different voucher or offer code for each promotion. This will help you keep track of what promotions are successful and which less so. You can add this on website, your social media or flyers that you distribute at your launch event.

Planning your promotions

Each year or season every business will need to mark down stock, to sell it a reduced profit to the business. Plan this in advance and don’t wait until you need to boost your cash-flow. You will get to know which are the busier periods and which are the slack, before and after Christmas for example. Develop a promotional calendar, to map these out and plan ahead. For this, remember to piggy-back onto national, local or seasonal events as I suggested above.

You can find out about events by Googling for different templates of promotional calendars or by visiting websites such as www.teachingideas.co.uk Think laterally, what else can you take the opportunity of joining in with that you know your customers like?

Measuring the success of your promotions

Now, thinking ahead to next season or year (yes, already!), you will need to record what has worked well, or disastrously, for you this time around. So, remember to monitor and track the success of your promotions (as outlined above) so that you optimise the time and money spent on them in the future. There is no bullet-proof way of ensuring a high return on your investment that is affordable for start-ups, so be prepared to test and try out different approaches on a small budget. And anticipate that some of these will be more successful than others…

So, remember the soft sell as well as the hard push. Know your customers and where they are, what they like and value. Keep tabs on ideas that you can ‘emulate’ from the competition, and trends that are around you. Devising promotions can be creative in itself, and as creative thinkers that you all are, the concept behind them should come easily, but do keep it relevant.

This will be the subject of my next post Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 2. We will look at the different options open to you to promote your business and step-by-step tips on how to do these.

If you have any questions after reading this, or would like me to work with you on your creative business, then feel free to email me on hallandco@outlook.com, or drop a comment on the blog.