So those of you who know me know that I don’t toot my horn very well or very much. Not a great thing when you need to market your business which is why I take the very easy way out and let my products speak for themselves. Honestly, so far, this has worked beautifully (luckily) and I have built my business over the last seven years the way I wanted to and it includes very loyal customers, amazing online and brick and mortar retailers. If the customer and retailer comments we get are true, then I’m doing something right. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but it’s worked for me.
Yeah, I really don’t have a clue. I’ve been asked and can come up with some wimpy suggestions…pay-per-click advertising (a crapshoot), hire a pr firm (expensive), celebrity gifting (mixed feelings on this one and can be expensive), and a few other lame ideas. My focus hasn’t been only to sell so I guess I have a little different philosophy, have come to some realizations, and have some of my own opinions (not listed in any importance and some marketing experts might cringe after reading)…
1. Be your original, creative, dynamic, progressive self and assume that someone is right around the corner ready to do exactly what you’re doing. Trust me on this. I have had more than a few ideas and designs copied and you would be stunned by who some of them are. The dynamic, progressive part is just as important as the original, creative part.
2. Word of mouth is the best (and free) advertising. You know how that C on a test brings down your average a lot quicker than an A brings it up? Word of mouth works the same way. Bad customer service, poor quality products and unreasonable pricing will spread a lot quicker than great customer service, high quality products and reasonable prices will. I don’t think this is the time to say ‘any publicity is good publicity’. You’ve got to keep your street cred. I regularly get emails from customers that say a friend sent them our way…they’ve walked through my online front door. Now, I know I have good products and good prices. My good customer service will hopefully make that person a loyal, happy customer.
3. Decide what ‘successful’ means to you. I realize that most people will say making a bunch of money is the goal. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, I like seeing the money flow but what business owner doesn’t? It’s what allows you to do what you enjoy another day. My definition is maintaining control but not in a control freak kind of way. I mean that I run my business, it doesn’t run me (except during the Christmas holidays-November and December are always a blur). I do make money, but I also enjoy the process, the designing, the customer interaction whether it be a compliment, a suggestion or even a complaint. Even with some serious and significant growing pains this last year, I have enjoyed running my business more because I put it in its place when I needed to and it doesn’t run me.
4. Find like-minded people in your industry that you can bounce ideas off of, get that constructive criticism and ask questions. Sometimes feeling your way around isn’t the most efficient thing to do. Getting smart, good answers from the experienced is. Find forums and blogs that are more specific to your needs and questions. Yes, you will have to dig through so much stuff on the web, but it’s out there. Here’s an example. I read a tweet almost two months ago that said “If you’re a budding stationery entrepreneur, designer or retailer, A Fresh Bunch is the place to be! Join us!”. I don’t normally look twice at those tweets, but something made me click through and check it out. It was for the group, A Fresh Bunch, “a collaborative industry group dedicated to what’s new and what’s next in the stationery industry”. After reading some of the specifics, I felt this was a great place to put My Lucky Wish and my dollars. I became a member. Two months in and I’ve received exposure in places that I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten on my own being the marketing moron that I am. While the collaboration part has been exciting, the collective marketing is an added bonus for me (did I say the marketing moron already?). With this group I interact with people in my exact same position. Some have international print and gift companies, some are one-man shows, and most are somewhere in between. Everyone brings a unique perspective and something valuable to the table.
Am I an expert? No. Should you do what I did? Maybe, maybe not. This is just my spin and what I’ve experienced in the last few years as a woman who owns her own stationery and gift business. This is how I roll. Do some serious thinking about what you want and how you want to do it. Oh, and if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!