Are you ready?
This is a follow up post on our post Why creating a collection is so important and how to do it, where you found out how to create a collection in 3 steps.
Step 1: Fundamentals of your new product collection
If you did the 3 steps in the previous blog post on creating a collection then you will know by now:
- WHY it is important to launch a product collection, instead of a single product: It will help you to create more buzz, to think and plan more strategically about what your clients want, to create a more confident story, and present your products more confidently. And consumers, collectors and trade clients (both galleries and shops) love collections too!
- WHAT the products in your collection are: describe each product in detail, including the type of product, materials, colours, size, themes/inspiration etc
- WHO the most likely clients for your collection are: Describe your dream clients in detail: what age and gender they are, when and where they will be using your products (really useful when styling and photographing your work!), what they will really like about your products (the so called ‘client benefits’), what they will say or feel about your products.
- WHEN your dream clients are most likely to buy from you: Very often consumers and trade buyers purchase at specific times of the year. Many designer makers will sell most between September and December, so be aware of when the best time is to launch your new collection. Do you want to launch your collection at a major exhibition, event or trade show? It’s much easier to launch your collection at a time in the year when your dream clients are most likely to buy. Go with the flow, not against it!
- How you will position your product collection? What are your brand values? Will your collection be exclusive or affordable, bought as gifts or more as art pieces? What do you want to be known for? And how will these values be communicated in your branding, photography and packaging? It can be really useful to research online and in galleries and shops what other creatives have done to create a certain strong feeling around their collection launches. It’s not just the product, but how they have displayed and presented their work that makes it much more powerful. If you want to learn more about getting started with creating a brand read this guest post.
- WHERE your consumers will be able to buy your products. Will you be selling via your own website and shop only, or via selling events too? Then make a specific list. If you are planning to sell wholesale, then start making a list of at least 20 specific retailers, shops, online boutiques etc. Do your research and find out where people can buy similar products like your own. This is the start of your key client list.
- What will be the best way to reach those clients and retailers or galleries? Will you be contacting them directly or via selling events and trade shows? What PR will you be doing? Will you be selling out newsletters and tweets? Start brainstorming about what the best ways are to reach your dream clients. In this expert blog post various buyers and galleries share how they prefer to be approached.
Get into action:
Get yourself a notebook or create a document on your computer and write the answers to the questions above down. This is the fundamental starting point of marketing and launching your collection successfully.
Ideally you would do this marketing definition before you start designing and finalising your collection; at least 6 months before you are planning to launch your new collection.
Step 2: Identify your overall financial and marketing goals
What are your specific goals? What would make the launch of your products successful?
How many sales do you want to get with your launch?
How and where will you sell your products?
Think about the so called ‘routes to market’: will you sell direct, online, wholesale via galleries and shops?
Ideally create SMART goals.
SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound, which basically means that you will need to put a number and date on your goals.
So, instead of saying ‘I want to get more stockists’, or ‘I want to sell more on my Etsy website’, you state: ‘I want to get 5 new stockists by September’, or ‘I want to increase my Etsy sales by 20% this year’.
Even go as far as creating a detailed financial forecast; detailing how many products you will be selling at which price level. Don’t forget to use the wholesale price when selling to trade, and the retail price when selling direct!
Get into action:
Write your financial and marketing goals down in your notebook.
Do some number crunching too – is it realistic what you want to do? Are the prices correct? How will you be producing large quantities; will you do it yourself or outsource?
Ideally you would finalise your financial and marketing goals when you are starting to design your collection: at least 4 months before you are planning to launch your new collection.
Your ideal client and your knowledge about them can be hugely inspiration when designing and creating new products!
Step 3: Find out more
Very often when you are defining your goals you will realise that you need to do and learn a lot between where you are now and where you want to go. That’s normal.
Research is a great and hugely inspiration part of the design process!
Think about what information is missing and what you need to learn.
Do you know for example who your closest competitors are in this area, and how much they are charging and where they sell? If not, then you will need to do some practical market research to find out now!
Do you know how you will be packaging or branding your collection? Who can produce small quantities of packaging at a good price?
Do you know which shops or trade shows are the best for your product collection?
Get into action:
Write down at least 3 questions in your note book or document that you have that you will need to research in more detail. Be as specific as possible. Include potential sources to find out the required info, and when your deadline is for finding out.
So for example state: ‘I need to research 10 bloggers and press columnists to promote my collection in the press by July, and include the correct name and job title of the blogger, stylist or journalist and their contact details in my database. I will find that out by buying and researching 3 trade and 6 consumer magazines, check out popular blogs, research where my competitors have been featured and talk to 3 of my peers.’
Then make sure that you make physical time in your diary in June to find this info out. Putting it in your diary as a task will massively increase that you will actually do it!
Step 4: Create a juicy marketing plan
To make your launch a success you will need to think about the marketing of your business from a broader perspective.
Everything you do will need to communicate that you are a credible and professional business.
As I have said in previous posts …
My marketing mantra is:
People only buy from people they know, like & trust
How will you be proactively reaching out to potential clients?
How will you be building your credibility and profile?
The marketing actions that will work for you and your collection will depend on your financial goal, your kind of product, your type of ideal client and which route(s) to market you have selected.
If you want to sell directly to customers you will need to think about:
- Improving your website (can be a tweak or a full rebrand), new images, better descriptions, adding a blog to give more background info and adding social media buttons so that more visitors will share with their contacts if they like your work.
- Creating a regular newsletter to keep your potential clients informed. (One of the most effective ways to stay in touch with your clients, to drive traffic to your website and to get sales! You can learn more about how to create an amazing e-newsletter here)
- Creating a database of previous clients and research and add 100 new contacts.
- Researching high end selling events, and apply for 3 of them in March (these often have deadlines in the Spring if they take place before Christmas!).
- Research and join two membership organisations that promote makers online and run selling events, for example: Design-Nation, Design Factory, Craft Central, Design Gap, Design Event, Emergents.
- You can find loads of strategic advice and practical marketing tips in this epic blog post on how to promote your design services to individual consumers.
If you want to sell more online you might like to:
- Research and apply for 4 different online boutiques or retailers who specialise in high end jewellery and giftware. If you want to find out more about what the best online shops are for your work read this blog post.
- Improve your keywords and use them in your titles, tags and descriptions. Evaluate by checking the stats on a regular basis.
- Research where your peers are selling and how much they are charging.
- Learn how to drive more traffic to your website.
- The Design Trust Business Club members can watch this intro webinar on selling online.
If you want to sell more wholesale then you can:
- Identify 20 potential stockists by July, and start draft an intro email or letter that will get read.
- Research and approach retailers directly or find out if a trade show is the way to go for you.
- Research 3 UK trade shows and find out about exhibiting overseas through the UKTI website.
- If you want to learn more about how to sell to retailers I recommend this practical book by retail expert Clare Rayner.
- The Design Trust Business members can watch this webinar with Clare Yuille on how to sell more successfully to shops or this intro webinar to getting started with selling wholesale with Patricia van den Akker.
Get into action:
Create a marketing action plan:
Go back to step 2 where you identified your financial and marketing goals. Is that still what you want to do, or do you need to specify them more?
Identify 3 specific financial and marketing goals, and put this on 3 separate pages.
Then underneath each goal start making a list of marketing actions that you will need to do to make your goals happen.
Define each action in a clear step (a task that can be done in a couple of hours, if it is too large define it in more detail).
For each action include a deadline, who will do this task or who will be responsible, how much time it will take (in hours), and a potential budget (if money is required).
This will become a really handy to-do-list where you can ‘tick off’ each of the marketing tasks that you will need to do. You can create a matrix or you can recreate this in an Excel sheet.
After you have created your marketing action list start to allocate physical time in your diary. This will really help you to get it done!
Create this action list about 3-4 months prior to when you want to do your launch, to allow yourself enough time to work on these strategic marketing activities that will make your product launch much more successful.
Step 5: Create a launch plan
Finally you are getting ready to launch!
From the broader business, financial and marketing goals we are now getting into the detail.
Why is it a good idea to create a launch plan?
In the run up to your launch there will be so many things to think about that’s it is good practice to create a plan in advance so that you won’t forget anything, and know what to do and when.
The plan is to make you feel less overwhelmed and stressed out, and more in control and excited!
So what goes in your launch plan?
1: Your SMART launch goals
We have mentioned this before, but they might have changed a little over time.
So, what do you want to achieve?
For example: £5K in sales in total in first 2 months, get 8 new stockists in the 3 months after the launch, get 10 press mentions in the next 6 months.
2: Decide on a launch date
When are you planning to launch your collection?
Is this a good time to launch from your client’s perspective? Is this a time when they naturally tend to buy your product? Are there any trade shows or selling events where you want to launch?
Is this a realistic time plan for you or have you started too late?
How will you communicate this launch date to your audience?
3: Before your product launch
You have worked on your fundamental marketing plan to lay the foundations for a successful launch. You will now benefit from that strategic work!
The closer you get to the launch the more your main focus needs to be on marketing actions. No more making and creating please!
Create a list of marketing actions that are directly related to the launch:
- Create a database with potential clients and contacts. The Design Trust Business Club members can watch this webinar on how to create a database and make the most of it. You also might like to check out The Design Trust top 99 design & craft journalists, media & bloggers to follow on twitter.
- Photographing and styling your products individually and as a collection. Check out our various photography blog posts to learn how to create better images.
- Think about how you will be using these images. Not just getting your website or online shop ready but also how to use them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or in your newsletters in the run up, during and after the launch.
- Writing an intro text about the collection that explains what it is, who it is for, why you designed it, what makes this collection wonderful etc.
- Have you identified the right key words to use when describing your products? Focus on specific words that include the colour, materials, themes, who it is for etc. This is crucial for SEO if you want to be found on popular sites such as Etsy!
- Create short descriptions of your products to be used on your website or online shop.
- Plan your social media: Have you planned a newsletter or email campaign? Have you created a beautiful e-invite for the show where you will be launching your collection? Will you be using blogging to tell the story behind your collection? Will you use Facebook? It’s a good idea to create a specific social media plan with all the story angles, headlines, outline of your texts, images you will use and the dates that they will go live. Create a series of blog posts over a couple of weeks, each time revealing more and more, to build momentum – it really works! The Design Trust Business Club members can watch here a 1hour webinar on how to create a social media action plan.
- Think about how you can cross-reference social media to make your life much easier. For example tweet links to your blog posts and mention them in newsletters, tweet pictures of your stand if you are taking part in a show.
- If you are launching your product collection on your website or at a special event then let people know through an email or e-newsletter.
- Really think about when the best time is to send emails and newsletters. Preferably email on Tuesdays – Thursdays, in the morning or just before lunch time. In this way it’s more likely that your contacts will open your email. Recently I spotted an email from a creative client of mine who had worked really hard on launching her website. But she announced the launch just after 5pm on a Friday before a Bank Holiday, so far less people noticed it. Don’t make that mistake!
- Create a beautiful pricelist – for a great example click here.
- Get some press and PR when you are launching a new product collection! But getting press attention nowadays involves more than just writing a press release. Find out how to approach the press effectively and get your products published in this Design Doctor blog post.
- If you are doing a specific selling or trade event then look at these last-minute marketing ideas to promote your event.
Again, make a to-do-list of all the things you want to do in the same way we did previously. Think strategically about who you want to reach, and what the best ways are for doing so.
In the last 4 weeks before your launch you will need to focus on these marketing activities.
If you want to get some alternative ideas then check out our blog post with 7 experts talking about how they launch their product collections.
4: Launch week
Your launch week will be busy and chaotic, so make sure that you are ready and look after yourself.
Get support from others.
It needs to be fun and exciting, a celebration of all your hard work, not close to a burnout!
Similar to the action plan you created before the launch you create actions and planning, but this time you go into great detail and create actions for each day of your launch week. The closer you get to launch day the more specific you will need to be.
If you are launching at a trade show or selling event then you will be busy selling in this week.
If you are doing an online launch then you will need to be ready too for delivering orders, answering questions, following up.
If you are doing both at the same time then you might look into automating some of your marketing and social media, such as email newsletters that can be pre-planned, blog posts that can be launched automatically, or tweets (I use an app called Buffer for this, and I highly recommend it!).
Anything that you can do and get ready before the launch week is a bonus!
5: After the launch
Often the hard work now really starts!
Fulfilling orders, answering questions, following up with (trade) clients who didn’t come to your event, invoicing, …
It’s crucial that you focus on getting the orders out of the door and following up.
It’s a good idea to plan a review meeting with yourself about one week after the launch. Take some time off to plan ahead and to take stock:
- Evaluate against your launch goals. If you set SMART goals it’s fairly easy to see if you succeeded or not.
- If not, what extra marketing and follow up do you need to do now? Use the momentum that you have created to keep your contacts informed. It often takes a little while before people buy, so you need to stay in touch. Don’t think it’s a failure if they don’t buy straight away. Selling is a process of building relationships with your audience and clients.
- Write down what went well, and what you would do better next time. You will be surprised how much you forget about the nitty-gritty of a launch campaign, so make sure that you go through it in detail and write it down.
- And what’s next for you? How can you follow up with clients who showed an interest but didn’t purchase (yet)? What other clients might be interested in your products? What could you improve on in the entire process of launching your collection? What other products could be included in this collection? What will your next collection be about?
(click that link if you need some ideas on how to celebrate!)
Many creatives are notorious for not celebrating their achievements.
Very often ‘it’s never good enough’, and the have already moved the goal post before they have finished their previous project. Don’t! It’s so important to celebrate and mark your progress on this business journey.
Even if it didn’t all go to plan with sales, you will have learnt a great deal, and hopefully got a lot more subscribers to your website, increased your profile, or gained in confidence.
What did you gain?
And that’s it! That’s how you launch a product collection successfully!
Want to learn more from me about marketing & selling?
I can help you even more in our 6-week intensive online course and coaching programme The Design Trust Get Clients Now. During this course I will teach you about the most effective marketing techniques to get more and better clients, how marketing really works (and how it doesn’t!), and I will help you to create a marketing plan and strategy for your business, with 10 daily or weekly goals to get more sales and clients.
And on top of this … you will get 5 weekly online group coaching calls with other creative professionals, and two confidential coaching sessions with me!