Hello The Design Doctor
I am just starting out with my own eBay shop. I make all my own jewellery and buy only the highest quality of home decor and gifts. I have just started Facebook and twitter and all this is new to me too. How can I get myself noticed more? I don’t have lots of money to throw into this so want what I do spend to used wisely.
The Design Doctor this time is Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, who specialises in marketing and business development for crafts and design businesses.
“Great question, and you are definitely not the only one asking how to get more noticed without spending too much money!
There is really a lot you can do, and I will give you here step-by-step suggestions and advice. But I will start with asking 5 fundamental marketing questions, so that through formulating your own answers you can develop your own plan of action of marketing yourself on a very small budget.
I suggest that you get a notebook to take notes of your ideas, so that you can continue developing them as we go along.
Are you ready?!
Question 1: What are your marketing goals?
What do you really want to achieve with your marketing? If you think ahead what is the purpose of your marketing?
Basically there are only 3 main goals with marketing (any other goals will fall under these three):
- To increase your profile or visibility = to be seen
- To increase your credibility = to be believed that you are trustworthy
- To get clients and sales = to make money
The first two will contribute to the last one, which is often the ultimate marketing goal: to get clients.
You write that you want to ‘get yourself noticed more’, which is around increasing your profile and visibility, being noticed in a very competitive market. My follow up question would be: Who do you want to be notice by in particular? Is it consumers you are looking for, trade or press? Who do you want to buy from you? Write the answers in your notebook.
Can you turn your goal into a SMART goal? This means that you need to be more: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. What specifically do you want to achieve this year? Or in the next 6 months? Can you put a number on that? Can you make it more specific? Some suggestions here:
- Goals to increase your visibility: In two years time I want to be featured in Vogue; I will take part in 4 fairs and 2 exhibitions this year; I will send a newsletter to 100 contacts; I will teach myself twitter.
- Goals to increase your credibility: I want to take part in Dazzle this year [show for jewellers]; I will show my work on 4 online websites; I sell my work in 4 galleries.
- Goals to get clients: I want to sell £5K per annum; I sell my work in 4 galleries and 4 online shops; I will take part in 3 trade shows this year.
What are your 3 main goals? Write them down in your notebook.
What are your sub-goals – as in how will you achieve these 3 main goals?
As you can see the the marketing actions or sub-goals depend on your main goal. If you are new then you will need to focus more on getting the word out and getting names in your contact book or database. If you have been around for a while you will need to focus more on what your specific area and target groups are, and follow up with potential contacts to get meetings.
Just write down what comes up for you, your answer doesn’t need to be perfect!
You can read another blog post about how to build your credibility.
Question 2: How much time and money do you really want to spend?
Very often people underestimate the time required for marketing and overestimate the costs.
As a new designer or crafts person I recommend that you spend around 40% of your time on marketing, 50% on making/creating, and 10% on admin.
In the beginning you don’t need to spend too much money, it is more important that you actually spend time going out there and talking to potential clients in an organised way.
So how much time will you spend to do marketing? And how are you going to make time for marketing (as you might have to say NO to other activities in your life to create that time)?
Question 3: Who are your role models or competitors?
This is a great exercise that will give you lots of information for your own business. Identify 6 people or businesses that are your role models, who work in a very similar way to you, or in the same area, but who are a couple of years ahead of you? Who inspires you? Who do you get a bit envious about?
Many creative people don’t like talking about ‘competition’, but they are out there! You need to be able to identify what makes you different to help your potential clients see that difference better.
If you think you don’t have any competitors than I would suggest you look a bit harder. Or if you really haven’t then I would wonder if you would have any potential customers either, as very likely nobody will be interested in what you offer.
That might sound harsh, but most successful design and crafts businesses are successful because of HOW they do business, not necessarily because they have a highly unique product or service.
Write down in your notebook their 6 names and then start doing research into each of them. Nobody will do exactly what you do, but there will be overlaps with other designers and crafts people out there.
What are their services or products?
What is their price range?
What are the materials or techniques?
Are there specific themes or values that are important to them?
Why and how do they do business that’s different and makes them stand out?
Why do people buy from them?
Where do they sell (both research the different channels, but also the specific websites, galleries and shops they sell or clients they have got)?
What do they do really well?
What can you do better?
What can you learn from them?
Spend a couple of hours really finding out about people working very closely to what you want to do, so that you get to know the market really well.
Finally when you have done your research well about your role models/competitors, can you answer the same questions about your own business?
This exercise will help you to find potential clients or channels to promote or sell your work through, but also will help you to describe yourself better to others. It is often really difficult to describe yourself to others – because you are so close to your own business. This exercise can help you to take a bit of distance and look at your business like a potential client, by comparing and contrasting yourself to identify what makes you unique and different at a deeper level.
Question 4: Who are your ideal clients?
Who would you really like to sell to? Go on, dream a bit, imagine a specific person who would buy from you!
Can you write a short description about that person? Where would they live, what kind of house, what would they wear, what age or gender are they, what job have they got, what would they like doing in their spare time, what do they read or listen to? What is important to them? Could you give them a name?
Maybe create some collages of various client persona’s to get you really into the kind of people who might buy your products.
This exercise will really help you to understand them more, so that you can write and talk better about your products, create your brand and images that attract these ideal clients, and even might help you to create better and new products for them!
Question 5: What client needs do you fulfill and what benefits do they get?
Why would your ideal clients buy from you? What would they get?
Would it make them feel better, more beautiful, more creative, younger, special?
Would you be quicker or cheaper than your competitors?
Would you make it more personal with a unique product and a lovely note in the box you sent?
If you identify the different client needs then it is much easier to help your clients buy from you: what do they really want? How do they want to feel?
Identify the benefits that your work can give them: Think about emotional, financial or social benefits that your work can provide. For more information about features and benefits see blog post.
As an example here I am delighted to use my sister’s business Pien & Polle, who designs funky clothes and other textile products for disabled children. My sister’s daughter is disabled, and she found it impossible to find colourful and practical clothes for a child in a wheelchair and who is incontinent. (So far the features or facts about the kind of products and target market).
What are the benefits? On one level it is about having more colourful, fun, practical clothes, but it is especially about really wanting the best for your child, ESPECIALLY if they are disabled. It is about having fun, giving them a voice, and allowing parents and grandparents to spend a bit of extra money and care for their special kids.
That’s what she is really selling: being a proud parent and wanting the best for your disabled child.
Wow, how powerful is that?!
You can learn more about features and benefits in the blog post actions to increase your credibility (under number 2).
Are you still there?! With all this hard work looking at the marketing foundations, we can now finally go to the practical actions!
Practical action 1: write a 100 word introduction
How would you introduce yourself, that makes people interested in what you do? Write a short introduction about what you do, what you really sell, how you help people, who your clients are, and why you do it. You can use this on your website, eBay shop or intro letters.
Look back at your previous notes and draft a couple of different introductions for different client groups.
Be specific and use ‘visual words’ such as: hairy textiles, colourful beads, individually made.
Avoid words such as: unique, creative, innovative – they are overused and don’t mean anything!
Practical action 2: invest in the best images you can
Images are the most important aspect of you selling your work. It is the images in your eBay shop that will actually make your work stand out, build credibility, present itself, and ultimately sell your work … or not.
It is really worthwhile investing in good professional photography. (This is the first time I have mentioned you need some money to do marketing!).
Have a variety of images: show the whole product as well as details, show it in context as well as against a white background, show single products as well as collections.
To get started with getting some ideas about photographing your work I would suggest that you check out indeed your competition on eBay, but also look at Etsy and Folksy, two of the most popular online handmade retailers. Also look at the Crafts Council Photostore, that shows thousands of images of high quality crafts.
Identify those images that you like and how you would like your work to be photographed. Make a list of what you would like to do, how to display, how to group, how to light the work etc. This will be really helpful to show a photographer what you want from your images.
You can find more tips on photographing your crafts here in another Design Trust blog.
Practical action 3: So who are your actual clients and where can you sell?
In the moment you are only showing your work at eBay, and I strongly suggest that you start looking at a wider range of channels to increase your profile and sales. As a starting point, I suggest that you identify the following:
- 10 shops or galleries where you would like to sell
- 10 online shops or directories where you could show or sell your work
- 5 trade or consumer shows where you could show this year
- 10 magazines, blogs etc where you would like to have your work featured in
- 5 people who can help you to get referrals or sales (for example ex-tutors)
- 5 websites with crafts opportunities, sign up for their newsletter, and follow them on twitter
These are just some examples of potential places where you can sell or who can help you to increase your profile or credibility, or specific people that you need to get to know. The whole point is that you identify actual people’s names and business names. A great way to find out about these potential clients is through the role model/competitor work you did earlier. The profiles of your clients will give you an idea where they might shop or what they read.
This is not about being vague, but identifying real potential clients.
You might like to read our blog post with top tips to selling your crafts online for ideas of potential online opportunities.
Practical action 4: How will you approach them?
You are getting really close now, as you have just created a great list of actual potential clients, marketing & sales opportunities and referrals!
The next step is to put this into a table or database (excel or word works well for this) with all the names and their contact details, so that you can keep track of it.
Then think about what your next step will be.
For the websites you need to research how to get involved and accepted, and then do it. Check out the blog post about selling online to get more detail on that.
For the fairs you need to check what the best ones are for you, check the deadlines and apply where possible. Check out the blog post about how to find and select the right crafts or design fair for you.
For the galleries you might need to visit them, do some more research or send them a nice letter with images or phone them to find out if they are looking for people. Read about how to write an intro letter that opens doors.
Key here is to do your research, identify steps, and then just do it!
One-by-one approach the people or organisations you have identified, keep an eye on what works for you, what doesn’t and keep learning and doing.
This is the first moment you start spending some money! …. on potential crafts fairs, on going out and doing practical research.
Keep building on your database, keep adding more names and details, and more actions so that you know what needs to be done. This is an ongoing marketing job!
If somebody is not interested, keep them on the list so you will remember. If somebody isn’t interested yet, try to find out when they might be interested and follow up at a more suitable time for them.
Practical action 5: Keep following up
Adding new names to your potentials list or database is important, but equally important is to stay in touch with people who have shown an interest in your work, or bought from you. The best way to following up:
- Go through your contact book or business cards that are in a drawer somewhere and put them on a database that is easy to update so that you can actually contact people easily. Create a system that works for you.
- Send a regular newsletter or email for example if you have a new collection or a new event.
- Invite them to other events you will be doing for example open studios are a great way to stay in touch with people.
- Send them a postcard for Christmas or a reminder for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.
- Tweet about events that you will take part in or show images of new work on twitter.
- Create a business FaceBook page for your business contacts and keep them informed about your progress, new products and events.
- You also might like to create a Linked In page.
I hope these 5 fundamental marketing questions and 5 practical actions will get you going!
Marketing can be a very creative and fun process, but the key is to be consistent, to listen to yourself and your clients for feedback to learn and improve, and to keep going. Good luck, let me know how you get on.”
You can read our other marketing blogs: The Design Trust favourite social media tools and how we use them; and how much should I spend on marketing?
Did you find this a useful blog post? What in particular? What marketing has worked particularly well for you? Feel free to tweet or ‘like’, or add your comments below.