I was only 25 when I opened my retail store in Chicago selling my womenswear collection. I designed everything in the boutique and had it produced by local contractors. Back then, it was harder to find customers considering the late adoption of internet marketing. It was also easier to find customers using traditional targeting strategies.
In my opinion, most advice on how to get customers these days is misguided. People typically suggest something along the lines of creating a website, boosting SEO, making a viral video, or hosting a fashion show to create buzz. While those methods are worth trying, here’s why they don’t work for every brand:
Many of us do what other brands are doing. It’s safer to piggy-back other marketing strategies than to take a risk with something new. Unfortunately, your brand will start looking like everyone else’s and differentiating your unique proposition will be hard.
What looks like tried and true may not be. My guess is that about 80% of creative entrepreneurs are not making a decent profit. What looks like a successful business and what is a successful business are often two completely different things.
A while back, a dress design client emailed me with news about an online boutique. She’d been going back and forth trying to get an appointment and getting nowhere. When she finally got the buyer to respond, the buyer told her they are actually finishing this season then liquidating their stock and closing down. Considering all the press and “buzz” this store got, my client was stunned to hear the news.
Lately I see a lot of entrepreneurs putting loads of time and effort into finding customers on social media. I know a lot of designers who are getting sales from Instagram. I personally am having great success using Facebook to sell my online courses (it’s the first step to selling; I take people off FB for the actual sale). But Facebook or Instagram is just one part of a more balanced marketing strategy.
So let’s talk about where to find your next customer. Here’s what you can do:
Ask yourself this question, “Who do I really want to see using my product?”
You have to know who you really want to sell to and what it is they’re looking for. For instance, a designer came to me a few weeks ago and said she was having trouble finding her niche. She makes large size clothing and told me she has no idea where to find her customer. She was stuck. Your first step is to figure out whom you’re looking for and what their needs are before you can locate them.
Create your targeting strategy with these 5 questions in mind:
- What have you done to research your audience?
- Have your tried emailing a few people?
- Have your met with any retail buyers in your niche to see what’s happening in the market?
- Have you offered to take a key influencer in your niche out to lunch or coffee?
- Have you stopped by large size stores and departments and talked to the salespeople?
2. Get out from behind your computer
That’s right, most of the great stuff starts with real people. For example, let’s say you’re out and someone compliments your earrings, which you made and want to sell. Instead of passively taking the compliment, hand them a business card even if statistics say that 95% will do nothing with the card.
The thing is, it’s on you, the entrepreneur, to take the lead. We often feel uncomfortable saying what we should say, for instance, “Oh thanks! I’m actually the designer and I have a business where I design my own products. I’m actually having a sale right now and would love to invite you. Shall I put you on my list?”
Or start the conversation with this approach:
“Thanks! Wow, it’s so cool you say that. It’s funny because I designed them and they must be striking a chord because every week I’m selling another few pair right off my body!” That way the potential customer knows they’re for sale and you can start a conversation.
This selling strategy works even if you don’t produce wearable products. When you meet someone new, inevitably they ask you what you do. If you’re a painter, you can show them your work (on a postcard perhaps). If the feedback is positive, use the same techniques above – don’t just hand them your card and walk away.
3. Get back in touch
This is another strategy based on old-school, small-step marketing. Internet marketing is absolutely valuable. But I also know that if you want to get sales fast, you’re better off looking in a 30 mile radius of your neighborhood. I also know that if you want paying customers now, you might need to get on the phone. So I suggest you get in touch with 6 former customers today (If you don’t have any customers yet, you can still do this with your ideal prospects). You could send an email instead of using the phone but it’s not as effective. The wrong way to email these 6 former customers would be to send a generic email to everyone, just changing the greeting. At least craft a special email for each one that goes a little further than “Hi, how are you.”
When you pick up the phone to call each one personally, anything can happen. I can’t tell you how many baby blankets I sold (I had that business after my womenswear line & boutique, before starting Fashion Brain Academy) just by calling the “purchaser” to see if the gift they bought worked for their friend and if they needed anything else. People were thrilled that I thought of them, even when they knew the real reason was to sell them more.
Do you have a previous customer you haven’t contacted in a while? Pick up the phone and get back in touch!
If your call goes to voicemail, say something like this: “Hi Mary, I was reminded of you last night when I was watching House of Cards – I know we’re both big fans. Just checking in with you because we have a new cuff that goes with the necklace you got in May. They’re perfect together and flying out the door! If you want me to send you a pic, just text or call me – or email me at ______________. You can also go to my site and search __________ to pull up the new photo. Have a great day!”
Think of these steps as “assignments” and get started right away. This is just the tip of the iceberg for marketing your product.
Which of the 3 strategies will you try today? Think small steps and just get started, and let me know in the comments below what you’re going to do.