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Here's the thing: marketing

Marketing - not as scary as you thinkSince leaving notonthehighstreet.com (almost a year ago!), two things have become really clear to me:

1. Online marketplaces are changing. It’s a great model, but NOTHS and Etsy (and even Folksy and smaller sites) are getting too big to guarantee visibility and sales to all who join. Etsy no longer shows all new products on a homepage or category page. NOTHS is so big now, you really have to be featured to gain page views.

2. Creative businesses who’ve seen success on marketplaces often don’t really know how to market themselves. Because it wasn’t necessary to market yourself when NOTHS did it for you (with gumption). Or Etsy provided the visibility naturally. I’ve said it about a hundred times in the last year: so many NOTHS sellers are at 9 out of 10 for general business skills (because they’ve had to be), but 2 out of 10 for marketing skills (because they haven’t had to).

If you’re reading and thinking, OMG, that’s me, don’t panic. You’re not alone, and there’s so much you can do about it.

The first thing to accept is that everything is a work in progress, because the world evolves constantly, and your business will evolve and grow in the next week, not to mention the next year. Your skills as a business owner will continue to develop even if you don’t do very much at all – the experience of running a business is a guarantee of that, no matter what.

Another thing I encourage you to see is that marketing isn’t a terrifying, technical piece of expertise that’s going to take you a degree and ten years’ experience to understand. It’s not. Marketing is basically flirting, and even before it’s that, it’s just talking to people. Hopefully about your business and your products.

People ask me for marketing advice all the time, and to be honest, it still stumps me on occasion. I still fall to the belief that you have to be “in marketing” to know what it is, or that you have to have detailed knowledge and understanding of Facebook or Google and how they work. There have been times, when faced with so many questions and so much fear, I’ve questioned whether I know about marketing at all! And then I remember that, in fact, I do – and it’s not as complicated or scary as the questions in front of me.

Marketing is not advertising.

Advertising (paid-for ads in magazines, newspapers, blogs, Facebook, shops, tubes, etc) might form part of your marketing strategy, but that’s not all marketing is. And advertising is changing – because consumers are changing. We’re used to online ads now, and magazine ads. Yes, it’s a good way to get visibility and awareness up (if you’re targeting the right kind of people with an ad), but it’s not a guarantee of sales.

If you choose to use paid-for advertising, whether on Facebook or in magazine, see it as an experiment that you’ll tweak next time based on the results. And always, always, make sure you’re targeting an audience who are likely to be interested in what you’re selling. (Extra advice: if someone calls you up to sell you advertising, be skeptical. Even if it’s Vogue.)

SEO isn’t complex.

Geek out over SEO research or other people’s reports if it floats your boat. But here’s my tried-and-tested experience: good content is good content, and if you write well, post good images (with image tags) and build links to your page or site, your online content will get found. There. One sentence. You can totally do that.

As with many things in small business, it’s often better to delegate what you’re not an expert in. But I encourage you to experiment with being your own marketing strategist, because there are charlatans out there. And you can totally do this. You might seek out a copywriter if that isn’t your forte. You may ask someone to manage your social media or advertising experiments, but be involved in the big questions, so that you know what works and what doesn’t for your business.

Marketing is something that you can do on your own terms. So embrace that, and get it working for you.

Here’s the thing:

Marketing is about consistency. Keep sharing your products, your message, your brand with people. And yes, keep sharing the same things with them. Variations on a theme, if you will.

Some things to do:

  1. Find three marketing messages for your business. A basic example: ‘We sell shoes.’ ‘Our shoes are handmade.’ ‘We (and our products) are fun and high quality.’ Make sure every single thing you send out points to at least one of those messages.
  2. Get the big paper out and plan your social media and other marketing. Create a marketing plan that involves regular posts on social media, regular advertising tests (should you wish), and regular press releases. Notice the most-used word in that sentence: REGULAR. You have to keep putting things out there, every week.
  3. Send out press releases and samples to people who will like your products. Find magazines and bloggers who are talking to your audience, who are aligned with what you’re making.  Create a press release that tells them, lovingly, about you and your products. Show them nice shiny images, or post them a sample of your product. Tell them where to find you online and how to get in touch. Do this for every new product. And consider doing something now for Christmas.

And I know there will be some of you who are already posting regularly (or not) and feel like you’re sending message out into a black hole, a void that never sees or returns your calls. That may be a signal that you need to shake it up. Post more images, if you’re always posting words. Or make sure all your images have nice captions, calls to action, or discussion points. Post elsewhere, targeting different people. Do something that simply brings a smile to people’s faces. That’s the point of marketing – make people feel good and associate it with you.

I promise marketing isn’t as complex or scary as it sounds. Every business is different and needs different things, so this is all about experimenting with what works for you.

My upcoming course, Inspired Action, will spend an entire week on marketing, and will include a lovely marketing planner. If you’re wondering about how to build your marketing skills and strategy, it might be just the thing for you. Read more and register here.

Have a lovely weekend!

Jx

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