Most handmade businesses aren’t spending enough time on marketing.
I understand why.
Promotion can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business.
It requires a lot of effort, and sometimes money, and it can be hard to track results.
Generally, the marketing efforts you put in today won’t produce results for weeks. And when you don’t see results right away, it can make you question whether or not marketing is really worth the effort.
It absolutely is.
No business can survive without marketing.
Marketing is what gets your products in front of new people and encourages existing customers to buy again.
If you’re currently struggling with how to promote your handmade business, follow these 3 steps:
STEP 1 – AVOID THESE BIG MARKETING MISTAKES
Before you can promote your business correctly, you must know what’s going wrong. Check in to be sure you’re not making any of these common mistakes.
THINKING POSTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA IS A GOOD MARKETING STRATEGY
When asked, “How do you market your handmade business?” most handmade business owners will say something along the lines of:
>> I post to Facebook every day
>> I use Pinterest
>> I post to Instagram several times a day
Social media can be an effective form of marketing but unfortunately, it usually ends up being a time-waster.
Instead of it being an effective marketing method that generates sales, it’s more of a mindless act of sharing a link to a new product.
There needs to be a strategy behind all marketing and “post to Facebook today” is not a strategy.
The time and money spent posting to social media should also be tracked so it’s clear whether or not it’s giving a return on investment (ROI).
If a Facebook post gets a few likes and a couple of clicks, it’s unlikely those posts are eventually leading to a sale. (On average, a business requires at least 100 clicks/website visits to make one sale; based on the average conversion rate of 1 – 2%)
If you spend three hours per week on Facebook (for your business), you should be seeing at least *$60 in sales because of it (*that’s if you want to be paid $20/hour for your time).
It’s easy to get lost in the vanity numbers of social media (how many followers your account has, how many likes a post gets, how many comments it receives, etc.) but…
The only number that matters is the number of sales the social media platform brings you.
You may not see immediate sales because of a social media post but it should be getting followers to take a step towards becoming a customer (such as visiting your site and joining your newsletter).
If you have no idea what the ROI of your social media marketing efforts are, check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
THINKING IT’S A DIRECT LINE FROM MARKETING TO SALES
Marketing should absolutely lead to sales…but it’s usually not a straight line or 2-step process:
- Step 1 – post to Facebook
- Step 2 – make a sale
Instead, a sale that’s a result of your marketing (e.g. a Facebook post) tends to follow a path more like:
- Sees your Facebook post
- Follows your Facebook page
- Sees several Facebook posts
- Clicks a link to your website
- Signs up for your newsletter
- receives several newsletters
Marketing is the first step in reaching potential customers, but then you need a funnel in place to direct more of those people towards a sale.
Very rarely will someone stumble upon your business and be ready to buy. So your marketing must be very methodical.
You must know your customers, what they’re looking for, what they’re bothered by, what they might be thinking before they’re ready to buy, etc. and then create a funnel that nurtures them.
For example, let’s say I’m an artist and I’m targeting a consumer who wants their home to have amazing décor but is clueless when it comes to interior design and how to choose pieces that work together.
>> My social media posts may be inspirational photos of well-decorated spaces and link to my blog posts that share simple to follow tips on how to decorate a space.
>> My newsletter signup would encourage people to join if they want weekly tips on how to make their home look like it’s out of a magazine.
>> My welcome email sequence (*which is a series of emails automatically sent to new subscribers…learn how to set one up with HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER) would share tips on how to choose the right art, paint colors, décor, etc. to suit their style.
>> My sales pitch at the end of the welcome email sequence might suggest one of my print sets, so it’s less financial commitment than an original piece of art. The set may also come with a template to help them hang the prints in a gallery-type composition, which would make it an even easier decision to purchase.
I know my customer isn’t confident about purchasing art so my social media posts need to inspire and get them thinking how much they want their home to look like the photos I share.
My email marketing must educate and get subscribers feeling confident about buying art. My sales pitch must make it easy for them to buy, then warm them up to the idea of a bigger commitment.
Think about your target market and the process they go through as they’re shopping for and considering purchasing your product.
Create marketing messages that ease people into the first step in their shopping journey (e.g. clicking a link, signing up for a newsletter, etc.) and then use a sales funnel that involves several steps to warm them up to the idea of buying.
Steps to create an effective sales funnel are found inside: HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER.
FORGETTING THE TRUE PURPOSE OF MARKETING
Keeping the previous mistake in mind, it’s important to remember that marketing is the process of gaining potential customers’ trust.
Your marketing doesn’t make the sale; your sales page or pitch does.
Don’t try to sell your product in your marketing message; pique interest.
When you try to use marketing to make a sale, it can come across as pushy and maybe even a little desperate.
As a consumer, think of an ad that states: “Hurry, hurry, hurry! Buy now before you miss out! These deals won’t last!” or an Instagram account with post after post of “Buy this” “Now buy this” type of messages. You’d probably tune those messages out or unfollow.
Now imagine you want to be more vegan-friendly, so you follow social media accounts that align with that desire. You see a post that says something along the lines of:
“Billions of animals are killed for the global leather industry each year. Here are 5 leather alternatives for your wardrobe.” -> link to the article
Within that post, they mention their high-quality faux leather handbags as one of the 5 leather alternatives.
You may not be ready to buy the first time you see one of their social media posts or articles, but you’ll slowly start to see they’re providing you with useful and practical advice and that they can be trusted.
When you are ready to buy a new bag, they’re top of mind and you feel comfortable spending your money with them.
Both are marketing messages but one feels gimmicky while the other feels trust-worthy.
Just because someone likes a post, opens your email, stops by your craft show booth, etc. but doesn’t buy, doesn’t mean your marketing was ineffective.
Each message that reaches your potential consumer is reminding them of your business and helping them memorize what you sell and why they should buy from you (e.g. my bags use high-quality faux leather that gets mistaken for real leather).
In many cases, the marketing efforts you put in now will give you results weeks or months down the line.
It is important those efforts are eventually paying off. So be sure you’re tracking your efforts and results, calculating your return on investment, and adjusting your marketing path accordingly.
THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you with that.
Marketing can, of course, use a hard sell, but it’s generally more effective when done so sparingly. HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER teaches you the right ratio and how to subtly sell between the hard sells.
STEP 2 – THINK LIKE A CUSTOMER
Unfortunately, consumers aren’t on the hunt to discover new businesses. They don’t pick up their phones in the morning and hop on Instagram looking for sponsored posts. Most of them probably don’t even shop on a daily basis.
If someone is in the market for a new piece of art, necklace, moisturizer, etc., they may go searching, but your business can’t survive by waiting for customers to come to it; it needs to regularly get in front of new people.
Although people aren’t always shopping, the are encountering hundreds of marketing messages each day.
The more seamlessly those marketing messages fit into their day, the more effective the marketing is.
If someone interrupts what you’re doing and starts talking about a different subject than you’re currently on, you have a hard time switching over; your mind is still on the task you were interrupted from. What they say may go in one ear and out the other.
But if they’re speaking about the same subject you’re currently on, you’re more likely to pay attention.
That’s what we want your marketing to do:
Fit in and help; not interrupt.
For example, imagine it’s the start of the new year and you’re looking for ways to get into shape. You’re reading an article titled: “5 ways to get into shape without stepping foot in the gym”.
One of those 5 ways suggests taking 10,000 steps each day. The author shares tips on how to walk more and suggests a FitBit for tracking steps and receiving reminders throughout the day.
That’s a marketing message you’re going to pay attention to because it fits in and helps with your goal.
Now imagine seeing a billboard for a FitBit when you’re stuck in traffic thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner. That marketing message doesn’t fit in with what you’re doing or thinking about; it’s simply an interruption. So you’re likely to ignore it and not even realize you saw an ad for FitBit.
It’s important to think about your potential customers’ day-to-day routine and how you can subtly and naturally work a marketing message in.
To do so, let’s think about some of the common things consumers do on a regular basis.
1 – CONDUCT RESEARCH
Almost every day I hop on Google to search for something. Chances are, your potential customers are also on Google or forums searching for answers to their questions.
2 – PASS TIME
When I’m in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room for an appointment, or when I have downtime on weekends, I look for ways to pass the time in an enjoyable way.
Usually, that’s with social media, or regular media (e.g. magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, etc.), maybe reading blog posts…and I know I’m not alone when it comes to checking email when I have a spare minute.
3 – ACTIVITIES
Most people have a hobby that gets them out, keeps them active, helps them socialize, etc. That may be practicing yoga, wine-tasting, play dates for their kids, etc.
Those are a good place to start but think about your customers and what they do on a regular basis so you can add to that list.
STEP 3 – THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER
Once you have your list, get into the details of it based on your customer.
What does research, passing time, and activities look like for your customers?
- Research – which topics and phrases are your customers searching (as it relates to your products)
- Pass time – which social media accounts do they follow? Which magazines do they read?
- Activities – which activities do they participate in that are related to your products?
For example, if I sell yoga-related products and my customer is a beginner yogi, my list may be:
- Research – they may Google: “How do I start practicing yoga at home?”
- Pass time – they may follow Instagram accounts such as yogatips, yogafornewbie, yogadailyprogress, etc., read yoga blogs or yoga magazines
- Activities – they may go to beginner classes at a small studio in their neighborhood and practice at home between those classes.
*These are just a few examples; you would brainstorm all of the phrases they might Google or questions they might ask on forums, all the social media accounts, magazines or blogs they read, etc.
I can now use this information to plan my marketing:
- Google: “How do I start doing yoga at home?”
- I can write a blog article titled “How to start practicing yoga at home” and post that on my website or pitch it as a guest post to a yoga blog and include a link back to my website at the end of the article.
- Following Instagram account such as yogatips, yogafornewbie, yogadailyprogress, etc.
- Look at the hashtags those Instagram accounts use and start including them in my Instagram posts
- Tag those accounts when I post in hopes they may repost my content
- Comment on their posts regularly and even reply to other comments (without being spammy…focus on being supportive and helpful)
- Going to beginner classes at a small studio in her neighborhood
- Approach smaller yoga studios about putting up posters, leaving business cards, or even having them carry my products.
That’s how you find ways to work your marketing messages into your customers’ day; as opposed to interrupting what they’re doing and hoping they’ll pay attention.
When you create your marketing message, continue to think about your customers.
- If you write a blog post based on a common phrase your customers are searching, don’t make that blog post about your products. Make it helpful and then work one or two product mentions in.
- If you’re trying to get an Instagram influencer to notice your business and share your content, don’t spam them by tagging them in every post. Think about their customers/followers and what they might be interested in. Reach out in a way that makes the influencer feel you’re helping them rather than being self-serving.
- When pitching your products to stores, don’t think about how you can sell your products to store owners, let them know how your products can help their business and their
- When creating business cards to place in stores, don’t think about what you want to tell people about your business, consider what potential customers need to hear (you may like: WHAT TO PUT ON YOUR CRAFT BUSINESS CARD).
In general, don’t think:
How can I make a sale today?
How can I help my potential customers today?
Make promoting your business less about you and more about the customer.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!