Marketing is essential to small business success but many business owners make these common mistakes. It’s easy to push marketing to the side, figuring the important aspects are to make product and sell it.
But the number one question I see on message boards is; why aren’t my sales higher? That’s where marketing comes in my friend.
Of course, marketing won’t do much good if you’re starting with the wrong product (download the free chapter from my ebook MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT for tips on tweaking your product to make it stellar). But in most cases, small business owners are lacking sales because they’re slacking in the marketing department.
Running your business without marketing would be like planning an amazing party, setting up at the venue and expecting people to show up when you neglected to tell anyone about it.
Unfortunately, we can’t expect to see high sales numbers if we make an amazing product and set it up to sell on a website, online marketplace or at a craft fair but don’t get out there and tell people about that product and where to buy it.
Marketing isn’t hard. It just takes a little effort to marketing consistently and strategically. And of course; that you’re not making these mistakes.
MISTAKE #1 – THINKING MARKETING IS TOO EXPENSIVE
There are costs associated with marketing but some of the best marketing methods cost very little money and simply require your time.
Paying to advertise gets expensive and is often less effective because people are bombarded with so many unwanted messages in a day. We’ve learned to skip over, tune out, exit out of and ignore ads that are shoved in our face.
But there are many other marketing methods, such as social media, newsletters, the media, SEO, guest blogging, etc. that are free and usually more effective.
Guerilla marketing techniques (I actually share a few in this free download of 25 out of 50+ ways to market without saying a word) are usually low cost and effective because they advertise a business or product in unexpected ways.
Don’t push marketing aside because you’re a start-up and don’t have a large (or any) marketing budget; just get creative!
MISTAKE #2 – MAKING MARKETING ALL ABOUT THEM
The purpose of marketing is to reach new people and make more sales. However, when you’re focused on making sales, you tend to forget about the customer.
It’s not about you and what you’re selling. It’s about the customer and what your products can do for them.
Instead of: sending a newsletter titled Check out my latest bracelet
Try: How to wear the latest trend – Stacked Bracelets with tips on layering bracelets using old and new pieces, including different looks they can try and linking to a few of your bracelets they can purchase to try the look.
You’re now helping your customers stay on trend and imagine how they’d wear one of your pieces.
Instead of: setting your newest piece of art down on the ground, snapping a pic and posting it to social media
Try: framing the art, creating a vignette with it, snapping a pic and posting that to social media with a caption that explains the story behind the painting, which room it would work perfectly in and what to pair it with to make a statement.
You’re now showing customers how your art might look in their home and how they can update a space easily.
Instead of: creating an ad with the title Organic Charcoal Soap
Try: Detoxifying Activated Charcoal Soap for Deep Cleaning
You’re now sharing the benefits of the soap instead of advertising what it is.
DON’T MAKE IT ALL ABOUT SELLING
You also want to mix non-selling posts and messages in.
Imagine having a friend on Facebook who posts every day but is always asking for something. Who can help me move this weekend? Can someone lend me $100? I need a ride to the airport, any takers? You’d probably unfollow them or at least start to ignore their posts.
But if that same person offered to help others more than they asked for help, people would be interested in returning the favor.
Fitbit’s Facebook page is a perfect example of this. The majority of their posts aren’t sharing a link to buy a Fitbit; they’re sharing helpful information. They hold their follower’s attention and gain trust by sharing links to blog posts about setting and hitting fitness goals, healthy recipes, exercise techniques, etc. So when they do post about their product, people pay attention.
Followers don’t feel they’re always being asked to spend money to get value. Fitbit is genuinely helping their followers without asking for anything in return.
Keep your ideal customer top of mind when marketing and always ask; what’s in it for them?
MISTAKE #3 – THEY GET DESPERATE
This is definitely a cycle I’ve caught myself in more than a few times. You check your stats and realize you’re nowhere near where you’d like your sales to be. So you panic and start posting to social media, drafting up a newsletter or paying for ads.
Potential customers pick up on desperate marketing because it feels as though all the business cares about is getting a sale.
On the other hand, when marketing is planned out, purposeful and relevant, it doesn’t feel like marketing or selling. It simply feels as though the business is being helpful.
- Plan ahead so you have time to think about upcoming holidays your products would make great gifts for and shoppers have enough time to purchase and have shipped.
- Find clever ways to avoid mistake #2 and be sure you’re taking the time to perfect your marketing content based on your ideal customer’s interests. Why is now the perfect time to buy your product? How will it improve their lives?
- Give yourself time to work your USP (unique selling position) in. Mistake #2 covers what’s in it for them? While your USP covers why buy from you? Unless you have a truly unique product that no one else is capable of making, you’re going to have competitors. Your USP shows potential customers why you’re THE person to buy from and removes any doubt there might be a similar but better option somewhere out there.
If you’re unsure about your USP, join the FREE 5 DAY CHALLENGE I’ve put together. How to uncover your USP is explained on day one of the challenge along with a lot of other valuable information for small handmade business owners. It’s completely free, it’s 5 days and it will help you take your display and sales to the next level.
Take the time to plan out your marketing strategy and get ahead of the game.
MISTAKE #4 – SPENDING THE MAJORITY OF THEIR TIME MAKING & SELLING
Marketing is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to running your handmade business. But unfortunately, most people focus the majority of their time on creating and selling.
They design and make new products, then post them online or set them up at a craft show, but skip the important step of marketing.
There isn’t a set amount of time you should be spending on marketing each week and only you will know the right balance. But marketing is not something you can spend 10 minutes a day on and expect to see results.
If you were planning a party and set up a hall with decorations, prepared amazing food and drinks, organized a DJ and planned fun games for the guests, how many people would you expect to show up if you sent one email to friends, a month before the party?
People get busy and need reminders, so it may take a few emails to notify, follow up and remind them in the weeks leading up to the event. They also need to hear about all the reasons they should show up, so each aspect of the party should be shared with them. Some people don’t check emails often or get too many, so an email, Facebook invite, text and phone call may be necessary to be sure the first message wasn’t missed.
You wouldn’t tell people about the most amazing party you’ve planned just once. If you truly believed it was going to be a ton of fun and knew you put together something spectacular, you would talk about that party non-stop.
And no one would be annoyed; they would get just as excited as you are about the party because your passion for it would be genuine.
A good place to start when dedicating time to marketing is to give equal amounts of time to:
- Creating product
- Marketing that product
- Selling that product
And adjust accordingly.
Once you find that right balance, marketing should be done consistently. Just as you can’t work out for one month and expect the results to last, you can’t expect one social media post, newsletter or magazine interview to bring in continuous customers.
MISTAKE #5 – THINKING “POSTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA” IS MARKETING
Social media can be a great marketing tool but it should NOT be your only marketing tool. Just like the party invitation example, not all your potential customers are going to hang out in one place or prefer one method of communication.
Expand beyond social media marketing by brainstorming how someone might hear about your business or product both online and off.
When people land on your website or show up at your booth at a craft show, what brought them there?
It may be a catchy headline they clicked on in Google results. They may have followed a link from your newsletter that landed them on a product listing. Or they may have decided to stop at your booth after receiving a swag bag with one of your items in it.
Social media is also not effective unless you have a strategy. Setting up a Facebook page and posting a picture of your work each day won’t do much to drive sales or grow your following.
You must choose the social media platforms your ideal customer is on, post content they’re interested in, post with a purpose, post consistently and track and adjust as you go.
MISTAKE #6 – PLAYING FOLLOW THE LEADER
It’s okay to look to industry leaders or competitors to get ideas on where and how you might market. But it’s never a good idea to jump on a social media bandwagon, spend a bunch of time writing blog posts, put a lot of money into paid advertising, etc. if it’s not a fit for your audience.
Marketing is all about trial and error, so it’s great to try new tactics. But don’t simply choose a marketing method because someone else is doing it.
Be strategic and think about who your customer is, where you can find them and what will catch their attention.
Make sure it’s a fit for you too. If you hate doing something, that will come across to your customers. Tailor your business to you and your strengths.
If you want to add content to your website but writing is not something you enjoy or are particularly good at, consider creating short videos to upload to your website, instead of blog posts. If you want to be featured in the media but television interviews make you nervous, pitch your press releases to magazines or newspapers so your interviews can be done over the phone or by answering questions through email.
There isn’t a fast track or easy route to marketing success. As amazing as it would be to follow the exact steps someone has taken to grow their business, it’s not realistic to expect the same results.
MISTAKE #7 – NOT GETTING SPECIFIC
If you’ve followed Marie Forleo for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard her quote “If you’re talkin’ to everybody, you’re talkin’ to nobody.”
I always keep that quote top of mind and get really specific about who my ideal customer is, their questions, concerns, fears, etc. and how I can address them.
When you’re too broad with your marketing and try to reach a wide range of people, no one ends up listening because no one feels a true connection.
In a short and sweet message, try selling your favorite beverage to a college student, an athlete, a stay at home mom and a health nut. It’s pretty much impossible.
They each value different things when it comes to what they drink.
- A college student may care about price or how much caffeine the drink has to help them stay up and study
- An athlete might worry about the calories and if it will help or hinder their performance
- A stay at home mom may wonder how much energy the drink will give them or if it’s a healthy choice to give their kids as a treat
- A health nut would love to hear about the organic ingredients and their benefits
Even if the beverage was perfect for each type of person, you can’t pack all that info into a marketing message and expect to catch and hold everyone’s attention.
But choose one person to create a marketing message for and you know the exact product features they care about, the type of words they want to hear, the images that will catch their eye, etc.
Once you get specific it makes it so much easier to create a clear message and helps you find the right methods, tools and platforms to reach that specific person.
MISTAKE #8 – NOT CIRCLING BACK
Most small business owners are focused on reaching new people with the purpose of making more sales. But there’s an audience at their fingertips, already familiar with their products and most likely willing to buy again.
When you market to new people, there are more steps than when you market to existing customers.
With new people, you have to:
- Find them
- Get their attention
- Gain their trust
- Encourage them to buy
When you market to existing customers, you already:
- Know where to find them
- Know what gets their attention
- Have their trust
You should have a way to stay in contact with your existing customers by:
- Collecting their email addresses and having permission to email them.
- Keeping track of their mailing address after shipping items so you can send thank you cards, coupons, flyers, etc.
- Having something new to offer. If you don’t sell a product that runs out and needs to be re-purchased (such as soap or food items), consider how you can sell to your existing customers through new products or services. It may be exciting designs released each season or marketing your products as gifts for each major holiday.
MISTAKE #9 – NOT GIVING INSTRUCTIONS
When you put something out there, what are you hoping to get out of it? Obviously, you would love a sale but what’s the action you want people to take when they see your Facebook post, open your newsletter or read your blog article?
Simply posting a photo of your product might get a like or comment but posting a photo of your product with a call to action will convert more people from Lookie-Loos into buyers, subscribers, followers, etc.
A good call to action should:
- Tell people what to do next – I know it seems straightforward but if you want people to click a link, tell them to “click the link”. If you want people to enter their email, write, “Enter your email below”.
- Have an incentive – include the benefit they’ll get out of following your call to action. Should they click they link to buy before limited quantities run out? Will they receive exclusive offers if they enter their email and sign up for your newsletter? What’s in it for them?
- Reduce risk – if people think they’re committing to buying or will be bombarded with sales emails, they won’t click or enter their email. Make it really clear there’s no risk involved by following a link or subscribing to your email. “Click the link below to view more photos” or “Unsubscribe anytime” adds reassurance.
- Be simple – if there’s a lot of text or too many steps, most people will choose to do nothing. Keep your call to action simple and to the point.
MISTAKE #10 – NOT CREATING A FUNNEL
“The Rule of Seven” is a common marketing adage that suggests most people don’t buy until they’ve seen or heard about your product seven times. There are of course many people who fall in love at first sight but you need to have a system in place for those who don’t.
A sales funnel will help move those who aren’t ready to buy, through a process that gets them more comfortable buying from you.
Your marketing is the first step in the sales funnel process and takes someone from not knowing about your product or brand to being aware of it. Your call to action should be directing those people to your sales channel.
Once people have made it to your sales channel (e.g. your craft show table or your online store) if they don’t buy, what’s the next best thing they could do?
In most cases, it will be signing up for your newsletter, but you’ll have to track your conversion rates to be sure that’s true for your business.
If you don’t have a newsletter or you find Instagram is more effective for reaching your audience and turning them into customers, you might encourage people to follow you on Instagram rather than sign up for your newsletter.
You’ll again want to use a call to action with an incentive. Why should they sign up for your newsletter or follow you on Instagram?
Once you’ve turned them into a follower, stay in touch. Establish trust and show followers why purchasing from you is a good idea.
Don’t make every contact with them about getting the sale but don’t be afraid to ask for the sale either.
Find the right balance and create a system you can use over and over to seamlessly take people through the process of discovering your products, piquing their interest, building trust and buying.
As you work on your marketing efforts, be sure to take note of the tactics that get you results and those that don’t.
Don’t throw in the towel after trying a method once; adjust and try again until you have solid proof (through stats) it’s not right for your business.
- Keep track of your website stats through Google Analytics and check how you acquired your traffic. Which social media platform sends the most people your way? Who’s linking to and referring people to your site? Which keywords are people entering to find your website on Google?
- Check social media posts to see which ones get the most engagement and highest click through rates.
- Test different newsletter subject lines, send times and content to see what garners the most attention.
- Ask craft shoppers, online and off how they heard about your business.
Continuously track results, adjust and apply. Nothing happens overnight and you won’t usually hit the ball out of the park on the first try.