Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Marketing Tips

Since my interview on the DesiConnect, I've received a lot of inquiries from fellow entrepreneurs for marketing tips. Rather then write everyone back individually, I thought I’d share my experiences here. I'm incredibly flattered by the response I've received since the interview and I'd like to thank the DesiConnect Magazine, especially Sheena Singh, for allowing me the forum to showcase OM home to my peers.

Although this is specifically geared towards designers based on my own experiences, hopefully it’s relevant to any small business owner. But be sure to research your specific industry to see how others gain momentum and don’t be afraid to contact people in comparable industries for advice as well. Chances are they’ll be flattered!

The advice I received from other entrepreneurs has been invaluable and continues to be eye opening. But I think it took me more than a year of stumbling around somewhat aimlessly to really absorb their insight: If you want to be taken seriously, you have to look serious.

Here's what I did:

1. Professional Pictures: For people in the design industry, this is perhaps the single most important marketing investment. Even if you have a very limited amount of money, make it a must! Also, make sure to take two sets of pictures, one with a white background and one in a setting. The two sets can work together on your website and for the media.

Tip: I went to the websites of local small businesses to find a photographer in the area and was very fortunate to discover Darren Curtis of Actaeon Photo, an awesome photographer with reasonable rates. Other people have put up fliers in trade schools to find talented students at very reasonable prices. There are a lot of affordable options!

2. Where to Buy: Media outlets won’t feature you unless there is an easy way for their readers to find your products. Either in a store or online, this one is crucial.

Tip: Etsy.com is a website for designers to sell their wares for a very modest fee. Even a fax order form on your website will go a long way. You don't have to spend a lot of money to jump start your business.

3. Website: This one isn’t vital but it helps (a lot). But you should definitely have a front page with a picture of your products, some contact info, links to press and how to buy.

Tip: There's no need to waste a lot of time and money building a fancy website, that can come as your company grows. Setting up a simple blog showcasing your company with links to an online shop on Etsy.com will be a manageable way to start up your business and give you the necessary online presence.

4. Press Release: Everyone is busy and people in the media are no exception. They receive dozens of inquiries a day so make it easier for them by doing some of the legwork. More likely than not, if you’re a small business owner your story is interesting. How did you get into business? When did you start learning your craft? What makes your company stand out?

Tip: Ask a friend what they admire about you, your business and your craft. Start telling people your story and see how they react, see what catches their attention and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to create a cohesive press release based on their feedback.

5. Marketing Kit: Create a compilation of your business card, pictures, press release, press pieces and any other promotional material into a folder and/or online. Media outlets often need information very quickly and you may not be able to keep up with the demand. If you already have an online section for them to access or a kit to send them, you’ll be prepared and they’ll be grateful.

Tip: If you’re creating an online section for the media, make a password protected section with hi-res images available. Make sure to include the name, color and price of the product as well. For a marketing kit, create a folder that stands out amongst the many other kits they receive. It can be fun and creative but make sure it still looks professional.

6. Target and Timing: Be sure to target your efforts to the right audience at the right time. If you create Christmas country wreaths don’t waste your time contacting Metropolitan Home in April, it’s just wasted time and you’ll have disappointing results.

Tip: Often, someone will love your stuff but may not be able to find the right fit for it at that particular time. If they've replied to you, don’t be afraid to contact them again in a few months or when you have new products, they might have a space for you!

7. Think Big but Start Small: It’s ok to start out in some of the local or smaller magazines or up and coming blogs and work towards the bigger outlets. It’s harder for magazines with large advertising budgets and corporate ownership to take a chance on an unknown artist. The smaller ones have more freedom and take chances, start there and you'll likely get positive results.

Finally, I am incredibly grateful for each and every person interested in my products or story, including other entrepreneurs, the media, stores, buyers, customers, family and friends. The feedback inspires me to continue and keeps me focused on growing my business. I’m never shy about my gratitude and express this freely to people I encounter. It is possible to be friendly and professional - it’s exciting to build a business! Make sure your personality and enthusiasm shines through every time you reach out to someone.

If you find this helpful or even if you don't, please drop me a note and I would be thrilled to hear how it's going for you.

Good luck!

3 comments:

ishi said...

Hi,

I stumbled upon your this article while "googling" for home textile business. I must say, that this a well articulated post.

I am a trained textile and apparel designer and completed my graduation from NID, India; I have relocated to Boston few months back, but prior to moving here I was working with various artisans and non-profits in the country and was heading Fabindia design group. I am currently trying to look for various markets here, so that these artisans are benefited by new orders and a new market for their products. And so I am trying to search for information on how good an idea it is to sell through internet and sites like Trunkt/etsy, which you have mentioned in your blog.

I am quite new to the 'e-tailing' concept, as you might be aware of the fact that it is yet not a popular source of selling in India. I do not know people here who can tell me about their first hand experience in such business. Thus I thought to ask you for your experience. Are these sites good enough to begin the business with? Do you really get responses through these sites?

I must congratulate you on your growing business and I quite like the enthusiasm behind it. Your words of insight in e-tailing will be very helpful for me, and I would look forward to reading it.

Thanks
Ipshita

OM home said...

Hi Ipshita,

Sorry for taking so long to reply, we've been absolutely swamped since the tradeshow last month!

Speaking of tradeshows, I find that's been more successful for us in getting business than online retailing but it certainly doesn't hurt to join places like etsy and trunkt.

Because trunkt is curated, the number of profiles are much much less, so you have a better chance of being seen. I find with etsy, where there are literally thousands of talented artisans up there, it's much harder to be visible.

Of course, it all comes down to marketing. The more people hear about you, the more successful you'll be online, on trunkt/etsy and in tradeshows.

Check out Aid to Artisans as well, they may be able to help you with marketing. For your e-commerce website, you might want to consider Shopify, it's very straightforward and easy to use.

Thanks for your question and positive feedback. I'm so happy you're launching such a wonderful venture. Please keep in touch and let me know how you're doing!

Warm Regards,
Oorbee

ishi said...

Thanks Oorbee! I never realized that you had replied to my comment until now. I have come a long way in these past months and hopefully it will all be constructive in the end.

Thanks for the suggestions. ATA had recently started working with some groups in India, and I was fortunately involved with a couple of them.

I have yet to publish my website and begin the commerce, but once again, it was good to read your column as one of the first things that I came across during my research. I would certainly let you know once my website is up. I wish the very best to you.

Thanks

Ipshita