Marketing for the Small-Timer
Wow, hard to believe that a full month of entrepreneurship has gone by! I have been keeping busy with the web redesign, home tours and photo shoots, blogging, and of course, decorating! But one thing that I need to dive into is marketing.
I am by nature a shy person (my mom will chime in here with stories of me crouched in a ball on stage while the rest of my kindergarten class performed a song and dance number). Sure, I warm up and get chatty when I’m comfortable, usually with a group of 4 or fewer. But introducing myself to new people, making small talk within a group of 8 people (who always seem to know each other), or talking in front of a group of people? Heebie jeebies.
That’s why marketing my business online has been a comfortable way to ease into “putting myself out there”. In the past year, I’ve doubled my traffic rates, gained client work, and sold e-books and product from my shop all without having to make small talk at a networking event. Here are some things that I’ve done that I believe helped me do this:
1. Utilized social media. I have a Facebook page and Twitter account. Lots of old friends and connections have “liked” my facebook page and I think that has been a great way to share pictures of our home, diy projects for readers to try, and highlighted my eye for design and products I love. Twitter has been an amazing tool for connecting with other designers, bloggers, companies, and potential clients. I use it primarily for relationship building, offering a peek into my daily life, and sharing links to inspiring sites, products, or other blogs. Best of all, these methods are FREE and easy to learn.
2. Wrote guest posts. You’re reading one now! In 2010 I guest posted on 11 different blogs, some of them multiple times. Not only is writing a guest post free, but it also allows you to position your services and expertise in a way that will appeal to your new audience. For instance, I might write a post about organizing and decorating a walk-in closet on a popular fashion blog. I’ll share tips for affordable ways to decorate your home on a blog all about being thrifty. I also try to have a really strong post at the top of my site when they click through. Once you hook ’em, you still gotta reel them in!
3. Emailed people directly. I do ok with meeting people one-on-one. I’ve definitely had a few non-responses, but I’ve had great luck emailing other bloggers about collaborating or even just making a friendly connection. As time goes on, I’ve even started meeting somewhat regularly with some of the other Seattle bloggers and designers, and was able to help on a photo shoot and gain some contract design work from one. Again, this is a one-on-one email introducing myself, talking about something we have in common, and opening the door to possible future collaboration (or to pitch a specific idea if I have one).
4. Posted on Craigslist. I’ve done a few “Interior Decorator for Hire” posts on Craigslist and have had a few inquires. Nothing has worked out yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time (this is also free).
5. Featured on popular sites. I was not approached by Desire to Inspire to feature my apartment – I sent them the photos. I happened to know a writer for Apartment Therapy, but before she was hired, I’d submitted photos on their online submission form. I’ve pitched stories to some of the online magazines. I’m sure these places DO approach people, but it’s likely that they have enough content sent to them that they don’t need to. Send your stuff to them (or to the big sites/blogs in your own industry). You’ve got nothing to lose!
But now I’ve reached a point where marketing online isn’t reaching the right audience. It’s great for my e-decorating, but I’d like more steady local work. Here’s what I’ll be focusing on for the next month in an effort to attract more clients (at which point I’ll re-evaluate and tweak as necessary).
1. Networking. Oof, this is scary for me! But the more people you know, the more that are talking about you and your work. There is a group of design people who get together monthly here in Seattle and I’ve been invited to attend – a kind of cocktails and chatting thing. I also am making an effort to meet more people one-on-one for coffee or a drink. And to meet potential clients directly, I’m pinpointing the kinds of local events they might attend – art gallery shows, yoga classes, cocktail parties – and try to get these on the calender. This scares the crap out of me, by the way!
2. Free advertising. Think flyers, brochures, and business cards posted in my target neighborhoods on community bulletin boards and in coffee shops. There is a coffee shop right next to Gymboree. Don’t you think some of the wealthy stay-at-home moms grab a latte? While the printing of these items isn’t free, the placement is.
3. Paid advertising. I’ve done some selective advertising online and it can be beneficial. But I’m talking about ads in the local paper, magazines, or on local news blogs that are read primarily by people in my service area (King County). This of course depends on budget.
4. Editorial coverage. Pitching a story idea to the local paper or magazine to either write about me or quote me as an expert in a related article, like “Where to shop for pillows in Seattle”. This is also free but may be a longer process.
5. Teaching a class. This is something I’ve kicked around for a while. This could be done either by collaborating with a local retail store or by going super-DIY and booking a meeting room at the local library. Partnering with a store has obvious perks – regular clientele, someone to help promote, etc. I would say the class would be free unless supplies needed to be covered. And attendees should leave with a physical marketing piece, like a brochure.
These are just some of the things I’ve got up my sleeve, and I hope it’s sparked some ideas for you in how to spread the word about your business (whether or not you’re full-time yet!). Even if you’re shy like me!