Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Marketing your Small Business

à la mode has allowed me to meld my creative and business sides. I've been crafting, sewing, and designing since I was little. My mom is very creative so its in my blood. After deciding to not pursue architecture, my career led me down the marketing, public relations, development path in not-for-profit organizations. Being able to design and create my products while developing a sustainable business is extremely rewarding for me, but it also offers many challanges.

I've found that wearing many hats can be daunting. The marketing hat, in particular, is extremely time consuming but essential to the success of my business. As my business grows, so must my marketing strategies.

Here are some tips that have helped me along the way:

Brand identity: Get a look, label, tag line etc. and stick with it. From my very first "show" (a party at a friends house), my marketing materials have basically looked the same. People now recognize my label. I actually had my identity in place before I really knew what my business would entail. That was putting the cart before the horse, but it did work for me.

General Press Release: One thing I've found is that it is really hard to write about myself. No matter what your experience might hold, tooting your own horn isn't always easy. That being said, it took me two years of trying to write a press release before I decided to hire a PR consultant to do it for me. What a relief it was to finally have that done. And now, this general press release is the foundation for much of my printed materials as it can be tweaked to fit most all of my marketing needs (website, media kits, brochures, etc.).

Other print materials: I've used inexpensive online services such as Vista Print,, for my print materials. They've printed my business cards, brochures, and post cards at very reasonable prices with little minimums. No matter how hard I tried, local printers can't seem to match it.

Spreading the word: I'm still working on this, but I do know that you have to spend $ to make $. I've tried advertising, sending samples with press releases, and donating items to local charities. I'm not yet convinced that advertising is where its at. Its been said that free press is the best press.

I've begun sending press packets and samples to targeted publications/people. Sending samples often does the trick. I send a switch plate, and honestly the cost isn't too much. I've gotten into the local paper, several trade magazines, and blog mentions. Its also helped me get into many boutiques.

Partnerships: My friends and family spread the word by using my products and passing out my business cards. I've also "partnered" with similar small businesses to share costs in printing, advertising, and other shared expenses. Bartering is always a great option when just starting out as well. Gather a group of local small business entrepreneurs together to brainstorm and support each other.

Find a mentor: Ask someone more experienced about their advice. Learning from others successes and failures can save you a lot of time.

Pay it forward: Be willing to share your ideas, resources, and advice (when asked). You can still keep some of your ideas and trade secrets to yourself, but its good karma to help people just starting out -- especially if others helped you.

Continue to learn: There are plenty of online resouces (too many to list). Don't limit yourself to learning from small business, look at what has worked for big business too. Read up on trends and advice from those in the marketing field. Here's one site I'm going to bookmark for myself:

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