There are a lot of ways to promote a business. I’m sure you’ve seen a big flapping “balloon man” at Jiffy Lube, had a pizza flyer hung on your doorknob, or read about a local business in a coupon pack mailed to CURRENT RESIDENT. These marketing tricks undoubtedly work, or people wouldn’t continue to spend their money on them. But are they the right thing for your creative, handcrafted, or design-based business?
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that I read and post a lot of small business tips and strategies. I do try to post the most relevant and easy-to-adjust advice, but it’s easy to get absorbed in generic business advice and either start following it exactly and wonder why it isn’t working for you, or to feel like you’re doing things wrong because you aren’t doing Marketing Technique X or Social Media Strategy Y.
What works for a flash sale site or a plumber is not going to work for you.
You are an artisan. Your work is different. Your customers know that, and they want to feel special, like part of the small club of smarties that know about you.
Your customer wants to trust you, and know that the quality of your work is more important to you than making some quick sales.
To be honest, your customer is sick of these kinds of tricks, and doesn’t want them. That’s why they’re shopping handmade or directly from the designer!
Here are strategies that may work sometimes for some business types, but may not be right for you:
Casting a too-wide net is a waste of money
Lots of people need an oil change, so if Jiffy Lube flaps a balloon man on the street (which cars are driving down. Cars that need an oil change), then they are speaking directly to their audience. Putting up a billboard or bus ad for a line of stationery is wasting your money on too many people who won’t care. If a boutique shop wants to advertise, they need to be sure they’re only paying to get their advertisement to the people who may buy.
Faking your size or popularity makes you untrustworthy
Chain stores want people to see how popular and far-reaching they are. It’s not an advantage for you to look like an anonymous corporate identity, so keep the “we” off of your About page unless you truly do have a team – and if you do, introduce them to us!
Being too pushy pushes people away
No one wants to come into a booth at a craft fair and be pinned against the wall by a seller listing all the features of the jewelry. High pressure sales tactics can be left to the used car salesmen. Your time is better spent making your products irresistible, so they will sell themselves with just a little assistance. And no, you don’t need a big pop up window over your entire website trying to get people to join your mailing list or telling them about your sale.
Bribery may have unintended consequences
If you make your kid eat green beans to earn dessert, they’re going to feel that the green beans aren’t enjoyable themselves, but a chore to get through. If you find yourself in the position of offering something better to entice people to get the thing you really want them to have, see if there’s another way to do it.
For instance, a popular recommendation for building your mailing list is to have a bribe: a piece of content which people will sign up to get, and then hopefully stay on your mailing list. I think this can have the disadvantage of putting people in the mindset that they’ll join, get the gift, and unsubscribe. Besides that, with this method your list will be made up primarily of people wanting a free gift, not of people who are interested in what you do (and are willing to pay!), so be mindful of this.
Discounts can reflect negatively on your brand
Discounts of any kind should be approached very carefully by creative businesses, especially with handcrafted businesses, businesses where you are the sole designer, or if you sell luxury goods. Besides giving off the vibe that you’re a cut-rate brand, if you put things on sale with any kind of regularity, customers will feel like they should never have to pay full price at your shop, and will wait for the sale.
You are likely to be better off to have no sales or discounts at all, or to save them for special occasions or one-time, rare events. Maybe a “moving our studio” sale or a sale to clear out old stock if you change direction and want to move on to your new look or style.
Be real and keep it clean
Blaze your own trail, measure your own success, build your own tribe. Don’t follow a rulebook that wasn’t written for you. Finding your own tasteful methods of being seen by your ideal customers will get you a long way. We’ve written more about creative business marketing here, if you’d like some ideas! We also discuss marketing tips via our email newsletter.
Find some marketing methods that make you feel good about what you’re doing, and your customers will feel good about it as well. What thoughtful marketing have you seen lately? What has made you want to buy? What keeps you purchasing from the same sellers multiple times?