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Business Series Week: Marketing


Hi my friends, we're on Day 4 of my Business Series so today we're talking about marketing. I am going to list an assortment of apps that I use and have used which will help you get the word out about your business. While I can't promise you'll get a lot of customers, I can say that with diligence and hard work (yes, hard work is involved!) you'll get your name out there.

For me and hubby, it took us years before we began to see a regular income. It fluctuates month to month and we work hard to bring our income to a more consistent level. So, I will not sugar coat this for you. It takes TIME. Even with my first blog, Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet, it took me three years to build a following. All those years, I had to post recipes and advertise my posts everyday even when I got tired. And no matter how excited I was about my blog, there were days I had to push through to keep it out in the public. My hard work eventually paid off and it helped me evolve into other areas.

Also, marketing is subjective meaning no one size fits all or most. Your business will require a unique advertising plan, because first you need to decide what type of customers you are seeking. For example, if you are a beauty blogger, you might want to market to ladies ages 18 - 30. If you run a dog toy store, then you want to target dog owners. Determining your client base will depend on your business type. And, what if your business is completely online?, then your marketing plan will definitely be different from running a local business. Whichever type business you have, marketing can be your best friend if done right.

You will find a lot of your time spent on advertising your business so before you even get started with that, be sure to have your website and/or blog ready. And, it should tailor your style and compliment what you do. I want to stick to discussing marketing in this post, so I won't go into how to create a website or blog. Instead, I'm sharing this post from Thirteen Thoughts because she wrote about this in great detail. I recommend reading it if you don't have a website and then come back and read this post. After you have your website designed and tested (very important so you don't have bad links), you're ready to let the world know about you.

Marketing includes more than just targeting customers so I decided to divide this post into two parts: Design and Advertising. First up, let's talk design.

Design

Designing your advertising materials is essential to grab the attention of your potential customers. So you'll want to put your best efforts forward on this. Flyers, ads, and even your logo helps to create your brand so people will recognize you. With our website, hubby chose the color palette he liked and our logo compliments it and flows nicely. For my day job, I designed their website around the blue color in their logo. Also, materials such as annual reports, stationery, business cards, and brochures should use the colors in your logo and website so that your brand stays consistent. Have you ever been on a website and clicked on a link to take you to another page on their site only to see it so different that you wonder what happened? That's happened to me where I wasn't sure if it was the same company I was trying to do business with. So, you'll want to produce a look and feel across the board that your customers will know it's you they're doing business with. Below is a short list of apps to help you with designing your brand:

Website templates. If you choose WordPress as your website content manager, then there are several places to get themes from. The one I use the most is WPexplorer.com. I like the way their themes are coded. They offer free and premium themes. There's also the WordPress themes repository where there's plenty to choose from. Themeforest is another good source for WorPress themes. They also offer free and premium designs.

Vistaprint. I highly recommend these guys and not just for business cards. They're good at just about anything to do with marketing and stationery. They specialize in many areas - all of which can really help your business look good. And, you can create your own flyers, brochures, and cards on their website. Their user interface is easy to use too. They give excellent customer service, the pricing is very reasonable, and their turnaround time is great too. You can also save your designs in the portfolio to use later on. The other good part is you don't need to be a pro graphic designer since their site comes with templates that you can choose from to get you started.

Photoshop/InDesign. If you are a designer, then I recommend using Photoshop for your images and you can use InDesign to pull those images into to create your flyers or brochures. The Adobe Creative Cloud suite may be pricey for you but some programs like Photoshop can be subscribed to as stand alone apps for $19.99 a month. Check out their full plans here.

Another resource I recently learned about is Canva.com. It's an online site that you can design flyers, ads, presentations, social media graphics, and more with thousands of beautiful layouts. You can choose from different fonts, images all in a drag and drop user interface. It is really easy to use. You don't need any design experience and you can save your creations, export them to your computer to use in your marketing efforts. Canva is free to use, however some aspects will cost like using images from their library (typically $1 ea.). They do have monthly subscription plans that are affordable and you can see them listed here.

PicMonkey. This is an online photo editor where you can add effects, even superimpose text, however it is a premium app. At the time of this post, they offer a 7-day trial service. You can see their full price packages here.

Advertising

Since you'll spend a lot of time advertising your products and services, you want to ensure you use your time wisely. And I'm a big believer in using various applications to help me out especially where time is short. Below is a list of apps I use in my marketing plan:

Mailchimp. Creating a monthly newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and followers. But, first you will need to build a list so you have somebody to send your newsletter to! I recommend putting a sign-up form on your website/blog that asks only for their first name and email address. Keep it simple! And Mailchimp can create that for you. You can also put the link to your sign-up form on a business card and include that in every sale you make. And, hey, link to your sign-up form from your Facebook business page. You want that everywhere that you can to grow your list.

Designing a newsletter is not very difficult either with Mailchimp. It is free for 2,000 subscribers and it comes with templates to help get you started. That's an incredible deal!

Constant Contact is another eMail marketing program that I use on my day job. The cost is higher than Mailchimp but if your list gets really large, you may consider moving to CC.

As far as newsletter content, I recommend part sales, part giveaways, and part tips/tricks. This way your readers will feel like they're coming along on your journey with you. Customers don't always want to be sold to. I also recommend keeping your newsletter short as possible because time is of the essence these days.

Finding the right Social Medias. Social is critical these days whether or not your business is local, completely online, or a little bit of both. The key here is to find the ones that work best for you and stick to them and not try to be on everything That'll drive you insane! In my case, my best results came from Facebook and Instagram. As much as I like Twitter, I just didn't have the same results. So, I focus my attentions on FB and Instagram. I don't skip over the other networks and I'll discuss that below.

Most of us don't have hours and hours a day to post to a bunch of social networks. So, I use Hootsuite which I'm able to post to several networks simultaneously so I can send one post to FB, Instagram, as well as Twitter. This saves me a lot of time. You can use Hootsuite for free for up to three social networks, but after that you'll need to upgrade to the Professional Plan for $19 a month where you can post up to 10 networks and at this time, it comes with a 30-day free trial. To see all their plans, click here. I believe the Pro Plan is reasonable because even if you only use 5 networks, it'll be worth it to post to them at the same time in one session.

What should you post about? I highly recommend using stories to market your business. I know there are times where you need to advertise a new product line or that you're running a sale. But again, customers don't always want to be sold to so for example posting a pic of your puppy at your work playing with a toy that you can tie into your company gives a personal touch that people will relate to. You can use famous quotes that perhaps compliment your company's vision or have a giveaway and post pics of what you're giving away. If you have partners or employees, you could post a story about how they came to work with you. You don't have to get overly personal. These are just examples of content that will grab a person's attention that hopefully get you likes, shares and ultimately sales.

Other ways to advertise

Offline marketing. If you are a crafty person, you might actually work trade shows, arts festivals, or flea markets so having good flyers and signage will be key for you. And, you can still use social to advertise when you're going to be at a show and even take a few pics of some of your items that will be on sale.

Online marketing. A lot of bloggers I follow have their own online shops from their websites or blogs including me. This is an avenue that you could take if you warehouse your items or even if you are an affiliate of a company that sells like Amazon. I'm part of a couple of affiliate programs and I sell their products right here. Other sites I know of that have online shops are: Bella Coco, Expression Fiber Arts, and Cupcakes and Cashmere.

I also sell on Etsy. I can't say it's a source where you'll make a lot of money, cause in reality I find that it is so ding dang competitive! I've made a few sales, but I believe I would have to do that full time and make a TON of stuff to put in my shop and then market it day and night everyday to see results. Unfortunately, I can't quit my day job to make full time. I'm not putting down Etsy, mind you, some sellers are doing very well on it. It is inexpensive to use, only costs me $.20 a listing and my items remain there for 3 months before I relist so I can keep them there until they sell.

Monetizing your blog. This is an area I've only dabbled a little in. But basically, it means that you can make money on your blog in several ways: (a) partner with companies that you receive samples of their products to use and then you write a review or shoot a video of your opinion of it to your viewers and the company pays you for your honest review; (b) place ads on your blog from advertisers and you get paid per click on those ads (ex., Google ads, Amazon, Shareasale, Commission Junction, etc.). Note: typically there's a threshold that you must meet before these companies will cut you a check (ex., $50 or even $100); (c) create and sell your own products (ex., online courses, or eBooks) or; (d) add affiliate products into your blog posts or on pages like an online shop. You make a commission on every sale when someone visits your blog and clicks and purchases from your online shop.

I know I've touched on a lot in this post and hopefully I didn't go all over the place and confuse you. Please forgive me if I have. There are many different ways to be a business owner, whether you make and sell your own products to providing a service business to working a completely online service or a little of all of the above.

Still, marketing is essential to any business type's success. A few years and some mistakes is what it took for us to find our right marketing plan. Don't be afraid to try a few methods, because you won't know what will work otherwise. And, you should review your marketing efforts in case you need to make changes. Hubby and I reviewed ours at the end of the year and made changes for the following year. For instance, we worked every local trade and art show and it got too expensive over time without giving us the return on investment we needed. So, we chose to do only exhibits the next year and focus on online web sales. Revamping your marketing plan might be in order if your numbers aren't where you want them.

And finally, I recommend learning as much as you can about marketing both online and offline (that would fall under your training efforts)!

Thanks for reading this long post and come back tomorrow for the last post in this series, I'll be discussing productivity! See you then!

original photo courtesy of pixabay.com

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