Remember your very first paying customer? If you’re anything like me, it was a real thrill the first time an actual person gave me cold hard cash in exchange for something I designed. It only took once to get me hooked on designing and entrepreneurship.
Maybe this is not what you want to hear, but most advice on how to get customers is terrible.
The typical advice goes like this:
- “Make a website and do some SEO and people will find you (free traffic!) and you can sell stuff while you’re in your pajamas!”
- “Do something unique and eye-catching. Make a really wild outfit and put it in a fashion show and create a buzz!”
- Make a super cool video that has potential to go viral – have you seen how many people are on YouTube?!”
But there are serious problems with following the typical advice.
Many of us do what other brands are doing. I don’t know why, I guess we assume they know what they’re doing and we think, “since I have no flippin’ clue about how to market my line I’ll just do what they do”. It’s also easier to “me too” what others are doing than to come up with something new and take a real risk. Unfortunately, your brand starts looking like everyone else’s and no one knows or cares about the difference.
What looks like tried and true may not be. My guess is that about 80% of creative entrepreneurs are not making a decent profit. So if you “me too” your marketing like your competition, what does that say for your chances? What LOOKS like a successful business and what IS one are often two completely different things. Last night a client emailed me with news about an online boutique. She’s been talking to the buyer to make an appointment and the buyer told her they are actually finishing this season then LIQUIDATING THEIR STOCK and closing shop. Considering all the press and “buzz” this store gets, my client was stunned to hear the news.
Get your next 3 clients. Here’s what you can do:
You have to know who you really want to sell your stuff and what it is they are looking for. For instance, a designer came to me a few weeks ago and said she was having trouble finding her niche. She makes large size clothing and told me she has NO IDEA where to find her customer. She was stuck. So I asked her, “What have you done to research your audience? Have you emailed a few people? Have you met with any retail buyers in your niche to see what’s happening in the market? Have you offered to take a key influencer in your niche out to lunch or coffee? Have you stopped by large size stores and departments and talked to the salespeople?” The answer was no.
You have to know who you’re looking for and what their needs are before you can locate them.
2. Get out from behind your computer
That’s right, most of the great stuff starts with real people. For example, let’s say you are out and someone compliments your earrings, which you made and want to sell. Most people say, “Oh thanks, that’s so sweet”. Maybe we even hand them a card (though 95% of people will do nothing with this card. You know that, right?). It should be on US, the entrepreneur, to take the lead. We often feel uncomfortable saying what we SHOULD say, for instance,
“Oh thanks! I’m actually the designer and I have a business making these and _________________ (whatever else you produce). I’m actually having a sale right now (or insert.. having a trunk show soon or whatever’s coming up) and would love to invite you. Shall I put you on my list?
“Thanks! Wow, it’s so cool you say that. It’s funny because I designed them and they must be striking a chord because every week I’m selling another few pair right off my body!” Then the potential customer knows they are for sale…
This can work for you even when you don’t have a product you can wear. When you meet someone new, inevitably they ask you what you do. If you’re a painter, you can show them your work (on a postcard perhaps). If the feedback is positive, use the same techniques above – don’t just hand them your card and walk away.
3. Get back in touch
This is another strategy based on old-school, baby-steps marketing. I absolutely LOVE Internet Marketing, Facebook, Twitter- all of it – and they are important for most businesses. I also know that if you want 3 paying customers NOW, you might need to get on the phone. SO I suggest you get in touch with 6 former customers TODAY (If you don’t have any customers yet, you can still do this with your ideal prospects). You could send an email instead of using the phone but it’s not as effective. The wrong way to email these 6 former customers would be to send a generic email to everyone, just changing the greeting. At least craft a special email for each one that goes a little further than hi, how are you.
When you pick up the phone to call each one personally, anything can happen. I CANNOT TELL you how many baby blankets I sold (I had that business after my line/boutique, before consulting) just by calling the “purchaser” to see if the gift they bought worked for their friend and if they needed anything else. People were thrilled that I thought of them, even when they knew the real reason was to sell them more.
If your call goes to voicemail, say something like this. “Hi Mary, I was reminded of you when I watched Wimbledon a few weeks ago and hope your summer’s been great and your backhand is lookin’ good. Just checking in with you because we have a new cuff that goes with the necklace you got in May. They’re perfect together and flying out the door! If you want me to send you a pic, just text or call me – or email me at ______________. You can also go to my site and search __________ to pull up the new photo. Have a great day!”
Today I covered Locate, Get Out, and Get Back in Touch. You can get started with these “assignments” right away. This is just the tip of the iceberg for marketing your product. You might be thinking about these next questions…
- What about Facebook and social media? I know I should use it better but how often and what do I say?
- What exactly should I say in my emails? How often should I send them? Won’t I just be annoying people?
- How will I find time to do all this marketing – with all the other tasks on my everyday list?
These are all critical questions that will help shape the success of your business and help you make a nice living. In my blog, I give you specific suggestions to get more customers – people who want what you have and can afford to pay for it. And this is just my free stuff. Imagine what my “20 UP” Marketing Course for designers could do to help your business.
You can check out the course and curriculum here: https://fashionbrainacademy.com/training-courses/20-marketing/
As always, thanks for reading!
As an entrepreneur sometimes you can get in a rut, this article has definitely motivated me and got me back out there! I already signed up for the 20 UP course. Thanks!
Ashley, so true and glad to help! I read once that motivation is like taking a shower. You cannot do it on Sunday and expect it to last until Thursday.
Great article thanks I realize how lazy I really am! I still have not made my first sale yet.
Hi Sher, Are you sure you are lazy or maybe just scared? Here’s an article that might help: https://fashionbrainacademy.com/blog/selling-your-fashion-product-getting-over-the-fear-that-stops-you/. Have a great day! -Jane