Monday, May 5, 2014

5 Tips to Improve Your Small Business Advertisements!

The 5 best tips to improve your handmade shop or small business advertisements - written by an advertising coordinator that does it for her day job!As some of you may know, I hold a part time "virtual assistant" type of job with Maggie of Maggie Whitley Designs (Caroline Made, Gussy Sews, and The Gussy Club). It's one of many hats I wear, and one of the very best jobs I've ever had.

I work as her Advertising Coordinator, which means that I arrange her blog sponsorships and work on some of her partnership type projects such as Gift Guides and collaboration giveaways. My job is very unique, both because it didn't really exist in recent history, and because no two people do my job exactly the way I do it! Every brand is different, and it's thrilling and fun to figure things out as my position evolves!

Since I started working with Maggie and her community, I've come in contact with some truly sweet and inspiring small business owners. It's really the best part of my job - getting to work closely with such creative souls is a blessing! They are all far more talented than I am, but their work and outlook on life is dear to my heart (as a creative-quirky type myself!), so it does me a world of good to work with such wonderful people!

I've learned a lot about the small biz/handmade industry, in a sort of trial-by-fire way - which is the best way, I think! I've also come across many beginner shops that aren't really sure how to go about advertising or how to make it worth their time and money, and I've noticed myself sort of collecting ideas on the topic in an effort to coach them along. I certainly do not have it all figured out - but I'm at a point where I feel confident about offering YOU, the small or handmade business owner, 5 truly worthwhile tips to guide you in your advertising ventures. It's always nice to hear from the other side, isn't it? :)

Please let me know if these help you out - I'm always looking for ways to improve the way I help those that I work closest to, and I believe in supporting the small guys wholeheartedly!

1. Make Your E-Mail Available and Obvious.

If you're hoping for someone to reach out to you to arrange a working relationship, you HAVE to share your email - almost redundantly so. You would probably be surprised to find out how much time I spend hunting for emails, and how heartbreakingly sad I have been to not find one listed for some truly stellar shops (I hope yours wasn't one of them!). The policies over at Etsy say that I'm not allowed to reach out to you through their messaging system, as they consider that to be spam. That's not to say that it never happens - I personally get plenty of messages that way, and I don't mind it (personally), but for my job - I have to follow the rules. So if your email isn't available to me, I can't let you know how much we adore your brand and want to work with you! This is a good tip for bloggers, too. Plaster your email everywhere - not just your Contact page, or on your email social media button. Put it somewhere, in some form, on every page of your blog. Add it to your Facebook profile, your Pinterest profile - and any other social media you can fit it on. If you don't do this, we can't reach out to you, and that makes me sad!

2. Use Stunning Photography
Shoot when the sun shines, and consider hiring a professional!
Having clear, sharp, colorful photography is a really big deal. You may still sell some of your items without it, but I can almost guarantee that any brand willing to promote you will not be cool with sharing sub-par pictures. When you are featured on someone's blog or social media, you temporarily represent their brand for as long as your post is at the top. So if your pictures aren't pretty, brands aren't going to want that defining them! I have a teeny-tiny shop myself, and my pictures aren't prefect or professional - but I do use a DSLR with a prime lens when photographing product (to get the sharpest image I can), and I use the motto "shoot when the sun shines". There are times when I have a big stash of inventory to list, but I hold out for a sunshiney day so I can get the best pictures. If you can't wait, get outside (if it's not raining), or get as close to you can to a natural light source (like a window or door). Avoid using a flash so you don't end up with strong shadows in your images, though sometimes a well-bounced external flash can almost look like daylight! Make sure your background is clean and simple - no messes or clutter. You can still achieve good results with a point and shoot if you make the rest of the conditions ideal!

If things still aren't working for you, consider hiring a professional - even if it's just for a quick session of a few items. Send an email to someone local that does infant or children's pictures to see what they'd charge you, and make sure they will give you the rights and digital copies of your photos so you're free to edit and share them as you like. Then even if you just have them photograph a few of your most popular pieces, you'll have some really high-quality images to use when advertising, printing business cards, running promotions, sprucing up your Facebook page - you name it. It's also not a bad idea to ask them to snap a couple head shots of yourself. People want to see the person behind the business, too!

3. Find Authentic Endorsers.

Using social media to promote your business is so important - take it from someone who does it for her day job!Just because someone has a big following, doesn't mean they are a good fit to promote your business. You want someone to really sell it, right? You want them to sound like they adore your product and they can't remember life before it! That, my friends, is far more important than stats and numbers - because those are the working relationships that will inspire purchases. Think of it like this. If you're a Mom in the market for a new brand of diapers, do you want to see Tori Spelling (a Mom of 4!) in their commercial, or...I don't know, Jesse James? (Not sure where I pulled his name out of, haha!) It would seem way more probable that Tori has actually tried those diapers and has something truthful to say about them, wouldn't it? The same goes for even your brand-new shop, and your growing one, and your well-established one. You may not have celebrity endorsements, but it's the same idea.

4. Be Invested in Your Ventures.

Oh, my goodness. I have so much to tell you! For starters, let me be frank - some business owners will see good traffic numbers, pay our advertising price, and sit back to wait for it to happen. And that does not work. Without both sides contributing, it's a waste of time. Yes, you're paying us to help your shop get visitors and attention - but we can't do that if you aren't giving us what we need! There are two important parts to this.

A) Pay attention to deadlines. Many times you'll have to send in pictures, ads, answers to interview questions, forms to fill out, and invoices to pay. These deadlines are built to give us enough time to do our job, with a couple of grace period days to allow for corrections. We want to give your ad/listing/feature (whatever it may be) the best shot we can - but without the proper tools, it won't happen. We need time to make sure that it fits our community in the way we know they'll accept it!

B) Temporarily become your advertiser's brand. If you followed Tip #3, hopefully you've already found the perfect people to showcase your business, so you're halfway there. Make sure you pay attention to any guidelines they give you regarding ad art or writing a blurb (we often do this to make sure all of our material is gorgeous and consistent!), and blend into their community like you've always been there! That's not to say you shouldn't be expressing yourself - you should, we want you to! But think about what types of things your advertiser typically shares, and try to stay along those lines. Is there a certain photography style they use, or key words they like to play with? Their community will expect a certain style, so you want to give that to them in order to appeal to them the most. There's a reason why you chose to advertise with them, right? So make the most of it and embrace who they are as well!

5. Decide What Your Time Is Worth.

Every person or brand with available advertising has a totally different set of packages and pricing, and only you know what's in the budget for your advertising adventures. So you'll have to do some research to find out what you can afford, naturally. Once you know the cost for working with the perfect brand, look at your items and see how many sales or how much work will need to be done to pay for it. Say you sell sets of handmade cards for $10 each and you want to buy an ad spot for $50. You'd have to sell 5 sets to cover the cost, and how long will it take you to make those? Is it a difficult process or do you have it pretty streamlined? And what if you didn't make any sales from your ad - can you afford to lose the equivalent of 5 sets of cards? Is it in your budget? Only you know the answer to that! But do keep in mind - exposure is priceless! People may not buy from you during your ad, but they might follow you. Then some day you might list the item that speaks to them. Or holiday shopping will hit and they'll remember your shop. So while immediate sales are not the best indicator of success, thinking of your advertising cost in terms of product usually helps put it all into perspective!

Phew! That's a lot of info! It all just came tumbling out of me, so I apologize if it's a lot to digest, but I promise - this will make a difference for you! Following these steps will help you in your working relationships between your small business and your advertisers!

Have anything to add? Want to give me your 2 cents? I'd love to hear it! Send me an email - daintyrevelations@gmail(dot)com

1 comment:

  1. I agree! Catching a consumer's attention is important in promoting one's brand. With that being said, using stunning photography and images is a must for people to find your business interesting and worth the peak. I also agree with number five. It's always important to look into how your products are doing in the market. Great points, Jenn! Thanks for sharing! Kudos and more power to you!

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match