5 Marketing Tips Every Small Business Should Know

No matter what kind of business or nonprofit you run, you’ll have to face the dreaded “M” word eventually: marketing.

And that’s especially true for creators, artists and makers, aka those who sweat and toil to create amazing products and (usually) sell their wares themselves. Makers are a creative breed of innovators: Some strike it big on a great idea, and others keep their craft on a smaller scale, selling locally and regionally. (No matter what you want to do, KCSourceLink can help your business get there.)

Ashley Heyburn Makers Megaphone HeadshotSo what’s the best way for small businesses like yours to go about marketing? Ashley Heyburn of Makers Megaphone Coaching works one-on-one with creative-types to help them reach their goals. (Some of them have been Etsy sellers who make six figures. Others were moms who were able to run a business from their kitchen to pay off debt. One was a truck driver who started a handmade business and socked away extra cash for retirement.)

“It is possible to make a good living selling things you make,” Ashley says. “If you have a skill, a talent, or you want to make something, it is entirely possible to turn that into another revenue stream. But you have to be willing to put in the time and commitment. And part of that is marketing.”

She gave us some tips and tricks for makers who are wading into the world of marketing because any entrepreneur can have a tough time making the right connections at the right time … not to mention, selling online and driving traffic to your site isn’t easy when you’re focused on creating products.

“No matter what, you have to market yourself,” she says. “But it’s doable for everyone. You just have to know what’s right for you.”

A little nervous? It’s OK. Take a deep breath. These five tips will help you conquer that marketing beast and use it to your advantage.

1. Understand Your Audience

We’re all busy people. So if you only have one hour to work on marketing, you have to understand your audience. What type of people are your customers? Where do they congregate online and in the real world? Once you’ve answered those questions, then you can best devote your time to where they are most likely to be so you then can devote your marketing efforts to those specific areas.

[[CTA]]Determining who your audience is will help you figure out which social media platforms to focus on. If you’re a newcomer to social media, it can be intimidating at first, so start small. If Facebook is the biggest driver of traffic to your site or where your customers usually congregate online, start there. Then, after you have a feel for Facebook (and if you’re comfortable behind a camera), you might branch out to its sister platform Instagram. Bottom Line: Focus on the social platform or platforms that will offer the biggest payoff for the least effort. Your time is money.

2. Interact with Customers Online and In-Person

Remember those online interactions? Well, those are just part of the equation. Promoting and engaging with customers on social media can lead to in-person interactions, like partnering with another maker, business or group for an event. And that can also tie into giveaways or coupons for discounts. When you organize an event, think about who will be there. Is it your target audience? And you should consider the value of a giveaway because in the end, that freebie should, in some way, lead to a sale. If you offer a coupon, maybe there’s an incentive to visit your site or store to eventually buy something. Keep the end goal in mind.

3. Marketing Isn’t Just Sales: Learn to Tell Your Story

Ashley Heyburn of Makers Megaphone coaches clientA lot of makers think marketing means learning to be a sleazy salesperson. It’s not about that at all. First, figure out what you do that’s unique or of value. Then, craft your story and tell it. Think about what you’re really trying to share with your product and why your customers need it. Stories are memorable, and customers tie that story to your product.

Never overlook your personal story. No mass-produced item at a big box store can compare to the tale behind what you make. Why do you do what you do? Why do you use certain materials? Why do you do it in Kansas City? Framing your story around questions like those can inspire customers to spend more. The incentive to buy local is strong right now, and makers can take advantage of that.

4. Learn to Drive Traffic to Your Online Store

Think about your online shop like it’s a brick-and-mortar store. To get people there, you have to market it. Have an active presence on social media. You can use a newsletter to capture emails and educate people who are interested in your product or what you do. That email list can be invaluable in telling your customers about updates or announcing events. Email can also lead to those valuable face-to-face interactions where customers can meet the creator behind the product—you probably won’t ever meet the maker behind that department store purchase. (It’s probably a robot, anyway.)

And you can also get creative. Maybe before you develop a new product line or piece of art, you develop a campaign that gets people curious so they ask, “What’s that? I gotta know more!” You could also organize an event that’s centered around your craft but has a fun twist. The event or experience should get attendees interested in what you do. If you sell chocolate, you might hold a chocolate-making workshop. If you create wooden products, you could offer a woodworking experience.

5. Connect with Your Community

Being an entrepreneur can sometimes be lonely, but you’re really never alone. There are communities for just about everything out there, and those communities and the people involved in them are often your best resources. (KCSourceLink can connect you to hundreds of resources to start or grow your business or nonprofit. Get your free Personal Action Plan.) Craft fairs or maker faires are great ways to connect with others like yourself and your customers. (Again, focus on events where your audience hangs out.) And there are a slew of free events you can attend where experts will offer advice, tips and tricks, like Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City as well as other local workshops and classes throughout the year.

And, if you’re inclined, there are some really great paid resources. For example Makers Megaphone offers personalized support for your business and some one-on-one training that you might not get elsewhere. Finding a mentor or coach to hold you accountable and offer clear guidance is key, especially when you want to prep your business to be sustainable. Mentors can find your blind spots, especially with how you market yourself and your product. And when things get tough, they can be a pillar of support.

No matter your goal or situation, KCSourceLink can connect you with its vast support network that can help your business reach that next stage or help you start your entrepreneurial journey. Chat with us about what you create at 816-235-6500 or tell us a bit about yourself here, and we’ll stitch together your free Personal Action Plan.

Photos courtesy of Jordan Eudaly and Ashley Heyburn.

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