Guest blogger Charlotte Cowell launched news and product review service Gifts & Greetings Review in the UK, and has created the Gifts & Greetings Directory, offering free company/brand listings to industry retailers, suppliers, service providers and the trade. She offers marketing tips for creative entrepreneurs.
The owner of a very successful business once told me that if you have a great brand you need to stick it in people’s faces! There are two points here, the first one being that you need to have a great brand in the first place. This is a saturated market and retailers like to have the confidence of knowing they’re investing in a company and products that will stand the test of time.
Don’t think about individual pieces of artwork. Take the time to develop a great logo, look and feel for your company and designs that make your products distinctive. Have your own style and then make sure people notice.
There are numerous ways to ‘be seen’. Investing in your own website – which can be done relatively cheaply and easily via a blog these days – is a good starting point. Make sure it looks clean, functional and is easy to use, with a design that reflects your unique talents. Keep the product section updated with new lines wherever possible, and always make sure your images of are of the highest possible quality – a blurry picture of a card isn’t going to impress anyone, even if the finished product is gorgeous.
When you are a bit more established and have some more money to invest, you can start thinking about other avenues to attract customers. Trade magazines, both print and online, are an obvious starting point, so make the effort to get to know editors, find out what features are happening throughout the year and submit designs for inclusion wherever possible. Editorial should be free of charge in a good magazine but if you don’t bother to submit things you won’t have a chance of being featured.
You have to bear in mind that magazines are also commercial enterprises and it’s rare you’ll find an editor who’ll constantly support your business if you never support theirs, but a bit of advertising can go a very long way in this situation. Nurture relationships with both the editor and advertising staff and if you do decide to invest in advertising, make sure it’s in the right place at the right time, and try to get a good position in the most relevant features for you.
Once a business has grown sufficiently, trade exhibitions offer an excellent way to really build up your client base – both UK and overseas – and get to know people in your industry. Shows represent a sizeable investment for any business but again, being there in the right place (not all stands are equal!) can do wonders for your business, simply because you’ll be seen by large numbers of potential customers who are there with the sole purpose of meeting suppliers and buying new products.
It’s very important, if you do invest in trade exhibitions, to understand the commitment involved and to have realistic expectations depending on the size of your stand and its location. Entire books could be written about how to – and how NOT to – behave when taking care of a stand! For instance, DON’T get caught reading a newspaper, eating a burger or dozing off when a VIP retailer walks by – or any potential customer for that matter! But DO make sure your stand looks as wonderful as possible, dress and act like you mean business.
If you do decide to take the plunge and exhibit, liaise with the show organiser to make sure you take advantage of all the promotional opportunities they may be able to help you with. These are likely to be numerous and extensive. Exhibition organisers spend large sums of money and invest heavily on PR and marketing functions, so if you can somehow jump onto this bandwagon while its rolling, then so much the better!
Last but not least, get out there and meet people. All industries have functions and events that you can get involved in. If there are industry awards then make sure you enter for them – go to those dinners, get involved in those charity events and make it to the pub when you know there’ll be potential customers around, or other people who may be able to help you in your business ventures.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who develop strong relationships and know how to network; i.e. they’re sociable and people like and want to do business with them. This can be a challenging industry to work in but also great fun. Not only will it give you the chance to make a living if you approach it correctly, but you will also make friends for life.
Charlotte can be contacted for PR plans and media strategy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org