Using Photos to Make the Sale

One of the basic tenants of sales is that people have to know what you have to sell if they’re going to want to buy.   It’s so basic that people often forget that knowledge is part of the equation.  Particularly when selling something like a decorated garment,  a picture can often be worth a thousand words.  The question is where do you put those pictures so your customers see them,  and how do you use those pictures to impart a sense of your expertise and what you can do for those who choose to work with you?

One way to get the message out about what you can do is Pinterest.   As I’ve said before,  Pinterest is about aspiration and getting ideas for items that you want to make or buy.   Having Pinterest boards for your company (these are EnMart’s boards) allows you to showcase different aspects of what you can do.  You can create boards around a certain event or theme,  or make boards that feature a particular product decorated in different ways. If you have Pinterest boards,  make sure they’re featured on your website and social media feeds,  and refer your customers to them in your printed literature.

Another way to help spread the word about what you can do is to share pictures of what you make with your suppliers.  Or you can use a supplier hashtag (#IrisThread, for instance) to alert your suppliers to a picture that might interest them. I know,  here at EnMart,  we love getting pictures of products that were made with supplies purchased from us.  We also share those pictures on our Facebook feed (22,000+ fans) and our Twitter feed.  Granted not all the people who like any of your suppliers are going to be in your potential market spheres,  but some of them might.  Plus,  having your work shared by your suppliers gives you a bit of decorator credibility.   Your work is good enough that it’s being presented as an example of what can be done.

As a writer for industry magazines,  I know I’m always looking for photos to illustrate the pieces I write,  so this can be another fertile ground for pictures of the items you create.  Most of the time,  when an article writer needs pics for a piece,  they will put out a call on social media,  asking for pictures of work that centers on a particular discipline, type of garment or theme.  If you are planning to submit a photo for publication,  remember it needs to be at least 1 MB, and 300 DPI.  Magazines can work with less,  but the odds of your picture getting used are better if you stick to those guidelines.

One last bit of advice,  which goes for any photo you use anywhere.  Make sure your photos are the best quality they can be.   Yes,  you can take a good photo with the cameras on most phones these days,  but it still might be worth investing in a camera,  especially if you’re offering your products for sale online.   Pictures are often the first impression a customer forms of your products, so make sure you are, visually,  putting your best foot forward.  Taking quality pictures may be more time consuming and perhaps more costly,  but the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks.

Marketing Monday: Gaining Attention on Social Media

Attention.   We like it most of the time.  Standing in front of a cheering crowd,  spending time with a significant other,  having someone comment on something you created,  all those things feel nice and usually make us happy.   The times we don’t like attention are the times when we feel like we’ve done something stupid.  Tripping over nothing and falling on our faces.  Tweeting at 2 a.m. after a few too many drinks and saying something you would never say at noon when you were alert and sober.

When you run a business,  attention is key,  if people don’t know who you are and what you have to offer,  they won’t be inspired to pay you money,  which means your business may not be in business for long.   The question is,  how do you gain that attention,  in a positive way,  and how do you keep people’s eyes on your feeds once they know you exist?  We have some thoughts.

First,  as always,  you need to know who it is you want attention from, and where those people are online.   Essentially,  you need to find your audience,  both in terms of the actual people you hope to make connections with,  and the places on the Internet those sorts of people go.   Keep in mind that no business has a customer base of everyone,  even though some might seem like they do.  Narrowing your focus and really understanding your customer base will help you be in the right place at the right time talking to the right people.

Second, once you know to who and where you’ll be talking,  you need to figure out what you’ll be talking about.   Create a content plan,  which doesn’t have to be detailed,  but does have to contain the highlights of the message you want to get across.   Sometimes this plan will be as simple as a bunch of bullet points,  other times it can go for pages and have detailed strategy notes.  The main thing is that you have some sort of list of topics to cover.

Third,  let customers behind the curtain so they can get to know a little bit about you.   Numerous studies show that people are more likely to buy from business they trust.   Giving your potential customers glimpses into the daily life of the business,  and sharing funny or sweet things that happen allows them to get a better picture of who you, and by extension your business,  are.

Finally,  and most important,  create good content.  If your feed is a litany of “buy my stuff, buy my stuff”,  people will get bored and turn their attention elsewhere.  Part of developing a content plan is figuring out what your ideal customers will want to hear and see from the businesses where they spend money.   Make sure your content is interesting,  both visually and in what it says.  Share content that helps your potential customers understand your products and how they can use them to make their lives better.  Offer meaningful and useful information,  not just memes or sales messages.

The main thing to remember is this:  if you consistently,  day in and day out, even when it seems like no one is listening,  create content that is worthy of attention,  you will be noticed.  The only way to gain the kind of attention you want and to hold that attention is be there day after day,  providing useful and interesting information and insight.

Trendy Thursday: 6 Industry Trends That Need To Die

For whatever the reason,  I seem to be having a “you kids get off my lawn!” sort of day,  in which I’m finding everything a little annoying.   Given my state of mind,  it seemed like a good day to write about a few trends within our industry that I think need to end,  immediately.   Some of these are social media related, and some deal with the industry as a whole.

Trend #1:  Posting multiple pictures in a row of the same design/your work  – This drives me nuts,  mostly because it tends to reduce the impact of the work,  which may be great,  but isn’t going to hold people’s attention if they have to scroll past 13 pictures of the same or similar things.  Don’t flood people’s feed with images of your work.  Choose one picture that you think represents your best work, and provide a link where people can see more examples if they’re interested.

Trend #2: Under charging – This is a particularly insidious trend for new business owners.  Often people don’t really know what they should be earning per job or what they need to be earning per job.  Some decorators (women seem to have a particular problem with this) also undervalue their work because it’s “sewing” or “a hobby”.  If you’ve invested time and money in equipment and learning your craft, you’re a professional.  Set your rates accordingly.

Trend #3: Changing artwork to avoid copyright infringement – There is a long-standing myth that changing copyrighted artwork by a certain percentage will negate the possibility of copyright infringement,  but that’s not so.  There is no such rule.  The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to get permission to use artwork that you did not create,  or to create your own original works.

Trend #4: Video because you can – Facebook Live,  Snapchat, smartphones and sites offering video creation tools mean that almost anyone can be a star.  That’s great,  up to a point.   The thing, however, to ask yourself before making a video is whether or not you should.  Do you have a plan for content?  Do you know what you want to say?  Are you comfortable on camera?  Particularly for businesses who are talking to customers,  videos need to have a reason to exist.  Just because you can is not that reason.

Trend #5: Hard selling on social media – As I’ve said before in seminars,  the first word in the phrase “social media” is “social” for a reason.  Social media is not about selling,  it’s about creating community.  Despite this,  some decoration companies insist on setting up profiles where all they do is post links to product and pricing.  In order to sell on social media,  you have to build trust and a community.  Social media is about soft selling,  where the sales messages are mixed with value added features.  Doing nothing but a hard sell on your profiles will soon insure that you’re selling to no one.

Trend 6: Complaining about the “guy down the street” – It may literally be the competing shop down the street, or it may be an online site,  but there’s always that one business that seems to inexplicably do well while either using underhanded tactics, or doing shoddy work.  It’s tempting to blame those companies for the state of pricing,  or the fact that you didn’t get the big job,  and it’s equally tempting to complain that those companies should change. The reality is they won’t,  and another reality is that there will always probably be people who will buy from them.  What really matters,  however, is not what the other guy does,  it’s what you do.   If you do your best work,  offer fair pricing, and treat your customers honestly and with respect,  who cares what anyone else is doing?  Focus on how you can be better,  not on stopping these other companies from being worse.

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Marketing Monday: Building Trust with Social Media

trust-group-of-people-1940x900_35342Once upon a time,  7 years ago now,  as a matter of fact,  I wrote a post called “Sell, Sell = Bye, Bye” which talked about the notion that doing nothing but selling on a company social media feed would drive customers away instead of inspire them to buy.   The whole premise behind the post was to drive home the idea that becoming part of the community and building trust should be the goal,  not moving product.  While I think my point is still valid,  I also understand that building trust can be a complicated and drawn out endeavor, and that some companies may not be sure how to go about creating social media accounts that build trust.   Today’s Marketing Monday post details some ways that can be accomplished.

Method 1:  Show off completed work – Showing off work that is completed serves a couple of purposes.   First,  it shows what your company can do,  spotlights your creativity,  and presents you as a business that produces.  Second,  it can serve as an inspiration for other customers who might be looking for similar work.  Third,  it,  without the words ever being said,  lets prospective customers know that your work is being purchased,  which means that people are trusting you with their ideas and their money.

Method 2:  Ask for questions – Encourage your customers to post comments or to message you asking for ideas or thoughts on how a specific job could be done.  Customers may also ask questions about particular supplies or types of garments.   The idea is to position your company as an expert,  and to get customers accustomed to coming to you when they want solid information and helpful answers.   This technique is definitely about building trust.   Studies have shown that customers are much more likely to do business with companies and people that have demonstrated they are trustworthy.   Providing unbiased,  helpful information is one way to do that.

Method 3:  Ask for reviews – Reviews can come through the mechanism that is used by an individual social media platform to allow and encourage reviews.  Those are helpful and often referenced by potential customers.   The other option for reviews is to ask customers who are pleased to post on their social media feed,  so you can share the post on yours,  or to post on your feed directly.   The posts don’t have to be elaborate,  a simple “Thanks XYZ Company!  My daughter loves her new shirt” accompanied by a picture of said daughter wearing the shirt and a big grin is more than enough.

Method 4:  Ask for referrals – Referrals are all about trust.   Someone,  a current customer of yours,  recommends you to a friend or business associate who needs the kind of work you do.   The friend/business associate trusts the person who made the recommendation and therefore trusts you by association.  Some companies will solicit referrals by offering a discount on the next order of the person/company that made the referral.  That is a valid technique,  just make sure the referral actually pans out into a quality customer before rewarding the company that made the referral.

Method 5:  Share a view behind the curtain – On the EnMart Facebook page,  I sometimes talk about the weather,  or share a picture of the company owner’s dog doing something funny.   Sometimes we’ll share video of a piece of equipment running,  or talk a bit about why use a particular product or work with a particular company.   You don’t have to share trade secrets,  and you don’t have to get personal,  but letting customers have a little glimpse into your process and how your company operates can help them to trust you and your company more.

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Marketing Monday: Publicizing Properly Pays

megaphoneThere’s an old saying “any publicity is good publicity”  which some people take to be truth but which is really quite misleading.   Yes, word of mouth,  advertisements,  press releases, posts on social media and other forms of publicity can help drive sales and raise awareness of your business,  but poorly done publicity generally will not help and may do your business harm.

The truth of the matter is that publicity that is well done can be a great help, both in boosting the notoriety of a business and in boosting sales.   The opposite is true of poorly done publicity.   This sort of publicity tends to reflect badly on a business,  or may be entirely ignored by venues that might otherwise be helpful in spreading the word.   If you want to be sure that your publicity helps and not harms your business,  here are a few things to keep in mind.

Quality Counts – Whether it’s photos or white papers or a press release,  make sure everything you put out is the best quality it can be.  Poorly done,  out of focus photos,  or poorly written press releases or social media posts make it look like you don’t care or you’re not paying attention.   From a customer’s point of view,  putting out poor quality work on your own behalf may make them wonder what kind of work you will produce for them.

Learn the Proper Formats – There are established formats for things like press releases.  Take the time to learn how to write such things properly.  Templates are generally available online,  and the formats have most likely been established as they are for a reason.   Following the formats makes it easier for those who might want to use or read your content to be able to do so.

Make Connections – Sending a press release to “Editor” may get it noticed,  but sending a press release to a specific editor will get it read.   Take the time to do the research and find out to whom you should be sending press releases or ideas for stories.  Once you find out to whom such things are properly addressed,  you can also make connections with those people on social media.   Don’t underestimate the value of having a friend at a magazine or television or radio station.

Keep Trying – Every press release you write and send will not get used.   You may not get any comments on the blog post over which you’ve slaved.   The perfectly crafted social media post that made you laugh for an hour may attract no attention at all.   Keep in mind that there is a lot of competition out there for the same audience you’re trying to attract.   Your goal is to build a loyal following and to generate more engagement today than you did yesterday.