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Important Marketing Tool

The Most Important Marketing Tool for Fashion Brands & How to Use It

So, I’m in yoga the other day and after the final “Namaste,” my teacher starts to make her daily announcements.

Instructor training begins again on Friday… Four beginner yoga classes are being offered on Saturdays… And then this:

“I also just want to let everyone know that I’m starting an email list.”

And as I’m putting my socks back on, I’m thinking, “Yes, go girl, start that email list.”

(It’s one of the first steps towards entrepreneurship, after all.)

But what begins to unfold has me cringing on my mat:

“So, um yeah, the clipboard is at the back of the room if you want to sign up… I’ll only send out, like, two emails a year…. I probably won’t send out the first email for a few months… You don’t have to sign up if you don’t want to, but I’ll just use it to stay in touch with you…”

And on it went as people started rolling up their mats.

I hung back and waited for a bit until I was one of the last people to leave the studio. As I walked past the clipboard that was sitting by the door, I looked over to see that not one person had signed up.

I wasn’t surprised. And it got me thinking about the startup brands I see online, desperately trying to build an audience, but failing to make an effective “ask.”

I should start by clarifying that your email list is your most important marketing tool — by far. It’s more important than Instagram, more important than Facebook, more important than Pinterest, more important than any other online marketing tool you can leverage.

Your email list is the fastest and most direct way to connect with your potential customers, and it’s yours. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, that now make you pay to connect with your followers, your email list belongs to you.

In the case of my yoga teacher, she was making a verbal “ask” to her studio of aspiring yogis. In the case of your online business, your “ask” is your opt-in incentive and call-to-action (CTA).

(If these terms are starting to sound like crazy-speak, consider joining Factory45 in May. We go into extensive detail about email marketing throughout the program.)

I know this isn’t very “zen” of me, but I want to analyze what my teacher did wrong so that it can help you grow your email list more effectively.

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>> She lacked confidence. If you don’t believe in what you’re offering it will show, and she seemed nervous to come across as too “salesy.” While marketing may not be a natural skill for a yoga teacher, it must become a natural skill for you if you plan to sell your collection, designs or products online.

If you’re not confident in making the “ask” and it shows through your copy, then you might as well not have an email opt-in at all.

(And don’t even think about doing that…)

>> She didn’t incentivize. So often I see email opt-ins that are as incentivizing as an annual flu shot. If your opt-in rate is low, it might be because your call-to-action is lackluster.

“Sign up to our mailing list” is not a call-to-action! That type of language doesn’t do anything to inspire people to want to hear from you. They need to know what they’re going to get and why they should care.

You can try discount codes, free shipping, and style guides to incentivize sign-ups, but the options are endless. The bottom line is that you have to provide real value to entice people to sign up.

>> She didn’t provide an expectation. She said, “I’ll just use it to stay in touch with you.”

What does that even mean?

She doesn’t know all of her students by name and if she did, “staying in touch” is a very allusive expression.

What will I receive emails about? Will I be interested in the topic? What kind of updates will be sent out?

Again, if you’re asking someone to opt into your list, instead of the email list of a competing brand, then you have to have a damn good reason why. “Staying in touch” doesn’t mean anything.

>> She didn’t sound consistent. There is a big difference between what online marketers call a “healthy list” and an “unhealthy list.”

A healthy list is engaged. You have an open rate above 25%, you have a consistent click-through rate, and your “unsubscribes” are generally low. A healthy list comes from consistency — weekly to bi-weekly emails that provide value, interest and intrigue to your following.

If you’re only going to send out two emails a year and you’re going to wait several months to send out the first one, then why bother?

By the time she sends out her first email, anyone who opted into her list will have already forgotten. And do you know what happens when people forget that they signed up?

They unsubscribe and mark the email as spam.

If you have something of value to offer to your target audience, then you need the confidence to market it. As a new business owner, you’re likely running the show on your own, so you have to be equal parts “the creative” and “the marketer.”

Building your email list is the most effective way to grow your brand, sell more products and make your mark in the industry.

But it doesn’t come easy.

It takes experimentation, rewriting your offers, asking for feedback and figuring out what value you can provide.

 

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Factory45

Why Appealing to Less People Will Help You Make More Sales

When I was a sophomore in high school my best friend’s mom told me:

“Shannon, you’re not for everyone. People either love you or they don’t.”

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say to an insecure 16 year old but in her defense, I was a pain in the ass.

When I was younger I was opinionated, bossy and vocal. There were multiple times when I was asked to leave my world history class for arguing a point too emphatically (Ms. Gillard, I owe you a drink).

Much of my formative years were spent relishing in my “individuality” and how people responded to it. I prided myself on being polarizing because no one had to guess where I stood.

Over the years I’ve chilled out and matured, but this idea of “not being for everyone” has stayed with me — and it’s taught me something about entrepreneurship.

The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

Have you heard the expression: If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, then you’re actually appealing to no one?

This is one of the most valuable pieces of marketing advice you can remember.

I’m not suggesting that you start pissing people off, arguing with your customers and forcing your opinions on others. We’re not teenagers anymore.

What I am suggesting is that you get very clear on who your company is meant to serve, so that you don’t waste time trying to market to people who don’t fit that mold.

Not only will this cut down on the risk of competition (which I’ve written about before here and here), but it will ensure that the right people find you.

Market studies have proven that the better you are at establishing a niche, the faster your customers will come out to support you.

Here’s an example: I have a current entrepreneur in Factory45 who launched her company last week. VETTA is a five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits.

Cara, and her co-founder Vanessa, did an excellent job of designing, positioning and marketing their first collection to appeal to a particular niche of women.

While yes, it would be nice if every woman in the world pre-ordered from their Kickstarter campaign, VETTA doesn’t try to appeal to every woman in the world.

The VETTA customer is an aspiring minimalist, conscious consumer and wants to do more with less. The majority of women in the world don’t think about their fashion choices that way, but this positioning has ensured that the right people find out about VETTA and the right press writes about them.

If it was just another run-of-the-mill women’s clothing line on Kickstarter, then I guarantee they wouldn’t have seen the success they’ve had.

That’s all to say, VETTA reached its $30,000 goal in five days and was featured by Who What Wear and Darling Magazine.

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So, how do you make sure that you’re not for everyone?

First, you have to figure out who your customer is by digging deep — in Factory45, I ask my entrepreneurs to answer over 30 questions about their ideal customer.

Where does he/she live? What kind of books does she read? Where does she hang out online? Where does she shop? Is she religious? What political affiliation does she gravitate towards?

You can’t begin to effectively market to your customers until you know who she is, how she feels and what she believes. Everything you message and market is riding on the fact that you know your customer inside and out.

As another example, we can look at my own business. Factory45 is positioned, messaged and marketed in a way that appeals to a certain type of person:

  • I believe in localized manufacturing, so I only work with entrepreneurs who are in the U.S. or Canada where my production partners are.
  • I don’t believe in making more clothing for the sake of making more clothing, so I market to entrepreneurs who want to solve problems for people.
  • Environmental responsibility is important to me so I only accept entrepreneurs who care about sustainability, too.

Factory45 isn’t the only fashion accelerator out there, but it is the only one of its kind. My business model is unique, my philosophies are different, and what I teach can’t be found elsewhere in the fashion education landscape.

This helps to ensure that the right people apply to Factory45 and the wrong people join a different fashion accelerator.

It’s that simple. And it can be that simple for your business, too.

So, the next time you find yourself writing a product description or an “about” page or a sales page that is boring and generic, just think of teenage Shannon…

What would she do? ; )

 

 

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Photo credit (second photo): VETTA


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4 Ways to Embrace Your Business FOMO & Reclaim Your Marketing Mojo

Every few months, I’ll get hit with a lack of marketing “mojo.”

Usually, marketing is my top priority. (It should be yours, too, if you’re running a business.) I know the marketing channels that are most effective for me and I’m typically very strict with my output.

But then, all of the sudden, I’ll wake up one morning and it’s like some sort of whimsy, lazy fairy flew into my life to take all of the motivation away.

Especially when the Factory45 program is in session, I’ll start investing more time in helping other people start their businesses and let my own business fall to the wayside. Which is all good and dandy until I’m hit with a major dose of business FOMO.

“Man, I really wish I had made that list.”

“Wow, she got that feature? I wish I had pitched that.”

“I should totally capitalize on that topic and write about it… maybe tomorrow…”

I find myself justifying my lack of motivation with thoughts like: everyone needs a break sometimes… or… I’ll do it after the holiday weekend… or (my favorite one)… it’s summer / holiday season / school vacation, no one is paying attention anyway.

While I’m all about dishing advice and sharing lessons learned, it should go without saying that my entrepreneurial journey is a work in progress just like anyone else’s.

Even writing about not having motivation makes me want to stop writing this post. The struggle is real.

The silver lining, though, is that I’m able to look at this phase as just another state of entrepreneurship — my guess is that even Richard Branson takes a hiatus on his private islands once in a while.

When you don’t have two-weeks designated vacation time or a job that ends at 5pm, it can be easy to forget that very few people push full-steam ahead 100 percent of the time.

And while this is certainly not my first time in entrepreneurial La-La land, it’s the first time I haven’t tried so hard to fight it. I’ve been conscious of not attaching negativity to it even if I would have felt immense guilt in the past.

In doing so, I’ve been able to look at this lack of motivation in a way that will make it easier to manage next time.

In case you ever find yourself in a similar boat, here’s what I’ve observed:

1.) Embrace it. I was traveling for two weeks and by the time I got back to Boston last week, I had caught some sort of illness and completely lost my voice. By Wednesday, my typical writing day, the last thing I wanted to do was write a blog post.

It’s kind of embarrassing how much I struggled with the idea of taking a week off from the blog. What if someone notices they didn’t get an email from me? What will I post on social media during that time slot? What if people unsubscribe?

Eventually, I was able to get rational about the fact that zero people will care if they don’t hear from me. That simple realization allowed me to embrace a free afternoon of laying on the couch with a box of tissues, a cup of tea and a steady line up of Netflix.

It was so much more productive when I chose to embrace the “lack of productivity” rather than waste energy on fighting it.

2.) Give your attention to your behind-the-scenes operations. Lacking the creativity for another Instagram post or quippy tweet? Use the other side of your brain and focus on the aspects that may be pivotal to your business but probably aren’t seen by your customers or audience.

For me, that means giving extra time and attention to my Factory45’ers: jumping on impromptu phone calls when they need it, fully engaging in our private Facebook group, problem solving during office hours, and giving them the best client experience possible.

It may not be direct marketing ammunition, but more important than the perfect Instagram photo is the user experience you’re giving your customers.

3.) This too shall pass. There is nothing constant about running a business. It’s always changing and evolving and depending on the season, your launch schedule, your production timeline and other factors, your marketing mojo will eventually come back to you.

Don’t let your current state convince you that it’s here to stay.

4.) Accept it. There is always going to be a colleague, another designer or a company you look up to, appearing to be multiple steps ahead of you. That’s life — running a business is no different.

The truth is, you’re not missing out. Your experience is unique to you and you’re exactly where you should be. There is always going to be another opportunity, there is enough time, and your journey should be dictated by you — not by an outside perception of someone else.

Do you and good things will happen. 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Matthew Wiebe


sustainability

Legal Matters: What It Means to Market ‘Sustainability’

This is a guest post by Samm Lewis, who earned a dual fashion & law degree.

During a recent shopping trip, I passed a store window with a sign that said ‘Go Green for Summer’ and an image that implied the collection had “environmental benefits.” After going inside and taking a look at the labels, I left feeling confused about which part of the line, apart from the color, was ‘green.’

It led me to begin researching the environmental claims made in marketing; how do we, as consumers, know we can trust brands to be honest with us? And how can brands themselves market the right message?

As someone who is working in marketing and training to be a lawyer, I am aware of the precision by which statements must be made. If there is any confusion in the message, it can often lead to a loss of profits. And let’s face it, for the fashion industry, a loss in profits can be a substantial blow. Going even further, if you communicate misleading information in an advertisement, and consumers buy products based on it, there’s the possibility of opening your brand to a much more damaging court case.

As your brand progresses and grows, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by what you can and cannot say. Luckily, the Federal Trade Commission, the English Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, and the European Union have created user-friendly guides to explain how to honestly market a brand.

The guidelines cover elements such as: carbon neutrality, sustainable sourcing, recycling, the end use of products, what needs to be considered if free-from claims are made or how to weigh up environmental benefits. All three sets of guidelines require similar general key principles, which ask that all environmental claims be:

·        Clear

·        Specific; and

·        Backed by scientific evidence.

So how does this affect the sign I saw? ‘Go Green for Summer’ isn’t clear, specific or backed by scientific evidence. If there were products that had environmental benefits, then the marketing could have continued in-store with a second sign suggesting customers look at a specific product, highlighting its feature, with a certification logo on the tag.

Sustainability involves large amounts of scientific study to determine the most environmentally-efficient manufacturing process, or suitable fibers. There are organizations, such as the Fairtrade Foundation, that inspect suppliers to ensure their products meet requirements before allowing them to use the organization’s mark.

It seems dishonest and unjust to suggest that an item of clothing has environmental benefits when it doesn’t — and yet it happens all of the time. I want to be able to know that the clothes I wear can support manufacturers and farmers who have similar ideals as me.

As a designer, how do you determine whether you should seek out a certification? First, do some research into which organizations demonstrate your philosophies, and then take a look at their recommended list of suppliers and designers. You’ll also have to consider at which point of the manufacturing process you feel  environmental benefits come into play. Finally, consider how your customers will feel about your brand if your certification can be purchased without inspection. Can you justify this decision in your promotional material?

Before you make environmental claims, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Which countries are you selling in?

2. What environmental benefit are you specifying?

3. Which certification mark will you use?

If you wish to look further into the legislation, you learn more here.

 

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Disclaimer: None of the information above purports to be legal advice, if you have further questions about legal matters, consult your legal representative.

[Photo Credit: Earth Times]