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true followers

To be a successful creator, designer or entrepreneur, you don’t need millions of dollars.

According to author Kevin Kelly, all you need is 1,000 true fans.

Are you familiar with this theory?

The idea is this:

If you have 1,000 true fans, and make $100 profit from each one every year, that’s enough money to sustain your creative work.

It’s not a fortune, but you get to spend your day doing what you love.

I recently recalled the “1,000 True Fans” theory that I read in 2012, and it got me thinking about how it applies to the fashion entrepreneurs that I talk to every day.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from them is not being able to grow an audience fast enough.

“I only got 10 new Instagram followers this week.”

“I only have 50 email subscribers.”

“My Facebook post only got five ‘Likes.’”

For many of you, when you’re starting from zero, it probably seems impossible to get to 1,000.

The good news is, I don’t think you need 1,000 true fans.

To launch a fashion brand, you only need 100.

That’s it, “100 True Followers.”

Totally doable, right?

Most of you probably already have over 100 followers on Instagram.

But here’s the thing:

A “follower” is different from a “True Follower.”

And when you’re trying to build an audience to launch your brand to, the “True Followers” are the only thing you should care about.

These are the people who “Like” 9 out of the 10 Instagram posts you publish, the ones who actually reply to your email newsletter and the ones who leave comments on your Facebook posts.

These “True Followers” are the people who are going to be your first 100 Kickstarter backers or your first 100 customers or the first 100 shoppers to show up at your pop-up store.

And then, after they buy from you…

They’re the ones who will tell their friends about you.

And that’s where the magic happens.

So, how do you find these “True Followers?”

1.) Provide value.

It’s not about you, it’s about them. And it’s about how your brand provides value to their everyday lives — whether it’s looking forward to an Instagram post, reading one of your blog posts or being able to tell their coworkers about your weekly newsletter.

2.) Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

I’ve written about this before here. The bottom line is this: The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

3.) Say something different.

The easiest way to get ignored is to say the same thing every other brand is saying. Beyond the obvious of avoiding buzzwords and cliches, your brand needs to have a voice. If you don’t know what I mean by “voice,” check out the marketing messages of companies like Reformation, Thundress or Girlfriend Collective. I’ve also written about this here.

4.) Treat every new follower like gold.

This is the most important one of all and it’s often the most overlooked. Every new subscriber, follower, fan and customer should be shown value and appreciation. Instead of lamenting your small following of 10 people, focus on providing those 10 people with the absolute best experience your brand can offer.

Do you know what happens when 10 people have a memorable experience that makes them feel connected to your brand?

Each of those 10 people tells at least one more person.

Then you have 20 followers.

And in no time at all, 100 True Followers (or even 1,000 True Fans) doesn’t seem so impossible after all.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


branding lesson

“You know what I just realized?” I say to my husband as we’re cruising down I-95.

“What’s that?”

“A minivan and an SUV are, like, the same thing… they’re just different shapes.”

“Uh huh…” he replies in his best ‘where are you going with this?’ voice.

“They’re pretty much the same size, they provide the same functions, they’re available in virtually the same colors, and yet one of them is considered ‘uncool’ and designated to ‘soccer moms’ while the other is the vehicle of choice by rich athletes, Hollywood stars and rappers.”

“Okay…” (Clearly over this conversation.)

“So, how did it get this way? I mean, why don’t we see Jay-Z driving his kids down Rodeo Drive in a Dodge Caravan?”

“Uh, I don’t know…? Because Beyonce likes Escalades?”


And so it started — another internal dialogue from yours truly about branding and marketing.

When I started writing about this I googled ‘SUV and minivan branding’ to see what would come up.

It was no surprise that both versions of vehicles were intermixed in various lists of “Top 10 vehicles for families” and “Best cars for hauling your kids in 2017.”

I’ve never purchased a minivan or an SUV myself so I don’t personally know what makes buyers choose one over the other.

I’m sure that gas mileage, backseat DVD sets and trunk space all play a role in the decision making — but this post isn’t actually about cars.

It’s about perception.

branding lesson

In any purchase we make, we as consumers are consciously or subconsciously making a decision based on the “aspirational.”

[X product] will make my life easier.

[X product] will make my life more beautiful.

[X product] will make me appear a certain way to my friends / family / co-workers.

Whether you’re purchasing a car for tens of thousands of dollars or a piece of clothing for much less than that, the company selling it to you has the pressure of making you feel a certain way about that purchase.

As small business owners, the pressure on you is no different.

In every marketing decision you make you should be asking yourself, “How is my product being perceived by potential customers?”

And more importantly, “Who is my target market, truly?”

Because if you’re trying to be the SUV when you’re really the minivan, then you’re doing yourself, your product and your company a disservice.

And if it’s the other way around, then you’re also missing the mark.

As the past several decades have shown, there’s a market for both — and the apparel industry is no different.

Your job is to get clear on who you are, who you want to be and to find your place.

Because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is to end up as the PT Cruiser.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


sustainable fashion advice

4 Instagram Hacks You Probably Didn't Know

By the time we thought to take a picture, the sun had already set and we were saying our goodbyes.

“Let’s just take a photo real quick for Instagram,” Nicole said as we were walking down the steps of the restaurant.

We selfie’d like the best of ‘em and looked at it.

“Ugh,” was the simultaneous reaction.

“Why didn’t we think to do this earlier when our only light wasn’t a neon beer sign?”

After six years of online friendship, I had met Nicole (the founder of StartUp FASHION) for the first time in “real life.”

And like any good online business owners, we wanted documentation of it to share with our overlapping audiences.

I’m not ashamed — okay, I’m a little ashamed — to say we tried a few more times and never got the shot.

As we went our separate ways, we chalked up our lack of social media fodder to “living in the moment” and promised ourselves we’d get a good photo the next time we were in the same city.

I will be the first to admit, I am not good about remembering to take photos.

Despite living in a time when Instagram is the #1 most influential social media platform for online businesses, I am not as snap-happy as I should be.

Most weekends I leave my phone at home when I go out and if I’m experiencing something I really want to remember, then I usually don’t want to interrupt it by taking out my device.

Depending on what side of the Millennial line you are on, this is something you can either relate to — or not relate to at all.

Regardless of where you fall, there are several hacks I’ve learned over the years that have helped immensely in growing a 10,000+ Instagram following without letting it take over my life.

And that’s what I want to share with you today:

1.) Color palette.

When you click on your Instagram profile, the gallery of photos underneath your name and website should act as a storyboard for your brand. It should look polished, thoughtful and representative of what your company is and the aesthetic you want it to convey.

The first step in creating this storyboard is to come up with a color palette for the photos you share.

Do you only post black and white pictures? Do all of your images have a white border around them? Do you increase the saturation, so all of your pictures are bold and bright?

Choosing a color palette not only makes your Instagram grid look better, but it helps save time and energy when you’re deciding which photos to shoot, share and curate.

factory45, instagram, instagram hacks, social media, marketing, hacks

2.) Planoly.

There are a bunch of apps out there, but this is the one I’ve been using for over a year and it’s changed how I use Instagram for my business.

Planoly allows you to upload the photos you’ve taken on your camera roll and drag them into different layouts that represent your Instagram grid. This lets you see exactly how it’s going to look on your account when the photos are published.

You can also write all of your captions in advance and schedule the photo for the time you want it to publish.

Planoly has made it so much easier to plan a thoughtful editorial calendar, and I can save it for when I’m doing something mindless like sitting on the train or watching TV.

3.) Forget “Instant.”

When Instagram Stories was released it created a whole new level of anxiety for me. If you’re trying to live in the moment, then IG Stories is basically your worst nightmare.

I remember being at a pop-up shop in Boston when I decided to make one of my first IG Stories and it took FOREVER. I was sitting there, taking so much time with the filters… and the emojis… and the captions… that I was missing out on actually meeting the makers and walking around the venue.

Out of everything I’ve learned, this is the hack that really saved my Instagram sanity:

I discovered that I could shoot photos and video footage on my phone and upload them to Instagram Stories later when I had some time to do it thoughtfully.

If you didn’t know this tip, then you can try it right now. Go ahead and take a few photos or video on your camera roll wherever you are reading this.

After you do that, head over to Instagram and click on the Instagram Stories icon at the top left corner of your screen. Once the camera comes up, place your finger on the middle of the screen and drag it up.

You should see all of the photos and videos you’ve taken from the last 24 hours at the bottom. And you can upload any of them into your “Story.”

(The catch here is that you have to create the Story within 24 hours of taking the photos or footage, otherwise they won’t appear as an option for sharing.)

factory45, instagram, instagram hacks, social media, marketing, hack

4.) Curate.

My Instagram gallery is about 75% curated photos. In other words, I take screenshots of other people’s photos and share them with my own caption and give photo credit.

This works for me because so much of my brand message is about highlighting the entrepreneurs who are part of Factory45. I regularly share updates about the Factory45’ers who are launching new products, running Kickstarter campaigns or simply creating beautiful images.

It can also work for you if you don’t have time to take all of your own photos or if you’re not confident in your photography skills.

The best part about sharing other people’s photos is that it promotes goodwill and new business relationships if done right. By genuinely supporting someone else’s brand or giving them a shout-out, you’re putting yourself on their radar and they’re likely to return the favor.

The key here is to make your caption for the image about *them* (don’t try to pass off their photo as your own workspace, cup of coffee or bouquet of flowers) and don’t forget to give photo credit by tagging their Instagram account.

I get it. It can be super overwhelming to use social media for building your audience and brand awareness.

But even more than the hacks or tips and tricks, the absolute best thing you can do is to just start and stay consistent.

Perfection paralysis has no place in the ever-changing world of social media, so don’t let it stop you.

If you read last week’s post, then you know no one is even paying attention yet anyway ; )

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Factory45 Instagram CTA

When I published this blog post two weeks ago it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

I actually got teary eyed reading some of your replies.

So thoughtful, so heartfelt and then this —

“I think I am better off unsubscribing to your blog.”

It was the only negative response I received, rolled up into a few sentences of underlying racist vitriol.

“It’s just so frustrating,” I said to my husband. “Anytime you have anything worthwhile to say, you’re either preaching to the choir or falling to deaf ears.”

“I get that,” he said, “but what’s really wrong with preaching to the choir?”

And it got me thinking about all the marketing advice I give to the entrepreneurs I work with.

Find your ideal target customer, I tell them.

Establish your niche, I say over and over.

Market yourself to a specific group of people and they’ll come out to support you faster.

Because “preaching to the choir” actually means you’ve found your tribe —

The people who are going to support you and encourage you and eventually maybe even become your customers.

As small business owners, it’s not our job to write the perfect lines that are going to appeal to everyone.

It is our job to have opinions, offer insights and try to better the world for the people who we call our target market, our customers, our niche.

And that’s who you should set your focus on.

So, the next time you think to yourself,

“Should I share this?” or “Should I say that on my About page?” or “Should I retweet that?”

Think about your ideal customer.

Envision him or her in your mind.

And decide if what you want to say will resonate with the person you want to say it to.

Because there’s a beauty and a comfort in finding your people, and when that happens —

You don’t need to worry about anyone else.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 


Important Marketing Tool

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.

blog-image

>> 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.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728


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.

VETTA - 5 Pieces

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? ; )

 

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

Photo credit (second photo): VETTA


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. 

 

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice