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Marketing Your Brand Without Spending a Fortune

Posted on June 27 2014

Marketing Your Brand Without Spending a Fortune

Do you need thousands of spondoolies to market your business? The answer is no. But you will need to be savvy, astute, and aware of your audience – if people don’t know about your brand, its products, and its services, then it’s not going anywhere fast, right? Simple as that. I know when you have a business you’ll be working crazy hours with a bonkers schedule (14 days on the trot here, don’t start me on that one), but none of your effort will go anywhere unless you have a solid marketing strategy. Here are my thoughts!

Yay or nay to a hiring a PR firm?

We don’t pay for PR. Once a while back we had a team handling our PR in the States but that was for the shortest amount of time. It is all now handled in-house. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a PR team, though: they are fab at knowing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting media attention for your brand.  They have relationships with the media already set in place and they can immediately figure out what’s newsworthy and make it happen – so I’m all for hiring them.

We’re following a slightly different strategy, however. We do it a bit like Anthropologie: our marketing budget is redistributed to buying or creating products or experiences, which in turn gets us press. This was never planned, it just sort of happened. We have had phenomenal coverage and the reason for that has been purely through our product selection and how my store and house look. Let me give you an example: we have a chandelier crafted from mud in the store. It retails for around 5K. We don’t sell a ton, but because it looks the way it does, it brings people into the store by the load. Not just that, but it’s been written up by the press quite often. We don’t pay for that press – it’s just that such a thing of beauty is newsworthy. So don’t always think of products as purely commercial. Some products create an experience, tell a story, or are handmade by artisans and take three months to craft. Some products won’t sell fast or frequently, but they will get you the attention of the media and a whole load of new business. One or two jaw-on-the-floor pieces that knock everyone’s socks off by creating a scene is what I’m talking about!

Become your own publicist.

Pitching to the media is something you have to do pretty regularly – not just a couple of times a year. But be smart about it – there’s no point in writing a press release about a mass-produced tea light that retails for £3. Think carefully before you pitch: is this product different, trendsetting, jaw-dropping, unique? If it isn’t, then you have no story and no one will want to publish it. I’m also going to play devil’s advocate here and take it a step further: if it isn’t any of these things, why did you buy it in the first place? Pick your products wisely and share them accordingly.

Write your own press release.

Press releases are an opportunity to get your brand noticed by the press by highlighting an interesting product or telling a story. Here are some tips on writing them:

  1. Get the title right. Does it entice, intrigue and encourage journalists to read further? If you’re in a conundrum, look at the strap lines on magazines. That short sentence on the contents page that sums up what they are featuring will get you focused and show you the idea!
  2. Write it only in the 3rd person.
  3. Provide all relevant info. Summarise what you are pitching in that first paragraph – get to the point and keep it short. No one has time to read an essay!
  4. Be relevant. There’s no use sending information about your new line of cakes to Woodworker Monthly! Figure out what magazines, newspapers and blogs are similar to your brands and pitch to them only. You’ll waste your time doing anything else.
  5. Limit exclamation marks. You don’t need to overhype your brand, otherwise it will read like an advert and then guess where that goes: yep, straight in the bin! (Oops, exclamation mark.)

You should regularly send out press releases (once every few weeks or at least onec a month, say) and if you don’t have a list of media contacts, then buy a list (we originally got ours from the Fashion Monitor). Also jot down email addresses from mastheads on magazines. Remember long leads (magazines) work 3 to 4 months in advance (it’s why many of us shoot our Christmas products in the middle of the summer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to dress up the house with trees and fairy lights and baubles in the middle of a hot July afternoon). Newspapers have shorter leads (about 4 weeks), and blogs even less.

Social Media

You can’t be all things to all people when it comes to social media, so stick to a few channels and do those well. You can spend hours otherwise trying to do a bit of this and a bit of that. Engagement is key with social media: engage your audience, share, retweet. I try to answer almost all the questions that come into my blog. The minute I stop doing that, no matter how early or how late or how much extra work I am giving myself, is the day I quit. What’s the point in me droning on if I don’t respond to those who take the time to comment? I love the comments it makes me feel like I’m not some crazy girl sitting at her desk at 5.30 every morning writing to no-one.

Does your website deliver results?

Is it attractive, does it look professional? How functional is it? If it’s outdated and clunky, then it’s time for a redesign. You can buy tons of readymade website templates with all sorts of features so you don’t need to go bespoke. These days a slick website doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

Marketing through email

Super cost-effective, flexible, easy to measure, and high impact.  We mailshot on average once a week to our internal database. We highlight products, sales, newsletters, etc. Be subtle about it –  don’t blast everyone every day. Also make sure your content and style reflects your brand. Plus (I could drone on forever about this) in order to grow your list, encourage customers to sign up on your site. Offer some incentive, something relevant to your audience. I just signed up to Free People’s website (I’m obsessed with some of their cowboys boots over there) and they’ve offered my free first time delivery! Yeeha! It’s a nice touch!

Discounts and deals

Everyone loves a deal and offering discounts is a great way to not only market your business but also reward your customers. Though don’t discount too often – you don’t create brand loyalty that way, plus you’re likely go out of business or scrape by on a living and who wants to do that working all these hours!

Run competitions

Social media is great for promoting competitions that attract new followers – it’s an effective marketing tool. Look at the brands you love and see what they are doing and learn from them.

Have an optimisation strategy!

No point in having the coolest website in town if search engines cannot find you. You will need to work on your website almost continually, monitoring your stats and refining your content. Consistently add rich keyword and back-links – it needs updating regularly. With the constant change in algorithms, you have to create fresh content, otherwise your listing will fall behind. Also check to see if your website is accessible to mobile users. If not, redesign it, like, NOW – your site should scale to fit all screen sizes. Fundamental!

Set an editorial calendar

Set up a publishing schedule! Say one month you’re promoting the summer bank holiday and another month it’s Mothers Day. Produce content around it, put it on your social media channels, and make sure that it’s relevant to your audience.

That – in a very large nutshell – is marketing your brand without spending the earth!

Check out the weekly biz column archives for more tips and business advice.

For retailers, start-ups and budding entrepreneurs, why not try our London Retail Class, or sign up for the Online Retail Masterclass?

This is my ultimate A-Z guide for anyone thinking of starting their own business, or looking to take the next step in building their retail empire.

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