If you run a business or have a side hustle, then you probably feel overwhelmed at the simple thought of just how many different things you need to get done in order for customers to discover your brand and buy from you. But what if it were actually way simpler than ‘post and pray’?
The things you make could be great, but this isn't Field Of Dreams, and marketing a small business is hard work, especially when you're competing against the multi-million dollar companies with ad budgets.
In all the conversations I've had with fellow small business owners (especially in the handmade space), a lack of marketing is actually a symptom of failing to understand how to market your business. This year has brought about so much perspective, but one thing hasn't changed - I'm still baffled at the way small business owners put all their eggs in one basket and expect that frail, little basket to do all the heavy lifting for their brand.
Think of your marketing strategy like it's a chessboard. You read it here first, I'm calling it chessboard marketing.
Every piece on the board is a different element of your marketing strategy, but all of the pieces come together to protect the king (you). To play a good game, you need to use as many pieces as possible.
Each piece on the board has a different value.
A pawn is like a physical sign outside your business. It only moves one direction, it's cheap, and definitely isn't going to attract customers in unless they actually drive down your street. While it's necessary, you can't depend on that thing to bring in customers from more than half a mile away. Mine is a tiny laminate sticker on my door because I know the street value truly is what I paid for it. *cough $20 cough* Our shop is also on a not-busy street in the industrial district, so hey, YMMV.
A rook? That's social media - it's amplified and powerful, but has a lot of rules about the directions it can go (algorithms). While they can cover some serious ground quick, they also only move on single tracks. They're not dynamic, and their path has to be clear. Bottom line with social media is, you're not really in control of the details. Social media can drive a heck-ton of traffic to the products you make, but building a business on those platforms is building on borrowed land. You don't own it - the almighty 'they' can take away hashtags tomorrow, they can change the algorithm on you, they can shadowban you... you get the picture.
Horses are like advertising - they're super cool looking and flashy, but they present costly challenges if you don't know how they work.
They provide zero instant gratification. They're also sort of a one-trick pony for a small business owner with a limited ad budget. The trick to using horses is setting your limit and economizing. If you're running a service-based business, drop ads 2 weeks before your slow season. If you're product-based, in order to get your ads to go anywhere during holiday season, you had to have been seeking ads out months in advance - otherwise your visibility will be throttled because social media platforms are preferring consistent advertisers.
Castles are your word-of-mouth marketing. Direct AF and instant gratification - because word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing there is.
As for email… email marketing is the queen herself. She's the lean hot girl who'll surprise you by covering the most distance as quickly as possible. Nine times out of ten, she can't be beat by any other piece (except a castle, maybe). Email marketing isn't riddled with complexity, more than 80% of humans check their email inbox within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning, and if you're good at it, email marketing will be the #1 way to drive revenue for your business. It can't be blocked by an algorithm, there's nothing distracting the reader, and no pop-ups are covering up your calls to action.
If you run a handmade business and you're only playing with a board full of pawns (signs, logos, business cards), the game is going to end quickly for you.
If you choose to invest in the pieces that are worth the wins they can afford you, you'll have a more robust business after this crazy saga called 2020. Frail small businesses put all their bets on one chess piece (usually a weak one), and say a prayer it works out. Rarely do people win chess games with one piece.
The trick is taking your favorite form of marketing and repackaging it into different pieces that each of these strategies can implement, within their own rules. Sharing the same post, same copy, or same image everywhere is like pretending all of the different chess pieces play by the same rules - and we both know that's not how you play the game.
If you're interested in reading more of my thoughts on good marketing for handmade businesses, I shared the four secrets to my most profitable year in business here.