Today I wanted to wrap up a series I began earlier – How to Make Quilting Your Business. I’ve explored topics I’m familiar with such as running an online shop, to other things I’ve never tried like designing fabric. I’ve learned a lot in the process and I hope I’ve been able to share a few insights with you.
The final topic “Marketing Your Brand” is something I have had to learn about on the fly. Although I somewhat agree with the thought, “If you build it, they will come,” I also agree that “location, location, location!” is important and that you have to tell “them” all about it once you’ve built it!
I am not one to shy away from sharing what I’m doing in the hopes that I can get other people to join me. Although it’s my “job” to convince others to buy what I’m selling, I don’t see it as a scary task since I love what I do so much. Many people agree that selling is selling, yet I know I could never sell what I don’t believe in. Conversely, I don’t mind telling anyone and everyone what I have to offer, if I think it will suit them. The worst they can do is say “no, thank you” and the best thing they can do is say “yes!”
Here are a few things I’ve done to market my brand:
Networking – In college I was required to attend (boring) networking dinners for my major at the time – accounting. The idea was to hook up with other like-minded individuals to further our prospects in getting a job by getting to know them better over dinner. I should have known then that if I thought it was a waste of my time, I was in the wrong industry!
Now when I attend quilt shows, trade shows and other sewing events, it doesn’t even seem like work. Many of my most recent opportunities have come because of meeting someone at an event or knowing a “friend of a friend.” Often times I will briefly meet someone at one event, exchange a few words with them at the next event, and finally have a good conversation the third time around. It takes time and effort to build these relationships, but don’t be afraid to get out there and meet some great people!
Networking with fellow quilt shop owner friends at a recent trade-show.
Cross-promoting – I am a huge fan of sharing what other people are up to in this industry. More often than not, many of them will return the favor. However, I try not to be obnoxious about it, nor do I request a quid-pro-quo. By genuinely seeking and sharing common experiences that I’m truly interested in, I’m providing valuable content to my blog readers and Instagram followers as well as building a relationship with the person I’m promoting. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to research fun topics I want to know more about!)
Invest in the Industry – I don’t just mean money. Sure, it will take resources to create and promote your business presence, both online and off. If you are selling a product, advertising is key. But even more importantly it takes time and “sweat equity” to gain traction for your business, no matter which industry you are in. Be patient, carve out a specific strategy, and take the time to map out your plan for success.
The greatest way to stifle creativity is to be constantly worried about finances, so don’t quit your day job until you have set aside a few months’ living expenses and have established a rainy day fund.
Create Valuable Content – One of the best ways I have promoted my business is to get my work into books and magazines. I know it doesn’t pay a ton, but consider this: when I relied solely on the income from my precut store, I would pay lots of $$$ to advertise in quilting magazines, usually in the form of an ad taking up less than 1/4 page of space. Now that I’ve put on my designer hat, magazines pay me for content that splashes my name over 2-3 pages or more. Now that’s the best deal if I’ve ever seen one. 🙂
I’ve also created a series of Quilt Alongs that are completely free, and they have really helped get my name out there to a wider audience. Although the quilt alongs were a ton of work, they were fun to do and provided me with tons of modern machine quilting practice. They also helped me flesh out how to write step-by-step directions which I’ve been able to turn into patterns and classes.
Take Advantage of Free Publicity – Now let me be clear here – I do not mean work for free. What I mean is if someone wants to feature you in exchange for something easy, like a free pattern you’ve already designed, or by sending in a picture of a quilt you’ve already made, I’d say yes!
So many places like to feature a roundup of specific topics or themes and your work may just fit the bill. I think the worst business mistake a blogger or quilter can make is to create a free publicity quilt just because someone asks, unless you are indeed getting compensated either in money or product, and the quilt can serve additional purposes.
Spiraling Out of Control has been in a couple of quilt magazines – free publicity!!
For example, I like my quilts to do double duty. One of my latest free publicity stunts was for a show quilt of mine to be featured full-page in a magazine. I’d already made the quilt, so all I had to do was send it to the show venue a couple of weeks early.
(Note – completing quilts ahead of schedule is helpful, too!) So although I didn’t receive payment, I did get a free copy of the magazine with my name in it in exchange for sending in a project I’d already made. It did cost me postage to ship it there, but the organizers paid the return postage so I was happy with the deal.
Keep Your Branding Simple – This can be a tough one, especially in the era of social media overload. How many different names do you have? The more names you are known by, the harder it is to keep track of who you are!
Many times it makes sense to have a brand name that is different from your first name. Just be sure to use the same brand name across all your sites: your blog, facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, etc. I know that’s tricky if your business name is already taken, but for those of you just starting out, keep this in mind when deciding on a name.
And don’t be afraid to change it if needed. Quilts and Treasures (bleh!) and Desert Rose Quilts (better) were earlier incarnations of my business before I finally settled on Christa Quilts. It’s who I am and what I do, so it’s easy for people to remember. I also made sure to buy up several domain names with different spellings, just in case!
Make It Easy for Others to Say Yes – You may have a fabulous idea that others are interested in and you know they will love it. However, you may fall short because they can’t conceptualize it. So make it easy for them to understand, and simple to implement. The more legwork you do, the easier it is for someone else to agree.
For example, I knew I wanted to work with Robert Kaufman as a giveaway sponsor for my last quilt along, Abacus. Instead of vaguely asking them to be a “sponsor,” I presented them with a straightforward idea: I would make the quilt in Kona solids and give away the same bundle of fabrics that I used in my quilt.
A graphic that Kaufman made for me using my design sketch and their fabric bundle.
It was an easy idea for them to agree to and they even went one step further; they offered two bundles: one in my colorway and another showcasing their new 2014 solids. I quickly sketched out the quilt using the new colorway and then asked them to share it on their social media platform (see cross-promotion tip above). They said yes, and I got a lot more followers on both my blog and instagram because of it! (See networking tip above – I only asked them to sponsor after I had already built a relationship with their brand.)
I’m sure I could go on, but this post is already pretty long, so if there’s anything else you are wondering about, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. I love talking shop!