After leaving her corporate textile design job in 2010, Michelle Fifis wanted to keep her momentum going, stay up with the trends and industry news and keep track of her inspiration and resources, so she created the blog Pattern Observer. Today, Michelle is a successful textile designer who has worked with such clients as Lucy Activewear, Columbia Sportswear, Jantzen Swimwear, Pendleton and P&B Textiles. On her blog, she continues to write about business and textile design and her membership community, The Textile Design Lab, offers learning and networking opportunities to hundreds of designers worldwide. She’s chatting with us about that seemingly icky word that doesn’t have to be: marketing! –Sabrina
Marketing… ugh. Just the idea of marketing used to make me squirm and think of the times I scheduled marketing time in my calendar only to end up deleting or ignoring every reminder as it popped up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Marketing can be beautiful. Stick with me…
Marketing my textile design business just felt awkward when I was starting out. I wasn’t sure what steps to take. I didn’t know how to really be effective. I wanted to avoid the whole thing and just let my “good work” speak for itself in the market. Can you relate?
I made marketing too complicated instead of realizing it’s just a cycle based on winning and keeping customers. It’s about building relationships with people over time. I learned marketing is just a series of simple steps repeated over and over as I grow my business.
It really is easy — as long as you don’t over-think it. Let me show you what I’ve learned.
Step 1 – Know your customer.
Great marketing starts with knowing your customer. Knowing who they are, what they like and how they look for people like you is just the start. My clients, for example, are interested in artwork that reflects the latest trends in unique ways that speak to their customer base. It’s important for my work to offer several unique interpretations of trends I see in the marketplace. When I do, I set my work apart from other designers.
Take a moment and evaluate your work through the eyes of your customer. What things are most important? Challenge yourself to move past the basics to the issues that really motivate him or her. Imagine you are inside his head if you can. What will get her attention? How can your work impress him and meet his needs?
The answers to questions like these are marketing gold, and you can use them to attract the right customers for your business.
Step 2 – Be visible.
People have to find your business before they can buy your work. Seems obvious, right? Being visible is a very important component of marketing. In fact, much of the marketing advice you’ll find in books and online is all about this one step.
Listen, simply launching a website isn’t enough. As a business owner, it’s your job to make your website welcoming and easy to find. That means finding ways to market that work and get your website in front of those customers you now know so well.
You don’t have to spend hours on tweeting, posting or following in social media. You don’t have to read books on the latest trends for SEO or hire a marketing consultant. You just need to experiment with a few marketing actions at a time and see what works best for you.
Blogging is a very effective marketing tool for designers and creative businesses. I recommend it for two reasons. First, according to our 2013 Pattern Industry Survey, 61% of buyers said they find new designers through blogs. Wow! That tops the results for print shows or Google searches or other platforms.
Why do buyers prefer finding designers through blogs? Blogging allows us to share our work with potential buyers in a way that is easy for them to use and review. It also allows them to get to know a bit about our personality and design philosophy before they ever contact us directly.
The second reason to blog is related to SEO. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about making your website visible when someone searches for your type of business on Google or Bing. People search for designers and creative professionals every day. Blogging is one of the best ways to move your website to the top of the results list.
Step 3 – Stay connected.
You know your customer. You’ve created a great website to showcase your work and welcome potential buyers. Now you need to offer the people who visit your site simple ways to stay in touch with you.
Just because a potential buyer is drawn to your work doesn’t mean he is ready to buy right now. Maybe they have an upcoming project in mind. Maybe they don’t. Give them a way to stay connected to your business until the time is right. Remember, marketing is ultimately about relationships.
There are lots of ways to stay connected, but I’ve found creating a newsletter to be the most effective. Here’s why I love newsletters so much:
Buyers are busy. A newsletter allows a buyer to review a new collection easily between meetings, while traveling, or in short little moments when they don’t have time to “surf the Net.”
Newsletters are reliable. I don’t have to pay for visibility on Facebook or Twitter. My work is delivered to the buyer right in his or her inbox.
Newsletters are easy to share. My buyers can share my work with other people in their organization (including decision makers) with just a few keystrokes.
Sending a newsletter is a pretty easy way of staying in front of your potential customers, giving you an opportunity to contact them on a regular basis after they visit your site.
Step 4 – Expand your reach.
Steps one through three are about reaching potential customers, attracting them to your business, and staying connected with them until they are ready to buy. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve built a stable marketing foundation for your business.
Take a minute or two to celebrate your achievement. You’ve got a system in place that works for you and your business. Yay!
Now it’s time to start taking small steps to expand your marketing reach. Your goal here is to make connections in person and online and draw people into your business. There are lots of ways to do this effectively. The best methods are the ones you enjoy.
Networking, for example, is a great way to expand your reach. You might love connecting with potential customers and fans in person at an event or show. Or, you might prefer connecting with people online in a Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn group or during a Twitter chat. Be authentic and do what feels comfortable for you.
Challenge yourself by exploring new ways to connect with people. Purchase some advertising space in a trade publication. Write an article or guest post. Reach out to the media for press coverage. There’s no wrong way to reach new people. Experiment.
Step 5 – Listen, innovate & inspire.
You probably don’t realize how important this last step is to marketing your business. In fact, it’s often overlooked when people talk about marketing and sales and yet it’s essential.
Listen to your customers and fans. Listen to your colleagues and design friends. Most importantly, listen to your heart. Then take action and switch things up in your marketing and in your business.
Listening helps me determine what works for my life and my business. I’ve shared the marketing ideas that work for me but they might not be the perfect fit for you. Try them out for a while and pay attention to your results. Keep what works and change what doesn’t fit as well.
Listen to your customers and respond. Set yourself apart by being willing to learn from feedback and improve your business. Look for new opportunities to serve your customers and deliver more of what they need and want. Innovate in response to customer feedback and you’ll inspire loyalty for your business.
Relax. You can do this.
Will you make mistakes? Sure. You’ll try things that don’t work. Some of the opportunities you ignore will cause you regret later. That’s okay. No one gets everything right the first time. We all learn by taking risks.
I might never be a marketing expert, but marketing for me is simple and beautiful. I am not awkward or pushy. I am confident and authentic as I build relationships with the people who are interested in my business. You can be, too.
Interested in creating artwork for the design industry but not sure where to start? Let me help you Turn Your Artwork into Textile Designs that Sell. It’s my free gift to you.