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First published on the Sewstorm Publishing Web site at www.sewstorm.com. Reprinted with permission.
You should consider spending several hours per month marketing your business and yourself in person: Meeting and greeting and smiling and spieling and showing off your sewn products. Getting the word out about your business and successfully reaching new customers through marketing and publicity (as compared with word-of-mouth referrals) are major time-consumers. It also can be expensive. Does it "pay off?" For most of us, I think it is well worth the effort and the expense.
Every church group, PTA, business association, chamber of commerce, residents association, garden club, etc., etc. with which you are associated is a group of potential customers and should be treated as such. Always carry business cards and, when appropriate, other promotional materials. You can arrive a little early, before the official meeting, and get permission leave a stack of flyers or brochures where other members can see them as they arrive or when they get refreshments. So far, I have never had anyone refuse to allow me to display promotional materials because, as a sewing professional, I provide a necessary business service to the community.
The extra expense comes from membership dues and fees, automotive and other transportation costs incurred in getting to the meetings and, most importantly, the time that you spend away from your sewing machine. You have to determine what amount of time is appropriate for you and your business.
If you are a custom clothier, it is easier to display your products than it is for a home decoration specialist. Simply wear (or have the kids wear) something that you have made. Flash your label and smile! When people ask me, "What do you do?" I either open my jacket or grab a piece of flowing skirt and say, " I do this." That "opener" always starts a conversation on the advantages of custom clothing, at the end of which I whip out one of my business cards and say "Call me, we can continue this discussion at my studio (or at a place of your choosing)." If I lay my jacket over the back of a chair (which I do whenever I have the chance), people notice that the label has my name on it and they comment. This tactic also is an opener for a marketing conversation. The point here is that you are always on display, always marketing your sewn products. Yes, custom clothiers must look good in whatever sewn products they are wearing. Each time you appear in something that you have made, you are advertising your product. Personally, I only wear garments that I have made. How could I explain wearing something "off the rack" when my spiel contends that custom clothing is superior to ready-to-wear?
Offer your wares as prizes for a raffle or fundraiser. Offer coupons and/or gift certificates to club members and group participants as a part of the membership incentive package. The gas station does it; the hardware store does it; the local drugstore does ityou can do it too.
As with any marketing effort, I would recommend doing an assessment of your efforts after a year. If you are satisfied with the response that your face-to-face marketing has gotten, continue with the program. If there are factors in your area which have made the effort more expensive or more time-consuming than you feel it is worth given the response, drop it and try something else. I would be very interested in hearing how successful face-to-face marketing is in areas other than large urban or metropolitan centers. Those of us who live in large cities have numerous routine opportunities to meet with new acquaintances or people who have not yet heard about our businesses. I would think those in smaller cities and towns would need to broaden their geographic target area in order to elicit the same level of response. This probably will add to the expense in dollars and time.
Comments? Please feel free to send them to SewStorm@aol.com
Kateri Ellison is a is a couture dressmaker in Washington, DC who successfully uses her community and association network to build her business.More information on Sewstorm Publishing
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