Getting (Truly) Social: Creative Marketing Offline for Product Creators

Creative Marketing Offline for Product Creators

Product-based biz owners: If late autumn and early winter signal a season of staying indoors, summer is a time to take your creating marketing offline by getting out and interacting with the world.

It’s all about experiences, events and memories for product creators who typically spend all other seasons behind our computers, and it’s the perfect time to build real relationships with customers -- and potential brand loyalists. Getting out of your comfort zones and hitting the pavement may uncover opportunities you never expected. Here’s how.

Getting face-to-face

Face-to-face (or IRL, if you will), you learn real information from your target audience, while sharing the real-time people and stories behind your brand. Gary Vaynerchuk said: “Saying hello doesn’t have an ROI. It’s about building relationships.”

But of course, every relationship has to start with a hello. If you’re uncomfortable with personal interaction, a fair or market is a good place to start, because everyone around you is there to sell and those in attendance are an eager audience. These events give you one-on-one time with potential customers and allow you to build brand awareness today – and loyalty into the future. Consider not only what you can sell at these events, but also what you can give away or share with attendees, which will keep you top of mind with them later.

Local festivals and fairs often have deep roots in the history and tradition of the town and celebrate unique themes. Create custom products that align, like:

  • Exclusive accessories or apparel with local team colors
  • A unique print or drawing with an historic nod
  • A scent or flavor of your area’s best produce

What makes your locale special? How can you incorporate it into what you make or sell?

Events are also a great way to introduce a new product or line, especially if your brand is well known to your community. Showcase your newest items – or offer a sneak peek into your upcoming line. Offer an exclusive discount or opportunity only available to those who stop by your booth or table. Print postcards or business cards announcing your new line and tuck them into your packaging in the weeks leading up to the event.

Not sure where to find events going on? Check your city or state tourism websites for fairs and festivals -- and look for events that welcome vendors and merchants. You can check FestivalNet.com or Zapplication.org for a variety of festivals, arts and craft shows, tradeshows and more.

If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can host an event yourself. Whether it’s a small coffee and shopping event, or a large fair or marketplace, make sure you offer an experience to visitors! This time of year, people are looking for a place to gather with family and friends and make some memories. A beautiful location, a band or some music, food and drinks – and you’re on your way!

Partnerships

If this time of year seems to bring a downturn in your sales and/or a lull in your creativity, one of the best ways to recharge is to work with another brand or business in your area. Team up to offer something unique – just for this time of year, or just for visitors and tourists to your hometown. You can work with a brand that offers something similar to you to create a product that blends your work. (An idea: Design a gift basket or bundle with products from businesses around your area.)

Or, you might want to think outside the box and see if you can partner with a company whose vision and mission is similar to yours – but whose offerings are totally different. These partnerships make great stories to share with your local newspaper or news outlets. Get people talking!

Working together with other brands gives you the resources, manpower, and story to create interesting marketing opportunities. A few examples:

  • Invite shoppers in for a series of workshops or classes in each of your stores (if you have a retail space). You can take turns hosting on a specified evening -- or you can rotate shoppers in a progressive-style experience over the course of an evening.
  • Get the community involved in a special challenge or contest. Remember the library reading challenges of your youth summertime? Work with fellow business owners to create a similarly interactive challenge.
  • Develop a series of acts of kindness or giving back, cleaning up the community or getting involved in shopping local. Shoppers can receive stamps or marks at different locations, like a scavenger hunt, and rewards can be given out at the end of the summer.

Partnerships can make big ideas more realistic, and give you the opportunity to get in front of a new audience.

Promotions

In an era of social media, sometimes we forget about classic marketing devices, but summer is a time for nostalgia -- so why not go old school with your message? It doesn’t have to be complicated:

  • Find out where your favorite local radio stations (and the favorite stations of your customers) are going to be having or attending events. See if you can provide some giveaways or goodies at their booth – and get your brand name on the radio.
  • Take out a cheeky ad in your newspaper, during these slower days when people might actually take the time to see it over their morning coffee?
  • Don’t forget about good, old-fashioned bulletin boards. Ask for permission to spread the word about what you do at coffee shops, pools and other community locations.

A great way to get started with this is to just start talking with people. Attend events, even if you don’t have a booth or table there, and collect business cards. Introduce yourself to fellow business owners. Mention that you may want to look into working together sometime -- and follow up with a casual coffee. Opportunities often unfold organically.

Philanthropy

What feels better than doing good? Summer is a great time to get out in the community and find out where you can help. What are you passionate about? What change do you want to see in the world?

Contact your favorite shelter, organization, mission or nonprofit and find out how you can help. Can you create a special product or a whole line in your shop, from which all the proceeds go to them? Can you donate some of your items directly? Can you set up a donation drop-off in your brick-and-mortar shop? The reality is that the nonprofit to whom you donate will likely share your brand information with their donors and members. Even though you’re not in it for the free publicity, the marketing opportunity is there. If you decide to get creative with a special event, unique line, or other charitable opportunity, you can also harness the story and share with your local news outlets. They love telling feel-good stories – and what feels better than this?

The first step in creative marketing offline: Start the conversation

Again, the first step is introducing yourself and letting people know who you are and what you do. Creative marketing starts with casual conversations and real relationships that you can evolve into mutually beneficially programs or opportunities.

Authenticity and actually caring about people will bring more ROI to your business than any click of a computer key could do. Get out in your community, get involved, and get to know the people – and along the way, watch your creative marketing take off!

To Be or Not To Be… Your Own Brand

Personal + Professional Branding

Whether you are establishing your first brand or are thinking it might be time to reposition your brand, we, as solopreneurs, have a choice of using our own name and being our brand, or creating a unique name. Both have strong upsides – you just need to discover which positives you can make the most of in your business. Let’s lay them out.

Upsides to being your own brand

1. Natural passion with unlimited growth

You already live what you’re passionate about. If you started your business out of your own interests, using your name brings authentic personality. You don’t have to try to be consistent or on point when you are your brand. You already know, in your gut, if it’s you. In addition, as your offerings (products/services) expand in subject matter, you aren’t limited by a creative name that’s descriptive of a certain expertise. Using your own name allows you to share what you love and be what you love.

2. Instant branding

Only you can be you. You don’t have to worry about trying to create a brand that stands out or differentiates enough from the competition. You won’t have to try to tweak one thing here or there to be “just different enough.” There is only one you. You are already unique. As you are creating your brand under your name, you can be proud of the individuality and distinctiveness built in.

3. Easy communication

This is such a pragmatic reason to be your own brand, but it’s a reality and something to consider. If you are your brand, it’s very easy for people to confidently contact you by name. However, if you are functioning under a creative name, your first name might not be immediately obvious. This is especially true if your brand name happens to sound like or play off another person’s name. If you are using a creative, unique name, make sure your real, personal name is used often throughout your brand content and readily available.

Upsides to not being your own brand

1. Provide context

While your name is specific to you, it doesn’t shed light on exactly what you offer or sell. Your unique brand name can allude to, or fully describe, what your brand is about. There is so much competition and noise out there –- a brand that can tell its own story in a name can sometimes gain the upper hand.

2. Common vs. original

In a world of domain names and social media accounts, we can’t all be “JohnDoe” or “MarySmith.” And some of us just have those names. (My maiden name ensured that there was always a name twin in any large group I was in.) By creating a unique name for your brand (so long as you’ve researched to make sure it’s not already taken), you get around all of that and are able to nab the domain and social media names you want.

3. Ready for (team) expansion

When your name is your brand and your brand is you, it can potentially be limiting in the future. As you expand your services or seek to bring on new employees, you may start to feel like your brand name is limiting. Of course, plenty of big name brands and celebrities have done it with ease (cough, Marie Forleo, cough) – but if you anticipate wanting to distance yourself from your brand and let your brand be emblematic of your employees, you may want to think today about choosing a creative name that allows for expansion.

“This above all, to thine ownself be true…”

Whichever direction you choose, make sure it feels natural and comfortable to you. Whether it’s your own name or a creative one, it’s a name you will be using often –- to represent you and your business. If it feels forced or just isn’t working, keep looking. Naming isn’t easy, but when you find the right name, all the authentic pieces of your brand will come together. And after all, “a rose by any other name is just as sweet,” but that’s a different play.

What road did you take for your brand -- and what have you found to be the pros + cons?