I was recently contacted by a designer who had just launched a new range of greetings cards. He wanted to tell the world about his new creations and start generating some sales, but only had a tiny audience to tell.
With no one seeing his work, he has to put work into building the audience he needs and bringing attention to his new brand.
This is why it’s so important to work on building a following, an audience and a network of people as soon as you can, ideally well before you commit to creating new products.
So what can he do when starting from scratch? I’ve put together some ideas for him and others who are just starting from nothing, in rough order of priority.
1. Talk to your ‘Home Base’
Many people forget how valuable those people who already know you are in creating any kind of momentum in promoting yourself and making sales.
By ‘Home Base’ I’m talking about friends, family, past clients, past teachers, that guy who pushed you in the playground, customers, acquaintances and essentially anyone in your contact book who you’ve talked to in the past.
A lot of these people will respond well to you because there is already a warm connection between you.
Even for those that you haven’t contacted in a long time, they are still worth reaching out to, to reconnect as they will be warmer than total strangers.
So before spending time and energy on talking to brand new people, start with those who already know you in some way. Reconnect, tell them how you just had a weird dream about them, and introduce your new product or service. Try and call people if you can.
Ask them whether they’re interested in buying, or if they know anyone they know who would be. Don’t let these communications be vague and overly flowery. Get a result.
Ask them to give you one or two specific names of people they know who could either buy from you – or they might have an audience of their own that they can share your cool creations with.
Make sure to follow up with these people until you get some kind of a result. People are busy and distracted, so understand that connecting with anyone takes work and persistence and tracking, so that you know who is due a follow up.
2. Talk to influencers
The approach above also applies to other influential people except that these people don’t yet know you. Identify a handful of people that if you got in front of them with your work, they could potentially help you in big way.
Social networks and social tools like Social Bro and Manage Flitter are great for finding people with large followings.
By influential, I’m also talking about people that can move their own audiences and have an engaged audience. The people that follow them would obviously be well matched to the product or services you are introducing to them.
Again, this will take some persistence and research in finding them. Talk to them, find ways of giving something to them in return or just keep following up with them, and see if you can work something out.
Make sure you play to the self-interest of those you are speaking to. How can you help them by working with them? If you have a great product that would be of interest to their audience, that might be all you need for them to share your stuff.
Finding people who have large followings or large newsletters are worth engaging with to come to some kind of a deal to get your work shared to those large groups.
Finding influencers who can – at the very least – send out a tweet about your work, can often provide a big shortcut over starting and building a social media or newsletter following from scratch.
3. Focus on growing one social network
Obviously there are loads of social media platforms that you can use to hoist up your brand’s flag. Just today I’ve joined two additional new social networks, which are very likely to distract me even more than usual: Snapchat and Anchor (*hint* *cough* follow me!).
But the priority when you’re just starting out is to make the biggest impression in the most efficient way possible. Therefore it’s wise to identify a social network that contains a lot of the kinds of people you want to see your product, sign up and get active there.
Pour as much of your effort on one network, sharing and re-sharing quality content frequently to those that matter rather than spreading yourself thin on several for now.
By all means, get your stuff shared everywhere – you might as well – it’s all free. But for now, focus the majority of your energy and focus towards one platform, and share plenty.
Follow hundreds of people if you are permitted to, daily. Now is not the time to look cool on social media by not following anyone.
I’ve followed tens of thousands of people over the years on Twitter and attribute a lot of my success and opportunities to growing a large Twitter following coupled with sharing a lot of quality content there targeted towards specific types of people, I.e. Illustrators and creatives.
Use tools to manage your followers like Manage Flitter. I use it to find great people to follow, and I unfollow those that don’t follow me back after a while. That’s great news for those that do follow back of course ;).
In addition to growing a social network, you want to take advantage of all the work you’re putting into social networking as best you can.
My suggestion is to create a really enticing landing page where people can sign up to your newsletter in exchange for a free gift and/or lots of quality content from you, even if it’s just updates of what you’re working on, a quick video or a short tip.
When you work with social media, and any other kind of promotion, you’d send people to this landing page, so that you build your subscribers (who you can then share your products with), as well as building your social followings at the same time.
4. Use social ads
Facebook and Twitter are two places that offer tools for advertisers to marketing their products to very specific audiences. If you have a product to sell, it could be great for you to spend a portion of each sale made on advertising.
The beauty of social ads is that you can set a budget to spend each day, based on the number of clicks your ad or page receives and you can direct the ad to very specific types of people under very tight criteria.
This means that if you know the rough conversion rate on how many people buy your product when they land on your page to buy it, you can be pretty confident about how much that sale is worth to you in the form of advertising.
If you assign a price for each sale, you aren’t theoretically spending any money on promoting your product – only for that initial ad spend.
Bonus: Submit your product like crazy
If you have a physical product or piece of software, there are numerous sites online that take submissions for new products and launches. Sites like Promote Hour list out various places that accept new submissions for new brands and products.
You can also use Google to find these submission sites by entering the relevant search terms. If you’re selling greetings cards, you could find submission sites for new craft products by searching for example: ‘submit craft’ – like Craft Gawker or Geek Crafts.
In addition to ‘submit sites’, don’t forget to write to various bloggers or journalists who might be willing to share your new products on their sites and publications, if their audience is relevant, or you might choose to write or film your own guest post/write for them. They are always looking for new content, so they may very well accommodate you.
You can outsource a lot of this work if you have a small budget for getting help on sites like Upwork and Perssist. Find people who are willing to take some text and some images to submit to these sites. You can even hire others to do the research in finding where these sites are and compile a spreadsheet containing those URLs and more.
As in all cases, make sure to follow up with all the places you are trying to get through to. It takes persistence and work when no one knows you yet.
Overall, you need to go into this with a mindset of doing whatever it takes to get noticed. You need to be motivated to make this work, but you also need to take things one step at a time.
More than anything focus on taking action rather than getting caught up in planning and being perfect.
Draw up an action plan to make this work, committing to a certain number of activities every day that will move you closer to getting the attention and the sales you want.
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