Young designers need to understand what they are and why they are starting their own businesses. If they do it, it is because they really believe that they have something to say that cannot be said in the context of Paul Smith or Oscar de la Renta or Dior.
Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director, The New York Times.
In the How to Start a Fashion Business blog post, I mentioned a tip regarding the importance of creating your brand identity through marketing and advertising. I will include the exact extract below but click here for a link to the full blog post.
There is no point in having a company if no one knows about it. Right from the beginning you should establish your brand identity, by which I mean how you want the public to perceive your business. This refers to the consumers perceptions about the product, the quality and the advantages your brand has over its competitors.
A strategised marketing and communications plan are key to building your brand. Understand your market share, your target audience and how you are going to approach your customers. While social media is critically important to tapping into the current fashion audience, there is a lot more to it than setting up an Instagram page. You need to create a disciplined approach to tackling your consumers and peaking their interests in an super-saturated market.
It is also important to see PR companies and the rest of the media as powerful aides in your broader marketing plan. Hiring a PR agent or company is probably one of the best steps you will ever take in taking your business to the next level, but you should only try to bring your work to the attention of a wider audience if your business can sustain it.
For this week’s blog post, I thought it would be ideal to elaborate on the importance of marketing for the success of your fashion brand and offer a few helpful tips and tricks. Hopefully, you will learn something new or can adapt some of the techniques to suit your business.
Starting a business, particularly in the fashion industry can feel a little overwhelming. With so many brands out there all vying for coverage, your efforts to get your brand noticed can feel a little futile, almost as if you are just one of many, spreading your message, hoping it catches someone’s attention. However, you should never let the saturation of the marketplace deter you from giving it your best effort.
Once you have a solid foundation for your business – by which I mean you have a comprehensive understanding of your brand identity, including your distinct design voice and aesthetic, values, beliefs and an understanding of your customer (click here to read last week’s blog post for some helpful tips on how to identify and target your perfect customer) – it is time to use all of this information to create a marketing plan.
Some of the simplest tips for marketing your business are to post regularly on social media, having a blog, running competitions, joining different online or offline communities and going to events. However, sometimes you might find you have attempted all of these things and they seem to have no impact. That is hopefully where these few tips will come in and help you to market your business.
Tip 1: Directly Ask People to Share
This may seem slightly intimidating, or even a little desperate, but it is probably the most effective marketing technique. If you are lucky enough to have a customer base already, contact them and ask them to share your brand with a friend, or tag it on social media. There have been numerous times where I have been scrolling through Instagram, saw an outfit I liked and tapped the picture to check the credits only to discover that the one thing I was interested in wasn’t tagged. If you don’t have customers yet, ask people in your circle or even other members of our own Galway Designers Network. Make a list of names and send a short email telling them about your latest work or newest pieces, how much you would appreciate a little support and add the direct links to your various profiles and social media pages. It will not appear pushy so long as you phrase everything in a polite manner, and the majority of people are happy to support brands they admire, believe in and have good experiences with.
Tip 2: Ensure Your Presence at All Events
…even if you are not physically there.
How can you manage this? Well there are a couple of options available. One way many of the larger designers and brands do it is through the use of ambassadors. While this can take some time, finding a customer who knows your brand as well as you do and who is happy to publicly represent you will be an invaluable resource. If you have someone you think fits the bill, organise an event that your ambassador can host to present them to the world as your new Brand Ambassador, perhaps a lifestyle event or a personal styling session. That way, you have someone who can host events for you in areas where you or your team cannot be or even have them simply attend events in your stead.
Another option could be to try and gain sponsorship. This does not have to cost a fortune; make use of interesting events or clubs in your locality where you could offer merchandise, goodies or services, or even some financial support. By conducting some succinct research, you can gain an understand of the interests your customer base has and use this information to create an effective sponsorship marketing plan that will not cost the world.
Tip 3: Share your Expertise
We’re all experts in something. As a designer, you will have extensive knowledge about textiles, pattern drafting, construction, sustainability practices, even topics like the tools required for starting a business, what its like to be a designer in a small town etc. Take your experiences and channel them why writing about them. Be yourself, open and honest, and share everything you can. Find the best place to share your work, either in a magazine, newspaper or on a blog. By doing so, you will broaden your audience and cast your sales net even wider, thus attracting more sales.
Tip 4: Social Media Conversations
Social Media is one the most critical marketing tools for the current retail sector. As a designer, it is important to have an online presence where you can engage with customers. Make sure your have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Snapchat and use them to interact with customers, bloggers and journalists in your area. By doing so, you will open your brand up to a world wide audience and help to strengthen it.
- Facebook: It is important to post regularly, with relevant updates. You can also try to engage with your customers by posting poles or doing live Facebook videos showing you at work while taking questions from your followers. Facebook is one of the best channels for audience interaction and questions, but it will inevitably be the first place they go to complain, so keep an eye on all customer interaction.
- Twitter: Much like Facebook, you should try to tweet regularly, ensuring your tweets are relevant and consistent with your brand. You could tweet about your latest design, a new fabric or pattern, your current line, some of the best sellers etc. Also, promote your other social media platforms as well as your sales channels. Another tip is to be seen to be tweeting with reaction to different collections during fashion week/cruise collections or other fashion business news to showcase your awareness of current developments. Keep the tone personal, approachable and interactive – get talking to people!
- Instagram: Use Instagram to showcase your work by post images of each of your pieces. Show them individually and styled with different outfits to give your followers inspiration. If you see a piece from a high end designer similar to a design of yours, share that, with the relevant link to your item showing your customers how to get the look for less. Instagram is fast becoming the most relevant social media platform for fashion and offers a wonderful place to engage with other designers, customers or bloggers and journalists in your area. Instastories also offers you the chance to post daily updates and short videos of you at work as a designer or even offer sneak peeks of upcoming pieces. One of the best features of Instastories is the ability to tag where you are, adding to the Instastory of the locality, particularly helpful if you decide to upload a video of an event or showcase you are taking part it.
- Snapchat: Although, Instastories has somewhat over taken Snapchat in recent months, having a Snapchat account can prove to be a critical social media tool in terms of engaging with followers and potential customers. Snapchat is a quick, hassle free means of taking customer questions and interacting with your audience. It is also a great tool if you want your personality as the designer to become part of your brand identity, as many people will feel like they can get to know you through the videos or images you post. Again, much like Instastories, you can post daily updates and short videos of you at work, offer sneak peeks of upcoming pieces, or tag where you are, adding to the Snapchat story for the local area.
By using social media, you can expand your audience and forge better relationships with the followers you have. Tools like Facebook Live/Instagram Live are great means of having long, engaging conversations with potential customers, rather than sporadic chat in a comments section.
People love what others are passionate about, and if your fashion line is your passion, then there is someone out there just waiting to discover it. How do they do that? Through your effective and efficient marketing strategy.
If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out the following blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business. It might also be a good idea to read last week’s blog post about how to identify your target customer or this post about the various challenges and opportunities for designers in the modern retail environment.
The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs and Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the Galway Designers Studio House Facebook Page to read all about the project and how you can take part.
The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email firstname.lastname@example.org.