STEP 5: HOW DO I MARKET IT?
We're ready for Paper by JLee: Step 5! In the previous post (step four) we looked at how I started branding my business. We covered everything from a logo to name to brand colors. In this post I'll talk about how I set out marketing my new shop!
At this point I had some stationery designs, a way to print and ship them, a shop name, logo and general aesthetic. Next, I needed to create an Etsy storefront, Facebook page and Instagram so I could market and sell my products. I created the new accounts as soon as I had a business name to make sure no one else could use the handle @paperbyjlee. The shop officially opened for business on November 16, 2014!
My marketing strategy developed as I grew my shop, read numerous articles online, and asked family and friends for input. Today, I try to keep up with a regular online posting schedule and have a steady stream of new online content for my followers to see. A lot of the other stationery shops I follow and owners I've talked to recommend posting daily but posting that much is unattainable for me at this point so I aim for posting twice per week. I’ve found that using the right hashtags can really help grow your following on Instagram. The following hashtags (thanks to research and help from other shop owners) have helped increase traffic to my profile:
I’ll periodically look through other Instagram profiles to see what hashtags they’re using and, if I have more questions, I’ll message the owner directly and usually get a pretty helpful response! In terms of management, Trello and Buffer are great tools that I use to organize and prioritize blog posts, social media posts as well as my orders and future product ideas.
In addition to posting content online, I'm always looking for ways to improve my online shop. Part of this included creating a website, separate from my Etsy shop, to give potential clients more ways to find and buy my products. I launched www.paperbyjlee.com about a year after the Etsy shop went live. Today, the majority of my sales come from Etsy while the website generates traffic from Instagram and blog posts.
Photography is also a big part of the marketing process. You certainly don’t need a fancy camera to start an Etsy shop or have a popular Instagram page but good photos are key to selling your product. The majority of the photos I post are taken with a Canon EOS 70D camera. Natural lighting and consistent photo styling are essential to creating engaging images that will lead to more followers and sales. As you read in step 4, a consistent aesthetic is key to building a successful brand. Read more about this here, here and here.
In addition to the ideas listed above, I also participate in as many events as I can. One of the biggest business boosts I got came in form of an Etsy message that led to my participation in The Big Fake Wedding in NYC in January 2015 where I met loads of other small business owners who had a side-hustle similar to mine. I've found that the most helpful tools and advice came from these contacts.
I met a lot of really wonderful and supportive business owners when I participated in the event. I had launched my shop just a few months before the wedding but, even as a rookie, it was still a great kickstarter as I began to navigate the world of stationery, design and running a small business. I was able to ask the other, more experienced vendors questions, take notes on their products and services, and even followed everyone on Instagram to observe their online marketing strategies. After the event, I kept in touch and asked more questions about everything from what hashtags they used to how they grew their online following. Asking other small business owners questions is a great way to connect, learn, and eventually grow your own business. You can read more about my experience at The Big Fake Wedding in this blog post and see some of the photos of the event below.
One of the connections I made at Big Fake Wedding included Elvira Kalviste, a great photographer based in NYC. She eventually contacted me to be part of a styled shoot she was putting together. The WellWed Blog even published the shoot online. This style shoot is a great example of how one event or one connection can lead to more business opportunities and connections. You can read more about that style shoot in this blog post and see photos of the products I created for the shoot below.
Participating in these events really shaped my marketing strategy but, as always, marketing and branding is a work in progress. The next steps for my business and marketing plan include making and posting more videos, using giveaways as a way to increase my following and, of course, creating more products and blog content for people to explore.
The next step in this process is finding people who can (and will!) help support the business and me as I grow Paper by JLee. Step 6 is next!