If maker marketing was as easy as making, then everyone would be Picasso or Chanel.
Sad fact, my friends, but a very true situation, and one that you – as a maker – have to come to terms with before you can get back to making stuff. Maker marketing is a very real thing, and unless you’re just doing this as a part time hobby, then it’s time to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your particular brand of artistry.
It can be quite specific, and what works for one medium simply won’t cut it for another. How do you know whether Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy, or Facebook is the ONE that will simplify your life by giving you the best return on your time and effort when it comes to maker marketing? Should you focus on multiple channels, do you need to spend more than an hour a day working on your marketing, and what kind of organic growth could you possibly see if you spent less time and no money on any of these platforms?
These are real questions, and this post is not about some kind of formula or system or webinar or launch scheme or any of that stuff. There is no lack of folks attempting to take your money to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to launch your product sales and about as many 5 step programs for doing it as there are fabrics in your stash or paints in your box. This isn’t about doing that.
Before you can figure out what program to use, you have to determine what platforms will work.
I’m completely serious here. Wasting your money on courses that teach you how to make money using Pinterest or Instagram are exactly that if your products aren’t going to benefit from spending your maker marketing budget on those platforms. If you think that using Facebook ads to push your pattern sales with a scattershot demographic is what’s going to do the trick, have at it – maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Just keep in mind that the people who are selling you all these systems and programs have way more experience selling those to people like you (ok, the good ones do) than you have figuring out whether or not you’re even in the right place to start.
I’m not even going to tell you what platforms I think are best for different mediums – ok, I am but in general terms, not as absolutes, and I’m not recommending you sign up for B-school or start working on growing your email list or that you invest in nice video or audio production equipment so you can start a podcast or create a video class series.
I’m going to talk a bit about how you can stop buying into every idea that comes along and wasting a lot of your valuable creation time on maker marketing plans that won’t work for you. I’m sure there’s one out there that will, especially if you are willing to devote a bit of time to it every single day. That means weekends and holidays too, no skimping or making excuses.
There a some simple tasks you need to set yourself to in order to figure this out; at that point you can start researching who has a good method or what a reliable system is for your product or service. Until you’ve got a concrete idea of what’s what, you’re just spinning your wheels. Let’s get started.
First, take inventory.
I don’t mean take a physical inventory of your products, although I suppose that never hurts to have on hand. But then again no one wants to actually count the number of pieces in their fabric stash or sort through a drawer full of icing tip, now do they? That could be scary!
By taking inventory, you are going to need to create a solid list of what it is that you are attempting to create and sell – for some people, it’s easy. They make something, lets say hand crafted tea sets, and that’s the only thing they do or want to do (at least initially). No video lessons or how to’s teaching people how to make tea, or how to make tea sets, or where to go for tea, just the tea sets. And that’s perfectly fine, contrary to the internet’s wisdom, everything in life doesn’t revolve around coaching people to do something or learn a new skill.
So our fictitious tea set maker offers ceramic or porcelain tea sets. And wants to sell these with the minimum amount of fuss, while attempting to get the highest price possible for these artisanal goods. Totally understandable in my world. Our ceramicist doesn’t really want to deal with maker marketing, so she needs to find a good place to display her wares and market without getting too involved.
One big reason for creators to use Etsy, Shopify, eBay, Amazon Handmade etc is that the advertising can be built right into the service platform. And it’s much easier if someone else is carrying the weight of generating traffic to your digital storefront. So much easier, trust me if you don’t know. I spend a good portion of my day dealing with people who built their own websites (which is also ok) but now have to spend way more than an hour each day working on advertising and marketing, and they also have to go to great lengths to create the collateral that powers these campaigns. It’s all very exhausting.
Second, see what your competition is doing.
Most people immediately look at the very top echelon of their product or service, and think, oh, that’s what I need to do. If Marie Forleo is running a video course and a Facebook mastermind, that’s the best way to do it. (This would be the case if you were in the life/business coaching business, but you’re probably not so don’t worry about who Marie is, it’s just an example) In reality you should be comparing yourself to other people who are not quite at the top of the food chain in your chosen medium, and looking at what they are doing to become successful.
You may not realize that it’s as simple as going to someone’s Etsy shop, website, Instagram account, and a quick Google search to trigger about a million different pieces of data that result in ads in your news feeds, in your search results, etc. This is our life today, whether or not we consciously think about it. You have the power to completely change your IG or FB or Pinterest feed just by doing a couple of searches and liking something. Try it, just be careful that you don’t skew it towards something you hate, like kale chip recipes. JK. Ok, maybe not.
The reason I’m suggesting that you check out the successful up and comers instead of the established top of the dogpile is that time changes all things, and while someone may have found a way to work Google Hangouts to success, it’s entirely possible that Hangouts isn’t generating traffic any more and people still trying to leverage it aren’t going to see anywhere near the results that others were getting even just a couple of years ago.
Divide and conquer?
Another idea that I like to toss around when talking about maker marketing is this one – it may behoove you to put specific projects or types of work onto specific platforms, in what we call a marketing silo. If you make a variety of products – lets use our tea set ceramicist again – some focused on the minimalist market, others focused on childrens’ tea sets, and still some others geared towards the maxi/boho demographic, then putting all those things into the same shop or site may distract your prospective buyers and drive them away from you.
It’s very similar to how we teach people to build and use landing page systems for online sales. We know it works since it keeps the focus through the initial purchase directed at the product or type of product the buyer was originally drawn to, instead of giving them too many unrelated options that create uncertainty in the mind.
This is also a great way to test out platforms – you may find that Amazon Handmade is the way you want to go, or it may be that directly selling on Instagram is a better fit for you. If you make something really amazing – and pricey – then you might want to start looking into something like 1stDibs or Chairish, instead of selling out of an Etsy store or on Shopify. Horses for courses, really, but until you have determined where your ideal buyer is, it’s really almost impossible to create any kind of effective maker marketing campaign that is going to do much beyond frustrate you.
Ah yes, frustration. I hear ya.
If you are constantly trying new maker marketing ideas without giving the old ones time to either take off or fail (this is predicated on the fact that you are actually working a campaign and not just posting on IG when you feel like it and expecting great sales figures…), then you need to change your ways, and fast.
More people probably fail to succeed in online commerce because they didn’t work hard enough at the platform they chose than anything else. The difference in Pinterest and Instagram, for instance, isn’t the end of the world – there’s a lot of crossover in the demographic. But the difference in Instagram and Facebook, OMG, we are talking two different worlds here. Jumping from one to the other because you didn’t see immediate success with an ad run is like committing business hari kari. Don’t do it.
Plan your work, work your plan.
It’s really easy to get frustrated when you don’t see results right away, but if you don’t have a solid plan for what you are going to say in your maker marketing, how you are going to craft a campaign – especially when the only thing you want to be crafting is tea sets, then you are still just spinning those wheels, and getting more frustrated than ever in the process.
More later on this topic – right now you have a homework assignment.