The brilliant April Bowles-Olin, aka Blacksburg Belle, is in the midst of preparing for her upcoming boot camp, Double your Followers with Creative Marketing, and asked folks to share their most successful marketing strategy to date.
It got me thinking… There are a LOT of marketing strategies that have worked for me over the years. SEO? Check! Rockin’ Pinterest like a boss? Yep! Doubling my followers on Instagram? Been there, done that! (And if you want to learn how I did it, check out this 55 minute screencast where I explain all my Instagram tips & tricks!)
That said… when it comes down to it, all of those things are tactics. And tactics are great, but what it really boils down to is PEOPLE. Real relationships with other human beings are the glue that holds everything together and builds a brand and a business that is sustainable over the long term.
In the Internet world, this site is fairly old. As in, Miss Malaprop has been around since 2006. And it has changed a LOT over the years. When I first started, my goal was to build this blog into a brand that I planned to transform into an online shop + brick & mortar boutique dedicated to handmade and eco-friendly goods. And I did that… part of the way at least.
By 2010, I’d launched my online shop and was selling regularly at craft shows, fairs and festivals. But then… things changed. People change, goals change. What I wanted for my future changed. But the connections I’d made over the years? The people I met and collaborated with? The genuine relationships that evolved? That stuff has a way of coming around full circle.
You see, one of my first memories of connecting with April was during the The Brilliant Marketing Tricks Blog Series back in 2010. It was a series of blog posts organized by Mayi Carles, and featured some of my absolute favorite people in the online world, both then and now. People who have gone on to do amazing and inspiring things including Tara Gentile, Nathalie Lussier, Brittni Mehlhoff, Tim Adam, Jena Coray and of course, Mayi and April.
People who consistently give freely have a way of getting noticed. And this badass group of folks has given so much knowledge and insight to the online creative community over the years. These are all people who I’ve continued to follow in the years since that series of blog posts, and I know I’m not the only one. Collaboration gets you in front of someone else’s audience, and when you genuinely help people, you get remembered for it.
There’s no way I could talk about collaboration without mentioning my New Orleans Craft Mafia ladies. While most of us have changed course and we no longer organize events together the way we used to, the NOCM played a huge part in my life and made a huge impact on where I am today.
The New Orleans Craft Mafia was founded in 2005, spearheaded by my friend Rachelle and based off of the original Craft Mafia started in Austin, TX in 2003. These groups were started in the days before Etsy was a household name. Back when taking credit cards at craft shows meant using carbon copies and a knuckle-buster, and back when craft shows featured mostly traditional crafts and not the hip, trendy designs you might see at a show like Renegade today.
The NOCM came together because we knew that we would be stronger as a group than as individuals. Over the years, we organized a ton of events, including an annual holiday market called the Last Stop Shop. We also hosted free workshops, teaching people at Bayou Boogaloo how to upcycle their t-shirts.
We got a lot of press along the way, including mentions in local newspapers and magazines and even a few TV spots. And we couldn’t have done it alone.
Promoting all of those events for our group also taught me a LOT. I became a master at writing and distributing press releases, and formed relationships with local journalists that I wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with otherwise. I also polished my e-mail marketing, SEO and web development skills during those years.
In 2007, I traveled to Pittsburgh on behalf of our group for Craft Congress, a conference for craft show organizers. That was my first real taste of how incredible conferences can be for building real-life connections. (I’m also still friends with some of the people I met there!)
Finding ways to network with people in real-life, face-to-face is CRUCIAL. When I was focused on selling my handmade goods, selling at craft shows was the #1 way I built my following and made money. My most important business relationships have come about through joining mastermind groups, going to local networking events and attending conferences and other in-person events.
I first met Kristy Oustalet, one of the founders of VenturePOP! Creative Conference, through a local group of business women. There were about 9 of us, and we’d meet for dinner once a month or so, to talk through our business goals and roadblocks. We’d listen, discuss and give each other feedback and suggestions. I later collaborated with Kristy when she rented out her art studio to me so that I could host a holiday pop-up shop – a mini version of the brick & mortar boutique I was working towards at the time. Even though both of our businesses and goals have changed a lot over the years, we’re still there to support each other. She even interviewed me for her video podcast:
Attending and speaking at conferences and finding ways to meet other like-minded creatives in real-life has been instrumental for me in growing my biz. If I could give you one piece of advice it would be this: get out from behind your computer screen and find a way to meet other Badass Creatives that you can connect and collaborate with! Whether it’s a local networking group, a conference, a mastermind group, or just reaching out to a local creative entrepreneur that you respect and inviting them to meet for coffee… get out there and meet people!
That said… I TOTALLY get how intimidating it can be. I’m an introvert by nature, at least when it comes to meeting new people. (Put me on stage, and it’s another matter, but face-to-face, first time meeting someone? Totally scary and nerve-wracking!) But you just gotta FACE YOUR FEARS. The worst that can happen is that the conversation falls flat, you say “It was nice to meet you,” and then you go pull yourself together in the bathroom.
For example, when I went to Texas Style Council back in March, I was really stoked to meet Cyndie Spiegel. Then, during the party the first night of the conference I turned into that shy weirdo and skulked around with a few of the people I already knew and couldn’t muster the nerve to JUST SAY HI. *face palm*
BUT! The next day after Cyndie’s panel I hung around afterwards until there weren’t so many people around and finally introduced myself and told her that SHE was the person I was most excited to meet there. Fast forward to this summer, when I joined Cyndie’s group coaching program / mastermind group, The Collective of Us. Within that group of amazingly kickass women, I’ve developed even more awesome relationships which are pushing me to do bigger and better things.
You get back from life (and your business) what you put into it. Businesses don’t function without real people on the other end. So…
Collaborate and KICK ASS.
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This post is a part of the Double Your Followers blog tour to spread the word about April Bowles-Olin’s upcoming CreativeLive course. Does hearing the word ‘marketing’ make your armpits start to drip with anxiety? Are you terrified of sounding salesy or like you have the personality of a dead blowfish? If so, come join me and 2,500+ entrepreneurs who’re taking April’s latest CreativeLive course, Double Your Followers with Creative Marketing. You can RSVP and watch for FREE. Yep, free. High fives, wildflowers, wine samples. Who doesn’t love free?
Mallory Whitfield created MissMalaprop.com in 2006 as a place to share her favorite cool stuff, handmade products and indie finds. Throughout her journey as a creative entrepreneur, Mallory has worn many hats, including blogger, visual artist, upcycled clothing creator, performance artist, jewelry designer, craft show vendor, creative strategist, speaker, teacher and consultant to other small business owners. By day, she specializes in SEO, content marketing and social media strategy as Content Analyst at FSC Interactive, a leading digital marketing agency in New Orleans.
I’ve been working with artists and creatives to get the word out about their work for more than 10 years. I’ve seen people the same marketing mistakes again and again, whether it’s independent artists and creatives, small business owners or big companies.
And I don’t want it to happen to you.
In my free mini-course, you’ll learn the top 5 marketing mistakes that I see artists & creatives make that prevent them from selling more of their handmade products.
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