It’s difficult this self-promotion thing. On one hand you want to scream and shout about your latest venture, and on the other you’re slightly paranoid and embarrassed about the whole ordeal (how frightfully British!) It’s a fine line between forging a successful marketing campaign and coming across as an annoying spammer, and so today, dear reader, I thought I’d compile a few tips that I’ve picked up over the past few years. Of course this isn’t a finite list, it is merely a collection of musings I’ve gathered together after being at the receiving end of one too many terrible marketing campaigns.
As a general rule I dislike newsletters, email lists or any correspondence that is impersonal. I’m also usually not a huge fan of the traditional press release either (more on this later) although I do understand that they play a vital role in the majority of the marketing efforts of small businesses.
My number one pet peeve with the newsletter approach is when people add me to their email list without my permission and then send me their generically composed emails about their latest shoe design or whatever over and over. I can only imagine this is done with the vague hope that something will catch my eye and ta daaaa I’ll give them lots of free blog coverage. Ahhh! Not only is this a huge annoyance but it’s actually against the terms of service of the majority of the companies who host said newsletters.
The word “Spam” as applied to Email means Unsolicited Bulk Email (“UBE”).
It is a concern to us if you use MailChimp to send any unsolicited email to anyone with whom you have no relationship. It is much more of a concern, and more likely to cause our system to be blocked by various ISP’s, for you to send an unsolicited email to an entire list of people you don’t know.
Permission Lists Only: You may use MailChimp only to send Emails to individuals and entities that either:
Possibility 1 – Consent Obtained
A. gave or give you written (including electronic) permission to send Emails to them, without subsequently withdrawing such permission and either:
Consent Given Recently gave you the permission within the prior 12 months; or
Consent Given More Than One Year Earlier you sent them a promotional email, which was not objected to, within the prior 12 months; or
Possibility 2 – Sold or Negotiated to Sell Product or Service
B. gave or give you their name and email address in connection with their purchase, or negotiations to purchase, a product or service from you, have not opted out from receiving your emails and either:
Recent Sale or Negotiation such sale or negotiations occurred within the previous 12 months; or
Sale or Negotiation Occurred More than One Year Earlier you sent them a promotional email, which was not objected to, within the prior 12 months.
If you send Emails to a list, and you get an unusual amount of SPAM complaints (more than 1 out of 1,000), ISPs will begin blocking future emails from your company. They will also request (that’s putting it mildly) that MailChimp shut down your account. So if you don’t have proof that each recipient on your list has opted-in to receive your emails, or otherwise meets the above requirements, don’t import them into MailChimp.
In January last year I made a somewhat controversial decision for a stills photographer – to venture over to the ‘dark side’. Yes, I wanted to see what film was all about and how I could use it to improve my wedding photography business. I had heard a lot of hype about DSLR cameras being able to record HD video and that had piqued my interest. With the two technologies being used side by side, was I missing a trick by not learning how to use film alongside stills?
Around this time a photography magazine, Photo Professional, released a mini magazine entitled ‘HDSLR Movie Maker’. The editor, Terry Hope, spoke about when photography moved from film to digital and how this shift was a huge change for businesses everywhere, as visual content became more accessible to everyone. Given the meteoric rise of digital photography, it goes without saying that many photographers who dismissed digital cameras as a fad and didn’t adapt were left on the shelf. Also in the article, Terry implied that we’re now at a similar point with the integration of film into photography. Photographers need to embrace the change or get left behind.
The timing of the article couldn’t have been better for me and I knew this was something I wanted to start thinking about seriously. I started playing around with filming in March of 2011 and I was very quickly hooked on the world of video.
Every wedding company should embrace video
In today’s fast moving and highly competitive digital marketplace, it is more important than ever that you and your brand make a good first impression on a potential client. It’s still true that nothing quite sells like a real person, so I started to think about how I could put the ‘real’ me across online. The answer was simple – video. If used properly, it creates a much more personal connection with your clients. Customers, particularly in the wedding industry, generally prefer to get a sense of who you are, as well as what you’re selling them. And instead of relying on a forced and formal ‘about me page’ or a faceless contact form, video can go a long way to make them feel like they know you before they get in touch.
While in New York last month, I was lucky enough to meet author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau through our mutual friend Megan. From our brief encounter I was enthralled by his story of traveling the world, writing books and – without wanting to sound like a big cliché- living the dream! Then, when I got home, I had an email from Chris saying how lovely it was so meet me and how great he thought my business was! Holy cow…
Hi Chris, thank you so much for taking time to speak to us today! Can you introduce yourself to my readers?
Thanks for having me! I’m a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur. I’m on a quest to visit every country in the world (185 down, 8 to go). I’m fortunate to spend most of my time working with fun people who connect through my blog and offline community.
I also drink a lot of coffee.
What an amazing and enviable job! Have you ever worked for someone else and was there a defining moment when you thought “That’s it! I’m done!”? Was being your own boss something you always wanted?
I’m a terrible employee, so much that I’m essentially unemployable. I’m just not very good at doing what I’m told or bringing my own motivation to someone else’s project. I walked out of my last job at age 20 (I’m 34 now) and never went back.
What is The Art of Non-Conformity? Who is it for and what’s the overriding message?
The central message of AONC is “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.” Our community includes all kinds of people from all ages and backgrounds. There are students, entrepreneurs, artists, travelers, and more. What unites us is an interest in doing unconventional, remarkable things.
Your ethos has gained quite the cult following. So much so that your first book, The Art of Non-Conformity sold over 50,000 copies in it’s first year! Can you tell us about writing it. How did it all come about?
I had returned to the U.S. from four years in West Africa. I started the AONC blog and began writing about my adventure to visit every country in the world. The readership grew, and I got serious about writing a book.
This week I was all set to write an article about copying, copyright in design and what to do when you percieve your work to be ripped off. And then, when researching the topic, I came across this TED talk by Johanna Blakely, entitled ‘Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture’. Johanna questioned my ideas and flipped the whole subject on it’s head in my mind. I urge you to take 15 minutes out and watch this…
It’s slightly controversial thinking, but the facts seem to stand for themselves. I have always been fiercely defensive of people who’s work and designs get ripped off and replicated within the wedding industry. Stationers who see their ideas copied by ex-employees, dress designers who see versions of their gowns being sold for $100 by Chinese factories or $500 by David’s Bridal, wedding photographers whose editing style is copied and pasted… But in watching this video I have actually surprised myself with my thinking that maybe, maybe, it’s not always a terrible thing.
For example, and despite what you may think of it, the trend for vintage weddings has only be perpetuated, and in doing so been exceptionally lucrative for many wedding suppliers, because of copying!
It’s irritating to be copied yes, but the good news for the innovators is that it encourages them to continue to be creative – to force themselves to design something new to stay ahead of the curve. In order to remain at the top of their field, they are pushing new designs and ideas through with their unique and obvious stamp on it so that when (not if) it’s copied, everybody knows it was their idea first.
If you read through a bridal magazine, you will notice that there will be plenty of ‘How-to’ articles and ‘What questions to ask’ advice pieces. There’s a reason behind this of course. For the most part, planning a wedding will be a very new experience for those about to embark on married life and guidance will be really important. Because of this, it isn’t uncommon for the happy couple to be full to the brim with questions, no matter what you are offering them: a venue, the food, photography. They will want to know about sizes, options and prices, and how you can help them to create their special day.
So, in order to get this show on the road, your potential customers will surely be bursting with questions. Weddings are a costly business, and everyone wants to get value for their money. It’s also not unheard of for a couple to have been planning their wedding for a long time, and a lot of women have a set visual from when they were younger of how their magical day will pan out.
Because of this, ask them to bring ideas, cut-outs, and notes. This is particularly relevant for venues or dressmakers.
Photographers like me will get asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. But it’s really important to not become irritated. Any kind of negative attitude could cross you off their list altogether. After all, for you it might just be another day ‘at the office’ but for them, it’s a time of excitement and hope.
I find that if you are receiving a lot of the same questions, it may be a good idea to compile these into a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ area on your website, and point them in the direction of it prior to discussing any further details.
This way, if your services aren’t what they’re after, they know immediately and don’t need to waste your time meeting in person. If the details look promising, you are more likely to get a better discussion about the event. This is essential as specifics could be lost in translation over phone or e-mail.
Following on from chatting to one of my favourite bloggers last week, I thought I’d follow suit with this edition of The Inspirations and speak to another incredibly inspiring blogger. Although calling Elsie Larson mearly a ‘blogger’ is doing her a huge disservice and is an understatement of epic proportions! She is a multifaceted business woman with mad skills. A master of multi-tasking she, alongside her sister and business partner Emma, runs a hugely successful blog (which current gets over 170,000 views a day!), owns a vintage clothing boutique, an online shop (where they sell their own line of dresses!)..oh she’s also currently writing her first book! Way to make us feel lazy superwoman.
It was really interesting to rummage around in the mind of Elsie. I hope you enjoy reading our chat as well.
Hi Elsie, I’m so excited to have you in the Green Room today! Could you introduce yourself?
I’m Elsie from A Beautiful Mess. My sister, Emma, and I own a local vintage boutique and run our blog as our full time job. I also design dress lines a few times each year… never a dull moment!
I started my blog five years ago with no particular aspirations, except to share the random photos I was taking each day. If I could go back in time and give myself a little advice I’d say to keep an open mind and try anything once! Currently, I’m wrapping up work on the very first A Beautiful Mess book, due out in 2013.
Your blog is only one part of your business but its exceptionally popular. How do you feel it compliments the other areas of your business and do you have any tips or advice for people with businesses that want to use blogging and social media to enhance their brand?
Great question! I really believe that blogging has to come from it’s own creative place. Blogs that are based solely on promoting a business can be one dimensional and often lack a strong voice. My advice for business owners who want to start a blog is to explore all your options. Just because you want to promote your business doesn’t mean that’s all you can do. Try anything that interests you! For example I follow the brand Fossil’s blog and it is a fun read. They blog about so much more than just their own products and I think that’s something that I enjoy in any brand’s blog.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes business owners who blog make and how would you encourage them to remedy this?
I think that blogging about their own goods too much is the biggest mistake I see. Any business is wise to create a lifestyle resource that their target customers can enjoy, not just a feed of new products. There are so many ways to educate customers about your products without just “selling” them. For example, each time we launch a dress collection I spend a couple weeks creating “3 Ways To Wear It” features for each dress. These features work because they do sell my designs, but readers who aren’t interested in buying can enjoy them still while learning little styling tips!
What do you think makes a good blogger? Do you see any emerging trends in what makes some bloggers phenomenally well read and successful while others struggle to attract readers? What do you think separates the successes from the mediocre?
I think being original is really important. I could talk all day about that but the bottom line is that blogs that imitate other blogs are really only selling themselves short.