When you only have so much time…

Like the rest of us, you only have so much time.

It’s tough, but you gotta prioritize.

How to prioritize in your handmade business

Those of us running businesses–especially handmade businesses–have more than our fair share of tasks to juggle on a daily basis.

If you consider your handmade business a business and not a hobby, that means you need to be strategic about where you put the majority of your efforts.

When you want your business to bring in the bacon you need to figure out (1) what’s bringing in the the money now, (2) what will bring in money eventually with enough consistency and dedication and (3) what you aren’t willing to give up even though you know it won’t ever bring in money.

We didn’t get into a handmade business to do what we hate, after all.

Business gurus will tell us to do what brings in the dough, and get rid of everything else, but I take a more diplomatic approach.

For optimal business success and personal satisfaction to be derived from your business you need money and moments of enjoyment.

You can start by making a list of the things you are doing in your business that aren’t bringing in any money, or very little compared to the things that do and then:

  • Eliminate all of the things you hate. Did you think you HAD to be on twitter because you read somewhere that online businesses are “supposed” to maintain an active presence there? If you’re not seeing results there in the form of obvious income, cut it without ANY guilt.
  • Determine what MIGHT make you money if you stick with it longer. Some things take time. Blogging is a good example of this, SEO optimization another. If you aren’t sure if your list item falls into this category or not, wait a bit (such as a month or two), and watch your numbers closely to make sure.
  • Finally, decide what you are going to keep anyway. There are probably some products you love making, or online marketing activities that you’ve grown rather fond of, despite the fact that they don’t bring in the cash. This blog is that for me. (In fact, I spend more in hosting fees than I make back from ebook sales or ad revenue, so BeadingForBusiness COSTS me money.) Even if you can’t let go, knowing that these activities are for pleasure instead of profit will make you think differently about them. Take the time to enjoy them, and de-prioritize them when your other activities are looming and the bills needs to get paid.

Now I want to hear from you!

What business activities are you going to eliminate, prioritize, or keep doing anyway (but consciously) now that you know they are bringing in the funds? Tell me in the comments below!

This is for the Quiet Ones

This article is for the quiet ones.

How to sell your products when you don't feel comfortable with loud marketing

The world of commerce is finally lending itself to us, the quiet ones.

We are the introverts, the INFJs, the softly-spoken.

We’d rather listen than speak. We prefer time to write out our thoughts than being put on the spot in a “brainstorming” session.

We are more comfortable as observers and the thought of playing carnival barkers in order to sell our wares is so averting it makes us feel physically ill.

Thank goodness we are no longer playing the game where the person who shouts the loudest gets the prize.

It’s different now.

Now it’s all about finding your people, and making connections.

In the world of online commerce, people can smell fake-authenticity from miles away.

That’s why the quiet ones will win. We are never comfortable faking it, not even to get a sale.

This is great news.

We get to be ourselves. In fact, we get to be even more ourselves than ever, and by doing so we attract the right people.

The right people will not only be drawn to us (and our products), but they are so much easier for us to work with, making the entire experience of running a small, handmade business enjoyable.

It’s a win-win.

So if you’ve been feeling like there’s no way someone with your silent demeanor can make it in the world of business, think again. You have options, and you have the ability to dominate them just as much (and often more) than your extroverted colleagues.

While the talkers might thrive at trade shows or in-person networking events, you might be more suited for diligently marketing with your e-mail newsletter, building a following on Instagram, and surprising your customers with the sort of premium branded packaging that will have them clamoring back for more.

By being yourself and playing to your strengths, your peeps (i.e., your ideal customers) will feel more connected to you and brand. Connected customers are not only more likely to buy your products, but to identify with them and therefore share them with their own social circles.

You get all this, with no shouting required.

10 Ways to Clear Out Old Inventory and Boost Your Business

10 ways to clear out old inventory

After awhile, old inventory starts to stink up the place.

Whether in your Etsy shop or on your web site, continually renewing the same tired old listings that aren’t bringing in customers can actually hurt your business.

They distract browsers from paying attention to the listings that they may otherwise be interested in enough to purchase, and can give your customers too many options as to instill decision fatigue.

(Decision fatigue is what happens when someone is overwhelmed by all of the options to the point of simply giving up and picking NOTHING instead.)

We don’t want that to happen.

So what can you do? Simply throwing it all out would be the equivalent to throwing away dollar bills, and thus, a sure-fire way to kill you business. Instead, there a several other options you have to choose from, all of which could give your business a BOOST. I’ve listed 10 of them out for you below:

1. Clearance sale what isn’t selling at regular price.

This is what most of the bigger retailers do, and there’s no reason why those of us with smaller, handmade businesses shouldn’t be learning from example. In your Etsy shop you could add a separate section for your clearance items, and mark those suckers down to price points that would be simply too crazy to resist. If you include how few of each item is left, you’ll also induce scarcity. This will give your customers the extra push they may need to buy before missing out!

2. Send your old inventory to bloggers in exchange for exposure.

You can check out this blog post for how to find bloggers to review your products. Bloggers can provide a great way to advertise your products to your target audience with little upfront cost.

3. Include items as surprise freebies in the orders you send out.

Do this if the freebie item is related to the paid purchase, such as a matching pair of earrings (you want to make sure that the customer will actually like the freebie item and not be annoyed by it). This is a level of generosity that will incite loyalty and raving reviews among your customers.

4. Use your inventory as giveaway prizes.

Host giveaways to get more e-mail subscribers, Instagram followers, and more. It’s amazing how something that no one wanted when it had a price tag attached to it suddenly because desirable when it’s a prize to be claimed. 🙂

5. Donate your inventory to a charitable event.

If you’re keeping up with local events (and you should be), you’ve probably come across a conference, charity ball, or ceremony that offers door prizes and gift bags to it’s attendees. Almost always the items included in these gift bags have been donated by local businesses, and these businesses get to claim the exposure equal to that of being a cash-providing sponsor.

6. Sell your old inventory through consignment shops.

Normally, consignment isn’t high on my recommendation list for how to sell your goods (because it holds your products hostage when they could otherwise be sold outright and making you money), but I make an exception when it comes to stale inventory that’s cluttering up your online storefronts. Just make sure you only partner with reputable consignment shops and keep a copy of your contract ensuring that you will (a) get paid within a certain timeline and (b) get your remaining inventory back, even in in the event of the storefront going under.

7. Put a discount bin in your craft show booth.

I’m always amazed at how little inventory I have left in my $3 discount bin by the end of the day at a craft show. You’ll find that many people, especially at an in-person event, love the thrill of a bargain.

8. Donate your items to charity.

Not only can you claim a deduction on your taxes for the value of your items, but you can feel good knowing that your old inventory is making a difference.

9. Save old inventory for a re-release date.

Sometimes having something “back in stock” in as little as 6 to 12 months can make it exciting enough to be desired and purchased.

10. Transform pieces that can be re-used or re-purposed.

Sometimes it makes more sense to take apart your pieces that aren’t serving your business and make something new out of them. You could even document the process for your blog or Instagram feed to present the interesting story of a before and after transformation.

 

Now onto you:

I’d love to hear what tactics you’ve used to move your old inventory. Tell me in the comments below!

 

 

How to Manage Your Limitations as a Maker

How to Manage your Limitations as a Maker

When you are the maker of the products you sell in your handmade business, you have one major limitation: you can only make so many products before you reach maximum capacity.

Now, most makers scoff at this because they are dealing with an opposite problem: they have too much inventory sitting on their shelves, not selling. The very idea of “reaching capacity” is a starry-eyed goal that they feel they could never really reach, so why worry about it anyway?

Let me tell you why.

When you structure your handmade business in a way that works with your limitations as maker, you set yourself up with the necessary systems to reach your goals of business success.

If, instead of building a solid foundation for your maker business, you continue to just make and list, make and list, make and list… you are not only going to be spending too much time on production that would better serve you working on the marketing side of your business, and you very well could be selling yourself short on the opportunity to sell a lot more inventory when you “hit the jackpot” with a killer product.

There are several things you can do to structure your business that will allow you to expand into the level of sales and income you are reaching for, without having to spend 20+ hours a day making product.

For starters: consider making multiples instead of one-offs. When you make products that you can make over and over again, you only have to photograph them and write product descriptions for them once, instead of every single time you make another product. You can also batch your creation of this product by making several at once, which usually saves time and money on materials.

If you choose to make one-of-a-kind products (and they need to REALLY be one-of-a-kind if you are going to call them that, meaning you really COULDN’T make another one–not that you just don’t feel like it) then you need to be charging premium prices for those products to make up for the fact that you will have to spend that much more time listing and promoting each one.

Secondly, look at your product line to see if you can add quick-to-produce, lower-cost options. For example, if you sell original paintings, then some options would be infinitely-reproducible prints and/or greeting cards. If you sell jewelry, this might be a basic pair of earrings that only takes you 2 minutes to make, in contrast to the necklace they match that took you 3 hours. These lower-cost options can serve as up-sell or gateway products to your line, encouraging more initial purchases and larger orders among existing customers.

Finally, consider bringing in some help.

Instead of waiting until you really are at maximum capacity, consider the benefits of having someone trained and ready to go before that happens.

Before you freak out over the cost of hiring outside help, consider what else you could be doing with your time if you have someone helping you with production for as little as a couple of hours a week. If you spent that time on revenue generating activities, such as reaching out to new wholesale accounts or designing the up-sell products I mentioned earlier, what little you spend on an employee could be returned to your business 10-fold in a matter of weeks.

Before I hired my assistant I really thought there was no way my business could afford to pay someone else (I could barely pay myself for crying out loud!) But when I didn’t want to have to shut my business down while I went on a trip to Europe, I went ahead and took the leap.

For me, having an assistant means more time designing and marketing, and less time packaging orders and other mundane, time-sucking tasks. I still make all of my handmade beaded jewelry, but having help means that I have time to make more of it during periods of high demand, and allows me to take on more custom orders that I would otherwise have to turn down.

 

Now onto you: I’d love to know what steps you have taken in your handmade business to manage your limitation of production time. Tell me in the comments below!

Give Your Business A Boost By Tracking These 5 Things

Give Your Business A boost By Tracking These 5 Things

My goodness the days certainly run together when one is taking care of a newborn! I knew that my time would be limited for the first few months following my daughter’s birth, but I can honestly say I had NO FREAKING CLUE just how frantic and desperate things could get. For the entire holiday season, the most I could do for my business was ship out orders when my assistant was on vacation, respond to customer inquiries, and disperse minimal marketing. Fortunately, because of systematizing much of what goes on in my business, things never got too far behind or overwhelming that I couldn’t handle it, but many of the projects I’ve considered tackling while on maternity leave will probably have to wait until long after I return to my day job.

It’s is however, a new year. And like most business owners, January has the effect of causing me to reflect on what worked and what didn’t for my business the year before, so I can be smarter about what actions I take moving forward. With my time being even more limited than ever, it’s that much more important to be smarter about what I have to work with. Even if you aren’t a member of the “parent club” I’m guessing you could likewise use some more freedom in your life and business, even if it means simply being able to steal away some extra hours for bubble baths or Game of Thrones marathons.

Evaluating when didn’t and did work for me for the prior year is only possible because of the tracking I do within my business. If you feel like you can only guess at what made a difference and what was a waste of time for your business, then you need to start deliberately tracking the following things:

1. Your best-sellers.

This may seem obvious, but a see a lot of handmade sellers that don’t really pay attention to this one. Instead of making the types of products that are continually flying off the shelves, they consistently run out of stock on these items, and instead, just make what they feel like making. This is fine if you only make your product as a hobby and don’t really care if your business makes any money or not, but if you are in business to bring in income, then you need to seriously pay attention to the exact products and categories of products that spend the least about of time sitting in inventory prior to being shipped out.

2. Your highest-sellers.

This could be your best-selling product, or it could be a product you sell less units of, but because of it’s higher dollar amount you end up making more money off of it over all. For a lot of handmade businesses, it’s the best-selling product that serves as the impulse buy to bring customers in, and the high-selling product that is the easiest to sell to trusting, repeat customers. Knowing and tracking what these products are will help you more effectively market them to the right people (easily doubling or tripling your sales as a result of doing so.)

3. Where your traffic is coming from.

A lot of handmade business owners think they need to be everywhere online in order to market their business and sell their products. So they stretch themselves thin trying to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, WordPress, and on and on… While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to sign up for many of these places (if only to reserve your name and post a link directing platform searchers to visit your website) it simply takes too much energy to be excellent at all of these. Instead, I suggest honing in on only 1 or 2 social media channels, and really dedicating yourself to making things work there. Then, after a few months of observing how each platform affects your traffic and sales, you can then judge from a much more concrete standpoint whether or not your time spent on social media marketing is bringing in the right kind of people that are your target demographic and leading to sales.

4. Your expenses. ALL of them.

It’s all too easy to wait until tax-time at the end of year to start tallying up receipts and calculating your business expenses. But this could easily mean that your business isn’t making any money and you won’t even know it until it’s too late. Things like shipping supplies, merchant processing fees, and of course, the supplies required to make your products add up. It’s important to know where your business stands at any given time before you make the decision to shell out for a Facebook ad or purchase those shiny new beads you’ve had your eye on. It’s also important to make sure you’re tracking ALL of your expenses, not just the obvious ones. Some that you make not be considering include travel expenses (if you have to drive long distances to attend craft shows, for example), the cost of your internet service and/or data plan, and the amount you spend on furthering your own business education. When filing your business taxes this year, be sure to talk to your accountant about all of the things you can deduct (so long as you keep track of them and save your receipts!) keeping in mind that these are all things that are taking away from your bottom line, whether you claim them as business expenses or not.

5. Your e-mail list.

E-mail remains the most effective way to sell to your audience. Even if only 10% of your subscribers are opening and clicking on the links in the e-mails you send, that is still a far better lead conversion rate than what most people are going to get out of any social media platform. (This is why having an e-mail list remains my utmost regret for what I wish I would have started sooner.) Tracking not only your number of subscribers, but where they are coming in from, will help you most effectively increase your sign-ups and ensure you are attracting the right people to your list.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what you pay attention to is what what gets done. Tracking at least the 5 things mentioned in this blog post will have you making smarter decisions for your business and start offering you results long before it’s time to do another yearly review.

Prepare Your Handmade Business for the Holidays

Get your handmade business ready for the holidays

Is your handmade business ready for the holidays? Because, believe it or not. They’re here. Really, they’ve been here, and they are only going to get more in-your-face as we head on into next month.

To double-check your level of “prepared-ness” here are some back blog posts that you may want to re-visit (or read for the first time if you missed ’em to start with:

Is Your Business Holiday-Ready? Check the checklist to see.

Repackaging for the Holidays

How to Get Post Craft Show Sales

How to Keep Your Holiday Customers

15 Holiday Promotion Ideas

Get a Handle on Your Unfeasible Goals

Get a Handle on Your Infeasible GoalsContinuing with this month’s trend of goal-setting and scheduling in celebration of the Rock 2016 Planner launch, I’m going to talk about dealing with goals that feel completely unfeasible.

These goals are so big or require so much sacrifice that many of us will give up on them before even considering what the steps would be in order to actually achieve them.

Usually these massive goals have to do with our businesses bringing in a certain amount of income. However, they can also include a plethora of other things as well, such as allowing us more time to spend with loved ones, crossing off travel destinations from our bucket list, making a big impact on an issue we deem significant, and so on.

For a lot of handmade business owners their goal is to replace their job salary with the income made from their business, or at least be able to build up a sizable side income to make a difference in their overall lives.

But once we do the math, it’s easy to give up on those kind of monetary dreams and simply continue plodding along while telling ourselves that we’re happy with the bits of pocket change our business brings us. We may continue with our hobby business, but we slowly abandon all dreams of business-financed vacations, living debt-free, and having more time to spend with our families.

But then there are some of us who don’t give up. At least not right away.

Instead we tell ourselves, Okay, this is a big, scary goal, but if I break it down into separate, smaller, mini-goals, I can make this work.

Here’s where we get tripped up and paralyzed: we don’t break our goals down far enough.

What we actually do is break them down into projects, and then we go and take those projects and try to put them on our schedule.

When the time comes to work on said projects, they are too big and overwhelming that we either (a) don’t know where to start or (b) get frustrated with how long each one ends up taking us.

The solution? Take it a step further. Go from breaking goals down into projects, and then break those projects into sub-projects and individual tasks (preferably tasks that can be completed in a single sitting.)

Seriously, taking the time to do this will make even your biggest, widest, and most ambitious dreams start to feel possible. (click to tweet this!)

Let me give you a concrete example.

Let’s say your goal is to double your business income over the next year. That’s a 100% increase, and if you’re just starting out, or just starting to really take your business seriously as a business, this is a perfectly reasonable (albeit lofty) goal.

For the sake of example, let’s make up some numbers for this goal. Let’s say your business made you $12,000 last year. That means your goal for the next year is to end with a total of $24,000 (or more).

At first, seeing a big number can make you feel intimated and want to run for the hills. Hopefully you’ll find it less terrifying and more of an interesting challenge once we break down your goal some more.

The first step would be to evaluate some of your businesses’  numbers from last year.

Where was the money coming from? What activities contributed to your bottom line? Which attempts ended up causing you more expense than gain? (Keep in mind, there may be some activities that aren’t bringing in the money yet, such as creating a blog or building up a presence on Instagram, but they very well could be longer-term activities that require a lot more time before you can judge their effect on your business results.)

Once you know where the bulk on your income is already coming from, you’ll be able to to get an idea of what activities you could potentially start doing or simply do more of that could increase those numbers.

For example, if after calculating you realize that you brought in a quarter of last year’s income by participating in a handful of retail craft shows, you could look into doubling the number of shows you sign up for this year to boost that revenue stream.

So if you attended 5 craft shows last year, then “Participate in 10 Craft Shows” is a specific goal that you know has a strong potential to help you reach your main revenue goal and that can then be broken down into projects and tasks to be systematically approached in a way that is non-overwhelming.

“Participate in 10 Craft Shows” could, for example, be broken down to the following projects: apply for 15 craft shows, create enough inventory for 10 shows, design updated craft show booth, and plan and implement local craft show marketing plan.

Where many people go wrong is they stop here. But plugging something as daunting as “create enough inventory for 10 shows” into a planner or calendar is only going to set you up for frustration, overwhelm, and despair. That’s why we break projects up into sub-projects and tasks.

Here’s a visual example of what this could look like:

Worksheet from the Rock 2016 Planner

Worksheet from the Rock 2016 Planner

Individual tasks designed to be completed in 1 sitting can then be much more easily plugged into a weekly planner or electronic to-do list.

This process is much more manageable than trying to schedule a major goal “Make $24,000” or even “Make enough inventory for 10 craft shows,” don’t you think?

Now it’s your turn! Using the worksheets provided in the Rock 2016 weekly planner, a blank piece of paper, or your own calendar or planning system, take one of your major projects that stem directly from your biggest business or life goal, and break it down as much as you can into individual, manageable tasks that can be scheduled directly into your weekly planner or daily to-do lists.

2 Ways to Get Your Important (but not urgent) Stuff Done

Get your Important (but not urgent) Stuff Done

We all have a list of projects that we’ve unwittingly placed on the back burner, even though we know some of them are important to the growth of our business or our own personal self-improvement.

The problem is, they don’t feel as urgent as say, responding to customer inquiries, answering e-mails, or getting the day’s orders shipped out.

Some of your big, important, non-urgent projects might include designing a new jewelry collection, writing the first draft of a novel, or re-branding your business.

You know that these things would help your business get to the level you want it to be at, but it hardly seems like it’s possible to work on them when you barely have enough time for the need-to-happen now, urgent tasks already filling your plate.

There are two schools of thought as to how you can continue to get all of your urgent work done, and still chip away at your big-but-not-urgent projects at the same time.

I practice and use both (so no, you don’t have to choose just one method), and I can tell you from experience, these methods of productivity can change your life and your business.

Method #1: work on your important, non-urgent thing for 15 minutes a day, every single day. Even the busiest of people can find or make up 15 minutes. Schedule your time slot in, do it, and you’re done. Before you know it, you’ll be inching your way towards completion.

Method #2: Schedule longer blocks of uninterrupted focus time on a weekly basis. This could be 2 hours on Wednesdays, or two 45 minute sessions on Sunday. Dedicate this time chunk to a single project and that project only. Turn off all other distractions and work from start to finish of the focus session. You’ll be amazed at how much you will be able to accomplish during that time.

I like to use method #1 for tasks that I procrastinate on because they are either really hard or really boring. Hard (for me) means sending out pitches and/or making phone calls. My super-introverted self may be scared to do these things, but knowing that I’ll only be working on them for 15 minutes makes it a lot easier to get started (and finished.)

I prefer method #2 for tasks that I like to delve deep into and get lost in for a couple of uninterrupted hours. This  might be designing new jewelry pieces, drafting new blog posts, or taking and editing new product photographs.

You may be skeptical as to how well these will work, but I implore you to give at least one of these methods a try, starting this week. Then, let me know how it goes, either here in the blog comments, or hit me up on social media. I’d love to hear from you!

Also, if you have any productivity tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Everyone can always use another tip or trick how to maximize the 24 hours in each we’re given. 🙂

Ready to ROCK Your Business + Life? {Announcing the New Weekly Planner}

I couldn’t wait for the end of the year.

I want my business to have a kick-ass holiday season over the next few months, and there are some pretty major things I need to plan in my personal life, too. Most of them have to do with this:

Funny Star Wars Pregnancy Announcement

So I decided to create and launch the Rock 2016 planner earlier than usual.

Weekly Planner Download

This planner is designed to help you set defined goals and strategically schedule out each day from the start of September 2015 all the way through the end of December of 2016.

This edition of the Rock planner has gotten a major overhaul and redesign.

No longer a quarterly calendar download, this is a weekly planner designed to break down your goals into individual projects and tasks that you can schedule out hour-by-hour each day of the week.

This instant download digital PDF provides you with guidance and tips for how to manage your time and set manageable stretch goals and priorities that will hep you reach the success that you crave in both your business and life.

Want more details? Check out the short video below:


The Rock 2016 planner is available for download here for the pocket change of $2.99.

I hope it helps you map out your own life and business for the next few months and year as much as it’s already helping me with mine.

Click here to purchase your own instant-download PDF version of this planner.

And if you know anyone else who you think could benefit from its digital and printable pages, please share this post with them. You are ever so much appreciated!

Put a Stop to Scatter-Brained Marketing by Systematizing

We creative-types aren’t always the most organized.

A  few descriptive words come to mind: scatter-brained, flaky, over-worked, stressed, spread-too-thin, and so on.

Basically, we wish we could just make our stuff, and let the marketing figure itself out.

But of course, that’s not how it works in the real world. You can’t just make a thing, put it in your web store or Etsy shop, and cross your fingers hoping that people buy.

Maybe sometimes they will, but even if that’s the case, you’re still be missing out on a lot of potential business opportunities by not working on your marketing.

So when things aren’t automatically selling, you start to panic. You engage in a hap-hazard “marketing strategy” that usually consists of the following: list a new item, post it on Facebook, post it on twitter, post it on Instagram, maybe write a blog post about it, pin it to a Pinterest board, check everything you just posted, wonder why none of this is working, rinse, and repeat.

When I first started selling my jewelry on Etsy, this is exactly the sort of “marketing” I did for my shop. Needless to say, it didn’t really work.

All this kind of online marketing does is create a lot of extra work and stress for you, and not a lot of results or sales at the end of the day. You feel like a hamster spinning its wheel, and not really getting anywhere in your business. Maybe you conclude that you’re just not good at the “marketing stuff” so you go back to what you know what you’re good at, the making stuff, and return to hoping that random strangers will simply find you organically on the internet and make a purchase.

So what’s the solution? How can you effectively market your business while still leaving you with enough time to actually make your products and get everything else you need to do done?

The answer is systematizing.

I know that sounds like a boring, dry, business word, but here me out, okay?

All systematizing means is creating the basic blueprint, or template, for plugging in your marketing plan and -pulling it out every time you are ready to craft a new one.

When you plan your marketing ahead of time, you are allowing yourself to strategically reach your potential customers in the ways best suited to them, and you can pre-schedule and prep all of your content ahead of time. When you have a system in place you can feel prepared and relaxed even during the busiest of shopping seasons.

You can download the 1-page template that I created for my own marketing for free here.

Free Marketing System Download

Pick a Theme

Essentially, I begin my marketing system by defining a central theme for a certain time period. For example, this past month theme was back to school, and I marketing around this theme throughout August. Having a general theme in mind makes it significantly easier to fill out the rest of the campaign details surrounding it.

Define Your Audience

Once you have a theme or product line in mind that you are going to be marketing, and have checked your calendar to figure out the best time you want to market it, the next most important thing for you to do is define WHO you are going to be marketing to. Nothing will make you feel more scattered than feeling like you are sending out random marketing messages to the universe and hoping that your right people find them. Instead, you want to define who your ideal customers are, and take your marketing to them.

For example, when I market around back-to-school, it makes sense that I would be targeting students, teachers, and so on. Sending out back to school messages to retired women in their 60s doesn’t make a lot of sense–unless of course they are buying for their grandchildren.

Get Clear on What Makes You Different

Next, and this is very important, you want to consider what your points of differentiation are concerning the actual products you are trying to sell. There are probably a lot of things that make your products different from the masses so the important thing to do here is pick which of those things are going to be of the most value to your target audience, and make sense for you to emphasize during this particular campaign. For example, if you are planning your holiday marketing around gift-giving, you may want to focus on why your products will make unique and cherished gifts, rather than on your price point or the materials you use to craft them.

Brainstorm Content Ideas

Once you have those important factors decided, the next step is to brainstorm potential content ideas that will flesh out your campaign. Considering the amount of time your campaign will be running, consider how many blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and social media posts you’ll want to create around it. Other marketing could include reaching out to press, potential partners for cross-promotion, and so on. The options are really limitless, and that’s why writing all of your ideas down will keep you from becoming too overwhelmed.

Set a Schedule

After you have a general outline of your marketing campaign all laid out on a single piece of paper, it’s a lot easier to then open up your planning calendar*, and start putting in specific tasks for specific days. For example, you may post your first blog post and Facebook update during week one, send out your e-mail newsletter and host an Instagram giveaway during week two, and set up a twitter chat around your campaign on week three. It’s all entirely up to you. Having the dates plotted out, you can then begin crafting your materials and storing or scheduling them so they are ready to go out when their time comes – and you get to breathe a little easier, knowing it’s all taken care of.

Now you get to work on your favorite part: the actual making of the things.

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*The Rock 2016 panning calendar is coming soon. Sooner than usual, because I personally wanted an upgraded version for this year’s holiday season, and I have a feeling you could use one too. To be among the first notified of its existence, be sure to subscribe for e-mail updates.