Marketing Your Products: The Basics


***When reading this, keep in mind that I am not a marketing genius in any way shape or form.  I am writing this to provide those of you that struggle with basic marketing a start on what to do.  Some marketing forms work better for some than others.  It takes some observing, paying attention to your key demographic, and a bit of trial and error in some cases.  If you find something that works, stick with it until it no longer works!


The format you market your product has a lot to do with where you intend to sell your product and how big you plan to become.  Obviously, taking out a TV or national magazine advertisement is silly if you plan on selling at your local farmers market and nothing more.  If you do not have regular access to a computer, having a Facebook page or website would be pointless and your marketing is limited to a more local region.  So with these things in mind, below is a list of marketing avenues to explore.


1.   Social Media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc): These can be highly effective in keeping people up to date on what is happening in your world as well as showcasing new items, soon to come items and obtaining general feedback from potential, new and existing customers.  It also can be a great way to create brand awareness.  Update the page often otherwise people do not think to look at it and it may get lost in the shuffle.  Watch other people and companies' social media pages and note what you like about them.  Go from there.


2.   Samples: If you want someone to purchase your product and not walk away from your table at farmers markets, craft shows and the like, hand out samples of your product to people that seem genuinely interested, but are not ready to make that next step (the purchase).  A sample should be a (labelled with your brand so they do not forget where it came from) usable quantity that the person gets a complete feel for your product and makes them feel they cannot live without purchasing this product.  It should just be a tease… not enough to not have to make a purchase relatively quickly, but enough to make it usable.  For instance, if you are selling a lotion that makes your skin feel silky smooth after repeated uses, ensure the sample conveys that and there is enough in it for repeated use.  This allows your product to speak for itself.


3.   Promotions: the way you run your promotions and sales can affect the outcome.  By this I mean it comes down to wording.  Think about the following statements:  “50% off” and “Buy one get one free”.  They are the same promotion, almost.  I can tell you from a vendor perspective, the second one is better as it is still giving the consumer essentially the same deal; however it is ensuring you double your sales each transaction.  Another example:  “Save 25% off your entire order!”  And “$25 Off your order of $100 or more”.  Again, same deal, almost.  The second benefits, you the vendor, being that it will never be 25% unless your pricing is such that they can spend exactly $100.  Even if the bill comes to $101, you are only giving 24.75% off.  If they spend $120 you are giving 21%.  To the consumer they basically look the same.  A consideration does have to be made for your demographic and region when choosing your wording. When promoting, think about different ways to say the same thing and go from there. 


4.   Google Adwords & other pay-per-click advertising: this can be effective if employed properly, however it can be expensive and I personally found that it did not pay.  It did direct a lot of traffic to our site; however it didn’t turn into completed purchases.  In order to be seen, your bid must be higher than that of the next guy and if you are competing with companies with a large advertising budget, you may get lost in the shuffle.  The good part about it is that you can cancel at any time and there are no contracts.  They also offer promos regularly ($50 or $100 of free advertising) so if you find one of these, give it a shot, just make sure you watch closely and cancel it after the freebie is used if it isn’t effective as they will continue to bill your credit card.


5.   Word of Mouth: This is the most inexpensive, easiest and most effective form of advertising.  Your customers do the work for you!  You can set up a referral program to reward customers for generating sales for you, however depending on your customer count, this can get overwhelming and hard to keep track without an automated program to do so.  You may wish to thank customers you know generated sales for you by sending them a free item in their next order or something to that effect.


6.   Networking: Join blogs, forums and other social sites and get to know your competitors and colleagues.  You might be surprised how many people are willing to help out through these avenues.  Do not ask for recipes.  Those people that can help you have already put lots of effort and time into formulating their recipes and do not take kindly to people asking for their hard earned secrets.  If you need help tweaking an existing recipe that you are having problems with, this is fine, but downright asking for a recipe is a big no-no and will get you nowhere (and possibly a bad rap in the world you are trying to succeed in).  It’s all in how you ask.  Asking for help to reformulate an existing recipe versus asking for a recipe from scratch are two completely different things.  Do not get upset if you get a relatively vague link that requires work to get to the answer…  these people have already done this leg work and are helping you more than you can know by pointing you in the right direction. 


7.   Newsletters: These can be extremely effective in reminding people you are around.  Set up a free newsletter program in Mail Monkey or another freebie program.  Set up a link on your Facebook or Social media page (or website if you have one) for people to join the newsletter.  Never send unsolicited emails to people that have not opted in!  This will get you flagged as sending spam and you will not be able to send out email again!


8.   Pricing:  A big one!  You may not think that price has much to do with marketing, but I assure you it does.  Price your products too low and you are risking your products being perceived as lower quality.  Price too high for your market and you may not get sales.  High quality expensive ingredients require higher pricing (you pay more for them, the customer should expect to as well).  However, if you are attempting to sell a basic lotion made with inexpensive oils and no additives and try to price it up with Olay because it is handmade (with love) you will not get anywhere.  For the most part, people that purchase handmade products are doing so because they are conscious of what is going in and on their bodies, keep this is mind.  So how do you price then?  Find items with a comparable ingredient list and price your product from there (try google).  Generally there are three price points:  budget (Store brands), mid (mid-priced big name brands, like Aveeno) and high range (Olay).  Find where amongst these products you fit.  Take into consideration that these brands are very well known and sell themselves.  You are most likely not going to be able to demand the same price with an unknown product.  Look at similar handmade products in your region to get a better grip on pricing.                     


Regardless of how you go about it, to sell your wares, you need to be willing to put yourself out there or pay someone to do it.  The louder you are the more attention you get, the more attention you get, the more you sell.  And all forms of marketing has its cost… whether it’s actual dollars out of your budget, or time.  And the reality is, without marketing, you have no sales.  

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