There are quite a few challenges that we face as makers, freelancers and small business owners and any of them could mean the difference between making money and falling into the red financially. In this post I wanted to focus on repeat customers and engaged supporters and followers. We all know that our customers, supporters and followers are the only reason we are able to keep our businesses and/or side hustles above water. They are the reason most of us do what we do and they are the reason we are able to make money (or even a living) doing something that we are passionate about. Because of this, we have to be sure that we are focusing on this part of our business. How do we focus on our clients?
I may not have 14K followers on Instagram and I may not make a living crocheting BUT I have definitely grown over the years and feel that my growth, although small, has been HUGE for my own personal confidence which has allowed me to continue to push forward and grow my business! I wanted to share a few tips on engaging with your customers and your audience that I feel have been extremely helpful for me!
Connect – Do you go to markets or shows as a part of growing your business? Do you sit behind your table in a chair reading or updating instagram or do you stand and greet people as they walk by? If someone comes to your table/booth and comments that your work is lovely but they cannot afford to buy anything at the moment, do you brush them off and move on to the next customer or do you spend time speaking with that person anyway? Making connections and speaking to people about more than just your product can make all the difference when it comes to sales, repeat customers and engaged supporters and followers. You have probably heard that in order to be successful on social media you have to let your followers see you, not just your products. It is the same concept when you are in person. Taking time to speak with people honestly, tell them why you are doing what you do and why you are passionate about it can even get someone with “no money” to make a purchase because they want to support YOU. I have gained some of the best social media followers from in person craft shows and artist markets, many of whom look forward to me coming back to the same shows each year to see my new products and to catch up with me. I have always felt like having a few real engaged followers means so much more than having thousands of followers that I will never meet, speak to or engage with.
Follow Up – This one can be tough for me. I am not sure if it is something that lots of creatives struggle with but schedules, following up, meeting deadlines and being on time have never been my strengths. The good news is that I have accepted this and work each day to be a little better at each of these. Being responsive to emails, direct messages, texts and returning phone calls can mean the difference between making a sale and losing a supportive customer. If you struggle with this as I do, try and make time each day (or a few times a week) to sit down and check all of your contact outlets (website, emails, facebook, IG, etc) to be sure you have followed up on any questions, comments or concerns.
Be Humble (and empathetic…) – This is something that I find to be very important, especially in the handmade world. I have met artists and makers that just seem to rub me the wring way. They might not speak to me when I come by their booth or if they do, they have an attitude of “Do you not know who I am?” … No, I don’t know who you are and now I would rather not… This relates back to connecting with people- in order to truly connect with someone you should have a level of empathy understanding of other people’s emotions. If you don’t even realize that you are rubbing someone the wrong way, you may need to focus a little more on your ability to read other people’s body language and learn to understand what their tone and their non-verbal cues mean. I have always been pretty good at mirroring people based on their verbal and their non verbal cues but I know that this is not something that comes naturally to everyone and may require practice! Practice makes perfect, right??
Be your True Self (Always) – This can be difficult when you are trying to grow a business. Finding a balance between that perfect IG feed and your real life can be extremely difficult, especially for those of us who lack an eye for design, marketing and color pallets, lol! People want to know YOU, they want to feel like they can really connect with you and this goes for both in person meetings as well as your online presence. Don’t be afraid to embrace yourself the way you are. Some people may not like it, they may not like YOU, but isn’t that a lesson we have been learning since grade school?? Not everyone is going to like you and that is OKAY! It does NOT mean that you should try and be someone else. If you gain followers by being yourself, you can rest assured that those people are supporting and following you for all the right reasons!
This is obviously not an all-inclusive list of how to get more followers, supporters or repeat customers but they are ideas that I find to be very helpful in my day to day activities as well as my bigger picture plans and goals for both of my hobbies turned small businesses! Connecting, being humble and being yourself can truly make a difference in how people see you and how they will feel about you and your business. I will take 1,000 real followers on IG to 45K strangers any day! What are some things that YOU do to help people connect personally with you and your business? I would love to hear them!