Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Costuming, communication and crumpets

Kelly Blainey is The Business Writer. She has kindly offered to write a post on getting your message out in the costuming world. She has been communicating professionally for over ten years and specialises in helping small businesses attract the consumer and media attention they need to succeed. [ed: we are also good friends but I highly recommend Kelly's work! I shamelessly self promote my social comms via links throughout this piece!]]

Okay, I lied about the crumpets* to grab your attention, but this is important stuff. Communicating with existing and potential clients is crucial in any business, but if you work in costuming there are extra things you need to do to get your message out. 

Perhaps more than with any other product, your clients need to see what you’re offering. Whether you make bespoke gowns, sell costumes off the rack, run sewing classes or design vintage patterns, visual communication is essential to attract new clients and keep the old ones returning.

*Oh okay, I’ll wait while you go and get a nice cup of tea and some crumpets with honey.

Below is a list of the essential communication tools for every costuming business, combined with tips on how to best use them.

Your website
Your website is often the first point of contact for potential clients. It is your showroom; a chance to display and talk about your work. First impressions are almost more important in the online world than face-to-face. If a visitor doesn’t like what they see within the first 20 seconds of browsing your website, they will just pop over to your competition’s site and you will have lost them forever.

Websites need to tell visitors upfront who you are, what you do and how you can fulfil their needs. It must be easy for potential clients to find the information they are after, otherwise they will go and find it elsewhere. Websites can be more casual than printed promotional material – be sure to let your personality shine through in the text, design and images you use. [ed: The Tailor's Apprentice website]

Online gallery
A gallery of your work is essential. How will a client know they want a bespoke gown from you if they can’t see examples of your previous costumes? An online gallery is a chance to showcase your skills, creativity and professionalism.

Your gallery can be included on your website, or hosted on external sites such as Flickr or Pinterest. And a gallery doesn’t just mean still photographs. With the proliferation of web cams and mobile cameras, there’s no excuse for you not to have a YouTube channel, with videos embedded on your site. [ed: my Pinterest, my Flicker]

Use videos to introduce yourself and your passion, give a tour of your workspace or provide short tutorials to demonstrate your skills, giving potential clients enough information to know they want to work with you. [ed: My video]

Newsletters and blogs
Once you’ve sold a pattern, run a sewing class or made a costume, you’ll want to stay in touch with your clients. You need to provide them with enough interesting information that they will want to work with you again, but not so much that they delete any email with your name on it.

A monthly newsletter, delivered via email, is a great way to stay in touch. You can announce new classes, showcase your latest work and offer specials to return clients. Likewise, you may want to start a blog on your website, giving readers snippets of your work day and current projects. [ed: here's mine, come and sign on]

Give visitors to your website multiple ways to subscribe – via email or an RSS feed – so they can get your information in the way that suits them best.

Social media
Social media isn’t just about LOLcats. It’s a great way to network, stay in touch, and find out what other people are doing in your field.

There are dozens of social media clients, so I recommend starting with a simple Facebook page (not profile – that’s for personal stuff) and twitter feed [ed. here's mine Facebook: The Tailor's Apprentice, Twitter: StitchUpHistory] Social media is all about dialogue and relationship-building. If all you do is broadcast marketing messages you will quickly find yourself without any likes or followers. Using social media can bring you new clients, publicity and opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

By using these communication tools you are well on your way to having a successful costuming business. If you have any questions or need a hand getting started, leave a comment below or feel free to get in touch.

Kelly Blainey is The Business Writer. She has been communicating professionally for over ten years and specialises in helping small businesses attract the consumer and media attention they need to succeed.

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