3 Ways to Market Your Online Products IRL

For many creators, marketing their product is a complete mystery. Ostensibly, there are two ways to reach consumers: online methods, such as social media or even paid ads, and in-person. These days, everyone is flocking online to promote and sell their products, and it can be easy to forget that it isn’t the only way to reach people.

IRL Outreach

Though all but forgotten in the Age of the Internet, where Etsy and Shopify seem to dominate, getting into your consumers’ physical space is one of the most effective ways to convert a browser into a buyer.

Why Is In-Person Outreach So Important?

When it comes to creative and handmade products, a huge part of the allure is the form, rather than the function, of the object. Humans are sensory, tactile beings. While it is always easy to sit on the couch and click through an endless assortment of products online, your consumer cannot build a physical relationship with those products. A major value of creative products are its aesthetics or technical aspects, and these are best observed up-close.

Finally, a store doesn’t have the capacity to hold all the products that online retailers can. Thus, there will be fewer objects around competing with your product. People may say brick-and-mortar retail is on the decline, but many boutique retailers selling a smaller quantity of unique, small-batch products are popping up in neighborhoods from San Francisco to Shanghai and beyond.

How Can I Reach People In-Person?

There are a number of ways to reach people where they live, in their local shops and social life. Now more than ever, people seek creative outlets. And, if they lack an artistic flair of their own, they seek to acquire new things in our age of post-industrialization and mass production. So, embrace the Locavore movement, and use these three methods to reach people on a community level:

1. Approach local boutique stores about selling your products.

Most cities still have at least a few small, locally-owned stores. Depending on the products you sell, this could range from a minimalistic storefront in the newly-gentrified part of town that would be happy to sell your succulent terrariums, to a Mom & Pop antiques and second-hand shop that is willing to branch out and sell the handmade chairs you carefully craft in your woodshop. This is an especially good option for getting a local client base off the ground if your products are larger, like the aforementioned chair, and thus more difficult to ship.

2. Organize a Pop-up Shop with Other Local Artists and Makers

Pop-up shops are stores that appear in a storefront for a short, predetermined period of time – anywhere from a day to a week to a few months – before disappearing again. The pop-up shop model has a number of benefits that selling in a local store cannot provide.

For one thing, this pop-up shop will be organized by you or your maker peers. The entire point is to sell works by local artists and creators, and so your target audience will be consumers who support people like you. By joining forces with other makers, you draw not only from your own network, but also from theirs. Thus, new consumers who may have come for another seller will be exposed to your products. This is extra valuable because a higher percentage of the people who come through your store are predisposed to consuming similar goods to those that you sell.

A second benefit of the Pop-Up is that it allows you to promote more of your products than you can in a traditional store. Generally, stores that stock your products will choose a few things to sell, but will not put your entire catalogue on display. At a pop-up shop, each seller has their own area to display product, and thus has total control over how many products are available to the consumer.

Finally, the limited run of a pop-up shop is a great asset to those wishing to find new consumers and make sales, but who cannot afford a traditional year-round storefront. The finite nature of a pop-up shop helps create excitement and urgency for those who patronize it. Unlike a normal store, where you can put off going in until next week or next month, you have to go to the pop-up shop NOW, or else it will be over and you will have lost your chance. There is also less time to hem and haw  over purchases, so consumers may just buy your hand painted teapot now, lest they lose the chance later.

If you are already an online seller, there is the added excitement for your current consumers to nab your goods without shipping costs. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the short timeline of a pop-up shop is economical for those who cannot afford their own store. Splitting the rental price of a space with other artists, or even finding a space willing to hold the sale for free like a church or community center, defrays fixed costs so you can take home more of your sales.

3. Organize a Creativity-Based Community Event

This could be anything from a craft night to a panel or series of talks, led by you and other local makers. An event like this allows you to engage with the community in a non-commercial context, and establishes you as a leader in the community.

One possibility is to host a beginning course about the materials and techniques you use in your work – like sew-your-own-apron or paint- your-own-teacups. Participants would pay only for materials, and possibly a small fee for the cost of the space. This allows possible consumers to get to know you on a more personal level and see you as a leader in the community. Those people can then turn to your online presence to buy your products. While you would not be selling directly to consumers, you are promoting you and your brand within a local context.

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