How To Start Your Own Business: Part 7 - Getting Your Name And Product Out There!
Be What Every Fashionista Is Talking About: How To Create A Marketing Plan For Your Fashion Business
It is imperative for small or independent fashion brands to have a strong marketing plan and strategy in order to be successful in such a saturated industry. A marketing plan includes everything from understanding the market to which you'll sell your products and services, to choosing specific tactics you'll use to reach that market.
What To Include In Your Marketing Plan
- Overview or Summary: Must be no longer than one page. The summary should briefly describe your business and the major points of your plan.
- Situation Analysis: A detailed and brutally honest assessment of your market, your competitors, and the opportunities and challenges for your fashion business
- Marketing Strategy: Your specific business revenue goals, as well as a strategy for tackling the market opportunities you identified in your situation analysis
- Marketing Tactics: Your action plan for executing on the strategy you outlined in the previous section
- Marketing Budget and Timeline: The projected costs associated with your marketing tactics
Your situation analysis is the foundation of your marketing plan, and gives you a clear guide for your market and fashion business. I mean, how could you forget all of that market research and competitive analysis you did for your business plan? Lucky for you, you've come prepared! For your situation analysis, clearly define the following:
- Your potential customers, including your current market size and projected growth
- Your competitors, including current and projected market share, and product or market segment focus
- Your realistic assessment of your own business, including both strengths and weaknesses, with a summary of your plan to overcome the weaknesses
The marketing strategy section is where you actually spell out how your business is going to address an unmet or underserved need in your target market by setting goals and high-level strategies.
Where do you start? Set the goals for your business as far out as one year. Be sure to make them realistic, achievable and measurable. Achievable would be the operative word here. No one wants to be set up for failure. State your goals in straightforward terms.
Conclude this section of your marketing plan by outlining the particulars of your fashion business offering. Define the "four Ps" for your business, a.k.a The Marketing Mix:
- Product - Description of your product or service, including features and benefits. The fashion industry’s product component applies to items sold by fashion designers and retailers and the various factors that go into marketing them. This includes the name of the fashion brand, such as Gap, Levi or Nine West, as well as the quality and selection of items. It may also refer to services, such as custom designs and alterations, or to the positioning, life cycle or functionality of the products. For example, products sold by Ugg Australia are marketed on the grounds of functionality and warmth equally, as well as their brand name.
- Price - Initial pricing strategy. Pricing decisions affecting the fashion industry’s products include wholesale and recommended retail prices of the clothing and accessories. The price determines the financial success and longevity of both the manufacturer and the retailer’s companies. Production and selling costs typically determine the pricing of garments, on which marketers based the positioning of the brand. Fashion products that cost more to produce usually carry a higher price based on perceived value to the customer; for example, fashion followers believe Parisian designers set the trends for each season, so clothing designed or produced by their fashion houses reflect premium prices.
- Place - Distribution channel for your product or service, i.e. where you'll sell. The place where items are sold varies widely in the fashion industry and does not always refer to a physical location. Some fashion manufacturers sell their products from their own privately-owned stores or high-end boutiques, while others sell through distribution channels, including mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart, and mall clothing stores. Many fashion retailers make their products available for purchase online. Well-known design houses such as Ralph Lauren and Chanel sell made-to-order garments, crafted specially for individual customers who have the means to pay for exclusivity.
- Promotion - The methods and channels used to reach customers and let them know about your product or service. The various methods used to market fashion products make up the promotion component. These include branding as well as online and traditional forms of advertising. Product launches, fashion shows, displays and merchandising are commonly lucrative methods of promoting new clothing lines, while publicity such as news or magazine articles, public relations and social media help to build the profile of the brand and the product range. In the fashion industry, promotion is typically a seasonal activity because each season’s fashions are often marketed as individual ranges.
Marketing tactics for fashion brands should have clearly defined audiences and timelines to meet the strategic goals you set in the previous section. Ideally, you should involve several marketing channels that work together to achieve your strategic goals.
Digital Media Marketing Plan
Digital media marketing plans enable you to reach out to and engage with your audience online. Use social media marketing to reach people in your target audience. Facebook advertising, for example, allows you to select the specific demographic and psychographic data of the audience you want to reach, so it's important to know your target audience beforehand. Consider what types of websites your audiences will frequent and look into advertising on those sites or building partnerships with those sites. Begin building an email list for your brand by putting an email signup form on your website, using a service like Mailchimp. Send regular emails to your audience to update them on your fashions, sales and promotions.
Publishing Marketing Plan
Develop a publishing marketing plan that combines public relations and marketing to gain exposure in magazines and other types of publications, including fashion blogs. Research publications that reach your target audience and use their marketing and editorial channels to gain exposure for your brand. For example, if you sell women's fashions, offer to give a fashion magazine an outfit to use as a reader giveaway. If you are also a single, young professional who started your fashion company in what spare time you had between working full-time and maintaining your professional fashion blog, pitch an article about being a self-made fashion entrepreneur . Also look into advertising in these publications for increased exposure.
Live Event Marketing Plan
Develop a live event marketing plan that creates opportunities for you to show the public your fashions. Live events can include fashion shows, trunk shows or in-home demonstrations. Consider exhibiting at trades shows, fairs or other live events that reach your target audience. For example, a clothing brand aimed at teens may consider co-hosting a teen fashion show to benefit a charity in conjunction with a local news station. This type of live event gives your fashion business exposure and creates positive publicity. By partnering with a media outlet, you're able to gain their broad reach.
Brand Ambassador Marketing Plan
Develop a marketing plan that focuses on gaining brand ambassadors to use as marketing elements. Brand ambassadors are people of influence who wear, promote and share information about your fashion on your behalf. Brand ambassadors can be local or national celebrities, public figures, or outgoing members of your target market. For example, if you sell fashionable T-shirts for ages 18-24, create a brand ambassador program for local colleges or universities, and offer incentives for students who refer others to your brand. If you sell your products online, create automated affiliate programs, using services like Infusionsoft, where your ambassadors earn rewards for everyone they refer.
As you choose your tactics, summarize what it is, why you should use it, what you expect to get out of it, and how much it's going to cost. Last but not least, set a timeline for each tactic.
Marketing Budget And Timeline
Wrap up your entire marketing plan with a pretty little bow by summarizing your costs and timelines from the previous section. And then measure, measure, measure. Check your marketing budget at least monthly, and determine whether you’re getting the return you expected from each tactic. It’s never too late to make some changes to your marketing plan.
Writing a marketing plan should become at least a yearly ritual for your business. Not to mention that it’s probably a good idea to revamp your marketing plan when you are releasing new or significantly changed products or services. Just remember that writing a marketing plan is time well spent for any sized business, because it’s the process for thinking honestly and thoroughly through how you’re going to connect with your customers.
This is the seventh in a series of articles on How To Start Your Own Business.