what's all the hype?

a mini lesson in brand marketing from a certified pro.


People say lots of nice things about running a small business: how great it is to be your own boss, how fancy it feels to expense every coffee, and how gosh-darn refreshing those long lunches are. That’s all well and good, but there’s hard stuff, too, like working outside the nine-to-five, keeping up with social media and stressing about your dosh. Plus, it can be a total buzzkill to turn your creative passion into a semi-source of income. Must. Keep. Drawing. Need. To. Eat.

Whipping your brand into shape is a big ol’ balancing act. But in my years transition­ing from employed to self-employed to apparently-i-run-a-business-now, I’ve picked up some nifty pointers that will hopefully help steer you in the right direction (without destroying your zest for making nice things).


Have you ever created something so darn lovely that you couldn’t help but give your friends a sneaky peek? Made dinner plans to celebrate awesome news? Or steered a conversati­on in the general direction of some stellar career moves you just can’t keep to yourself? That’s all marketing 101. Whether you’re spruiking yourself or a nice thing you’ve made, the act of getting other people just as excited as you are is, in essence, the key to ‘good marketing’.


Take pen to paper and, in one sentence, try to describe your brand or product. If your page is turning into an inky mess, then it’s probably time to scale back your idea. Your business plan should be easy for everyone to understand, even without knowing your industry. Once you’ve nailed the concept, it’s time to think about who will love it as much as you do.

Imagine your dream customer: age range, gender, where they live, who they might live with, how they spend their time, what they enjoy, what they definitely do not enjoy, and so on – right down to whether they’re dog or cat people (it’s very important). From there, imagine their digital habits, and plan the best ways to get their attention. Are they more likely to scroll through Pinterest than Instagram? Would they choose to support their local bookshop over a big chain? Chances are you’re an awful lot like your dream customer, too, so consider how you like to spend your own time (and moolah).


Here’s the fun bit. Making content is the most creative aspect of marketing, and it’s also the best way to actually show people what you’re made of (or, indeed, what your products are). Whether you sell secondhand goodies online or knit cosy jumpers for baby animals (somebody has to), mastering the art of ‘content marketing’ – which means creating something tangible, such as a video, social post or blog – is like popping that pimple you swore you wouldn’t touch: very satisfying.

You don’t have to be a profession­al photograph­er or video whiz to make the content yourself, either. It’s time to get creative! You may find your favourite frock doubles as a pretty background for a flat lay, or your kitchen table is perfect for a makeshift studio. And not all content is created equal, so don’t be afraid to try new things. If it doesn’t work out, don’t post it. Consistenc­y is another thing to keep in mind: posting daily (or thereabout­s) helps keep those pesky algorithms on your side.


Whether you’re already social media-savvy or you’re creating a shiny new business account, be ready to get those mitts muddy and make mistakes. Revisit the audience profile you created

and prioritise platforms that are most relevant to your customer. There’s no pressure to spend your time on Facebook if your audience is deep in a Youtube hole. And there’s only one real way to know if you’re doing it right: by keeping a beady eye on your analytics. Be open to feedback from friends, followers and customers. (Deep breaths – I swear they mean well.) Changes in your social stats can be due to the effectiven­ess of your content, but it can also be things like the time you posted or whatever else is happening in the world that day (ahem, global pandemic). If you have a piece of content you reckon should work, but it didn’t, tweak it and try again.


Hoo boy, a friend once caught me checking my emails in my sleep. Then there was the day my right hand remained oddly cramped due to relentless scrolling. Another time, a global announceme­nt was scheduled for the wrong time zone. These moments are what folks in the marketing biz call ‘screen-break emergencie­s’. Whether you turn off notificati­ons completely or pop your phone in a padlocked box deep under water, creating 30 minutes of screen-free time acts as a positive barrier between you and the emails that flood your inbox (and brain). Spoiler: being kind to yourself is the single best thing you can do for your small business.

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