She looked at me expectantly…then a little shocked…and I knew that my answer was far from what she was expecting to hear.
I was having lunch with another personal stylist who had been styling for about a year and she had begged for a meeting because she was stuck. Her business was stuck.
She had emailed me, maybe 7 or 8 times prior, asking if she could take me out to lunch to pick my brain. I had said ‘no’ each time because I just didn’t have time and had so many other priorities to take care of.
But she finally caught me on a day when I had some breathing room…and the fact that a mutual friend of ours stepped in and asked me if I would mind meeting her also convinced me to make some time.
So I said okay and met up with her…
“HOW DO I GET MORE CLIENTS?!”
We met for lunch at a cute cafe in Westwood Village. I hadn’t even had a chance to pick up the menu when she was right on it – “How do I get more clients?” she blurted out.
She didn’t waste any time. Which was fine, I got it. She was desperate for more clients. She’d been asking me for weeks to meet. Apparently, she had quit her day job three months earlier and she was not making enough at this point to cover her bills.
So I told her, “I’m going to reveal to you the 8 best friends of any stylist or interior designer (and, quite frankly, any business owner) that will do wonders for your business.”
She pulled out her smart phone and was ready to type. I think she was expecting some kind of style hacks or insider networking group that she was unaware of.
I wasn’t going to tell her – and I’m not going to tell you – that your ‘must haves’ are shoe tape, tape measures, bra strap cinchers, or some velvet rope group. Those are ‘good to haves’ in the fashion industry, but if you’re a personal stylist with a business, and you want more clients and more money, THESE are your must haves:
1. A WEBSITE
This one seems obvious but you would be surprised how many business owners, especially stylists, even in this day and techie age, are either relying on old fashioned referrals, their agencies, or social media platforms for their business and marketing.
A website is your storefront and your own real estate. Which means you own the content.
You don’t want to have to rent or borrow from real estate owned by others (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Ebay, etc…) because you will always be subject to the landlord’s rules.
What happens if they change the rules? Or shut down your account? Or start charging you money for something that was once free?
Can they do that?
Of course! They own it. Whenever you put content on Facebook or Pinterest or any other platform that is not your own, they effectively own it. The more content you create for free on Facebook, for example, the more valuable you make Facebook, not your own asset.
It’s called digital sharecropping. ‘Sharecropping’ refers to old farming practices in the 1800’s, which is basically the same as feudalism. A landowner allows many individual farmers to use his land to grow crops but he gets the majority of the profits from selling the crops.
That’s what Facebook does. It owns the land and lets you put content or marketing ads on it. But it controls everything and has now made sure that if you want any eyeballs on your content or ads, you have to pay them. Sure, you might have a page for your business on it, but you’re still renting that server space from Facebook, Facebook only allows like 10% of your followers to see your posts organically, and they could shut it down at a moment’s notice.
Just look at the recent controversy surrounding Facebook: an ex-Facebook employee revealed they had been suppressing popular conservative news stories from making their news feed. Facebook has a liberal bias and if your brand was in any way viewed as conservative by Facebook, who knows how many people should have seen your content but didn’t.
You just don’t know what Facebook, or any of these other platforms, could do on any given day that could affect the content that you publish on it.
Having your business and some marketing on social media platforms are definitely valuable eggs to put in your marketing basket. But make sure you also build your own assets that you always have control over – so you don’t have to worry too much when social media or search engine platforms keep changing their terms of service.
A well designed website with your own URL and hosting is an asset you want to own. It’s the best way to publish your new media content. Then, you can use social media news and networking sites as your methods to get exposure for your content.
2. A BLOG
Most customers aren’t going to know who you (or your brand) are the first, second, or even third time they hear about you. You are a total, unknown stranger to them, and we are all taught, from very young, not to trust strangers.
So you will want to slowly court them, to offer them the equivalent of a drink or a coffee, before you ask them to buy anything from you.
Your relationship with your customers is no different than your personal relationships. People want to get to know you first before they commit to anything (or buy anything).
Your blog is a perfect line opener. It allows you to give value for free before they even know you have something to sell. That immediately garners trust and excitement (if your content is good).
Your blog should include all that valuable media content: articles, videos, audio, etc. that will promote your brand, offer value to your audience, and grow your business’s reputation. This is the content that you want to have control over and why you want your own “land” (website) to house the content on.
Your blog is another asset, just like your website, that you want to own and have control over.
For the first five years of The Shopping Friend (my personal stylist business) I didn’t have a blog. I don’t even think I knew what a blog was at that time. And no stylist I knew at the time had a blog. But then all of a sudden, out of the blue, every business, stylist, and expert had a blog. And poof! I had to figure out, fast, how to incorporate one into my website.
Producing free content can be time consuming, I get it.
I have spoken to many personal stylists who complain that they don’t have time to create content but I have to say that they are doing themselves a massive disservice if they don’t do it. Free content will pay for itself when you have something related to sell, whether it’s a service or product.
My blog now generates over 65% of my daily traffic. I think with those numbers you might say that creating and growing my blog was well worth the time.
Write a blog with content related to the styling services/solutions that you provide for your customers. More people will discover you and trust you because they’ve gotten to know you by reading your blog.
This is called content marketing and Google loves directing people to websites that are filled with valuable content.
Years ago it was easy to game Google by stuffing your website and blog pages with keywords. But Google has since caught on and you can no longer do that. They are continuously changing their algorithms because they care about delivering perfect results to their users. They want to direct their users to the exact content that the user is looking for. So, to show up in Google results now, you need to have that ‘perfect’ content on your website, not just keywords.
Most stylists, not just personal stylists, but all stylists, have pretty in-depth blogs now. It might take some time and thought, but try to find an angle that no one else is coming from. There are too many stylists who create blogs that mimic fashion magazines, and let’s be honest, most readers out there are going to prefer reading a well known, fashion magazine like Vogue over your unknown blog.
Offer content that’s different and valuable, that readers and viewers can’t easily get anywhere else, and you’ll find yourself with more readers and, eventually, buyers. If your content is shareable, even better!
When people share your content with their friends; or other bloggers want to publish it on their sites; they will drive more traffic to your site leading to more leads, more sales, and ultimately, more cash for you.
3. AN EMAIL LIST
The money is in the list. The money is in the list. The money is in the list!
This freaking elusive email list!
Before I knew how to start growing my email list, I kept hearing this statement and it drove me crazy because I didn’t know what it meant!
When you start hanging out with marketers and businesses, the email list is talked about frequently. People really want to know your email list numbers. It’s almost like overly machismo guys comparing their Lamborghinis. The number seems so important! But why?
Because it’s another asset and it’s one of the most important assets your business can own. IF you know how to use it properly.
Email is the most powerful way to communicate with your prospects and ideal clients online. Social media gets a lot of love but, again, you’ll never own that audience. But you will always own your email list.
Plus, email truly is king. Because it’s personal, direct, and private, it’s by far the best way to build an engaged audience, sell a product or service online, or create hype around your next big event or service project. Without an email list, you will really struggle to maintain a relationship with current and prospective customers or talk to them when they are ready to buy from you.
The fact is, most people, even your ideal clients, won’t buy from you until they have heard from (or about) you 7+ times. You could have millions of visitors to your website every month but if you don’t capture their contact info – their email address – then all that traffic will be wasted.
When you build an engaged email list you can build real relationships with your potential customers. It’s a medium that helps get your message into the hands of the right people, shares your important ideas, and truly fosters change.
You can grow a sense of community and truly help people before they even choose to buy from you. This helps you create more influence, more impact, and ultimately more income for your business. That’s the power of building an engaged email list filled with your best customers and potential customers: the ability to use it to sell more and grow your business.
Most people will not be ready to buy from you when they first discover your website and brand, and it’s unlikely they will return to your website on their own. So make sure you capture their contact info on that first meeting so you can continue to communicate with them, and grow that relationship with them, long after they have left your website.
When people give you their email address, they are giving you permission to communicate with them, to contact them in the future. And that’s HUGE. That’s like the girl giving her number to the guy who wants to ask her out on a date. That means there might be a future.
Your email list creates an easy path for you to follow up with potential customers, it’s the fastest track to scalability, and it gives you more control over your income cycles, being able to contact your potential customers at will.
If you’re a newbie stylist or business owner, one of the first steps you will want to take, maybe even before you start building your product or website, is to start building your email list. If you’re a seasoned pro and you don’t have an email list, start today. I use Get Response to help me build and segment my email lists.
4. AN AUTORESPONDER
If you don’t know what an autoresponder is, be prepared to meet a new bestie. Autoresponders can save you thousands of hours and hundreds to thousands of missed sales if you use them correctly.
Autoresponders are automated email services that automate the emails you send to your leads and to your clients. You set it up once and it will deliver a sequence of emails on auto-pilot for as long as you desire. You can deliver drip campaigns, drip e-courses, an email series of content, automated welcome and thank you emails, it’s up to you.
You can automatically collect leads and nurture them into your ideal clients. It’s a beautiful thing. If you haven’t discovered the magic of automation for your business yet, it’s high time you invest some time and figure out how to do it. It will be sooo worth it.
Once you discover the magic of an autoresponder, the days of writing your newsletters and emails every day/week/month, and having to come up with new content continuously, will be the digital equivalent of the horse-drawn covered wagon.
5. A MARKETING FUNNEL
Your leads, prospects, and buyers will take different steps in their buying journey towards ultimately becoming a buyer of your products or services.
You’ll want to have a marketing funnel that easily takes them through each appropriate step until they “convert” into buyers and evangelists of your brand.
So why am I calling these steps a ‘funnel’? Because at the beginning of the process, you’ll have a lot of people who will take the first step into the funnel. As they go through the next steps, however, not everyone will take those steps and so the crowd will get smaller, hence the funnel gets narrower.
When people successfully move through each step, they “convert”. So each step has its own conversion. Ultimately, you want as many clients as possible to end up converting into a buyer of your core offer (your main product(s) or service(s)) at the end of the funnel.
The people who do go through your entire funnel are your ideal clients and hopefully will become repeat buyers and will evangelize your brand to other people.
If you track your funnel properly, you’ll be able to see where you’re losing people and where you’re getting great conversions. By tracking conversions at each step, you’ll have the opportunity to tweak and improve each step. A good, detailed funnel report will show you the holes in your funnel, where people are dropping off, and you can take action to plug in those holes.
You don’t only have to use funnels for your sales conversions either. You could place funnels all over your website to observe the website flow of your visitors.
Making business decisions based on data, and not your guesses, is very important. Your marketing funnel gives you vast amounts of data about what your prospects and buyers are doing on your website. This allows you to constantly improve each step your prospects go through, give your customers exactly what they need, and increase your conversions and sales.
6. A MERCHANT ACCOUNT or THIRD-PARTY PAYMENT PROCESSOR
When I teach about building businesses, I always stress that making your customer’s journey and experience as hassle-free and efficient as possible should be a number one goal. And that definitely includes how your payment processor is set up.
When your customer is ready to purchase, the last thing you want is some kind of roadblock to occur that would change your customer’s mind or even just annoy them.
You want everything to be fluid. From the moment your buyer has decided that they want that ‘thing’ you’re selling, they selected it and put it into their shopping cart, you want every step of the checkout to be smooth and seamless.
And one of the best ways to do that is allowing your clients and customers the option to pay for your products and services with a credit card on your website. Without the ability to process credit cards, you will definitely be missing out on some sales.
Merchant accounts can help you do that. Unfortunately, the downside of merchant accounts, especially if you’re a new business, is they can be a bit costly, which isn’t great if you’re not raking in the dough yet. If that’s the case, then start with a third-party payment processor like Paypal or Stripe. They basically just charge you a percentage of each transaction and that’s it. There are no recurring monthly fees.
However, these platforms typically require that you send your customer over to their websites to process the transaction, forcing your customer to leave your website, which isn’t smooth if the checkout page looks nothing like your website. But now many web builders have payment processors integrated into them so your customer doesn’t have to leave your website.
I personally use Paypal and Stripe for my different businesses and they came integrated with the web builders that I used to build my websites. So that was a super easy, no brainer decision for me. With Stripe integrated into my website through my web builder, my clients and customers experience a seamless transaction and it never looks like they leave my website, which can sometimes jar the customer and make them feel suspicious.
If your business has a lot of revenue, you will definitely want to consider a dedicated merchant account. The difference in processing rates between direct merchant accounts and third party solutions are significant and can add up, even for smaller businesses.
7. SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
You probably already have social media halfway figured out if you have private accounts set up. But you’ll want to make sure you create social media accounts for your business, as well, if you haven’t done so already.
There were some who thought that social media was a trend or a fad. Nope. It’s here for the long haul. It is the everyday reality for billions of people around the world who live an online lifestyle and, so, has become a very integral part of marketers’ strategies.
As a business, you want to connect, engage, and promote your content where people are hanging out and social media is where they are hanging out. Just take a look at these two images from SearchEngineJournal.com, you can see that social media platforms are massive.
- Facebook has 1.55 billion monthly active users
- YouTube has 1 billion monthly active users
- Twitter has 316 million monthly active users
- Pinterest has 100+ million monthly active users
- Instagram has 400 million monthly active users
- Reddit has 200 million monthly active users
- Google+ has 343 million monthly active users
- LinkedIn has 97 million monthly active users
- Tumblr has 230 million monthly active users
- Snapchat has 200 million monthly active users
However, not all social media platforms are equal. You have to know who your audience and potential buyers are and figure out where they’re all hanging out. Are they connected to groups and events on Facebook? Or engaged on subreddit communities? Are they tweeting? Or getting visual inspiration on Pinterest? Or all of them?
You want to determine not only where your audience is hanging out, but where they’re actually active, where they search for things, and what social media site niches they use. Knowing these factors will help you discover which social media platforms are best for your brand and business
Every social media platform has a unique way of communicating with followers. Once you figure out the right social media platforms for you to promote and market your brand, learn the best strategies for that social media. None of these social media platforms will work for you unless you have a well thought out, strategic plan. Each one is different and has different techniques and formulas that work for them.
8. A FREEMIUM!
A freemium is also known as an opt-in offer, an irresistible offer, a lead magnet, an ethical bribe, content giveaway, etc. it goes by many different names that I’ll use interchangeably in this post.
Your freemium, essentially, is how you’re going to get most of your leads and prospects onto your email list and at the top of your marketing and sales funnel.
The term ‘freemium’ marries the words ‘free’ and ‘premium’ and is becoming a dominant business model for online businesses. Although, many physical brick and mortar businesses have actually used ‘freemiums’ for decades.
You know those delicious free samples you get while shopping in Costco on a busy Saturday afternoon? That’s one kind of freemium. They give you a taste, a sample, encouraging you to buy the entire product.
Digital Marketer defines the freemium or lead magnet as an ‘irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information.’
This is your irresistible giveaway, and you want to make sure that it’s so irresistible that it would be super difficult for your ideal customer to pass it up. In order for them to get this irresistible offer, your prospects will give you their contact info and you will, in turn, give them their freemium.
Your freemiums should be free (obviously), valuable, and actionable. A well designed freemium will align with your core offer and guide and encourage the purchase of your core offer later on.
You want your freemium to solve a problem quickly, be easily consumable by your audience, and attract the people who will genuinely be interested in your core offer.
But before you start, you need to really know what your audience wants from you before you can create an awesome freemium or lead magnet for them. Once you have figured that out, even if you don’t have your core product or service ready to sell yet, still set up your lead magnet to start building your email list.
Offering your prospect a solution that saves them time, money, frustration, and teaches them new knowledge will warm them towards you and help you start building a relationship with them. It sets you up as an authority in your niche plus opens you up for, what Amy Porterfield calls, the Giver’s Gain. When you give something of great value to your audience you will, in turn, gain respect, authority, and trust.
This strategy of giving away value in exchange for contact info is the most under-used marketing strategy by most businesses; yet it’s the most effective way to connect with your ideal clients and grow a relationship with them. It not only gives away value, it’s the first step to generating revenue for your business.
There are definitely way more marketing elements you will want to put into play in your business, but start off with these. If you want to succeed as a personal stylist, you must focus on the business and marketing side of your business just as much as the fashion and the art.
The personal stylist I had that lunch meeting with only had two of the eight on this list – her website and a couple social media accounts that had no definitive strategy and were just sitting there gathering dust. She didn’t even know how to consistently get more followers to her business page.
She left that meeting with so much enthusiasm because she was glad to know there was so much more she could do. She thought she had hit a wall.
It took her awhile to learn how to do some of these things because she had never even heard of a few of them. I know that by the end of the year, she had quadrupled her business, so implementing these ideas took her about 10-11 months.