It’s easy to want to protect your sales, and never allow a return. In fact, by the time your website is live, you will probably have your product in such great shape that you can’t even imagine someone even wanting to return it. But returns happen and it’s important to have the right return policy. Returns tell you if a product fits true to size, it tells you if your quality matches up to the price point and if your product copy sizes up to the product. As a result, returns are a great litmus test for startups and growth stage brands alike.
I was writing a blog post for StartUp Fashion on “How to Launch an E-commerce Shop Selling Your Own Brand and Others” (will update with link when its live), and I had an idea that I never saw in practice, the CO-OP website. We’ve all heard of CO-OPs, like the Park Slope CO-OP where you donate time and get a discount on food, or CO-OP apartments, where everyone in the building owns the building together. And in the last 5 years CO-OP fashion retail stores have become more popular. But, what about the idea of a CO-OP fashion retail e-commerce site? A place where each brand owned a part of the site and contributed to its growth.
Facebook is such a powerful advertising tool. It is effective for both fashion retail brands with robust Facebook pages and those who do not have active Facebook pages- as you can drive traffic to your site and bypass the Facebook page engagement. Facebook for fashion startups and growth stage ecommerce businesses can be especially confusing and overwhelming. I’m not sure why the user interface is still so complicated.
Writing a blog can seem like a daunting task, especially when you consider the amount of time it takes to plan the content, write, edit, and syndicate it. But if you find yourself reading this blog post then you realize that it can also be very powerful. Lets unpack why a blog for your fashion business is important.
- Blogs can share ideas, value, and lifestyle and create context for your existing and future customer base.
- Brands that have engaging blogs create a sense of community that transcends a short-term customer lifetime cycle. Your tribe will keep coming back.
- Blogs give you an opportunity to sell through context and link yourself with other brands in your industry. You can position your brand as an authority and link yourself to adjacent brands.
- Blogs can be very helpful in indexing your online brand through Search Engine Optimization.
- A blog post that creates value to the reader is a better marketing tool on paid advertising then just showing product based ads. Subtle selling creates relationships.
It’s important to indicate what a blog is not.
- A blog is not an advertising section on your site to just show product.
- A blog is not a place to be negative- it reflects poorly on you brand.
- A blog is not a place to practice your writing skills. If you don’t have a distinct brand voice and style in place then figure this out before you start writing.
How you decide to write your blog can take on many forms. I prefer a strategic approach to one that is haphazard, so this list of how to optimize your fashion business blog is extensive. Here we go- 10 tips to start a blog for your fashion business.
- Create a content calendar. Start by writing down major dates and events related to your brand, then dates and themes industry wide.
- Start researching interesting topics that will be relevant to your new audience. Take a peek at your competitors.
- Develop two buckets of content: brand focus and lifestyle focus. Brand focus will be behind the scenes content, first glimpse into lookbooks etc. Lifestyle will be focused on other people, brands, and content. Aim to have a quarter of your posts about your brand. You will still want to weave in your brand to the lifestyle posts, it’s just not the focus.
- Decide how often you want to write. One time a month? Every week? Pick something and stay consistent.
- Create a style guide for writing if you plan to have someone else write the blog going forward. If you write your blog conversational, as I do, it may be challenging to find someone to fill your voice so having guidelines will be even more important.
- Do research on competitor keywords so you know which words you want to rank for. Remember that writing a blog post is a powerful piece of marketing and you want to make sure your efforts are well placed.
- Blogs need to be visually stimulating so you will need to create a bank of images you can pull from. The bank should include both stock images and those of your brand. So make sure you tell your photographer next time you are shooting that you need more than just editorial shots.
- Be choosey about your blog platform. There are many templates out there, and you want to make sure that your template highlights your content and the brand. Your blog should be hosted on your site though, and then you can share it on other platforms (Medium, Tumblr etc.).
- Aim to write between 500+ words. Since this is a fashion/lifestyle blog it doesn’t need to be super long, but word count matters for Google indexing.
- After you write ask yourself “why would anyone care, how is this useful”?
Make sure you have a fun time writing your blog. Its an amazing opportunity to bring customers inside the world of your brand. And don’t forget- blog content is so powerful when it’s well thought out and syndicated on all your platforms.
Is it time for you to breakup with your Facebook page? Maybe you don’t have the time to build an active Facebook community. But do you need an active Facebook page to reap the rewards of Facebook selling? All these questions will be answered in today’s new video. Hope I made your decision easier on the status of your relationship with Facebook.
If you are ready to launch your brand then set up a consultation. Email: email@example.com. Scaling Retail is the consulting firm for retail globally. Specializing in startup and growth stage ecommerce, brick & mortar, and wholesale.
For more tips and exercises for building a fashion website check out
Creating Fashion Websites That Sell by Syama Meagher and Nicole Giordano: http://www.scalingretail.com/product/creating-fashion-website-that-sell/
Check out Scaling Retail website for more business ecommerce and retail tips, reviews and more: http://www.scalingretail.com/
This post was originally written for Simply Stylist by me (Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail). Simply Stylist is an Online Platform & Conference Series for Female fashion enthusiasts. They are the bridge that connects you with other like-minded stylistas, beauty babes and tech whizzes, and allows you to tap into the minds of major style influencers.
Your blog relies on working with brands you love. Not only does working with brands you’d personally use appear more organic, but it also increases the chances of that brand wanting to work with you. However, pitching and working with brands you love requires a strategy! I will discuss the fundamentals to building relationships and positioning yourself to get the visibility and, ultimately, the income you want. I warn you — its not easy, but can be very worthwhile!
1. How to Identify the Right Brands
There are so many amazing brands out there, but who is the right fit for you? Ultimately, this depends on your brand positioning. What kind of content do you produce? Do you know your tribe? When was the last time you actually engaged with them? Truly understanding your own brand will give you a foundation to identify the right brands that you should work with.
So, how do you start to find out about your audience? Do research or ask them! People love to know that they are important. Surveys and questionnaires produce amazing results. Once you know your audience, it’s time to analyze the brands. What are the brands that your audience already engages with? What are they wearing? Where are they going? Become a detective and start to write down a list of the brands they engage with.
Tip: Don’t just write down fashion brands; write down all the brands- Airbnb, Uber, Blueprint, etc. This is your starting point.
2. Identify What You Have to Offer
What is your USP (Ultimate Selling Proposition)? This applies to your content and your audience. Do you have amazing images and high engagement? Do you have a lot of followers who click on the links in your bio? How about a small targeted audience that really listen to you?
Once you establish what you have to offer, it iss time to package it nicely. Create a PDF with your stats, a bio about yourself, images, and some information about your following. Also, identifying and including the types of brands your followers are interested in will help brands feel like you are a good fit.
Tip: I work with brands every day, established and new brands. What they are looking for is real engagement and a targeted following. Yes — they will look at your followers and analyze!
3. Know What You Want
Whether you’re a flatlay queen or can get your readers to buy anything, being knowledgeable about what you bring to the table will ensure you’re working with brands that align with your aesthetic. Know what kinds of products you want to work with and start to slim down your list to those brands within your context. Ask yourself, “If I work with this brand, would I want to work with my brand?” That is the important question.
Also, please note that if you have big brands that you really want to work with, consider featuring their products on your page prior to reaching out. Brands take note of whether or not an influencer has previously posted about them!
As your following grows, pitching should become a part of your daily routine. Pitching can include anything from emailing brands to sending DM’s (Direct Messages) on Instagram directly to a brand social media page. However, you should only pitch to brands that make sense, meaning they, too, would benefit from collaborating with you to share their product with your readers. The pitches should be personal to each brand and portray a casual confidence without overselling yourself or your brand.
- Highlight your best social media platforms first. Don’t immediately propose posting on platforms that you are not building or that have low engagement. Instead, showcase your strengths!
- Don’t limit yourself. Instead of having one set rate for all collaborations, offer tiered pricing and al la carte options to appeal to brands seeking small activations.
- You need to be willing to start small and work your way up! Small collaborations will show brands the type of work they’d expect from a partnership with you, so make them count.
5. Building Your Perceived Value
The value of your brand is based on what others perceive of you. If you decide to collaborate with other influencers, be sure you’re featuring brands that are consistent with your aesthetic — this will help you develop a strong brand. It takes time to build your portfolio of collaborations, but don’t worry! No one is going to ask you about the nature of previous collaborations. Just remember: Have discretion and be smart as to what the return on investment (ROI) is for each brand or collaboration you do.
Building your brand is a long-term decision that is essential to success. So don’t be afraid to be aggressive and diligent in ensuring you’re working with brands you love!
Many of us have a vision of launching a business with co-founder who is the perfect compliment to our right brain or left-brain selves. Strong creatives tend to seek business strength and vice versa, but actually finding the perfect fit can be more difficult than we like. This is largely because we 1. Travel in circles that tend to be more like us 2. Don’t understand our own personalities, weaknesses and core competencies 3. Are eager to find someone that when we do we say “YES” too quickly. There is a formula to finding the right partner and setting yourself up for success. Lets dive in.
YOUR INNER GAME
Your capacity to understand your traits as a leader is essential. Are you passive aggressive? Can you hire people well, but struggle with firing? Do you think you are always right? Maybe you have self-worth issues. Or, like me, maybe you are a work-a-holic and treat your business like it’s your first-born. No matter what your unique personality type, it’s critical to understand how you work and to be honest about it. Launching a business is not the time to work through your personal baggage, but you are the center of your business so these things do come up. You need to square away personal obstructions and work through anything that might keep you from performing at your optimum. I suggest making a list of how you like to work, what types of personalities you have worked well within the past, and what might someone else need to know about you to know if you are a good fit for them. Do you like to do things last minute but never miss a deadline? Your potential co-founder will need to know not to worry about your commitment.
WHAT YOU BRING TO THE TABLE
Aside from bringing a great idea to the conversation you need to stack up your skill sets. I always ask my clients to make lists: what are they really good at, what would they like to learn, and what is something that they would have to hire out/have zero interest in learning. If you are a creative that struggles with business matters or vice versa it’s important to itemize the specifics. I work with a lot of clients that are creatives and need a business backbone, and let me tell you, you can be successful doing it on your own, but it’s definitely easier when you are working with someone who loves MS Excel if you hate it.
MATTERS OF MONEY
Who pays for what? With a biz partnership it’s cleaner if both parties can equally split liability and expenses. Not only does this keep things feeling balanced, but there is true shared ownership. If going 50/50 is not a possibility and you are looking for a co-founder to fund the operation, you might actually be looking for an investor. In my experience having a co-founder that’s really an investor can muddy decision-making processes. A co-founder should be able to bring something beyond money to the table. They should have skills and expertise that will relate directly to the day-to-day operations. If your co-founder is unable to invest as much money as you are or nothing into the business it’s critical that you stipulate in your operating agreement how your investment gets paid back over time and if/when the company dissolves. At the end of the day this is about playing fair, doing what’s right for the business and yourself.
DOING BUSINESS WITH FRIENDS & LOVERS
In theory it’s a wonderful idea to start a business with a friend or romantic partner. Working with someone you know you already like and have things in common can be very rewarding, but it does require knowing yourself very well to pull this off successfully. Before launching into a business idea with someone you care about make sure to ask yourself and him or her- why now? Why would you two be the best to do this together? What complementary traits do you have? Discuss how long you want to test the process and have a trial period together before committing to a contract. And yes, you will want a contract! Business amongst friends/lovers can still get ugly and you want to have a contract out of respect for you and them. The goal is to preserve the relationship and possibly launch an amazing business!
TINDER FOR CO-FOUNDERS
I wish there was Tinder for Co-Founders (kind of like Bumble BFF…). But as of now there are only co-founder sites that really focus on technology. Sites like CoFoundersLab, FounderDating, and Angellist are a few places to look if you are looking to start an ecommerce site, otherwise I suggest good old fashioned LinkedIn and reaching out in Facebook groups, friends and family. As you would on a first date, you need to make sure to meet your potential co-founder for coffee or a drink and not just trust the phone or email. You wouldn’t marry someone without really knowing him or her right? So why would you risk your financial investment working with someone you don’t know well. (Jessica Alba jokes that partnering up with her co-founder is like an arranged marriage.) I suggest dating around. Dating around means having lots of coffees and working on small projects with someone to test out the personality styles and core competencies. Think of it as an experiment. You could sign an NDA, but really, it’s not necessary unless you have a patent pending. Ideas are easy come, easy go, but execution is hard. You need a partner you can execute with that has a shared vision. Don’t expect your first couple dates will yield a co-founder! Be patient.