Create, Package & Deliver.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CONTENT-header

Content.  It’s all about content.  Web designers won’t build you a site without it.  People at coffee shops can be casually heard asking one other, “What’s your content strategy?”  We create content for our clients.  We create content for the Flea.  So, what’s content and why is it so important?  Well, simply put, it’s all the things you say to your clients or customers.  It’s the words and the images that fill in the gaps and tell people how to buy you or what you do, but not in the “used car salesman” sort of way.  If you’re a maker, your content is pretty straightforward to package.  It’s photos and descriptions of your handmade goodies, and your behind-the-scenes process that got that cool leather passport cover out into the world.  If you’re a creative consultant, like me, your content might be harder to share because you might not have any.  And if you don’t have the graphic design capabilities, it makes it that much harder.  Hi friends.  Stephanie here, and today, I’m here to share a bit of our behind-the-scenes and how we help our clients create, package and share kick-ass content.

Content speaks for you when you’re not physically there.  Content lets your clients really get to know you and what you do.  Without it, you’re silent and that’s not really helpful if you’re trying to cultivate an online presence.  Think of content as your brand ambassador.  Good content introduces your customers to what is meaningful to you, in a way that is helpful and meaningful to them.  It doesn’t merely try to sell things or provide basic information (which is most likely boring or annoying to read).  We’re getting better over here and at The Flea about sharing content that matters.  Check out Gina’s latest Flea post on Cinco de Mayo and one of our favorite food trucks, Wholly Frijoles.

Indie Foundry has always been my place to share content that felt very close to me, in a sort of personal blog kind of way.  But now that I can focus some time and effort back into the consulting business, I decided it was time to step up my game.  In fact, I recently hired a content coach and a website designer, so that I can not only create, but I can package and deliver awesome content here on Indie Foundry.  My first step (almost 2 years ago) was to hire a branding firm to help me sort out who I was.  After a good year or more of putting in the work, I finally felt ready to pull the trigger on a full site re-build and also step up the content I’m sharing.  If you’re struggling with sharing content, think about it in these 3 steps.

CREATE-PACKAGE-DELIVER

Create.

It helps me to answer a few questions about who it’s for, what it is and how it brings value.  Is it for the budding entrepreneur or the sophomore business?

Package.

This is about the look and feel, as well as the tone.  How does it come across?  Modern?  Vintage? Serious?  Funny?  You should draw from your own personality or the personality of your brand for this one.

Deliver.

I’m working daily at creating content for this blog, so my content usually lives here.  But I also like to share a snippet on facebook, instagram and twitter.  You’re limited by size there, which is a good thing, because it should just be a compliment to the deeper content here.

If you need help crafting meaningful content, we offer a pretty awesome product, The Brand Blueprint, that will help you address these 3 steps with poise, purpose and polish.  We’d love to get you on the road to creating, packaging and delivering bad ass content to your customers, clients and collaborators!  If you’d like to know more, just contact our Brand Manager, Heidi at Heidi@indiefoundry.com.

Have a great day, friends!

 

Why Morocco?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

bienvenue-a-maroc

Morocco is a magical place.  The smell in the souks is a mix of dates, spices, mint tea, anise, oranges and incense.  It’s a geographically and culturally diverse place, with coastlines on two seas (Atlantic, Mediterranean), mountains, desert and influences from many cultures- African, Spanish, French and more.  One of the most striking characteristics of Morocco is how ancient and modern live side by side, everywhere.  There is a sense of “this is how it’s been done for centuries”, that lives very much in the food, culture, people, architecture and economy of the place, and that unapologetically coexists with the more modern, fast-paced life of commerce, tourism, technology and transportation.

Hi friends, Stephanie here, and I recently returned from a 2 week trip to this magical country.  I’m here to share some of my journey, along with practical tips for those who are interested in Morocco or would like to plan a trip of their own.

Why I chose Morocco:  Many people ask me this question.  I’m not exactly sure why I picked Morocco, except that it was so different in many ways from my life at the moment.  I had never visited an Islamic country before.  I also wanted to be out of my own comfort zone.  Plus, all the colors and the design and the spices and architecture contributed a sense of amazement that I truly wanted to experience.  Also, Morocco has it all.  They have the Sahara Desert, the ocean, mountains, cities, and old and new living in such close proximity.  I truly wanted an adventure on many levels.

How much I packed:  Too much.  One carry-on duffel, one leather back pack, one purse.  I was lead to believe via various fashion blogs that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by bringing a rolling suitcase through the Medinas (winding streets with cobble stone paving).  That’s total bullshit.  Bring what makes your life easier.  I definitely stood out in more ways that one, and I wish I would have had an easier time managing my luggage on and off trains and through winding streets.

What I wish I didn’t take with me:  3/4 of my clothes.  I didn’t need any of my “dressy” outfits.  No one goes out in Morocco!  Maybe in Marrakech, but even there, I didn’t have the opportunity to be out at any places that would require anything fancy, much less travel through the dirty streets with heels.  Cute flats would make more sense than heels, and even a pair of flat boots would have been nice.

What I wish I did take with me:  Arabic and French translation books.  A giant map of the country.

My weirdest moment:  On my flight back home, I ended up renting an apartment in Paris from the son of famous designer, Max Azria.  No joke.  And I didn’t know that until I met him for a glass of wine to get my keys.  You truly never know where your life’s decisions will lead you.  I booked this Air bnb right when my flight landed at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

My best moment:  I loved Marrakech.  I left with a few amazing friends, and with a feeling that I could conquer more than I had ever imagined.

What I carried back with me (physically):  Rugs, blankets, dates, spices, orange essence, nuts, poufs, handmade shoes, pillowcases, mint tea, tiny serving dishes.

What I carried back with me (spiritually):  A sense of accomplishment.  A decision to take more breaks, to rely on my team more, to write more, to be online much less.

Will I go back?  Absolutely!  I hope to live in Marrakech for a few months next year.

Favorite place:  Marrakech as a bustling city that puts new in direct contact with old.  It’s absolutely fascinating.  Chefchaoen for the beautiful blue colors and mountain locale.

Least favorite place:  The desert excursion.  Seemed rather touristy, but it was also an absolutely stunning backdrop.  I’d recommend it, but I’d also just do a bit more research into a company that might provide a less touristy option.

What surprised me most:  How close of a culture the people are.  People that don’t know each other still act as though they know each other well.  There’s a feeling of brotherhood that I could really sense.

The biggest pain in the ass:  Carting all my stuff with me from place to place.  Also, getting taxi drivers to give me a proper price.  I was told that whatever rate people give you, cut it in half and then start negotiating.  True.

My impression of Morocco before I visited:  Everyone I told was pretty scared for me.  It’s kind of crazy the stereotypes that we carry with us of foreign places.  I was just excited to see, in person, all these beautiful landscapes and markets and cities that I’d seen when researching.  I also thought it would be more tropical, but I’m not sure why I thought that!

My scariest moment:  When I was lost in the souks of Marrakech, at night, without a map and with no access to GPS (thanks ATT), I was a little terrified.  I knew that eventually I would find where I was going, but it was also raining and there was really no place to get under any canopy without then drawing more attention myself and inviting a bunch of young (and harmless) guys to follow me around offering “help.”  It was dark, the streets are small and winding and very much like a maze.  But I found my way!

blog-post-morocco-stats

My itinerary:

I flew into Casablanca, since it’s quite central to Marrakech and Fes.  I knew I wanted to see the North (Chefchaoen) and the Desert (Rissani) and a few awesome cities, Fes and Marrakech.  There are a few ways to do this, but a friend of mine was already in Fes, so I went North first.  After changing some dollars into dirhams, I jumped on a train from the Casablanca airport (buy ticket just outside the platform) to Casa Voyageur, the main Casablanca station.  I got off that train and bought a ticket to Fes, which turned out to be about 4.5 hours by train.  Ticket cost Casa Voyager to Fes was about $15, I think.  I had to wait in the main station for about 40 minutes.

Tip:  Buy first class tickets for the train.  You’ll get a nice, comfy cabin and assigned seating.  Keep your ticket on you, as the conductor will come around and check it.  Also, grab some snacks and water at the Casablanca station, for your long ride.  They do sell stuff on the train, but I found that it’s a bit cheaper outside the train.

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I’ll be following up this post up with in-depth accounts of each city, but until then, here are some really beautiful moments.  And GOOD NEWS I brought back a small but mighty selection of amazing Moroccan goodies that I just couldn’t pass up.  My first sale will be tomorrow, starting at noon.  If you’d like to get access to the very select items (rugs, baskets, blankets, textiles) just head on over and support our Kickstarter in an amount of $25 and you’ll receive a password to our shopping page by this evening.

blue-wall paints oranges souks loom blue-door olives sahara dar-medina textiles gold-door

majorelle gardens-1 souks-marrakech

 

 

 

 

So, what’s creative courage?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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I recently learned how important creative courage is when I lost my way in the middle of the souks, in a rain storm, at night, in Morocco, alone.  Sounds awesome, I know.  I didn’t know the language, there are no road signs, and it seemed to me that everyone around me knew that I had lost my way.  Isn’t that always the case?  So, this is what I did.  I found a small spot out of the rain, I took a deep breath, resolved to find a place that felt familiar, said a few encouraging words to myself and ventured back out into the maze of small, winding streets of Marrakech.  Because if you want to get places, you just have to jump in and find your way.

I’m having a similar feeling today, friends.  At the moment, for me, that maze of winding streets is this crazy awesome Kickstarter that I just launched.  This adventure is so grand, and I can tell you that it also feels a lot like getting lost in those market streets.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.   I’m ready for this and I’m not backing down.  Because, if I’m being honest, I love doing things that matter.  I don’t like the safe, easy, well-marked paths.

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And I know that what I have surrounding me– a vibrant small business community that I helped create and a city with so much pride– will carry me through this.  I know that the sweat equity that I’ve poured into making The Cleveland Flea a launching pad and a support system for Cleveland’s small creative businesses has not gone unnoticed.  30,000 people showed up on Saturday to remind us that they’re in love with what we’re doing.  I know in my heart that you, The Cleveland Flea family of vendors and shoppers, will support my efforts as I have supported yours.  Because a rising tide lifts all ships, right?

So, back to my “girl lost in the souks” story.  So, how did I find my way?  I changed FEAR to ADVENTURE.  I got out of the rain, I closed my eyes and told myself, “You can do this, girl!  You HAVE to do this.  And actually, YOU LOVE THIS.”  You see, there was no other way.  I had to find my way out.  One way or another, I would find my way.  I entered back into the arena with a new mindset and began to re-trace my steps.  With fresh eyes and lots of adrenaline, I began to scan the winding alleys for signs that I was on the right path.  And then I saw it.  Though it looked different at night, I knew that I had seen this Mosque before.  Though I still had a trail of “helpful followers” on my tail, my confidence rose and I picked my head up.  Instantly, I knew I could rely on myself.  And that feeling was BADASS.  I had found my way home.  Well, not exactly home, but I knew that from here I could go step by step, landmark by landmark, and find my way in the dark to where I was going.  It might take a moment, but I knew that I would get there.  And then I felt like a total boss because I stepped up, and I didn’t let fear defeat me.

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And that’s what I’m feeling now as I sit before you today, sharing my story and asking for your support.  I’m crazy confident in this project, and I know that sharing my story personally with you all is the most badass way to put some energy behind it.  Writing and connecting with you IS my only way home.  I cannot build this thing alone, but I know that you would not expect that of me.  Each month, you’re a huge part of making this city great.  So, really, we’re already in this together.  See how I’ve brought you along on this mighty adventure of mine?

So, I’m here today, asking you to support yourself (ok, yes, and me) by donating to this campaign.  I’m asking shoppers, vendors, this city, the businesses that I put my dollars into and the neighborhoods that we support to step us and show me that you see our effort and you’re here to claim your place in this victory.  Together, we can #MakeItGreat.  Let’s do this, fellow badasses and bosses.

xoxo,

Steph

Hey guys! We’re rounding back to Facebook today, because it’s kind of a big pain in the ass that’s also basically mandatory for small businesses, AND can be one of your strongest assets if managed correctly. But that’s easier said than done.

So let’s look at two Facebook-centric questions I’ve received.

Is social media really the way to reach/promote a small upstart “maker” type business? It seems so fleeting for lack of a better word. Take FacebookI will see a post I feel is interesting and tell myself I’m going to look into that later. Seems when I go back, sometimes in just a few hours, it’s buried, or worse yet, I can’t even find it. If a potential customer has to deal with this in the instant world we live in, hasn’t that opportunity to engage a customer been missed?
—Social Thinker in CLE

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook for my craft business. The new method of showing (or not showing) posts to followers… aaahhh!! What is your advice about working with the Facebook corporation? Is it worth it to pay to boost posts? 
—FB Depression

So, for starters, let’s lay it all out on the table. Facebook is not perfect. Facebook for Business is a lot of trial and error. And the minute you feel like you’ve got it all figured out, they’re going to change one tiny piece of code on the back end, and you’re going to lose your mind.

If you can accept this now, you will save yourself headaches, heartbreak, loads of time, and probably a mouthful of crow.

So how do you interact with this necessary evil that refuses to be tamed?

My suggestion is that at the start, you set the terms, not the goals. Facebook is goal-oriented and can very easily seduce you into pursuing 1000 likes. Or 15 shares. Or 3 dozen comments.

But they will thwart your efforts. And even when they don’t, pursuing those numbers will most likely result in too much of your time spent stalking your own page.

So set the terms. Decide that you want to share these 3 (or 5 or 7) things on Facebook next week and carve out a time on Friday to write/schedule those posts. And for the following week, rinse and repeat. Then, after a month or so, look at your analytics, try to determine which types of posts and which posting-times are most successful, and adjust to align with those.

Respond to comments/questions and Facebook messages within 24 hours, but otherwise, let it be.

If you’re interested in paying to boost posts, I would do so for posts that contain important information and/or have potential ROI (i.e. “Our grand-opening is THIS SATURDAY” or “Tickets for our exclusive event are ON SALE NOW” )

Also, engage other forms of social media. Facebook is not the be-all end-all. Instagram is more visual. Twitter is more forgiving (in that you can post more often without annoying your followers; you can’t get away with saying terrible, bad things on Twitter; Twitter is all about holding you accountable; but you’d never do that anyway).

So, in summation:

  • Stop chasing likes/comments/shares
  • Consolidate execution of your weekly Facebook posts by writing and scheduling them at once
  • Utilize Facebook analytics to determine your best post types and post times
  • Direct the energy your saving by not obsessing about Facebook into exploring other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter

Over time, you will get more comfortable with Facebook and you’ll find your rhythm. But to get there, I think it’s necessary to pull back and set your own terms for engaging with the social media platform.

I mean, you run your own company. So don’t let Facebook run you.

As always guys, please use this form to submit your own questions for The Sarah Project!

I told you guys I would answer anything, and I’m a girl of my word, so today we’re getting personal—kind of. I had a reader submit a life-advice question that really tugged at my heart strings. So we’re getting into it.

Here’s this week’s question as I received it:

So, I am graduating from college and then beginning my master’s degree. I am engaged to the man of my dreams, but still live with my parents. This year we are moving in together but I am having a problem. Because of this transition from being at home to being away, I tend to choose my family over seeing my fiance. Now I’m feeling guilty about bailing on him, yet he never makes me feel bad for it. To me, I am spending time with my family before I “leave forever”, but it actually causes more stress for me to be with them? I hope that makes sense, haha! I feel like this is causing unnecessary stress for the both of us, yet I don’t want to miss out on family time? HELP!
—Livin’ the Dream?

You ABSOLUTELY are living the dream! You have a family you love, a partner you love, and you’re pursuing a career that you’ll love! But change can be hard and scary and it’s okay that it’s stressing you out a little. But I’ve been in that boat, and I can promise you that the changes ahead for your relationship and your family are going to be largely awesome.

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Maybe right now, you eat dinner with your parents almost every night and you discuss your days. And maybe your heart breaks a little at the thought of not having that time with them. But you will live to share a meal with your parents again. And on rare, beautiful, yet probably unremarkable occasions, it will be  just you and them and a great meal. And in between those meals, you’ll get texts from your dad. Trust me when I tell you there is nothing cuter than texts from your dad. And you’ll call your mom on your way home, and you won’t be able to finish one story before rushing into another because you have so much to tell her. And she’ll have that same excitement about catching up with you.

Then, instead of texting and calling with your fiance quite so much, you’ll share dinners with him—good dinners and bad dinners and oh-fuck-it-drive-thru dinners. You’ll find your rhythms and routines and when things get shitty like they do from time to time, those rhythms and routines will help hold you together.

What I’m saying is that all this change will let you get to know your parents in a new way, your fiance in a new way, and because of those things, you’ll get to know yourself in a new way. And that’s awesome—that’s the part of growing up that never ends.

Until then, until the great shift…

  • Try to relax a little
  • Bring them together whenever you can—the people who grew you and the person who wants to grow with you
  • Learn to trust your fiance when he says that he doesn’t mind
  • Remember that in its slowness, change is kind. Just like you didn’t feel instantly different the day you graduated from high school, you won’t feel different the day you graduate undergrad, start or finish your master’s degree, move in with your fiance, get married, and/or any of those milestone days to come.
  • And most importantly, find the balance between your self interest and being considerate of others. You’re clearly a people-focused, relationship-driven girl, and so am I. But certain things are as simple or as important, that what matters most has to be what you want.

With all this said, I think you’re going to be just fine. I think your family and your fiance are both lucky to have someone who is so thoughtful.

Remember guys, you can send me questions using this form. And I’m running a little low on things I know enough about to give advice on, so… yeah, submit some questions. 

Hey guys!

Today we’re talking about cohesive brands for differing styles.

Here’s this week’s question as I received it:

Hi Sarah, I own an art and handmade jewelry business with my daughter. The problem we’re having is how to correctly brand [our business] to reach our target market. You see… I’m in my 50s and she’s 23. Our personal styles are quite different and neither of them is exactly like our perceived target market. We have some jewelry pieces that appeal to teens and then a whole other set of pieces that appeal to bohemians, hipsters, hippies and any combination of those. Our art pieces have been purchased by many a middle-aged professional man in a 3-piece suit, as well as tatted up punk rockers (they especially like our guitar wall art pieces!) Anyway… How in the heck do you create a brand that appeals to all these people but stays true to one cohesive look?
—Brand Amnesia

Hi Brand Amnesia! I’m so glad you wrote in with this question. I think it’s a pretty common issue for what I’ll call partner companies (two or more people of equally standing running the show). Although you’re brought together by your passion for creating jewelry and art, and in this case, also by your family tie, having different styles is to be expected. Also, if your daughter was a carbon copy of you, that’d be super creepy and would be a much bigger issue to overcome in terms of your public perception! So let’s start framing your differing styles and perspectives as the strengths they actually are.

Now, you still need a cohesive brand. And I think you can definitely have one by identifying your common ground and letting IT drive your brand. For instance, your process, materials, ability to create on custom pieces, and the passion  you have for your work probably are all shared and constant no matter the style of piece you’re producing.

And then within your products, I would suggest creating collections if you want or need to appeal directly to subgroups of your wider target audience.

And that’s pretty much the long and short of it! I hope this helps and that you feel empowered by your differences and all the possibilities they provide instead of feeling hindered!

Remember guys, you can always submit questions to The Sarah Project via this form. And I’m looking for some new challenges, so send me whatever’s on your mind!

the sarah project: no more hiding

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hi all.

I’m back with round 2 of answering actual reader questions. I’m basically an old pro now.

Don’t be intimidated, though. I’m an “of the people” kind of girl. Just. like. Mindy.

role model
(Source: facebook.com/themindyproject)

Anyway…

Let’s get right into it. Here’s our question for the week as I received it:

Hi Sarah! I’m an introvert by nature, but I would love to be better at talking to people about my business, especially at craft shows. Any tips for that little thing known as human interaction? Thanks!
—Hiding Behind Crafts

HBC, I’m so happy you wrote in about this because I think there is a huge misconception that all successful vendors and small business owners are extroverts.

I think the key to not fully draining your introvert self in these situations is respecting your nature. Fake it til you make it has a time and place, but it’s not here.

My suggestion is actually starting your market experience the day before by giving yourself the quiet and restful day you need. Methodically gather, organize, and pack for the next day, or just leave yourself a few pieces to actually produce, and get lost in that task.

Secondly, I would suggest setting up your booth display in a way that invites shoppers in. This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. Inviting shoppers into your booth display helps you target the customers that are really interested in your product, and those are the people you want to spend your energy on. Having a table set up that pushes your customers into an aisle makes it hard to delineate them from just general shoppers. Essentially, you end up trying to engage with anybody and everybody instead of your potential customers.

Also, I would suggest observing and diagnosing some true professional sales people. One of our Flea vendors, Tim and Dwight of All Things for You are expert salesmen. What makes them so successful? Being in their booth is fun! They make you feel special, like a friend. What can you learn from that? To focus on your shoppers instead of yourself.

My last bit of advice is to really directly hone your message. Through Indie Foundry, we help small businesses build brands that work for them. And one part of that work is always crafting language that is clear, concise, and cohesive. Having that language in your toolbox gives each interaction the greatest return.

I hope this helps, HBC  and that you find lots of success at all your future markets!

(For anyone who’s maybe not clear on the difference between being an extrovert, being an introvert, and just being shy, here’s a pretty plain-English explanation.)

As always you can find our submission form here.

Do you have tips for HBC? What has worked for you fellow introverts?

Build your dream job.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

dream-job-1
Hi Friends, Stephanie here.  When I started on this path over 6 years ago, all I knew was that I wanted and needed to have purpose and fulfillment in my daily work life.  While being an aspiring architect during the day, I began a tiny design business on the side, as a creative outlet, and soon became pretty captivated (and terrified) by the idea of self-employment.  My first design jobs were for brides to brand their weddings, though at the time I didn’t really even know what branding was.  Then, once I realized that there were many dreamers and doers out there like me, building a business from scratch in a shaky economy, I wanted to help them.  Today, both of my businesses are focused on building dream jobs and dream campaigns for other creatives.  Everything we do is about making things better– from our city to our business community.  We spend our days encouraging creatives to take that leap from day dream to dream job and we watch them soar at our incubator market, The Cleveland Flea, and beyond.  Soon, I began to realize that my dream required bringing in a team to help me grow.  So, within my own walls, my job was once again to build dream jobs for my employees, so that we could continue to grow.  Hiring employees was another terrifying step, but now that I’ve taken it, I wanted to share a few thoughts on that, as well as introduce you to the whole team.

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Before I brought anyone on, I created a list of everything that I do, categorized that into “job titles” and then asked potential hires what their dream job would be, if it were to be at The Flea, and also if it wasn’t with me.  If they could do anything, what would that be?  I had them name that position, describe what they’d do daily and really make it real.  It was important for me to bring people on that love what they do and feel that they have agency to create a job that they love, just like I had created for myself.  I also wanted to know if they’d play along, because we also ask our clients to do the same thing, and if they don’t really get what we’re doing or don’t find value in our approach, they’re probably not for us.

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Sarah was one of the only people, and certainly the best, at beginning to sketch out her own dream job, and she enthusiastically jumped on board with how we work.   She was our first team member, and I couldn’t run The Flea without her.  She’s our Market Manager and Director of Vendor Relations.  Sounds fancy, I know, but the coordination aspect of The Flea is HUGE and super important.  Without our vendors, we wouldn’t have a market to run.  She’s responsible for keeping the heart and soul of the market vibrant, healthy and running smoothly.  Because I know how important writing is to her, we also launched her own weekly small business advice column, found here, called The Sarah Project.  You should read it– and submit a question for her!  Sarah’s dream job truly builds on the skills that she has, and loves, like organization and writing.  Send her your questions via Sarah [at] theclevelandflea.com.

Catrina just joined us, as The Flea’s Director of Operations and Sponsorship.  Her email is collaborate [at] theclevelandflea.com for a very specific reason.  We believe in redefining our relationship to our partners, as collaborators who have an equal stake in making this city great.  If they don’t understand that or don’t “get” that, then we know they’re not right for us.  She’s holding that pencil because she carries the title of “Number one at getting shit done.”

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Rachel came on board about a month ago as The Flea’s Creative Coordinator.  Think of her as our set designer.  She’s using her creative skills to take our photo shoots with Suzuran Photography to the next level.  Our first shoot is this Saturday!  That means The Flea isn’t far off!

Our first collaborator, and someone we couldn’t live without is Suzanne Price, who is our official Flea Photographer.  Together, we offer 3 levels of service:  Maker Sessions, Styled Shoots and Styled Maker Sessions.  All of the photos in this post were taken by Suzanne, and she’s one of the reasons that my dreams have been realized.  If you’d like more information about our photography offerings, please email Emilie [at] theclevelandflea.com.

Heidi is our Brand Manager over at Indie Foundry.  She works with me to execute our Brand Blueprint and Brand Refresh, as well as continuing to build our own look and feel.  She’s an amazing graphic designer and has a unique ability to not need sleep (I got a dropbox file sent to me from her at 5:00am!).  Together, we’re looking at helping a lot more makers, dreamers and doers this year.

dream-job-4

Both Emily and Emilie joined us as interns and will be taking on larger roles when Flea Season kicks off in April.  For now, they’re observing what the team is up to and are helping us track our processes and make them smoother.

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Together, we provide direction and design for dreamers and doers.  Think you might want to work with us?  We’re just as invested in the behind-the-scenes as we are with the pretty graphics that tell your story.  If you’re looking to know more about how we work, and how we can help you build your dream job, hit us up at heidi [at] indiefoundry.com.  Or, check out our handy PDF services guide.  We’d love to help more creatives do what they love, whether that’s building the back-end or store front of their creative endeavor.

 

 

YOU GUYS!!!! You did it! You did it well and right and I’m so so thankful! After my big ask last week, you all came through with NINE questions! Nine really great, thoughtful questions. Thank you so much for delivering just like I knew you would, and most of all, for trusting me. I won’t let you down!

I am, of course, still taking questions and you can always find our form, The Sarah Project Official Question & Quandry Submission Form, here.

Today, I’m actually going to answer two questions! WHAT!?! Yeah, two questions. Why? Because I’m feeling cocky—both in my ability and in your coming through for me with more questions. Because they’re pretty similar in terms of the basic issue: how to interact with magazines/bloggers/news sources to drum up some publicity for you/your company/your products.

So here we go. Here are the two questions as I originally received them:

I’ve noticed a lot of businesses giving away product to bloggers, magazines, celebrities etc… to gain notice in their respective publications/social media accounts. I have personal objections to this, and I think that the willingness to give away your product de-values it. My product is also a higher price point, and therefore I take a bigger hit giving away samples and pieces to gain traction. Do you have advice for doing this in a sustainable way, or other options to promote to bloggers and such?
—Marketing Conundrum

Sarah! We’re dead center in our ‘slow period’ and freaking out. It’s our first year in business as a brick and mortar and are desperate to find creative and FREE ways to advertise our business. (And we say free because we need free, not just because we want free.) We are participating in social media, admittedly not as frequent as we should (think weekly instead of daily), and gaining slow and steady traction. I guess our question is, how do we get other people to write about us and create some legitimate buzz? We think we’re buzz-worthy. We’d love to see some bloggers and newspaper/online writers take the time to visit us and consider writing a piece about our shop, but I don’t know how to reach out to these people without sounding desperate. We have a website that we’re proud of, maybe a great way for these people to get a feel for us before committing to spending time on us. Any tips?
—Twiddling Thumbs

And here are the three issues we need to tackle to help these small business owners out:

  • the ethics of giving away your product for review, and if doing so devalues your product
  • how much publicity can you get for free, and…
  • how do you approach your targets without feeling lame and/or desperate

So, logically, let’s start at the end: never feel weird or desperate pitching yourself/your product/your business to a blogger, magazine, or news source. You are helping them. Their entire job is to produce content—to find things to write about. And trust me when I say, finding things to write about can be the most challenging part of writing. (HELLO! Remember my big desperate ask from last week!?! The one that got me EXACTLY what I was looking for?!? Yeah.)

Now, this is not me giving you permission to be pushy and aggressive. There are best practices for approaching writers and you should always, always employ them. On the most basic level, a press release is how you get the word out there. We send them out for the Flea events, as do most other markets, and I think that small businesses should be employing this tactic, as well. Press releases will usually do you the most good when pitching to bigger news sources which are, across the board, grossly understaffed. In fact, often times they will publish the press release you send them with very few edits or additions. (I know that can be intimidating when you think about writing something that may go straight to press. And I promise to make and/or source a press-release writing guide or course for you in the near future.)

For pitching to bloggers, I would take a different approach. They are not giant news conglomerates that are under a ton of pressure and running from an ever-shrinking budget. They are humans. People. Generally, people who write and share and praise because it brings them a lot of joy, and some income. READ: They are not independently wealthy and their time, talent, and the audience they’ve built is still very, very valuable. Now, our reader (Marketing Conundrum) didn’t get into the specifics of his/her ethical concerns surrounding the product-pitch method, so I can’t address them directly, but I also don’t want to dismiss them entirely. My understanding is that the product-pitch method was the result of a discounted view many people had/still have of bloggers and the scope of their reach, plus the difficulty of selling/aptly displaying conventional ad space on earlier blog platforms. Essentially, this kind of bartering system—goods (your products) in exchange for a service (reviewing them)—stands in place of a dollars for ad space system. Nowadays, many bloggers do sell ads on their sites, and if you’re still uncomfortable with the product-pitch method, this door is open to you. However, I believe the product-pitch method usually has a higher ROI for makers. A lot of bloggers are also willing to host giveaways as an extension of this method. (Which yes, leads to you giving away more of your product, but it’s to a third party, so maybe you feel a little better about that. Maybe not.)

My advice to you, Marketing Conundrum, is to reconsider the product-pitch method, but just be really selective and thorough in doing so. In fact, I think this process only devalues your product if you are reckless about who you pitch to. I don’t think it’s out of line to reach out to other small businesses (although not your direct competitors) asking about the experience they’ve had with certain bloggers you’re considering pitching to. Also, with more expensive products, you’ll of course want to pitch to a blogger who has a more affluent readership. If you’re being really selective, you should be targeting high-end lifestyle bloggers who probably have hard numbers to show you regarding their reader demographics. The reason I want to push you to reconsider product-pitching, is that I think it can help your brand gain nationwide recognition and significantly boost online sales in a way other campaign methods simply can’t. As we’ve talked about in the past, employing a strong social media marketing campaign can empower your current customers to act as brand ambassadors for you and is a great means of gaining new followers and customers. However, as a local brand, that campaign can sometimes stall out at your regional boarders. Thus, selectively product-pitching to bloggers outside your city/region can be a great companion method for your current brand campaigns.

For Twiddling Thumbs, I would suggest hosting local bloggers for a special event at your space. Maybe dress up your brick and mortar store a little, reach out to some food/beverage makers that might also be looking for a boost (and/or some of your neighbors), and throw yourselves a bit of a party. Invite your best customers, close friends, and then send out a press release with a little pep and personality to aforementioned bloggers and smaller, more specialized news sources. A lot of small businesses were doing similar events around Valentines/Galentines Day, but I think you could pull it off for the start of Daylight Saving Time or the first day of spring. This will also give you a low-risk means of practicing your press release writing skills. Play some tunes, poor some bubbly, and make some new friends in a space where you’re already comfortable.

As for that web site you’re really proud of, figure out how it can work for you. I looked, and you’re right! It’s awesome! But make it a resource for me. Can you set up an online sales platform? Or would creating content via a blog be more engaging to your followers? Maybe as an extension of your event, invite bloggers to guest post on your store blog about their best finds form your store. You might even be able to set up your own version of the product-pitching system by offering some perks to a small number of local bloggers.

The great thing about modern commerce is that modern customers love to engage with your company beyond the initial transaction. So much so that an entire subset of them have become professional customers/brand engagers.

They’re most commonly referred to as bloggers.

So reach out. They don’t bite. I promise.

the sarah project: the big ask

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

blog-posts-sarah-project-the-big-ask

Oh hey guys!

How’s it going? You notice that little bit of extra sunshine we’re getting? Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it, too. Looks like this winter stuff won’t last forever after all.  

So how’s the fam? Good? That’s awesome! Your mom/kid/dog is so cute!

Yeah, so anyways… The reason I called blogged, is because I was hoping you could do me a small favor. See I’ve got this advice column gig…

Yeah, no, it’s great. Yep, I’m actually getting paid to give people advice. Oh, haha. I always forget how funny you are.

Anyways… yeah, this advice column. The thing is…

I kind of need you guys to ASK ME SOME DAMN QUESTIONS!

Otherwise, I just keep having these really awkward one-sided conversations with myself. (See above.)

But! After a particularly great chat wherein I asked myself for advice as to why nobody was asking me for advice, I realized something! Anonymity! You guys need some anonymity—the chance to ask me questions, and share your deepest, darkest, social media secrets without outing yourselves!

(So… not to give it all away up front, but a good Google form is pretty much always the answer.)

I give you… The Sarah Project Official Question & Quandary Submission Form!

If all this is revving up some guilt, pity, or just unbearable awkwardness and you really want to submit a question but can’t think of anything, here are some not-so-subtle suggestions.

  • I run a service-based business and spend A LOT of time communicating with potential clients. If only a percentage of those potentials actually sign on as clients, I feel like I’m wasting A LOT of time. Help!
  • I think this other business owner is over-engaging in my social media postings in an attempt to feed off my followers! How do I politely tell them to back the eff off?
  • I’m trying to transition from my soul-sucking day job to working full time on my kick-ass, life-affirming hobby job but what if I fail? Or worse, what if my life-affirming hobby job BECOMES just another soul-sucking day job!?!
  • What’s the meaning of life?
  • Is self-tanner ever a good idea?
  • Why does my dog bark at the mail man but not the UPS driver?

So there it is kids—my big ask. Help me help you!

Also, if you’re wondering about me and why I’m qualified to answer your questions and fix your life, here’s what I can tell you. I’m 28, married, and currently succeeding at keeping two dogs and five house plants alive. I’m the middle (mostly-grown) child and the only girl. I learned pretty early on to ask for what I want, and also spent a lot of time quietly observing my brothers’ ultimately-benign, poor life choices. I’m happy to say that the most expensive thing I own is my college degree: a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University—my favorite place on earth. I’m self-aware, clumsy, well-intended, usually hungry, and chronically disappointed in my wardrobe. Mindy Kaling/Lahiri is my hero. I’ve been working for Indie Foundry/The Cleveland Flea for a year and a half now. I’m the Market Manager, the office mom, and I’m damn good at my job.
Also, if you abuse this form and send me shitty and gross questions, I will Liam Neeson you.
Feel free to do with this information what you will. 

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