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men's Fairtrade, sweatshop free sweat shirt from Fair-T
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Introduction to the key marketing channels

Turning your big idea into an actual product or service is just the start. How will people find you and buy what you have to offer? What channels will you use to reach your target customers and what messages are going to help you attract their attention?

Below is a list of marketing channels you should consider using to reach your target audience. This list is by no means exhaustive, and what channels you choose will depend largely on where your customers are.

For example, if your customer is female between ages 18-24 and based in the UK and Australia, she might be spend a lot of time online. What does she read? What social media platforms does she use? She might also be studying at university, in which case you might consider what ways to engage from that angle, such as offering a student discount.

Perhaps your customer is something entirely different. Let’s say your target audience is men and women in the U.S. between ages 30-45 who are well travelled and appreciate fashion with a multicultural influence. Where would you be likely to find this type of customer? You should be placing your brand in the places where those people are likely to be looking.

Your website

In this digital age, having a website for your business is essential. As a fashion business working in a sustainable way, your website will be an important tool for helping you tell your unique story. You don’t need to pay a fortune but you should see your website as a crucial investment.

You will need to ensure that your website has a nice look and feel and that it is easy to use so your customer can find what they are looking for without too much effort. You will need to think of ways to attract your customer to visit your website, and then ways to keep them engaged once on your website, as well as how you might turn your website traffic into actual sales - whether you have built in e-commerce or not.

You might also want to consider linking it up with social media channels so that your products and stories are shareable. You might also include a blog on your website so that you have regular content that keeps customers coming back for something new. Blogs will require your time and should also be seen as an investment. However, a good blog can help you amplify your brand values, your brand story and help you to secure trust from your customers.

Social Media

Social media can be a very powerful marketing tool for your sustainable fashion business when used well. The most popular platforms include: Facebook (1.5 billion users), Instagram (400m users), Pinterest (100m users), Snapchat (200m users), Tumblr (230m users), Twitter (316m users), YouTube (1 billion monthly users), and Weibo (for the Asia-Pacific region, 600m registered users).

Big companies employ entire teams to do social media on behalf of the business, so you should see social media as an investment - particularly requiring your constant time and energy and sometimes money. Think about your messaging strategically. Every platform has a different purpose and therefore different rules, language, style and tone.

Email marketing

The best way to communicate to your customers is directly, if you can. One way you can do this is through emails straight to their inbox. You might want to think about issuing a regular newsletter, weekly or monthly. It can be a great way to promote your business, your products/services, special offers or events to those who particularly want to hear about you. We would also recommend using an email newsletter to share other interesting content that is relevant to your business and that your customer would find interesting and valuable. However, there is no guarantee that your email recipient will read it - so make your message ones that catches their attention.

Online advertising

This marketing strategy is for those that are fairly savvy in the digital world. Once you have a website or a presence online, you are going to need to try to build web traffic to your site so that more and more potential customers can find you. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to what words you use on your website and in your communications so that you are more likely to appear in search results on places like Google. It will also depend on geographical location. For example, if you search the term ‘ethical fashion’ on Google in the UK, Ethical Fashion Forum’s website is the first search result. Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of paid online advertising. In our same example, if you search ‘ethical fashion’ in Google in the UK, at the top of the page you will see a little yellow box that says ‘Ad’ and there is a link for an online boutique called Gather & See. There are also other online advertising channels such as sponsored advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Word-of-mouth

Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to build your customer base. There is nothing like having your satisfied customers sing your praises and recommend you to others. This is where you should rely (to a degree) on your friends and families also shouting about what you do to everyone they know. And hopefully they will buy your products too. Word-of-mouth marketing can be a very slow process as it takes time to build up a strong and loyal audience. However, once you reach a tipping point it should prove excellent results, allowing your business to thrive.

Press and PR

In the fashion industry, getting press coverage is really helpful but also difficult. Getting press relies a lot on having good relationships with public relations (PR) agents, stylists, editors, journalists and influencers. These are the people who will help get your products onto the pages of fashion magazines or onto the bodies of celebrities who will wear your products. Some fashion businesses pay a lot of money to employ PR agencies that help them get press but this isn’t the only route. Networking and building relationships with the right people can go a long way.

Print advertising is now seen as a bit old-school but it is still a valid channel for promoting your business. You might consider taking out an advertisement in a local, national or industry specific newspaper, magazine or business guide.

Selling in shops

Selling your products in certain places might not always result in brilliant sales. While shops might not always make you a lot of money, channels such as pop-up shops, sample sales, market stalls and concessions in larger stores can help put your products in front of the eyes of customers you may not have reached before. They can be used as important opportunities to test your products too and get feedback from potential customers.

Events

Events are another way to reach more customers or to better engage your existing customers. You might consider putting on or taking part in exhibitions, catwalk shows, product launches and parties. Events can be quite expensive so make sure there is a clear return on your investment.

Customer referrals or special discounts, competitions

You might offer special incentives to your customers for getting their friends to become your customers too. For example, if one of your customers receives your newsletter and gets a friend to sign up for your newsletter too, you might offer them a special incentive like gift or a discount on purchase. You might consider offering other special discounts for particular customers (such as students, repeat customers, new customers) or to coincide with relevant events (such as your business launch, anniversary, Christmas or Earth Day). Running competitions that help you grow your audience is another strategy you might consider. For example, you may post a photo of a new product on Instagram and then ask people to share the photo with their audience and enter to win a gift.

Packaging - ‘bags for life’ or clever reusable packaging

Packaging can sometimes be an afterthought but done well it could be used as a marketing tool. Think about those grocery store “bags for life.” That is something you would use time and time again. You bring it along to the shop with you the next time you go and that counts for many more people on the street being exposed to your brand name.

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How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business

Creative Skillset

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