Posts tagged with "marketing"

Boutique illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Boutique Customer Service Tips

Customer Service Tips Every Boutique Retailer Should Try

By: Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!

Supplied makes it easier for small boutique owners around the world to access high-quality, affordable wholesale boutique items, whether to stock their physical store or IG shop.

Do you remember the last time you had a truly fantastic customer service experience?

Maybe a cashier complimented your earrings, or maybe the person at the drive-thru unexpectedly threw an extra taco in for free. Or maybe you were just really vibin’ with the enthusiasm you could hear at the other end of the customer support line. Whatever it was, chances are it made you more excited to return and support that company with your business in the future.

Now… think back to the last time you had an awful customer service experience.

Was someone being unnecessarily difficult while you were trying to return a sweater, you’d bought a week ago? Or did someone leave you on hold for hours and hours? Or maybe someone just would NOT honor your coupon, even though you received it in an email yesterday?

Whatever that bad experience was… I’d be willing to bet it made you a whole lot less likely to go back anytime soon.

As Vince Lombardi famously said, “It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.” One poor customer service experience could cause you to lose all of a valuable customer’s future business.

Offering better customer service skills often doesn’t cost a dime, but it can make a world of a difference for your profits. Studies show that acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as retaining an existing customer. Plus, the success rate of marketing to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while it’s only 5-20% when marketing to a new customer. 

If you haven’t been making great customer service a major priority in your boutique lately, now is the time to change that. 

Read on to learn 25 powerful (but easy!) customer service tips every retailer should try implementing in their business.

(If you’ve hired someone else as the main customer service rep for your boutique business, send this article along to them as a reminder!)

Top 25 Customer Service Tips

Focus on the customer in front of you

As a boutique owner, you’ve constantly got about a zillion and one thing that need your time and attention. But when it’s a customer you’re dealing with, zero in on them and their needs. Nobody likes feeling unimportant – make sure you give them your undivided attention while they’re talking to you, whether it’s over the phone, in person, or in your site’s live chat.

Be empathetic

Chances are, you’ve been in the exact same situation your customer’s in right now – whether they’re trying to figure out what size shoe to purchase or they’re trying to initiate a return for something that didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped. Do your best to see the situation from their perspective. You’ll be able to provide a better customer experience if you’re in touch with their needs and emotions.

Make an extra effort

Work tirelessly to solve your customer’s problems. If a customer wants a certain size that’s out of stock, double-check your inventory, let them know when they can expect that item to come back, offer them alternatives, or give them a discount code for their trouble. Your customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them.

Improve systems

Customer service isn’t just about making your customer feel valued while you’re speaking to them – it’s also about providing a great all-around customer experience. Do a quick audit of your website and make sure it’s user-friendly. Is it easy to check out? Browse new arrivals? Search for specific items? Purchase using the payment method they prefer? If not, set aside some time to make some adjustments.

Identify their needs

There might be all sorts of things you could be doing to provide a better customer experience that you don’t even realize yet. Put together a short survey to send out to your customers about the checkout process and their past customer service experiences. It’ll show you what’s going well and what you could improve.

Use their name

Simple, but effective. Whenever a customer reaches out to you, take note of their name and use it. It’ll give your communications a more personal touch. (Don’t forget to introduce yourself by name, too!) Bonus points if you remember other personal details about them for next time.

Smile

Yes, even if you’re not talking to the customer in person! Make an effort to be friendly and positive, even if you’re just sitting at your desk at home – you can totally hear a smile through the phone, and it makes a difference.

Be generous

If you could spend $5 to secure a customer who’s loyal to you for life… would you do it? Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When a customer reaches out to you, your priority is to make them happy – offering free shipping or accepting a late return can do just the trick. And that’s not just common sense – research shows that accepting someone’s generosity makes you feel indebted to them, which can translate to return business.

Don’t say “I don’t know”

Sure, you’re not gonna immediately have the answers to every single one of your customers’ questions… but it’s kinda your job to know. So, when you tell a customer “I don’t know,” what they hear is “I don’t care.” Not exactly the message you’d like to get across when you’re on the phone with a customer! Practice saying “Let me check on that for you” instead.

Celebrate birthdays

Acknowledging your customer’s birthdays is a surefire way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Ask your customers for your birthday as they sign up for your mailing list, then send them an email with a promo code for a free gift or a discount right before their special day.

Be clear about your policies

Your customers aren’t mind-readers – if you don’t let them know, they have no idea about how long shipping should take, where you ship to, or under what circumstances you accept returns. Be sure your shipping and returns policies are clearly stated on your website to avoid confusion. It’ll answer some questions before they’re ever even asked!

Honor your promises

Your customers need to know that they can trust your boutique to deliver the value it promises. Stick to the shipping and return policies you have listed on your website (unless you choose to go above and beyond them, of course!) Honor coupons and discount codes for as long as you said you would. Post any giveaway winners publicly in your stories. Trust is key!

Acknowledge frequent customers…

Let your return customers know how much you appreciate them! Whether you throw a quick handwritten thank-you note into their next order or you offer a discount code that’s good for their next purchase, it’ll definitely make them want to keep coming back.

But make sure new customers feel the love, too!

It’s a big leap to order from a company you’ve never purchased anything from before – make sure new customers feel super welcome. Acknowledge new customers by offering free shipping on their first order, sending a promo code when they sign up for your mailing list, or even sending a quick thank-you email for taking a chance on your shop.

Be transparent

Running a business is tough, and sometimes extenuating circumstances make it even tougher. Be open with your customers about the hurdles you’re currently going through, especially if it will affect shipping times or restock dates.

Sincerely apologize

We all make mistakes – especially when we’re doing huge, crazy difficult things like running a business. If you’ve made a mistake on a customer’s order, own your error, sincerely apologize, and do whatever it takes to make things right. It’s much more professional than shrugging off responsibility or blaming someone else. (Bonus points if you reach out and own up to it before the customer even notices!)

Make it easy to get in touch

Have you ever sent an email to a company’s customer service team… and then never heard anything back? Yeah, that’s the worst. Don’t be that company. Let your customers know the best way to reach you, whether it’s through Instagram DMs, email, or over the phone. If you want to go the extra mile, include a live chat feature on your website that’s available 24/7. (Also, word of advice: if you have a contact form on your website, make sure to check it every so often!)

Offer self-help customer service

If your customers can find their own answers to their questions, it makes their lives easier AND your life easier. Include a comprehensive FAQ page on your website that answers common questions about shipping, sales, returns, and more. For more complicated questions, you might want to write up an entire blog post to give your customers more information. Just be sure your customers still know that they can reach out to you with any questions they can’t find the answers to.

Plan for the holidays

Here’s a hot tip: over the holidays, things get BUSY. Even if you usually don’t have very many people blowing up your inbox about shipping questions, there’s a very good chance you will during the holidays. Make sure you’re prepared with multiple customer service reps helping respond to questions (if need be) and detailed holiday shipping info displayed on your website and social media pages.

Respond quickly

Make it a goal to respond to all customer emails within 48 hours whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, customers want to feel like their concerns and questions are a top priority. As for Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, and comments, try and get in a habit of responding to those right when you see them. (Your customers will like that and so will the algorithm!)

Hire the right people

If you’ve only recently opened your boutique business, you might be the only person your customers ever interact with. But as you grow and add more people to your team, make sure they’re people who are kind, friendly, and pleasant to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but a positive attitude can make all the difference.

Be polite

Pretend you’re at the dinner table with your strict aunt – say lots of pleases and thank yous. Not only is it common courtesy, but it’s also good business. It’ll also help you still sound friendly and polite even when you’re communicating via messenger or text.

Set clear expectations

Sorry, but you’re not superwoman. When your customers approach you asking when they can buy an item you aren’t planning on restocking, or when they ask if you can make sure the package, they just ordered gets to them by tomorrow, sometimes you just can’t give them the answer they were hoping for. Be realistic in your responses and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Setting clear expectations is also helpful in responding to emails – sending an automated email letting a customer know when they can expect a response is also helpful, even if they were initially hoping for a reply right away.

Be human

There isn’t a robot at the other end of all of those incoming customer emails – it’s bright, bubbly, sparkly you! Don’t be afraid to infuse your communications with your genuine personality. Strike up a conversation with a customer on the phone, ask about their day, say “top of the morning to ya” instead of “hello” when you feel like it. It’ll help forge a relationship with your customers!

Offer suggestions

Have you ever asked a waiter what you should order, only for them to respond, “I love everything on the menu equally!” Yeah, that’s not helpful – don’t be like that guy. When your customers ask for your opinion, politely give it. You’re the real expert on the products you carry – use your insider knowledge to guide your customers to the right decision for them.

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Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!
analysis illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

The growth guide to Instagram 

Is your business growth starting to slow down a bit and you’re struggling to get it up again? Have you ever thought about using Instagram as a part of your marketing strategy in order to grow your business?

Launched in 2010, Instagram has been around for a while, but is well known for being one of the most popular social media platforms to date. Instagram has a user base of over 1 billion people, many growth services such as Growthoid which help to organically gain followers, and more businesses and brands on top of that. Instagram has become very popular among the business community and a great way for brands to promote themselves and grow. Just having a profile isn’t enough though, and neither is just posting advertisements. There is a lot more that goes into social media marketing, and making use of a platform to grow isn’t easy but it is well worth the work. 

If you are new to Instagram then you might not know how to use the platform effectively. Here is a brief guide on how to grow on Instagram.

Have a good profile 

When it comes to social media, people tend to think that all that is important is the content you post, and all they want to do is advertise their brand or product as much as possible. While, yes, it is essentially about advertising, there is so much more that goes into the behind the scenes work in order to have a well-run and successful account, like starting off with a good profile.

It is so important to have a good and easily recognisable profile so that followers can quickly discover who you are and what’s your brand is about. Included in your profile should be a good username that is short, catchy, and at least the same or similar to your brands actual name. There should also be a profile picture that is your brands logo or something to do with your brand, and a good, well worded bio that include your location and website link. 

Post at the right time 

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, there is actually a wright and wrong time to post on Instagram. The general rule of thumb is that it is best to post in the evening when people are done with work and school for the day and have dome down time to spend on their phones. While this is a good baseline to follow, it changes from business to business, depending on their target audience, as well as their location and time zone. 

A great way to discover what the best time is for you to be posting, is by looking at analytics. By looking at different posts you can see which one did better at different times of the day, and which allowed you to get more followers. From there you can plan out a posting schedule to post at the most optimal time for your followers to see your content. 

Use reels 

Although a relatively new feature to the app, reels are quickly becoming one of the most used parts. Similar to TikTok, reels allow you to post short form videos that can be filmed, edited, and posted all from the same platform. It is a fantastic way to show off parts of your brand like the behind the scenes or meeting the teams, without tainting your actual grid or timeline with things that don’t match it. 

Partner with brands and influencers 

Although it may seem counterintuitive to be working with the competition or with other brands, it is actually very helpful and a great way to be introduced to a much larger audience. Partnering with other brands is a great way to collaborate and allows for you to support them while they return the favour and support you. You could even collaborate with brands that have products which may accompany yours. For example, if you are a company that sells sportswear, you may want to collaborate with a brand that sells protein powder. 

You could also enlist the help of influencer to grow your account. Influencer have massive followings that will listen to their every word. If you can get an influencer to speak well of your brand, you will be set for a while.

Krish Narsinghani of 360 Magazine in the 2021 Rolls Royce Wraith shot by Jeff Langlois for 360 Magazine

Krishan Narsinghani

Photography by: Jeff Langlois

Krishan (Krish) Narsinghani exemplifies passion and creativity in all facets of his short career. Graduating from Indiana University with a degree in Informatics and concentrations in Business and Marketing, he’s grasped the constant change of the digital space and learned to move quickly in any endeavor.

With a background in the music industry – marketing music artists like 5 Seconds of Summer, James Arthur and the John Coltrane Estate (to name a few), he’s built an incredible raport identifying talent and scaling their careers through social media and digital strategy. Bringing that sense of direction to 360 Magazine, along with the journalism skills groomed over the past several years with the company, strengthens his vision for the brand as the current managing editor.

Krishan has written for other publications including Popshift Magazine and spirituality pieces for the Sant Nirankari Mission LA.

Follow Krish: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram

remote learning illustration by Kaelen Felix

What social media tools can do for your business?

Are you sick of being stuck with no growth on social media? Are you new to social media and looking to grow your business using it? 

Traditional marketing is long dead and far gone–TV advertising, newspaper ads, and road-side billboards are all outdated. Social media has now replaced all of that by making online marketing the norm when it comes to brand promotion. Currently, there are three different platforms that are dominating the social media space–Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok–and they all have their own unique qualities to offer each individual or business. 

If you are thinking about using social media to get your business up off the ground, here are a few tools that you might need to become even more successful.

Why should you use social media? 

Social media, while having been around for a long time in its various different forms, has become the most popular it has even been in the past 10 years or so. This is due the fact that so many more people now have access to mobile devices and Wi-Fi connection. This means that by marketing your brand on social media, your business has the potential to reach millions upon millions of people, if marketed in a desirable manner. Not only will you be able to reach a larger audience, but this audience can be international as well. 

Traditional marketing can tend to be quite pricy. However, social media marketing–unless you’re putting in a bit of extra cash to help you–can literally be completely free. Most social media sites require no sign-up or membership fee, and are completely free platforms. 

On social media it is easy to create brand awareness by following trends and seeing what other people are looking for, which will eventually contribute to the organic growth of your accounts and brand. One of the best benefits of social media marketing is that it can increase traffic to your website, which will ultimately put more money in your pocket. 

Which one is right for you?

There is a relatively large variety of social media platforms, although it is recommended to stick to the most popular ones. Having so many options doesn’t need to overwhelm you though, it’s all about knowing your target demographic and style. All social media platforms are unique and can have different, individual focuses dependent on your particular brand.

This mean that between platforms, the target demographic and and style of communication are completely different. For instance, Instagram is a place where the millennials hang out. Everyone has their own aesthetically pleasing feed to look at and every post is designed down to the very last detail, whereas TikTok is far more laid back and dominated by Gen Z kids. These short form videos can literally be anything you think of. Most of TikTok is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as Instagram, but it is more authentic and fun. 

All the different platforms require different kinds of interaction from both the brand owner and the followers, from commenting and liking, to following, and even direct messaging. With Instagram having over 900 million users, Twitter, with an average of 152 million, and TikTok reaching an insane number of just over 1 billion users, these platforms are the best social media option for business and brands to promote themselves as they are all relevant and very popular. 

Twesocial 

One of the most important things when it comes to twitter marketing, is expanding the amount of people your marketing reaches. This can be difficult because the number of brands making use of Twitter tools to promote their businesses is rising dramatically, and those who began earlier probably have an advantage. Twesocial is an organic Twitter marketing service that was launched in 2016 to help users grow their account with real Twitter followers, without too much effort and time wasted. 

Twesocial will manage practically every aspect of your account from posting and posting times, hashtags, user interaction, and growing your follower base. Using a service like Twesocial can be very helpful when it comes to trying to get your brand account off the ground because initially it can be hard to be noticed in a sea of other content creators. Twesocial takes away all the hard work, only leaving you with the task of creating your own content. 

Task Ant

Instagram hashtags are such a prominent tool that should be used when social media marketing however, most people don’t really know how to use them correctly or which ones to use. Task Ant, launched in 2019, is a hashtag app that allows you to find the best hashtag for your content, as well as provide solutions to previous hashtag mistakes. 

Making use of an app like this can enable growth for your business by increasing your content’s engagement and reach. There are two different price options: the solo package for those looking to get started, and the growth package to maximize hashtag use. There is something for everybody.  

TokUpgrade

TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms around, which also means that it might be a bit more difficult to get your content noticed. Much like Twesocial, TokUpgrade, launched in 2020, claims to increase profile views and visits through organic engagement. They can increase your engagement and target your audience to get real TikTok followers through a series of specific questions, as well as engage with your followers to keep them interested. 

Tok upgrade also comes with two different packages, the regular and the pro, which can either be paid weekly or monthly. It is important to note that this service is a little more costly than the others, but is definitely worth it in the long run as the potential for your brand’s growth is endless.

Valentine Image by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Your Boutique

By Joseph Heller

Love is in the air, gals… Valentine’s Day is almost here! If you’re new to owning an online boutique and this is the first Valentine’s Day you’ll be celebrating as a small business owner, the approach of February 14th might have you mainly thinking about what you’ll get for your significant other and (maybe even more so) what he or she will get for you. Or maybe you typically spend Valentine’s Day with your best single gal pals, eating chocolate and exchanging gifts.

But Valentine’s Day isn’t all about love, romance, and cheesy cards. No matter how big or small your eCommerce business is, it can be a day that drives sales like no other – especially if you sell clothing, jewelry, or other gifts. In fact, it rivals only Christmas in consumer spending. If you play your cards right, the days surrounding Valentine’s Day could make up one of your best sales weeks of all time.

Of course, competing with major retailers isn’t easy, least of all on Valentine’s Day. Stores all over the country are spending thousands of dollars on Valentine’s marketing, trying to get people to buy their gifts from them. Sure, you could have an incredible selection of Valentine’s gifts and accessories, available for great prices – but if nobody knows about your shop, it won’t do you any good in the end.

If you’re going to drive both new and existing customers to your shop for their Valentine’s shopping, you’ve got to get creative about your Valentine’s Day marketing. Read on to learn 15 affordable Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for your boutique – and why you really should care to do something special for this holiday in the first place.

Valentine’s Day and eCommerce

The numbers are clear – Americans spend a whole lot of dough on Valentine’s Day. The average American celebrating Valentine’s Day spent $196.31 on Valentine’s Day in 2020, adding up to a total of $27.4 billion spent on the holiday in 2020. Trends show that number only heading upwards – 2020 spending was up 32% from 2019.

Of course, that’s just the big picture – and not all of that money is being spent in boutiques like yours. Here are a few other stats you should be aware of that paint the picture of consumer spending on Valentine’s Day, based on 2020 numbers:

  • 32% buy Valentine’s Day gifts from discount stores.
  • Men spend nearly three times as much as women on Valentine’s Day.
  • $5.8B was spent on Valentine’s Day jewelry
  • $4.3B was spent on a Valentine’s Day night out
  • $2.4B was spent on Valentine’s Day chocolate
  • $2.3B was spent on flowers
  • $2B was spent on Valentine’s Day gift cards
  • $1.3B was spent on Valentine’s Day greeting cards
  • 45% of adults didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day
  • 15% of Americans buy themselves a present on Valentine’s Day
  • Americans spend an average of $12.21 on Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets

With all of that shopping and spending going on during the Valentine’s Day season, you’ll want to make sure your business ends up with even a small sliver of that massive pie. Running holiday-themed campaigns and upping your marketing efforts leading up to Valentine’s Day will help you keep your boutique fresh in people’s minds and increase the chances that they go straight to you once it’s time to shop for their Valentine’s Day gifts.

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Don’t have a huge marketing budget? No problem – with time, effort, and the right direction, you can still get your boutique’s awesome Valentine’s Day gifts and products in front of the right people. Here are 15 Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for small businesses that you can implement for little or no money.

  1. Send a themed email marketing campaign

Instead of generic email newsletters or sale messages, send a themed Valentine’s Day email that’s all about love, friendship, and gift-giving. Drive your audience to your website with gift suggestions and fun Valentine’s-themed wordplay. (You know… “love is in the air,” “we will always love you,” “gifts with heart,” etc!) For more tips on how to use email marketing to grow your boutique, click here.

  1. Host a contest

Embrace the holiday and host a fun couples contest or giveaway on your boutique’s social media page. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Have participants recreate a photo, do a challenge, coordinate an outfit together using a piece from your shop – whatever sounds like a good time. Then, have your audience vote for their favorite entrant on Valentine’s Day. (No need to exclude single people from this one – you could welcome entries from couples, BFFs, family members, etc.)

  1. Run “couples” deals

How do you make a BOGO deal more festive? Call it a couples deal, or a two for one deal! Choose a selection of Valentine’s Day items that you’ll put on sale, whether it’s chocolates, earrings, or pink scrunchies. Encourage them to gift the extra item to their significant other, give one to their BFF for Galentine’s Day, or just keep it for themselves as a token of your love for them!

  1. Partner with another small business

Community over competition, right ladies? Partner with a local business and share the love. It could be another online boutique or a local business that doesn’t directly compete with yours but has a similar clientele, like a florist or a nail salon. Offer a combined Valentine’s Day gift package of your products/services and theirs. This is an especially great idea if you have a strong local presence (or if you’re interested in making it stronger!)

  1. Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Don’t sleep on Galentine’s Day! Coined by Leslie Knope from the TV show Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is a day reserved for celebrating female friendships. It takes place the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13th. To celebrate, bundle a few of your most popular items offer curated gift packages that’d be perfect to gift to a best friend. You could also offer a discount when they multiple of the same item to gift to their friends.

  1. Have a V-Day themed photoshoot

Create some fun Valentine’s Day photos to post on your social media accounts leading up to the big day. You could take photos of couples wearing your clothing, flat lays of all of the red and pink items you carry, or outfit inspo photos against a red or a pink backdrop.

  1. Create a Valentine’s Day gift guide

You and I both know how hard it can be to shop for people – especially your significant other. Make the whole V-day shopping experience a little less stressful by putting together a list of gift ideas and sharing it on your company blog.

No need to have every single item come from just your shop – in fact, it might be more helpful and comprehensive if you scour other local or small boutiques as well and feature their products in your guide. (It’s a great way to open the door to new networking relationships, too!) If you’re feeling up to it, you could create multiple gift guides with different people in mind – for her, for him, for mom, for Galentine’s Day, for your pet, etc.

  1. Send a card

Everyone loves getting mail! Send your past and present customers a real-life Valentine via snail mail. No need to be salesy – the point of this is to show your customers how much you appreciate them and that you’re even thinking about them on the day dedicated to love. Include a coupon to be used in-store or a unique promo code to thank them for showing you and your store love throughout the years.

  1. Share the love

Turn your social media into even more of a community. Invite your audience to share their love stories with you, whether through DMs or by using a certain hashtag in their posts. You can make this as sappy or spicy as you want to – feel free to mix things up a bit by also asking people to send you their worst or funniest dating stories as well! Once you’ve compiled submissions, feature your favorites in your stories. It’ll keep the rest of your audience engaged and help participants feel even more involved in your brand.

  1. Show the love locally

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the love. What better way to do that than by giving back to the people who need it most? Celebrate Valentine’s Day by hosting a service project, donating products from your store to a local organization, or pledging to donate a certain percentage of your profits in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

Make sure to advertise this throughout your social channels and your website so your customers know how much good their purchases are doing. Not only will you be able to make a real difference in your community, but you’ll also be able to involve your customers in your charity work.

  1. Highlight date night outfits

People don’t just spend money on gifts during the Valentine’s Day season. They also spend money on themselves, buying clothing, lingerie, date night jewelry, and more. Put together a few fabulous Valentine’s Day outfits using products from your boutique and share a few outfit inspo photos on social media. Be sure to group those products together on your website so your customers can easily purchase everything they need to recreate the outfit.

  1. Don’t alienate single people

For people who aren’t currently in a relationship, Valentine’s Day feels a whole lot more like Singles Awareness Day. Why not go out of your way to show them a little love, too? Don’t leave single people out of all the Valentine’s Day fun – consider running some sort of promo just for them. Run a sale on self-care items that make treat yo’ self gifts, like bath bombs, jade rollers, and (of course) chocolate. You could do this in conjunction with your regular Valentine’s Day promotions or the week before.

  1. Be clear about shipping deadlines

Some people plan ahead of every holiday and finish their gift-shopping weeks in advance – but most people tend to be last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers. Of course, placing a last-minute order from your online boutique on February 13th probably isn’t going to work out for them. Add a banner to your site reminding shoppers of the Valentine’s Day delivery deadline. Be clear and realistic about shipping cutoffs to receive items by Valentine’s Day. Encourage people to buy early, especially with COVID-related shipping delays making package deliveries even more unreliable than usual.

  1. Make a Valentine’s Day video

When it comes to commanding your audience’s attention, video is one of the very most effective marketing tools out there. Rather than just snapping a few photos of your new Valentine’s Day products, create a video showcasing your favorite Valentine’s Day outfits or gift ideas. You could create a short-form vertical video using IG reels or TikTok, or share a longer informative video on YouTube, Facebook, or IGTV.

  1. Host a Giveaway

Spread the love with an exciting giveaway. Partner with other small businesses in your community or your niche to give something away. It could be a romantic couple’s getaway with flowers, a hotel stay, and a new outfit, a date-night-in package with a dress, a romantic candle, chocolates, and a voucher for fancy takeout, or an epic Valentine’s Day shopping spree. Just make sure it’s somewhat Valentine’s Day related, whether with what you’re giving away, how you enter, or even just with the images and language you use to introduce it.

While implementing these Valentine’s Day marketing ideas might take some serious thought and strategizing, with a little effort they can pay off in a big way.

Now that you have a few great ideas on how you can encourage your customers to shop with you this Valentine’s Day, make sure you’ll have enough Valentine’s Day gifts and outfit ideas in stock ahead of time. Click here for 15 wholesale boutique items you’ll want to stock up on for Valentine’s Day.

music Ivory Rowen illustration for 360 Magazine.

5 Strategies for Success as an Independent Artist

Being an independent artist is not easy. You have to handle most of the work yourself, and usually, pay for everything out of your own pocket. However, this also means that you can fully express your artistic vision and won’t be forced into engagements.

This is a great option for those who want to be artists for a living without becoming a commodity. This is also a good option for those who feel like they might have an audience already and don’t need to have a machine behind them, allowing them to bypass the middlemen and get better percentages. But to get there, you have to have a clear roadmap and strategy. Let’s take a look at a few strategies independent artists can use to become successful.

Network

This is probably one of the most important skills you’ll need to master as a new independent artist. And, unfortunately, this is an aspect many neglect. The music business is very much about who you know, and the more people you know, the more opportunities you might open yourself up to. Also, you never know who the right connection could be. It could be a shop or restaurant owner that would like you to perform at a certain event or a student friend of yours that wants you to perform at a party. These are all the types of interactions that could allow you to get the little bit of initial traction that you need. If you’re good enough, word will start to spread about you. The rest is about you being consistent with your efforts and cultivating your audience.

Start from the Bottom

If you want to make yourself known, you will have to be ready to work yourself up from the bottom, even if it means busking. You’d be surprised at how many major artists either started or were discovered while busking. Also, there’s the chance that you could end up on YouTube, and people love discovering obscure talent online. If you look on YouTube, there are plenty of videos of buskers getting millions of views, and if your talent is exceptional, you will get some attention. The best outcome here will be organic and inexpensive.

Work with the Right People

You also have to make sure that you have the right people in your corner. You will need to find yourself an accountant, a manager, a lawyer, and a road manager. The road manager will be essential for organizing logistics on the ground while the manager will be finding gigs and other opportunities for you. Working with a booking agency will also help.

Subsequently, you need to have good staff with you in the studio. Some artists will regularly rotate their sound engineers, but it’s also good to have a relationship with someone who understands your vision and wants to work with you. You want them to like your music too. This way they’ll be more involved in the project and will make more inspired recommendations.

It would also be a good time to start looking at studios. If you want something that will be easy to book and will have everything you need to start recording, we suggest you explore Pirate.com. They have studios in some of the world’s greatest cities, like their Hamburg recording studio or those in New York and Los Angeles. They offer affordable rates and give you a lot of free space to work. This is a great place for any indie act or group.

Hire Someone for Promotion

It would also be a good idea if you hired someone instead of trying to handle all the promotion yourself. Yes, you can interact with your fans on social media, but it would be better if you concentrated on the musical side and let a professional team work on the rest. You can hire someone to manage your social media for you; however, make sure that they sound in-character so that the voice can stay on brand. And, while much of the marketing is done online nowadays, you can’t neglect other traditional options. A professional could help you purchase media space, for instance, or help you gauge if the price would be worth it in terms of exposure.

Give and You Shall Receive

Giving material for free is also one of the best ways to get an audience. Even if it’s a free EP, know that it could pay back in the end. Just because the project was free, doesn’t mean that you can’t make money with it on the back end with performances or licensing, for instance.

These are all strategies that you can use to market yourself as an independent act and thrive in the industry without the backing of a major label. Understand that it’s still a business at the end of the day, and you’ll have to treat it as such if you want to be able to make a living from your art.

Vaughn Lowery illustration by Allison Christensen for his book Move Like Water x Be Fluid produced by 360 MAGAZINE

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Move Like Water × Be Fluid

By Katrina Tiktinsky

Vaughn Lowery, founder and publisher of 360 MAGAZINE, is set to release his first book this month. Move Like Water × Be Fluid is a stunning memoir documenting the author’s journey from a childhood in the Detroit projects to a successful career in fashion and media. The arc of this remarkable passage twists and turns in surprising ways, ensuring readers will believe in the concept that this life truly is what you make it. The text will debut as an exclusive multi-volume installation within 360 MAGAZINE and marks the inception of the brand’s foray into publishing.

This provocative coming-of-age story explores the power of branding strategy, a technique the writer developed at an early age and carried with him throughout his lifetime. Lowery, from the time he was a young child, is able to comprehend that one’s innate, individual self is their greatest commodity in life. Through the highs and lows that inform his experience, he stays true to that ideal. Lowery puts forward a raw and compelling narrative of a child, and later a man, who repeatedly picks himself up, reimagines his life, and finds innovative ways to move forward. The self-empowerment so emblematic in Lowery’s character and story promotes readers to adopt the author’s tactics in their own lives.

The influence of prominent civil rights leader Joseph Lowery, the writer’s grandfather, is prevalent in this work. A beacon for both hope and progress during the Civil Rights Movement, the legacy of Joseph Lowery weighs heavily on the narrator. This, along with his upbringing and existence as a black man in America, make Lowery both introspective and contextually aware when it comes to race. Moreover, draws parallels between the movement his grandfather championed and led, and the Black Lives Matter movement of today, exposing the failures of our system and calling for meaningful, systemic change. Both Joseph and Vaughn Lowery are members of the first intercollegiate historically African American organization Alpha Phi Alpha. Lowery simultaneously considers the work he can do, as a singular human being, to forward social justice causes in his day-to-day life and interactions with others. 

In 1920, his grandmother, Agnes Christine Moore Lowery (the little girl in the blue dress, also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha), came with her grandmother to become the first black to vote in Tennessee. The kids’ book, The Big Day, depicts their journey the day she voted, now available on Amazon here.

Photo of LaJUNE by Armon Hayes for 360 Magazine

Photo: Armon Hayes, Talent: LaJUNE

360 Magazine is also now selling one of a kind home goods via Chairish, a curated marketplace for the best in vintage and contemporary furniture, decor and art. Check out this piece designed by 360’s founder Vaughn Lowery.

In the year 2020, which has been afflicted with an overwhelming amount of change, there has never been a timelier moment for insight from a man like Lowery. As mentioned, Lowery’s deep ties and connections to racial justice in America feels incredibly relevant, as do his thoughts on digital media, something Lowery pioneered years before COVID-19 forced the world hurriedly online. Constantly at the forefront of social change, Move Like Water × Be Fluid offers an understanding of the current moment, yet looks forward to the possibility of an evolved, cosmopolitan world. One that Lowery aspires to through all his works, including this installation and 360 MAGAZINE.

As we follow the author through grade school, high school and on through Cornell University, we collect advice from a myriad of powerful secondary characters. From all walks of life, these secondary support systems offer Lowery the push he needs to continue on striving towards something better. We watch Lowery model the work ethic of his admired older sister, gain confidence from an encouraging teacher, change the trajectory of his life due to a neighborhood mentor, and learn from the critique of a Residential Advisor. This self-help-book stands apart for never failing to appreciate the importance of an individual’s support system. Fittingly, while the book catalogues Lowery’s journey to success, it inspires and encourages readers in the same way Lowery’s community uplifted him – to take action towards a meaningful life.

Comparable titles to Move Like Water × Be Fluid include other stories of individuals who later turned to publishing their experiences in self-help books. Numerous celebrity examples include Becoming by Michelle Obama, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, or The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey. These titles, as well as Lowery’s first book, all feature introspection and explanations regarding the course of the authors’ lives. 

The following descriptions outlines the chapter-by-chapter journey within Move Like Water × Be Fluid.

Chapter 1: The beginning of Lowery’s journey is marked by his complicated childhood in Detroit, distinctly connected to his sense of place and community. Financial struggles and surroundings reminiscent of the song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” as well as the author’s early experience with assault contextualize the course of Lowery’s life.

Chapter 2: A childhood mood, coupled with the realization of his intelligence, swiftly changed the direction of Lowery’s life. Following a move to New Jersey to live with his older sister, Lowery’s early experiences of racism shine a light on his passion for racial justice today. The opportunity to participate in an honored education program again changes the trajectory Lowery follows.

Chapter 3: This chapter offers insight into the ups and downs of high school, a narrative many are familiar with. Yet, Lowery’s poised observations throughout the chapter reflect his early understanding of the world.

Chapter 4: After a remarkable yet complex journey through high school, Lowery achieves the first of many dreams by gaining the chance to attend Cornell University in New York. At Cornell, he is able to expand his understanding of self and what he hopes to accomplish.

Chapter 5: Saks Fifth Avenue recruits Lowery to work in their corporate office, marking Lowery’s first foray into the world of economics and fashion. The advice he gains from mentors in the field prompts him to shift towards a career in acting and modeling, supplemented by working in the Medicare Department of U.S. Healthcare.

Chapter 6: New York, in all its hectic nature, pointed Lowery west towards California where he could further capitalize on his talents in the entertainment industry.

Chapter 7: This chapter details one of the events in Lowery’s life for which he is best known: his commercials as “Joe Boxer Guy” that overwhelmed the nation. Following ups and downs in Los Angeles, this success cemented Lowery’s understanding of his own talents as well as his ties to L.A.

Chapter 8: Following an offensive home invasion, Lowery pivots to continue embracing what life throws at him with appearances on NBC’s “Scrubs” and “America’s Next Top Model.”

Chapter 9: With plenty of capital and the space to complement his next steps, Lowery founded 360 MAGAZINE in 2008, powering through the tidal wave that was the recession all due to his own brains and the belief in his product and brand.

Chapter 10: After another painful reminder of the inadequacies of the justice system in America due to an unjust prison stay, Lowery’s comprehension of what is truly important is once again realigned. Despite his negative experiences, his magazine is able to be on the cutting edge of the Los Angeles scene.

Chapter 11: The number 360 is ubiquitous to Lowery – one embodies the other. His appreciation for both his own capabilities and expertise, as well as the ones of others, assures his magazine and brand are constantly evolving. 

Chapter 12: Thinking on the future following the tragic death of a friend, Lowery is nowhere near finished and is more than ready to continue is many metamorphoses. He now exists in a space where he strives to empower others, all around the world. 360.

Move Like Water x Be Fluid, by Vaughn Lowery, is available this month exclusively on the 360 MAGAZINE’s website. 360 MAGAZINE has received numerous accolades, and has recently been featured on Dancing with the Stars. Stay in touch by following both Lowery (@vaughnlowery) and 360 (@360magazine)

Additionally Vaughn has an audio book titled, “Say Uncle: The Story of Vaughn Lowery” which loosely based on his childhood. It is available for here on Amazon Music. For additional info on Vaughn Lowery visit Wikipedia and IMDb.

LaMelo Ball illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 magazine

LaMelo Ball Joins PUMA

By Justin Lyons

LaMelo Ball, top 2020 NBA Draft prospect and younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, signed with the sports company PUMA for a long-term sponsorship deal.

Ball said he’s excited to join the PUMA family as he kicks off his basketball career.

“I believe the brand is the perfect partner for me because PUMA will allow me to just be myself. I want to be 100-percent authentic whether that’s playing basketball or showing off my personal style, and that’s what I want to do with PUMA,” Ball said.

The 6-foot-7-inch guard with elite passing skills opted out of college basketball in favor of professional contracts in Lithuania and Australia.

Adam Petrick, the global director of brand and marketing at PUMA, said Ball is a natural fit for PUMA because of his personal style and his “physical gifts and dynamic play on the court.”

“We are thrilled to add him to our roster of talented athletes, and at just 19 years old, we can’t wait to see his impact on the broader culture surrounding basketball,” Petrick said.

The first collaboration between the young phenom and PUMA will come in the form of a PUMA x LaMelo Ball T-shirt and hoodie set. The set will release Nov. 18, the same day as the 2020 NBA Draft where Ball is expected to go in the top five.

PUMA also intends to blur lines between sports, culture, music and fashion with its approach to the collaboration with Ball, which will likely be seen in the form of shirts, shoes and other apparel.

The partnership will follow PUMA’s “Not From Here” concept, something Ball cooked up himself to represent his unique attitude.

“I don’t know what normal is. I personally chose a different path to achieve my success because that defines who I am,” Ball said. “I know some people think I am mysterious or ‘not from here,’ and I might have to agree. I am someone who likes to be different and consider myself to be one of one. That’s the message I want to share in my upcoming projects with PUMA.”

Ball and PUMA will also join forces to host basketball camps, clothing donations, court refurbishments and more to support programs that encourage young athletes stay active.

With names like RJ Barrett, Kyle Kuzma and Deandre Ayton highlighting the list, Ball is the latest in a line of young talent to join PUMA.

In Ball’s 2019-2020 season as a member of the Illawarra Hawks, he played just 12 games before injuring himself during practice and deciding to leave for the NBA Draft. He averaged 17 points, 6.8 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft after winning the NBA Draft Lottery. The Timberwolves had a 14% chance at landing the first pick, tied for the best odds with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, the team holding the worst record in the league.

With the Timberwolves trading for star guard D’Angelo Russell last season, mock drafts appear to have Minnesota targeting Anthony Edwards, the wing player out of Georgia.

Without a consensus first pick, there is also speculation that Minnesota could trade out of the first pick, opening an opportunity for a team looking for a point guard with passing abilities like Ball’s.

It all remains to be seen the night of the Draft Nov. 18, where one thing is for sure: LaMelo Ball’s name will be called.

Makeup Illustration for use by 360 Magazine

4 Ways to Grow Your Beauty Website

By Katie Lundin

Whether you sell make-up, haircare, or skincare products, run a beauty salon, nail bar, barbershop, or spa… as a beauty industry insider, you know that looks are important.

This is especially true when it comes to the way people judge websites.

How a website looks is important. In fact, seventy-five percent of people judge the credibility of a business based on its website.

If your beauty website looks bad, it’s turning potential clients away.

Here are 4 proven techniques to help your beauty website win more customers.

1. Showcase your unique brand

Just as you help your clients to look the best version of themselves, your website design must showcase your brand’s unique identity.

This is especially important for new beauty businesses. If you’re putting together your business plan while preparing to start a new beauty business, don’t overlook the importance of creating a strong visual identity for your business.

After all, clients don’t want to look like everyone else. They want to showcase their own unique self. And, they look to see if your beauty business stands out in unique ways and offers something special and different.

For example, if your website uses a generic template and looks like thousands of other salons, nail care, or makeup sites, people won’t be able to differentiate you from your many competitors.

In fact, this is true for every aspect of your company’s brand identity, including your business name and your company logo. Both must be unique if you want to build a brand that stands out and attracts great clients.

The differentiating factors that make your business unique must be visible so that your clients and prospective clients (the people who are naturally attracted to your brand’s mission, aesthetic, and personality) can identify you.

A well-designed website will show what makes your beauty business unique and attract those clients.

And don’t be deterred by the price of custom website design. Some beauty business owners worry that the cost of website design can be prohibitively high.

It’s true that many design companies and agencies charge thousands of dollars for their services. But this isn’t universally true (crowdspring’s custom website designprojects start at just $899, including all fees).

Action items:

● Work with a strong design team to develop a brand-informed logo. Then use that logo as the guide for your website’s visual design and all subsequent visual branding.

● Prioritize customization – avoid generic web design templates that don’t allow you to customize.

● Choose fonts (no more than 2-3), colors, graphics, and photos, that evoke your brand’s personality.

● Include content on your website that speaks with your brand’s voice. Be sure to let your personality shine through.

2. Design your website for fast load speeds

As we emphasized in our guide on how to start a business,

Your website is one of your new business’s most important ambassadors and a crucial component of your marketing and branding strategy.

Between seconds 4 and 5 of your website’s load time, 20% of viewers have already left your site.

Not only that, the faster your website loads, the higher it ranks with search engines. So, the easier it is for people to find.

3. Make it easy for guests to book appointments

Are you a make-up artist, stylist, barber, or cosmetologist?

Then you need an integrated booking system for your website.

Service-oriented beauty businesses rely on bookings. But, managing your schedule takes time away from the tasks that actually get you paid – like cutting hair, applying makeup, or performing facials.

And guests have come to expect to be able to book online. The cat’s already out of the bag.

So, if your website doesn’t support online booking, it’ll look inferior to your competitors who do offer that convenient feature.

On the other hand, if you’re the first salon, nail bar, or barbershop in your market to enable people to schedule appointments online, you’ll have a natural advantage over your competition.

And, there are free salon-booking software apps! So, the cost isn’t a barrier. There’s no excuse not to impress potential customers with the convenience of online scheduling.

Action items:

● Check out these tried and true online booking options:

Fresha – This free online scheduling tool (formerly known as “Shedul”) is packed with features designed specifically for businesses in the beauty and wellness industry. There is also a paid version, but Fresha’s free service can definitely stand on its own.

Schedulicity – Schedulicity is another powerful online booking software. This service offers a la carte pricing that allows you to customize your service so you’re only paying for the features you need.

Timely – Timely claims to be the world’s smartest online booking software. You can test their claim yourself with their free trial. Once your trial is over, you can continue with Timely for low monthly rates tiered to grow with the size of your team.

● Choose an online booking service and integrate it with your website for easy, automated bookings.

● If you don’t currently sell custom-branded beauty products, consider adding your own unique line. Many manufacturers will let you private label their productsand you’ll just need to create custom packaging design to showcase your own unique brand.

4. Show your style and skill with photos

Concrete examples are more powerful than vague promises.

Every beauty business claims to make people look good. But, including pictures of your work (or people wearing your products) on your website shows that you can really deliver.

And, beauty is subjective. Your products or services aren’t for everyone. They’re for the people who share your aesthetic.

Posting pictures that showcase your brand’s unique style will attract customers who share it. So, you’ll gain, and retain, more customers.

So, incorporate photos into your website that demonstrate your skill and your style. Show potential clients that you can be trusted to make them look and feel beautiful.

Action items:

● If you’re a freelancer, create a gallery showcasing your best manicures, hair color clients, or make-up applications. (And always ask permission before sharing any photos of your clients.)

● Do you run a salon or spa? Then dedicate a page to each team member and include a gallery of their best work.

● If you manufacture beauty products, encourage your clients to share pictures of themselves wearing your products on Instagram with a custom hashtag. Then embed a widget into your website that automatically displays those photos.

● Allow customers to upload pictures with their product reviews.

If you want to be the next Sephora or Glossier, you must have stellar branding. And, that includes a professional, custom website that shows the world what your beauty brand is all about.

About Author:

Katie Lundin is a Marketing and Branding Specialist at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business, and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.

Digital illustration for 360 Magazine

Brand Building In A Recession

Building Your Brand During A Recession

By Lauren Howe and Teri Uyovbievbo, co-founders of up-and-coming South Bay marketing start-up, The Social Block

The onset of COVID-19 has ultimately ended a decade-long trend of economic growth in the United States. In it’s place, we now have the highest rates of unemployment since the Great Depression. The unprecedented economic downturn has also ushered in the swift demise of formerly successful corporations.

Although COVID-19 has brought difficulty to many businesses, the high rate of unemployment has left many to focus on what was previously their side-hustle or freelance work. A small percentage of job prospects has left us with gig work, using our marketable skills and furthering our educations.

While this is a difficult time to build a brand, it isn’t impossible. In lieu of attending meetings, speaking on panels and networking in the community, placing the focus instead on the company’s current messaging, graphics, website, public relations, social media and marketing efforts is essential. In order to get your brand in the spotlight, you’ll need to create a memorable logo so that people recognize your brand as soon as they see your awesome logo. COVID has thrust the world into a work-from-home, online shopping, and food delivery reality. Building your brand during this time is not only the smartest move for your start-up or business – it is the only move that will keep you competitive in a post-COVID world. The following steps are what we at The Social Block do for ourselves to build our brand, as well as what we would always suggest to clients.

Take relationship building digital

We know that nothing can replace face-to-face interactions and networking, but in a digital world, it’s not enough to just do one. Looking out for media opportunities, offering discounted services to local non-profits to support your community, participating in roundtables, panel discussions and curating a well-managed social media presence are all essential ways to build your brand online.

Social media has been, and is continuing to be, a method of providing customer service and increasing brand loyalty. Although the recession may be limiting those buying or product or using your service, communicating with your target audience, asking for their success stories or feedback, and showing that you listen, care and are engaged, will keep your business top of mind and keep business flowing when the economy stabilizes.

Don’t stop marketing

Depending on your product or service, you can choose from email or mail campaigns, utilizing ad space in relevant publications, or targeting your audience directly through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn ads. It’s not enough to leave your growth to organic views, shares and customer/client reviews. Getting new traffic in the door and fresh eyes on your business will increase your brand awareness.

Even if COVID may cause a delay in conversions or results, you want to be one of the services or products on your target audience’s list to try after your area has reopened and the economy begins to repair itself.

Assess where your brand is at currently

It may be time to take a hard look at what branding you had going on before COVID, and determine if it is time to make a change. Is your website difficult to navigate wit outdated items? Is your social media active, and is it used to build relationships with potential clients or customers, or is it used almost as a “personal” account, full of successes and company outings? Are you participating in speaking engagements and interacting in you community? Are your graphics, presentations, business cards and logo truly representative of what you do?

Take a hard look at where each area stands, and be honest about what could change. At first glance, are you truly giving off the impression you want?

Times are tough, but it’s an opportunity to pause, reflect and rethink the way you do business.