When I snag the privilege of working one-on-one with soapmakers to boost their soap businesses, we usually identify straight away the core issue. More often than not, they aren't marketing their handmade soap effectively.
Soapmakers are phenomenal at making their handmade soap and other cosmetics. As a general rule, they spend most of their resources (time, money, and energy) on creating the best products they possibly can. Soapmakers will often go the extra mile to make sure their formulas are just right, their ingredients shine, and they're getting the best bang for their buck when comes to supplies.
But all that hard work creating wonderful products isn't going to sell them for you; that's what marketing is for!
As a general rule, a soap business owner should spend 20% or less of their time making products or handling production related tasks (such as purchasing supplies, formulating new products, etc.) The rest of the time? It's all business, baby! And at the top of that list is making sure to market your handmade soap like your business's life depends on it (because it does!)
Chances are that you are a whip smart soapmaker (you are here, after all), but you just don't know how to market your handmade soap. Or you probably get pulled in a ton of different directions and don't know how to move forward. It doesn't need to be that complicated!
Market Your Handmade Soap with a Personalized Plan
The big missing piece for most soapmakers is a marketing plan that lays out exactly where to focus marketing efforts, how to dominate in those places, and how to trim the fat. Let's walk through the four vital steps to an effective marketing strategy for handmade soap and other cosmetics.
Step 1: Prioritize Your Marketing Efforts
The reason it always feels like your marketing efforts are all over the place is because they probably are! No matter what the gurus are saying, you need to figure out where your marketing efforts are and which ones take priority.
The first step of marketing your handmade soap is to prioritize where you should spend your time, money, and energy. As a general rule, I recommend soapmakers focus marketing methods in their own house, first and foremost. What do I mean by "your own house"? That's all the marketing avenues that fall under your control, including your website, your email newsletter, and your blog. You don't want to waste all that effort on building someone else's house!
In order of priority, you'll want to focus marketing your handmade soap and cosmetics in these places:
- Your website (not Etsy, Artfire, eBay, etc., but an actual website you own)
- Your email newsletter
- A blog or other form of content marketing
- Various organic social media posting
- Various paid advertising
- Other shiny objects / marketing stuff
This marketing prioritization plan will fit most soapmakers, but not all businesses are the same. You might find a better return on investment (ROI) with paid advertising than social media, or with social media rather than blogging. You might find that you shine on camera, so a YouTube channel would be a great content marketing effort.
List all the different ways that you can market your handmade soap and cosmetics, and then prioritize where to focus your efforts. Consider:
- Is the marketing effort something you fully control?
- Are your customers reachable this way?
- Does this marketing method come naturally to you?
- Can you learn how to better use this marketing method?
- Can you outsource or hire help using this marketing method?
- Is this marketing method scaleable?
One thing does not change: your website and email newsletter should always come first. They are the only things you can fully control as a soap biz owner, and you don't want to put all your eggs in someone else's basket.
Step 2: Strategize Your Marketing Efforts
Now that you know where to focus your marketing efforts, you can narrow in on each marketing method and strategize how you will use it to your advantage.
The first thing you want to do is set goals for each marketing method you are using. For each one, aim for one to three (with a MAX of five) goals or objectives you have for using that form of marketing. For instance, your website goals might be to:
- Sell your handmade soap and cosmetics
- Tell your brand's story and share a unique point of view
- Help your customers make the most of your products
This will make it crystal clear what you should focus on when tackling marketing your handmade soap and cosmetics. With the website example, you know that to accomplish your first goal, your website needs to convert visitors into customers, facilitate an easy checkout process, and upsell your products often.
Next, quantify each goal. So, instead of "sell your handmade soap," your goal may turn into "sell 100 bars of handmade soap every month." This is one area where I'm all for SMART goals. (If you don't know what SMART goals are, they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timeboxed.) Then, write how you will measure your success on this goal. Maybe, you'll hit up your Google Analytics, email newsletter stats, or monthly profit and loss statement.
Next, under each goal, brainstorm ideas for reaching it. If your goal is to sell 100 bars of handmade soap on your website every month, you might want to write down specific ideas to:
- Optimize your checkout process
- Improve your copywriting
- Show off your products visually
- Drive traffic to your website
When you outline different ways to market your handmade soap and cosmetics, you'll also want to remember to tailor your efforts to your audience. Someone who lands on your website could be in any number of stages with your brand:
- Awareness: They know who you are or what your products are, but that's about it.
- Recognition: They recognize you for what you do, what you stand for, and what makes you different.
- Interest: They are interested in getting in on the action.
- Purchase: They trade their hard-earned cashola for your products.
- Repurchase: They like your handmade goodness enough to buy it again.
- Loyal: They won't use anyone else's soap, even if they haven't showered in a week.
- Influencer: They tell everybody about you, because people NEED TO KNOW.
To continue on the website example, a new visitor is not likely to load up their shopping cart and hit the order button. They're in the early stages of the customer life cycle and aren't ready to buy yet. So, what can you do to move them on that path?
Conversely, when a current customer lands on your website, they don't need to get to know your brand or hear your story. They are probably looking for support on their previous order, answers to their questions, or a quick and painless way to re-order.
Make sure to customize each marketing idea that you have to your goals and the different steps in the customer life cycle. Cover all your bases! When you finish this giant, messy process, you'll have a marketing roadmap to guide you along your way.
You'll use your marketing roadmap to make decisions about whether or not to tackle a new shiny thing (LOOK, a new social media platform!) and if the effort you are dishing out is actually working in tandem with your plan.
Is this starting to sound overwhelming? Yup, I agree! When you get overwhelmed by your marketing efforts, it's time to setup a chopping block. Do not let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive you to spread yourself too thin. If you are just starting out, I recommend focusing on your website, email newsletter, and ONE other marketing method. When you stop feeling challenged by those three, add another into the mix.
When you add a new marketing method to your arsenal, make sure to check yourself:
- Are your customers reachable this way?
- Does this marketing method line up with your brand's voice, values, and message?
- Do you feel ready to add to your schedule?
If you can't answer yes to all three questions, put it on the shelf for later.
What marketing method should you choose to mix with your website and email newsletter? No one can tell you what's best without knowing you, your brand, and your target market. Susie Soapmaker might rock Instagram like no one's business, but that doesn't mean that should be *your* focus, too. Ask yourself those three key questions about each marketing platform or strategy, and narrow in on one to try.
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Step 3: Put Your Marketing in Motion
Now, you know where to focus your marketing efforts and you have a million ideas for how to market your handmade soap... What's next? Get to work, superstar!
Create a marketing schedule so that you know exactly what you need to do to execute your plan and market your handmade soap easily. As they say, if it isn't scheduled, it won't get done. Does this mean you need to schedule down to the minute? Nope!
Figure out what method of scheduling works for you - everyone is different. Here in Modern Soapmaking land, I rotate between time boxing, day-to-day scheduling, and priority task management. Basically, it breaks down to how busy I am and how well I'm managing my mental health. (Yes, I have bipolar, you can read up on my advice to other small biz owners handling their own mental health struggles here.)
When I'm not super busy and have a good handle on what's going on, I timebox. Which means I setup my schedule with specific blocks of time for specific types of tasks on my calendar. (i.e., Friday, from 10 pm to 11 pm, schedule social media posts)
When I'm starting to feel burned out, I schedule on a day-to-day basis using Google Calendar. That means I'm operating more on a deadline rather than a schedule: certain tasks must be done by certain days. (i.e., Friday, publish "How to Market Your Handmade Soap Effectively")
When I'm absolutely overwhelmed, I use priority task management. This is my last ditch effort to keep functioning as a small biz owner. I always have a running list of prioritized tasks loaded in my ToDoist. And I complete tasks in order of priority. No if's, and's, or but's.
I use Google Calendar and ToDoist to manage my planning. I love these two because I can seamlessly switch between the methods that work for me. No matter what kind of schedule works for you, just make sure you make an action plan and follow through!
Then, focus on automating your processes and auditing for efficiency. If you send an email newsletter with a new blog post every week, setup your email service to pull the post from your RSS feed. If you post on Facebook every weekday, schedule your posts in advance and have Facebook handle all that nonsense automatically.
When you market your handmade soap and cosmetics solo, you absolutely must include automation and efficiency in your processes. Otherwise, you'll be perpetually overwhelmed and none of this will ever be easy!
Step 4: Rinse & Repeat
Now that you've read up on how to market your handmade soap and cosmetics, you're probably going to hate me for this next sentence...
When you get everything lined up, working in tandem, and making magic, it's time to start from the top. Oh boy!
You see, marketing changes as often as folks change their underoos. What works today might not work next year or next month, or even tomorrow. It's important to regularly evaluate your plan and adjust.
I recommend sitting down with your marketing plan once a quarter (alongside your financial reports). Use that as an opportunity to make adjustments, capitalize on what works, and ditch what doesn't. Three months is the perfect amount of time to give a marketing strategy an honest effort to see how it will work for you.
If you fall off the marketing horse, dust yourself off and get back on. The biggest struggle for soapmakers in business is learning how to market their handmade soap and cosmetics. Maybe you make the best damn soap in the whole wide world... If no one knows about it, your bottom line will definitely show it. ;)
What's your biggest challenge in making marketing magic for your soap biz? Do you feel better able to tackle it after reading these tips? Sound off in the comments!
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