Archive for the ‘Marketing Tactics’ Category

8/22 Crowdfunding for Fashion Designers (Macy’s Fashion Incubator of S.F.)

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Learn how to run a successful fashion apparel crowdfunding campaign from Bay Area entrepreneurs and experts.

WHEN: Thursday, August 22, 2013, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

6:00pm – 6:30pm Networking and FiSF facility tours

6:30pm – 8:30pm Crowdfunding Program

8:30pm – 9:00pm Networking

WHERE: FiSF, 50 O’Farrell St., 7th flr., San Francisco!/FashionIncubatorSF


COST: $25 General admission; $20 students/interns


CONTACT: Call Cheryl Downing at 408-257-1049


Trying to start a fashion business, but just don’t have the money to manufacture your clothing line? Think crowdfunding might be the answer for you, but not sure how to get started? Join us for a panel of entrepreneurs and an Indiegogo rep as they discuss the “do’s” and “don’ts” of running a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding allows you to campaign for smaller donations of money, leveraging friends, family and even people you don’t know, in order to help bring your dream into reality.

It is very challenging to raise over $10K using crowdfunding, especially in fashion design, as shown by Kickstarter’s own category statistics. Of Kickstarter’s 1,085 successfully funded fashion projects, only 161 raised between $10K to $20K, while only 147 raised between $20K to $100K. (The majority of Kickstarter’s 635 fashion projects raised under $10K.)

The four fashion designers on our panel have not only raised over $15k, but three of them have achieved the even rarer crowdfunding accomplishment of raising from $48K to over $58K.

  • Sonnet James – over $58K
  • Thread Council – almost $51K
  • Artful Gentleman. – over $48K
  • Sonas Denim – almost $17K

along with Ben Bateman of Indiegogo, who recently assisted with the history-making Ubuntu campaign.

In this session, you’ll hear from a representative of a crowdfunding platform (Indiegogo), as well as from these four fashion designers who have raised money through crowdfunding campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They will share the ups and downs of running a campaign, the intensity of the campaign process, what they did right, what they would do differently, what happens after the campaign ends, and more.

Our designer panelists’ work represents a broad cross-section of the fashion industry from T-shirts (Thread Council) to denim (Sonas) to play dresses for moms (Sonnett James) to bespoke suits (Artful Gentleman).

We expect this to be a highly interactive session, so bring all the questions you’ve been eager to get answered.

This event is sponsored by The City of San Francisco, Macy’s and FiSF.


FISF is a non-profit incubator committed to turning fashion apparel designers into successful San Francisco entrepreneurs and employers. Each year FISF provides six Designers in Residence with premiere workroom, showroom, classroom and office space at Macy’s offices in downtown San Francisco and offers yearlong business operations training from experts in the San Francisco fashion and economic development communities.

For more information on FISF and to learn how to get involved, visit or!/FashionIncubatorSF


  • Ben Bateman, Campaign Specialist for Design, Technology and Hardware, Indiegogo

    Ben focuses on developing strategies and tactics to help campaigns more effectively raise funds. He has been with Indiegogo for over a year, and has worked with many of Indiegogo’s largest campaigns, such as the Scanadu Scout and the Ubuntu Edge. He has a background in Journalism, and received his B.A. in English from Lewis & Clark College, where he honed his skills and passion for community building and entrepreneurship. Launched in 2008, Indiegogo was the first site to offer a global crowdfunding platform accessible to anyone, and has hosted over 100,000 campaigns funding a wide variety of projects. (

  • Ed Bernstein, CEO and Founder, Thread Council

    Ed has launched companies that did customized apparel for stores nationwide (and was also one of the guys behind Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?). His other team members, Eduardo Del Balso and Fermin Mata, have significant experience in apparel merchandising and e-commerce on a national level. Thread Council is building an “Artist-First” apparel brand, with the main focus on T-shirts. Ironically, the most successful graphic artists are mostly unknown, despite their talent and the millions of merchandise sales they generate for musicians such as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, and Prince. In the past, these graphic artists were bound by the creative restrictions of the brands they were working for. Thread Council will give the designers the chance to do original work in the genres and cultural areas they are most excited by, as well as facilitate name recognition and greater financial rewards. Kickstarter goal: $50K; Pledged: almost $51K. (;

  • Gerry Kelly, Founder, Sonas Denim

    Gerry is an Irish entrepreneur, who came to the U.S. intending to stay a few weeks, after traveling the world. Instead, 13 years later, he is married to a beautiful California girl with a new baby boy. In 2011, Sonas Denim began when Gerry wanted a comfortable, yet sexy, pair of jeans for Burning Man and could not find any. He and his wife, Christine, created the first three pairs. The jeans are a unique patchwork of over 50 individual pieces, which create a curve-hugging, thigh-slimming fit. Their goal is to build the sexiest, best-fitting, and most popular denim brand in the world, which are cruelty-free with a reduced carbon footprint. Legendary supermodel Janice Dickinson supports them because 10% of the net profits on every pair sold is donated to animal welfare. Their ultimate goal is to fund an animal sanctuary in the S.F. Bay Area. Indiegogo flexible funding goal: $20K. Final: almost $17K. (;

  • Whitney Lundeen, Founder, Sonnet James

    Whitney got hooked on fashion while interning for a wedding dress designer in Manhattan when she was 20. However, her career began by working at an architectural firm, followed by owning her own interior design firm, Match Interiors. As a mom of two active boys, she could not find clothes designed to be fashionable, indestructible and comfortable. In February 2013, she launched Sonnet James, an online boutique that features 12 original “play dresses for playful moms.” Whitney sketches and pattern-drafts the dresses she designs–inspired by her love of fashion, her passion for motherhood, and her search for simplicity and comfort in everyday life. Kickstarter goal: $48K. Final: over $58K. (;

  • Jake Wall, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Artful Gentleman., and FiSF Designer-in-Residence

    In 2010, on a trip to Hong Kong, Jake had a career epiphany after having a classic bespoke suit made. Soon after, he founded Artful Gentleman., a luxury apparel company that specializes in customized made-to-measure fine suiting, tailored shirts, separates and tuxedos for ALL. Jake’s mission is to inspire others to express themselves through a well-fitted, stylish wardrobe. He has creatively used his marketing and business development background to form strategic partnerships, as well as get publicity through press and events in 2013, such as: suits worn by The Lumineers to the Grammy Awards; style curation for a Chivas Regal “Brotherhood” lifestyle event; and sponsor for “SUIT UP for EQUALITY: A Benefit for Human Rights Campaign” which is a fundraiser and marriage equality celebration occurring in August. Kickstarter goal: $30K. Final: over $48K. (;

  • Moderator: Cheryl Downing, President, Cheryl Downing & Associates

    Cheryl is a small business marketing and crowdfunding consultant. She advises and coaches small business startups and product developers/inventors how to grow their businesses quickly, specializing in raising money through crowdfunding. Cheryl spent the early part of her career in corporate software product development and marketing. Since 2001, Cheryl has volunteered as an SBA marketing trainer and been an active supporter of the Inventors Alliance association. (

The Marketing Power of Thank You

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

One of the most frequently overlooked tactics in small business marketing is providing thank you’s—both in words and in actions.

Most often, when a thank you is provided, it is to your customers, who provide you revenue directly. However, most often overlooked, is your business partnerships (both formal and informal), as well as your suppliers. These folks are also instrumental in your business success.

For example, has someone:

  • Referred a prospect to you, which turned into a sale?
  • Delivered supplies in time for you to deliver your products on time?
  • Made a personal introduction to someone inside another company, so you did not have to make a cold call?
  • Helped connect you to a specific LinkedIn contact so you could talk directly to the right contact within a corporation?

If so, it may not be enough to just say thank you, especially if you are hoping those same folks will help you again in the future. Instead, you might want to recognize their contribution to your success, ideally in some way that is commensurate with the amount of revenue they helped you to generate. In other words, if someone brings you $100,000 worth of business, a $25 gift card as a thank you probably will not make them feel appreciated. Although it is certainly better than doing nothing at all.

There are numerous ways you can do this:

  • Gift baskets
  • Event tickets, such as to a concert, play or sporting event
  • Dinner at a upscale restaurant
  • Movie outing, including dinner and/or refreshments
  • High-limit gift cards

Some small business owners do spend time thanking their customers, usually around the holidays, and many times using a thank you card (either in print or digital). Occasionally, gifts are given to customers.

As you may already know, sometimes gift costs need to be within the expense range defined by the gift recipient’s company, so that they do not risk the appearance of trying to unduly influence future business. In other words, you might not be able to give someone a very lavish and expensive gift, because that gift could potentially be misconstrued as a means of bribing someone to ensure landing future contracts or product purchases. That is why many companies restrict the value of the gift, which can be received by an individual employee. Sometimes that constraint can be as low as $25.

In those cases, you might need to get creative. Maybe you give small gifts to everyone at a supplier’s company. Or, perhaps find a way to customize an inexpensive gift, such as mugs, pens and pencils. Or, maybe you make a charitable donation in honor of the person, which is to a charity special to that person. (Note: During Dee McCrorey’s podcast interview of me on this same subject, she gave a great example of how one of her corporate vendors creatively got around this limitation. Click on the link below.)

Using social media, you can certainly also thank another business owner by doing things such as “liking” their business Facebook page or endorsing them on LinkedIn. That is certainly a gracious gesture, but might not fully demonstrate how much you appreciate their contribution to your business.

On the other hand, crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter, typically suggest you offer a rewards system, in order to both attract and thank backers. You might reward someone with things like your soon-to-be-manufactured product, branded widgets, or a party to celebrate the launch of your new film or artistic performance.

The most important thing is to let those people, who contributed to your success, know how much they are appreciated. Otherwise, those same people might think twice before offering to help your business again. Personalized help in extending the reach of your marketing is one of the most cost-effective types of promotion there is.

For additional ideas, check out Dee McCrorey’s podcast interview of me for “The Reinvented World.”

Your Marketing Trust Factors™

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

One of the topics I typically mention in my classes is your Marketing Trust Factors. These factors determine why your prospective customers will trust that your product or service can truly deliver on its promised solution.

I have had small business owners ask if the real issue is whether your prospective client likes you. Certainly, if a prospect both likes and trusts you, that is ideal. However, think about how you shop for products or hire someone. In my experience, the majority of people will opt first for a person or company that they trust.

For example, if you are interviewing plumbers and you like a guy but are not convinced he can do the work, are you still going to hire him? Usually, the answer to this is no. You are more likely to opt to hire someone you are convinced will get the job done properly, even if you are not entirely thrilled with his or her personality.

Similarly, if you are buying a product from a company which you have never heard of, you are likely to consider other factors, such as how well you communicate the product or service’s capabilities on your packaging, your brochure or your company website.

You need to take into consideration what I call your Marketing Trust Factors. You need to remember that, while these factors are what you have to offer, they are only significant if your prospect considers them important to their decision making process. Or, if we flip this around, what your prospect considers important information could help you determine which prospects are better fits for your business than others.

In fact, your homework assignment is to begin watching how you make decisions when you shop, whether you are looking to buy a toaster or hire a contractor. This will allow you to begin to learn how you do research for bigger ticket items and what factors you take into account when making your decision. This can be a significant part of your market research because your ideal customer usually shares some of your decision making patterns.

The Marketing Trust Factors are:

  1. Word-of-mouth referrals or testimonials

    If you are like most people, you prefer to buy through a word-of-mouth referral simply because a personal recommendation of a product or service, especially from someone who knows you, increases the likelihood that you will be satisfied with what you buy.

    However, in this day and age, where family and friends do not live nearby and more purchases are done after searching on the Internet, we cannot always get a personalized recommendation. So, what is the next best thing? Reading, hearing or seeing a recommendation by someone else who seems credible. Hence, the use of testimonials.

    If you are not already familiar with them, a testimonial is most often thought of as a positive quote from one or more of your customers singing the praises of your product/service, you and/or your entire business. In reality, a testimonial can also represent someone’s negative comments about those same things. You will see that happen more frequently when customers review and/or rate a product or service on a site such as or Yelp (or Angie’s List), as well as on retail sites, like Macys.

    Of course, some people are skeptical of testimonials, especially when the person quoted only gives their initials. One of my students, whose business was auto body repair, did not believe most testimonials were legitimate. In his case, since he was using photos of the before and after car repair work (which is the next Marketing Trust Factor on our list), I suggested that he could use testimonials specific to each set of photos. In other words, the quote might say something like:

    “ABC Auto Body Repair fixed our bumper and made it look brand new.” — Joe Schmidt

  2. Audio/visual

    For certain products or services, there is a visual or audio component, which helps the customer to trust in what is being offered. For example, as mentioned above, the auto body shop owner used before and after photos to demonstrated the quality of his work. Similarly, you might see before and after photos used by a professional organizer.

    The more obvious examples of how this can be used are an artist’s portfolio, a restaurant or bakery’s pictures of food products, a hair stylists showcase of clients’ hairstyles, and a musician’s album of digitized songs.

    However, let us look at a less obvious example from your perspective as a small business owner. Perhaps you are a yoga practitioner who has been praised for your calming voice and demeanor. Although a testimonial from one of your clients might mention this, a brief talking-head video would better demonstrate this, if your voice was part of your competitive advantage. Prospective clients can get a sense of your personality simply by watching your video.

    If you are a product developer or inventor, there might be a passionate story behind why you chose to pursue this particular product idea. The story could be told in writing, however your passion would likely be better communicated in a video.

  3. Track record

    Sometimes prospective clients value your track record of quantifiable results and/or achievements.This can be particularly true for financial consultants and sales professionals. If your client was hiring you as a independent contractor, your prospective clients might want to know that you have delivered results. For example, if you were in sales, a prospect might want to hear that you have achieved 125% of your quota. On the other hand, if you sold cosmetics, the client is probably more interested in the quality of your cosmetics brand, as opposed to your sales track record.

    Another form of a track record is winning an award. The award could be for your current work, such as in a graphic design competition, or even for your past work. One of my clients was a technical writer. In creating her brochure, Reva was reticent to mention that she had won several awards for being on time and under budget, when she was a corporate employee. I told her that not mentioning those awards would be insane. As a corporate employee, where money is more plentiful, Reva was focused on saving her employer time and money. Therefore, why would she not treat an independent contract in the same manner?

    If you are a product developer or inventor looking for funding to manufacture your product idea, your potential investors (who are a form of a client, in that they give you money to create your product) may want to know if you have ever manufactured anything successfully before or that you have someone on your advisory team who has. The reason is because what the investor wants delivered is their original investment amount, plus a certain percentage of return. That means the investor will tend to have more confidence if they know you have successfully managed a manufacturing process previously or you have someone on your team who has.

    I have had some clients express concern that listing their achievements feels like bragging. In fact, when I first started my business helping clients with their promotion, I arranged for one of my clients Tisha, who was a CEO, to speak at a conference. After her presentation, I mentioned that she should have discussed her company’s online training services a bit more. Tisha told me that doing so would make her feel more like a used car salesman. Yet, ironically, her company’s online service offering was totally paid for by advertisements. In other words, their services to their clients was free. So, the real issue here was that people could not make use of their services, if they did not know they even existed.

    My philosophy is “Inform, don’t sell.” If you have an achievement that might help your prospects make a informed decision in your favor (or even clear out the ones that are not a fit), then that is something you need to share.

  4. Proof of expertise

    Although sometimes having quantifiable results or displaying a portfolio of your work can be used to demonstrate your expertise, at other times your expertise is more subjective. In these cases, you might highlight your industry expertise through a written document, such as a book, a blog, a case study or perhaps a description of how you work with your clients.

    For example, in a blog, you can share your perspective on your industry. It allows prospective clients to get to know the way you think, so they can determine if working with you would be a fit for them.

  5. High-profile or well-known connections (past or present)

    Sometimes prospective customers are impressed by your credentials and/or high-profile connections, which in turn inspires them to trust you. For example, you might have gone to an Ivy League or Big 10 college or previously worked at a Fortune 500 corporation. This type of information might be mentioned in a biography or in an “About Us” website section.

    In some cases, high profile connections do not want their information used for promotional purposes. In this case, look for ways to indicate the types of experience you have in more general ways. For example, you might simply list that you have worked with Fortune 100 companies in a certain industry. Or, mention that you have worked with the mayor’s office or government officials, instead of listing individuals by name.

  6. Skill set or training

    Perhaps you have a unique skill set or possess a special certification. Maybe you studied at a school well-known for specialized training in your industry, such as medical, web design, culinary, or holistic. Sometimes that training school will be well-known in your field, so its name can inspire trust in your prospects.

    That can also be true for receiving certification training in certain skills. Your prospect might want to know that you are certified to provide shiatsu massage or you studied with a well-known practitioner in your field, such as a high profile chef.

    For example, I sometimes mention that, in my former corporate life, I attended Xerox sales training, which is well regarded. To be honest, I approach selling a bit differently than what was taught. However, if  mentioning this fact helps me get my foot in the door, I am happy to mention it.

If your business needs funding, especially if you are a product developer or inventor, you might also need to consider the following additional Marketing Trust Factors:

  1. Proof of financial fitness

    Your investor may want to be sure that you know how to manage your own finances, before they allow you to manage their money.

  2. Well-rounded management team or advisory board

    If you do not have any experience in the industry you are going into, your investor will undoubtedly want to make sure that you have one or more people on your team who does know what they are doing. Again, the investor’s objective is to ensure their loan/investment is well managed.

Consider which of these Marketing Trust Factors is relevant to your business. If numerous ones apply, then focus on the top three factors.

Rubbermaid Builds Marketing Relationships with Professional Organizers

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

While reading the book Twitterville by Shel Israel, I learned about how a Rubbermaid’s e-marketing manager based in North Carolina, Jim Dietzel (@Rubbermaid), began using Twitter to connect with professional organizers.

This was great timing, because I was preparing to speak at the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers on November 7, 2009, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than uncovering a useful resource that my audience might not be aware of. (My topic was Understand Your Market in 10 Easy Steps.

What was great about Shel’s story is that it reinforces one of the key strategies I teach, which is that in order to employ no-cost or low-cost marketing strategies you need to become aware of where your prospective clients hang out, so that you can (ideally) begin to build reciprocal relationships.

That is, in fact, what Jim Dietzel has done. I suggest that you read Chapter 7 in Shel’s book to get the full story. However, very briefly, Jim first began building a list of all of the professional organizers that he came across on Twitter in May 2008. Then, he published that list in his blog, which enabled an informal community to develop.

Without making any kind of sales pitch about Rubbermaid, Jim created immense goodwill within the organizer community by sharing suggestions, asking for input, giving organizers the opportunity to get publicity and visibility, as well as finding ways to offer discounts on smaller quantity purchases, which were usually only available to larger businesses.

Shel even gives an example of the significant impact the publicity has had on the business of one professional organizer from Austin, Texas, named Lorie Marrero (@ClutterDiet).

Shel provides more details in his book about exactly what Jim did on behalf of Rubbermaid. It represents a marketing strategy that Shel calls “lethal generosity,” where the most influential are the most generous versus the loudest. I highly recommend this strategy and I love the title Shel has bestowed on it.

If you are looking for marketing ideas using social media, you will definitely find Twitterville a worthwhile read.

Low-cost Promotion for Skateboarding Film

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

The recent Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose had a great example of guerilla marketing. On the sidewalk outside one of the theaters, they were using a freestanding screen to show a skateboarding film to a group of guys who were sitting on their skateboards.

The Importance of Leverage in Marketing

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

My latest interview is with Alicia Smith, founder of Alicia Smith Consulting & Training LLC, located in Bozeman, Montana ( I’ve taken marketing classes from Alicia at CoachVille and I’m familiar with her products and services, e.g., and

Alicia has a very practical approach to marketing. Throughout this interview, she discusses why a key theme of her business is leverage. As one example, she explains why she believes the term “passive revenue” (or passive streams of income such as books, CDs, tapes, etc.) is a bit of misnomer and why she prefers to use the term “leverage revenue.” She also shares her perspective on why market research is necessary to verify that a product can be implemented and used by a large number of people–rather than just our mothers. She talks about the importance of using DISC assessments with both her clients and in hiring, e.g. virtual assistants.

We also discuss tips from her 90DayMarketingMarathon program, i.e. the business use of email signatures, voice messages, and “Top Ten” articles. (Alicia even gave me an example of how I could revise my email signature to promote my teleclasses. Thanks again, Alicia!) She also talks about the importance of training our clients on how we want them to work with us. Plus, how some of our best ideas come when we take a break from our daily routine.

Alicia is the guest co-host for my Marketing Q&A in May, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

Check out my website for more information::

An Inside/Out Approach to Marketing and Sales

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to interview Richard Reardon of R&R Business Development (based in Santa Monica, California; I initially met Richard several years ago, when he was a co-founder (with Thomas Leonard, arguably known as the “father of coaching”) of CoachVille’s School of Small Business Coaching.

For me, part of Richard’s competitive advantage is the way he combines practical marketing and sales techniques with what I would call a “New Age” perspective. He emphasizes doing the inner work on understanding your own needs, in order to be successful at marketing and selling.

In our interview, we touched on a broad array of marketing and sales topics, including his “inside/out approach”, selling value vs. services, why tiered pricing allows the prospect to co-create their solution, and how to handle the question of price at the beginning of the sales call. The interview runs approximately 70 minutes. You can download it or listen online.

Richard is also my co-host of April’s Marketing Q&A session, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

For more information, check out my website:

Business Networking as a Marketing Tool

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Recently, I interviewed Lorraine Lane of Lane Business Consulting (Brooksville, Florida; on the topic of how to effectively use business networking.

Lorraine specializes in working with business owners who are overwhelmed, frustrated, isolated and in crisis-management.

On the topic of business networking, Lorraine discusses the strategies she coaches on, including the five business card limit (yes, you read that right), using give-and-take in referrals and more. The interview runs approximately 50 minutes. You can download it or listen online.

Lorraine is also my co-host of the Marketing Q&A session, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

For more information, check out my website: