I was excited! The photos of my maiden collection had gotten countless likes, quite a number of comments and enquiries. I was certain I had made the right move organizing a proper photo shoot – makeup artist and creative direction inclusive – for ‘professional’ promotional pictures.
The campaign was such a hit! This was going to blow up quite nicely and all the pieces would definitely be sold out within a couple of days. Or so I thought…
Fast forward to a week later. I had closed absolutely no sales: like not even a single one and I was perplexed. I couldn’t fathom why people would be so enthralled by the items and still not buy. It made me second-guess myself, the quality of my work, the efficacy of my hard-thought-out strategy and so much more.
[Read: The Mumpreneur Guide for 2019]
More importantly, it made me consider all over again how much I had spent; not just on the clothes themselves, but on all of the activity that I had undertaken in the name of marketing. The photo shoot alone had cost me quite a bit. When I’d planned it, it had made absolute sense to go ahead if it would mean I would sell all of the items and quickly too.
In retrospect, I felt like I had sunk more money than I could afford into a business venture that had yet to yield anything at all.
Here I was, putting out phenomenal content daily and getting compliments where all I really wanted was bank alerts. A little over two months later, I began to feel really discouraged. I also began to post less frequently and engagement waned.
Of course, when that happened, I let it get to me again. At least, the engagement kept me hopeful though it had yet to result in the sort of sales I desired. I probably sold five items in all the entire period, and I had over two hundred in stock.
Reality sets in
I didn’t realize that the engagement had been a bit of a subconscious buffer for me until the activity on the Facebook and Instagram accounts of my business literally vaporized right before my eyes. Evidently, people will move on to the next new thing after a short while.
I will admit right off the bat that this whole experience made me feel like I hadn’t done enough; even after I had already done so much. It made me wonder quite a bit about whether or not selling via social media actually did work. Rather than keep wondering, however, I sought out the advice of two friends of mine who worked in sales.
Their feedback shocked me! It was given honestly and in love, but it was hard-hitting nonetheless. Apparently, I had made two mistakes simultaneously; I had put the cart before the horse and put all of my eggs in one basket.
You see, prior to this ‘Big Bang’ I’d planned for my business, I was a 9-5er with a side hustle selling fashion items to family and friends. My quantities were limited and a lot of the items were things I wore myself.
Basically, I have always had a bit of a knack where styling is concerned so when people would say, “I love your outfit”, I’d reply, ” Thank you. I just so happen to have it in your size. Would you like to buy it?”; or “Your woman would look amazing in it, especially paired with this bag”. It usually went something along those lines. More often than not, I snagged the sale.
So, I assumed that if I took my knack for buying and invested a chunk of money procuring items, I would get that same reaction from the general public.
My dear friends pointed out to me that my target was no longer family and friends who knew me and had a distinct impression about my personal style that made it easy for them to trust my judgment. Now I was hoping to get into the pockets of TOTAL STRANGERS on social media? How exactly did I aim to achieve that? I had put the cart before the horse: attempting to sell products when I actually had no customers.
A brand new, glitzy Instagram page does not customers make.
One marketing campaign from out of the blue was definitely not going to secure the continuous attention of all of the customers I envisioned. I would need to build my customer base painstakingly over time and two months was too soon to give up.
Also, I would do better to harness my existing base and get them to put in a word here and there but the business of organic growth would certainly take time. I might be able to accelerate it somewhat by advertising but only consistency and reliability would secure my business growth.
Second, I had deployed only one sales channel: social media. In my excitement I had in fact abandoned the one thing I already had going for me – selling my personal style to people who knew me. I had used models for the photoshoot so there was no way anyone who had bought from me before would reasonably link this to me.
Furthermore, I had not attempted to contact my existing customers directly about the new collection or the new pages on the social media platforms. I had instead assumed somehow that they would see the campaign and be interested. How on earth I automatically expected this to materialize all by itself still beats me. However, I did; I honestly did.
Anyway, I went back to the drawing board and began to use the tools I had mastery of already. I went places in those clothes where I knew I’d garner quite a bit of attention and, funny enough, I did sell quite a number that way. Of course, it took me a while to sell them all as I wasn’t running a physical store and I couldn’t compel most people to buy multiple colours of the same dress, naturally.
I wish I could tell you that I made all that money back right away and posted huge profits. Not quite. I did break even eventually… but only after I organized a couple of sales and gave out a few freebies on pages with a lot of engagement to draw a bit of attention to mine.
I’m currently in revamp mode. I’m also learning to sell from ‘the Masters’. Apparently knowing what and how to buy is no indicator of your capacity to sell, as I learnt the hard way.
I figure there are a lot of us women in business with goods that have no off-takers: yet. My advice is to learn to sell in a way that works for you, then learn what it takes to scale also from genuine experts.
These days, many people peddle expertise that they do not possess, unfortunately. However, some actually do know their onions and will help you position yourself and your business appropriately. Before you ask, no, I am not one such person. I’m seeking them out myself because I myself recognize that to be a need.
By the way, I still sell to friends and family; and I still sell via Social Media. I’m just more aware than I was at first what the requirements for my personal success are. I’m also more realistic in my estimation of outcomes per time. I am not dreaming small: heck, no! I’m just dreaming with commensurate action. No one flies a plane like it’s a kite.
Eite Eric-Nwabuzor is God’s Princess. He caught her attention distinctly with His amazing love in her first year at University. He’s been the core of her existence since: through thick and thin.
She is a lawyer by qualification; with a decade of work experience in human capacity development, social enterprise, corporate affairs and administration.
Currently, she’s an evolving woman, finding and stirring up the many gifts buried within and seeking to give them the fullest, freest expression.
She’s brilliant, fun, simple and open; and likes to describe herself as a woman on a journey, following her Father’s leading wherever it may take her – not bound by or limited to labels.
A funky wife, a yummy mummy, a worshipper at heart and a true fashionista, her intent is to live the very best possible life and make every minute count: for purpose, posterity and eternity.
Her life goal is to enable everyone she comes into contact with do exactly the same.