I’ve been doing fashion for nearly a decade, but business process development and growth for (whisper it) nearly 20 years, fashion likes to see itself as completely unique, but while like any industry it has some unique elements, most of building a successful business is built in universal concepts, with that in mind I thought I’d look at 5 things fashion businesses should be doing but experience says most aren’t.
Not Segmenting Your Audience Communications
Using one contact list isn’t helping you, break that list up, understand how you need to segment your audience, your voice and your conversations. Professional buyers, end purchasers and the media all need to hear different things, you can’t use the same mail shot to get a wholesale deal, sell a single dress to an online shopper and ask for a magazine feature.
Understanding that you have different groups that impact on your business and shaping the way you communicate with each will strengthen your appeal to each, because you’ll be hitting their response sweet spot.
Not Having A Dual Sales Strategy
The world has changed, some people refuse to change, they still only focus on wholesaling their products, some have gone too far and only go direct to consumer, neither is wrong, but if delivered in isolation you’ll be missing opportunities.
Having your products available elsewhere builds your brand, it lets people you can’t reach see them in stores and online, it develops customers in other peoples channels, and you get to use their space to develop traffic and awareness to reaching the Holy Grail of getting them to look at your site and sign up to your email marketing tools and social channels.
Having a good online customer base will also empower your wholesale opportunities, when I talk to buyers now, they want to see a following, they want to see there is an existing market for a designer. Very few buyers will open a discussion without a direct sales channel via social media or eCommerce being in place. The big stores can’t gamble on designers in this economic climate, stack the deck in your favour before you walk into the meeting.
Not Reaching Out
I follow a lot of designers, so do my peers, but it’s rare a label will reach out to us outside of the PR process. What have you got to lose by reaching out, asking how you could get on the site or in the magazine. If you have the product, the images and the story to tell why wouldn’t you push to get that media coverage, that buyer meeting, or that pop up shop.
It’s really simple, do all you can to make shit happen.
Taking Advice From People Who Won’t Invest In Buying Your Product
This is a really quick one, and relates to one of my most often said things . .
“the fashion grave yard is full of labels that were told how much people love them but never bought a single piece”.
There are a lot of people in this business who do not have the experience, credentials or knowledge to justify the belief they have in their opinions. If you bring in outside advice, and it can be very beneficial to, then always check their history and reputation stack up.
Do your research on advisers, consultants, strategists and anyone giving advice before you hire them or indulge their opinions, it may seem cold, but business works best when you make choices outside of emotions and especially outside of flattery.
Not Having Patience
It’s easy to be the bold new star, but the journey from bright first season to established business takes time. That first year you have the benefit of newness, but there is immediately going to be something newer that follows, your business will live or die by what you do in year two and each year after.
You need to have a deliverable growth strategy that is based in sensible income forecasting and a 1,3, and 5 year plan. You aren’t building your business to close after a season, so it’s focus and infrastructure needs to be built around building a business that lasts.
That takes time, it is a huge amount of work, long hours and sacrifice, very few people become overnight sensations, frame every choice you make in the reference of how it impacts long term.
It isn’t as glam as big parties, fancy events, swanky shows and headline grabbing stunts, but nothing feels better than a healthy P & L sheet.
I’d love to know what you think, or what challenges you struggle with in your business?
For more of my thoughts on the fashion industry follow me on LinkedIn