When I was starting out six years ago as a jewelry designer, I initially struggled with differentiating my brand from other jewelry competitors. The jewelry business is oversaturated with millions of sellers, so this was probably one of the most competitive industries to enter into. However, I was up for the challenge.
Traditionally, fashion designers spend a lot of $$$ going to major trade shows like MAGIC, hire PR firms and marketing teams to promote their business.
However, like most designers, I did not have the budget for it - especially since I was just starting out and did not have any investor money. How would I even have the income to pay for marketing when I wasn't making much from my business?
Fast forward to six years later, my jewelry business (SONIA HOU Jewelry) has been featured on major news publications (i.e., CNBC, POPSUGAR, PEOPLE, YAHOO, NBC's TODAY SHOW, NEXTSHARK), TV shows (i.e., Wendy Williams Show, ABC's The View), and many celebrities - including Olympic athletes.
The best part? It did not cost me a single penny! I had my jewelry exposed to over 28 million people during the Olympics and it was all for FREE! Typically, all this press coverage and celebrity exposure would have cost over $100K - $500K.
How did I do it? What is my secret? I am sharing what I did to help many small businesses in my same position - regardless of what industry you are in. I am not trying to put PR or marketing firms out of business, as I do feel they are valuable once you can afford it.
I knew I had to think "outside of the box," and go the non-traditional marketing/PR route - so I utilized social media to connect with celebrities, media writers and stylists.
Below are my Top 4 Best Ways To Promote Your Business For Free.
1) Create a news story that the press/media would be interested in
My marketing/PR strategy was to target the U.S. Figure Skaters at the Winter Olympics '18 because of the huge press coverage they receive. If I could get all of the U.S. Figure Skaters (Female Singles) to wear my earrings during the Olympics, it would naturally create a strong press release story. It would make people wonder - what are they wearing and who is the designer?
I contacted all of the female figure skaters - Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell - via Instagram, and offered to gift them earrings to wear during the Olympics. Surprisingly, they all agreed to wear my jewelry. The idea of having Olympic athletes wear your product seems far-fetched, but you never know unless you try! Remember, you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
U.S. Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu wearing our 3-way convertible FIRE Earrings in White Quartz when she made her historic triple axel jump at the Winter Olympics '18.
U.S. Figure Skater Karen Chen wearing our 2-way convertible TRILL earrings in 18K Gold Vermeil.
U.S. Figure Skater Bradie Tennell wearing our 3-way convertible FIRE Earrings in Amazonite gemstone.
2) Build your own media connections
Now that I got all of the U.S Figure Skaters to wear my earrings at the Winter Olympics '18, how do I inform the press/media that these athletes are wearing MY earrings? I would actually receive NO PRESS coverage if I did not reach out to them directly. But the problem is, I do not know anyone from the press. I had to figure this out within hours after Mirai Nagasu landed a historic triple axel jump at the Olympics - my earrings were seen everywhere but no one would know who the designer is.
So I reached out to the press directly via Instagram or a press agency service (cost only $49/month). I would literally mass e-mail over 100 writers that night, and receive a 30% response rate.
3) Connect with celebrity stylists
A lot of people ask me how do I get my jewelry on celebrities? How much do I pay them? Well the truth is, I never had to pay a dime. I connected myself with celebrity stylists on Instagram/Linkedin, and they placed my jewelry directly on celebrities. I would just direct message and send my lookbook to them. It's really that easy!
Celebrities who have worn my jewelry include Sherri Shepherd from ABC's The View, Mayim Bialik from CBS' Big Bang Theory, Christmas Abbott who wore my jewelry on the front cover to Fitness Girls Magazine, UFC Brittney Palmer, Actress Joey King, Rachel Reilly from CBS' Big Brother, make-up mogul Laura Geller.
4) Connect with TV Deal agencies
People always wonder how I get my earrings sold on TV. Well, I actually work with TV Deal agencies where your products are sold on consignment and discounted heavily on TV shows. The agency just gets a commission for every item sold. The problem with this business model is that it puts you at risk for carrying a lot of inventory - especially when they do not sell out on TV.
But I have made a good amount of sales participating in these TV Deals, as it helps get my brand out there. My jewelry has been sold on Wendy Williams Show, Hollywood Today Live, NBC's KING 5 (Seattle), CBS' 8 News Now (Las Vegas).
Best of luck to all the business owners out there! Feel free to e-mail me if you have found marketing/PR success from reading this article! I'd love to hear from you XOXO