Influencer Marketing 101 For Your Maker Business

To follow up on my Brand Partnerships and Mama Knows posts, I wanted to go deeper into this world of Influencer Marketing.

Even without my marketing experience, as a blogger and a small business owner, I am quite familiar with the world of influencer marketing on both sides. Influencer marketing can and does work when it is authentic and real and done right. Anyone who knows me from my old days has heard me glob off a good rant or two about the down sides and the “false influencers”. They are real. But aside from that, true authentic influencer marketing can work not only for the influencer and their community but for brands as well. And, I am advocate of true, authentic influencer programs.

Having said that, without proper planning or execution, it can also go terribly wrong and damage a brand and cost them customers.  I recently had an experience of Influencer Marketing gone very wrong and it made me want to share some how-to tips and turn it into a positive to help YOU, the Stitch & Hustle community. Let this experience help you guys set up for a WIN!


I’ve also invited Alissa Trumbull, a good friend of mine who works in social media marketing, to share some tips to help YOU plan and execute an effective and successful influencer marketing program. I have known Alissa for a many years and she is a voice I trust on this topic. As someone who supports and builds small brands (and big ones) I am honored she is taking some time to share insights with us. Also Alissa is truly one of favorite human beings on the planet. Together we've come up with Influencer Marketing 101 for Makers! So let's dive in…

What exactly IS influencer marketing?

Simply put, influencer marketing is when you utilize niche, community, (or celebrity influencers in some instances) to promote your product or service. Influencer campaigns are a wonderful tool, if utilized correctly, as they get other people talking about your brand.

Who is an influencer?

An influencer is anyone who impacts the lives of your target audience and has sway in your audience’s decision-making. Using the crochet and knit world as an example, this could be someone like Stephanie from All About Ami who always has new projects or great finds to share or Jess from Make And Do Crew who is always introducing us to new yarns and ideas. Remember that the best influencers don’t have to have the highest follower count. You need to look at the purpose and goals of your brand and the campaign to determine who is the right fit.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

How to Create an Influencer Campaign:

  1. Figure out your end goal and working budget.
    Do you want to drive sales, increase brand awareness, or something else?
    Does your budget include compensation or just product or both or something else?
  2. Select your influencers.

    Ask yourself: "Which influencers speak to my audience?" Think about who your audience will be most receptive to and target influencers in that demographic. Is it stay-at-home-moms? Craft pros? That one music star everyone’s talking about?

    You are not confined to only niche or only celebrity influencers for a campaign. Often creating a tiered set of influencers can be beneficial, as long as the influencers you select are authentic to your audience and you build an authentic relationship between your brand and them.
  3. Do your research.

    Find out more about the people you’ve selected, their audiences, and expected payment. You have to take the time to dive deep and see the value and make sure it is the right fit. Some of the best influencers may have a small but active and dedicated following.

    Make sure the influencers you consider adhere to the FTC Endorsement Guides.

    Pare down your list to one that is manageable for your budget (whether that is in actual cash, event tickets, or product giveaways, etc.) and provides a good fit to meet your goals.
  4. Start reaching out!

    Get in touch with the people you really want to participate first. Don’t ask everyone at once. This helps ensure that you are not promising too much. If you only have the ability to send ten (10) samples, email 8-10 people. You may not know the response, but should always expect that everyone will say yes. Sending more offers and emails than you can deliver sets yourself up for failure and damage relationships before you can even build them.

    The spray and pray model for building an influencer community – and yes, this is a community you are building – is not effective and can end up with people having a negative taste about your brand and you feeling overwhelmed. Create lists and tiers and go from there. It may take more time but will set you up for the win!
  5. Be enthusiastic AND gracious.

    You are asking people to enter into a business partnership with you to test out your product or speak kindly of your brand. Approach potential influencers as if they are doing you a favor (because they are).

    Share the details and goals of your campaign and let your enthusiasm come across. You WANT to get people excited. Your enthusiasm can build the interest you want, and those whom you reach out to will respond positively to your energy and good vibes.
  6. Be clear in your ask!

    Let each person know what you would like from them and what you are prepared to offer. Your offer does not need to be the same for each person. Perhaps you create different offers for each influencer tier. Again, go back to the research and what is a good fit.
  7. Set deadlines.

    In your initial email, be clear on the dates of your campaign (when the campaign is taking place, when you need content completed by, etc.) and ask for a response by a certain date. This reply by date is very important, as it sets up a clear expectation that if they get back to you after this deadline, you may not be able to accommodate them for this specific campaign.

  8. Be prepared to say no.

    Some influencers may request more from you than you are able to give. Some may even ask for the moon in a pretty little box with a bow. While you may roll your eyes as you sit at your computer, make sure you decline graciously. You are growing the brand and may cross paths again!

  9. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

    Communication is key to planning a successful collaboration. From your first email, all the way through your final follow-up, it’s important to keep your updates clear, consistent, and personal. Don't let all that enthusiasm go to waste and fizzle away by sending generic emails and updates. If you are ONLY sending general and generic updates then you are not building a relationship. Ask questions. Engage people. Build the relationship. Keep their interest and use that enthusiasm to be contagious.

    If your marketing plans change and your strategy changes it is always best to communicate with people you have already reached out to. People (bloggers especially) plan content calendars and are people after all. We are humans behind these pages. People are excited and get others excited about your product, especially after you have contacted them directly to build that excitement. When you have a strategy change that changes a collaboration, communicate that to keep the relationship intact.
  10. Bring your campaign to life.

    Contracts are highly recommended to ensure mutual responsibility.

    Have a plan (and share it with your influencers) for how/when you’re going to amplify your influencers’ content on your social channels.

    Keep the energy and enthusiasm going all through the campaign. Treat your influencers like the VIPs they are - regardless of whether your supporter is large or small, or has a targeted or diverse audience, remember they are your customers first. Treat your influencers, customers and other supporters with respect and consideration for any time, money or effort they’ve shared with you.

    Think about every step all the way up to your packaging. The Reveal can be one of the most important parts of building a relationship with a customer (and influencer), and taking time to add a personal hand written note, extra gift or just a word of thanks can make a big impact in your favor. 
  11. Follow up

    Make sure your selected influencers are set to post their content and that the agreement is met.
  12. Wrap It Up & Track Your Metrics.

    (Is your social engagement up? Are you seeing an increase in conversation about your brand? In website visits? In sales? Track everything to know what is and isn’t working.) Numbers matter but look at more than numbers to see if there is actual influence. Are they engaging? Are people responding? Do they respond to their community and comments?

Last but not least, remember to thank the people who participated! Again, this goes back to building relationships and maintaining brand message and keeping it personal.

And remember, Influencers are not one-and-done, but should be viewed as part of your brand’s family. Who knows? You may want to reach out for another campaign in the future so build on this relationship!

brand blog.jpg

Here’s the biggest takeaway of all: Any marketing effort is to BUILD customer base. Are you creating Relationships that are long term and will grow with you and convert sales? Are you keeping your brand message and relationships in EVERY interaction? Are you missing opportunities to build and create your team of support? If you take the time to write a note how much MORE value will it add?!

As a blogger, I work with lots of brands. Small brands, big brands. You name it.  I am contacted by brands often and I also reach out to brands to collaborate for my own small handmade business as well as this blog. It is so important that the brands I work with and share with you guys are brands I can truly believe in. Not just the product but the company. Getting "free stuff" is far less important than what I can BRING TO YOU GUYS and the value I can ADD TO MY COMMUNITY. Sometimes I don't even get "free stuff" but the brand is so awesome I want to share about it.

Effective Influencer Marketing for your brand is more than just randomly contacting people with a following or with a blog. It is about connecting your brand and brand message with the influencer and their community in an authentic way. It is about contacting and connecting with the right people and growing those relationships. And it can work for you!



The Name Game - The Mechanics of Rebranding

I recently had the opportunity to share the story about changing my small business name to 144 Stitches here and on my friend Nicole's Blog. Since then, I have gotten a few requests to talk about the mechanics of changing your business name.  So here we go.

So you are all excited, you have researched and brainstormed and picked your new business and gotten your new logo. Woohoo!!!  So much excitement. And now so much work to do to implement the change before you can tell the world about it! And I know you want to start using your awesome new logo right away. But don't ... wait. There is work to be done. Oh the mechanics!

And get it because it is hard enough to go through a re-branding without the mechanics. But there are lots of little steps along the way to prep and help you plan for a smooth transition so that you can focus on the brand itself. Here are some tips below and you can print this checklist.

Let's start with the nitty gritty. The business side.

Make sure to contact your local Secretary of State to get your business license updated with your new name. If you have an EIN, you will want to contact the IRS too. This is all very easy and can be done with a phone call or filling out an online form. You don't want to have any issues with payment processing so make sure to have a conversation with your bank that you are changing names and update your details on PayPal, SquareUp or any other processing service you use. Make sure to get your new email address and forward your old one. Also add the update to your signature for outgoing email.

About a week or two before you go live, do an email blast to your vendors and customers with the exciting news. This is ESSENTIAL! Vendors will need to update their billing and contact records so that you have a bit of a seamless transition but helps them as well. Customers will need to know. You can even tie it in to a bit of a re-launch promotion if you are so inclined. Make it fun! But just make sure to let your peeps know!


WEBSITE & Web presence side.

Now, do not laugh, but I suggest doing all of the web “switching” mechanics late at night. I did mine at like 2:00am one night. This is for a few reasons:

1.    Late at night it is quiet and I can focus and get it done without as much possibility of being distracted and making a mistake.
2.    Late at night it is unlikely that I would “lose” my name in the few seconds of the transfer
3.    Then I get to make a big woo hoo announcement in the morning.


Purchase your new domain immediately once you decide on your new name and redirect it to your current site.  Do not cancel your old domain, as you will need to redirect traffic to your new domain to capture any lingering hyperlinks as well as handle any traffic from people who may go to your old name as habit. I suggest to budget and plan to keep your old domain for at least one year or two if you can. Some keep them forever.

When you are ready for your 2am website switch, it is a few steps depending on who hosts your site. Check their FAQ page for the best way to update the domain then "forward" your old domain to your new one. This will allow all previous backlinks to remain active. If you are changing your name on Etsy, they will keep the backlins for you and will also not allow anyone to take the old name. But I would still suggest making a note in your shop announcements.

Check anywhere on your site that you may need to update your business name such as an FAQ or policies page. Maybe in some item details you refer to the brand itself and that needs to be updated. The logo and art will need an update as well. Do a full look through every page of your site to be sure nothing was missed.

Next Up: Web Presences and social media.

Register your social media handles with your new name as soon as you decide what the name will be. Do not “set up” the accounts. Just open them to get your name and then make them “locked” private accounts until you are ready to go live. Do not follow anyone or post or accept followers. You are JUST grabbing your name.

Then when you are ready, the day before you go live, have a late night switch sesh.

Ok the mechanics of the social media switch are a bit intricate, again why I did this at 2 am. Here is a step by step I did for Instagram and you can apply this to other channels as well.

1.    Log in to the account for the NEW NAME and change the “name” to NEWNAME1

2.    Log out of that account.

3.    Log in to the OLD name account (current account) and change the “name” to your NEW business name

4.    Log out of that account.

5.    Log back into the place holder account that you called NEWNAME1 and change the “name” to your OLD business name

6.    Add a note in the profile directing followers who go here to your NEW page

And last but not least: When do you do all these things?

As with most things in life, timing is key. I will use my own business as an example here. I sell mostly cozy gear. Wintry wool items and delights. So while I decided in December to change my name, it was the worst time to do so. First of all because I was at the height of my busy season. But second of all, and perhaps more important, because people were shopping for my items. Why make it hard or confusing for them to find me?

No. In this case, I put a pin in the project. Once busy season ended I started the behind the scenes process as mentioned about. Paperwork and filings and such. Filed trademark on the new logo. All the little details. Then, over the summer I implemented the change. Don't forget sites like Google and Bing and other search engine take time to cache your data. So for me, summer was a good lead time to the next busy season.

I made the change and then when I announced my fall collection it was a bit of a new re-launch. Very exciting and added a buzz to my next season. It was an added element that in fact made for a nice boost.

So think about your customers. Think about your market. And decide how much time you need to get ready. Take the above steps immediately (securing your domain, starting the paperwork, securing new social media handles) but perhaps wait for the right time for implementing them.

While rebranding can be an overwhelming and daunting event, the mechanics of it all do not have to overwhelm you. I hope these tips and checklist help the you through the process.

5 Reasons Your Handmade Business Needs a Website

I think that the topic of whether or not to get your own website comes up a lot in our small business & artisan community. I cannot stress enough how important it is to begin your online branding & presence. But don't just take my word for it. Below, guest blogger Toni of the awesome TL Yarn Crafts shares her perspective:

Close your eyes and imagine this: Your handmade business is moving right along. You’re making sales, packing orders, life is sweet. Then you get a call about the opportunity of a lifetime – a boutique across the county wants to carry your product or a major craft show wants to know more about you. So, where will you send them?

Sales platforms like Etsy and Amazon Handmade are great for making sales and developing customer loyalty to your product. But as we all know, businesses and brands evolve over time, and your needs may extend well past just making the sale. That’s where your stand-alone website comes in. Here are 5 reasons why YOU need your very own site: 

Reason #1 – Define Your Brand. Websites are a blank canvas waiting to tell the world who you are. If you have a clear brand strategy (colors, fonts, logos, images, etc.), going to your website should be like opening the door to your storefront for a customer. Determining the look and feel of your website will be the first step to helping visitors fall in love with you and your product.

Reason #2 – Engage and Direct Your Visitors. Let’s say you put a link to your Etsy site on Instagram. The implied call-to-action is to have them buy something, right? But what if you want them to do something else, like subscribe to your email list or RSVP to an event? Having your own website lets you drop breadcrumbs for your visitors to lead them where you want them to go. You have the power to create buttons and graphics on your site that make your media easily accessible to your customer.

Reason #3 – Make A Good Impression. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re interested in getting more than just retail customers through your virtual doors, right? Building a clean, beautiful website that is easy to navigate is immensely important if you want to attract store owners, sponsors, and the media. It says a lot about you, namely that you have it together and are ready for potential business relationships. Remember that boutique across the country that I mentioned before? A great website versus an Etsy page might be the difference between “absolutely” and “no, thank you”.

Reason #4 – Give Yourself Room To Grow. Since I started by business 3 years ago, I’ve introduced new projects to the TL Yarn Crafts lineup. In addition to finished pieces, I now have a blog, I teach on and offline, I do craft shows, and I sell kits and patterns. It would be pretty tricky to communicate all of that from my Etsy page. Adding new pages and plugins to my website helped keep my message clear while still accommodating my growth. And that is not to say your have to grow beyond just selling your physical product. But a little breathing room doesn’t hurt. You never know what tomorrow brings.

Reason #5 – Keep the Focus on YOU! As an online shopper, the “Other products you might like” section is super helpful. But as a seller, it makes me cringe. Why go through the effort of guiding a customer to your sales page only to have that very same sales page take them somewhere else?? *queue the face-palm* The main reason to have your own website is to keep the focus on YOU and whatever message you decide to deliver. Carve out your corner of the internet and plant your flag!

Once you’ve committed to launching your own website, it’s time to do a bit of research on what resource is the best fit for you. Pattern by Etsy is great for Etsy sellers whose main concentration is sales. Shopify, Big Cartel, and Wix give you a bit more wiggle room, adding in features that feel like a traditional website. But if you want to go big or go home, Wordpress is the way to go. Whatever you choose, a stand-alone website can be a game changer for your handmade business.

About Toni:

Toni Lipsey is the Owner and Designer behind TL Yarn Crafts, an Ohio based fiber arts studio for the modern cool girl. Find her collection of crochet accessories, patterns and maker gifts online, and follow her tomfooleries on Instagram.


Going Deep: Tech Talk In A Crochet World

People who know me best often wonder how I never spent my entire career in tech. It's a deep passion of mine. I love all things tech from conception to gadgets and finding out how things work and that is what led me to becoming a Production Manager. I actually started in the trenches on the mechanics of things. So of course as the tech revolution has grown it has become a great hobby to follow along and the growth of social media is fascinating to me as I launch my handmade business. When the app Meerkat launched I was super stoked. Not just because I was elated and ready for the next level of streaming products & apps, but because what I do is so visual, I have been searching for new ways to interact with customers and other designers using social media. Because let's face it, we live in a visual instant kind of world now. Things move fast. We want to connect and be interactive and need to stand out in the noise.

Of course I jumped on the Meerkat train early. I was already a fan and watching the app when they headed down to SXSW where they basically became THE topic and THE sensation. (Every year there is a new rave "IT" product - but this year I was on board for it). This made me very happy - because well, first of all I was right about this one (patting self on back now) but also because I see potential for brands and people like me as live streaming comes to the forefront.

I immediately started planning and strategizing on how to incorporate Meerkat into my social media plan for customer contact, interaction and growth. And, that was the initial topic for this post: How to Stand Out

But as in life, unexpected twists happen. And a twist was about to happen here.

So  I will do a full on apps / tools / social media post later. Right now I want to talk about something magical that happened courtesy of Meerkat and because I am not yet even sure if Meerkat CAN be a tool for my biz as it is still too early.

Last week, I was alerted to a Meerkat sesh with Mark Suster and Chamillionaire. Now, of course I followed Mark on the twitter because… well… um yeah, no explanation needed, but I was excited to hear / stream / see this chat with Chamillionaire or (Cham). If you don't know who he is, bust out the google and let your mind be blown.

Throughout this session they were talking about Cham being an EIR (Entrepreneur In Residence) over at Upfront Ventures and the various tools and process of selecting companies to invest in, etc. It was a really good look at the kind of discussions and things that go on behind closed doors and in the bullpens at VC firms and tech start-ups. I learned a LOT. And as I was about to bring my StartUp to the next level, the timing kind of felt serendipitous.

Then they took questions - and the first one was from me (true story).

I asked: Cham: "what drew you to go deep into tech?". The answer was so inspirational that it has been feeding me for the whole week.

I have to paraphrase because I was unprepared to be so blown away and didn't get quotes. Cham talked about how coming up as a rapper he knew he had to do more than "just rap". He made it a point to learn the ins and outs of producing the tracks and creating a sound and using new equipment. He went behind the scenes of what it takes on a marketing level, product and brand level, all the things you think "other people do once you're discovered"… Cham went deep and learned how to do it himself.

So when he wanted to start investing and getting into tech companies, starts up and work with VC firms he started from scratch again. He went to where the tech people were and started meeting them and talking to them and learning from them. He talked about how he began to feed that area of knowledge. The more he learned, the more he wanted to learn.

That answer struck a cord with me. It's at the core of being successful isn't it?


If we want to really succeed and be the best version of ourselves and whatever we are doing, then we must go deeper and not just take what's on the surface. All those tools Cham learned, they were part of it but what he really learned was to NEVER STOP LEARNING! Never stop going to the next level by starting at the level below.

Deep thought right? It's true.

It's what I did when I first started in concert lighting. I had to start at the bottom and take apart lights and learn operating systems. I had to constantly learn what was coming up, how to improve things and how to fix things and how to solve problems.

Then, when I switched to television production years ago, I had to get educated and go deep again. Gear was constantly changing and my crews were always on the hunt for the best look and best tools available. I had to learn the best and the worst. Lots of trial and error. But ALWAYS LEARNING.

So it makes perfect sense now, as I launch this new venture and build my crochet dreams, (and yes, you knew this would somehow land back to me hooking right?), that it is time to get my hands dirty and go deep once again.

I am so inspired by what Cham said. I have re-committed to going next level on this new business venture. My brain has literally been ON FIRE since that sesh.

it's a tweet
it's a tweet

I busted out the white boards, got my groove on and got to work! I booked a few conferences to attend to learn more than just  the design which is my passion, but on the fashion and textiles and branding end. Learn and negotiate platforms to best drive this ship to smooth sailing and success. All the things I was going to "hire" someone to do… oh no grasshopper. Do NOT hire anyone. Time for me to dig in, find a few more hours in the day and learn the ins and outs of the fashion world. I may be scared but I am not afraid!

And it lit that spark inside me that started it all. So there is another new project in the works that I am excited about and will share when I can. The point is that my passion for tech was reignited by Meerkat and that led me to being fired up for my crochet adventure. I am excited for the world in front of us and how we can all be part of making it awesome.

So while I may have started out excited about seeing how I can integrate Meerkat into what I am building and as a branding tool to reach & interact with customers, it has already proved to be a tool to feed my soul and mind. It is also reviving that love for tech in me like in the early days.

You can't beat that!

and thank you Cham & Mark for feeding my soul and setting my brain ON FIRE!

Also…. side note on what is also awesome about Meerkat is the random fun that it brings to your day. Like while I was working in my studio on how to put these plans and dreams into action, the most epic thing happened: I got a Meerkat Alert that Quest was streaming. So boom, I hit the link and while I am working there are the Roots rehearsing for Carnegie Hall with special behind the scenes stuff. QUEST WAS IN MY FACE!!! It was so epic I had to take a pic.

And check out Meerkat - see if it works for you.
And don't be afraid to go deep and be awesome in whatever you're doing.

Quest Love IN MY FACE
Quest Love IN MY FACE