When you’re running a personal venture that’s heavily reliant on e-commerce, and you’re a small potato like me operating said venture out of your home in your pajamas, with a full face of makeup and nice shirt on only when you’re making a video, choosing which promotional tactics to work on can be hard and–for my fellow professional tarot readers–a very Seven of Cups sort of inquiry. You can’t do it all, because it’s just you. So how do you channel your marketing energies in the most productive way? I can’t answer that question for you, but I’ll share with you my experiences on what worked and what didn’t.
This post will address sponsored ads on Facebook, advertising via your own social media platforms and social media in general, blogging or vlogging content, newsletters or direct mailings, local bulletin boards, and giving away free stuff.
This seems to be a popular go-to tactic for spirituality-based entrepreneurs. Maybe it’s just my Facebook feed, but I get a litter of sponsored Facebook ads from mind, body, spirit entrepreneurs. That got me wondering: does it work? It must work, if so many are doing it. Of course then I had to try it for myself.
To test it out, I put together adverts for an online tarot course I’ve been peddling as of late, a mind, body, spirit-ish service I do, and one to get a free PDF download of something that’s already been on this site for quite some time, repackaged a bit to make it seem new and shiny.
First, let’s talk about the online course. After the course launched, I sent out my first wave of marketing through direct social media connections, i.e., my newsletter, on my Twitter and Instagram accounts, here on my blog, my Facebook page, so basically just my own social media accounts. Among the avid readers who really resonate with my work, those who wanted to get the course had already gotten the course. That first big wave of orders was done.
That’s when I decided to launch my sponsored Facebook ad. I tried to think like a sole proprietor with a newly launched online-centered business, so I only put down $20 (that’s right, twenty buckaroos) for Facebook ads that would run over the course of 2 weeks. Then, I figured to myself, if that had yielded great results, then I might step up my dollar amount.
I can only speak to one single individual’s experience and not just any individual, but someone who is a complete n00b when it comes to marketing tactics. As such an individual, I didn’t see any positive, measurable improvement in sales. The trickle of orders during the weeks my Facebook ad ran was the same trickle it had been for weeks after that first wave of orders.
A sponsored Facebook ad for a service I offered, targeted at geographic locals only, also didn’t work out too well. It didn’t really bring in the kind of sales or attention that would make such an ad worth my while. The sponsored Facebook ad for the free PDF download brought in the most clicks, and overwhelmingly so, but again, I didn’t feel like it was something that, for me, translated qualitatively into money.
On the flip side, I also clicked into a whole bunch of sponsored ads on my Facebook feed and signed up for whatever they were peddling, almost always the promise of a life-changing free seminar or incredible free e-book that will teach me how to become a richer, prettier, more popular version of myself.
And this is something I acknowledge with heavy heart, not really wanting to be a Debbie downer, but 100% of the stuff I received was junk that ultimately made me think less of the proprietor behind that stuff. I now feel like such a vile human being for thinking that, too. But the conclusion I walked away with was that, in fact, a sponsored ad on Facebook could be more detrimental to your branding and platform than helpful.
In conclusion, for myself, buying ads on Facebook is a complete waste of money that would be so much wiser spent elsewhere for marketing and promotion purposes and those who are spending the money buying ads on Facebook are peddling a hot load of junk. So, I believe paying for Facebook ads has a detrimental effect–it will make consumers like me automatically think less of your business.
I still encourage everyone with the disposable income to give Facebook ads a try for yourself and perhaps you’ll be more strategic and savvy than I was about how I formulated by sponsored ad. Maybe it’ll work for you, so don’t take my word for it and miss out on a possible opportunity. For me, this tactic was a big fat resounding “hell no.”
Advertising on My Own Social Media Posts
About two months after that first wave of incoming orders for the online tarot course I was peddling, I decided to produce a YouTube video that was wholly personal and wasn’t a direct sell of anything I offer. You can check out the video here. The video itself was part of a greater online community’s challenge, or a list of questions that all participants would answer by vlog. I participated and then, at the way end of my video, inserted a 15-second clip promoting that online tarot course. The advert I’m talking about starts at about 7:27 at the very end of the video.
Within the same 24 hours of posting, sales for the online tarot course surged and quadrupled that regular trickle that was coming in after the first wave. It became a second wave of sorts.
Several of the notes included with the orders even commented directly on my YouTube video and said they had never heard of me before, but saw that video, checked out my website, and immediately ordered the course. So there’s direct testimony that the YouTube video promo worked.
Based on my rough calculation, about 5% of the total views on that video go on to order that exact course I advertise. I’m confident with that calculation, because when the view count was at around 1,000 views, yes, it raked in about 50 orders for that exact advertised course. At around 4,000 views, yes, it raked in about 200. There are many extenuating factors I’m not accounting for that can throw off the calculation, but even if those numbers I’ve given are totally wrong, the point is, as a marketing and promotional tactic, it works. And it works really effing well.
I also find that every time I post something on Twitter or Instagram reminding people of the courses or divinatory reading services I offer, I experience a minor surge in sales for about 72 hours after the posting. If you subscribe to this blog, then maybe you noticed on occasion my blog post will casually reference and then link you to one of the online courses I offer. Guess what. Within 72 hours of that blog post going live, sales in that specific course referenced in the post will bump up.
In other words, it’s legit– social media really works for marketing and publicity. There is no better way to promote your platform than through social media. The numbers prove that assertion. Or at least my numbers prove it. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not actively engaged on social media, then you are limiting your own financial opportunities.
Regular, Active Blogging
Not sure if anyone noticed, but I went radio silent for about a whole month here on my blog not too long ago. Post-reflection, that month also experienced a significant decline in reading requests and book sales. Isn’t that funny?
Another funny note: In addition to sales, incoming reader mail to my e-mail inbox seems directly proportional to my blogging activity. When I’m active regularly on my blog and on my social media, I also get a regular influx of reader e-mails, or “fanmail.” When I go radio silent, I see a decline in reader e-mail. Can I prove causation? No. But it’s still interesting to note the correlation.
There is no better way for you to promote your goods or services than regular, active blogging (or vlogging). If you’re trying to make it as an e-commerce reliant entrepreneur, then you really do need to blog or vlog regular content. It’s the best way to gain exposure. Every once in a while, you (often by fluke) post something provocative and it gets shared all over the place. Boom. The next few weeks you get a tidal wave of both notoriety and sales.
If anyone bothers to ask me for my advice on promotional tactics when you’re trying to run an online mind, body, and spirit venture, I’d insist on this one point if you don’t accept anything else: If you don’t plan on sharing regular, routine content by blog or by vlog, then I dare say don’t even bother investing more effort and resources into your online platform, because it’s not going to be worth your while monetarily. If you really want to see financial results, you have to engage in regular, active blogging or vlogging, a podcast, or something. There’s no way around that. Heck, a cleverly curated Instagram feed will be a generator of sales. Dispute it all you want with debate. My story is told through numbers and hard evidence.
Active Social Media Engagement
Design artistic, eye-catching banners promoting your services on social media. Don’t create an “umbrella banner” attempting to cover all of your services. Instead, go through the trouble and effort of designing a different banner for each one of your services, and roll them out one by one, staggered over the course of several months.
Temperance is key here. Don’t overwhelm followers with promotional ads. One, you’ll lose your followers quicker than you can hit “Like” and second, the law of diminishing returns totally applies here.
If you’re not careful about balance, your ads will work against you rather than for you. Over-advertising yourself makes you look smarmy, and you’ll lose a lot of good people. And yet if you don’t advertise yourself at all on some fear that it’ll look like you’re selling out, then you won’t sell at all.
There has to be a balance. Finding that perfect sweet spot balance is the challenge.
Newsletters; Direct Mailings
The sad reality is they work wonders and result in an immediate surge of your sales. I say “sad” because it does run the risk of coming across as smarmy. Let’s say I send out a direct mailing to 500 individuals to promote ABC. Within 24 hours, consistently, every single time I’ve done this and I’ve done this several times, I either come close to selling out if it was a product or I overwhelm myself with reading or service requests that I seriously contemplate taking a couple days off from day job work just to stay on schedule of the requests.
The percentage of sales earned from direct mailings and newsletters is about 30% to 40%, somewhere in that ballpark. That means if you sent out the promotion to a listing of 500 individuals, the bare minimum result that is almost guaranteed is 150 sales; crank up that number to 1,000 individuals and yes, it really is about 300 calculated sales within such close timing proximity to the sending of the direct mailing that it’s hard not to conclude causation.
Here’s the problem, at least 1 or 2 individuals will email me and say, clearly annoyed, take me off this mailing list, which I always do, and afterward I also feel like smarmy ass shit because I totally empathize with their side. I get it. You don’t want proprietors to be invading your personal space and you consider your email inbox to be personal space. I really do get it.
The reason it’s called “selling out” is because you literally sell out of whatever product or service you’re peddling. In other words, all the marketing gurus are right. Newsletters and direct mailings work. And yet there is no denying that this particular form of promotion pisses the hell out of people.
Local Bulletin Boards
I designed myself a fun little 8.5″ x 11″ flyer introducing my divinatory services, printed out a thick stack of them, and then went around town asking shop owners if I could have permission to post a flyer. First, I’ll remark how you don’t even really need to be an intuitive to know exactly which shop owners will say yes and which will say no. I found that the storefront style, overall vibe and colors of the storefront was a reliable detector of who would say yes and who would say no. Basically, fun, lively, almost hipster-y venues with great customer service and awesome ambiance were the places that always gave a yes.
What were my findings? Posting adverts on local bulletin boards works, but permit me a moment of elitism. There’s a risk here of getting some riff raff. This promotional tactic for me resulted in, “Will my husband find out I am cheating on him or can I continue cheating on him?” to “I know my apartment is haunted by ghosts. Can you come over to my apartment to read tarot and communicate with the spirits?” I posted flyers about feng shui consultations and got inquiries from locals on whether or not I might be able to come over and perform an exorcism. Um… what? Did I inadvertently advertise exorcisms on my feng shui flyer? I… don’t recall so?…
Quite quickly I decided I was better off not getting such business than continuing the advertising tactic to drum up added income. Does targeting the local community for prospective clientele work? Yes, absolutely. It absolutely works. Is it worth your while? That’s a call you’ll have to make for yourself. For me, the answer is no. The target audience it reaches is way too wide, and I can’t control it, so I end up getting a lot of inquiring prospective clientele that wouldn’t be a good fit with me.
Okay, some wishy-washy floppy illogical meandering positions on this front. I would recommend putting out lots of free downloadable quality content and yet at the same time confess to you that it won’t do jack for your sales. The law of karma does not work out in the specific manner of giving out free stuff equals more sales of your products or services. You might be reserving your spot in heaven or a nice and lovely rebirth but you’re not earning yourself any extra cash with your free stuff.
Posting free stuff on Monday does not mean by Wednesday of that same week you’ll get more business. In fact, on the micro-level, my business conclusion is that offering free stuff has zero impact on sales.
However, from the long-term vantage point, free stuff establishes goodwill and polishes your overall branding positively. For the long haul, free stuff is beneficial. It makes people think warm and fuzzy thoughts about you. That does not mean that tomorrow they will buy stuff from you, but at least they’re thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about you and enjoying that free stuff you’ve given them. The hope is maybe, just maybe, one future day when they need something akin to the services you offer, they’ll think of you. But candidly here, in terms of what I can quantify and measure, I just did not find any optimistic correlations whatsoever.
All that said, the conclusion I reach isn’t logical. That’s because even though giving out free stuff does not bring in direct, measurable profitable gains to your pocketbook, I would still recommend that you take the time to create and provide free stuff.
So why do marketing gurus always talk about free stuff and garnering sales? One, it’s still goodwill, and as I said, in the long-term game of business, goodwill brings you sustainability and does raise your platform, which does inevitably translate into profit. Two, the offer of free stuff is awesome, effective clickbait. That’s also why so many of those sponsored ads on Facebook are offers of free downloads, free workshops, free life-changing seminars, aka free stuff. Then if you actually went through the trouble of seeing what the free offer is all about, it is nothing more than a really hard sales pitch for you to buy something that is uber expensive.
So free stuff isn’t what brings in sales; clickbait is what brings in sales. If you just put out free stuff but your free stuff does not contain any hard sales pitches, that free stuff doesn’t translate into sales. The free stuff needs to contain a hard sales pitch for it to translate into sales. Unfortunately, the slope down into smarmy land is really slippery and hard sales pitches paired with free stuff might just negate the true spiritual feel-good karma of offering free stuff or even make you look like you aren’t a proprietor with good intentions. So do offer free stuff, but don’t necessarily do it just for promotional reasons, because it won’t work out that way.
So that was just a quick (maybe not so quick) blog post update on what I’ve learned so far about online promotional tactics. Off you go to figure out what can work for you. Good luck.