What is Sustainable Marketing?

What Is Sustainable Marketing? | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

On the front page of my website you’ll see this sentence: “Welcome to sustainable marketing for creative businesses”. I try to live a sustainable lifestyle, and that includes how I work with my marketing and copywriting clients.

In this article I’ll explain to you exactly how I came to the concept of ‘sustainable marketing’ to help you think about whether the way in which you run your business’ marketing is sustainable.

What Is Sustainable Marketing? | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses



I’ve often heard or see people berate marketing for all that’s bad about our current consumer culture. Marketing is seen as the devil’s work; the thing which makes us all go crazy on Black Friday, perpetuates terrible messages about women and their bodies, and constantly lies.

Marketing feels like it’s ‘tricking’ us into buying. At it’s worst, it makes us angry because it’s rubbish. At it’s best, it makes us buy something – but for many people, buying things is the worst.

Even at its most creative and intelligent, marketing is about selling something – a bottle of pop, a car, a dream – and that can feel at odds with living a sustainable, reduced-consumerism lifestyle. Added to that is the incessant churn of contemporary marketing, where shiny, ‘viral’ ideas are prioritised over meaningful information, and swathes of digital content clog up our online spaces while our doormats continue to flood with junk mail.

Marketing is a necessary evil – but it’s still evil.

So how, exactly, can this ugly business process be done in a sustainable way?


a quick aside

There’s a difference between sustainability marketing and sustainable marketing. Sustainability marketing is when the sustainable aspect of your business, product or service is used as a marketing message. For example, the promotion of H&M’s Conscious collection is a sustainability marketing campaign; it’s a sustainable (ish) product, and it’s being marketed.

Sustainable marketing is where your marketing processes are in themselves sustainable.

The next step is to work out what being ‘sustainable’ means.


what does sustainability mean?

One of the most challenging things about ‘sustainability’ is it can mean very different things to different people. Here are a few ways it’s been understood before in relation to business.

Our Common Future

In 1987, a document called Our Common Future – also known as the Brundtland Report – was published by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. This document outlined three areas of sustainable development which should be considered when understanding how to support developing nations:

  • Economic
  • Social
  • Environmental

These three areas are commonly used as a way for organisations to put into place holistic sustainability programmes through corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, they might donate money to charity, encourage each employee to do a day’s volunteering, and make sure the business recycles as much waste as possible.

The Brundtland Report is also well-known for this definition of sustainable development:

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Encyclopaedia of Global Environmental Change

In 2001, the Encyclopaedia of Global Environmental Change was published. This included a new area of sustainability: human sustainability.

Human sustainability refers to:

“the private good of individuals, rather than between individuals or societies. The health, education, skills, knowledge, leadership and access to services constitute human capital.”

This element of sustainability is less frequently used, but for me it’s one of the most important.

The ‘triple bottom line’

You might often hear businesses about sustainability for the ‘triple bottom line’. Previously, the ‘bottom line’ would’ve meant profits for a company. The ‘triple bottom line’ refers to sustainable profits, community and planet – or the economic, social and environmental areas outlined in the Brundtland Report.



Looking at these explanations of sustainability, it might feel like marketing is only really satisfying economic sustainability. It’s designed to help businesses sell more things and therefore increase profits.

However, there’s a type of marketing – known as societal marketing – in which “marketers must endeavour to satisfy the needs and wants of their target markets in ways that preserve and enhance the well-being of consumers and society as a whole”.

This seems like a step in the right direction; marketing which encourages economic sustainability while also taking society and individuals into consideration.


The problem with definitions

When I became conscious of my journey in sustainability, I researched ideas like this. I wanted to understand how the way I worked could fit into this – how the marketing I did for my clients could be completely sustainable.

What I found was that these definitions sometimes seemed to be at odds with the pursuit of a sustainable world.

Businesses believe profits have to be made and, for lots of businesses, they have to grow. Yet constant growth is not sustainable or realistic (think of the housing market or the dot com bubble).

Consumers’ needs and desires may not be in accordance with their wellbeing. My desire is to eat pancakes for every meal, but I’m pretty sure that won’t do my wellbeing any good. Similarly, fulfilling their needs and desires might damage society’s wellbeing, rather than preserving or enhancing it.

We can’t predict the future. We can’t know what the needs of future generations might be, not really. We can barely distinguish between what’s necessary and what’s desirable right now, let alone in a future which is utterly unpredictable.

We have four areas of sustainability: economic, social, environmental and human. Which one gets top priority? However much we might try to spin four plates at once, we have to choose one to start with, and one to keep coming back to. Which one will it be?



With all this in mind – the ‘evils’ of marketing, the diversity of what sustainability is, the challenges the definitions present – I came up with my understanding of sustainable marketing. It is a work in progress (just like life) and as I use it with my clients and teach it to my students it will take a clearer form. For now, here are its key components.

Sustainable marketing satisfies the four areas of sustainable development.

The marketing practices I conduct must satisfy each area of sustainable development:

  • Human – through knowledge and skills
  • Social – through connection and empathy
  • Environmental – through minimal impact on the planet
  • Economic – through business maintenance

This includes prioritising sustainable methods of delivering marketing (for example, choosing recycled paper or low-energy event ideas) to limit negative impact.

Sustainable marketing challenges the idea of constant economic growth.

While the marketing practices I conduct do encourage people to buy products from my clients, they don’t do so at the cost of the other three areas of sustainable development. Through my work and client relationships I challenge the idea of constant economic growth, instead focusing on economic maintenance.

Sustainable marketing acknowledges its role and responsibility in shaping the future of a business, a customer and the four areas of sustainable development.

My marketing practices and their potential impact are carefully considered before they’re put into use. I acknowledge the responsibility I – and my practices – have in shaping my clients and their customers, and act accordingly.

Sustainable marketing challenges preconceptions of wants and needs.

The marketing practices and strategic approach I take challenges preconceptions about consumers’ and society’s wants, needs and wellbeing. It avoids relying on received wisdom and seeks to see the consumer and society as a complex whole (rather than a set of demographic data).

Sustainable marketing can be applied to unsustainable and sustainable products.

These sustainable marketing practices can be used for any product or service, no matter its inherent sustainability credentials, as long as the client wants to work in a sustainable way. Saying that…

Sustainable marketing strategically identifies the most sustainable route for a business to take and helps them achieve it.

Through the marketing practices I suggest, my clients are encouraged to take a sustainable approach to their customer and operations. This includes developing products or services which better satisfy the four areas of sustainable development, with the support of other experts.



For many people, marketing is a necessary evil which contributes to our obsessively consumerist culture. It seems to work entirely for economic benefit, despite specific types of marketing – like societal marketing – attempting to benefit individuals and society.

When thinking about doing marketing in a sustainable way, historic definitions can result in conflict between business operations, individual needs, societal wellbeing and the unpredictable needs of future consumers.

Yet I think there are ways we can create sustainable marketing. As my own practices develop, I’ll be able to give you more and more specific examples. But for now, sustainable marketing at its core is about fulfilling the four areas of sustainable development, challenging preconceptions and acknowledging its responsibilities.

Take a look at the way in which you run your own (or your clients’) marketing. Try applying the key components I’ve outlined above and see whether it makes your job easier, more enjoyable and more successful.



How to Network as a Creative Business Owner: Eight Simple Steps

Learn the Eight Steps for Successful Networking as a Creative Business | Eleanor Snare

One of the bits of advice my friend Nick gave me when I was first starting out – along with, you know, making sure to actually take my own advice – was to experiment with some different ways of connecting with potential customers.

I am a writer who loves the internet. I love emails, and Twitter, and I’m even starting to love Facebook for meeting new potential customers.

I am a sociable person … but wow, do I struggle with networking.

Even the most confident, outgoing, driven person can find networking in real life a bit difficult. It can feel like a really unnatural thing to do, and unfortunately a lot of networking events end up being stilted, awkward and corporate.

Corporate – and a waking nightmare. Like the one where you realise you’ve forgotten your trousers and you’re about to go on stage.

“Ok, so everyone introduce themselves one by one and add in an interesting fact about yourself!”

As soon as someone asks me to give an interesting fact about myself, I become the most boring person on the planet. Networking events like this would make anyone seize up – especially a creative business owner who’s used to being, well, a bit more creative.

But if you find the right group to network with, you can:

  • Make good connections that could lead to future sales
  • Promote your business in an authentic and meaningful way
  • Embed yourself in the local community so you’re likely to be remembered


The big barriers to networking

So networking can bring you some excellent results for your creative business – if you do it right. There are a few big barriers to successful networking which it’s important to overcome to make sure you maximise your time (and energy) while you’re there.

First, social situations can be stressful. Some people find social situations more stressful than others. But generally, social situations with new people can trigger stress responses of varying degrees; your heart beats faster, you get sweaty palms and your adrenaline surges – or you might just feel a bit nervous.

Second, finding the right sort of networking can be difficult. There are thousands of networking events out there, some of which will be completely wrong for you and your business. Sifting through all the options to select one or two potential ‘good’ events is a time and energy drain.

Finally, knowing what to say when you actually get to the event is equally as stressful as the event itself. How do you balance professionalism with personality? Do you pitch, or just pretend you’re there to make friends? How do you explain what you do simply and engagingly?

Learn the Eight Steps for Successful Networking as a Creative Business | Eleanor Snare


Eight steps to successful networking

Networking really can be beneficial to your business – and you can overcome those big barriers to make sure you make the most it. Here are the eight steps I use for successful networking, and they’re easy to follow.


1. Hunt out diverse events

Don’t just go along to one networking event, hate it and vow never to do it again. You need to find and attend a mix of diverse events to really understand what sort of networking works for you. The more types of event you go to, the more you’ll understand what’s relevant and worthwhile for your creative business.

I’ve been to a mixture of paid and non-paid events, community run and business run, workshop style and informal, and even ones where there’s not ‘proper’ networking like attending a business fair. I’ve got a handle now on which ones I like, which will help me seek out relevant and meaningful ones in the future.

Don’t forget the power of being the only ‘creative’ business at an event full of ‘corporate’ businesses, especially if you offer any services. Many ‘corporate’ businesses are interested in creative activities as part of their engagement and wellbeing programmes for employees, so you could form some good contacts.


2. Use business cards

Confession time: for the first year of my business I didn’t have business cards. No need for them (or so I thought) especially with most of my business being conducted via email or the phone.

Except they are very handy to have when you meet new people; not necessarily because of the information they contain but because handing someone a card is a good way to break the ice after you’ve first started chatting. So for networking events, they’re essential.

Your business card should reflect your business, be appropriately branded, and have they key information a new contact needs to know: your name, business and contact.

I think business cards should be as simple as possible, because simplicity equates to assurance and confidence, which ultimately looks more impressive. There’s no need to bung your phone, email, website, fax and social media details on there plus images and busy branding, because it doesn’t look confident.

There’s an excellent section on business cards in Paul Arden’s book ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be‘ if you want to read more about choosing an impressive and useful business card.


3. Arrive composed

So you’ve prepared for the event – now to get there. Feeling flustered, running late, carrying loads of bags or sweating profusely are all ways of arriving to a networking event decidedly un-composed. Arrive composed and you’ll feel more confident, make a better first impression, and you won’t feel more stressed than necessary.

If you do end up dragging along lots of bags or running late, take a few minutes to compose yourself in the bathroom before going into the event; a late, confident arrival is better than an on-time, frantic one.

Another good tip I was given (at a networking event) is to arrive slightly early so you can start conversations before everyone has already formed groups. It’ll also give you a chance to get to the refreshments without saying “Excuse me” over and over again.


4. Have a simple answer

A big barrier once you’re at the networking event is to know what to talk about. The question you are guaranteed to be asked is “And what do you do?”.

For creative business owners, it can often be complicated to simply and clearly explain what you do, especially if there are many strings to your bow. But having a simple answer to that question helps start conversations, makes you feel confident, and quickly shows people what you’re about.

Having an effective and meaningful brand will help you answer that question very easily, because that’s what a brand is for: it says ‘I do this, for these people, in this way, and I make them feel this’ in a streamlined and effortless way.

Take some time before you start attending networking events to work out a simple answer to the question “What do you do?”. In your answer, try and include:

  • Your customer group
  • A verb that shows what you do e.g. ‘I make’ or ‘I talk’
  • A succinct description of your core products or services

This simple answer is a bit like the 30-second pitch, except about a third as long. So my answer to the question “What do you do?” is: “I help creative businesses find a sustainable path to success”. Clear, simple, and plenty in there for someone else to pick up on and continue the conversation.


5. Be clear on your aims

While some people might disagree when I said I wasn’t very chatty (ahem), most would agree that I’m direct and straight-talking. I like other people who are direct too, which means I find the lack of transparency in networking frustrating.

For me, successful networking means being transparent about why you’re there, and not being ashamed of it. So after an introduction, I’ll often say “I’m here to try and get some new clients” because (a) that’s the truth and (b) actually saying it out loud means you don’t have to sneak around it later on.

Know why you’re at the networking event and state those aims clearly. It might be to gain clients, or connect with local business, or just to meet people. Whatever it is, you’d be amazed at how well people respond to complete transparency.


6. Use compliments

So you’re at the networking event, a couple of people have approached you for a chat and now it’s time for you to introduce yourself to some potential new customers. Your stress levels are probably sky high and you’re thinking “How do you even start a conversation out of the blue?”.

The simple solution is a compliment.

Approaching someone you haven’t met before with a compliment is good because:

  • It breaks the ice immediately
  • It gives you something to say which doesn’t sound too ‘corporate’
  • It makes the recipient feel good

There’s a fine line between compliments and being creepy, so avoid anything like “I COULD GET LOST IN YOUR EYES” and stick to “I really like your outfit/bag/shoes/watch”.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving these sorts of compliments, that’s fine; it’s something to use if you need to, but it’s not essential.


7. Give more than you get

Just like Twitter and other social media channels, some businesses can end up using networking events as a way to broadcast their message, without really thinking about what their audience want to hear.

A way to network successfully while you’re at the event is to listen carefully to other people, ask questions and generally give more than you get. People generally feel flattered when you ask them to talk about themselves, and if you can give help – such as linking them up with your connections – then that’s even better.

Anyone you talk to at the networking event will remember how enthusiastic, interested and helpful you were, which aids you in laying the foundations for future work together.


8. Make sure to follow up

Now you’ve attended and successfully navigated the networking event, make sure to follow up with the people you met. If you’ve been collecting business cards, send them a quick email saying it was nice to meet them, or alternatively send them a message on social media.

Choosing when to follow up for maximum success is a tricky one. I feel the next day is a good option, because it’s soon enough to jog their memory, but not too soon as to be meaningless (e.g. “I just spoke to her, why is she emailing me?”).

In your email, remember step 7 – give more than you get. Make sure to say if you’re available to help them out, or send them over those useful links you were discussing.


Successful networking is possible.

Too many creative business owners are put off networking because they see it as ‘corporate’ – or they feel stressed in that social situation, can’t find the right group to network with, or don’t know what to say when they get there.

I use eight steps to make sure the networking I do is as successful as possible, which any creative business owner can follow.

Preparation is key to successful networking, so hunt out diverse events, use business cards, and arrive composed. When you’re there, be clear, concise and authentic: have a simple answer to the question “What do you do?” and be clear on your aims for the event. Use compliments to break the ice and give more than you get to ensure you give a good impression. Finally, follow up after the event with your new, potential customers.

See you by the coffee – and don’t forget to give me your card.

Four Simple Tips for Feeling Confident When You’re Using Twitter For Your Creative Business

Stand Out on Twitter as a Creative Business | Eleanor Snare

I don’t consider myself a particularly chatty person (others may disagree), but there’s something about 140 characters I can’t resist.

Since 2009, when I first joined Twitter, I’ve sent over 22,000 tweets. Here’s my first ever tweet, which made sense at the time but now seems slightly cryptic:

I love Twitter because it’s fast-paced, fun, conversational and sometimes a little bit silly. You can legitimately use gifs to talk about your business. You can take part in hashtag games or business ‘hours’.

And you can connect with your potential customers in creative, engaging and meaningful ways.


“It just doesn’t work”

Recently, in an entrepreneurs’ Facebook group, I saw someone proclaim that Twitter “just didn’t work” for a particular type of small businesses. While I agree it’s not right for everyone, assuming it won’t work for your business before you’ve tried it isn’t a good idea.

Twitter currently has 310 million monthly active users. They’re still some way behind Facebook (who have 1.7 billion monthly active users) but that doesn’t make it any less useful for creative businesses looking to engage with customers and promote their business.

For example, 80% of Twitter users have mentioned a business in a tweet they’ve sent. If your Twitter handle is included in that mention (as long as it’s positive) your business is going to be reaching many, many more people than by your own efforts alone.

And over half of Twitter users have done something after seeing a business mentioned in a tweet – like visiting their website or retweeting something. So that’s even more people seeing your message and doing something which could lead to buying from you.

The key to making the most of Twitter as a creative business is to use it effectively and stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips.

Stand Out on Twitter as a Creative Business | Eleanor Snare


Cultivate your unique voice

Sometimes Twitter can feel like sitting in a pub where you’re trying to listen to everyone’s conversation at once to work out which one is the most interesting.

By cultivating a unique voice for your business, you can attract people – just like if someone in the pub had a unique voice that drew people’s attention.

Many creative businesses don’t think twice about their voice on Twitter, but it is the thing which will make people want to follow you.

A unique voice might be:

…or something completely different. As a creative business owner, you might find that the best and most unique voice is your own with a little more emphasis; a bit like the difference between smiling in real life and smiling for a photograph.


Be professional

Having a unique voice is essential and many people find their own voice is perfect for attracting and engaging followers on Twitter. However, if you’re running your Twitter account as a business, you must make sure to keep things professional.

If Coca Cola started grumbling about noisy neighbours, or if M&S used their account to complain to their internet provider, their followers would be shocked. They’d think they were unprofessional and ‘airing their dirty laundry’. Yet small business owners do it all the time.

Professionalism doesn’t mean hiding what you think or feel – it means choosing how you express those things carefully. I often use Twitter to voice my political views, which I try to do as considerately as possible – and I know my political views directly contribute to how I work and teach.

They key is to recognise you are representing your business in front of potential customers, not just you, and act accordingly.


Give more than you take

One of the reasons I love Twitter is because it’s conversational – not simply a ‘broadcast’ channel. The businesses that do well are those who realise that and take the time to talk to their customers.

Sometimes, and especially when pressed for time, creative and small businesses end up just talking at customers on Twitter rather than talking to them.

So giving more than you take on Twitter is essential. Share useful tips, retweet helpful articles, provide free advice, and generally engage in conversation where you’re in it for them, not to make a sale.

People will remember your help and kindness and are more likely to turn to you in the future when they need your services or products.


Actively seek your customers

There are many ways to find and engage with potential customers on Twitter. You could:

However, the best way to use all of these techniques is to think like your customer, not like your business. What do they need? What are they worried about? What problem do they need solving?

Many small or creative businesses become blinkered and only see things through their own eyes, knowledge or expressions – many of which probably aren’t the same for your customers.

Here’s a recent example: our fridge-freezer broke. I didn’t know what was wrong with it, because I’m not a fridge-freezer expert. So I didn’t Google “broken compressor” (which is what the eventual problem turned out to be). Instead I searched for “warm fridge cold freezer” because that was my immediate problem.

Use your knowledge of your customer to search for relevant phrases. Use your knowledge of your customer to join the right business hours (which might not be the ones in your local area). Use your knowledge of your customer to use relevant hashtags that they’ll be interested in.

Actively seek them out by thinking about them first.


Twitter’s not dead yet.

Twitter can be an effective way of finding and connecting with customers in a meaningful way, especially as it allows creative business owners to express their creativity easily and quickly.

But many small businesses use it as a broadcast tool, which means they miss out on the best bits. By cultivating your unique voice, remaining professional, giving more than you take and actively seeking your customers, you can feel confident using Twitter for your creative business.


The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses: Curtisward

In this blog series, I profile creative businesses who’ve impressed me with their marketing, promotion and creative presence. I showcase their best bits and talk about what they could do to improve, giving you best practice case studies to help you improve your business.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses - Curtisward - Eleanor Snare

Despite there being plenty of other shinier marketing tools available online (ooh, Instagram Stories!), a website is still a key part of any creative business’ presence. It’s your home turf, where you can describe your brand and your offer to customers in the way you want.

Curtisward, an independent art supplies retailer, impressed me recently with their website – it’s easy to use, easy to navigate and enjoyable to visit. Here’s why it wowed me so much and what you can learn.

Easy to find

It’s important to remember here that I never, ever click on Google Ads that appear in search results. Never.

Apart from this time.

Although not strictly about their website, I wanted to note how I found Curtisward as it includes some useful lessons for other creative businesses. I was searching for a specific product – Tombow brush pens – and naturally turned to Google.

You can see the results here:

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Google Results

I visited The Pen Company first, because they had three different adverts which suggested a good range of products. Their website was difficult to use and I soon gave up.

I came back and clicked on the Curtisward advert. Why them? Why not scroll? Why not the Amazon link which I know would be cheaper?

Here’s why:

  • When I visited their website, it was easy to use (so I stayed)
  • Their advert imaged showed multiple colours and plenty of pens, suggesting they had lots in stock
  • Their advert image was the only one that showed the pen up close
  • Their advert description had the most detail (I know it’s a pen – they told me it was ‘dual brush’)
  • I was specifically looking for an independent creative business to buy from

(Yes, these really are all the things customers think about in those few seconds when they click on an advert. Trust me.).

What you can learn
  • Don’t be afraid of using Google Ads: there’s a customer out there who will only turn to Amazon if they can’t find you – help them find you!
  • Use product images which show the product clearly and in the most relevant way
  • Use product images to show range if it’s possible
  • Use an advert description which gives specific product detail

Easy to navigate

This sort of thing isn’t very sexy but it’s a critical factor when a customer is deciding whether or not to buy from you. Clear, meaningful website navigation makes it easy for your customer to:

  • Find what they’re looking for
  • Encourages them to explore (and hopefully buy) more
  • Reduces time between exploration and purchase

Curtisward made navigating their website easy through a clear drop down menu – but most importantly, the way they had structured their website and the labels they gave different sections made it easy (and fun) to navigate.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

As an art supplier, Curtisward probably stock thousands of individual items. I was looking for a specific sort of brush pen; if they’d simply had a huge category called ‘pens’ I would’ve been turned off from scrolling through hundreds of different products.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

Instead, they labelled their sections by what the customer wanted to do. Want to clean something? Click ‘cleaning’. Want to make some marks? Click ‘mark making’. This is an impressive structure because it focuses on what the customer wants to DO, not the product Curtisward wants to SELL. That’s good marketing: “You want to do something, and we can help you do it”.

Within each section there’s clear products, then product types, then brands or ranges. This might seem very complicated  (and it might look like that on a site map) but for a customer it’s perfect because it funnels them down a path straight away.

What you can learn
  • Consider what your customer needs to know when they land on your website
  • Make sections about what they can DO, not simply what you sell
  • Lead customers down a clear purchasing path


I searched for, clicked on and bought from Curtisward all on my mobile – and their site was really easy to use on mobile.

This shouldn’t be a thing. Huge numbers of us spend many many hours a day using the internet on a mobile device, for social networking, email, browsing and watching video.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised Full Size
The full size website

Yet there are still many businesses – and unfortunately, small creative businesses tend to be in there – who don’t have a website which is mobile-friendly. This makes it harder for your customer to navigate and use your website when on their mobile, and harder for them to buy from you.

Curtisward has a responsive website, which means that whatever size screen you’re using, it adjusts to look the best for that screen size.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 1
Smaller screen, still looking good

That meant I could find what I wanted, and explore, and therefore buy more, all on my mobile device. What might have been a £1.85 sale for one product turned into a £15+ sale through ease of use.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 2
Mobile phone screen size, and still easy to use
What you can learn
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and ideally mobile-optimised
  • Most modern website builders e.g. WordPress or SquareSpace will do this automatically
  • Test the friendliness of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Engaging content

Alongside their product pages, Curtisward have a lovely blog and information page packed full of different ideas and posts. While this engaging content wasn’t a key factor in making me buy from them, it does make me think favourably of them; it shows they want to give more to their customer, and that they really do know their stuff.

They have a good range of articles, from quotations by famous painters to art ‘inspired by…’ and showcase different products, like their travel brush sets. They also occasionally profile customers’ work, which is another nice touch.

I do think they could improve some of this content by making it a bit easier to read (with a larger font size) and perhaps a more contemporary layout. Their articles are also scattered over two sections, so there’s no one, definitive knowledge base they can point customers to.

However, the quality of the ideas and the regular posting mean they’ll always have something to share in other marketing channels, demonstrating their expertise and helpfulness to customers.

What you can learn
  • Think about what expertise you can share with customers on your own website to help engage and interest them
  • Make sure it’s easy to read and pleasant to look at; customers are used to beautiful blogs
  • Re-purpose this content for other marketing channels to demonstrate your knowledge and helpfulness


And now for some exciting news…


How to Make Your Website Read Well, Look Good and Convince Customers - A Free Workshop for Creative Business Owners

If you’ve been reading this article thinking “My website doesn’t do any of these things – eep!”, then this exciting news is especially for you.

I’m running a free, face-to-face workshop for creative business owners on how to make your website read well, look good and convince customers. Because websites are one of the basics of marketing – and yet creative businesses very rarely use them to their full advantage.

There are only 10 places on this workshop to make sure everyone makes the most of the time and activities (of which there will be many, alongside refreshments and fun – of course). You’ll get advice on best practice alongside expert and peer-to-peer feedback specifically for your business; not just generic advice but ideas for you and what you need to do to make your website brilliant.

Interested? Read more and sign up here.

This workshop is in-person, so if you can’t make it (because, say, you live in Madagascar and the bus fare would be ridiculous) then that’s ok too – I’ll be turning elements of the session into an online workshop which you can do from anywhere in the world, including on the beach. Damn you. You can read more about that and sign up to hear about the launch date right here.

Learn more and sign up for the free workshop here.



Learn How To Make Your Creative Business Stand Out From the Crowd with this Step-by-Step Guide to Competitor Analysis

Competitor Analysis for Creative Businesses - a step by step guide from Eleanor Snare

One of the fundamentals I teach our fashion marketing is students is competitor analysis, because to be a successful business you’ve got to know who you’re up against. Creative business owners don’t always take the time to work out who their competitors are, especially if they’ve started organically or are still developing their business alongside a day job.

Knowing and analysing your competitors gives you a really good understanding of where you are in the business eco-system. Are you high or low priced? Are you in a certain clique, or aesthetic, or making style? Are you totally, radically different, or subtly unique? And knowing the answers to these questions will help make your creative business stand out from the crowd.

By doing a competitor analysis, you’ll be able to:

  • See who you’re competing with for customers
  • Understand what other businesses are doing well (or not so well)
  • Come up with ways for your business to stand out


But I don’t have any competitors!

You might think that if you run a very niche, very specialist, or very small business there’s no point doing a competitor analysis – after all, how many competitors can you really have?

The answer is more than you think.

Although no one might be selling exactly the same hand-carved wooden yoga sandals as you, there will still be creative people carving wooden ornaments, making beautiful sandals and tapping into the ever-so-bendy yoga market.

Even for independent creative businesses whose service work depends on other businesses – like self-employed marketing consultants and copywriters, ahem – competitor analysis is important. I know there’s quite a few copywriters and marketing consultants in my area.

I know their specialisms, USPs, prices and client base. I know where I sit in the market and what my USP is.

I found all that out through a competitor analysis – not because I had some spare time, but because I wanted to make sure I was running by business in a credible, sustainable way, at the right price, and with a USP that had a true U. Doing it has helped me focus my marketing and my services, and kept my business on the right track.


A Guide to Competitor Analysis for Creative Businesses - Eleanor Snare


How to analyse your competitors

A competitor analysis really is very useful, and lots of creative business owners don’t do them. But if you do one, you’ll be able to make your business better by working out exactly how to stand out.

This guide is going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to do a competitor analysis that you can tailor to your unique creative business. This is something you can revisit in the future when new folk arrive on the scene, or when your business evolves.

You don’t need anything fancy for it, although doing it on the computer makes it easier to keep track of all your information.

It covers:

  • Working out who your competitors are
  • Desk research about your competitors
  • First-hand research
  • Understanding strengths and weaknesses
  • Highlighting danger areas
  • Lessons you can learn from your competitors
  • What makes you different (and how to use this to help you)


Step 1.

Work out who your competitors are


As I mentioned, it can be easy if you have a creative business that’s particularly niche, or you work independently, to think you don’t really have any competitors. But it’s very likely that you do.

Working out who your competitors are gives you a starting point for your competitor analysis. Your competitors might be ‘direct’ competition – they have the same business as you – or ‘indirect’ – they have a business which overlaps yours but isn’t quite the same.

For example, other freelance copywriters are my direct competition, while freelance community managers are my indirect competition; we don’t do the same thing but it does overlap.

You can start by thinking up a list of all the types of creative business that might be direct or indirect competitors. If you’re a fashion photographer, that might include non-fashion photographers, bloggers, creative directors, stylists – anyone who does something a bit like you.

You can make that list more comprehensive by considering these factors:

  • Geography: who in your local area could be a competitor? What about national competitors? Or international?
  • Product: who sells similar products or services to you? Who sells specialist products like yours? What about people who sell general products, but include ones like yours?
  • Aesthetic: whose business looks and feels like yours? Who has a similar aesthetic? Whose business could yours be confused with?

For example, a fashion photographer might find there’s no people doing fashion photography in her local area, but there are several photography studios which could be indirect competitors.

Step 2.

Do some desk research


Desk research means looking at the information that’s already out there and putting together your findings (normally sitting at a desk, of course). In your competitor analysis, it means researching your list of potential competitors online or in print and recording what you find out.

It’s time to be a detective.

I’ve found the easiest way to do this is with a spreadsheet which lists your competitors and different elements of their business. But if you want to work visually, or on paper, then choose the right tools that work for you.

There will be a ton of information that you can record about your competitors, but here’s the essential list to find out and record:

  • Basic details: name, business name, contact, website, social media links, email, where they operate
  • Business type: a short description of what their business is
  • Products and services: short descriptions of the type of products and services they sell (if you’re working on a spreadsheet it can be handy to give each type a different line)
  • Prices: individual prices for their product types or services
  • Aesthetic: description (plus pictures if you can) of their visual style and branding
  • Marketing: a description of what you can see they’re doing to market their business (like writing blog posts, sending newsletters, etc.)
  • USP: what you perceive their USP to be, or ideally what they say their USP is (if you can find out)

Don’t expect this to be a quick process. People have a habit of hiding the most important information in places you can’t find it, or being very vague about what their business actually does. But recording the information like this allows you to see, at a glance, what your competitors are doing – and later in your competitor analysis, it’ll help you work out how you fit in to this creative business eco-system.


Step 3.

Do some first-hand research


It’s always useful to support your secondary research with first-hand research – the stuff where you actually go out and find out new information. This isn’t always possible but it’s really, really useful if you can do it because you get first-hand experience of the business.

You can try visiting your competitors, checking out prices, seeing what their customer service is like, and generally being a ‘secret shopper’. It sounds sneaky but it’s exactly what big brands do when checking out their competitors (or what they do when testing the quality of their own staff).


Step 4.

Strengths and weaknesses


Once you’ve got all this information together, it’s time for some analysis of everything you’ve seen. Starting with strengths and weaknesses of your competitors is useful because it’ll help you quickly identify any common themes and any areas you need to think about for your creative business.

Here are some questions to help you analyse your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.


  • Is your competitor well-established? Are they well-known in their field?
  • Do they appear to be popular on social media? Have you seen them in print or featured on websites?
  • Are they busy? Were there lots of customers or phone calls when you were in the shop? Is their calendar booked up?
  • Is their website easy to understand and use? Do they appear in search results for words related to their business?
  • Do they have a strong list of clients or retailers?
  • Do you think they look, feel and act professionally?


  • Is it clear what they and their business offer? Can you understand their USP?
  • Are they actively marketing themselves? Do you think it’s working effectively?
  • Was their customer service acceptable? Are customers satisfied with their products or services?
  • Was it difficult to get hold of them? Do you feel they look, feel and act professionally?

You might not feel like you can answer all these questions – how are you meant to know if they’re busy all the time, or their marketing is working? – but actually, you can. Because you are an expert in your field and therefore you can make a professional, educated judgement about what these competitors are doing.

The more of them you look at the more knowledgeable you become about what’s right for your industry and your business.


Step 5.

Danger areas


The whole point of a competitor analysis is to understand where you sit in the business eco-system (not just to make a handy list of who you should be keeping an eye on). So using what you’ve collected so far, and especially your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can highlight some danger areas.

Danger areas are elements of your competitors which could be dangerous to your business. For example:

  • A competitor offering cheaper services could undercut you
  • A competitor whose brand is similar to your own could confuse customers
  • A competitor stocking the same products could make you seem less unique

Not every competitor will present your business with a danger. But documenting as many of these danger areas as possible will help you in making sure your business stands up to the competition.


Step 6.

Lessons you can learn from your competitors


If you’re thinking, “I have so many competitors! There are so many danger areas! Eep!”, fear not. This is the part where you learn from your competitors to make your creative business even better.

Every competitor, no matter how small or indirect, will have something they can teach you.

Work through each competitor one by one, look at their strengths, weaknesses and danger areas, and see how they can help you improve your business.

Strengths is a great one to start with. Is there a competitor who is really doing well with local press? What’s her method? How does she get involved? What about one whose online presence is excellent? Learn from that.

Weaknesses next. Which of your competitors makes it hard to find out what their services are? Is there one who seems to be over (or under) priced? Think about why this could be and learn from it.

Danger areas can help you learn lessons from the future. If there’s a competitor stocking similar products to you, what could you learn to help you choose unique suppliers in the future? Or if their brand is so similar to yours it could be confusing, what could you do now to make sure yours is the one customers remember?

Keep these in mind when you’re moving your business onto the next step, as it’ll help you make the right choices so you fit effectively into this creative business eco-system.


Step 7.

What makes you different


Now you know your competitors inside-out, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and have learnt from what they’ve done, it’s time to re-affirm exactly what makes you different.

Having something which makes you different from your competitors is the way a creative business eco-system thrives. It’s means you’re developing a creative business which fits into a niche.

It’s the same reason why 8.7 million species survive on the planet, or why 18,000 beetle species were found in 2.5 acres of rainforest in Panama. They all find a niche.

That doesn’t mean all those beetles aren’t competing; it means they’re not all competing for exactly the same thing. You and your creative competitors will be competing for customers, but not for exactly the same customer. Explaining what makes you different means you can seek out that customer more readily.

It also means you have a snappy comeback to suppliers, clients or other customers who say “But so-and-so is cheaper/better/greener/whatever-er”.

“Yes they are”, you can say, “but here’s exactly why you should go with me instead.”

For example, I know there are freelance marketing consultants and copywriters out there who are much cheaper than me (and some who are way more expensive). But my cost is based on my experience and skills – which are really quite good.

So I can say:

“Yes, so-and-so is cheaper than me…but they haven’t worked with international brands or given one-to-one workshops or [you get the picture]”.

Compare yourself, honestly, to the competitors on your list. Ask yourself what makes you different. Are you:

  • More experienced?
  • Better priced?
  • Friendlier or more professional?
  • Easier to work with?

Write it all down and be ready to use it as your snappy comeback, and as a reminder about exactly why you’re worth buying from.

You’ve done it.


Congratulations – you’ve completed a competitor analysis for your creative business. If you’ve followed each step closely, you’ll have a great database of who your competitors are, what they’re doing well (and not), and the ways in which you can make sure you stay one step ahead.

Everything here can help you decide what to do next with your business, from developing new services to making sure your branding is the one customers remember.


How to Make the Most of Your Retail Space as a Creative Business

In this article I wrote about how I didn’t want to shop at a retailer where the product’s value wasn’t being communicated through proper visual merchandising or service.

This time, I want to use those thoughts to help small, independent retailers fulfil the potential of their shop space.

The shop floor is just as much a marketing channel as your website or lookbook, and there are always ways to make your retail space more effective, interesting and meaningful for customers.

(If you don’t have a retail space, you can still use this article to help you fulfil the potential of your ecommerce site or market stall).

Here’s how to make the most of your retail space in a way that’ll achieve your business aims and please your customers.

How to Make the Most of Your Retail Space - Eleanor Snare


First, stop asking yourself “What do I want to sell?”. Selling stuff is a strategy to help you achieve a bigger business goal (like steady income).

To really fulfil the potential of your physical retail space, you need to ask yourself these four questions instead:

  1. “What do I want to achieve with this space?”
  2. “What is the customer journey in this space?”
  3. “What does my customer need from this space?”
  4. “What does my customer want from this space?”



Your retail space is the physical expression of you, your business and your brand. It’s not just a place to sell stuff. So thinking about what you’re trying to achieve with it is essential to fulfilling its potential.

Your main aim for the space will tie directly to your business objectives and will probably be commercial. For example:

  • My aim is to encourage repeat purchases
  • My aim is to sell high-ticket items
  • My aim is to have every person who walks through the door buy something

But you might also have some aims not related to sales but definitely linked to the perception of value you want your brand to have. For example:

  • My aim is to make the space feel relaxing and welcoming
  • My aim is to exude coolness and ironic trendiness
  • My aim is to express the creativity of my brand

Select the most important of these aims. These are what will shape your store.


How to Make the Most of Your Retail Space


You can split up your store space (or ecommerce site, or market stall) into smaller sections which could have different aims.

This is what big retailers do, and it’s why:

  • Shop window displays always have the most exciting items (and tiny printed prices)
  • Low-ticket items are placed near the till
  • Grocery essentials are put round the edge of the supermarket, not the centre

These smaller spaces are all trying to achieve different aims which reflect different stages of the customer journey.



The customer journey has lots of different variations but the basic premise is the same: customers go from not knowing anything about you, to knowing about you, learning more and eventually buying from you.

The number of customers gradually decreases the closer you get to purchasing – that’s why the customer funnel makes sense (more go in the top and only a couple come out the bottom).

I use this version:

Customer Journey Portrait

Here’s a flavour of how the customer journey works with a physical store:

  • “Oh! You’ve got a shop.” (Awareness)
  • “And you sell those tiny boxes I like.” (Education)
  • “They’re pretty too.” (Consideration)
  • “At that price, they would be an absolute steal.” (Desire)
  • “Do you take card?” (Intention)
  • “I’m so glad I popped in!” (Conversion)

This is a very simplified version, but you can see how it works.

The journey ends with your business aim (the ‘conversion’ point) and the whole journey is geared towards achieving that aim. Here, it’s what you want to achieve for your physical space.



In a retail store, different areas are designed to respond to different parts of the customer journey as the customer travels around the shop. The idea is to get them to move on to the next stage in the journey.

Here are some examples:

  • Awareness – window display and outdoor advertising
  • Education – main in-store display area with range of products
  • Consideration – specific product area with range of sizes
  • Desire – display card mentioning product USP
  • Intention – clearly displayed Visa and Mastercard logos at the till
  • Conversion – till point itself

This is how the most successful businesses think of their shop: not as a space to flog stuff, but as a way to achieve their business objectives by enticing customers onto the next stage of the journey.


Thinking about your store in this way will do two things:

  1. It will help you achieve your aim for the space
  2. It’ll give customers what they want

Designing your store around your aim and the customer journey gives customers what they want because you have to know the customer to get the customer journey right.

(Read more about knowing your customer here).


How to Make the Most of Your Retail Space



The customer journey links directly to the third question: what does my customer need from this space?

First, use the customer journey to work out what a potential customer would need to experience in your shop’s physical space to make it to the next stage of the journey. These aren’t nice-to-haves; these are essentials.

For example, if you don’t have clear signage outside your shop or on your stall, customers won’t be aware you exist. If you don’t have displays which contain a range of your products, they won’t be educated about what you sell.

Take it step-by-step through the journey and you’ll be able to work out the things they need. You’ll also understand the barriers which you might’ve put up which will stop them from moving to the next stage of the journey.



The reason I mention barriers is because lots of independent and small retailers are good at (1) – they know their customer or potential customer and what they need. But they’re not always that good at seeing and removing barriers to that customer journey.

For example, I’ve been in independent retailers with multiple stockists where it’s hard to tell different makers apart due to poor signage or poor layout – which is a barrier to consideration.

On craft stalls, the products might be beautifully displayed and labelled, but if the owner is ignoring passers-by it creates a barrier to desire.

And one of the most common barriers to intention is not having a card machine.

Your shop space should make it as easy as possible for customers to progress through the customer journey quickly and simply. Think about what they need and try to remove barriers wherever possible.



After you have your aim for the space, you understand the customer journey, have given them what they need and removed barriers, you can start to consider what customers want from the space.

You’ll have an aim for your retail space that’s sales focused. But you’ll also have an aim which is more focused on how the value of your brands and products are communicated. This is where to start with what your customers want from the space.

Although it’s your aim for your brand and how it’s valued, always start with your customer and how they want to feel. So if you want your store (and your brand) to be seen as relaxed and welcoming, ask yourself what your customer would want to feel relaxed and welcome – not what you want.


How to Make the Most of Your Retail Space


I think this is one of the hardest things for independent and small retailers. If you’re an entrepreneur with a strong vision and personality, it’s hard to suppress that and think of your customer first – especially if you have loads of creative and innovative ideas.

But your shop is not about you. It is about making it easy for your customer to help you achieve a business aim. Without them, your brand will not survive.



Each business’ customer will be different, and a clear customer profile will help you work out what their desires and fears are. How they shop and spend money are important elements to consider.

A recent example we discussed with my students were concept stores, which look incredible and can communicate the value of the brand very effectively.

But they only work if your customer wants that. If you have a product display with only one of everything, some customers will be too fearful to buy anything. Others will love the idea of being completely unique. You need to know your customer first.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Does my customer want luxury, or everyday?
  • Do they want aspirational qualities, or accessible qualities?
  • Does she want innovation, or tradition?
  • Does he want uniqueness, or belonging?



Your answers to all these questions will help you design tactics to create a space which will achieve your aims. By now you should have:

An aim for your space which is commercial.

An aim for your space which is focused on communicating your brand.

An understanding of the customer journey in your retail space.

An understanding of what your customer needs from the retail space.

How to remove any potential barriers to the customer journey.

An understanding of what your customer wants from the space.


By putting all these answers together, you have a set of criteria. Using these criteria, you can start to develop visual, personal and physical tactics which fulfil all these elements and make the most of your retail space.

You can find some inspiring ideas to get you started in this article on Clever Retail Ideas for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know on Twitter or share your comment below.

Thanks for reading.