Sarah Cohen's current wardrobe favourite is a hot pink shoulder-padded blazer—a piece that perfectly encapsulates her personality: strong, sharp, but full of warmth. Her approach to marketing can be described in the same way.
Sarah Cohen is the founder of personal stylist brand management firm, The Styling Advisory, and describes herself as a "conduit between personal stylists (who want to reach more clients) and the complicated world of marketing."
Prior to establishing The Styling Advisory, Sarah spent twenty years refining the art of marketing across retail and media. When she noticed the untapped potential of the styling community, she made no hesitation in seizing the opportunity.
We speak to Sarah Cohen about emotional roadblocks, the value of community and her deep-rooted appreciation for the work of personal stylists.
If you're a personal stylist looking to refine your personal brand and produce consistently creative content for your social channels, then it’s time to make some notes…
As written by Sarah Cohen.
Marketing has no off-switch
Subconsciously, our nervous system is always scanning for signs of belonging. In our everyday life, people are making assumptions about us using every physical, verbal and non-verbal cue we present to the world. We can’t help it.
Every post, every word choice, every facial expression, and every interaction tells people who you are. People then make the decision as to whether they feel a sense of ‘belonging’ and connection or not.
That, in essence, is marketing.
Something about stylists
In marketing, we're always striving to increase loyalty, basket size, lifetime value and brand trust. A personal stylist is able to smash average basket sizes, introduce customers to new brands and get them spending more often—yet most marketers don’t actively engage with stylists as part of their marketing strategy.
I saw the untapped potential a personal stylist offers to brands and their marketing managers.
The personable, trusting relationship between stylist and customer was a fascinatingly unrefined retail marketing solution—I wanted to be a part of this growing segment.
Now, with the increasing popularity of live shopping in China, the role of a trusted stylist is going to become even more prevalent to retail marketers.
Start with a cuppa
I schedule a 'tea and chat' with all prospective clients—forming a connection, or not, is the only objective of that call.
I have studied and trained in marketing for 20 years, but so have countless other marketers. We are all familiar with the myriad strategies, tactics, funnels, trends and best practice methods to grow a business. We all know the same information.
The only thing that separates us is the way we connect with potential clients, and how we make them feel.
My way of doing so: break up the formality with a cup of tea, and just sit back and listen.
There are some important qualifying questions which should be woven in organically—like a genuine conversation, rather than an interview. One of the most important questions is about the roadblocks that prevent the client from doing what they already know they need to do.
If you can understand what’s really stopping them, you can provide the ultimate solution—99% of the time it is an emotional roadblock, and that’s only revealed through listening.
Find what's missing
If a stylist is experiencing low engagement, what’s normally missing is:
- A content strategy aligned to the buyer cycle. Where are you directing your audience with this content? How are you moving them through the sales cycle towards your owned platforms? How do you know the content is what your ideal client wants to see? Have you spent time developing a clearly unique brand identity and brand ‘clues’ that resonate with your audience?
- The sales component. Whether your call to action for this content is to join an email list, engage in a competition, or check out a sale or service most stylist content is too light on the ‘selling elements’ because they feel uncomfortable. This results in your audience digesting the content like they would a magazine instead of being compelled into action.
To trend or not to trend
Consistency and compelling messaging in your marketing strategy are more important than following the latest trends.
Every successful entrepreneur I know started with one thing and nailed it, before expanding their mix. Every stylist I’ve interviewed on my podcast has their own version of marketing that works for them because they chose one or two things that worked, refined them, and grew from there.
The only thing I’d encourage stylists to keep up with is the consistency of content creation for their audience, rather than diversifying their efforts early on.
The power of community
It. Is. Everything.
It’s where the magic happens. It’s where you convert. It’s where your warm leads live. It’s where the best conversations happen. It’s where you learn what services, messages and activities landed and where they’re failing. It should be every business owner's #1 goal.
Every successful stylist I’ve worked with has built a community, rather than focusing solely on top of funnel activity.
No such thing as competition
When you understand a little about the nervous system and how we are wired to subconsciously assess our surroundings for signs of belonging, you start to realise that there is no such thing as competition. There is only you, and the way you make people feel on a subconscious level.
With that in mind, the best thing you can do is be completely yourself. It helps to be completely clear on who that is and how you’ll communicate it online to help others make an immediate connection with you (or not).
As we move towards a more authentic online space, where people respond to the less-filtered, raw content of TikTok over the hyper-stylised content of IG influencers, this should free stylists from the fear of comparison and encourage them to simply be themselves.
Be clever about content
I started the Styling Advisory Podcast at the start of 2021.
I began podcasting because I wanted a platform that allowed me to share my passion and expertise in marketing, within a context that my audience cared about. Also, I love to chat—anything audio/video is a safe pocket for me to play in.
I soon realised the value of a dedicated team. If you're thinking of creating a podcast, find a team of people that can help you maximise the efforts you’ve gone to in making the episode: audio editors, designers, video editors etc.
Podcasting taught me the efficiency of following an inverted pyramid content strategy—creating one big piece of value-driven content that can be broken down and expanded on for the month. With the initial source content, you can create audiograms, YouTube shorts, reels, blog posts, pins and quotes. The aim is to squeeze out all the juice of that one content piece BUT make sure each piece has a clearly defined value—so you’re not just saying "listen to me chat" over and over again.
Honesty is the only policy
On my podcast, I want to work with people who are not afraid to tell the truth.
Marketing is relentless. Owning a business is exhausting. Choosing a career fuelled by passion instead of fiscal returns is risky.
I don’t want any polished, #girlboss crap! My listeners want to know that we are all on the brink of a nervous breakdown at times—that’s just what it looks like to own your business.
Who is Sarah?
My wardrobe is bold, bright, and theatrical. Denim, blazers, ‘90s earrings and massive statement necklaces are my ‘casual’. I don’t own any athleisure, and I never will.
I love a sharp shoulder and have actually bought shoulder pads to make everyday tops and knits look stronger. I am a strong, loud, loving empath who swears too much—I think my personal style sums that up.
But honestly, my personal brand is quite unstructured. I don’t ever spend time specifically cultivating it—I am with my audience who I am at home: a nut who loves marketing, shopping, ghosts and chai lattes.