July 30, 2010
The most valuable business information comes from experience. While many lack experience of working for themselves, our poll results can definitely serve as a mentoring tool. Here are a couple more points made in our recent poll:
Three tangible, three intangibles required. Tangibles – sufficient funding for first 24-36 mos of operation, realistic business plan, and best possible marketing strategy.
Intangibles – trustworthy colleagues, perseverance, and flexibility (be open
to adapting, improvising, and overcoming).
Yes, have a minimum of two-years, preferably three to five years of
savings, cash or a line of credit to sustain your business plan. ALWAYS,
not sometimes, but always maximize your retirement plans as part of your
monthly expenses as well as re-invest at least 10% of your gross income back
into your business to stay current with technology, new equipment, marketing, education, staff, training, professionals such as tax consultants and financial planners.
We can’t predict which advice you will and won’t find of value, but hopefully some of you take useful information from this sound advice. Many thanks as well to those that participated in the survey and provided this valuable information for us. We are deeply indebted to you.
July 28, 2010
As mentioned in a previous post, a recent survey we commissioned yielded some very interesting information from current home business owners. One of the questions asked: “Do you have any tips/suggestions for those considering entrepreneurship?” Here are some results:
1) Make sure you are properly pricing your product or service.
2) Don’t let others force your business to be a 24/7 operation. If you run a 24/7 operation, it should be because YOU chose it to be 24/7. And if so, you should be compensated dearly for providing this service.
3) Be realistic. It takes time to turn a profit. It’s harder than being a corporate
employee. It keeps you awake at night more. If you’re not ready for that, you
might not be ready for being a business owner.
4) Always prepare your business plan with conservative projections.
5) Create a plan, make a dream and work towards them
These tips come from business men and women that have operated as successful independents for many years. Sage advice from the “been there – done that” crowd.
July 26, 2010
In an earlier post, we discussed some keys to branding a product, service or organization. This post goes beyond the names and images and reviews the product, ones own expertise of the product and (potential) buyers, and most importantly a commitment to the brand.
Focus on your PRODUCT. It’s simply naïve to assume even the best product will sell itself – even with strong name recognition behind it. Remember Sony’s Betamax® or WordPerfect® or IBM’s OS2®? Each of these products was arguably superior to their competitors but ultimately failed the rigors of marketing. Consider what makes your product special or unique. Does it provide some kind of physical benefit to your customers, eliminate problems or become the next “gotta have it” thing? As a newer company, you can’t afford major advertising campaigns and depend mainly on referrals. Become the buzz, the talk of the coffee clutch or water cooler.
Become an EXPERT. You just developed a major time-saving kitchen appliance – you are now the expert on that appliance – what it does, the story behind the development, how it benefits people, your customers, and THOSE WHO WON’T BUY YOUR PRODUCT. A true expert understands as much about the product’s buyers as the non-buyers and the reasons for both. The expert conducts industry research to determine the issues and delves deeper into untapped markets. Perhaps a simple lack of color choice for the appliance is keeping some potential buyers out of the market. Offer cyan, burnt umber, fuchsia, and sell more of your innovative appliance. Experts also do additional follow-up research to 1) make customers feel good, 2) determine additional future product offerings, and 3) BUILD THE COMPANY BRAND.
Deliver on a COMMITMENT. When your company sells a product or delivers a service to a customer, an expectation is created. That client in turn relates their positive experience to others and your company’s reputation is initiated. It is critically important that your commitment to clients via the product or service is consistent each and every time. In essence, your company offering is a promise and brands your business as reputable or not. You must deliver 100% on your promise 100% of the time. Since your product or service is making a person’s life better or easier and is consistently delivering at the same level, customers will return. With repeat clientele, a brand is established. Congratulations.
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July 25, 2010
We went to a local craft show yesterday in a large suburb of the Chicago area. The turnout for “Christmas in July” was somewhat disappointing. Some reasons may be blamed on very hot weather, torrential storms the night before, and a first time for this craft show. But other factors in attendance were certainly involved that all can learn from.
Four factors struck me as problematic when observing the sellers:
1) Christmas in July – while used with some success in promotions for larger retailers, likely many were put off by any talk of “Christmas” during a mid-90′s heat wave. The offerings were also slanted to seasonal gifts; a better tag line and product for this show – perhaps something similar to “Summer Storms Show” or “Hot, Hot Summer Craft Show”.
2) Advertising – (or lack thereof) – yes, an add was put in the paper’s classified ads for this craft show and another in the monthly subdivision newsletter. A better choice perhaps: Add placement in the neighborhood section of the paper and an Internet listing on one of the major craft sites.
3) Signage – the only signage was directly in front of the subdivision clubhouse – a lightly traveled street. Same day signs on some of the major local roads (village ordinates considered) would certainly bring more traffic to the show.
4) Web site and email contact – for the individual vendors. Many impressive products were seen at this show; one woman had beautiful hand-made jewelry comparable to high-end fashion jewelry. Unfortunately, she had no obvious contact information, no web site or email address at her table. Do I remember her name or have a business card at least to find her again? Nope. Shame, she has a wonderful talent and someone I would seek out for gifts in the future.
The point is simple: If sales and exposure are a prime reason for buying a table at these shows – and producing the show – be prepared to let people know who you are and how to find you.