Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keeping it New


There's a fine line between keeping things "fresh" and looking like you're becoming a new company everyday. What's the difference? We're talking product-based businesses today.

When you walk into your favorite store, you probably notice two things: It looks like your favorite store. There's something new and exciting or a new energy going on.

That's a tall order as soon as you read it from the standpoint of that business owner, isn't it? You're got a lot going on. You probably don't have a merchandising department or much of a budget for that kind of stuff.

There are a few challenges you have if it's just you and maybe a partner looking at your business:
  • Small changes seem HUGE to you, but your customer may not perceive them.
  • The way you present things is the way YOU see them, not someone new to the store.
  • Perhaps you get ideas of changing things but it would be too great of a departure from what you're already doing.
  • Time slips away and you don't have a plan on the calendar for when you make changes.
There's plenty more, but let's look at these for now. One of the most obvious things is all about working in the bubble that is your brain. How do you gain perspective on what kinds of changes will actually affect your new customer and your regular customer in the best way?

The best case scenario is to really bring in a specialist on a contract basis to give you pointers and set you in the right direction. Instead of hiring a staff person, bringing in someone who really knows merchandising can give you a big lift.

The next possibility is to get to know biz folks (who's stores or sites you like) in non-competing markets and let them take a look and give you feedback.

Have a calendar ready with some idea of when new merchandise is coming in and when you should be doing a big change up and when you're just doing some freshening up. One of the things I see folks wasting a lot of time on is trying to figure out what to do with the cool new stuff that just came in. You should put some time into that, but if there's more of that cool stuff on the way, then make a plan for a bigger change when the rest arrives instead of sweating the little arrival. Basic time management on this one.

I could write loads of posts about image consistency. There are plenty of folks who work only in this area. You have your colors, your logo, your "look", etc. Make sure that whatever else you do is an extension of this in some way. It doesn't need to be "matchy matchy" but it needs to blend and be subconsciously palatable.

If a bigger change is in order, again, think about bringing in a consultant. Instead of giving the consumer whiplash as you flip from one style to the next, plan your moves and find ways to keep it fresh on a monthly basis.

One blog I really love with lots of great retail advice is Nicole Reyhel's Retail Minded. Invaluable stuff on a daily basis.

Step out of your bubble, know who you are, know who your customer is, follow trends and keep it fresh!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Insecurity

I see there are a lot of folks searching the word "recession". I know I haven't focused much on that, and I know why. To me, it's business in any climate in still business. In as much as I prefer not to focus directly on the recession, I will focus this post on the "feeling" of insecurity. Whether there is eminent danger or not, the sense of insecurity is pretty much the same from a strategic standpoint.

Making any decision in a moment of fear is a bad idea.

On this, I know of what I speak, people. I struggle with this one daily, myself. The thing is, chances are, we have more time than we think to make a decision about something. I'm not telling you to procrastinate, as that has it's own set of issues. I'm telling you to step back, analyze the situation when you can actually breathe.

In this breathing, weighing, analyzing moment, write down exactly what you think your choices are in a given situation. Let's use the example of marketing when you're in the red:

You can...
  • Spend more than you have now if you think you have money coming in the near future.
  • Spend nothing and put marketing on hold until you're doing better.
  • Spend all the money you can on one big print ad.

All of the above are based on "spend or not spend" because your core issue is about money. Generally speaking, the one thing you probably have more of when things are lean is time. So, take the money out of the equation and ask yourself how can I spend my time to keep up my marketing efforts?

If you stop marketing when things are good, you won't have business when times are less good. If you stop marketing for lack of money, you've just bought yourself a self-fulfilling prophesy.

So, let's put in a couple of more options for the marketing effort, sans cash, or very little cash:
  • FOCUSED online networking.
  • If you have a retail environment, consider hosting events there for free to groups as a way to expose your biz to more new eyes
  • Offer free seminars on what you do for your service-based biz.
  • Host your own events and bring in like-minded folks. It's not competition, it's cooperative marketing.
  • Reach out to existing clients/customers and offer them an incentive for sending you sales or leads.
  • Offer to write articles on blogs in your area of expertise.
If you are committed to your business, to your dream, just don't stop. Everyday your business NEEDS you to show up. Recession or no, all of the points above apply to the long run of this business of yours. Stop waiting for things to "free up" and make things happen!