Our Biggest Business Mistakes

I read a lot of blogs and learn a lot from them.  This morning, I read a post on the EventPlannersAssociation blog that really made me think.  That post was about the 5 Biggest Business Mistakes.

The first four were ones that are very true and are ones that we should all be aware of and avoid.  They certainly made me think about what I am doing with my own gift business as well as what we are doing with GiftRetailersConnection.  Here are the thoughts that popped into my head as I read that post:
They were:

  1. Failure to Communicate or Create Value.  This one is a good one.  Oftentimes we create products that have lots of value to current and potential customers but we just aren’t very good at communicating how valuable they are.  There is no question in my mind that the magazine we create has LOTS of value to those who are interested in growing their gift-related business.  Do we communicate that value?  Perhaps not.  This is something for us to definitely think about.
  2. Creating “more of the same.”  Uniqueness is essential if we are going to stand out from all the other products that are available both in our own community and online.  Recently, I did an anonymous  survey of our members, who were not participating in the free forum that they signed up for, and got a couple of people who commented that there is “too much information out there.”

    These kind of comments are the ones that are really thought-provoking as we build our businesses.  And, you know, it made me realize that even though the amount of available information for our industry is small compared to many industries, you (our readers) have a variety of resources to choose from.  There are at least four forums, three magazines (all different but magazines nevertheless), a varying number of conventions each year, and several print and ebooks.

    Are they all different.  Of course they are.  But are they unique?  And are they what the members of our industry really want and need?  Something to think about.  But only you, our readers, can answer that question.  Use the comments area here to express your opinion about this question.

  3. A healthy business relationship requires both getting and receiving on the part of both parties.  We’ve tried to achieve that with GiftRetailersConnection by giving our members a free forum and newsletter with the hope that the trust will be built to the point that our members will see the value in the magazine and ebooks that we offer for a nominal cost.

    This is something that we will continue to work on but the word “relationship” is the word that stands out.  I’m sure it is true in every industry that many want something for nothing.  They take without giving back.  But the result of that is the lack of “relationship” as well as the vast amount of knowledge they are missing while struggling to build a business all alone.

    I just celebrated my 53rd wedding anniversary and I can assure you that the only way we reached that milestone is that both Ron and I work on “giving” as well as “receiving.”  It’s the primary secret of the success of any relationship including a business one.

    An idea that I will be considering is perhaps providing more free resources only to those who have an interest in building a relationship while continuing to offer the basic ones we currently offer to everyone.

  4. When confronted with failure, they do more of the same, only more “efficiently.  Companies need to learn from past mistakes to keep moving forward and innovating. That’s not to say past ideas that worked well should be abandoned entirely, but a business needs to constantly ask, “How can we improve this idea? What worked last time? What didn’t?”

    This point was one that I didn’t think too much about as I don’t think GiftRetailersConnection is a failure.  Even though we have many members who care  and contribute and many more who don’t, we are constantly trying to think of new ideas that will make the resources we provide of more value to you.  We’ve looked at our past as well as that of other resources and considered what worked for us, as gift company owners, and what didn’t.  As a result, our magazine has evolved into a different breed than those that preceded us.

But the last business mistake listed was one that really made me sit up and think.  It was:  “Trying to please everyone instead of picking an audience, understanding it, listening to its feedback and attempting to blow its mind: With the Internet and social media, there’s more noise than ever, and everybody’s a critic — and that’s not a bad thing. Businesses just need to decide who they’re going to listen to, since it’s impossible to make everybody happy all the time. Businesses need to pick an audience, and it needs to understand that audience. They needs to listen closely to its problems, sympathize with its pain points, open dialogue with said group of individuals, and then offer specialized solutions that will blow that audience’s mind. After all, as the old moral states, if you try and please everyone, you may as well please no one at all”

This is probably one of our biggest mistakes.  We’ve been trying to reach and please everyone in the industry and, of course, we haven’t.  I see us, as individual business owners, doing this with our own gift businesses as well.  Just as with all those consumers who we try to sell our gifts and gift baskets to, there are all kinds of gift company owners.

They all have different needs.  There is the start-up, that is looking for information about “how do I begin?”  There is the owner who has taken the first step and started a business but is struggling to take it from a new business to a profitable one.  And there are those who have been around the road for awhile, know what it takes even if they sometimes stray and forget the basics learned as a newbie, but are basically on the right track.

As I read that paragraph about “trying to please everyone,” I realized that, yep, this is our biggest mistake.  So what are we going to do about it?  I don’t know yet.  We need to determine just who is our audience and perhaps there is more than one.  Perhaps it includes the start-up, anxious to learn how to do it, as well as the owner struggling to grow an existing business, as well as the one who who knows the basics but occasionally strays.  Perhaps our audience is really “those company owners who are interested enough to build a relationship with their peers so that they can learn together.”

How are we going to please that audience and provide what they need without making the mistake of pleasing no one? This is something for us to definitely think about.  To make that decision, we need to know who you are, what you need, and what you want from us.  The comment area for this post is an excellent way to tell us.

Should all information be Free?

freeGraphicIt’s no secret that everyone likes receiving something for nothing.  But lately I’ve been hearing that all information should be given for free.

They seem to  ignore the ageless wisdom of sayings like these:

  • “you get what you pay for”
  • “wisdom is to be desired over gold or silver”
  • “you become who you surround yourself with”
  • “time is your most valuable asset”
  • “the cream rises to the top”

etc.

Even seemingly successful people seem to have this “I’m too poor to pay for what you know” mentality.  They have thoughts like these:

  • It makes sense to pay thousands of dollars for college but never $19.95 for a book by someone teaching a business model they have perfected. That should be free.
  • I’ll drive 2 hours across town to use my $5 off coupon.
  • Successful people are all mean and greedy and should not be trusted.
  • I’ll hang out with other freebie seekers online and get all the advice and help I need from them.
  • If I can find someone willing to “share” the information,  it’s ok to just take it.

To be clear – these are not the thoughts of successful leaders building incredible businesses.

If you add up all the free content I’ve created over the past years of teaching others how I’ve built my profitable business, it would be a virtual library and, yet, there are still many in our industry who have this “poverty mentality.”

Can you imagine free in the “real world” where you could, for example, walk into a restaurant for a free meal because the owner believes his meals are only good enough to give away and the customers aren’t hungry enough to pay for a more gourmet meal?

It still confounds me, but I love how it weeds out those who are serious about growing a business from those who still think that “if I build it, the business will come.”

Of course you should use extreme discretion when investing in yourself or your business, and demand refunds on worthless products that were over-hyped and wound up under-delivering, but by all means, build relationships with and invest in people who have proven that they know how things work in the real world.

I invest regularly in my own future success and I always have. I’m taken more seriously, get more attention, build stronger relationships, have more pride in myself, make more money from my customers,  and am ultimately more successful because of it.

How about you?