There are No Guarantees

Dream big dreams

Follow Your DreamAre you thinking of starting a gift basket business?  How about adding a new product line to your existing business? Or stepping out and starting something that is entirely new and different?

Fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons that people don’t act on their ideas and dreams and why they put them off until tomorrow.

But let me tell you something.  There is no guarantee that tomorrow will come. If you don’t do it today, you may never have the opportunity to do tomorrow.

If you didn’t read my post about what I’ve learned in 74 years of living,  you missed item #19 which said

I’ve learned to live every day as if it were my last.  
To appreciate what I have and to harbor no regrets.

Right now, I’m stepping out into a whole new direction with a product that I’ve had private labeled for me by a company that I respect – Homespun Naturals.  I’m not going to talk about the product here but I’m going to answer a question that I’ve been asked before:  Why would you want to work at your age (in case you haven’t guessed from the title of the post that I referenced above, that age is 74 as of September 14th)?

The video below explains it well.  Watch it if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, are discouraged at how your business is doing or just afraid of following that dream!  Then leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Writing Product Descriptions that Sell

One of the biggest problems that companies with e-commerce sites has is writing descriptions that sell.  People go to your website, look at a photo and bland description and leave.  The description that you write is one of your best ways to sell.

Here are some tips to think about the next time you are writing a description for that new gift listing:

Tell a Story

Every gift or gift basket has a story to tell.  That story can help create the trust your customer needs in order to click that Buy Now button.  That story could be the inspiration behind the gift, how it was made, the many different ways it can be used, etc.

An example of this is the story I wrote for the college survival gifts categ,ory page on my own website:

“When my daughters were in college, I learned how hard it can be to find time to bake cookies or pick up little gifts . . .and then pack them in a box, take it to the post office and stand in line. You don’t have to! We can do it for you. We create the kind of college survival kits, birthday gifts, get well gifts, and care packages that make the other students say “Wow! Your Mom must really think you’re special!”

We’ve all read descriptions that use those tired phrases like “quality products,” “tastes good,” “beautiful basket,” etc. Instead of using a trite phrase, share why it tastes good or what makes it beautiful.   Appeal to your potential customers senses to make them create a visual picture in their mind and want to buy your product.  If you’re selling freshly-baked cookies, make them smell that tantalizing smell as they come out of the oven.

Make Your Sales Page Easily Scanned

Most of us include a list of the products in a gift basket.  Don’t just write them in a long sentence but make it easy for the customer to scan through the list by using bullet points.

Make your paragraphs short.  Look at this blog post and see how short each paragraph is.  That makes it easier for you to scan through the page and read.

Sell the Benefits as Well as the Features

This can easily be included in the story that you are telling.

Note that in the description for the care packages that I included above, a benefit is “care packages that make the other students say “Wow! Your Mom must really think you’re special!”

Your customers need to know the features — such as what is inside the gift basket — but that isn’t what is going to make them buy.  They want to know what this gift basket is going to do for them.  Is it going to impress a potential client?  Make a sick person smile or feel better?  Save them time or money?  Keep them from standing in line at the post office?

Have a Call to Action

Encourage your customer to buy by telling them what you want them to do next.  Your “buy now” or “add to cart” button is a call to action but you can do even more by adding a call to action directly within your description of the gift.

An example would be:  “Order this for that new client today.”

The next time you’re looking to buy something on the internet, think about what makes you want to buy from one company over another.  By adding this simple dimension to your own buying process, you will have a better idea of what you can do to make your potential customers want to buy from you.

Take the time to read through your own gift and gift basket descriptions on your product pages and see what you can add to make them better.  Your sales will improve.

 

74 Years of Learning and Growing

I shared this post on my personal blog, but since all of you don’t read that one, I thought I would also share it with you.

Seventy four years ago today, my mother gave birth to me at the Pensacola Maternity Hospital.  A lot has happened along the way and I’ve learned many things, some of which I would like to share with you.

  1.  The most important things in life are people — both family and friends.  You never know how long you will have them so spend as much time with them as possible.  Look over the things that annoy you about them and appreciate the things that you love.
  2. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.  Let the little things and annoyances in life go. You’ll be a much happier person as a result.
  3. Birthdays just aren’t that important.  You’ll have another one next year.  If not, you won’t be here to worry about it.
  4. You are not the same person this year that you were last year.  You learn.  You grow.  Events happen — both good and bad and you change — sometimes in subtle ways, other times in bigger ways.
  5. Don’t look down on anyone.  You never know what is going on in their life.
  6. Go out of your way to be nice to everyone…even the people who aren’t nice to you!
  7. There are many ways of learning.  A college degree doesn’t promise wisdom.  I attended a very conservaative Southern Baptist all -girls Judson College in Alabama and then the very liberal University of California at Berkeley where I learned a lot.  But I’ve learned even more since that time from things I have read, people I have met, and life.  No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to learn something new, and you’ll find that just about anybody can teach you something about life.never-to-old
  8. Don’t dress to impress others.  Dress to impress yourself.  And never wear a pair of tight shoes or 3″ heels.
  9. There is no one way to do things.  There usually isn’t a right way or a wrong way.  My way of doing things isn’t superior to your way.  It may be different but it’s only one way.
  10. I don’t need a lot of stuff.  The longer you live, the more you tend to accumulate. The same is true of being in business for a long time.  I have much more than I can ever use and should spend a bit of time getting rid of much of it.
  11. What is inside a person is more important than outward appearances.  That is good because the outward appearance usually goes downhill with time.
  12. There are good things about the downsides in my personality.  I am quiet and an introvert.  The upside of that is that I am a good listener and people tend to listen when I do speak.
  13. I don’t like the dark.  Light affects my feelings and my mood.  I don’t like a dark house but blossom in one with lots of light.
  14. I hate exercise but know that it is important in order for me to be healthy enough to enjoy this old age.  I have to fight my inner resistance and just do it. I also like sugar but am trying to say “no” to that.  Not easy though.
  15. I never want to look back and say, “What if?”  I’ve learned that you’re never too old to follow your dreams.
  16. Your beliefs will change over time.  I grew up in a conservative, Southern Baptist family in the midst of segregation in the deep South.  I remember my pastor preaching that the Bible supported segregation.  This one sermon made me begin to question my church because I knew he was wrong.I attended a small all-girls Baptist college in Marion, Alabama for my freshman year.  I had had little contact with blacks before that, other than seeing them on the bus as they moved to the back.  The maid at Judson, who cleaned my room, would stop to rest and talk with me.  I learned about her own dreams, her kids who had moved north to pursue their dreams, and that she was really no different than I was.

    When I married and moved to Washington D.C, a future boss in a job interview asked me if it would bother me to work with blacks.  The question puzzled me as I didn’t see why it should.  Most of my co-workers were black and I made some wonderful friends.

    It wasn’t long after that when one of the black men that I worked in the kitchen with (to help pay for my education) was killed in the march from Selma, which was just a few miles from where I had attended school. This made my belief that segregation was wrong even stronger.Moving to California with my husband helped change my beliefs even more.  The University of California at Berkeley was just at the brink of the “protest period.”  Folk music was the norm.  Peter, Paul, and Mary played in a college lounge.  Long hair on men was just beginning to make its appearance.  While in Berkeley, I grew even more.

    A few years later, I delved into politics myself, serving on the city council, planning commission, and school board.  I learned that is is difficult to be an honest politician and that you can’t please everyone.  There were many temptations offered to me even at this local level of politics that I had to resist.

    Fast forward to today, so many years later, when my belief system has evolved into the person that I am today — which is very different than when I was 18.  I feel that all people are equal and should have the same opportunities. I have many good friends who aren’t the same color that I am and I admire and respect them as much as my white friends.  I don’t like the games played in politics at the expense of the people.   Honesty is a trait that I value highly.

    No, I’m not the same person I was when younger.  But I think I am a better person.

  17. I’ve learned to walk away from situations where I can’t change someone’s mind or position.
  18. I’ve learned that I’m not perfect and that, at times, I have to laugh at myself.  I try to be the best person that I can be but don’t take life or mistakes too seriously.
  19. I’ve learned to live every day as if it were my last.  To appreciate what I have and to harbor no regrets.
  20. That I love working with new business owners. Their passion is catching.
  21. That I should have started a facebook group a long time ago.
  22. Life is a heck of a lot more fun when you are doing what you love.
  23. To spend time outside any chance I could  get. The fresh air is better than two aspirin.
  24. Never go to sleep without learning something new each day.
  25. The only person you can really trust to meet your expectations is yourself but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to grow a successful business by just yourself.
  26. Fifteen minutes of YOU TIME every morning can change your life.
  27. Asking yourself “What can I be best in the world at?” can lead to some serious breakthroughs. Just as equally important is looking at what you can never be best at and eliminating.
  28. If you want to build a business on a budget, you have to commit to learning how to do a lot of the things yourself.
  29. I would not be where I am at without everyone around me. No one is self made.
  30. To give someone the benefit of the doubt.
  31. When you get away for a few ways, really get away.
  32. You learn too much too late about a person when you read their obituary.
  33. That Santa Cruz, CA, the town that I always wanted to return to as a place to live, now has too much traffic, too many homeless people walking the streets, and too many cars parked on the street in the residential areas. And Pensacola, Florida, the town that I grew up in has changed even more — but, hey, I left there 56 years ago. I realize now that both the place you once called home as well as you, yourself,  changes and you can never return to what once was.
  34. That I’m not always right.
  35. You can be an asshole and become a millionaire, but to get to real success that makes you feel good inside, you must genuinely love and care for people.
  36. That people actually care about what I have to say.
  37. How to build a website, grow a business, and how to write and format a Kindle book.
  38. That a three-legged Scottie-Poodle mix can work his way into your heart very quickly.
  39. That I’m more fortunate than I could have ever guessed to have a husband who supports whatever I do and is wise enough to tell me that I am smart.
  40. That I like marketing more than I like making gift baskets.
  41. That there are lots of wonderful people out there and I will never be able to meet them all
  42. And finally….after 73 years, I’m still learning and growing as a person and loving it. I don’t feel old and I’m not afraid of what lies ahead.  Age only means what you allow it to mean.  The wrinkles and grey hair have arrived but they mean little.  I’m amazed that I’ve lived this long, feel this good, and am living the life of my dreams with a husband of 55 years who supports and loves me.  Life is a precious gift and I have no idea when it will end for me.  But when it does, I can honestly say, “I have no regrets.”

Blog Posts — What do you write?

 

blogAre you having trouble trying to think of what to write on your blog?

There are times when I’m in a rut and just can’t think of something that would interest my customers and that I haven’t written about before.  That is when I check this list to get my thought processes whirling.  You might want to copy these ideas for your “go-to” file when you get stuck.

Write a How-To Post

What can you show your customers that they can do for themselves. DIY posts are very popular.  Recipe posts are some of the most popular shares on Facebook.  Even though you may not sell individual food products, you could occasionally include either a regional or holiday themed recipe.  If you do sell individual food products, a recipe for using these products could be welcomed.

How about something for the kids to do or make? Closer to the gift-giving category.  Teach them how to wrap a package or how to create a unique bow or enhancement for a gift.  How about a printable for a gift card?  Or a how-to post about gift-giving — such as what to say in a sympathy note, or giving a unique gift for Valentine’s Day.  An example of a post that I did  is Simple Ways to Show You Care.

If you create videos, and you should, how-to videos are very popular additions to your blog

Spotlight one of your products or gift baskets

Expand on the description of one of your gifts.  You can show various ways that it can be used.  Include a photo showing the excitement on a customer’s face when they received it (hint: this could be staged just as most stock photos are).  With this type of post, adding a special discount or offer at the end of the post may increase sales.

Tell them about you and your company

Is something exciting happening at your company or in your life.  Getting to know you is one of the most important steps in relationship marketing.  If you are planning something new or introducing a new product, show your excitement about the news in a blog post.

An example of this on my own blog is a post about an  Unexpected Inspiration .  Another example of where I combined information about me and my area along with a sales pitch for a gift is Sunflowers.

Create a List

A list is what you are reading right now.  It could be a list about anything.  Ideas are “Our 10 Best Selling Gifts,” “15 Ways to Say You’re Sorry,”  “Five Fun Gifts to Give.”

You can make them related to the gift industry or occasionally include a “just for fun” list.  One of my posts was created strictly for humor:  Simple Wisdom for Life and Business.

Write about the Gift Industry

Tell your readers about the latest trends.  How about a post about the most popular colors for the season and how you are combining them into your gifts?  Or why food gift baskets are more popular than just gifty ones?

Invite a guest blogger to write a post for you.

If you are really serious about growing your business, you already have a blog and so do many others.  Find a blogger that has something to say that your readers may be interested in reading and invite them to contribute a post to your blog.  Make sure that you don’t just copy a post from their blog, however, as that is copyright infringement which can have serious repercussions.  You could also offer a guest post to other bloggers in the industry.

I have used guest bloggers on this blog.  One of these posts was: Has Your Website Been Hacked or Compromised by Laura Wheeler.

And a few more tips

Whenever you write a blog post, share it on your Facebook business page, twitter about it, add it to LinkedIn and any other social profiles that push your brand.

Make sure that you have a social sharing plug that allows other people to share your blog content with their friends and readers.

And, most importantly, write regularly.  This is something that I have to slap my own wrist for.  In the busy process of creating and growing my businesses, writing regular blog posts has been neglected.  I suspect that is true for many of you as well.  So, join me today as I commit to keeping both this blog and my own gift business blog updated on a REGULAR basis.  And if you want to see what I write in future blog posts here, it’s easy to register, in the right hand column on this page, to be notified when they appear.

 

Strategies for Getting That Elusive Holiday Business

San'a's Elves aren't going to help you this year either!
San’a’s Elves aren’t going to help you this year either!

Many of you are probably thinking:  “I have lots of time before 4th quarter hits and I need to think about promotions for the holiday season. Black Friday is a long ways off.”

But if you wait until Black Friday, you’re too late.

Now is the time when you should be developing your holiday marketing strategy, designing those holiday gifts, ordering inventory, and updating your website.

Where Should You Begin?

If you haven’t developed your strategy and marketing plan, that is the first step.  Look at your sales for the last holiday season and decide what sold well and what didn’t.  What type of gift baskets did customers order?  What products did you use most from your inventory?  Was there a larger demand for Christmas themes or more generic holiday ones?

This is the first step in planning your inventory.

If you fail to order now, many of the products you will want will be sold out by October.  You can always order from most vendors and request a later delivery date.  It may be too hot to ship chocolates now but an order placed now can be shipped as soon as it turns cooler.

What about the gifts that didn’t sell well?  Decide if you should redesign them or eliminate them.

The next step is how to promote them.

Creating a marketing plan for the rest of the year is essential.  Otherwise, days will slip by leaving you and any potential orders behind.  Using Facebook, writing content on your business blog, and email marketing should all be a part of that strategy.

Content marketing is one of the most critical parts of SEO with the newer Google updates. If you haven’t started a newsletter for your customers yet, now is the time before their email boxes are filled up with other companies’ newsletters.  You might want to check out our ebook about newsletters.

If you haven’t tried them yet, you might want to add Pinterest and Twitter to your marketing calendar and see how they perform for you.

To make it easier for you, we’ve accumulated some of the best articles from our magazine into an ebook to help you. Check it out here.

How to get that elusive Holiday Business

Will you be using direct mail.  With the expansion of the Internet, direct mail tends to have fallen by the wayside and is easily forgotten.  It shouldn’t be.

Direct mail is one of the most powerful marketing tools that you can use. But there are some tricks that can make it more effective.  I create a sales letter each and every year.  I use post cards as follow-ups.  Sure, it’s more expensive than email but the results are worth it.

If there is an interest, I will be happy to share some of the sales letters that I have used in previous years in upcoming blog posts.  Let me know in the comments area, if this would be of interest and value to you.

Make Your List

Once you’ve developed your strategy, sit down with the plan and list all the things that you need to do.  Then create a calendar so that you know when you should take care of each one.  Do as much as you can before the season hits.

Develop any ads that you want to use.  Write your blog posts now and schedule them for publishing later.  Develop a newsletter if you don’t have one and write several issues in advance.  Design your gift baskets and take photos.

Doing all of this now will make the holiday season much less stressful and much more profitable.

So what are you waiting for.  Begin today!