Customers Are Your Business!

Most businesses accept loss of customers as a fact of life — a cost of doing business. But it costs much more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one.  If you can increase your customer-keeping rate by as little as 10%, you can increase your long-term revenues by more than 50%.  An amazing increase in income, if you think about it.

One of the reasons for this is that it costs five to 10 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to sell products and services to an existing customer.  Once you’ve acquired a customer, you no longer have to convince them that you’re the company to buy from.  Your primary goal is to let them know how much you appreciate their business.

I read somewhere that a jeweler once said, “If I lose the diamonds, the insurance company will pay for them.  But if I lose my customers, I’m out of business.”

Something to always keep in the front of your mind is:   A business only has two functions: to serve its customers better than anyone else and to make a profit. If your business fails in either function for any length of time, it will fail.  This is true in boom times and in depressed times.

Why do customers leave or buy once and never again?

A consumer Services Institute study showed that:

  • 1% die
  • 3% move away
  • 5% buy from friends instead of from you
  • 9% prefer the competition
  • 14% judge your business by a bad encounter
  • 68% leave not because of anything you did.  They’re not angry or dissatisfied with you.  They left because they thought you didn’t care about them.  You didn’t make them feel special.

The solution is simple — Treat all of your customers like they’re special.  This is called Relationship Marketing and is something we’ll discuss in more detail in later posts.  But basically the secret to Relationship Marketing is simply having  Regard
Respect
Admiration
And Appreciation for your customers
And, most important of all, letting them know that you do!

Business Models – Which Should You Choose?

The  wonderful thing about the gift basket industry is that there is no wrong way and no right way to create and grow your business.

Creativity and uniqueness is what makes each business successful.  We all have different life circumstances, live in different parts of the world, and enter the industry with different knowledge and experiences.

That is one reason why I love having the opportunity to show different viewpoints in our magazine and here on our Success Express website.

Below, you’ll find two different viewpoints about choosing a business model.  Neither option is right or wrong for the industry as a whole.  What works for one business may not work for another.  And there are good reasons for this.

I invite you to read both viewpoints and then decide which model is best for you and your company.

 

The Business to Business Model

By Diane Campbell  – Owner of Gratitude Goodies

Does your business get pulled in a million different directions?
Do you try to be everything to everybody?
Are you B2B or B2C?
What does that even mean?
Is your client list mostly business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C)?
What’s the difference?

The difference is a major one.  One you shouldn’t ignore.

I’m doing a podcast where I talk to business owners and my most recent guest, Andy Leonard from Accel Financial Services had some wise things to say.  His business is focused on helping develop businesses financially, and to get their quick books in
order. Andy likes to get the business to a place where they know what they are and what they are not.  I can relate to this analogy.

When starting a gift basket business, you can easily get pulled in seasonal directions that may not make you enough money to shake a stick at.

For Gratitude Goodies, we focus on corporate gifts. We do have a modest amount of baby stuff on hand but that’s it.  Any requests for all the other seasons throughout the year, we design with colorful ribbons and adornments.

Here’s what we’re not.  A butcher, baker, or candlestick maker.  That’s a cliche for saying you won’t find designs with Hello Kitty, Ninja Turtles, leopard prints with romantic elements, in our lineup.

We also are not a florist, promotional company, fresh fruit design company, soap
company, candle company, bakery, chocolate confectionary store like a fudge shop in a tourist town, a gift company like Williams Sonoma or similar, a wedding planner or an event planner.

When we try to go outside our element, it typically doesn’t work.

You must be strong about who you are and even stronger about who you’re not. It’s so easy to get scattered and smothered by too many things that can easily distract you and take you away from who and what you do best. It also will cost you a lot more money to be everything to everybody.

I keep hearing in seminars, podcasts, and blogs to niche it down.  That’s our goal for 2017.  Wishing you a blessed Holiday Season.

Diane’s podcast can be found at www.PodcastForBusiness.com

Combination Model — B2B and B2C

By Joyce Reid – Creative Gifts to Go LLC

I’m not a whole lot different than most of you.   My favorite pastime has never been work.

Now don’t get me wrong.   I like money as much as the rest of you and, as a true entrepreneur,  I enjoy the challenges of building a successful business.  I even love designing and creating new gift baskets.

I admit it.  I’m basically lazy and prefer having the extra time to spend with my husband and grandchildren or even reading a good mystery novel.  I didn’t get into this business to be a work horse.  I got into it because I enjoy it and working dawn to dusk is not my idea of enjoyment.

I’ve always known that selling gifts to the corporate market is the best way to be profitable.  This is what is commonly referred to as B2B (Business to Business).  But I prefer to think of my business as B2P (Business to People).

Business customers are important to my bottom line but I remember that businesses are made up of people.  People — whether corporate or individuals — all need gifts and these gifts aren’t just what we think of as “corporate gifts.”  I sell birthday gifts, get well gifts, thank you gifts, welcome to your new home gifts, college student gifts, and more.

But increasing the amount of labor required to double or even triple the number of gift baskets that I would have to produce to grow my business into a profitable one has
never particularly appealed to me.

I decided that the easiest and most profitable way to accomplish this purpose is to use the labor of others who were already producing products that could meet the needs of my customers who are both businesses and individuals.

I also don’t like the idea of hiring other people to do the work for me.  To me, employees mean added work, cost, problems and headaches.

I can hear some of you now.  “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  “You have to work at it if you want to grow your business.”  “There are things you have to give up if you want to have a successful business.”

Believe it or not, I couldn’t agree more.

That is the very reason that I have decided to work smarter and not harder and have searched for other avenues that require less time and money spent networking as well as less labor and inventory storage than multiplying the number of gift baskets I would have to create to push the profits upward.

I was very much aware of this “weakness of mine” when I first started the business. I
created my business plan and even purposely chose a name that would allow me to grow into more than just gift baskets.  With this concept in mind, I looked for ways to provide “gift services” rather than just “gift baskets.”

Of course, I sell gift baskets (lots of them) but I also sell birthday cakes, giant decorated cookies, coffee cakes, cookie gifts of all kinds, promotional products, care packages, fortune cookies, among other things.

For me, diversification means more profits without more labor, more inventory, or even more intensive networking.  If you are just starting out, you wouldn’t want to add all these things at once.  Start with a specific niche and build it.  It could even be corporate food gifts if you live in an area large enough to support this niche.  If you want to add other “people” to your customer list or even additional niches, break them down into segments, building each segment to the point that you feel that you are ready to add another.

Diversification isn’t for everyone but, for me, it means more money in my bank account and more time to do the things I love to do.

If you have an interest in this business model, I’ve even written an ebook about it.  You can find it at http://giftbasketnetwork.com/ebook-year-round-business

Each of us is different.  We live in different size and kinds of communities.  Some prefer  Internet marketing while others choose local networking.  Build your business based on what works best for you and your circumstances.  That’s the key to success.

 

 

Shipping Rates

Shipping Rates Increasing for USPS

The United States Postal Service is playing catch up with UPS and Fedex so make sure that you check your shipping rates in line with changes.  With whichever carrier you use and whether you build the cost of shipping into the price of your gifts or have your customer pay it as an add-on, you don’t want to lose money.

The USPS announced new postage rates for mailing and shipping products. After previously being only 47 cents since last April, first-class letters in the U.S. will now cost 49 cents again.

Postcard rates will stay the same (34 cents), letters and packages mailed internationally will stay at $1.15, but each additional ounce will cost 21 cents.

Over the next year, Priority Mail Express prices will increase 3.4 percent, and the average Priority Mail price will increase 3.9 percent. First class packaging will increase 4.1 percent on average over 2017, and first class mail parcels will start at $2.67 for a 1 oz. package.

Mistakes made by business owners

mistakes - business

The 10 Biggest Marketing Mistakes
Made by Business Owners

mistakes - businessRegardless of what you sell, each and every one of us is in the marketing business.  The failure or success  of a business depends on its marketing.

But we frequently spin our wheels thinking we are doing it right and wondering why it isn’t working.

I’ve put together some common mistakes made by entrepreneurs when they market.  Are you making any of them?

1. Targeting too broad a market (who you’re selling your products or services to).   If you tell me that your customer is everybody or even everybody who needs to send a gift, then I’m talking to you.

Even if your product  CAN be used by just about anyone, not everyone is going to buy it. They don’t have the money or the interest or whatever. And when you try and target everyone, you really end up targeting no one.

The way to start making money (not to mention getting better results with your marketing) is to narrow your target market. However, there are pitfalls with that as well, as we see in the next mistake.

2. The wrong target market. This happens when you’ve chosen the wrong target market. What do I mean by the wrong target market? They either aren’t interested in buying your product or they don’t have the money.

For example, if you are selling high-end luxury gift baskets, you wouldn’t want to market the Realtors who sell condos.

3. Not giving them a reason to buy from you.  You know you’ve got a good target market and you know how to reach them. But you’re still not getting any results.   The problem might be what you are telling them.

People have a lot of choices on where to spend their money. You have to give them a very compelling reason why they should spend their hard earned money with you.

Here’s where it makes sense to spend more time on your writing skills or hire someone to write your copy for you. If the descriptions of your products are generic or if that sales letter you sent out is ho-hum, you’re wasting your time.

4. Not reaching your target market often enough. So you’ve run one ad. Or mailed one postcard. Or attended one networking event. And the phone isn’t ringing or the orders aren’t pouring in.

Why?

People forget.  You aren’t important to them.  And they aren’t going to remember you unless you stay in front of them.  It isn’t your customer’s job to remember you.  It ‘s your job to remind them you’re here and would love to have their business.

5.  Getting feedback from the wrong people
Are you asking your friends or family members for feedback about your products or service?
What do friends do? Encourage you!  They’re afraid of hurting your feelings because they want to remain your friend.

Or perhaps you are posting pictures on a forum or Facebook group that you belong to and asking people to tell you what they think.  These types of groups have members of all levels of experience.  You may be getting input and suggestions from some who are even greener than you are.  More experienced people usually won’t take the time to critique you because they either don’t want to discourage you or they are just too busy with their own business.

The people to ask are your customers and potential customers.  When I first started my business, I put together a group of potential customers that I had met through networking and organized a breakfast referral group.  During these breakfasts, I would frequently bring in a gift (either the actual gift or a photo of it) and ask for their opinion. We shared opinions as well as ideas and referrals.

6.  Neglecting to build an email list

This is a mistake that I made in the beginning of my business.  I thought that all I needed to do was sell a good product and provide good service and they would become repeat buyers.

Not so.

I was super wrong.  I should have collected emails from every customer and even created ways to get emails from potential customers who visited my store inside our local antique mall.

This goes back to Reason #4.  Without an email list or even a direct mail list, there was no way to reach them with ideas for new gifts or even to remind them that the birthday person they ordered a gift for last year has a birthday coming up this year.

7. Thinking that Social Media Marketing is Marketing

Most small business owners think that social media is marketing.  Actually social media is just a little piece of the big marketing puzzle.  In my experience doing JUST social media is not an effective use of marketing time or money. Social media has to be a part of a blog, email, direct mail and in person marketing campaign.

It can be a  powerful to build relationships, but standing alone as a way to generate sales is not a good idea. Facebook pages used to be a reasonable way to get leads, but unless you pay to boost your posts, most of those who have liked your page will never see what you post.  You should have a Facebook page but that should be just one part of the many parts of marketing.  If you are using social media to sell, remember that some of the other social media platforms (Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and even possibly YouTube) also need to be in the mix.

You should never use social media as a way to directly spam your customers with links and advertisements. That’s a fast way to get your profile blocked and  your business ignored. The key to using social media marketing is making sure that you’re creating interesting and engaging content.

Make sure that your posts are things that your customers will find interesting enough to read. Educate them about your industry and products instead of just sell, sell, sell.

8. Not being REALLY excited about your business

If you are just starting your business, you have to give it everything you have and spend lots of time and energy into it. You can’t be half-in while trying it out to see if you like it or if it will work for you.

Even if you’ve been in business for years as I have, you must be excited enough about your business that you work it regularly and think about it when you’re not working.  I go to the gym or walk in the forest for exercise because I spend so much time at the computer and in my studio.  But even when I’m walking or riding the bicycle, I am thinking.  Thinking about how I could design this or how I can market that.

If you are not passionate, I mean REALLY excited about your business, stop and do something else. Get a job, pick something else or figure out what you would love to do but stop torturing yourself. Life is too short to be an entrepreneur who isn’t in love with their business.

9. Not planning for the future
If you don’t know where you are going with your business, how are you going to market to get there?

I plan a whole year in advance.  Some people plan even more.  I take the time to look back at the previous year and decide what worked and what didn’t.  Then I determine where I want to be at the end of the year and how best to get there.

10.  Not telling people what you sell
You would think this comes naturally but it doesn’t.  You can’t assume that your customers know what you sell. They may know that you sell gift baskets but do they know that you sell welcome gifts or baby gifts or whatever other unique gift ideas you have.

I learned this when one of my best Realtor customers who bought thank you gifts for every house she sold, told me that she had ordered apartment welcome gifts from one of the big companies that specialize in them for an apartment complex that she had taken over the management for.  She was complaining about the cost of shipping when I told her that I made and sold these and shipped them all over the country.

Both she and I were surprised that she didn’t know about this branch of my business.  You have to let your customers know what you sell.

These are just ten of the major Marketing Mistakes that small business entrepreneurs make.  There are, of course, others as well such as not having a website, or failing to use direct mail and email newsletters.

If you are making any of these mistakes, it’s time to think about what you are doing wrong.  That may be the every reason that your marketing is not effective.

Your Website – Gift Business Owners

Your Website
View It With Fresh Eyes

The beginning of the year, when things are quieter, is a good time to take another look at your website and decide if you can do anything to make it better. Your website is an important part of your marketing efforts so should not be neglected.  A little tweaking can make a big difference

It’s a good idea to make a list of what you plan to do this year to improve your site, its traffic and conversions.  When setting priorities, try to distinguish between “urgent” vs. “important” and take into account the estimated time needed to perform each task..

Here is a checklist to remind you of some things to consider:.

  • If you are using a theme to build your online store, make sure that it has been updated to the latest version so that you have the latest features and bug fixes.
  • Review your title tags to make sure that they include the keywords that you wish the page to focus on.  Make sure that the title tags are different on each individual page. Duplicate title tags can affect your SEO.
  • Review your product descriptions. Think about what customer service emails you got over the holidays and what questions were asked. Can you answer these questions up front in the product descriptions?
  • Look at your photographs.  Do you need to retake any of them to make them clearer or show off the details of your products better?
  • If you are using slideshows and/or image banners, think about whether they need changing or refreshing as well.
  • Review your FAQ, Policy and About Us pages to make sure everything is still accurate. It may be worth giving everything a bit of a refresh with some new copy. Also consider what questions you’ve been asked during the holiday season — and be sure to include these answers in your copy.
  • Review and update your social media profile biographies. It’s a good idea to change these up now and then and make sure that they still capture your brand and product offerings.
  • If you’ve been featured on any other websites, the start of a new year is a great time to create a list of them and build a page featuring links to them.
  • It’s also a good time to start following up with holiday shoppers to gather feedback about your products and purchase experience. This also is a great opportunity to request reviews for your products.
  • Use the data and information you learned from the past holiday season to consider adjustments that might need to be made to your products or product line. Perhaps some features or designs need to be tweaked or new items need to be added to meet commonly requested gifts.
  • If you’re concerned about an after-holiday slowdown, start brainstorming promotions or discounts you can offer to drive new sales. Think about any images, graphics or email marketing needs that you anticipate and start lining up resources.
  • This is the time to add new products and designs for the upcoming holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Make a list of the holidays that you will promote during the year and get your designs online several months in advance.  If you are  a VIP member of GiftBasketNetwork.com, send in a picture for each holiday several months in advance as well.
  • Although discounting—which cut into your profit margins– can be one way to drive sales, also keep in mind that there are many ways to promote your products and boost shop traffic without discounting — such as blog posts, social media updates and other content.

Once you’ve made your list and prioritized it, plan to spend a little time each day to make the changes or update the site.  Doing so can make a big difference in your sales this year.