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.

10 thoughts on “Our Biggest Business Mistakes”

  1. Tracey: You’re right. Unless someone is a regular customer, they don’t want to see constant posts about your latest gift basket. You need to mix that with perhaps a post about an unusual holiday. For example, today is National Nut Day. There are thousands of these little holidays that have been created that could be tied in with gifting. One that I’ve used is National Get Out of the Doghouse Day. Other posts could be tidbits about making gift giving easier, something about you and what you are doing in your business, etc. One person who does this very well on Facebook is Shawn of All the Buzz. You might want to check out what she is doing.

  2. Joyce

    I am also a newbie and try to give back. I think that this is a wonderful community and it is full of wonderful people who are very helpful.

    Bless you Joyce, not just for what you do here, but for who you are.

  3. Thank you Martha and Lacey for taking the time out of your busy day to respond. Keep the comments coming. I am listening!

  4. Joyce, I love the idea of a survey. Certainly understand your point about making the most of your limited time!
    As far as how relevant are the experiences from those of us who have been in business for a long time: Certainly the industry has changed in many ways and I think that forums like this one are critical for those who are starting out and those who cannot attend the workshops that are offered. I can only imagine the time and expense that go into planning the workshops, only to have attendance low. I know there are several (organizers and vendors) who have made great efforts in preparing for these events with disappointing results. With Internet ordering, it is very important to me to know which products are rated “the best” by my peers, as well, especially foods that have been tasted.
    I don’t think that many of us believe in change just for the sake of change and frankly, I love things the way they are!
    Kudos to those who are staying on top of new ways of marketing through new technology. I’m a very visual learner so having on-line tutorials are critical.
    I want to see this forum stay as professional as it is. I’m interested in how much others charge for their designs. I love seeing other’s designs and would like to see more pictures in the magazine.
    Many thanks for asking for my opinion.

  5. Joyce,

    First of all I want to say thank you! I guess you can count me as a newbie. I bought my business 3 years ago that had been up and running for 16 years! I have learned some much in three years! I have made tons and tons of mistakes. When I stumbled on the Forum, I was so trilled!! I felt I had finally found a place where I could learn and share ideas. I will be the first to tell you I was terrified to post and ask a question. I felt like there was so much knowledge and experience in one place. I never knew how cut throat the retail business truly was until I bought my retail business in a downtown area! It was awful… I was the youngest and new kid on the block. To make a long story short it was the forum that gave me hope! I knew if ladies were making it in other parts of the USA, I could too. I will turn 30 years old in March and I was 26 when I bought my business. People thought I was nuts!! The funny thing is I bought in the worst time of all. My little town is known as the carpet capital of the world. Well guess what we have the highest unemployment rate in Georgia. What I am getting at is the younger people we need older people to look up to and have an example. I love the forum, I am getting better at posting and I am trying very hard not to be a taker and give back. If you need anything please let me know! Thank you for all you do for the gift basket industry!!

  6. Thanks for that suggestion, Kim. Excellent idea. I will use survey monkey to send out a survey to our forum members as well as to our magazine subscribers and see kind of responses I get. If I do decide to do anything differently, I want it to be an effective use of my time to set it up as well as something that will be used.

  7. Thank you Diane and Glenda for taking the time to offer your input. Some excellent suggestions, Diane, that I want to consider. I’m sure more of you have thoughts and suggestions as to what would work best for you as well and I would love to hear them.

    To answer your question, Glenda, I feel that anything you step up and try is never a mistake whether it works or not. Even if it doesn’t work, it is a learning experience in the evolution of a business. I definitely don’t consider what we have accomplished at GiftRetailersConnection to be a mistake at all. The number of people who actually participate is not really any different than is true with any of the other learning opportunities available to our industry and is true of forums in all industries.

    But, as with my own gift business and every other business that I have started and grown, I feel that taking the time to step back and look at where you have come and where you are going is important. This is something that each of you should do with your own businesses. All businesses evolve — either forwards or backwards — and I want this one to continue moving forward while taking the best possible advantage of my own time, experience, and knowledge.

    I have been told before by some that we should not give “what we have learned” to those who are new and I strongly disagree with this. We all started at the beginning and learned from those who were willing to share what they had learned while paving the way. A very important thing for me is the ability to “pass it on” and that is what I am trying to do.

    I guess important questions I have are “what is going to be the most effective use of my limited time?” and “will what I invest time and money into be used or wasted?”

    Of course, I could just leave well enough alone and continue with what we are currently offering. But, before making that decision, I will be putting some thought into the possibilities of changing how it is offered. My own time is limited by the fact that there are only 24 hours in each day and I am operating several businesses during those hours. All of the other businesses are much more profitable because they are not giving stuff for free but this one is much more rewarding.

    And I don’t know how much longer I will be around to give back to the industry. At my age, 72 next Saturday, this is something that I think about as well. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. I’m not egotistical enough to think that I am the only one who has something to offer at this point in our industry. There are others, much younger than I, who are offering resources now and there will be others that follow me who will be doing the same. Is what I have learned really all that important? A very good question.

  8. Hi Joyce,
    Great article and I think your community at Gift Retailers Connection is made up of different groups. Maybe keeping the free content for the new to the business folks and then having paid areas. In another group I am part of we pay a premium for some of the “forum” type content. This is for people that pay a monthly membership fee and the questions asked and answers given are more focused and obviously the people paying their monthly fee believe it is worth that fee to have access to this area of the “forum”. It’s actually called “VIP Premium members cafe” and only paid members can ask and answer questions on it. It’s the most active part of the community. Maybe you can poll the community and get an idea of what the make up is? I would send as an email rather than posting in the forum as not everyone does use the forum.

  9. Joyce, I agree with Diane. This was a thought provoking article and therefore I may have to let it sink in a little more and give it more thought to give some good feedback. I have one question though, do you feel you have “made a mistake” because the outcome of your efforts has not been what you’d liked or expected? Is it the lack of feedback and engaging that members are guilty of that makes your efforts seem like a “mistake”? I’m just trying to pinpoint the reason and need for a change in order to know how I’d feel about my ideas as to how to address it. I do also agree with Diane with some of her suggestions about compartmentalizing the groups. However, if you’re a newbie, who better to hear from than a long time veteran of the business. So I’m not real sure yet how I feel about where to go from here. It’ll be interesting to see what others think and we get our collective brain juices to flowing.

  10. Hi Joyce and the team at GiftRetailers Connection, this is a great article. It really is thought provoking and is something that I am very mindful of in my business. When I started out with my existing business almost 10 years ago, most of my business was for the Corporate business sector, but now we have widened our based and we are 50/50 individuals to corporate/business gifts. I too have tried to please everyone, but have realised that you cannot do this, unless you are company, and are segmented into the different sections, so that you can make your messages stand out for the appropriate audience.

    What I find of value from GiftRetailers Connection is being able to learn from others who have far more experience than myself, being able to ask questions without feeling threatened that someone will steal my ideas and do better at them than me.

    How to move forward from here, well I think that you could have a definite “newbies” section, “how to make your business profitable” section and a group that maybe has a monthly webinar or something where the more advanced members can brainstorm real nitty gritty ideas. That way everyone is getting something from this connection, and they can progress to the next level when they are ready to do so. This advanced group would be by invitation and maybe an extra payment system, so that they you will feel that they are more committed to it, and will turn up. Those belonging to the last group would need to send in their questions or requests in advance, so that then they will feel that they are contributing, and are being included. It could be almost like a case study per session, or a couple of them.

    I hope that this has given you a little more thought provoking ideas to work on Joyce. You are amazing how you keep coming up with plenty, although as a business owner, there is always plenty to learn. Thank you for sharing this with us, and I hope that others get on board and add lots of comments.

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