When I started my first business I was incredibly naïve. To be honest, I didn’t even consider the fact that I was starting a business. To me, running a business was a million miles away from what I was actually doing.
To cut down seven years in a few lines, the journey was a bit (a lot) like this:
Some of you may see similarities with how you started your ‘business’. I struggle with the fact that that was what I was running, because it never felt like it. Maybe it was the fact that everyone else called it a business and that’s just never how I saw it. I explained it away to myself as ‘organic growth’ and that’s just fine, but I was never going to make a success of it, not truly, because I wasn’t running a ‘business’. I was sewing in my shed and hoping the products would sell.
I would put them on Facebook, or Etsy, and maybe they would sell. I would upload them to my website, and maybe they would sell. But most often than not, they didn’t. I just thought it was because no-one liked them, but I got really good feedback. So then I thought maybe they are the wrong price bracket (read: too expensive!) so I reduced them in price. I maybe sold a few more, but not that many. It was hard work and I had no idea what I was doing wrong.
Being away from my sewing, and taking a few years actually working in a ‘proper’ business environment it has been blatantly obvious what I was doing wrong. I didn’t have any kind of plan. I had done no marketing. I had no idea who my customer was, or where they were. I had no long term goals, I was just going from day to day, week to week and hoping for the best. And when the best didn’t happen I wanted to curl up and cry. But I know now why it didn’t happen.
I have learnt so much over the last few years that no matter what industry you work in (and I have worked with a lot recently!) you have to have certain fundamental elements in place to make your business really work. You need to have a real understanding of who it is you are making your products for (and no, they aren’t for you – you aren’t buying them!) Who is your customer and what do they want?
If your products aren’t selling to the people you want to buy them, then you need to change your product. If you aren’t willing to change your product then you need to change your target audience. Here is a great blog post that goes into more detail about why people may not buy your product.
So, you need the right product and target it to the right audience. This isn’t a case of licking your finger and holding it up to see which direction the wind is blowing, this is proper hard work. This is research, research and more research. And it is also ongoing.
You also need the right price bracket – and not one that you feel uncomfortable with, but one that is realistic and makes you a profit. We all know how hard it is pricing handmade products, my goodness don’t we??! I hear it all the time – if we charge a decent hourly rate then no-one will buy it. But on the other hand, if we don’t charge a decent hourly rate then we burn out feeling resentful that all our hard work is for nothing. After all you can’t pay the mortgage on kindness. But, yes I know it’s tough. Really tough. Really, really tough. But it has to be done. Value your work and charge the right price.
And then once you’ve got a good understanding of your audience you will know where they are and how to target them. You need to seduce them. Let them know that only your product can fulfil their needs. How? By telling them so – through newsletters, blogs, the correct social channels, the right online shops. Build their trust and their belief in you, and you will have them buying from you again and again and again. But you need to keep up with it. Sending out a couple of newsletters is not enough – you will trickle out of their consciousness. Keep reminding them who you are and what you are up to. You’ve got to earn their trust, and make them feel special.
So you’ve got your customer, you’ve got the right product at the right price and you’ve made a start on your marketing channels. This is great - you actually now have a strategy and a plan. This is so important. And to keep re-assessing your plan is just as important, because things change, as we well know. We can’t rely on certain social channels anymore so we have to adjust to that, to make it work for us. We have to up our game as more and more competition comes into play – how will we do this? By constantly observing and listening and researching what else is going on and how people are behaving.
It’s no surprise that a lot of running a business, as far as selling products go, is all about human behaviour. It’s tapping into the psychology of people and what it is they want. What niche can you fill for them? How can you make their lives better with what you provide? Think outside the box, because being successful is a lot more than posting a picture of what you’ve made and hoping someone buys it.
But again, I know what it’s like. When you are thinking that all you want to do is create and make because that is your passion, and all this is too much like hard work. Because I’ve been there, and it is hard work! But that’s why there are people like me letting you know (nagging and bossing you) about what is needed to really make a success of your business.
But only if that’s what you really want. It may be that it is enough for you to be sitting in your shed and sewing. I just know it wasn’t right for me and that I wanted more. I wanted it to be all worthwhile, and I wanted to make a difference.
So if you do need some help, or you just want to scream and cry, or even make a long term business plan, please get in touch. It’d be great to hear from you – and hopefully it will go some way into me making that difference that I wanted to do.
Helen @ The CBN Team x
P.S. I just wanted to add to this blog post something that I didn't consider before I started writing, or more specifically, looking for photos to include. I realise that I am extremely proud of what I have achieved over the last seven or eight years as Kindred Rose. I didn't see it at the time, but I did well. Looking through all the photos, and reliving memories, reading comments, it has meant so much. At the time you are so caught up in what's not going well, that you overlook what is. I just want to say now, to you all, that I am proud of what I have achieved up until this point, and that I now realise I was successful in my business. Because it was a business, and a good one at that!
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