Office staff: There is a time when office staff makes sense but at the launch phase it is a waste of money. I know wearing all the hats can be exhausting and keep you from the part you really love but hang in there – you will get there! The first thing we all want to hire is an accountant, bookkeeper and an assistant…..but do we really need them all right now? Learning to do all aspects of your business is a must in my opinion. You don’t have to continue to do them, but knowledge is key. Hard to give direction when you don’t know how to do it yourself, or at least have some understanding of the job. Having a great accountant is a MUST for me (and honestly I’d be a goner without mine) so spend the money there to keep yourself on track. Try outsourcing to a VA or hiring a part time bookkeeper to start if those are areas you really can’t manage on your own. It gets better I promise!
An office: Will anyone take my calls if they know I am in my Pj’s and haven’t showered yet? Let’s be straight here – unless you are talking to them on skype, they don’t know if you are naked or calling from a penthouse office. Sometimes we try to convince ourselves that WE will feel more important and that we have a REAL job if we have an office. If you really believe in yourself it doesn’t matter if your office is your dining room table. Spending precious dollars on an office to impress our selves is silly. We know we are fabulous already right? If the amount of inventory is the main issue because of space, then investigate a 3rd party shipping warehouse as that is often more economical than an office and a shipping clerk (means workman’s comp insurance = $$$$$$$).
Fancy catalogs and stationery: I never made a sale because I had a glossy tri-fold catalog or line-sheet. Please don’t spend money on these. Instead, use your money to pay a graphic designer to develop a killer logo instead. Make an effort to learn photoshop so you can set up your own line-sheets or at least edit them going forward if you pay someone to do it for you. Photoshop is fairly simple when just making small edits like line-sheets – trust me – if I can learn it so can you. You want to be sure your line-sheet is clear, legible and gives all the pertinent information for your collection. That’s what is going to get you the sale – not the paper it’s printed on or the fancy stationery and preprinted envelope. Trust me on this one!
Advertising: Paid advertising (in the big sense) is for very mature companies with big bank. The ROI (return on investment) is very small and is usually used more for brand awareness than to sell a particular item. It takes a lot of investigative market research to find your target demographic and make sure you will make the most of paid ads. In general, a company should plan to spend at about 10% of gross receipts on marketing and PR. While you are growing, I suggest using all the FREE, or very inexpensive, marketing tools out there. A Facebook Fan Page for one can be a great marketing tool if used correctly. It’s not enough to just get it up and hope for the best. You need to work it and come up with a marketing plan that has legs and can build your fan base and hopefully your pocket too. Post contests, poll your fans, make them post photos of themselves doing something with your product……get them to interact on your page. Once you have a small fan base of about 200, you can cull the FREE data from FB and generate a targeted ad for a few dollars a day. If you need help with this then I suggest spending a few of your marketing dollars with Socialbees to get a great FB page and learn some strategic planning from their savvy owner Hazel Grace. I did and am learning a lot and building my fan base. I am sure a lot of you use Twitter already but it’s not enough to tweet that you got ice cream – You need to send information that your followers will find interesting enough to Retweet and help build your brand awareness. And lastly, I know everyone is sick of hearing these, but blogging and writing articles to post on line is a great way to become an expert and gain some momentum. We are all experts at what we do. If you design shoes then write about the latest shoe trends and why they are so great (or not)….see where I am going with this? Any links that you can post on line that trackback to your website will help increase your on-line visibility and hopefully sales will follow. All this is FREE…… or a tiny investment in your future.
A DYI attitude: You all know I am a BIG advocate of knowing how to do it all yourself, but that is not what I am talking about here. What I mean is that everyone needs a mentor or a coach to help them SAVE MONEY and TIME on the learning curve. I sure wish I’d had it. I am not talking about dumping your life savings into a coach – but if you won’t invest in your future and learn the steps to make things happen faster, or save you from mistakes, or just teach you the ropes – what does that say about you? Admitting what you don’t know is a sign of greatness. We all want to save where we can of course – but knowing where you need help, and sometimes learning what you don’t even know you need to know is one of the keys to success. No one ever got there all by them selves. Ask for advice, pay for advice, GET advice to save yourself a bigger loss of time and money down the road.
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