Category: Business

Business

The Four P’s of Marketing (Why They’re Critical)

All brands are created with The Four Ps of marketing in mind (and I throw in a couple more for good measure) The Four P’s to Marketing are:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Placement

And my extra two:

  • Packaging
  • Perceived Value

The Four Ps must be considered carefully and none can be left out.

Your Product Is your product needed, wanted or relevant in the market? How do your products fill a need or solve a problem? What makes your product unique?

Pricing how are you priced based on perceived value and your competition?

Promotion Pricing and Promotion always work well together. A promotion is based on a special price. Offering something: 10% off, free shipping on all orders, red tag sale, whatever it may be, are you offering promotions regularly to keep your audience engaged?

Placement Where are you showing your products? Are you marketing your products in the right places to the right audience and at the right time?

Packaging For many products in the fashion and beauty industry, packaging is everything. Even if it’s a simple lotion or a pair of socks, what does the packaging say about your company and brand? How does it make the end consumer feel? Does it look like it could be a brand who could hang with your competition? If not, make sure it does!

Perceived value is what a customer believes merchandise to be worth when she agrees to pay (or not to pay) for ownership of the product. Compared to the real value of the product, perceived value is more difficult to measure sometimes. But this can be achieved with the right angle of your marketing strategies. Perceived value states: This product to me is worth as much as or more than the price tag attached because _________.

Take for example the frenzy of supply and demand. People will spend more on an item if everyone wants it and if there are is a finite amount of that product available. The perception is that this item is rare, and therefore more valuable.

“eBay taught me a lot about perceived value, and how to make things look their best, because that’s really the difference between literally putting a plus-size ladies anorak on a hanger and taking a picture of it, and putting it on a cool girl and making it look like something beyond your wildest dreams that you can snag for way less than Comme Des Garçons.” – Sophia Amoruso Founder, Nasty Gal

A great example of the Four Ps in action with the addition of Perceived value is Brandy Melville. The Instagram photos, soft colors and basic styles are loved by teens everywhere. The looks are classic but on trend right now, the marketing is done in a way that girls identify with and the clothes are made in Italy (perception: luxury). You’d assume by the made in Italy label, the photos and the styles that Brandy clothes aren’t affordable. The perception is already created before you shop, so a customer is very pleasantly surprised to discover she can afford everything! From $16 tops to $20 shorts and $28 dresses. For a small price, any girl can become a #BrandyGirl

Having said that, perceived value of products offered by a brand is also measured by the loyalty, awareness and positive association by which the brand has created in its target market. All of which I feel Brandy Melville has encompassed.

Business

How to Sell Your Company or Business

Looking to get out from underneath your company but don’t know what to do?  Your Company, Brand or Business may be worth more than you think.

Don’t kill it, try to sell it.

Do you have a great product, company or a brand you have built? Maybe you even have a successful Etsy store you want to sell. Perhaps you don’t have the capital or time to invest anymore – but you know the brand and the company is still worth something. Sometimes there are many reasons why a person can’t move forward with their company. When this happens, think about selling your company, don’t kill it.

Your Brand or Company May Be Worth More than You Think

Capitalism, as its name suggests, is based on the ownership of Capital. What is capital? Basically, capital is anything that can be traded for something else. Any amount of money is capital, as it can be traded for a huge variety of things. Personal items are also capital because they can be sold. Items such as houses, cars, and ‘other items of value’ fall under this category. 

Capital is anything of value that can be turned into cash. If a blog is earning a #1 spot on Google, it’s worth about $250,000 in Google SEO Adwords for search results alone. But unless it’s a blog that can turn a profit for products sold, it’s nothing more than good content. That is, unless it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to really market a blog to its fullest potential. 

But in Economics 101, we learned what Capitalism is. And it usually boiled down to a tangible item like a house or a car. In reality, there may be digital goods that far outweigh a tangible object in monetary value. We need to start thinking about that idea more.

A lot of business owners and even small Etsy makers, crafters, etc. don’t know what to do with the small business or brand they have spent years building, so they just quit. That’s the worst thing to do. Because you just never know if there is someone out there looking for what you’ve built. And you could be underestimating what you HAVE.

Think about it: If you have built up a social media following, a list of customers, a product that is scalable and blog content, etc. you have a solid foundation and a brand. Now, I’m not saying that every brand created is worth half a million dollars, but your brand could be worth more than you think. And if you can no longer stand to look at it, it could be a fresh new venture for someone else, and a little cash in your pocket.

A lot of people are looking to buy already established businesses, or breathe new life in old business that existed decades ago. If you think about it, it makes sense: Buy a company with a product or brand that is already known, or a proven seller. Such is the case for old brands getting new life and being bought for low prices at auction. Or take Narragansett Brewing Co., which was founded in 1890, closed it’s doors in 1985 and was purchased in 2005.  The stories are inspiring : old brands getting new life

Maybe you have a website in place with ecommerce and the product just needs a little tweaking or marketing expertise. FarmHouse Fresh products are awesome products on their own, but the reason it became so wildly successful so quickly is because it was in the hands of a marketing professional who got it in the hands of Oprah. She knew how to do this. There are hundreds of Farmhouse Fresh-esque products out there, even on Etsy who will never see the pages of Martha Stewart Living or Oprah’s Favorite Things because they don’t have a PR or Marketing professional behind them.

If you aren’t sure if you want to sell your business outright and just need to raise capital or seed funding, check out my article on Angel Investors and Venture Capital Firms

What is your company worth, or How much can you sell your business for?

Valuing a company can be tricky, but the general rule of thumb is to think of a business as a stream of cash. Then value your business based on that stream of cash. Revenue is the best approximation of a business’s worth. If the business sells $100,000 per year, you can think of it as a $100,000 revenue stream. Depending on what your business or product is can make it harder to value.

  • Do you offer products or services?
  • Are your products scalable (meaning, can they be made or recreated by someone other than you)?
  • Do you see a long term future and growth with your products or service?

You can also take your current YTD sales and combine it with marketability and future growth estimate to give you a basic ballpark figure for what your asking price can be.

For example:

“Bridget’s Widgets” creates cloth dolls and sells through her online Etsy store. She has been in business for 3 years. Her first year she sold $4,000 worth of product. In year 2 she sold $8,000 worth of product and in her 3rd year, she is at $15,000 per year.  Based on the current yearly sales and the steady growth in sales per year, we can see that her client base is growing and sales are steady and increasing. Her product is one that can be scaled and either recreated in-house or outsourced by a factory. We also know that the long-term growth for her brand/product could easily be sold for the next 10 years.

Based on that info, we can estimate that Bridgets Widgets the Company is worth somewhere around $32,000

Here is a helpful business valuation calculator I have found online to give you a rough estimate of your company’s worth.

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Be totally honest about your financial figures and any assumptions, as fabrication serves nobody when buying or selling a company. Note the smallest grey circle, that will be your estimated business value based on your calculations.

Selling Your Business

A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of selling their company, or they don’t even think about it when the need arises. We are still kind of stuck in an old mindset and fail to realize that online businesses (or products) are definitely worth something. Don’t fall into the mindset thinking your business or product isn’t worth anything to anyone else. If you have a product, a following and sales, it is worth something to the right person looking for it. Keep in mind, it may not be thousands of dollars, but it is worth something to someone, and you owe it to yourself to find out.

A lot of business buyers won’t even touch a company unless it is turning major profits but what I think they fail to see is if the product and idea is there, the growth they want can happen if it’s just marketed well. Business buyers have the chance to get in on a ground floor opportunity and earn quite a bit for a product that is already doing well (with a limited budget).

Bottom line: If you have a strong company or brand you have built online, you have a company that is worth something. Let the buyers decide what it’s worth if you’re not sure. Your Following and client list alone could be worth something. Don’t discount the hard work you have invested in your company, product(s) or brand over the years.

The best places I’ve found online to buy or sell a company:

Flippa -So far, this is a #1 site for selling or buying websites (mostly). There are a lot of turn key websites and blogs listed here.

Businesses For Sale. com I like simple, user friendly interface of this website a lot. If I were going to list a business for sale, I might go with this one. Although I do think BizBuySell gets better traffic (see below)

Merger Network MergerNetwork is a social network for business professionals. Create a post about the type of business you want to buy or sell, and send it to your connections. It seems to be relatively active, but I am not sure how it is working for the members.

eBay – People list physical businesses as well as online businesses, e-commerce sites and blogs here all the time.

BizBuySell, You can list your business for sale or browse and find a business for sale on this website. There are also brokers out there who may be willing to sell your company for you.

BusinessBroker.net This is a good site to list and find businesses for sale. As with the others, the pricing is about the same to list ($99 for 2 months)

BizQuest BizQuest is also like BizBuySell. There are all kinds of businesses listed, from Franchises to indepently owned Hair Salons to online gift basket businesses.

KEY: Once you list your business for sale, make sure you are utilizing social media to get the word out. Use Twitter, a blog (great for SEO) and Facebook, and share the link to your business listing for sale.

LinkedIn – You can try posting your business or website for sale in a relevant group board. I have found this Buy/Sell Business Group, however, I have requested to join twice and still no response. So unless you are approved by the moderator, you won’t be able to post or connect there.

Find a Business Broker – Most brokers may only deal with higher profit businesses, so unless your company is turning hefty profits, it might not be in their best interest to sell your company, as they earn a cut from the sale. Still, worth exploring.

Business

The Anatomy of the Bubble in Fashion

Let’s take a classic Bubble pattern (mind you, this is schematic of a financial bubble):

bubble-phases-1024x686

Bubbles happen when the price of (fill in the blank) rises to an extreme level – way beyond its fair market value. So what causes a product’s price to rise so high?  The simplified reason is strong demand and, of course, investors and businesses capitalizing on that demand.

Generally bubbles are used in relation to Housing or Financial, but I see the same ebb and flow in our Fashion and Fast Fashion industry.

As explained by John Mauldin, Bubbles generally operate on 5-part phases: 

1. Displacement (All bubbles start with some basis in reality. Often, it is a new disruptive technology that gets everyone excited, although Kindleberger says it doesn’t need to involve technological progress.)

2. Boom (Once a bubble starts, a convincing narrative gains traction and the narrative becomes self-reinforcing.)

3. Euphoria (In the euphoria phase, everyone becomes aware that they can make money by buying stocks in, creating and/or selling Widget X)

4. Crisis (The momentum is disrupted. In the case with retail, it’s generally by a flooded market of competition and lowered price points. The only way to sell is to offer prices at a much lower level. The bubble bursts, and euphoric buying (producing) is replaced by panic selling. The panic selling in a bubble is like the Roadrunner cartoons. The coyote runs over a cliff, keeps running, and suddenly finds that there is nothing under his feet.)

5. Revulsion (Just as prices became wildly out of line during the early stages of a bubble, in the final stage of revulsion, prices overshoot their fundamental values. In other words, consumers discover the ugly truths of marketing, inflated pricing and the products themselves)

The first recorded bubble occurred in the Netherlands during the early 1600’s and involved tulips (yes, the flower). Tulips became so popular that their price soared, even to the point where some bulbs allegedly cost more than 10 x the annual wage of a skilled worker.

Sounds silly, right?  There are similarities, however. 

The average cost to manufacture a yoga legging in China = $6

Retail Cost = $90

Demand upon entering market: High

Why?  New. Different. Comfy

Worker’s wage to manufacture that legging = $1.78/hr.

I can see this Bubble in our entire fast fashion industry, but for the sake of simplicity, I will narrow it down to say, jeans and activewear (yoga pants).

Denim hit quite a boom for several years and the premium denim market was soaring to great heights.  Premium denim was king and everyone started producing with Italian, US and Japanese fabrics. LAs garment district for denim was crazy.  Big brands emerged from nowhere and exclusive boutique brands popped up all the time before burning out. Denim’s bubble definitely burst when companies started creating premium fitting denim without the premium price.  As a result, consumers found value in brands such as Uniqlo and American Eagle. A lot of companies either went under, lowered prices considerably or sold their brand to dept. stores like Kohls (Rock & Republic). The premium denim companies who are still alive after the bubble are struggling to climb and compete with: Yoga Pants. 

Activewear has been around for a long time, and it was gaining popularity in 2005, followed by a slight decline before it began to rise again in 2011 (1. Displacement). But Activewear really begin to soar around 2015 (namely yoga pants), outselling Jeans.  Leggings became the new jeans and the price and numbers reflected as such. (2. Boom)

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 9.23.02 AM

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jeans_vs_Activewear-Sales

Leggings followed the premium denim market, and it wasn’t unusual to see leggings retailing for $90, although in reality, the true cost of manufacturing spandex or nylon leggings in large scale production in China is only about $6-$8 per piece (far less than the average $15-$35 manufacturing of better to premium quality jeans). The machines involved with manufacturing a legging are roughly 3, whereas jeans require about 8 different sewing machines and also require more skilled labor as well as washing and finishing machines, techniques and processes.

So it stands to reason that what we are seeing in Activewear is also trend and a Bubble created not only by consumer demand for new, fresh and comfortable, but the capitalization (over-capitalization) of this demand.  The hot trend of activewear has allowed brands, manufacturers and investors to do what they do best: jump on a bandwagon and run it into the ground and saturate the market.

What we saw in 2014-2015 was new yoga wear brands and existing brands expanding to activewear (3. Euphoria)

Rebrand, New Brands, New Collections, Sell, sell, sell – at whatever cost it takes.  Make up fancy fabric names for what is really just nylon or spandex. Increase the prices to make it appear more interesting. Create expensive marketing campaigns to increase the demand.

But consumers get smart. When they see brands like American Eagle and Forever21 offering the same $85-$90 pants for $20, they begin to question everything. The illusion is shattered and there is no turning back.

The market is now totally flooded. Sales (and perhaps interest) will begin to decline. Investment will become limited, brands will scale back their SKUs. (4. Crisis)

I’d presume where we are right now in the Activewear bubble is right around the Delusion and New Paradigm (or on the cusp of Euphoria and Crisis) area.

Brands are scrambling to market the same product with fancy names or reinvent the yoga pant and what we see are innovative fabrics that promise to melt your fat and eliminate cellulite while you wear the leggings. Or better yet, they’ll step up their game with even more expensive leggings and target a luxury market.  (5. Revulsion)

Consumers are aware of the true value and product availability now exceeds the demand.

The Bubble has burst.

The same happened with denim.  There was a premium denim bubble. And it happened much in the way I’m seeing the activewear market. It rose, hit hard and then the market was flooded.  The prices declined, the lower fruit bearers shut their doors and the strongest brands who were the first and best players survived.

The bubble is bursting with Junior brands also. PacSun, Aeropostale, etc. Same clothes, different stores.  Homogenized.

The fashion industry is totally flooded.

The activewear market is absolutely flooded at this point, with a big range of price points. And the bubble will burst within the next year or so, leaving tons of brands in the red with tons of inventory to be sold on sites such as Overstock, 6PM and Zulily. In fact, I am already seeing this.  While new companies and brands are jumping on bandwagons, they are missing the silent Stealth phase of what’s to come.

So what creates a demand or drives a trend?

Truthfully, I think the biggest portion of the activewear market right now is in women’s yoga and fitness.  It’s strong not because Lululemon introduced it to us.  Activewear has been worn since the 1980s. Activewear is a reflection of where women’s interests are right now.  Women want to be healthier, live healthier, more soulful lives. They want to run, be active, do yoga, feel beautiful and be comfortable.  Women are tired of wearing shit that isn’t flattering or comfy.  Women are becoming more self aware, more empowered and either starting their own companies, or taking jobs that allow them to just be themselves.

“A report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that women are steadily increasing their presence in the world of small-business ownership. About 29 percent of America’s business owners are women, that’s up from 26 percent in 1997. The number of women-owned firms has grown 68 percent since 2007, compared with 47 percent for all businesses.” – Gillian White, The Atlantic

In order to see what trends are ahead, it’s important to see who your target customers are and where they’re heading.  What are their interests and who do they want to be?

So what’s next? 

As with any bubble, there is a burst and a return to normal.

My guess is: Minimal.  

Comfort and quality over quantity.

Comfortable, classic. Leisure loungewear that plays double duty as day to active wear? Perhaps.

Less is more? Probably.  

Where is our focus these days?

The basic little black dress of casual wear (black yoga leggings) will probably never leave our closet, but the athleisure trend will fade.

The next phase, or our Return to Normal is not another sport bra and yoga legging.  It’s simplicity. The only way to see where we are going is to see where our focus, as a whole, lies.

Sources: Forbes, The Atlantic, Google Trends, Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Mauldin Economics.

Business

Why Social Influencers Should Stop Thinking Small

You’re a big influencer in the social space. You’ve put in your time, built your fan following, built your personal brand, now what?

Beyonce + Ivy Park with TopShop, Kate Moss with H&M, the list goes on when it comes to celebrity brands. But don’t you think top influencer branded products are next?

I certainly do.

We are already beginning to see it with makeup companies and beauty bloggers.

Influencers, up to this point, have largely relied on teaming with established companies to collaborate on, for example, clothing or beauty lines…That’s changing.

– Women’s Wear Daily

If you are a successful Vlogger or Instagrammer, where are you in your branding stage? Have you even thought about it?  I look at a lot of top influencers and I see where they are winning and I see a lot of others who could definitely be doing more.  I wonder if they are limiting themselves purposely, or if they are just kind of lost about the next steps to take.

Perhaps they don’t want to do more, and that’s OK, too.  Personally, if I had millions of followers and subscribers to my YouTube channel, I would be hustling the shit out of that. (I mean that in a good way, of course)

One YouTube girl in particular (I won’t mention her name) has a huge influence and what is she selling?  Stuff that looks like she created it on Zazzle.  If that’s what she wants for her brand, that’s totally OK.  I am not going to say what she’s doing is all wrong if it’s working for her and if that is what she is aiming for.  However, I will say that what she’s doing and what Chiara Ferragni are doing are what separates the right now influencers from the ‘it girl’ brand builders and future company CEOs with staying power.

Cheap tees from Zazzle are not going to cut it for long term branding strategy.  Do what Beyonce would do.  Think you can’t?  Think again.

Think bigger.

If you think that social influencers aren’t the next Beyonce’s and Bieber’s (oh wait.) Then you’re dead wrong.  Companies like Target, PacSun and Abercrombie need to start paying attention.  FAST.  Don’t you think that PacSun should have been keen on a  Justin Beiber capsule collection?  Uh, yeah.

Know who Cameron Dallas is?  If you’re a clothing company or any big brand, you should.  If you don’t, I’m going to say, you need to wake the fuck up.

California native Cameron Dallas has gained over 15 million combined followers on social media in less than a year.  He’s the 7th most followed Viner and, since starting to post on YouTube a few months back, has already added over 3 million subscribers to his channel.

As a social influencer, what you do now is going to set the stage for whatever career you wish to create, or residual income you plan to make in your future. Riding the hot social media train right now is awesome.  You are creating content, building your brand-but you have to think of where you’ll be 2 or 4 years from now. How will you stay relevant in your current space, and what are the next steps for you or your brand?  Are you working toward what you have already planned and are you reverse engineering that vision?

For some, they got into YouTubing because it was fun, and the next thing they realize is their channel has blown up and they don’t know what the hell to do with it next.  So they stay on that current flow and focus, never really thinking about what’s coming ahead in the pipeline.

Remember this guy?

leave-britney-alone-chris-crocker
Chris Crocker, 2007-08

His name is Chris Crocker and once upon a time he had millions of YT Followers, even before his ‘Leave Britney Alone’ video that went viral. In fact, his video was one of the most watched YouTube videos of all time. He literally became a founder of ‘viral videos’.

Where is he now?

He is still active on social media, and has a good fanbase on Instagram but has since deleted his YouTube account and the infamous Brit video because of well, “toxic troll haters”. And you can’t blame him, his brand was himself and his past was part of that brand. Now in 2016,  we see him reinventing himself to leave the old persona behind.

ChrisCrocker
Chris Crocker, most recently

The beginnings of his brand and YouTube career were in the early stages of YouTube in general, so many of us had no idea how the current Tube world would evolve.

And that is the lesson I am talking about right here and now.  We don’t know what 2 or 4 years from now will look like, but if you have a solid plan and an audience right now, you can be harnessing that in the most positive way.

In the case of Chris, he just did what everyone else was doing, vlogging. He shared a very personal part of his life with the world because that’s just who he is.  He realizes now he made a few poor choices with his fame then (i.e. the Maverick Men porn videos). But if he had known all of this would blow up, perhaps he may have made more strategic plans. If I could have talked to him back then, I would have suggested a super funky or soft androgynous underwear line, named Crocker.  Why the hell not? 

And this is where all of you who may be (or probably aren’t) reading can make a difference.

Stop thinking so small.

Stop thinking within these invisible parameters. They don’t exist.

If you have half a million or even 200K followers, be ready. Be thinking ahead, reverse engineer your brand and your strategy. Don’t assume this is all going to be here 4 years from now. If you have an idea, I urge you to go for it while you have the attention of your audience. If you LOVE writing, vlogging and creating videos then keep doing that. Chances are, you will excel and evolve with the social media trends. But if you see something bigger ahead for yourself, such as the case was with Jessica Alba or Chiara Ferragni, plan your strategy now.  Your current career is your skill honing, your brand building, your research.  Your future career is going to be supported by whatever work you are putting in now.

Jessica Alba started The Honest Company in 2011, and it has been wildly successful, to the tune of $1.7Billion. She leveraged her celebrity status to launch the brand and company, but she stepped back and allowed the quality of the products and the message to speak for itself. You see, it isn’t quite enough for a celeb to just build a brand and reap insta-rewards.  You have to create something pretty worthwhile with a worthwhile agency, or it might blow up in your face.

Just ask Kate Hudson how Fabletics (owned by JustFab) is doing amidst the thousands of complaints from disgruntled customers.

When you strip back all the marketing hype, the core of every good celebrity endorsed, celebrity branded product or collaboration should be the product. Quality product and quality marketing is key to long term success.  

Your audience is tuned in, it’s time to start thinking of taking your brand to the next level. If it is your desire to take this as far as you can, you need to know when to strike and start creating a foundation for long-term growth by creating quality products that will become an extension of your brand and eventually a COMPANY.

All of this-this crazy cool internet madness that allows any one of us to write a post or create a channel with videos and succeed like we never have before, this is a gift.  You and I are in the midst of an evolution that is incredible and intriguing.

Understand where you are and harness your fanbase.  There has never been a better time than NOW to reach out and grab the limitless opportunities. 

Business

Why ‘Intuitive Entrepreneurship’ is Crucial

Lately the phrase “intuitive entrepreneurship” has been popping into my head.  Perhaps these are buzzwords which are being used more often. Or perhaps, the need to employ this way of thinking is more crucial than it has been before. Letting go of old paradigms is really hard, but I guess it’s much harder when you find yourself left behind because you were afraid of change and taking a risk.

“Entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity. They usually have a personality that is mercurial, and they have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. There’s good evidence that they have strong self-confidence but also tend to be overoptimistic. They rely extensively on their own intuition.”  -James V. Koch
Old Dominion University

As natural-born entrepreneurs, we are kind of wired to take risks and be rebellious.  We learn really early in life what interests us and what doesn’t.  This is probably why I sucked so much in school.  I never understood the point.  I was incredibly bored. I saw myself, my life and my future in a space that had nothing to do with anything going on in those classrooms.  Life was more interesting, more intelligent and grander than the education I was getting there. I couldn’t wait to get out of school to actually create my life the way I saw it. 

I think this is one trait of an entrepreneur that really stands out. If you are a natural born entrepreneur, you probably know you are a bit of a stubborn individual. You live in a bubble of your own ideas, often times feeling like you speak a different language than others.  You are totally driven and would rather stay up all night planning and doing research than sleeping.  And for anyone who tries to sway you from your vision, your hustle and gut instincts -well, that’s all but impossible.

I have been exercising my intuition and trend forecasting skills for a long time now. So the methods and skills I use are pretty natural to me.  My career as a fashion designer has meant that using intuition, and awareness with research is vital to creating collections or pieces that are relevant. I was told in my career that, “If it didn’t scare me, I wasn’t thinking big enough”. A design manager at a company I worked for wanted us to “make him a little uncomfortable” with our designs.  So taking risks has been a huge part of my life in my career and in my own entrepreneurship.  And I embrace it wholeheartedly.

What exactly does it mean to be an intuitive entrepreneur? Sometimes it means taking a little time to think over and research an idea, and sometimes it means moving rapidly on an idea that sparks almost out of nowhere.  With so much information being served to us on a daily basis, sometimes all we have is our intuition to go on. Taking your time on an idea just for the sake of pragmatism isn’t the wisest choice, even if it sounds wise to everyone else.  If you feel deep in your gut that an idea is a hot one, I encourage you to go for it.  This, in my opinion, is the purest form of intuitive business strategy, and the nature of an entrepreneur.

The ability to be creative, think on the fly and make key business decisions with little time amidst the tsunami of external information is vital. Intuition is the natural intelligence that allows us to see ahead of the curve, to generate innovative ideas, to communicate powerfully and to do so without having to study spreadsheets or gather piles of data.  -Simone Wright

On more than a few occasions, I was designing 3-6 years ahead of the game.  And because of that, I either hit it out of the park or swung too quickly and struck out.  In 2008, a collection I worked on wasn’t market relevant, yet. Prospect Denim, a denim collection I helped create and launch in 2008, become relevant – 5 years later.  In fact, every denim company launching in 2013 offered that ‘homespun, made in USA the old fashioned way’ branding message that I created for Prospect in 2008. My partner at the time had the foresight to predict the laser technologies in denim finishing long before any other mainstream denim companies were doing it.  In 2007-08 I foresaw the return to the small batch, USA-made apparel roots happening before it did. Collectively, we saw the direct-to-consumer selling approach. Unfortunately for Prospect Denim in 2008, the rest of the denim world needed more time to “catch up”.  We made our dent in the fashion industry with our innovative thinking and award winning website but it wasn’t enough to translate that into multi-million dollar conversions.  Had we launched two years later, we would have completely crushed our competition.

Being too far ahead isn’t aways a bad thing, but timing is important.

I struck at the right time in 2009 with my first real apparel company, Berry Jane.  At the time, the ‘leggings as pants’ movement was still really new.  It was Berry Jane and Black Milk who were paving the way.  It was hugely successful in it’s first 6 months, and by month 7, we were already on our way to multi-million dollar revenues by year 2. My only kiss of death with that brand was allowing three of the four devils of branding and the wrong partnerships to enter into the picture.

They were:

COMMITTEES (water down inspiration)
BUREAUCRACY (rules override initiative and the ability to think)
RED TAPE (not being nimble and adding layers just because we think moving slowly is somehow smarter than moving swiftly)

As a creative entrepreneur, you simply can NOT let other people into your sandbox or business before the vision (or business) is fully realized.  I can’t stress that enough. Your brand and vision cannot afford to be compromised before it is fully realized. As an intuitive entrepreneur, you can seen how this will play out. Chances are, you have visualized the success of your project like no one else can. You can’t let other people change that. Most importantly, if you are going to change anything, it needs to be because you saw the areas that needed improvements or changes and you did it.  Use your intuition.

Be brutally honest with yourself. This is lesson #1 in intuitive entrepreneurship.

Be OPEN to seeing, hearing and feeling when something isn’t right and quickly adjusting or tweaking areas where you feel it needs to change.  If you discover that your idea simply sucks, or there is just not enough white space for your brand or business, it’s OK to adjust the sails or just fucking scrap it.  Spending time beating a dead horse or living in the past keeps you in that present state: beating a dead horse that will never rise and living in the past that will not propel you forward.  If you see something changing, or if the old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore, you owe it to yourself and your company to figure out why. Spend some time observing and taking it all in.  Pay attention to what is going on around your space.

Ask yourself: What does this project feel like?  Am I doing everything I can with it? What are the successful people doing?  Where is all of this headed?  As a consumer, what do I want? What does all of this feel like?

When you tune in more, you will get better at it.  Take time to be alone with your thoughts and meditate. Analyze your questions and answers.

In my past experiences, I learned to strike when it felt right and to avoid big decisions if I felt hesitant.  I also learned to avoid too many naysayers or partners who tried to change or complicate my flow of things. I learned how to walk away quickly from a person who felt “off”, or a project that just didn’t have the legs I thought it would have. Nor did I partner up with a person because I was desperate for funding or creative collaboration.  I was not attached to the projects or brands simply because I had invested so much into them.  That’s not a good enough reason to continue investing your time, your life, energy and money.  If it’s a project that needs changing in order to be successful, do the necessary changes that it needs, otherwise, be OK growing it slowly or toss it.  There has to be a return.  If it isn’t paying you back financially or emotionally, it’s not worth it. This is another area where your intuition will not lead you astray.  If it feels sucky, let it go and move on.

You have to be willing to hear and see what’s going on around you and predict what’s coming next. Where do you want to be in that game?  In 2008, Tony Robbins hosted a seminar on entrepreneurship. He talked about the economy in the USA, starting a business, and how it was going to challenge all of us.  He also spoke about the power of giving back and truly connecting with our clients and customers in a very personal way (through social media). If you have 30 minutes to spare, I highly recommend this video.

Anticipating is the ultimate advantage in business and in life.  Be ahead of the game, don’t wait to react.  Play the game. KNOW the road ahead.

 

Business

How Do I Brand Myself?

BRANDING 101: A Roadmap & Strategy Guide to Personal Branding

First of all, What is a Personal Brand?

A personal brand, or your personal brand is the culmination of your skills, knowledge, experiences and personality that come together to speak to the world about who you are. Your brand is what essentially attracts and retains customers.

Creating and developing yourself as a personal brand is similar to product branding. The overall goal with branding is to not only tell the world your story, but to differentiate yourself or your product in the market so you can reach your goals as a top influencer, brand, product or successful blogger.

Product or brand development is not always about creating something different, but about doing something differently.

To assist you in moving forward with your product or branding goals, I have created this roadmap that I like to follow.  (GET OUT A NOTEPAD AND PEN.  You’re going to need it).
I have used it often for my own brands as well as for clients’ branding purposes and it’s nearly foolproof if you follow it correctly.

This one is intended for new brands who are looking to launch fresh, but you can also use it if you want to wipe the slate clean and totally re-Brand.

This process I have created is going to require a lot of thought and some research on your part. But I promise, it will be worth it.  The more research and honesty you bring to the table, the better off you and your brand message will be.

The following questions will walk you through your thoughts, ideas, aspirations and images of your personal brand to assist you in clearly defining your brand and it’s personality.

A. PERSONAL BRANDING

  1. Define your goals. What are your personal and/or business aspirations?
    (Be specific. Clearly define your goals and objectives whether it’s becoming a famous singer, motivational speaker, CEO of a major company or fashion blogger)
  2. Who do you aspire to emulate?
    (i.e. Ariana Huffington, Oprah, SPANX, Zuckerberg, The Blonde Salad, etc.)
  3. What does your brand look like 1, 2 or 3 years from now?
    Take a moment to really visualize all of the aspects of your brand and company. (I am a firm believer in visualization. You can’t create it if you can’t imagine it.)
  4. What is your brand tagline, message or three key words that define your brand?
    (i.e. Fun, Colorful, Young; Informative, Smart, Tough; “Never Stop Creating”)

B. RESEARCH

Before you can clearly define your personal brand goals and strategy, it is important to conduct thorough research so you can answer your own brand identity questions. This is a paramount  step in creating your brand, and one that shouldn’t be skipped or skimmed over.
Research! Research! Research! Do your homework. 

  1. What do your aspirational brands look like?
  2. What are your aspirational brands doing?
  3. What have they done to get to where they are now? (read their bio, research history)
  4. Are you willing to put in the work to succeed and do what they have done. (This is a VERY important question)
  5. Who are your 3-5 biggest competitors?
  6. What are they doing to brand themselves?
  7. What can you learn from what they’ve done (positive or negative)


C. WHAT’S THE STORY?

  1. What is the overall message you want your brand to convey?
  2. List 3 brand attributes (adjectives) associated with your brand.
  3. Where is your Brand niche in the market? Define this as precisely as you can.
    (i.e. Yoga Wear in Women’s Plus Size Apparel, Writer of Motivational Books)
  4. Where is your Brand right now?  How does your audience or the general public currently perceive you?
  5. How far off are you right now from where you want to be (or be perceived)? (If you are not sure, compare your answers from #1-A to this question.)
  6. Based on your current assessment and goals of question #6, what can you change?

D. ‘GO TO’ BRANDING STRATEGY PLAN

Now that you have your image and goals hammered out, it’s time to start implementing your brand.

Make sure your brand image and message across all social media platforms is cohesive. This means your social media accounts will be consistent and look the same. Consistency is key. Do a deep social media audit and make sure you include all of your social media outlets, from YouTube to Twitter, Facebook Fan page to LinkedIn, from Goodreads to your Gravatar.  Using the same photo across all media platforms is vital in branding. Your face or your logo is what everyone sees.  The more times they consistently see that image, the more they will remember you and/or your brand. Make sure you delete any accounts that are duplicates and/or ones which you will not be needing.

Think about your personal branding attributes, what key aspect(s) will be memorable?Is your font or brand name easy to read? Is your logo good?  Is it memorable?  What about your personal style? It could include a signature piece of clothing, hair, makeup, a tagline, your public persona, etc.  If you are branding yourself, You are your Brand.  (Cocoa-Cola is always in red and white, Iris Apfel is always in big, round glasses, Donald Trump is always saying something shocking.) This is a key in strong branding strategies, and may or may not be one you employ.  But do give it some thought, and find something that is authentic and meaningful to you.

Using, Leveraging and Managing your brand. Now that you have created your brand image, message and have globally branded across all social media platforms, you will want to define which channels you will use and how. Perhaps you will use Twitter or LinkedIn to post your business articles or share links from your blog, or YouTube to post your latest travel review videos, or Pinterest for your recipes.  Whatever methods you choose, make sure to respect the platform and target your audience and place your content accordingly.  Constantly posting links on sites which are irrelevant can kill a brand and your image fast. I manage several very successful LinkedIn groups and I notice when a business or blogger is no only over posting, but over posting irrelevant content. It just looks bad and disrespectful. Target the appropriate platforms for your content or message. People may not always notice you, but they will notice if your messages look like SPAM.

[Here is where it might get overwhelming and tricky if you aren’t social media marketing savvy.  If you are not, refer to my previous post about social media marketing. It’s a long read, and one you should save in your Favorites for when you’re at that stage]

Secondly, reconsider the option of sending automatic Direct Messages (DM) on Twitter for new Followers.  This, in my opinion, is impersonal and may get you deleted as quickly as you were added. Oprah doesn’t send DMs and frankly neither should you.  If you find someone you want to connect with, politely send them (personally) a quick direct message if their email or website info is not listed on their Twitter profile. A great way to win brownie points for your brand: send a welcome tweet that says something like: Hi @AvaMarieC  Thank you so much for the Follow.  I’m looking forward to sharing Tweets!

Automated shout outs are OK and can be fun, or in line with your brand message. For Berry Jane, I like to have fun with my new Followers by sending shout out Tweets that say: @twitteruser Thanks for Following…you MUST be awesome! or  Shoutout to our new Followers: @XXAmandaxx @XXmclanexx You ROCK!!

Managing the Brand. Assuming you are now at this stage, you will want to manage all areas of your brand proactively and consistently.  Make sure all of your posts, reviews, communication styles and even photos are in sync with your brand image and message.  For example, seeing a posting of a funny cat video from a data management guru would seem confusing, wouldn’t it? Not that humor has a negative connotation in branding, but if your brand image goal and story is one of a resolute, data-driven professional with tons of knowledge in your field, posting a silly cat video on your brands’ Twitter account might not be in alignment with your goal.  If, however, your brand message is one of a very humorous and personable guy who shares more than just useful info, go ahead.  Whatever it is you do, make sure it is consistent. There is nothing wrong with connecting on a very personal level if that is who you are, and what you want to do.  Even Taylor Swift makes it a point to connect with her fans in very personal ways.

Personal-Branding-Infogrpahic


Most importantly:  Keep your image, message and goals cohesive and consistent. 

COHESIVE AND CONSISTENT.  Don’t create a Facebook page that doesn’t match your Twitter page. Don’t post negative comments if your brand is all about positivity and love. Ask yourself before you post or comment, “Is this in line with my brand message?”  If it is not, don’t post it. And last, but certainly not least: Make sure the brand you are creating is at the very least the most authentic version of who you are, or in line with what you value or enjoy most. Not only will it be easier to maintain, but it will feel a lot better to you.

How did this plan work for you?  I want to hear your story!  Leave a comment below or email me at: ava@avacarmichael.com 

Business

The Top 20 Business Networking Groups for Women Entrepreneurs

Where are all of the Women’s Business Networking Groups?  They’re not on LinkedIn. If you’re serious about growing your business and networking, you’re going to have to reach for the higher fruit. (Which may mean more face to face interaction and networking).

A LinkedIn Group, (which I am a member of) called Connect: Professional Women’s Network, has nearly half a million members. While it is a good resource for support, it isn’t necessarily a platform for true entrepreneurial networking that garners real life results. It’s a great place for women to share ideas online, get feedback and share their blog posts, but it stops there.  You can’t meet any of these women or connect unless you set it up yourself.  If just this one group met offline at a big event to network, collaborate and create true synergy, what a tribe it would be, right?  A half a million women from all over the world contributing their energy and resources to help everyone succeed.  

behind-every-successful-woman

The truth is, there are a lot of fantastic women’s business networking groups available to us.  You just need to find one that works for you. And then you need to get off your butt and get out there!  Plug in to your tribe.

I’m not recommending the Natl. Association of Professional Women, which, sadly, has a negative rating a mile long.  What I’m referring to are the groups and organizations founded and run by women who are truly making a difference in women’s lives by offering real business solutions and mentorships, venture capital funding and growth strategies.  

CFDA looks like a good resource for women in the fashion industry, however, it’s by invitation only. :\

Why does it feel so difficult to find legit women’s business networking groups that aren’t just trying to scam us?

The answer is: It’s not that difficult, and there are really good ones out there.  You just have to dig a little and be patient. Don’t sign up with the first one that blows fairy dust all over you.  Also, consider looking locally at Meetup.com.  There are a ton of small, mid and large sized networking groups that may be very beneficial to you.

I have done a little digging for you, and these are the top Business Networking Groups for Women Entrepreneurs that I have found on a national scale:

 

countmein

1. COUNT ME IN  Founded by Nell Marino, an international and national champion for women and girls and the creative force behind Take Our Daughters toWork Day. Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence is the leading national not-for-profit provider of resources, business education and communitysupport for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow micro-businesses into million dollar enterprises.

Count Me In knows that women entrepreneurs grow exponentially when given access to the right tools, coaching and community, which has lead them to launch three unique programs: Make Mine a Million $ Business™ (M3), Urban Rebound and the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC). All of these programs are designed to help women business owners get growing!   www.countmein.org

CRAVE-MG_5558-cropped

2. CRAVE, founded by Melody Biringer, The CRAVE Company is focused exclusively on bringing women together to make waves in their careers and personal lives. They specialize in event design for authentic conversation. The first thing you see when you enter their website in big, bold letters is:

No more aimless wandering toward happiness. It’s time to start getting obsessively specific about what you want. So you can start filling your life with it.

Their mission is to draw out the stories and voices of women in business ina way where they feel seen, heard, and empowered. They host Events, Programs and Co-Storming Mashups such as the Seattle Fashion Industry Mash-up.  www.thecravecompany.com

3. Women’s Business Development Center The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is a one of a kind non-profit focused on fueling the economy through entrepreneurship. As the oldest, largest and most comprehensive women’s business assistance center in the United States, we have programs designed to help individuals in every phase of the business development and growth process.  www.wbdc.org

4. WOMEN 2.0 was co-founded by Shaherose Charania and is currently run by a strong team with key advisors.  It’s mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with information, videos, articles and worldwide events such as their PITCH conferences and monthly Founder Friday events.  There is a wealth of info on their website, so I would suggest spending a little time there researching topics that interest you. www.women2.com

5. WBENC The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council 501(c)(3) non-profit was founded in 1997. it is currently the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC partners with 14 Regional Partner Organizations to provide its world class standard of certification to women-owned businesses throughout the country. WBENC’s core focus is Certification, Opportunities, Resources and Engagement. www.wbenc.org

6. SBA.gov  Yes, the SBA (Small Business Association) offers Women’s Business Services (WBCs), which is nationwide and offers a ton of resources for women-owned businesses!  Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) represent a national network of more than 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories, which are designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.

SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) oversees the WBC network, which provides entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in several languages.  Check for local offices in your state for economic development offices.  I am lucky enough to have a couple of stellar universities and programs nearby who offer some amazing Women’s Business Centers! Look in your area, I am sure you will find some hidden gems, too. www.sba.gov

7. SAVOR THE SUCCESS was founded by Angela Jia Kim, and was chosen as Forbes’ Best 100 Websites for Women where “accomplished founders, creators, connectors and movers & shakers” push each other to achieve through meeting benchmarks – together.” Basically, Savor the Success is a membership network offering access to PR opportunities, an active online community, a virtual business school, community center, and wellness lifestyle hub for women entrepreneurs, makers and creators.

8. The Next Women:   TheNextWomen is a community of Investors, Entrepreneurs & Advisers. Their efforts are in supporting the growth of female entrepreneurs, from startups to companies making millions. Their goal is to advise,inspire & connect a global & local community of ambitious entrepreneurial women. They provide access to capital (perfect!), resources and networks, as well as offer their community support. They host summits and events such as their Pitch Competition .  www.thenextwomen.com

9. Dreamit | Dreamit Athena ‘Athena’, which is an accelerator for women created by founders of Dreamit Ventures, was launched in 2015. Ranked by Forbes as  one of the Top 10 Business Accelerators in the world, Dreamit invests in early stage entrepreneurs at all levels to create breakthrough technology companies. They provide startups with resources, advisors, investors, strategic partners and customers looking for innovative solutions.  www.dreamit.com

10. EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women The EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program is a national competition and executive education program that identifies a select group of high-potential women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale — and then helps them do it!   Without sounding too crude, this organization is for badass business women who are serious about succeeding. www.ey.com

11. MergeLane MergeLane discovers, accelerates and invests in exceptional women and the companies they run. Check out their website for more info, and see the current women-owned MergeLane companies  www.mergelane.com

12. Million Dollar Women Workshop Created by Julia Pimsleur. Julia Pimsleuris on a mission to help one million women entrepreneurs get to $1M in revenues by 2020.
Julia is the CEO and Founder of Little Pim, one of the few women-run businesses backed by venture capital in the country, and the leading system for introducing young children to a second language.  Julia has raised a combined $26 million in non-profit and for-profit dollars. After raising millionsfor her own company, she created her popular “Double Digit Academy” and online fundraising bootcamp to help other women do the same.  Check her out, she is doing AMAZING things!  http://www.juliapimsleur.com/

13. Springboard Enterprise Springboard, located in Washington, DC, is a highly-vetted expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. Read their manifesto  https://sb.co/

14. Women’s Startup Lab The mission of Women’s startup Lab is to empower female founders to be strong leaders, to create powerful startups and to influence and shape the world though their companies, using collaboration, community and innovation. The inspiration for Women’s Startup Lab originated in Japan. Founder Ari Horie, growing up in Hiroshima, was raised by a single mother who understood the importance of individuality. http://womenstartuplab.com/

15. Chic CEO At Chic CEO you’ll find easy to understand, easy to implement business knowledge in its most basic form. Best of all, you’ll find other women who are willing to share their advice and experiences simply because someone else did the same for them. It’s a beautiful ‘pay it forward’ system!  The ground level information is there for you to get started in being your own boss – the rest is up to you.  Free to join!  🙂 http://www.chic-ceo.com/

16. Ellevate  Ellevate is the global professional network for women who believes in the positive impact of women in business. Their mission is to help women advance in the workplace, both for themselves and the greater good. It’s a great place where you can invest in yourself or invest in other women.  https://www.ellevatenetwork.com

17. She Owns It  A website and blog dedicated to empowering, connecting and supporting women in business. Check out their conferences listings for an inspiring workshop in your area!  You just never know how it will change everything! http://sheownsit.com/

18. SheWorx A NYC based weekly breakfast collective of strong female entrepreneurs and change makers centered around challenging topics and actionable strategies. They create events hosted by top founders, innovators and entrepreneurs. http://www.sheworx.co/

19. The Boss Network ©The BOSS “Bringing Out Successful Sisters” Network’s mission is to promote and encourage the small business spirit and professional development of women. The BOSS Network is a community of career and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking.

The BOSS network is also a Top 10 Forbes & Inc. Website for Women of Color in Business. http://www.thebossnetwork.org/

20. Womancon  Womancon (convention) is the equivalent to all of the other ‘cons’ we see out there, only their focus is to inspire, educate and re-ignite your entrepreneurial passion with amazing speakers and founders like Janet Hanson (Founder and former CEO of 85 Broads), Egypt Sherrod (CEO, Author and Host of Property Virgins) and Rachel Braun Scherl, to name a few!  Through Womancon, you have the opportunity to grow your network and build professional relationships with  other leading women entrepreneurs from across the country, or pitch the media. learn more at:  www.womancon.com

 


Wherever you find yourself, whether it be at a local business meetup, or a national convention, I think you will discover you’re exactly where you need to be at the right time.

Life is funny and awesome that way.

Business

5 Reasons Why Your Customers Aren’t Responding

 

You have built your website and it’s awesome.  Your product photos are great, your prices are great, your services are great. You’re on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. The Followers are trickling in. Heck, maybe you are getting decent traffic with minimal effort.

But nobody is really responding (i.e. buying, commenting, signing up, etc.).

What the heck is going on?

In a previous post,  we learned the importance of Social Media Marketing and how it is your most important advertising and marketing platform.

I was all over the Shopify forums yesterday, and ‘Why isn’t anyone buying?’ was the single most question asked by all of the shop owners. They post the link to their site and ask for constructive feedback from others. Many responders have good advice, but a lot of it was very much surface stuff.  

At the core of all successful marketing, I feel there has to be some kind of emotional connection established between brand and customer.

1. Are you providing anything worth sharing?

Overall, the products weren’t bad on the Shopify stores, and the websites looked fine. The one thing I did notice, however, was that most of these stores lacked sharable content (or a connection). Some of the products were cute, but it wasn’t enough for me to press the ‘share’ button. One woman had an awesome sauce product.  I mean, literally, she produces homemade sauces.  But there was no blog, no recipes, no customer feedback assuring me that her sauces were in fact, awesome.  There was also no Bio with a photo, no ‘About the Company’ and no story. The product photos were very pretty, but there wasn’t a compelling enough story for me to share that with my Pinterest audience, or to feel a connection to her (because I didn’t know who she was).  

Prepared foods can be a hard sell, unless we’re talking about cookies.  Cookies definitely sell online. Just ask this lady.

If you aren’t creating buzz, perhaps you can ask yourself if you can do something more to create that customer connection.

“Research by Ipsos suggests people shopping with online sellers also want a personal connection. The best engagement means connecting with the real person behind the storefront”. – Karl Wellman

2. Approach marketing from the Consumer point of view

When you find yourself at a new website you’ve never been to before, think about HOW you got there in the first place:

  1. Was it a referral from a trusted source: a Friend, relative, online influencer, website or celebrity
  2. Did you search for a specific item through Google search
  3. Was it a killer marketing ad you just had to click on (visuals matter)
  4. A catchy headline that hooked you in on Twitter, LinkedIn or Reddit
  5. A tantalizing photo on Pinterest of a decadent chocolate cake recipe
  6. Or, a photo of a chic outfit that’s amazing or cheap, and you either save it for later (Pinterest), or buy it right now if you go to their website. Case Studies:
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.50.04 PM
This recipe was Pinned over 6,300 times
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.03.25 PM
This cardigan received over 245,000 pins. I guess a lot of women on Pinterest like this style of clothing!

 

Do you understand the value of shareable content now?

 

People want to be a part of sharing helpful, interesting, funny, compelling or beautiful information. If you are not providing at least two of those things with your content or product, you probably won’t get the social media traction you’re seeking.

The first thing you should do as a business (or a blogger) is create rich content.  Show or tell the story of your product and how it benefits the world, speak to the world about what you know.  Your story can focus on beautiful photography,  humor, awesome recipes, information, or videos. Whatever your platform is, the point is to create tools that make it easy for an audience to be engaged, and then inspired enough to share whatever it is you do.

Good examples:  Song of Style, The Oatmeal, Kickstarter, The Chive, Refinery 29


3. Are You Thinking Like Your Customer?


In relation to HOW you arrived at a new website, think about your perception once you got there.  As creators, it’s hard to look at our own website through the eyes of a stranger in a new place.  Which is who your customer is when she lands on your .com.
If you aren’t sure, compare your site side-by-side to a website you shop at, or find a new one you’ve never been to before and ask yourself how you feel about it upon entering and what your initial thoughts are and WHY.  Write down your thoughts and comments.

Do a side-by-side comparison with a similar competitor’s website and ask yourself:

  • What are they doing
  • What do they have
    and/or
  • What do they offer (that adds value) – that I am not currently doing?  

Be honest with yourself, because your honesty will only help you get to where you’re wanting to go.

It could be something as much as a higher marketing budget or more effort on your part, a team to assist you; maybe you need more social media interaction, or something as simple as better photos, a more cohesive look, or even using a cleaner look or font on your website.

Are you trying to align your brand in a ShopJeen space or an Anthropologie space?  If it’s the latter, consider a thorough walk through of Anthropologie and see how you can take their visual queues and replicate it to what you’re doing.

In the case of CupShe, as mentioned above, it receives tons of Pin shares for it’s products. CupShe.com appears to be a Shopify site.  It’s overall look is clean and simple.  It’s prices are dirt cheap and it’s product selections are pretty cute.  The company is most likely a foreign-based website, which is easy to figure out considering the pricing, products (I have seen these same products from a lot of vendors overseas), and grammatical errors. But my overall first impression is a good one. I don’t know who this  company is but the website looks professional. I can see there are tons of good reviews so it must be OK. My brain ticks “trust” and so I browse a little.

With just that little bit of assurance, I am more inclined to buy from an unknown place. It also doesn’t hurt that the prices are cheap, so I am not risking too much. Trust is also a key factor for new businesses building a customer base. In order to build trust, you have to either gather testimonials or make sales.  It’s like that weird scenario of how credit builds credit, but when you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit, etc.

You might have to consider giving some things away at first to build credit, so to speak. This is where influencer/blogger outreach can come in handy.

4. Do you know who your (target) customer is?

Do you know who you your audience is?  If so, are you speaking their language?
Are you creating products that they want, in prices they understand and marketing on platforms with the visuals they see while speaking the language they understand?  It’s a lot to think about but if you give it enough thought, you can connect the dots and make sense of it.  For example, I worked for a company in 2011 who was still producing products for their 1990 customer, but hoping to target the Millennials.  Their products and marketing strategies were not only speaking another language, but they weren’t even in the same hang outs with who they wanted to reach. Their audience was the 1998 girls who grew up to be the 2011 moms. So as a result, their message was very unclear, and the collection was a convoluted mess.  If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you speak to them in their language?

Here are three great examples of brands who know who their customer is and know how to reach and engage them:

1. Wildfox.com  Wildfox is that SOCAL, vintage inspired laid back brand for 20-somethings.  Most of their marketing efforts are on Instagram.  Why? Because that’s where their audience is. Their Instagram fan feed on their website is awesome

2. Justin Bieber  Yep, the YouTube music sensation.  He got into the hearts and homes everywhere with his YouTube Music Channel (The original channel has since been changed and moved to VEVO).  It’s where all the kids hang out, and it’s #1 audience interest is Music, followed by Gaming and Sports. Justin was able to reach his audience on a very personal level here.

3. Apple Apple is the prime example of a company who knew how to connect with their customer on a very personal level.  It doesn’t get much more personal than creating the iPod or your iPhone, does it?  They didn’t just create products, though, they created a culture that everyone wanted to be a part of.

“Apple has a branding strategy that focuses on the emotions. The starting point is how an Apple product experience makes you feel. The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology”.
MarketingMinds.com.au

5. Are you keeping up, visually?

A last question to ask yourself is are you using strong visuals? Strong visuals get you noticed, but you probably already know that. You know what makes you click on, ‘Like’ or share something. It’s not something we always consider, but it’s a crucial element in getting attention on social media.  Like everything, visuals on social media moves in trends.  Keeping up with those changing trends will keep your content fresh and relevant.  

Last and certainly not least:

6. Have you done an honest evaluation on your prices?

Are you priced too high without much solid value reasoning in your pricing strategy? If you’ve priced yourself too high, perhaps your customers don’t want to pay your prices. The price of an item is only worth what the market is willing to pay. Consumers have info at their fingertips at any moment. And with our Amazon price model and globalization, competition has gotten fierce. Buyers can now shop around and find the best item from the best merchant (feedback is important) with the best service or convenience. What is it that you have that they can’t get elsewhere for less? If you’re pricing is too high to sustain your business, you need to think and act fast. No sales or business every day puts you in the RED. At the very least, you need to break even. Every day you aren’t making a sale you are losing money. Sticking to your guns on your pricing simply because you don’t want to sell for less is business suicide.

Last final note: Are you Following The Four P’s in Marketing which are Product, Packaging, Price and Placement? If not, you may want to go back to the drawing board.

More helpful Articles:
The Four Ps of Marketing
What is Blogger Outreach and How Do I Do it?

 

Business

The TOP 10 Women Angel Investors & Venture Capital…

Forerunner Ventures An early stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce

Women’s VC Fund The Fund capitalizes on the expanding pipeline of women entrepreneurs leading gender diverse teams and creating capital efficient, high growth companies in digital media and sustainable products and services.

Plum Alley  offer s it’s members select opportunities to invest in private companies along with custom experiences both on-line and off-line to collaborate, imagine and transform the world. See also Plum Alley Crowdfunding for Women

Belle Capital an early stage fund that invests in high growth companies in underserved capital markets across the USA.

Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures An early stage fund focused on consumer internet and mobile start ups with at least one female founder.  

Pipeline Angels Pipeline Angels is a network of new and seasoned women investors who are changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs. Pipeline Angels holds a signature bootcamp for new investors and a signature pitch summit for startups looking for funding.

Portfolia The Portfolia platform lets entrepreneurs profile their companies to investors globally and streamlines the fundraising process.  Portfolia welcomes innovative companies in the conceptual through growth stages, especially those where a national base of sophisticated and connected investors can impact success and build markets.

Cowboy Ventures Cowboy Ventures helps seed-stage technology companies grow. They back exceptional founders who are building products that “re-imagine” work and personal life in large and growing markets.

Golden Seeds A discerning group of investors, seeking and funding high-potential, women-led businesses.

The Tory Burch Foundation  Founded in 2009, the Tory Burch Foundation aims to support the empowerment of women entrepreneurs. The foundation has developed programs and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses by providing: Access to Capital, Entrepreneurial Education, Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

Kickstarter and/or IndieGoGo – Don’t underestimate the powers of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for startup and seed funding.  I have personally raised funds through both of these platforms and it works!  But there are a few Crowdfunding tips you’ll need to know and follow for a successful campaign.

 

What is the cost of social media marketing? Business

What is the cost of social media marketing?

 

How much does social media marketing cost?  That seems to be a burning question everyone is asking.  Ok, now don’t freak out…

But the short of the long of it is:

A minimum of $2,500-$5,000 on average per month, depending on where your target audience is and what you want to achieve.

Sometimes, you have to pay extra for PR or blog content writing. A lot of those $2,500K-$5K prices may or may not be all-inclusive deals.  And it’s not unusual to find many agencies who charge $10,000 per month for social media marketing & management.  

According to some data findings, the cost to create and establish just a new Twitter account with targeted Followers and a little bit of content is anywhere from $2K-$7,500.
So I guess the average $2,500-$5,000 isn’t so bad when you consider the fact that some agencies charge $5,000 – just to manage your Facebook account. Nothing else.
Just Facebook.

$5,000 per month for a Social Media Marketer seems “high” because we spend so much time online, doing just that: interacting socially and participating in social media.  Our perception of social media is “fun time”,  it hasn’t registered to us that this is THE advertising platform. 

Wherever the audience is, advertising follows. Once it was Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV.  Now, it’s online through our news and blogger channels and our Social Media feeds.

If we can look at it from a media platform we are used to, such as Magazines, we can truly see the value and the difference: We have magazine readers, and we have magazine creators.

We don’t see all of the behind-the-scenes magic that happens to make that content available and in our face. That is what advertising is, and what Social Media Marketing is all about.

Ok, I get it.   But.. Why so much?

Let’s break it down:

  • Graphics and Social Media Ad Creatives  The cost of social media graphics and ad creatives – this includes a professional graphic designer with marketing knowledge to create visual ads that deliver results.  There is a psychology behind an ad creative that works. This isn’t the job for just any Joe Schmo Photoshop Pro when it comes to creating a fine-tuned ad creative. The average salary of a Graphic Designer is anywhere from $45-$60K per year, with some earning as much as $75K.
  • Market research  This is a very important aspect of advertising.  You have to zero in on your target audience. It makes no sense to shoot your product out into the universe if it’s not aimed at the right audience.  Market research answers: Who is your audience, what do they want, what are the buying, what do they respond to, where do they hang out and who are your competitors?
  • Ad rates The costs of promoting you or your business. Ad rates are generally included in a market budget, and an average and conservative cost can be anywhere from $250-$500 month for Twitter and Facebook Ads alone.
  • PR Writing and crafting the perfect pitches, reaching out to Bloggers, Editors, Magazines, Influencers and even celebrities.  This aspect is HARD WORK. A lot of PR agents I know charge $5K per month, just for PR.  Nothing else.
  • Creating Marketing Campaigns, Calendars + Strategies. Sometimes creating a marketing campaign can take days (or even weeks) to not only research and plan, but to write it out. (One simple 3 month marketing campaign I created a few weeks ago took me over 16 hours to research, create and write.) This takes a lot of time, but executed well, it pays off.
  • Writing Press Releases
  • Writing Blog Posts – Rich content blog posts are worth their weight in gold to the tune of saving you about $250,000 in Google Adwords costs. A well-written blog post with organic traffic can harness as much, if not more traffic, as an expensive Google Adwords campaign. One single blog post I wrote in 2011 has generated 256,000 hits for my blog so far.  If I would have paid the average $1 CPC (Cost-per-Click) with Google Adwords, it would have cost me $256,000! 😮
    Blog writers know their stuff when it comes to SEO, and they craft their posts to maximize search results.  According to ClicktoTweet and HubSpot, “Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic”.  A good blog writer will charge around .45 cents per word on average, so a 1,000 word post is $450. For example, this post you’re reading right now is 1,326 words (or about $600).
  • Social Media Manager A full time (daily) social media manager to monitor your accounts, create engaging posts, interact, respond to positive (and negative) feedback across all channels.  I’m talking about a dedicated person who not only knows the ins and outs of social media, but one who works on all your social media accounts all day (Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook), and knows how to track and analyze the data.  This is a full time job and if you were to pay him or her a salary, it would probably cost you a minimum of $45K/yr. ($3,750/mo)


What the hell? Now, I’m kinda bummed.

If you already have an established Twitter or Facebook account, it could be a little more cost effective, because you won’t have to start from scratch and what you’ll need is a social media manager to maintain and manage your accounts: (i.e. keep them flowing, interact, grow your followers, establish relationships, and build brand awareness).  So, If you were to hire someone full time to manage your account, not create contests, promotions or ads, it would most likely cost a minimum of $40K per year, which is a salary of $3,300/mo.
(If you want someone part time, you can probably find a SMM who is good at what he/she does and is just starting out.)

 

Snapchat_Logo

$750,000

This is how much Snapchat costs per ‘Brand Story’ ad, which is a branded post that appears within the app’s ‘Stories’ feed.
(update: 12/2015 The minimum budget for advertising on Snapchat recently dropped from $700,000+ to $100,000)

141010153604-snapchat-gasp-1024x576

Scared yet?  Don’t be.  Advertising has always been costly but it’s vital to business growth.
And sometimes, businesses just aren’t ready yet.

People scratch their heads in confusion when things aren’t selling, or when customers aren’t responding.  I’ve been there before.  I’d think, “I’m doing everything right!” when the truth is, I was just not giving enough to my marketing budget or plan.

We all want to see fantastic results, but what we don’t see is the costs associated with the results we want.  And it can be overwhelming at first, but once the momentum starts, it all starts working pretty harmoniously.  Better budget for advertising = more sales = more advertising budget = even more sales, etc.

“It’s nearly impossible to do PR and Social Media Marketing on your own, unless you have tons of time, are super-savvy (creatively), and have a team to help out.
Make sure you budget anywhere from 15-20% of your annual income for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.   Meanwhile, you see competitors with the same products as you doing it and going global.  If you want to succeed, there is no other choice. It needs to be a financial priority in your business plan and must be factored in as a cost to doing business”.

In the quickly moving digital world we now live in, we simply can’t wait for our audience and business to come to us. Social media is where all of the attention is these days. We stream Netfix online, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon.  We are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is where the audience of the world is today, and if you aren’t finding a way to reach them through these channels, you’re kind of on another planet.  If you take your business seriously, find a way to either amp up your social media marketing time per day or hire a professional to help you grow your business.  You honestly can’t afford not to.