You cannot run a business on instinct alone. Growth isn't just about revenue; it's about rejuvenation. Developing, managing and growing a small business is a tremendous challenge. If your mission and purpose have been lost in the daily grind and fire-fighting, contact me TODAY! ... Everything I share is common sense, practical and realistic. This week on Couch sessions...
Q: I have invented and manufactured the first mass-produced origami flower in the world. The Origami Bonsai Instant Flower is a pre-folded origami shape that opens instantly to reveal a beautiful flower. Because the shape is initially flat, these flowers can be inserted into greeting cards and opened by the recipient. I have sent multiple proposals to both Hallmark and American Greetings, but they've all been sent back unopened. How can I let these greeting card manufacturers know about my beautiful compliment to their cards? Benjamin John Coleman, www.OrigamiBonsai.org
A: Have you considered marketing your product to local crafting stores? Try your local connections and resources first and build up to a regional and national presence. Novelty shops are also potential vendors for you to consider.
Q: Why is there such a stigma out there attached to self-published books? The fact is that they are becoming more and more popular, yet grants, awards, distributors and stores are heavily geared towards authors that go through big publishing houses. Susanne Alexander-Heaton, http://www.abcfaeries.com
A: I have limited experience in the “self-published” arena. However, I do know that sometimes long-standing industries can be slow moving to adapt to new trends and “self-publishing” is still relatively new. Keep in mind self-publishing cuts out the control, profits and revenue for the corporate/brick and mortar publishing companies. If they can’t get a piece of the action, there will be little incentive to pursue the new trend.
Q: I think the number one challenge for an entrepreneur with a new concept, product, or service is sharing their vision & story. What process would you recommend startups use to craft their message? Jimmy Tomczak, TOMBOLO LLC
A: It’s always good to start with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. The objective is to capitalize on your strengths, minimize or exploit your own weaknesses, prepare for opportunities and carefully address your threats. Within all of this is your message. Another avenue to consider is to get ultra clear on your product or service and the target market you seek to serve. Your message should speak to them directly, identify and address common concerns and problems and provide the solution.
Q: I started a business with my daughter earlier this year and although I seem to have gotten the knack of getting visitors to our website with article marketing and by commenting on blogs and online articles, I'm not getting many sales. I'm constantly studying articles on improving conversion rates and have even redesigned the sight, but nothing seems to help. My mother, the cynic, told me it's because my site has to do with "religion" (we design and sell funky Christian bumper stickers) but that's obvious considering the comments I post. I just can't figure it out. Is it because I don't have any bullet points, no Facebook or Twitter buttons (which I can't figure out), or I don't know what. Jennifer Slater, www.EightyEightPercent.com
A: It’s not so much that your product is connected to “religion,” but a question of if you are connecting and speaking to your target audience. Are you commenting on blogs whose audience would identify and use your product? In addition, what do your “calls to action” look like? Are you ASKING for visitors to take action? Are you ASKING for the sale? Often times, you have to be very specific in getting your clients to take action. Review the “flow” of your website page and look at from a customer’s point of view. Consider using landing pages (like unbounce.com and wildfireapp.com) to encourage visitors to take action.
Q: We recently took over a packing and crating operation that had been servicing the Beverly Hills area for over 40 years but we opted to keep the name, Banner Packing & Crating. With the exchange of the keys came a few snags along the way. One that we experienced was in the form of a few Negative Online Reviews. Our business is not catered toward online much – but after a search – there are a few reviews on some of the bigger sites (yelp, citysearch) that contain outlandish remarks bashing our business. How can we contend with these negative reviews that now litter our search results? Legally, we understand that there are limitations to our stance on this, but we feel helpless. In these difficult times, how can we help clean up our tarnished public/virtual image? Adam Scott Paul, http://bannerpackingandcrating.com
A: Although it’s too late now, it’s so important to be thorough in your due diligence when purchasing a business or making any big business decisions. With that said, do you know how many times Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy, yet still appears to be one of the richest men in the country? Have you ever noticed why sometimes a nationally (or even globally) known corporation will change it’s name or re-brand itself? What about failing businesses that get taken over? Businesses “re-start” more often than you think. Starting over may not be necessary, but perhaps changing the name of your business is. Perhaps you should have a conversation with your attorney and tax advisor for the details, benefits and disadvantages of changing names after the fact. If you haven’t changed the infrastructure of the previous business, I would also be very clear on what “mistakes and errors” where made that caused the negative reviews in the community so that they can be corrected.
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