There is NO way around it. If you don’t include your desired % of profit and determine and include a % for business growth in your mark up, you will have a very hard time creating a sustainable business. You MUST plan for profit and for growth or it likely will never happen.
Numbers - You Either Love Them Or You Hate Them: To get ahead of your numbers, you will need to understand the basics of your spreadsheet. This sentence may be enough to send you clicking onto pretty pictures of French Bulldogs on Pinterest. Don't. Stay with me.
Spreadsheets Are Your Friend Spreadsheets are merely a framework that organizes your numbers and provides important decision-making data. Once your spreadsheets are set up correctly they run on their own and as long as you are up to date with your data entry, you will get a great deal of feedback from them about your business.
Spreadsheet Software Sounds Expensive The most commonly known and used spreadsheet is Microsoft Excel. If you don't have access to Excel and you don't have the money to buy it, Google offers a free version that is comparable to Excel, Google Sheets (and other Office products too). All you need is a gmail account and you are set.
You Don't Have To Be A Financial Or Database Wizard
If you are looking to understand spreadsheets I have 3 excellent resources for you:
· Fred Pryor Seminars are great. They offer workshops face-to-face. Seminars are one day, 9-4 and cost $79. They are offered around the country at various hotels and conference centers.
· Skillsology offers an Excel Basics online course for $39/year. They estimate you will need 4 hours to complete the course. The Advanced Excel course is $65/year.
· LinkedIn offers LinkedIn Learning for LinkedIn members. Membership to LinkedIn is free. LinkedIn Learning offers a free Month. There are many Excel courses available. Read and understand the fine print before you commit.
Still Not Comfortable? The best part of being an entrepreneur is that YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO and you can outsource the rest. If you don't like the numbers, find people who do. There are a variety of bookkeeping, accounting, business analysts and coaches that will love to help you.
The Take Away: Yes, you need to understand your numbers. No, you don't need to do your financials. Investing in experts allows you to invest your time doing what you love.
Uncover Secrets with a Secret Shopper Program
Customer experiences, unique offerings and a loyalty program are three keys to success in today’s retail landscape. A solid secret shopper strategy can contribute to all three AND uncover valuable information to keep you ahead of the competition.
Secret Shopper Role #1 Your Store Experience
We all know, your customer comes to your store not only for the merchandise, but also for the in-store experience you provide. You know the experience is perfect when you are on the floor, but are you sure it’s the same when you are not? Enter Secret Shopper Role #1. Send a shopper or two to your store specifically on a day you will not be there. Arm the shoppers with a list of items you’d like them to observe. Some common items: Were you greeted when you entered? Did the store look neat and clean? Was staff visible, approachable and engaging with customers and/or merchandise? Was the register staffed? Was the line moving efficiently? You get the idea. The Secret Shopper will provide you with the answers on a form, a narrative, or an interview. Spot check frequently to make sure all your staff is evaluated. Uncover opportunities to improve and design systems and training to get you there.
Secret Shopper Role #2 Your Competition
Your customers come to your store for merchandise, service and experience that your competitors don’t offer. When was the last time you went to your competitors to see what they are up to? You are busy and your competitor may know you so your visit may not happen and if it does, it may not reveal much. Enter Secret Shopper Role #2. Send a shopper or two to your competitor to check out their current merchandising mix, services and in-store experience. Again arm them with specific items to observe. Some common items: Do they offer any merchandise you don’t that you should? How do your prices compare to their prices on the same item? Does the store offer any add on service that you don’t (For example, free gift wrap or free delivery)? Amenities? Is their layout easy to shop? Does it build a sale? What types of display do they use? Are displays engaging and effective? You can be very specific with product categories, specific products, specific brands, specific services, etc. or leave the questions open ended. You can also ask all the customer service questions you ask in your own store. As in your store, the Secret Shopper will provide answers on a form, in a narrative or interview. I suggest you scout your competition early in a new season when they are most likely to have a store filled with new product. Look for opportunities to improve your store to keep ahead of your competition.
So how do you connect this to Loyalty?
Your most loyal customers are your best fans and your store is their favorite. They LOVE your store and experience. They know your standards. They know your product. They understand how you promote. Who better to evaluate you and your competition? These customers want to feel special and a part of your brand. Build a way to enlist them as Secret Shoppers and give them a great loyalty reward for their service. They want you to succeed and will be honored you asked them to help you.
Other Secret Shopper Sources
Secret Shopping could be a project you do with a local high school or college class. Use a different class each quarter to keep the shoppers fresh. It could also be an activity done by members of a Youth Advisory Board. Some stores want to cultivate a youth customer. An active and participatory advisory board is a great way to start. Many department stores used to do this back in the 1940’s-50’s. Members were given a behind the scenes look at all phases of the business and participatory activities to immerse them in retail. It’s a huge win for you. You get a youthful perspective while training new employees or helping to develop a new generation of retailers.
You can hire Secret Shoppers too. Need help with your Secret Shopping program? Contact Anne Cecil, email@example.com
Whether you need photos for e-commerce, your website or Social Media. This guide will get you started.
Two types of Photos
There are 2 types of product photography and you WILL need both. Lifestyle photography tells your brand story and aims to capture your products with people in everyday situations. Productphotography shows your product in detail. Most e-commerce hosting sites allow for up to 5 images per product. We recommend 2 lifestyle and 3 product shots most of the time. If your product needs more views to sell, use 4 or 5 product shots.
Capture a minimum of 10 shots per individual Lifestyle and individual Product image. This insures you will have choice, even with technical or design error. You are also creating an image bank so you can change up your images to keep your site and social media fresh.
Locations and styling for Lifestyle shots
"white box" for Product shots
Create a spread sheet that has your item name, number, description and features. Often this can be imported directly into your ecommerce platform, but it also acts a a checklist for what you need to show in your images. Show features in Product shots and benefits in Lifestyle.
After the shoot you will likely need to do some work on the images before you post them. This could include color correction, cropping, using filters, etc. The most comprehensive tool for this is Adobe Photoshop, but it is expensive and has a learning curve.
PhotoShop Express - a phone app with the most options for FREE. It lets you crop, fix red eye, share on social media, collage and more.
The Take Away
Humans retain 65% of what they see. That means photos are key to capturing customers and ultimately sales. Photo shoots are a big job. Determine if you have the time to photograph consistently and produce quality. If so, enjoy. If not, consider hiring a professional so you can focus on what you enjoy and do well like MAKING your product.
For more information, Contact Anne Cecil: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until the onset of social media, brands primarily communicated with target audiences crafting one-way messages most often delivered through TV. In those days, 80% of consumers could be reached through TV advertising. Consumers were more homogeneous-most adults were married, most had kids. Traditional forms of advertising moved the consumer through a consistent path to purchase: Awareness - Consideration - Conversion - Loyalty - Advocacy. The point of the first sale originates at conversion.Today There Is No Specific Path To Purchase
Customers may interact with you through the internet, company website, brick & mortar store, mobile apps, social media, etc. Each customer will take an individual journey to purchase and they will demand transparency and two-way communication along the way.
You are communicating with a market of one.
Consumers are blasted 34 Gigabytes of information daily. How in the world can one independent retailer get their message through? Find Your Customer!
Examine your purchasers, or competitor purchasers in-depth. Observe and study their habits. Find out what they care about, their self-image and their lifestyles. Determine how your store fits into their world. Learn what forms of communication they use and enjoy. Understand what kind of relationship they want with your brand. For example, are you a friend? co-conspirator? coach? advisor? expert? etc?
Create 2 or 3 major customer profiles. Map out a strategy for communicating with each. You have just created the Who. Now, what will you share with them? When will you begin the conversation? How will you converse with them? Why will you converse with them?
Next determine the best mix of channels for each communication and set a calendar for communicating. Select from both traditional and digital channels where appropriate.
Don't rely too heavily on a platform. From the most recent Facebook fiasco, it should be apparent that platforms will change over time, mostly for reasons out of your control. In fact, recent thinking suggests that brands spend 70% of their communication time on their own website because they control their own site.
The Take Away
Use a a customer focused communication strategy to build a meaningful, pleasurable and positive relationship with your customer.
For more help on undestanding and reaching your customer contact Anne Cecil: email@example.com.
As Facebook goes back to its roots of focusing on family and friend connections, it continues to make changes in what it allows on the platform and what a user will see in his or her newsfeed. What does that mean for business? Who knows? One thing is certain, platforms will change, campaign strategy should not.
1. A winning social media campaign plan starts with picking a very specific and ATTAINABLE and MEASUREABLE goal or objective. What matters to you? Are you trying to reach new customers? Promote a new product? Share an expertise? ETC. Whatever you pick, how you will MEASURE success? For example, “I will increase my followers by 10% after 3 months.” Is this measurement realistic?
Goal/Objective: Show my expertise with Visual Merchandising
Measurement: Increase followers by 10% over 3 months
2. With an attainable and measurable goal in place, it’s time to talk STRATEGY. Who is the intended audience and where are you likely to find them? Armed with these answers, you can select the appropriate platform(s) to reach them.
Audience: Independent retailers with maximum 5 stores in a 200 mile radius. Gross: $1- 2 million annually. Owner operated. Owner 35 yo+
3. With your platform selected, it’s time to select a TACTIC. Here are some ideas to get you thinking: Contests, Coupons, Flash sales, “Virtual events” that are tied to your physical event or place, Tell a “story” that others want to share - text, photos, videos.
Tactic: Weekly FB Live post that discusses the effectiveness of a retail store window each week (same day/time)
4. Implement your campaign AND track your progress.
Note number of users before first FB Live. Implement FB Live same day/time for 3 months. Track new followers weekly.
5. You aren’t done yet! EVERY campaign must be reviewed against the measurement you established. Did you meet, exceed or fall short of your goal? What went well and what can be improved? Debriefing each campaign will help you improve all campaigns over time.
Convert numbers into percentage. Did you meet, exceed or fall short of your goal? What went well and what can be improved?
The 5 steps will work for any Digital or Traditional Communication Plan. Set an attainable and measurable goal. Determine an optimum strategy. Select an appropriate tactic. Implement the tactic. Track the results. Debrief. Repeat.
Need help with a winning strategy? Contact Anne Cecil, firstname.lastname@example.org