January 11, 2007.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this investigative reporter has had the good fortune of visiting Jamie's Painting & Design this afternoon. We are here to tell you the secrets, the tricks of the trade, the tools she uses to crush her competition. I welcome you to take a tour of this company and learn how you too can be a mulit-gazillionaire like this little lady" (ha ha ya right, just seeing if you were paying attention!
I am envisioning a Ron Burgundy type from Anchor Man.....hence the little painting I whipped out this afternoon, his quotes were so in my head as I was um, painting. Not the best use of my time I know, but it only took 15 minutes...anyhoo, I have some advice for those starting a business, or growing it, or just curious, I hope it helps. I am hoping to keep listing things that worked, and even touch on what did not work (yessss, I have a long list of things I did wrong too!).
Do You Google?
Do you exist in the blogophere? The internet? Anywhere? The yellow pages? Trade Magazines? Newspapers? TV Shows? Is your company out there? How do you know? Seth Godin reccomends you try this out, and I agree - google your name and see what comes up. I would take it a step further and google your company name and see if you show up.
If someone is looking for your company on line they should be able to find you very easily, but this is not the case for all companys. Some companys I can not find, I just type in the company name into google and the website does not even come up - how can that be possible? This is one of the easiest ways to market your company, get exposure and be found....you DO want customers, fans and reporters to find you, right?
I don't know much about hard coding, buying key words, organic search, or anyalytics - I hear these words and my eyes glaze over. But, I have been using google regularly for years - and I have found some interesting (I am so lucky it has always been good) blogs, websites, even articles I was quoted in by doing a search. I have also found websites with errors, I have found discontinued products and even some great reviews on my products, and kind words about my blog. You can easily get your name out there by doing a number of things:
You can get your name, company name and blog by commenting on other blogs. If you commented on my blog, then search your name you will come up, with all of your information. Search engines are tracking blogs at an amazing rate these days - don't be afraid to comment.
Do you ask other company's to list your company name? Your name? Do you ask your customers to write a positve review on your company? Do you submit your products to popular e-zines, blogs, trade magazines? Newspapers? Yes, this can take time, and yes it is worth it - I bet that is how you found this blog. I never took marketing or business classes - but I do know to succeed you have to be able to be found!
Go on people - get your company and your name out there.
Isn't Your Baby on a Schedule Yet?
If you are a small business owner and especially a mother - get on a schedule. It is just like when your baby was 2 months old and everyone was telling you to get that child on a schedule, children like routines - so does your business. It makes you productive, it makes you run like McDonald's - and it gives your customers an idea of what to expect.
We are big on schedules - we make our tiles on Thursday, every Thursday that is what we do. We ship on Tuesday and we ship on Friday. We ribbon tiles on Monday, we do shipping labels on Friday, we kit all of our orders on Wednesday, we invoice after we ship - that would be Wednesday morning. I have told my channels these things, I have told my customers, my friends, my children's teachers my "schedule". Everyone that works here works on certain days, certain hours - very boring, possibly - but predictable. Now, yes during the "Holiday-Crazy-Pull Your Hair Out-Oh my Gosh ANOTHER Order" time of the year we adjust the schedule and we all work over time. This has also given me the freedom to take time off, volunteer regularly in my children's class and NOT miss important events.
If you are doing everything yourself, you need a schedule worse than a company with employees. Trust me on this - try getting on a schedule for a week, a month - it makes life that much easier. How will you know when it is time to hire employees? Order supplies? If you just run a fire drill around every order (been there, done that - for one whole, okay almost two years) that comes in you will never grow, you will never expand and you will probably cry alot (you know I been there!)
Do You Want the Whole Enchilada
If you are going to sell wholesale - you need some documentation to go with your products. I am very anal, over-organized and detail oriented - so this has never been a problem for me. I do not know what other companies do - I just know what has worked for me. I find that the more information you give, the less dumb.....I mean interesting questions you will get. When writting up wholesale documents, at the very least do include the following:
- Your contact information
- Your requirements; do you take cash? Checks? Credit Cards? Is 30 days net okay?
- What are your turn around times - be HONEST! You need to know what you can do
- What do they need to do to carry your line? Pay for samples? Carry inventory?
- What is shipping costs? Make sure and check this out - we lost our shirt our first year.
- Do you take RUSH orders?
- Do you take custom orders?
- How shall they describe your product - if you dont' tell them they will make it up!
Our wholesale documents are very detailed, with tons of information about what we will and won't do, what we require and we list all of our product descriptions. I have been told by some it is over kill, but do know I don't get many questions, it is all laid out for the buyer to see.
Can We Play Telephone?
Get a seperate land line - I can NOT stress this enough. Get a good phone system, and especially a proffesional voicemail system. You do not want to have dropped calls, voicemail that comes in three days after the fact, or a dead cell phone. If you run your business off your cell phone um, you wont' be listed in the Yellow Pages, you will NOT be listed in information - come on now! You do not want to get a call from a big sales channel while you are at Johnny's baseball practice - you just don't. A separate line for the business is key - it is the difference between a real business and a hobby.
If anyone else has any little nugget of information, tips or tricks....drop me a line, give a comment, I would love to know more.....information is GOOD!