Monday, June 30, 2008

Marketing Your Business

Last week was one of those weeks that ended with me being filled with self-doubt and frustration. Owning your own business is not a walk in the park. There are great joys of being in business for myself however there are also many stresses and difficult moments. I don't find many people who will open up and discuss this part of business but I do believe it is a reality for all especially in the economic times we are in.

One of the biggest realities I faced in the beginning stages of this project was the amount of money needed to start up a business. The other was the reality that in the beginning, all I did was spend, spend, and spend. I got to the point where I was sick of spending money (and I love to shop - so it takes a lot for me to get to that point) and wanted to start seeing the money coming in. But I am learning to have patience. I have not mastered it but I am working on it. My shop opened approximately 3 weeks ago. I am not at the level of business that I desire to be and work on marketing everyday. I found the best sense of relief and motivation that I can give myself at this time is to be proactive. The sense that I am out doing something to help my business grow makes me feel a lot better than sitting and sulking that my sales are not where I want them to be. No one said that just because we open our doors and put up a sign that everyone will come.

Marketing can definitely become very expensive, very quickly. I have a budget that I need to stick to so I have been searching for various methods to create exposure without breaking the bank. Here are some of the methods I am using. Some work better than others so I encourage you to test your market to see what will work best for you and don't be afraid to do different things to advertise.

1) Local newspapers. I have advertised in our community paper. I discovered that they had a special section for business and by agreeing to a specific term for running the ad they throw in a 2 page spread on your business. That is a pretty good deal.

2) Other local distributions. We have a local paper here called "Coffee News." They have a weekly paper that is distributed to various coffee shops, restaurants, etc. They have a high reader base and their cost for advertising is very reasonable. Perhaps, not one of the more traditional advertising forms but it is effective. I get a better response from advertising here than in the local paper. Look around your community and see what other papers or distributions are available.

3) Flyers/business cards. I visit local business that would draw customers that would be in the market for my products but are not my direct competitor. For example, I do favors for baby showers, weddings, birthdays, etc. Therefore, I have visited maternity clothing/consignment shops, bridal/tuxedo shops, wedding venues, etc to introduce myself and my business and to see if I could leave either flyers or business cards at their store. Most people have been very nice and allowed me to do so. A cheap method of advertising. Mostly takes your time and effort.

4) Internet. This is a complicated medium but does provide many avenues to market for free. If you have a website, make sure your keywords are up-to-date and that you get it submitted to the search engines. Beyond that go to major sites like Google and make sure your business is listed. If it is not, list it. This is free to do and very easy. Check your state to see what sites they have and if you can list your business there. Oklahoma has a site for Shop Oklahoma and I was able to put information there about my business and they also have free classifieds where you can list specific products/services. Other free sites, like Craiglist are also an option.

5) Use your network. Most people today have a MySpace page (I dont' but most do), a website, a blog, or some form of presence on the internet. Have them add a link to your site or put info about you on their pages.

6) Networking. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and other business network groups. Take advantage of opportunities to do presentations to various groups.

7) Use your current customer base. I try to have all my customers sign our registry and provide an email. We will be sending out a monthly newsletter to all of our customers to advise them of sales and promotions for the coming month. In addition, we will include fun things like recipes for making different products, contests, etc. I also give out coupons to encourage a customer to come back and shop again. Another good idea is a frequent buyer gift/discount. For example, each time they buy a soap they get a stamp on their card. After 10 purchase they can get one free. There are many things you can do in this arena but know one thing for sure. It is much easier (and cheaper) to keep the customers you have than to continuously have to market to get new ones. Appreciate and take care of your customer base so that they keep coming back to you.

I know this is a lot of information for a Monday morning but after last week, I found myself needed to review this again and get myself pumped and going for this new week and I wanted to share for those who may be going through something similar or for those looking for some new ideas.

I also played in soap this weekend. Another great stress reliever. I will post later with some pictures and information about those projects. But for now, I am off to market.

Friday, June 27, 2008

First Soap Making Experience

Yesterday, my niece Jalyssa and her friend Danielle came in to make soap. This was their first soap making experience. I must say that they appear to have a natural knack for this and were very creative with their use of colors. Well done!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sample of Baby Soap Favors

These are my new Baby soap favors. This mold was the first one I used where I tried using the different colors. I found that using a dropper to fill the letters in made it much easier. Also, having your soap base at a good temperature helps too. Be sure to allow your first layer to cool and then spray with alcohol before pouring your second layer.

Creative Ideas for Soaps

I have recently been inspired by the intricate soaps of PJ Soaps and many others that I have seen on Etsy and various other sites. Seeing these amazing creations is really helping me see the endless possibilities of working with melt & pour soaps. I have done so many of the basics with 1 color and 1 scent. Recently I have been practicing with layers. I am finding that having the right tools definitively helps in the process. I had not thought about layering scents until I was reading the above listed site. With all things in life, we can be as detailed as we want to be. I am thankful to those creative enough to bring us such fabulous ideas and techniques.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Monday!

The Gift Garden has now been open for 2 weeks. This has been one of the most challenging tasks of my life and at the same time very rewarding. I started making soap and other craft items several years ago. After moving from Hawaii to Oklahoma, I found myself really thinking about my career and life in general. I decided that I wanted to do things that I enjoy which include soaping, crafting, etc... I wanted to be a part of happy and special moments in people's lives. With that The Gift Garden was born. The concept has changed over the months but I think I have found my place. One of my greatest pleasures is making soap. I love the smells of the wonderful fragrances and the endless possibilities. There is so much that can be done with soaps. I do both cold process and melt-n-pour. This weekend was a productive soaping weekend. I made a batch of Mango soap as well as numerous samples of party favors that we offer. I attempted my first loaf soap with various colors in it. I like it, except I got a layer of bubbles in it that messed it up. Oh well, trial and error. Not all batches come out good. I will load pictures soon.