Whenever I say the words "grow our business" I get a little itchy.
Not itchy in a "I can't stand still, I am busting out of these duds and need to be moving" kind of way, but itchy in a "this isn't about bigger, better, faster, we can rebuild him, we have the technology and I don't want anyone thinking I mean that" kind of way.
This isn't about growing until we explode, or can't fit through the door, but all of life is expanding all the time.
It's what we're here for.
With a maker business, this growth is sometimes about the business externally in the world but often it's more of an internal shift - some decision by us that creates expansion in our life.
As makers, choosing to live an expanded life creates growth for our business.
(not the "more now" kind of expansion - that totally didn't work for Veruca Salt and won't work for us either, but the expansion that creates the space for us to show up for life in a bigger way)
I once thought of the internet as some kind of trap, the very word web had such a negative vibe to me (and obviously it can be a negative place if we become addicted to it or use it in hurtful ways) - about the time I started to see this web as more of a connecting 'net', the safety net that is dissolving in so many other areas of our life as it expands here, I was able to connect with it in a much bigger way.
(if we don't love the internet, warts and all, there is only perfection in imperfection really, we probably shouldn't bother trying to make money here because how is that ever going to work for us)
As we evolve toward truth and openness, we have opened up space – cyberspace – for the purpose of helping us to express ourselves openly (this is why real stuff works best here).
So where the hell am I going with this and what does this have to do with the kind of strategy that creates the kind of synchronicity that expands our life and grows our business - well, you will have to check back tomorrow to see where all this is going but I will offer up a little hint:
Back in the days of traditional marketing, we would target customers (think ducks in a shooting gallery here) by putting them (think marketing models and computer generated spending data) into neat little boxes because, well honestly because we needed to know who we wanted to hit and they were easier to hit when they were ... standing still.
Now that the internet (and evolution) has taken the entire idea of marketing and flipped it on its head - we are attracting customers and not targeting them anymore - going after them doesn't work the same way, they have to be looking for us - maybe we need to be the ones standing still.
Back tomorrow with Strategic Synchronicity Part 1
“A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes
(I am and I do)
it is really about knowing that expanding one thing, expands everything
and knowing (well, knowing is the wrong word here, but again I'm a little too spring-lazy to think up a better one) that like attracts like - that the law of attraction (please don't confuse this with The Secret) is always working.
When I managed a bank (many years ago and actually it was a savings and loan and not a bank) I organized Money Mondays at the local commuter train station.
We would set up a table and give out free coffee and a newsletter containing financial news and information. It included a networking component where we provided free space for local business people to post weekly announcements to promote their businesses.
The guidelines for these businesses were pretty simple.
Write the announcement as they wanted it to appear, use proper grammar and punctuation, make it under 2 paragraphs and have it to us by the Thursday - also we didn't allow repeats - a business could be involved week after week but the announcement had to be new.
I wanted to keep everything fresh and everyone physically and mentally involved in the process.
For the first few weeks/months, my memory is bad here, everything worked great. But there came a time when the announcements were arriving late with typos and poor grammar, businesses were changing a word here and there instead of offering up fresh information, sometimes people would just phone us with a few words and ask us to 'come up with something' for them. Commuters were just shoving them into their brief cases to get the free coffee.
I was ready to just bag the whole program. We had a team meeting and realized that our real frustration was coming from the impression that the local businesses, in their carelessness, were just not appreciating us. Now, I know that how we view others is really a reflection of our own behavior, so I knew that what was really going on was that we were not valuing our service.
Our early labor of love had become a chore and when we started taking our own efforts for granted everyone else did, too.
The minute we got real about what was going on - we decided instead of bagging the program we would make it freaking awesome. We bought new software and a camera, gave team members the time they needed to do a good job, we got more people involved - instead of expecting one person to throw it all together after the lobby closed on a Friday.
We made one small change to our guidelines for the businesses - we limited the number of announcements a business could run in any month to 2 and we limited the number we would print in any edition to 15.
We announced the new guidelines after we ran our first 'freaking awesome' edition and magically overnight we began attracting exactly the kind of announcements we wanted. Commuters began reading them again on their Monday train rides.
When we started valuing ourselves everyone else did, too.
So part 1 of our "spring stand still" is an assignment - think about where in our maker business we might be taking ourselves or our makings for granted. Where are other people not appreciating us? What did we enjoy doing in the past that now feels like a chore? What parts of our business are feeling tight and oppressive (a sure sign we have already outgrown them)?
Also think about any health issues we might be having, in particular with the right sides of our bodies, this might all fit in, too.
back tomorrow with part II (xo all)
"standing still" and attracting customers -
without it we will be attracting the wrong customer.
And running a business with the wrong customers will run us right into the ground.
(yes, buried up to our necks with biting ants chewing off our eyelashes - it ain't pretty people)
We cannot please them, we cannot find them, we cannot figure out what they want - because they are not our customer. They belong to someone else.
This valuing ourselves thing often shows up in our pricing, but not always. If we think other people do not value what we do, maybe we are not giving them a reason to. Maybe it's because our makings are not up to snuff or maybe it is because we are not allowing other people to be part of the process.
I used to write about my Polarity Locket - "I simply solder a hook to a car part" - although I have never used a soldering iron in my life and this was never what I did. It seemed the easiest way to explain it in my listings. I had this all backwards. Easy is never going to get us passionate customers, who will find us while we stand still.
(this doesn't mean our process has to be hard; this is about our message - our message can't be easy - this didn't work for us in high school and it won't work now)
When someone printed a story about me on their blog and wrote "Cat simply solders a hook to a car part" I got really annoyed ... with myself. I knew exactly where she had gotten her verbage and exactly what it said about my self-value.
For a while I went crazy, not realizing at first I had just flipped the same self-worth coin to the other side. I started saying "I clean, drill, cut, braze, grind and seal to prevent rust" the car part.
What a snorefest and I had missed the point entirely.
If customers were going to be passionate partners in my business - if they were going to buy in to my message, which the right people were ready and really wanted to do - I needed to get this right. Eventually I did (but it's a process).
It takes a lot of energy to look for people to serve. The world is like Facebook now - we are all looking at different things. The days when everybody tuned into the same program on Friday night are gone. We can't reach everybody.
We don't want to be running around looking for some way to catch someone's attention because even once we have caught their attention (our attention spans are miniscule these days, most people will never even read this far into this post) and convinced them we are the ones who have what they are looking for we are exhausted (grab a cookie and your snugli)!
So when a customer tells us they are not completely satisfied with our product, policies or pricing we are more than willing to satisfy them. We have gone through so much to get them this far toward a purchase we are ready to compromise - the truth is, we are too tired to fight. Thinking we will lose the battle to win the war we let the customer win this little skirmish - especially since we know all we went through to get him this far in the first place.
But, if we value ourselves and our business (and have put the proper time and energy into our products, policies and pricing in the first place) we will be more apt to hear that little inner voice, the one that speaks for our instincts, the one that says "whoa girl, slow down, be careful, this one would be more trouble than he's worth - maybe this customer belongs to someone else."
Now this doesn't mean that we write our policies in granite - that we don't change when we need and want to - of course not - the entire point of being small and nimble is well, being small and nimble. We can change on a dime. We just want to be sure that we are not undervaluing ourselves in the process.
Forget competition (think cooperation). Forget "I have to grab this customer before someone else does" (our right customer won't need to be grabbed, she will come to us happily and in fact if we try to grab her - she will probably be someone like me who bruises easily and she will tell 2 friends who will tell 2 friends). Forget "money is money" (if we don't like big corporations - think Monsanto and Bank of America here) doing anything for a buck, we shouldn't be either, change starts with us.
These things don't work anymore. The energy has shifted on our planet - we have moved from the masculine 1 energy of "me" into the masculine/feminine 2 energy of "us". This is why all the old structures are crumbling - there is nothing holding them up anymore. If we build our business on the old paradigm we will be in trouble, too.
Also our businesses are alive (not in a corporations are people kind of way, but in the same way everything is) and just like our own bodies naturally release what is toxic and naturally distribute what is tonic - our businesses will, too, if we keep things instinctual.
Back tomorrow with part IV - "so what is this standing still part again, my feet hurt"
|lovebirds don't get the jim-jams by Polarity & Mayhem Here|
(like the summer my sister and I spent memorizing the Sears and Roebuck catalog and reciting it word for word - I still remember much of the hardware section - to my poor mother while she sat cross legged on a blanket in the backyard smoking a cigarette and probably praying for the ice cream truck to make an appearance)
- she would say her legs had the jim-jams and she had to do something else. Standing still was not her favorite thing.
Now that the world is moving so much faster, most of us can appreciate this standing still thing. We probably don't get the jim-jams.
(and actually now that I write this I think maybe she had restless legs because my sister has restless legs - my legs are the opposite of restless - they are "let's rest" NOW legs)
Since we are are all about to get a little 'warm-weather lazy' - this standing still thing sounds like some timely stuff for us to think about.
Now marketing is strategic or operational (see my marketing series HERE) and even though I am talking strategy here let's talk operational stuff like inbound and outbound marketing - both can work for us by attracting the right customers while we sip lemonade on the front porch.
Outbound marketing still has its place for makers (even if we can't fit a Superbowl ad into our budget ... yet) and it doesn't have to be (and in fact can't be) the yucky, salesy stuff we all hate.
Re-marketing email campaigns to existing customers really work. Put together an email list and use it - maybe 50% of the time to offer the customer something they can buy (think offer instead of sell here, because this is a partnership)
and 50% of the time offering them something free (download, instructions, information, actual freebie product, even a link to someone else's free download that you know your customers will love) - maybe the offer percentage should be even lower and the free higher - see what works.
This will work better and better over time as we grow our customer base and email list. This is the kind of marketing we do for people who already love us.
Blog advertising can work - I know many of us have had bad experiences with it - I have found it must be niche focused.
(think partnership again)
Often it works best for a specific product and not our entire shop (unless we are a one product shop): example - we make a soap that smells like flowers and really gets the dirt off - designing a blog ad for just that one product - with a link to that one product - on maybe a gardener's blog can really pay off (over time).
An advertising campaign needs to be ongoing though and the blog needs enough readers to make it worthwhile - this is more about becoming the go-to girl or guy for our product or service than actual dollars in for a while.
TIP: the only way to become the go-to girl is to be googleable - so the soap campaign needs to be called "wash off the dirt, keep the flower scent" (well, not that, that sounds pretty awful) - something distinctive enough (and short enough) that people can google later and find you. So whatever you call the item in your ad, use those same words everywhere and make it distinctive enough that people can find you again.
If we think our stuff is not niche enough for this to work- either rebrand something and give it a clear niche - or don't do this kind of advertising.
I would suggest if you want to sell on the internet to think NICHE - that scarf you knit may be perfect for subway commuters, who are probably freezing - THEY NEED YOU - so knit their subways entrance and exit points into the scarf ends - personalization always wins - and advertise it to commuters. There are hundreds/thousands/gazillions of ways to do this - figure out yours.
Now even though this stuff is all outbound marketing - it is still about standing still - being in the same place long enough for the right someone to find us.
When I was in banking and we ran direct mail campaigns - we hit (yes, I said hit, we are talking about a bank here) the same people at least 3 times before we moved on to new people - maybe this wears them down, maybe they just get more comfortable with us - I don't know. but I know it works - we got results by standing still.
With blog advertising, hopping from blog to blog looking for better results will just leave our ankles sore and our head hurting - stay put (make sure you have the right blog in the first place though).
With an email campaign - we should be talking to existing customers and people who have opted in to hearing from us - also give them an opt-out so they never have to hear from us again if they choose that - everyone has much too much cluttering up their in-boxes - we are not as important to them as we think we are.
Modcloth has some great email campaigns - they will email me when an item I abandoned is back in stock and when something I had in my cart and removed is about to sell out. They have a wishlist feature that notifies me when an item on my wishlist goes on sale or when my friends buy something I might like (not sure who these friends are, I suspect this is bogus since Olive doesn't shop on Modcloth, but it does get my attention) - if we can figure out ways to make stuff like this happen with our own businesses our email campaigns will work even better for us.
Next up tomorrow Part IV - inbound marketing - the place where synchronicity and strategy connect
(My blog is becoming like a little crystal ball sometimes with the things I write about coming up for me in strange ways very soon after - this makes me think that writing about standing still when I am wanting to move - into a new house - may not be the smartest move on my part and now I just wrote 'smartest move on my part' - ugh - the first time we went to look at another house a few weeks ago, our house literally locked us inside - the deadbolt broke off in the door when we went to leave and we were locked in - I think my house has voted for us to stand still. Now hubs just read this paragraph and thinks I should throw in something about winning the lottery - there we go - just in case, my blog's prophetic powers are the real deal.)
Since we often teach what we need to learn - it is easy to get a little carried away with this stuff and this is a slippery slope for business blogs.
(of course this is only a business blog if you squint from 5 yards while drinking your green tea with honey and doing a sudoku)
I only want to pass on information that is tried and true, in the sense that I have tried it and found it to be true (my truth is not everyone's truth) - we should always, always do what feels right to us.
We never want to take action steps to make up for our own lack of focus. Sometimes we take our inventory too early - we have to trust that life is enfolding perfectly for us, because it always is.
Anyhoo, back to synchronistic strategy and inbound marketing. I am going to be honest here and talk about all the ways I have mucked this up since they are more plentiful than the stuff I did right.
A few months (or weeks, I think my memory has been eaten from my years on aspartame - ditch all diet sodas if you haven't done that yet) after opening on Etsy I was in a treasury that hit the front page. It changed my business.
I started making treasuries - from my very first treasury my treasuries mostly got on the front page - no clue how this is possible but it's true - to be sure there were a lot less treasuries in those days. One day I had 3 treasuries on the front page in the same 24 hour period (treasuries I made, not treasuries I was in). I loved making them.
Anyhoo, people started putting me in a lot of treasuries - I didn't realize at the time that much of this was because I was making treasuries that got to the front page and there was a kind of reciprocity to the system. When my treasury got someone on the front page I never thought for a second that seller needed to put me into a treasury and I never put people in my treasuries for that reason either. Some people did this and honestly it did not occur to me for a long time.
Sellers in the forums were complaining that the same people were always getting on the front page, and if you have ever been on the front page you know it is priceless real estate - it was even in those days when Etsy was much smaller - the real payoff though comes to those who have a consistent presence there.
At one point Uncorked was on the front page at least twice a week and Polarity at least once a week (now I am on the front page about once a year).
The treasury system really helped me to grow my business - now this wouldn't have happened if I didn't have original work and great pictures - but I do not kid myself that the consistent front page exposure was priceless.
(there is a seller on Etsy with more sales than we could ever imagine - their work is absolutely amazing - well, in the earliest days of Etsy - before I was on there and I only know this because I once saw a bunch of screen shots of front pages for a few days on Etsy in 2006 and 2007, this shop was in every single front page treasury - not on the front page everyday but in every single front page treasury all day long - this is not to take anything away from this shop's amazing work - you could say this person helped grow Etsy as much as Etsy helped to grow this shop, but ... I'll just say front page exposure=priceless)
There came a day when the treasuries I made did not get to the front page anymore ... it was a very sudden halt. I wasn't sure if Etsy staff had changed, my eye for making them was gone or I was blackballed. I made a treasury under a friend's name to test my blackball theory and it got to the front page, so I knew that something had changed (probably just Etsy staff, they are people after all - I wasn't really thinking blackball, but it makes this story a little more exciting and I am a proud conspiracy theorist).
A few months (again with my memory thing the timing could be screwy), maybe a year later the treasury system changed and the serious treasury makers formed teams. I know people who are on multiple teams, who make multiple daily treasuries, who know what time of day to make what type of treasury live to get the best access. There is a science to it now. They still get to the front page a lot - although not as much as they used to either. Me - pretty much never.
The lesson here is not that I should still be making treasuries - there is always a gift in letting go and lots of good things have come from the multiple legs this has forced me to grow - although to be honest it was my ego that took me out of the game (if there was no chance of a treasury I made ever getting to the front page, ie me winning the game, I didn't want to play - I'm taking my ball and going home - wah) - the real lesson is about connections - the reciprocity of the treasury system is all about connections, without me making treasuries I wouldn't be in many either.
This is totally in sync with the new connections marketplace.
I did not learn this lesson though
as evidenced by the next thing I did.
back tomorrow with - the next thing I did.
|teach her locket - what are you learning?|
I started blogging regularly - like very regularly, like pretty much everyday.
Now, I didn't ask myself, like a normal business owner probably might - "How will I replace that lost exposure?, What changes will I make?" - I just replaced something I loved doing that now felt pointless (treasuries) with something new that I loved doing (blogging).
My content was all over the place.
Originally I thought customers would read my blog, but quickly saw that most of my readers were other makers, so I just kind of ran with that.
I never wrote my posts the way SEO people advise - no link backs, no use of popular search words and phrases, no # titles that readers (and search engines) love - like "10 ways to make more blah blah blah" although I could have (sort of) easily done these things. I never promoted my blog. I didn't join blogger groups or comment on other blogs in any regular way, no guest blogging, etc.
(honestly I didn't do these things because I didn't have any time left - I had a business to run, a maker business with me doing all the making plus everything else and I was blogging everyday)
I see how I could have done this blogging thing so much better - especially in light of all the time I was putting into it - again the "connections" thing in terms of business exposure was not something that was on my radar in the way it could have been.
I have a friend who makes really cool, unique jewelry. She got into her first tradeshow in Las Vegas at the very last minute. She drove from several states away with a suitcase full of jewelry and a white table cover. She panicked a bit at set-up when she saw the beautiful displays in cash and carry jewelry which the other makers had obviously put a great deal of time, effort and money into but set her jewelry out on her white table cover and tried to look confident.
She was busy all day, the busiest table in cash and carry - later she told me she thought maybe her blank canvas had worked better than the other displays and I agreed that empty space can be beautiful and certainly her display wasn't fighting with the store owner's sensibilities - I did wonder though if even though she was the busiest table in cash and carry (I think because her work is amazing) - if she couldn't have done even better with a great display. We'll never know.
With my blog I'll never know either. I don't regret many of my blogging choices - because it has been a great learning experience and I have met so many amazing people but as part of an inbound marketing program you can learn from my mistakes.
Inbound marketing is about conversation - otherwise we are just talking to ourselves (which I don't mind so much although it drives Olive a little nuts) so if you are blogging for exposure try some of those things I didn't do. And don't spend so much time on your own blog that you have no time for anyone else's.
Having a clear focus on our audience,
(which for most businesses, when our blog is connected to our website, will be our customers)
establishing a content management system (in line with our brand), engaging with people through social media and trying new things
(but not too often and not too new - "the standing still" part of inbound marketing is important, the people who love us won't be able to attach if we keep changing things - we know how annoying all the Etsy and Facebook changes are)
are the best ways to create the kind of synchronistic strategy we need for the right customers to find us.
Inbound marketing is all about creating an authentic presence (after we have created our authentic, incredible makings) and being in the right place for the right people to find us.
There are lots of great posts out there about how to use Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and dozens of other venues to engage customers, so I won't go there. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything; don't try. We just need to make the right choices
I think our emotions will tell us which choices are right for us - the stuff we love is the very stuff that will line us up with our abundance.
and stick with them - this inbound stuff is a process. It takes patience.
There is not a lot you can do that will make your sales explode - there is a whole lot you can do to help your business expand.
As with everything getting really clear about the stuff we are doing, and focusing our attention and intention on that and not giving our attention to the other stuff - if we don't have time for it, either make the time or get it off our radar entirely - always gets the best results.
(One intention I have is to get more involved in Pinterest and Instagram this summer since pretty pictures are feeling about my speed at the moment plus I finally broke down and got a smartphone) xo