It’s a tale as old as time. You start up a company, create a product or sell a service and then launch to your awaiting fans….or do you?
WARNING - HOT TOPIC ALERT!
There are always going to be stories of lucky breaks and major successes from the get-go but apart from initial sales to friends and family, the majority of start ups and emerging businesses grow slowly and often struggle to make an initial impact. This, coupled with a very limited budget for most small companies, means that traction may be much slower than anticipated and stress begins to creep in. This, paired with a variety of external pressures can sometimes lead to the blame game. Who can I blame for my slow sales…surely it can’t be me? Truthfully, it’s very rarely any one particular reason but be very aware of playing the blame game as nothing is cut and dried in sales and the customer can be very elusive in a market saturated with choice.
Every day you can read a forum, social media debate or even watch a vlog on this very topic and we've selected some of the most common pain points which are guaranteed to be on the radar of many a small business.
I’VE launched my website/PAID A JOINING FEE/MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION/RENTAL SO WHERE ARE MY SALES?
Newsflash; if it was a simple case of launching a site, joining a platform or renting space in a shop and watching the pounds roll in then everyone would be doing it. The initial launch or joining of any sales platform, shop or marketing opportunity is merely the beginning of the journey and so many variables come into play.
- How much competition is there alongside me?
- Are my prices competitive?
- Where am I positioned in the market?
- Do my images hold up compared to those selling in the same category?
- Am I actively pushing customers towards my various outlets or do I rarely mention them?
Honestly, in our experience we’ve witnessed both the power of a product continuously selling itself with virtually no input necessary from the creator and also experienced a stock drop off or product upload with next to no communication from the brand thereafter. Keeping your sales outlets a secret? Don’t be surprised when you aren’t jumping up and down with glee because the cheques failed to come rolling in.
Doing everything the right way but still slow on the sales front? Cut yourself some slack. As the old adage states, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and customers need to become familiar with a new brand (on average around 3-5 times of seeing your product or service before you truly seep into their shopper conscience) and they have to trust you, recognise you and need your product/service in order for a sale to be made. Right product, wrong location or right customer, wrong timing can also occur but they’ll know who you are and the seed will have been sewn. Stick with it and unless there has been evident negligence, don’t jump to conclusions that something is wrong. It may just take time.
Patricia van den Akker, the industry expert behind The Design Trust and business consultant of over 15 years shared her research findings on this very topic as a result of coaching thousands of creatives and discovered that there are still so many businesses that don’t quite grasp what’s needed to achieve product sales, no matter where the platform may be:
PEOPLE TELL ME THEY LOVE MY PRODUCTS ALL THE TIME BUT STILL DON’T BUY THEM
We live in a fickle world. Social media, catch-up on demand and 24/7 rolling everything means that you are a tiny part of a potential customer's jam packed day. They may swoon over your dress and declare their obsession with your new earring design on social media, even private messaging you to enquire in more detail but the realities are that it could come to nothing. It’s not your fault! The choice is always yours but don’t feel pressured to start sending panicky discount codes, offer them an incentive if they buy it that night or message them a few times after their enquiry to ask if they’ve made a decision.
It may work on the rare occasion but will most likely scare them away. If someone wants your product, they’ll get it - even if it means saving up for it. What has worked for many of our brands is to provide as much information as is useful about said product, give some backstory as to why the product is produced in that particular fashion (and hence why the brand has priced it accordingly if price is the key decider) and to hold firm. Some people love to barter and see a small brand as a great place to bag a bargain but you need to hold firm as much as possible to ensure that you can prove your product/service is priced correctly and worth every single penny to you.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO THE BIG PLAYERS - THERE’S SO MUCH GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES
So many of the shops you’ve grown up purchasing from are part of massive consortium groups and many more have been bought over, absorbed into larger partnerships or sadly faded away or even gone to the wall. You only start to think about this when you begin to sell your own products or service and the truth is you need to aim high and think big while remaining realistic. To become a major success requires a carefully planned scaling up of your business and solid foundations for growth that can be effectively implemented. Remember that a bricks and mortar presence is a great thing but has to be in the correct location; just one street away from the main walkway, the quiet zone of a shopping centre or a space that doesn’t ‘flow’ all makes for a tough sell to potential customers and could leave you with overheads that can’t be paid with sales alone. Likewise, an all singing, all dancing website that you’ve poured your heart and soul into is launched onto the internet like an ant entering an arena i.e. you’re minuscule in comparison and the initial launch is merely the beginning of your fight to be seen. It’s tough, it’s relentless and it’s competitive.
Don’t give up! The major players will commonly spend hundreds of thousands on pay-per-click advertising, SEO and responsive websites to make their online outlets stand out from the crowd and smaller businesses just don’t have that kind of cash. The same mentality applies as before; don’t blame yourself, your web designer, your friends and family for not sharing every link…the list goes on. This is a game of patience and strategy and the strongest skills you can equip yourself with are education in understanding what SEO is, key social media advertising, knowing when to run a sponsored post and utilising apps to assist you in the areas where you need it. Unfortunately this is a never-ending marathon, not a race, so set your sights on the path you want to be aligned with and never give up.
This blog has only scraped the surface of the frustrations you’ll encounter when running your own small business. We get it! Our community is a place where independent brands share their successes, their stressors, their bemusement and sometimes their disappointments when things didn’t go their way. These are the realities of business and each element makes for one heck of a journey to get to where you want to be. Running your own independent company is not for the faint hearted and you’ll develop a thicker skin than you ever thought possible. People will take aim at you when they don’t like something, try to blame you when they didn’t get what they wanted but also turn to you when they’re looking for a like-minded friend and praise your offerings when they love what you do. It’s a roller coaster of a ride and W.E. for one love a roller coaster!