Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can A Soap Handicraftsman Be Social?

Chatting with Ana Garcia, Soap Handicraftsman.

Can Handcraftsmanship be Social?
Some time ago I concurred with Ana, a neighbor, with whom I’ve shared occasional comments about her entrepreneurship.

Ana is dedicated to manufacturing handmade soaps and, since she knows I'm in the computers’ area, she always asks me about computer’s stuff: my computer is running really slow, one day it starts acting up, on her own. As people say, the regular stuff for computer’s guys.

In one of the last conversations we had, having meal with some friends, the social networking subject came up to the table, and Ana said she didn’t completely understand what the point was. She agreed it’d be fine, but she’d rather talk with people on the street, as she’s always done, and she even said that chatting and spending all day long in front of the computer was not on her mind, much less sharing every little thing she does on a regular day. She even recognized herself skipping private-life oriented conversations with her neighbours.

The fact is that in that conversation some of the guys were defending having a social media presence, some were not, and at the end, everyone went home with their own ideas about the subject.

Ana and I got together again and the conversation came up, and I said to Ana:

- Ana, let’s have a vermouth and chat about social media and soap handcraftsmanship. What do you say?

- It’s ok for me Joaquin, but you’re not going to convince me. You know how I feel about it.

- I assure you, Ana, the last thing I want is to convince you of anything, let's just chat, okay?

And that's how the conversation started.

- Ana, how did you get started on creating handmade soaps, or better yet: how did you make people aware of your new initiative?

- Well, you know Joaquín, it all started as a casual activity. I build my soap-making workshop and started doing some testing. When I had a product that I liked, I invited some friends to test it and let me know their opinion about its texture, smell, the feeling it gave them while using it. I even said to them: “They aren’t ornaments, Ok?! You’ve got to use them because I’d like to know what you think.”

- At first, I gave away the first soaps: They were solely for testing purposes. My friends allowed me to know what they liked and what they didn’t thus giving me a chance to improve my product. Initially they received my soaps at home, but after that, I contacted a small home & decor shop owner so I could have my products for display and sale at her place.

- Good! I think you have attended craft fairs also, with people from the area, right? How about these fairs? Last time you were dressed as an Andalusian, if I remember correctly - I joked.

- Yes, it was kind of medieval themed fair - Ana answered, smiling - I liked it a lot: you contact other craftsmen and then exchange emails and ideas with them. I can get to know  how they decorate their products, and promote them in the show and it's also a way to talk to people. It doesn’t generate many sales, but always gives me ideas and suggestions, and for me, that's important: Knowing what other people think and feel about me and my product. It all helps me improve.

At the end, Ana, where are your sales coming from?

- Fundamentally from the store, then I receive orders by mail from people that have come to know about me through my website, you know, one of those DIY web pages, where I showcase what I do, have some pictures for product presentations, a contact address, email and phone number and just about that. But Joaquin, weren’t we supposed to be talking about social networks?

- Sure thing, Ana, and we are actually talking about social networks. Imagine for a moment that we are in the craft fair we were talking about. What do you see?

- Well, I can see artisans’ stands showcasing their products.

- Exactly. You can also see there is a lot of people in the square, some are your friends, and come here because they know you in a personal way, but there are others who don’t know a thing about you and simply come because they’re interested in the products you sell and manufacture.

- Yes, it's true. Moreover, there is one who is a huge follower of the fairs and we have concurred on many occasions, although I can’t say we have come to be friends. He’s always been interested in my products and we’ve chatted several times about them and how I manufacture them.

We're talking about a social network: people communicating with each other.

You, and all who come together in the square, we are all represented in this network by our personal profiles and are connected by friendship ties with people we actually know in real life, and with people who are simply interested in what we do. This also happens in Facebook, (which would be the fair), where you connect with your true friends because you know them well, and there are people who connect with you simply because they are interested in your work, when you have a business page.

There are also other networks, such as Twitter and Pinterest for example, where people are connected in different ways. Twitter, as I like to put it, is about birds chirping in the park, all at the same time without trilling to no one in particular, but it serves to quickly spread out short messages. On Pinterest, is about using images more than words, but as you see, all networks will serve to convey information, interact with people and therefore receive that much-needed feedback for your business.

- You know? You've convinced me. I want to be in social networks! I think it’d be a good way to promote my business and also to receive the comments and criticisms of my clients and friends. Without this information it’s very difficult to improve and advance in business. When do we start?.

And this way, Anna, the soap handicraftsman, begins her journey through social networks, creating an extension to her business, opening a "new space" in which to meet with clients and friends, to interact and learn from them how to create a better product.

What about you? when do you finally jump into this exciting new world of social networks?

Author: Joaquín Gómez Moreno.
Graduated in Chemistry. Professionally dedicated to Sap Business One advisory, musician by vocation and actually falling in love with Digital Marketing and Social Media as Community Manager.@gomezbar39

Related post: Relationships Value: What can you expect from Social Media?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Social Media: From a conversation to a brand new sale in 6 simple steps.

Are you listening effectively?

Many headaches occur when planning social media efforts because companies can’t clearly define a way to turn their facebook fans or social media followers into actual paying customers.

Sometimes, companies invest their time in publishing product related information and status updates, some more promotional than others, a few brands are more focused on their customers, and respond to comments and positive mentions, and time goes by without their efforts bringing in new customers which, after all, is the ultimate goal of any marketing strategy.

Last week I came across an infographic which explains with enviable clarity how companies can turn their social media acquaintances into new business.

I’m taking the opportunity to sharing it with you, completely confident it’ll help you see quite clearly how to leverage your presence on social networks more effectively and get new sales.

For the infographics, they took as a reference a sport shoes company, and on this specific case, special models for marathoners.

From the conversation to the sale in 6 simple steps.

  • Identify relevant conversations and information of interest to your business: In this case, the company remains listening on social networks, and identifies people who are talking about their upcoming participation in a marathon, which is clearly a nice business opportunity. The formula is very simple: If you are going to participate in a marathon, you become a potential buyer for a new pair of running shoes.
  • The company gathers information about the event and sets up a “timeline" between the start of the conversation and the event itself, (in this case there are still nine months to go).
  • The company starts to follow the threads of ongoing conversations being held around the event and users involved in them.
  • The company puts together an event-driven content strategy: The company begins publishing information with tips and suggestions about marathon training programs. Runners, as they are already planning their participation in the race, start searching for relevant content and find company’s posts, find it interesting and connected with the company through social networks.
  • The company invites this new audience to join their newsletter to receive tips and suggestions on how to train for the marathon, how to increase their performance, avoid injuries and, ultimately, offers information relevant to the potential customer, adding value to the relationship and engaging emotionally with the future prospect. Through the newsletter, the company gets fresh leads of potential new customers.
  • Specials and Incentives: Just when runners begin to prepare for their training, the company sends coupons with incentives and discounts for the purchase of their special new shoes, and new business is driven in
  • The company stays on their customer side, monitoring their experience with the product both during the realization of the marathon and after. In this case, it’s simply done to bring the relationship a step further and develop customer loyalty.
This last step is what I added and will vary based on the type of product or service you're offering.

Although social networks are not specifically designed for selling, they should open up business opportunities.

Basically the idea of ​​bringing in the last step is to strengthen customer loyalty, showing the company's intention wasn’t only to get the sale done, but to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

And if your customer’s experience with the product is good, there you have a great opportunity to invite them to share their feedback with your audience through social networks. Everything would then be great.

It is important that your marketing strategy in social media, you make an effort to identify these path to bring new business in, so you don’t waste time unnecessarily and can really take advantage of all your efforts and digital presence.

Below I leave the link to the original article and infographics: How to Effectively Listen on the Social Web
Related post: Relationships Value: What can you expect from Social Media?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learn to play with the money that really belongs to you.

Surprise, surprise?
Since the world began, and long before business became so complex as they are today, there was a fundamental equation that made it all work in the best way for everybody:

Profit = Sales - Costs

As long as this simple formula was respected and followed, things work very well for business owners: You had a product which costed you 50$, sold it for 75$, therefore earned 25$ in profit. And that's all the money you had in your pocket and so, the only money available to you for doing things. There was nothing more to it than that.

It’s a formula that still holds true both in small businesses, like yours, as well as in the world’s largest companies, the difference being that many additional factors are taken into consideration nowadays to calculate it.

How much does it really cost to manufacture your product?

In many cases, though it seems so basic a concept that needs no explanation, business owners don’t realize production cost goes far beyond the cost of raw materials plus the money you pay for the actual manufacturing process.

Your office rent, money paid for electricity, telephone, and Internet services, your salary and that of your employees, and many other additional costs, should be included as part of your production cost, and they all add up.

And it’s important to keep this in mind, because every expense not included in your production cost and taken into consideration while calculating your product’s sale price, will come out from the only place possible: your profit.

Note that the formula remains the same: Profit = Sales - Costs.

And at what price you need to sell your product then?

It’s very simple to avoid surprises. If you include into the costs of manufacturing your product, all the expenses it actually carries along and then you add up your expected profit margin, then you will know with greater accuracy the price at which you need to sell your product or service.

And you can also come to know at what price you cannot sell it, which is even more important, because more often than not you might end up offering incentives and discounts without realizing how much they can affect your actual profits.

For instance, when you go to a bookstore and buy a pack of letter size paper, in the money you’re paying for it at the counter, all costs incurred by the manufacturer to get that paper package delivered to your hands are included. You are even paying up for the truck used to deliver the merchandise, believe it or not.

For many people this expanded concept of "production cost" comes as a surprise and they’re unable to see it clearly.

That is why we get to learn of so many cases of entrepreneurs who get to the end of the month believing it was a successful one because they had huge sales and it turns out that, in the end, the numbers are not what they expected them to be or even ended up losing money.

What do you really have to do to make money?

If you look at the formula at the beginning of this post, the only way for you to make money is to bring in more money than what goes out (sales always bigger than expenses).

You need to learn how to play with the money you actually have, and that’s why it’s so important to have this formula in mind every day while managing your business, no matter what size it is, regardless of what product or service you sell.

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t exaggerate and say every day, but it's definitely an equation that should overall drive how you manage your business.

If at any time, you detect the money you're earning begins to decrease it might only be due to:
  • An increase in costs.
  • A decline in sales.
  • A combination of both.
Now knowing this, you will have a better opportunity to make the right decisions to continue making money (or not continue losing it) and, thus, will not be surprised by market’s normal ups and downfalls.

In your case, do you know how much your business operation costs each month, how much it costs you every day? You know how much money you're making even before you meet with your advisor or accountant?

Related article: Today’s big challenge: From abundance to shortage.