I love a little bit of homework when it
comes to my business and I also think it’s important to always be looking at it
with critical eyes. These are 5 questions that are fun to answer and incredibly important
when it comes to creating a successful business. If answered with thought and implemented, you can make some big improvements.
Don’t let the fact that you already have an
idea, a business plan or a completed product, website or packaging stop you
from analyzing and making changes. There isn’t a successful
brand out there that doesn’t constantly tweak and improve so consider
change a prerequisite of running a business.
Print off the sheets below and really take the time to put thought into your responses. If you already have the answers and are on the right path, make sure your points are actually being implemented in your business.
As always, I’ve used examples of brands I
think are slaying it when it comes to each point. TOMS, EOS and Blo continue to
be a few of my favorites and are used in this article…hope you’re not sick of them yet
1) What makes your products recognizable?
If someone were familiar with your brand
(i.e. they’ve seen you at a craft fair, follow your Facebook page, purchased
one of your products, etc.), would they be able to recognize your work if they
saw it without your logo or business name attached? You have your very own
unique style so determine what that is and how you can play it up. It may be
the repeated use of colors, scents/flavors, shapes, materials, ingredients or
packaging. Close your eyes and imagine someone wearing or using your product
and being asked: “is that a ________ (enter your business name here)?” Which
element makes them recognize your products as yours?
For example: EOS hit the ground running
with their colorful pod shaped lip balms. They have EOS subtly stamped onto the
top of their containers and don’t rely on their logo to be recognized. You would identify their product the second
someone pulled it out of their purse. If you removed the labels from the tubes
of Blistex, Burt’s Bees and Lip Smacker, you wouldn’t be able to tell which
brand of lip balm someone was using.
If you’re interested in some more guidance
when it comes to the improvement of your products, download the free sample
chapter (MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT) from my e-book!
2) What’s one key element you carry
throughout your business?
Is there a color, material, font, wording,
photography style etc. that can be found in several areas of your business? Repeating
certain elements creates a strong brand and will also help people recognize
your business and products. Look at your website, social media pages, signage,
props, packaging etc. Do they all have the same look and vibe?
For example: Blo uses their hot pink and
feminine hand-written font across their entire website, social media
pages, marketing material and in their salons (their stylists even wear
hot pink aprons). It makes it really easy to recognize their brand.
3) Why should people choose to buy from you?
A competitor-less marketplace is non-existent.
You’re always going to deal with other companies selling what you sell so what
do you offer that they don’t? It’s important to scope out your competitors so
you can head in a slightly different direction from them. Determine what it is they’re
doing really well and where they’re falling short. If there's a certain area of the business they're lacking in (and it's an area consumers care about) they're leaving a gap in the market for you to fill. If another business is selling similar items to you and they're on top of product trends but not on top of customer service and their branding is bland, those are two areas you can pull ahead and set your business apart from them.
For example: Just Fab could be just another
online shoe retailer but they tailor your shoe shopping experience to your
style. Before you can even begin browsing their selection, they have you fill
out a quick and fun questionnaire about your personal preferences (e.g. what type of shoe
would you wear on a girls night out, favorite celebrity style, etc.). This
helps them curate a personal boutique for you to shop from. They also have a
membership program that gives discounts and rewards to those who have a serious
shoe obsession and shop regularly.
Chapter 9: PERFECTING YOUR SELLING SKILLS
of my e-book covers how to find your unique selling proposition and ways to
communicate that to your shoppers. You can check out the full chapter outline
on this page.
4) How do you make people feel like you’re
talking directly to them?
Have you ever read an email, article or
product description and thought; this person knows exactly how I feel! You know
it’s not specifically written for you but it feels like it is. They describe
your frustrations perfectly, share the same views and make you feel like you’re
reading a note from a friend. When you try to be too broad with your products
and the way you pitch them, your message can get lost. When you get really
specific and imagine you’re talking to a friend who shares the same issues,
goals, passions, sense of style or even the same sense of humor as you, you end
up creating a connection with your audience.
For example: Who loves working out? NOT me.
I’ve definitely gone through my ups and downs of being consistent with working
out before a trip and completely falling off the wagon once it was over. Fitbit
is a product that has changed the way I stay active. They explain in their
About section that they realize health is serious business but they want to
make the path to reaching your fitness goals, fun. Their commercials,
Facebook posts, notifications (messages
that pop up on your phone letting your know you’re only 1,524 steps away from
reaching your goal for the day or that a friend has pulled ahead of you in a
challenge) and website text, show that
getting healthy doesn’t have to be about hardcore workouts (which I hate). It’s
about being active and having fun. They’ve honestly changed my outlook on
fitness and helped me realize that little changes in the day can lead to big
5) What would the title of your story be?
Have a flip through a newspaper or magazine
and look for articles featuring businesses. You’ll have a really hard time
finding titles such as “Jane started a handmade soap business” or “Kate is
selling her jewelry”. Writers need a unique angle and to be able to tell a
story their readers will be interested in. What’s your story? What are you
doing that is different or interesting? Turn that into a title you can imagine
seeing in your favorite publication. You don’t have to be saving lives to be
newsworthy. Simply narrowing your products down to a specific niche can build
your storyline. If Jane started making organic soap for dogs with fleas or Kate
was selling celebrity red carpet style jewelry on a budget, it would instantly
make their businesses more interesting than those who don't focus on a niche. This topic is also covered in the sample chapter, MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT.
For example: TOMS started their company by
selling shoes. What made their business spread like wildfire wasn’t the look of
the shoe or the materials they used, it was their “one for one” business model.
For every pair of shoes sold, TOMS gives one new pair of shoes to an
impoverished child. This concept made an instant storyline and was picked up by
the Los Angeles Times. They started with 250 shoes and sold 10,000 in the six
months following the feature.
Click on the images below to print off the
5 questions and fill in your answers. You can hand them in for grading at the
end of the day ;) Or feel free to leave a comment if you would like some feedback on
your business or have any questions about this article.