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 results.
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 100% natural 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.
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Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!