Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marketing strategies

As entrepreneurs, the majority of our time should be spent marketing our business.  I know, it's hard to admit, especially when we enjoy the "making" of our goods.  And I know that I also become consumed in various aspects of my business, wanting to pretend I'm "creating", or I'm "marketing."

And these are the times I return to my business educational materials for guidance.

Several marketing strategies are defined, and intuitively we gravitate to one or another without being strategic in our thought:
  • Product Leadership - being the best in our field...think Google for search engines. 
  • Concentrated Growth - resources are directed to the growth of a single product, in a single market with a single strategy.
  • Market Development - opening additional geographic markets or market segments. E.g., for social media, expanding into another online marketing venue; advertising in a new media.
  • Product Development - modifying an existing product for a new market. For example, Philadelphia Cream Cheese broadening into flavored cream cheese products and cooking ingredients.
  • Innovation - developing a new product or service. Apple created few new products or services of their own, but they took the concepts to new mass markets.
  • Horizontal Integration - acquiring product lines in the same stage as yours. For example, jewelers specializing in earrings begin to develop necklaces and watches.
  • Vertical Integration - acquiring vendors or suppliers for sales growth. Many Etsy vendors begin to sell supplies as a way to increase their revenue.
While basic and certainly not exclusive, this should give us a few examples of how to increase our business.  Many of you may doing it already.

If you create bracelets, are you also creating and selling watches?  Horizontal Integration.

If you create necklaces, are you selling supplies you no longer need? Vertical Integration.

Recently, I've expanded my product line about as full as I can go with horizontal integration in simply the home fragrance market.  I have three options for container candles, tea lights, then I moved into votives, then naturally into candle tarts. Soon to be announced are reed diffusers and other air freshener products.

My horizontal integration is the home fragrance market.

So what's next?

Unless I add more fragrances (product development), I will need to explore other opportunities for growth.  While I realize Etsy is an extremely competitive market for home fragrances, I prefer not to venture into other online opportunities (Artfire, Zibbet). I believe social media can only handle one marketplace and prefer to direct these efforts to one shop.

I do explore market development by trying to land my products into bricks and mortar retail environments and personalized products with event planners.

I have ideas of where I am going from here, and do my best to frame the internal discussions with myself in basic marketing strategies.  If you don't have a business background, I recommend you do some simple online research into some of these strategies.

Last week, my post revolved around "venturing forward" and the need to take risks in our business.  This week, I challenge each of you to take the risk into understanding basic marketing strategies and developing ideas on how to grow your business around them.

Happy sales!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Etsy shop review, Greenhouse Glassworks

I first "met" Natasha when she purchased some of my tea lights to include in her candle holders.   A few weeks later, she purchased another set, and both times has asked me to include some business cards to promote my product.  I’m returning the favor by featuring her lovely shop as today’s Etsy featured shop.

At Greenhouse Glassworks, you will find original fused glass and stained glass creations. Some of my favorite items are the candle holders I just mentioned.

Natasha’s designs are all unique stained and fused glass creations.  She finds her inspiration from plants, wide open spaces and the menagerie of animals from her studio that overlooks her horse farm in Western Colorado. And she communicates this feel through the beautiful photography that accompanies her artwork. 

Browsing through her store, not only are you drawn to items for your own home, but you will find fused glass pendants, earrings and other jewelry which make wonderful gifts. And to accompany these gifts, you can include hand made gift tags and thank you cards which are made from reproductions of her original colored pencil drawings.

Natasha is incredibly sweet and giving by supporting other artisans and their entrepreneurial efforts. Please take some time to browse through her shop.  Her artwork is incredibly affordable, and you are sure to find something to give yourself or to a friend! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Venturing forward, part II

Last week I wrote of my journey into capitalism and ideas on how to venture forward into a slightly known arena.  This week I would like to celebrate my mother and her family for their courage to venture forward into very unknown territory.

I spoke with my mother tonight, who relayed an earlier conversation with her sister-in-law.  "Happy 65th Birthday!" my aunt said. "It's not my 65th!" mother replied.  "Yes it is.  You set foot in America 65 years ago today," my aunt insisted.

January 24, 1947 my grandparents, my uncle and my mother arrived from a two week voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to venture forward into a new and better world.  My grandparents each survived concentration camps, my uncle survived living away from his parents in order to be protected from the horrors of the world around him, and my mother survived by being born in the environment created by the terror and  end of the days of World War II in Germany.

And together they ventured forward.  They left family, friends, and community behind in order to create a better world.  They left careers, education, and a way of life behind in hopes to  find the freedom and inalienable rights they knew should be theirs.

They took huge risks. Mine so pale in comparison. So many times I look up to my grandmother, who became my best friend, and am amazed at the courage it took for her, simply, to live.

But they also took calculated risks.  They did not make decisions in a vacuum.

I write this in my business blog because I think as entrepreneurs we all take risks.  But as I reflect on my mother's "birthday", I find myself thinking of the risks I'm taking.  Are they decisions made in a vacuum? Are they calculated risks? Or are they petty decisions I make in order to "advance" a hobby?  It's difficult for those of us who work full time, who manage a family, who are trying to uphold New Year's resolutions to have clarity of thought to take calculated risks to advance our work.

My challenge to you, to myself, is to look at our businesses, to be honest in what we see, and to take the risks necessary to succeed.  The risk to develop an accounting system to analyze the profitability of our entrepreneurship. The risk to reach out to experts for help in marketing our business in order to succeed.  And the risk to leave the product creation behind just a bit.....we won't succeed if we're creating and only hoping to sell our creations.  We will only succeed if we take the calculated risks necessary to grow our business beyond a hobby.

This land was made for you and me...

Happy Birthday!
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