If You’re Not Onto This, Your Competitors Will Be

If You’re Not Onto This, Your Competitors Will Be

There is a win-win marketing opportunity sitting right in front of you and if you’re not taking advantage of it, your competitors will. Maybe not today, but soon. Which is why you need to spend some time and energy thinking ECO!

Eco-friendliness and sustainability is a HUGE trend. In fact it’s more than a trend because getting rid of single-use plastics has turned into a formidable MOVEMENT that is sweeping across the globe (with a few notable exceptions 🙄.

Clearly, this is amazing news for our planet and everyone living on it but it also has a direct impact on you both as a consumer AND as a business owner, which is where I come in.

Only today I read an article about 9 ways to get rid of single use plastics in your bathroom. From wool-wrapped soap pebbles  to shampoo and deodorant bars, from fabric makeup-remover pads to washable cotton sanitary towels, the move away from single-use towards reusable and recyclable is thankfully here to stay. And it made me think of you.

My question to you is WHERE DO YOU FIT?

How can you be a part of it? How can you capitalise on it because I’ll tell you something – if you don’t embrace it, somebody else will. They will get the business you could have had purely based on their eco-focus in their business and that will HURT. Ouch!

Even if you think it just wouldn’t matter to your customers, think again.

Even if you think it’s impossible to do anything ‘eco’ in your business, it’s not. There will be a way. And I want you to read this and start thinking, not just because we all need to play a part in saving our planet but also because you can turn it into a big marketing advantage. Oh, yes you can!

If you make soap or skincare, there has never been a better time to be making hand-made. If you create things from fabric or wool you can look for ways to create reusable versions of things people usually buy and throw away. Think about the renaissance of towelling nappies, it’s not just traditional ‘eco’ families using them.

But what if you’re not a soap or skincare maker? What if you don’t knit or sew in your business? How can you incorporate ECO in your business in a meaningful way, that will make a difference and be a great marketing angle?

Well, I’ve a few ideas for you and even if I don’t directly mention YOUR sector think about those I do mention and how you might adapt the thinking to fit yours.

Virtual Assistants – how can a VA be eco?

Well, they can go paperless for starters. Many already have but how about their clients? If I was a VA I’d be thinking about offering a service where I help my clients become more sustainable in their business. From helping them create a paperless office, to doing research around eco-friendly suppliers, from helping them source sustainable packaging to enabling them to cut travel by doing more online meetings, I’d have a huge ‘ECO your business’ package I could offer to clients who have the will but not the time to do this.

Dog Walkers – how can they be eco?

Well, biodegradable poop bags are a good start but you might also choose to map your pickup routes to save fuel (good for your pocket and the environment). You might already be doing this but why not tell your clients and potential clients, so they understand it’s deliberate strategy? How about the clothes you wear? And what about the services you offer? Can you add value by selling small dog accessories like travel water bowls to cut down on single-use plastic bottles of water? How about dog leads made from sustainable bamboo fibre? And if you have to replace your vehicle, maybe you choose an electric one if it’s practical and use that in your marketing too? Your customers can feel good that their impact on the planet is lessened by choosing you as a dog walker. Cool, huh?

Wellbeing businesses – how can they be eco?

Well, mindfulness goes a long way towards making people more conscious of their actions. Mindfulness reduces stress, increases awareness of our behaviour and often has a knock-on effect of reducing materialism and mindless consumption. In other words if you can learn to be happy being you, you don’t need to buy ‘stuff’ to make yourself feel happy. That is a great eco strategy.

Herbalists and homeopaths might choose to post their remedies in reusable or recyclable packaging and do consultations via Skype, to save travel. How about sustainably sourced ingredients?

Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths might send text appointments and do online bookings rather than using cards. They might choose massage oils from a sustainable source in recyclable packaging. They might have a plastic-free practise and use this as a marketing point.

Eco Ideas For Small Businesses With A Big Heart

How about other eco ideas for other businesses? Can you take back your packaging and recycle it if your customers send it back?

Can you offer refills?

One of my lovely students, Tina at Purple Nanny in Abbotsbury in Dorset has just started a refill service for all sort of household liquids and her customers love it. Some of them make a point of shopping with her just because she’s the only person in her area offering this. Not only does it save on packaging, it also has a feel-good factor and THAT is something customers love.

Purple Nanny’s bank of refill stations

Can you offer repairs?

I bought a beautiful leather bag from a little startup company based in a Canadian forest (yes really, the things you find on Kickstarter…) and they offer lifetime repairs for free if you send your item back to them. My only problem is it would take weeks and lots of money to send it back to Canada from the UK so I’ll look for a local cobbler if I need repairs, as I don’t want THAT on my carbon footprint!

If you’re in hair and beauty can you reduce plastic in the salon? Choose energy-saving hairdryers when they need replacing? Offer a shampoo refill service if your client bring back their bottles? Research the most sustainable and economical options for hair towels? Choose sustainable, reusable kit where you can (I’m not suggesting you reuse waxing strips, but what COULD you swap to that would mean you buy less and reuse more, while maintaining your high hygiene standards?)

Bringing Eco Into Your Business

Where can you save electricity? Save water?  Compost? Sustainably source?

Can you do deliveries by bike?

On foot? By go-cart? By horse?

Can you suggest things they can do with the things they have bought from you once they no longer need them? If you make cards, can you include a little list on the back of things you can do with a card that’s had its day? Turn it into a fan? Use it to prop up a wonky table? Make it into a jigsaw? Turn it into a new card?

Can you ask customers to send the items back once they no longer needs them, so you can refurbish or repurpose them? Can you give them loyalty points for doing that? Heck, can you buy the stuff back for a small amount that they can redeem against new stuff?

I’ve seen some great ideas from big and small brands, from a subscription service where you get a selection of pre-loved clothes for your growing baby each month to save you buying new clothing that will barely be worn before it’s too small (I’ve also seen a baby-wear hire service – similar but different) to a big brand (John Lewis) that will buy back your old clothes so they can ensure they are properly recycled.  From my husband’s business where they offer free repairs on all the tools they sell (which means the customers come onto the van and browse while the repair is getting done) to the free water refill campaign (Tina at Purple Nanny does that, too).

Here is a little clip of the John Lewis story with a link to the story in The Guardian. I did think there might be some shareholder schmoozing involved but one of my lovely readers, Catherine, advised me that John Lewis don’t have shareholders and are run co-operatively, which makes it EVEN MORE AMAZING! They are reducing their impact on landfill because it’s the right thing to do. How fab is that? As for the marketing, they made sure the press knew what they were doing because it’s a great story and got them tons of coverage, as you can see.

What can you learn from that? I’m thinking if you’re consciously doing something in your business that has a positive impact on the environment, you definitely need to be shouting about it to the local paper at the very least.

Your Eco Marketing Angle

With my business hat on, how can you USE any of your amazing eco ideas in your marketing?

How can you capitalise on it? You’re doing it anyway, so TELL YOUR CUSTOMERS (and potential customers) because most people will care and some people will care a LOT, to the point where they become fiercely loyal and supportive of your business.

Don’t assume you can’t make sustainability and eco-friendliness a part of your business. We all can.

And don’t assume nobody will care. They do.

And don’t assume your tiny efforts won’t make a difference. They will. To the planet AND your profits. Win-Win.

I would LOVE to hear how you are bringing sustainability and eco-friendliness into your business. Tell me your ideas. Tell me what you’re already doing. Tell me how you’re using it in your marketing. Tell me what your customers think of it. I can’t wait to hear from you!!

The £14 Shower Cap And You!

The £14 Shower Cap And You!

I know exactly how much this cost because I found it on the internet and put it on my Christmas list last year.
As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it and Helen, my little sister said she would happily buy it as her gift to me.
It was my FAVOURITE Christmas present!
It all began when I decided I would treat myself to getting my hair blow-dried every week. My hair is a mass of curls and although I love it and even embrace it in the summer, at this time of year it’s just wild. And not in a good way. More like the image below, the resemblance is uncanny, really
Me, without getting my hair blow-dried
So, I was spending money on getting my hair done and having a lovely break for an hour at the same time and then I’d go in the shower and my old shower cap would fail miserably. Hair would escape, blow dry was ruined.
I was not a happy bunny.
I figured there MUST be a better way so I Googled ‘shower caps for blow-dried hair’ or something like that and THIS came up and I knew my problem was solved. It’s marketing genius!
So, naturally it made me think of you.
‘Normal’, bog-standard shower caps are a £2-3 . This one was over £14 when we bought it. We, or rather Helen on my behalf, paid 5 times the going rate for the same thing and to me it’s still a total bargain because it makes my hairdo (that costs me around £20 per week) last MUCH longer. It solves my very specific problem and makes me happy.
WE HAPPILY PAID MORE AND WOULD HAPPILY DO IT AGAIN. I even made you a video, modelling said shower cap – the things I do in the name of teaching you marketing!

 

So, how can you apply that to your products and services? How can you stop being generic and think about a very specific issue or problem one of your Super Customers has, that you can solve? Something you can charge much more for and which they will happily pay because it’s worth it to them?
People pay more for solutions to their very specific needs or problems. Think about other times when people willingly pay more. Thinking about my own life…
I am a curvy 32HH and can’t buy ‘normal’ bras, bikinis or swimming cozzies but I still need them so I will pay more (slightly begrudgingly I must admit) to places like Bravissimo for products that meet my needs. For context I had to pay around £70 for a nice, but not THAT nice swimming cozzie in my size a couple of weeks ago. Ouch. But I paid it because I needed it.
I have a friend who is vegan who regularly happily pays more for vegan food because it meets a need and lets them eat things they wouldn’t have the skill or patience to make at home (according to them).
We pay more for organic milk in bottles because I’m trying to ditch plastic, I love local organic milk and I think it tastes better out of glass bottles. It’s a no brainer for me and I LOVE going out onto my doorstep and seeing the glass bottles lined up like soldiers on a morning.
How can you add a bit of marketing genius to your business by solving a very specific need and charging more for it, knowing your customers will happily pay because you made their life easier?
I’ll leave that one there.
Would You Pay To Shovel Poop? I Did…

Would You Pay To Shovel Poop? I Did…

I did, today. And last Wednesday. It’s not me doing the poop shovelling, I hasten to add but Chloe, my 9 year old daughter. She is horse-mad and has been having weekly riding lessons for a few months now, so when ‘Easter Pony Experience Days’ were mentioned, she was all for it. Here is the advert from her lovely riding school (below)
You see where it says ‘stable management lesson’ and ‘practical activities’? That’s basically mucking out the stables and cleaning tack.
Yes, there were lots of other lovely activities but a good part of the day was learning to look after the ponies, which is mainly the messy stuff.
Chloe won’t even clean her room without a huge fight, so when I saw THIS photo I was a bit gobsmacked…Chloe has the purple and pink coat on…

Chloe with her nose far closer to Pony poop than I would ever have thought possible…

So, naturally it made me think of you.
Chloe won’t clean her room but she will happily shovel pony poop when it’s part of a Pony Experience Day because it’s fun and it’s something she doesn’t usually get to do. It’s a new experience. How could you use this in your marketing?
Let’s think about it…People will happily pay for an EXPERIENCE.
The riding school isn’t daft, they get a bunch of horse-mad kids in doing work that they would usually pay staff to do but it’s a win-win because the kids LOVE it. So the riding school SAVES money, while MAKING money AND has delighted customers.
How can you use that in your business? What do you do that people would pay to learn? What would your customers love to EXPERIENCE that is part of your daily business activity?
Be a florist for a day? ‘Sew your own cushion’ workshop? ‘How to set up your own Yoga Business’ taster workshop? ‘Self-Assessment Made Fun’ masterclass (might be stretching it with that one…).
Remember, Build-a-Bear and Pick-Your-Own farms have made an entire business out of charging people to do something other businesses have to pay staff to do.
I’ll leave that one with you – let your imagination run wild and remember not everyone gets the chance to do what you do every day and some people would PAY to experience it….How could you use it in your business?
Let me know what you come up with, I’d love to hear from you,
Love, Claire xx
The Money Is In The Follow Up

The Money Is In The Follow Up

How many times do you start researching something you were thinking of buying, just to get distracted? Or realise you need to talk to someone else before you buy? Or you’re just doing initial research? How many times do you put things in your online basket and aren’t quite ready to check out yet? How often do you go into a shop just looking for ideas but you want to think about it before you commit?

In other words, how often do you start the ‘buying’ process but don’t finish it? Fairly often, if you’re anything like me.

And your customers will be just the same.

So why then, do we not follow up with these people? Why are we so worried about pestering them or feeling stalky? Surely, if they enquire there is a possibility they might be ready to complete that sale, hopefully with you, at some point soon?

Let me share a story.

I was shopping for a dress online and I got it in my online basket, paid and the payment failed. It was because my card had been cloned earlier in the year and I got a new one, but I’d saved my old card on this site and didn’t realise when I clicked to use it that it was my old one. The message said ‘payment failed’, I couldn’t be bothered to go downstairs right at that point to fetch my purse but I thought I’d remember to go back and get this lovely dress while it was still in stock.

The trouble is, I didn’t. Remember, that is. Even when the store kindly sent me an email an hour later reminding me that I still had things in my basket and I just needed to update my payment method. I meant to do it because I definitely wanted the dress, but I was putting my daughter to bed and by the time I got back downstairs, I was zonked and updating my payment method didn’t even enter my mind.

It wasn’t until I got a phone call the next day from the team at the store – as soon as I answered the phone I knew exactly why they were calling and I was happy to speak to them and finish my purchase but I was just about to go on another call and didn’t have time to speak.

Finally, the following day the team called me, a lovely lady very politely asked if now was a good time and would I like to complete checkout with her. I did indeed want to and I finally bought the dress.

Now, did you see how that worked?

How many steps it took for me to actually buy? It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it’s just life got in the way. I was really happy to receive the email and 2 phone calls. I didn’t feel pestered or stalked or freaked out. I was just glad they persevered because I wanted to buy that dress but my life is busy and often chaotic and I get tired and forget because I’m a mum and a business owner and a wife and a dog mum and a home educator.

Your Super Customers are just the same and your business could work the same way as the store I bought from.

Imagine if you followed up with customers who put things in their basket but didn’t check out? Imagine if you followed up with people who enquired about services a little while ago but never came back? Imagine if you got your web visitors to sign up to your email newsletter so you didn’t lose them when they left your site. Imagine how many more sales you could achieve and how much more profit you could make? And all you have to do is follow up.

Not in a pestering way or a stalky way. Not in an uncomfortable way. Just in a helpful way because your Super Customers are like me that day, life gets in the way.

You’re helping them like the store helped me and I was happy to be helped.

Yes, you may get people who were genuinely researching and don’t want to buy but at least you have tried to help them and for every one of those, there could be a busy home-schooling mum and business owner whose brain feels like a sieve some days and who will be eternal grateful that you helped her finally buy that thing she wanted. Just a thought.

Avoid These 7 Cashflow Killers

Avoid These 7 Cashflow Killers

Running out of cash is one of the most frightening (and sadly most common) things to happen to small businesses. It’s easily done if you’re not keeping an eye on things and can sometimes be hard to spot before it’s too late. So what can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you in your business?

1. Understand the numbers in your business When it comes to the numbers in your business, knowledge is everything. At any given point you need to know what you owe out and what is owed to you. You need to know how much you have tied up in stock. You need to know how much you will need to fulfil orders. You need to be able to pay yourself, pay the bills and pay for any help you employ. Make sure you know your costs and how much profit you make on everything you sell, as an absolute minimum.

2. Don’t count your chickens Don’t assume you have an order until you have the order! Don’t assume people will pay on time. Don’t buy extra stock ‘in case’ you’ll need it. Don’t overstretch yourself. One of the biggest cashflow killers is tying up money in stock or supplies or committing to costs without having the cash to cover it. All it takes is one non-payer, late payment, cancellation, change in circumstances to throw your plans out of whack and your cashflow with it. The last thing you need is to end up with stock you can’t quickly liquidate or commitments you can’t meet because you trusted someone to do the right thing. Get your terms and conditions in place. Have a clear refund policy that protects you if someone cancels once you have ordered stock. Don’t take risks on someone else’s behalf using your business. Protect your downside (in other words don’t commit more than you can afford to lose) and be mindful. It’s not magic money, you have to earn it to cover what you pay out, and then some.

3. Track your sales Don’t guess how much you have taken in sales, KNOW it for certain. Track every sale coming in. Track deposits. Track instalments. Know what is due, when. Look for patterns. Know your quiet times, so you can come up with ideas to drive additional business. Know your busy times so you can plan for them and manage your cash accordingly. Where you put your attention is where the magic happens, so if you track your sales and understand how they work in your business, you will get more. Know how much of it is profit at any time. This is important because your profit is what turns into your salary or gets reinvested back into your business – if it’s not profit then you shouldn’t be spending it unless it’s directly related to delivering your products or services.

4. Collect your payments If you give credit to customers, collect it when it’s due. Don’t let embarrassment or fear of offence stop you. Think like a business owner and put processes in place so you know what is due, when. Make your credit or payment terms very clear at time of purchase. Get the customer to read, acknowledge and sign them so they can’t come back later and say they didn’t know how it worked. On the day the money is due (or even the day before) send a polite reminder notice. As soon as the payment is overdue, chase up every day or two.This is YOUR money. You are not here to cashflow someone else’s business. Successful business owners don’t let their money collection slip. You’re doing nothing wrong by reminding late payers and requesting payment, you are simply running a business in a professional way and if they don’t like it they can go elsewhere. It’s not worth putting yourself under stress trying to accommodate bad payers, when you could focus your attention on your Super Customers and have people who would happily pay in advance.

5. Plan ahead If you know you have shows or events or busy times coming up, plan ahead, not a week or two but a few months ahead. That way you’re giving yourself time to buy stock a little at a time, make the most of special offers and set aside cash as a contingency. Businesses are more likely to run out of cash if they get caught out or haven’t planned ahead. Don’t put yourself in that position.

6. Be Frugal You have to earn every penny you spend. It’s very easy to spend, spend, spend but how much will you need to sell to replace that? If you start adopting this attitude, you will soon get a different perspective on your business. That swanky new laptop bag might be gorgeous but if you have to find 5 new customers just to cover the cost of it, is it really worth it? If you’re spending money on stuff for the business, make sure you get a good deal but don’t talk yourself into stockpiling to get a ‘wholesale’ price, otherwise you’ll potentially have loads of stock tied up in the business that could take months or years to turn into cash. Always think about the return you’re going to get on anything you spend.

7. Choose wisely Choose your customers (not all customers are good customers). Sit tight, be really clear who your Super Customers are and market to them rather than saying yes to everyone. Make wise decisions. Don’t cashflow someone else’s business to the detriment of your own. Don’t be bullied into putting up with someone else’s bad money attitude  – you keep control over your business. Have confidence in yourself and your ability, you know more than you think.

I know it can be tricky if money is tight but the more you plan, the more you know your numbers and the more you realise that cash is the lifeblood of your business, the more likely you are to make sound business decisions and protect your business. My sales coach used to make me justify every penny I spent for months until I understood how much extra profit I’d need to make to cover my less-than-thrifty spending habits. I promise I’m not a killjoy, I want you to love your business but I also want you to keep having a business and not fall victim to dodgy cashflow. Did anything in this blog resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d also love to hear any other cashflow tips you have. Protect your cash and keep building your gorgeous business.