Why I Won’t be Buying that Smoothie Again {On Customer Service}

strawberry smoothie martha stewart

{source – Martha Stewart}

Word of mouth can make or break a business.

Tied up with this is the importance of repeat sales. Think about how often this occurs in your life… perhaps you have a few favourite restaurants, or that lovely little coffee shop you tell your friends about. Or, in your business or craft, a particular store you always go to (whether online or off-line) and would recommend to anyone.

Why do you frequent these places? Chances are you have always been the recipient of great products – and, perhaps most importantly, excellent customer service.

I have been personally reminded of the crucial part customer service plays in having a successful business via two separate experiences that happened in close proximity to each other.

 

The Yarn Store

There is a yarn store near where I used to live, and the first time I went there I was quite pleased by the selection (small but effective) and the service of the shop assistant. I subsequently went back a few times… until one day, when I walked out, vowing never to return.

Why?

Because, as a customer, I had been made to feel like a nuisance, rather than a person of value.

I guess the shop assistant (who, I think is also the owner, because she is always in there whenever I walk past) must have been having a bad/stressful day – but that is no excuse.

I went up to her to ask about the prices of some yarn. Now, they were on a set of shelves, which were labelled – but I was looking at the shelf the yarn was resting on, expecting that to be the price… but no, as I was huffily told, the price of the yarn is on the label above it. Silly mistake to make, I know, but boy, did she make me feel like an idiot for asking the question!

I did go ahead and buy some yarn, but she did nothing to allay my feeling of discomfort as she testily scanned my items, took my money, and gave me a long-suffering grimace/smile.

I walked out of there feeling like an idiot.

Do you think I’ll ever go back? I haven’t yet.

Do you think I’d recommend this shop to friends? On the contrary, here I am using it as an example of what not to do!

 

The Smoothie Store

Nick and I were shopping one day a while ago, and we felt like a treat. We decided to buy a smoothie each from a shop in the mall – I got banana and he got mango. They were absolutely delicious, and the service was great – prompt and courteous.

The next time we were at that mall, we were looking forward to going back and getting another smoothie. So, we wandered up. The assistant this time was poorly groomed, and distracted – she actually had to return to us – twice – to ask us to repeat our order because she couldn’t remember the flavour/sizes!

When we finally got our smoothies, we walked away… until I took a sip of mine. It was terrible! Watery, tasteless – and when I moved the straw around there was a big chunk of ice cream just sitting in the bottom. I turned around and took it back to the girl, explained the situation, and she took it back grumpily. She apparently did something with it – but when I got it back it was scarcely better than before! I gave up at this stage though, because she obviously couldn’t care less about us or our order.

Again, do you think we’ll be returning to this shop? Nope. The actions of one staff member in one moment has lost them two customers, and possibly others that we tell not to bother.

 

Always Give Your Best

Let’s be honest. We all have times and days where we really don’t – in the moment – care about the feelings or experiences of our customers. We are too caught up in our own head, for whatever reason, to think about someone else.

But in that moment we may make a mistake that loses us a customer forever.

Sure, we’re not perfect – but we should always strive to do and be our best, and treat customers with the care and respect they deserve, and then hope they spread the good word for us.

People say to me ‘gee, it must be great to not have a boss’. I smile and reply – ‘but I do – every single one of my customers is my boss’.

Without them, I wouldn’t have a business, or a livelihood.

So – do you have a customer service story similar to mine?

A C&T Q&A – For YOU! Show us your business cards!! #CTBizCardChallenge

Create and Thrive Business Card Design

So, today I finally got around to designing a business card for Create & Thrive.

I used to just have one card with everything I did on it, but I realised that it was more useful to have two separate business cards for the 2 things I do – one for C&T, and one for Epheriell. This way, I can hand out the appropriate card in the appropriate places. When I speak, I can use my C&T card, and when I do markets etc. I can hand out my Epheriell card. (And, if I ever move on from either business, I won’t have to trash my cards like I did when I sold *bespoke*!!)

The design process is really interesting – in fact, when I was designing my Epheriell card a few weeks back, I was unsure of my design, so I shared it with my FB community, and got some amazing feedback! Their help made my cards into something truly gorgeous, rather than the mediocre effort I started with.

Here’s how the Epheriell card turned out…

1-Epheriell Jewellery2

 

So, it’s got me thinking… I’d love to see your business cards!

There are a few ways to share:

  1. Just leave a link to a photo of your cards in the comments

  2. Upload a pic of them to the C&T Facebook page

  3. Share them on Instagram/twitter/Pinterest and tag with #CTBizCardChallenge

I’d also love to hear the story of how you got them – did you DIY your design? Did you hire a designer? Did you use a site like Moo or Vistaprint to make them?

 

C&T Q&A – How do you know it’s time to take the leap from hobbyist to business owner?

1-when is it a business final

{Comic Book Jess says ‘Hmmm…’ – photo by smilebooth Australia, edited by moi} 

This week’s question is from Grace, who writes:

How do you take that first step from being a hobbyist to a business owner? i.e …How do you know when the time is right? and What knowledge do you feel is essential before starting your biz (there’s gotta be more than just being ‘crafty’ to succeed).

I love this question – I think it’s one that a lot of people struggle with.

When is the right time? What do I need to know? When do I make the leap from hobby to business?

The short answer?

When you make the decision.

The long answer?

I don’t care how long you’ve been doing your craft as a hobby. It might be 10 years, or you might have started yesterday. I don’t care how much you know about ‘business’. You could have an MBA, or, you could be like me when I started and know pretty much nothing.

Your craft hobby turns into a business when you start treating it like a business.

When you decide to take it – and yourself – seriously.

When you start keeping track of your numbers – your income and expenditure.

When you start thinking like a businesswoman.

When you believe in yourself and your product.

When you start looking at your products from the perspective of your customer, rather than just yourself.

When you attack the Google machine with any question that comes up, and you’ll be dammed if you stop before you find a solution.

When you start to get strategic.

When you analyse your prices to see if you’re making a profit.

When you say ‘I have a business’ to yourself, your family, and that dude you meet in the line at the coffee shop (you gave him your beautiful, professionally printed (or handmade if you’re in letterpress) business card, yeah?).

That is when you have taken the leap.

It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. You don’t know if you’ll ‘succeed’ (whatever that means to you). You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to make enough to quit your job. You don’t know that you’ll still want to be doing this in a year/5 years/10 years time.

You know what? None of us do when we start out. I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know if this is what I’ll be doing in 5 years time. Do I let that hold me back from putting my heart and soul into what I do?

Nope.

None of that matters.

It’s enough that you want to do it NOW. That you want to throw yourself into this crazy dream and make it happen.

No-one is going to make it happen for you.

You have the power. You have the control. You have the choice.

It’s a business when you say it’s a business.

*****

Need help making the transition from hobby to business? Want to set yourself up for success from the get-go? Come join us and I’ll teach you how to Set Up Shop and get it right, right from the start.

Be Prepared to Say “YES!”

be prepared to say yes

{image from the Merriweather Council}

Good press can really help you expand your audience and grown your business.

So, you will want to be prepared to cultivate any opportunities that may come along to get your products into magazines, broadcasts or other publications!

I have been lucky enough to have my work featured in a few publications and I can say from experience, every time I was asked for a sample and the sample needed to be received within 5-6 days. So keep in mind that these things can be very last minute and you want to be prepared!

I’ve written up a short list of things you can do now to ensure you are in a position to say “YES!” when you are approached by editors, bloggers or other who want to promote your work!

One.

Create and save a letterhead document (consistent with your brand, of course) that can be edited to print and put in with each sample sent.

Be sure to include your name, email, mailing address, website and a note about where return shipments can be sent to if possible. Each time you use the letterhead, fill in the address you are shipping to, a short thank you message and a brief description of what is enclosed in your package. Always include a business or postcard as well!

Two.

Probably the most important part of this whole equation: have samples ready to go!

Have at least a few different color ways, sizes, versions, etc, or multiples of your best seller on hand and ready to ship out if needed. Remember, often time requests for samples are last minute and need to be shipped asap, so having them pre made is a huge help. Send more than one sample if you can.

Three.

As stated earlier, requests always seem to come at the last minute. Set some money aside in your monthly budget for expedited and emergency shipments. Since these samples will likely have to arrive within the week, you will want to use a reliable shipper with expedited and tracking options!

Four.

Keep high resolution photos on hand of your best sellers on solid white backgrounds.

Sometimes magazines will ask for samples so they can photograph the items to fit their editorial needs but sometimes they will just request a high resolution image. White backgrounds are best. Keep some magazine worthy, high res images on your computer. Better yet, email them to yourself so you have them in case you are on the road when you get the request…. it happens!

Five.

Speaking of being on the road… leave one or two samples with a friend in case you are planning on being away for a while. Or teach your boyfriend, roommate, mom, dad, cat, whoever, how to put together a sample package should you be unable to due to traveling.

You won’t regret doing these things ahead of time, I promise!

C&T Q&A – How Do I Price My Handmade Goods?

 

how do I price my handmade goods

Today’s question is from Linda Ursin, and she writes:

How do you know what price to set for your crafted items?

Ahh, the age-old pricing question! We all ask it – and chances are, we’ll keep asking it for as long as we’re in business.

I hate to break it to you, but pricing is never a done and dusted thing. As your business grows – as you grow as an artisan – what you make and what you charge will evolve with you.

There is no one-size-fits-all magic bullet to pricing. Sorry!

However – there are some tools, guidelines and strategies to take into account when you’re pricing your wares to ensure you’re making the money you need to be making – and making what you and your work is worth, rather than underselling yourself.

Underpricing is a HUGE issue in the handmade community, and anything I can do to battle that is a good thing in my book 🙂

 

1. Price With The Head

Let’s start with the most basic of tools – the formula. I promise it’s not too scary!

I have found many formulas out there. The most fundamental and basic one is probably this:

Cost Price (labour + price of materials) x 2 = Wholesale

Wholesale x 2 = Retail

So, what does this mean to me, and you? Well, say you have a labour cost of $20 per hour (think about how much you could live on if this was your full-time business!). And your materials cost for an item was $5. Lets say I made a pair of earrings that took 1/2 an hour.

$20 x .5 = $10 labour + $5 materials = $15.

$15 x 2 = $30 = Wholesale Price

Now, if you want to make a profit – which is the amount you have to grow and re-invest in your business – you should double this amount for Retail, which equals $60. (By the way, the retail price is what you should be selling for online, and at markets.)

Sounds like a lot, hey?

But, in professional handmade business circles, this is standard practice. It is difficult for those of us who do this as a hobby to look at it like this sometimes – and when you’re competing with people who sell at a price that doesn’t even begin to come near their true costs, you might feel like you’re being greedy.

Remember – hobbyists aren’t trying to make a living out of selling their craft – they’re just trying to cover materials costs and maybe get a little extra on the side. That is how they can afford to charge so little – their livelihood is not relying on this money!

Also – if you’re selling internationally – and especially if you’re selling in another currency in some places (for example, I still sell in USD on Etsy because I’ve found through experimentation that listing prices in AUD puts off my American customers from buying, but it doesn’t bother Aussies to buy in USD) you need to take exchange rates/paypal fees/paypal currency conversion fees etc into account.

For those of you who want to do a super-serious, completely in-depth calculation to work out your prices, check out this excellent article by Australian Jeweller Simone Walsh.

When you graduate from a hobbyist to a business, you’re going to need to re-think your pricing. Starting with a simple formula like the one above is an excellent start… but it’s not the end of the story. Once you know mathematically what you should be pricing, you need to turn around and look at your price from another perspective.

 

2. Price with the Heart

There’s more to price than the basic in and out formula. Why do you think Apple has such a huge profit margin compared to other tech companies?

It ain’t because their materials and labour costs are way lower. No, it’s because they’ve built a brand that enables them to charge twice as much for pretty much the exact same technology as their competitor – and their customers are not only happy to pay, they’re ravenous, raving fans, just dying to drop another wad of $$ on the new model eye-phone, even when their ‘old’ one works just fine, thank you very much!

That, my friends, is the power of branding, and that is where pricing with the heart comes in.

Someone who outlines this very issue excellently is my friend Megan Auman. She actually wrote a new post on this recently – but she’s been writing and talking about this issue for a long time now.

You need to start looking at your brand from the outside – through the eyes of your customer. Visit your shop and pretend you have never been there before. That it’s just a shop you’ve stumbled upon while browsing Etsy. Even better, pretend you’ve stumbled across your band on a stand-alone website, or in a retail store! (Etsy can sometimes have the issue of making people expect artificially low prices.)

What does it say to you?

  • Does it say ‘professional artisan’?
  • Does it say ‘high-quality craftsmanship’?
  • Does it say ‘unique, exclusive design’?
  • Does your brand scream ‘cheap’ or does it scream ’boutique’?

I want you to be intentionally blind to the prices – blind to the fact that you make these things. I want you to pretend you’ve never made one of your whatevers, and that you don’t have the skill or the inclination to make it.

What would you expect to pay for it? What would you be willing to pay for it?

Take this to another level. Are you even your target customer? Because hey, maybe your target customer is someone who is willing to pay WAY more for your whatever than you would. What might someone really be willing to pay for your wares?

A good way to research this is to show your product to friends or family. Especially those who are a little bit removed from what you make. Ask them – ‘if you saw this in a shop, what would you expect to pay for it’? You might be surprised.

I’d like to let you in on a little secret.

I actually raised my prices 2 times last year. The first was a small, 10% rise in April. The second was a much more dramatic rise in September (and honestly, I have to thank Megan’s talk at the Artful Biz Con for finally giving me the push I needed to take that step).

For example: at this time last year, I was selling this pair of sterling silver earrings for $22 ($22!! I seriously can’t believe that figure now – SO low!). Then it was $25. Now it is $35, and I’m much more comfortable that I’m on the right track with my pricing. Megan would probably tell me off – tell me I should be charging about $60 retail for them – but I’m not quite there yet! Like I said at the beginning, you’re never ‘done’ with pricing.

In the first 2 months of 2013, I sold around the same volume of jewellery on Etsy as I did this same time last year. (I sold a lot more overall this year because the business on my own website is much, much higher now). However, guess what? My revenue – the money I earnt – from those same volume of sales? It’s DOUBLE what I earnt last year. Therein lies the power in raising your prices to what you and your work is worth.

Not only that? I am much more comfortable with my prices now. I am a professional artisan. This is my livelihood. I have years of skill and practice. I make an excellent, quality product. And my prices reflect that.

Do yours?

 

Homework

  1. Visit your shop and do the above ‘I am a stranger’ exercise. I’d love for you to come back here and share your findings!
  2. Take just ONE of your products and work out a price using the formula I gave you above. It is very basic, but it’s a good start. Share with us what you discover – are you pricing way too low?
  3. Do you know anyone who needs this info? Share it with them via twitter, facebook, pinterest or G+ below.

 

P.S. Want more? Join the Thriver Circle and get immediate access to an in-depth video workshop on this topic. It’s just $15!

 


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