Journey of the Do – Stage 9 – Marketing Messages

Some form of marketing is essential to your business. My wife, and I have extensive marketing, and advertising backgrounds, but the roots will stay the same for your business. The pendulum has shifted back to a very open, community-based society. Most likely this shift in mentality will be around for the next 10 – 15 years. Knowing this – my wife and I are going to be as authentic as possible when it comes to our marketing, and our messaging.

Last week I briefly touched on what I call ‘Culture Marketing.’ It’s based on building a brand around your values, and beliefs. And everyone within your organization believing in you, and your company. From that internal belief you’ll see it expand to your customers, and potential customers.

pumpkins, guy and girl

Hanging out on some pumpkins

Your Cultural Message

My wife, and I are firm believers that you can still make a healthy profit, while supporting those in, and around your community (or your world – if that’s your thing). With many companies surrounding themselves in greed, and the folks at the top making more and more while the worker bees do not is not how the latest generation of business builders see as healthy or sustainable. That’s why you’re starting to see companies who give back to the world they’re in. Those that are very open, and authentic about their policies are thriving.

For your messaging – you should try and stay true to yourself, and your beliefs as after all your business is a reflection of you. My wife, and I are going to be very open about our products. We’ll let you know where they came from, and who the product is best for. We’re not here to make a quick buck and disappear. We want to build a fan base. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE fan base to begin with, but we want fans who believe in not only our products, but our values.

Up front we’re going to be very open about the price. The price, is the price, is the price is our mentality. One thing that ticked us off about shopping online is you never know what the final price is going to be until you ‘checkout.’ For us we want to be as transparent as possible. Since we’re only dealing with Canadians – we’re not going to have to worry about duties,and shipping fees above and beyond what’s already there. That was the biggest beef my wife had with dealing with US stores. You see this great price, then you have to factor in the exchange, the duties, other fees and the shipping (and shipping times…7 – 21 days C’MON!). We’re going to remove those fees and work that into our messaging. Again – the price is the price is the price.

Another one of the messages we’re going to work with is who our product is for. Sometimes it’s easier to say who you’re for, and against than just puking out a message. We’re for young professional women who want to showcase their personality at work without feeling, and looking like a skank. It’s affordable dresses that you can wear to work, and after work for drinks. It’s for the woman who wants to express herself through her fashion choices, and not be stuck wearing bland, ‘safe’ clothes.

On top of that – we’re going to include our fans in the discussion – whether it’s through social media or our internal database. Before we add any new product – we’ll encourage our fans to comment on whether or not they like it, how much they’d pay for it and what colours they like it in. Based off this – we’ll have a better idea what to buy, and where to price it. This way the fans will involved in the process and further get them entrenched in our brand.

That’s not all. With our plans to grow – we plan on bringing in our own ‘house’ line of dresses. Where we’ll source the cotton ourselves, design it ourselves, and  produce it ourselves. This way we’ll know exactly where it’s coming from, how much people are getting paid, and we’ll be able to ensure we’re using sustainable practices. At the present time – most clothing, and accessories are made overseas in who knows what kind of facility. Our goal is to move away from that, and support those in, and around our community. Pay them fairly, support their families and build better relationship with our peers. It may cut into our margins, but we’re fine with that. We feel it’s the right thing to do, so we’re going to do it.

Now, just wait till you see how we’re going to go about our business to reach our customers. As the times have changed – you don’t have to be on TV or the radio or in the newspaper to get press. You can do it yourself, and create your own media company to drive fans, and potential customers to you.

More on that next week.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 8 – Where do I find customers?

You have this idea, you’re ready to roll it out, but will people care? And where will you find customers? The old ‘build it and they will come’ thought process is dying if not dead. There are so many competitors, so many niches, and so much market noise (think about how many people are trying to sell you something on a daily basis). So what do you do?

Last week I mentioned a few things around creating a culture, and fans for your brand. This is essential nowadays unless you have millions and millions of dollars to market your product. Even then, people’s BS meters are so high that marketing efforts are becoming less and less effective. The reason why my wife, and I are trying to create a culture is because people who buy into the culture of your brand will be your fans for life (as long as you don’t screw it up). On top of that, my wife and I’s beliefs go hand-in-hand with what we’re doing. This isn’t solely a money making venture. There’s more to it than that.

Culture marketing

Don’t be afraid to piss people off for the sake of furthering your beliefs and your cause. Yes, my wife, and I are going to ruffle a few feathers in the fashioin industry, and that’s okay. By telling people who we’re not, we immediately tell people WHO WE ARE (if that makes sense). It’s okay for you to do the same. Don’t be shy about pointing out how you’re different, and pulling back the curtain on what you’re doing and why. Think of all the tech companies that are distrupting the status quo. You can do the same with your business as long as you’re not afraid to take a stand. If people hate you, that means there will be people out there who LOVE you. For every culture there’s a proftiable counter-culture.

In going through this process, my wife and I have decided to grow organically through friends, and family in order to get our processes down. When / if we see there’s a definite market, then we’re going to start plugging away on a larger scale. The plan is to target market (we don’t have the funds or the inventory to mass market, and I still believe mass marketing mediums like TV, and radio are the most cost effective way to go about your marketing, especially when starting out. In most cases, the cost per person reached is so low). Our philosophy is to own what we can own. Can we own everyone in our target market? No, because we don’t have the funds necessary to reach them, and even if we did, we don’t have the inventory necessary to fulfill orders on a mass scale. More on how to develop a marketing budget here.

cat, man holding cat, man, young man holding cat

Is your story apart of your message? Also, I occasionally swap bow ties for sweaters.

We’ll do some targeted marketing in a few cities across the country to see the kind of traction we get. We’re going to do a bit online, and possibly through social media. The biggest thing is we’re going to test, and work our PR and media contacts to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re not afraid to make a mistake, and you shouldn’t be either. The catch is most people who spend their marketing dollars love to test stuff. The trouble with this is most people don’t test LONG enough. They try something for one month, and then give up after they don’t get a response. WRONG! Usually when you start marketing, and are about to give up on the medium you chose, that’s the exact time that things are probably going to start working. On top of that – if your message isn’t working that probably means your message is so off point that the people who you’re trying to market to, don’t care about what you’re saying. You’re not speaking to them in a way that’s meaningful. More on purposeful copy here.

That’s why it’s so important to focus on the culture around your business. Who are you? Why do you exist? Do the people in your organization believe in the same things you do? Is your marketing message clear? Does it say what you stand for, and what you stand against? Most importantly – why is what you’re doing important? Not for your sake, but for the sake of your potential fans.

I’ll out line some of the marketing messages we’re working on next week.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 7 – The Launch

It’s almost here! You’ve planned, prepared, bought, sold, researched, set up accounts for this that, and everything else. Now, it’s time to share you product / service with the world. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you launch.

Soft Launch

For this endeavour, my wife, and I have chosen to do a soft launch. We’ll spread the word through family, and friends (and this blog) before starting a larger marketing effort. We want to ensure we work out all the kinks before we really start generating some revenue. Some of you may want to wait until everything is perfect before you launch. DON’T. Get it out there, and work with your customers from there. There’s no shame in being up front with your customers that you’re new, and working on a few different things. Even make them a part of the discussion. Ask them questions on how else you can serve them. Do they have any suggestions for improvement, and so on.

For this e-tailer the plan is to leave a month or so to iron out the kinks before we start turning the crank. Your timeline may be different, and that’s fine.

Creating a Culture

The definition of brand has evolved. It used to be, and still is to a point, about what people are saying, and feeling about you. However, it’s a bit more than that in this new age of technology and globalization. Now you can survive as a small niche by creating a culture. Creating loving, devoted fans, and by having the most believers on your team. It used to be about getting the right / best people on the bus. Now, it’s more so about getting those that best fit your culture or the culture you want to create on the bus. People who live, and die for what you’ve created. They may not be the best in their field, but they believe in what you’re doing, where you want to go, and they’re willing to learn for the sake of the brand. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your accountant. I want the absolute best in the field. I cannot stress enough how important an amazing accountant is.

Your culture can be defined by your core values or what you want to get out of the company. And we’re not talking profit numbers. We’re talking higher-thinking. Steve Jobs believed in design, inside-and-out. Zappos believes in serving the customer to no end. They even hire their team by encouraging trainees to take a buy-out of a few grand at the end of their training. Those who take the money…GOOD. They want people who believe in the brand, and the journey opposed to the money. You get believers working with you, and the money will come.

By having this culture within your company, it will spread throughout the customer experience. Making your customers believers, and when you have believers, you’ll have more and more followers, more and more buyers, and more and more ambassadors for your brand.

One way we’re going to do this is by encouraging our customers to get involved in the process. Include them in buying decisions on what they like, and don’t like. While we’re out on buying missions, we’ll post pictures of what we plan on buying, and include our fans in the discussion. We also plan to be as open as possible to them on what we’re doing, and why. Even going as far to post our revenue numbers on our website. We also plan to do a different sort of promotion to kick things off (more on that in a few weeks).

Dress, Ever Rose, Shop Ever Rose

A look into the future. Do you like?

The BIG Launch

After you’ve worked the kinks out through your soft launch, and things are working for you, and you’re starting to see the cash flow…it’s time to spread, and scale. Having worked in the media industry (I still do), and my wife’s crazy PR connections through her blog (canadiangiftguide.com) we’ve compiled a few tips on how to get free publicity. You can check those out here. This has to involve you picking up the phone, sending out emails, and reaching out to as many people as you can within your community. People like supporting those in the community, and they LOVE stories. Plus, media outlets need to fill time, especially LOCAL time, so keep at it, and you’ll eventually see your biz in the news, on TV, etc…

In my wife, and I’s case – we’re going to spend a bit of money too in a few different markets across Canada to get the word out. More on that over the next few weeks.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. After all the purchasing of goods, website, domain names, logo design, etc.. we’ve spent just over $6000. And we’re almost ready to launch.

Journey of the Do – Stage 6 – Buying

This might not be necessary if you’re the product or make the product for your business. As an e-tailer, my wife, and I are going through wholesalers, which means we’ll be buying goods from others. Thus, we’ve decided to attend a couple buying shows throughout the year.

This past weekend we attended Trends in Edmonton as it was stocked with wholesalers shilling their clothing brands. My wife, and I thought we could pull off all our meetings in one day, and we did, but man were we exhausted. We poured over 1000’s of dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, and the list goes on. All in the name of finding a few items or brands that will end up lining the online shelves of our store.

The cool thing about being a buyer at these shows is it’s free to attend. You also get to see what the fashion trends are going to be 6-months out. Plus, you get to meet some quirky people (it’s fashion after all). When starting your online biz, you should see if there’s a trade show or buying show in your industry. If you can find one, try and attend it. It’s so difficult, and time consuming to reach out to wholesalers, get their literature, read through it, and figure out what you’re going to buy for your store. These shows put everyone, and everything (well, almost everything) in one place.

clothes, trends, fashion

My wife going through a rack.

Seeing as it was our first show – we wanted to get the ‘lay of the land’ before purchasing anything. Some wholesalers will try to hard sell you, and that’s fine. That’s their job. If attending one of these show go in with a plan.

Planning for your buying show – 10 Tips

1) Reach out to the show before hand to get their literature, and list of wholesalers present at the show. This is a simple Google search away. For the most part it’s effortless to sign up, and the show will ship out their literature within a couple weeks to get you started.

2) Reach out to those wholesalers to book appointments. When your literature arrives, go through it, and start reaching out to wholesalers (if you haven’t already done so). It’s important to book appointments as this gives you one-on-one access to the wholesaler. They’ll also fill you in on what’s selling, and what to look forward to.

3) Attend appointments, and ask questions. If you set an appointment – show up. Pretty straight forward. After all, you’re building relationships with these wholesalers, and you don’t want to rock the boat by missing an appointment. While at the appointment, get to know the wholesalers. Why are they doing this? How did they get into it? What’s selling or has sold in the past? And fill them in on the idea for your store.

4) See product, take pictures, and notes (we used our iPad). All of the wholesalers will have samples of their goods. In my case, it gave me a good idea on the quality of fabric, the cut, and how it will look on the body. My wife, and I took a bunch of pictures, so we could see how the clothes looked on a screen. After all, we’re selling online, so how it looks on a screen is HUGE to us. For example – there was one dress that looked fine in person, but really popped on the screen. There were also numerous scenarios where it was the opposite.

5) Figure out what you’re going to buy (ask for show specials). You can buy right there at your appointment. You might have to limit what you purchase or come back at a later time depending on your budget. You can also change up your order or cancel it later on down the road depending on when stuff is supposed to be shipped to you.

6) Set a budget (if you’re going to be spending money). Don’t blow it all in one place. Generally, these are giant shows, with thousands of wholesalers. Take your time, and don’t get sucked in to buying too much, and blowing your budget. You should have a decent knowledge of how much each brand costs going in as you’ve already spoken with the wholesalers.

7) Figure availability and shipping dates. Some items are available now, and can be shipped the same week. See it, buy it, ship it. Other items are only available a few months out. Be sure to ask your wholesaler these questions if they don’t mention shipping dates.

8) Don’t overbook yourself. This was our error. We made too many appointments in one day. Moving forward – we’ll probably book two appointments in the morning, and two in the afternoon, and call it a day. Then do the same the next day, and the next. This also allows you to take in what happened that day instead of your head turning to moosh. Everything looks, and feels the same after a few appointments.

9) Have fun. You’re there, so you might as well make the most of it. Not too mention, you should leave sometime to explore the city you’re in. This will take your brain away from the show, and the craziness it sometimes brings on.

10) Bring a partner. This allows you to do more in the one-hour you get with the wholesalers. You can run through the racks, as questions, take pictures, and more. If you’re going solo – I can see how this can be extremely overwhelming. Bring a partner if you can, and split up your duties. This also helps you deal with some of the wholesalers who are trying to hard-sell you.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 5 – The Website

dresses, e-commerce, dress

A little product preview

If you’ve been following the journey for over a month now, I’d like to reiterate…You do not have to follow this step-by-step (ooooo baby). This is to serve as a guideline on building an e-commerce biz from scratch. And it’s the actual steps my wife, and I are taking.

This week – the website. It’s your store front, your moneymaker, and your driver of profits. It’s one of the most important parts of your e-commerce biz. That’s why it’s taken some time for my wife, and I to get this going. We’ve trial tested a couple different platforms from Bigcommerce to Shopify (you can find a good breakdown here). We’ve also spoken with a couple web designers to see if building a site from scratch was an option.

The site really comes down to whether or not you want proprietary control over your platforms, and algorithms. To develop something like this is very expensive, but you own it. You can make it do whatever you want, and you have full-on control. One of the downsides (aside from upfront cost) is the ability to evolve. When you’ve developed your e-commerce platform from scratch, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You can try, and evolve, but it can be quite complicated. We’re starting to see this with some of the e-commerce companies we’ve researched. At the time, their technology was cutting edge…now it’s old, and tired, and difficult to change.

That’s why my wife, and I have decided to go the ‘plug-and-play’ route. The technology can evolve as new algorithms, tech, etc… come to market, and the expense isn’t too much to evolve, and to start up. We’re giving up control for something that can grow with the business. Having said that, we understand we may need to develop something on our own if we outgrow the Shopify option we’ve chosen.

Shopify

The one thing my wife, and I really like about Shopify is the customizable themes. You can also pay to have one developed for you. Every site comes with a monthly fee depending on what options you want to have available to you. We’ve chosen the most expensive route, which gives us the most options. It also helps that Shopify is Canadian (although you have to pay in US dollars), and their customer service is phenomenal.

You can secure a domain through Shopify or you might have to find it somewhere else. For our store – we had to go through a GoDaddy auction to secure the domain we wanted (it’s a somewhat simple process to link your URL to your Shopify store, and Shopify gives you step-by-step directions on how to do this). My wife, and I also secured a couple other names similar to ours, so we can point those URL’s to our store.

I could go on and on about the options of Shopify, and other e-commerce sites, but it’s best if you go, and explore on your own. Most e-commerce sites give you free trials, so you can experiment. I highly advise you do this. As I mentioned before – this is your store front, and your money maker. Take time to invest in the different options available to you. Reach out to the customer service folks at these companies, and speak with web developers. You owe it to yourself, and your business.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. The design, and template through Shopify cost a couple hundred bucks, plus the $100+ US monthly fee. With this expense we’ve spent close to $2500 including some product.