The Journey of the Do – Stage 2 – Testing and Research

BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!

Not any more fine sir. The market place is packed with competitors, similar ideas, huge corporations fighting over 1% of market share, and there you are…the little guy. How in the hell do you know an idea is going to work? Well, this week I’ll show you a couple steps that can lead you on your way to building a successful business (keep in mind my wife, and I are doing an online biz) without spending a ton of money on marketing, etc…

Your idea at work

You have this idea, and you’ve played over the scenario in your head a million times on how it can work, and some of the road blocks. The good thing is – YOU ACTUALLY DECIDED TO ACT ON THE IDEA. That’s the biggest step. Now, we get into the fun stuff to test your hypothesis. In my case – an online fashion store for Canadians, and Canadians only.

First – we did a bit of research through family and friends. You can sign up for a free trial with Survey Monkey. Or choose another online survey program. We just happened to land on Survey Monkey as we used it in the past for a couple other ventures.

My wife compiled a few different surveys where we took the product we planned on selling and asked questions like: On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like this shirt, how much would you be willing to spend on said dress, etc… This is a great way to test your hypothesis while getting some interesting insights.

You have to take everything with a grain of salt, and don’t let the survey results sway your direction too much. It’s one thing for people to tell you how much they THINK they would pay, and it’s a whole other matter when it comes to actually opening their wallets.

The biggest thing you can take from these results is copy. The people we surveyed opened our eyes a bit on what makes people tick. We dove into the psychology of what makes people buy, and what doesn’t. Therefore, when we launch we will use the exact words we received from potential customers in our survey. For example – we had a few responses that said, “I would wear this dress for this (event)” BAM! That’s going to be in our copy when describing the dress online. If one person feels it, someone else probably does too.

You can get too much inside your own head when it comes to launching a biz, so get some outside perspective, and doing surveys will help.

John Deere, tractor

Testing out the latest John Deere because I’m a man, and that’s what men do…

Checking out your competitors

There are a couple trains of thought when it comes to this. My wife is a heavy user of a couple of our soon to be competitors. Therefore, she knows what she likes, and doesn’t like about these services, and that’s how we found our niche. We analysed the competition from their aesthetic, their customer service (we’ve called them on many occasions), and even the colours they use in the logo. As you can tell – we’re big on researching our competitors.

On the flip side – I’ve seen successful business owners who don’t care what their competitors are doing. They just go about their business, and it seems to work for them.

Me – I suggest doing a bit of research on what your potential customers are doing. On top of that – you can also do a bit of research on a company or two that you admire. They may or may not be your competition, but you could pull some valuable insight from them. Example – we like the shipping model of a certain company that has nothing to do with our line of work, so we’re going to try and replicate it to see if it works in our field.

Never stop testing 

The BIGGEST thing to keep in mind when it comes to starting up your own biz – online or not – is to NEVER STOP TESTING. Consumer habits change, the economy changes, the weather changes, prices change, and everything happens at different times. Everything is changing, so that’s why it’s sooo important to keep on studying your customer, and getting their feedback. By doing this, you may be able to sense a change in the market before it actually happens. When I was doing some Real Estate consulting, I was able to key in on a trend from the latest generation of home buyers (I just happened to be one of them) that helped one of the agents I was working with.

We saw a dramatic shift (in a certain market) from personality driven agents to knowledgeable agents. In this market – the newest generation of home buyers didn’t care that much about connecting with their agent. They wanted someone who knew a ton about the market they were in. In this case, we flipped from personality driven marketing to a giving away free market information online through a blog. This was close to 10 years ago before blogging really exploded. Now, pretty much every Realtor has a blog speaking to their market knowledge. My client, and I were on this before it was cool because we constantly tested, and researched the market. The best part – we pretty much did this testing for free, and you have the same capability with the tech available to you.

Next week – banking and the product. Until then…

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. So far we’ve spent under $1000 from the Articles of Incorporation, to securing the domain name, to our physical e-commerce store / website.

2015 Marketers Guide For Those Who Don’t Have Marketing Departments – Budgeting

marketing, budget, cutting

Don’t cut your marketing budget

2015 is nearly upon us, and you don’t have a budget to market your fantastic product or service. Too bad, 2015 is going to be a terrible year for you, and I don’t need a crystal ball to forecast that. “But, I have social media, and it’s free,” you say “But, I know a VP of Marketing at this HUGE company, and they’re going to help me out,” you say. I wish I had a big WRONG button.

#1) Social Media isn’t free – you already missed the train where social media was actually a social media. It’s now overrun by marketing people who puke messages out constantly that don’t resonate whatsoever with consumers (Have you seen my updates?). Social media used to be a two-way conversation. Now it’s not (although some brands are way better at the two-way conversation than others). Plus, think about the time you need to put in in order for Social Media to work for you. How much money is your time worth?

#2) Your VP of Marketing friend is useless to you as a small business owner. The VP is used to having HUGE budgets, relying on ad agencies, and having a team of well-trained “Yes!” donkeys on their side. How do I know? I used to be one of those donkeys. Not to mention your VP is probably too swamped to actively focus on you, and YOUR needs. Plus, they’re probably old (45+ or getting there), and are SOOOOO out of touch with consumers, especially the younger generations.

So, what do you do?

First – find a damn budget. I elaborate more on this here (it’s one of my most popular posts from this past year, so the majority of you probably read it, right?). Once you find a budget, find something you can own whether it’s a street, apartment complex, community or city. Just find it, and OWN it repeatedly. Ever notice the same Realtors on bus benches in certain communities? In the Real Estate world this is known as ‘farming’ a neighbourhood. Figure out your neighbourhood, and farm it. You need to make money in 2015, don’t forget that.

Second – after you found your budget, start cultivating your existing clientèle. Ensure the people who are coming through your doors, continue to do so, and they bring friends. I HATE incentives for new customers. Eff that. You should have incentives for REPEAT customers, and I don’t mean a loyalty card. Once you start seeing the same people repeatedly, encourage them to come back for private functions, and “Hey, bring a couple friends with you.” Or even have an event for your repeat customers or give them stuff for free or give them a hug. Whatever you do, ensure these people keep on coming back or at least refer people to you. Make these people your FANS! Fans = a continuous flow of money, and you need to make money in 2015.

Third – market your product or service. And stick to one thing in your marketing message, and steer clear of mentioning your ‘great customer service.’ So many people mention this, and trust me…you are not exceptional. As a consumer, I expect great customer service every time I walk through your door or come into contact with you. Don’t tell me how you have it. PROVE IT!

Fourth – understand that you need to market your product or service. I don’t care if you are too busy or your product is sooo good that you can rely on referrals. My dad fell into the same trap, and now he’s hurting a bit. Every time I hear that people are too busy or they don’t need to market I think about starting a competing business in their category because I know I can crush them (funny enough, I’ve already started).

How do I know?

Marketing trumps a better product or service. Even if you do have a better product or service, the guys who market their inferior product or service more than you will always win. They will make more money, they will have more fans, and they will gladly give you a few hundred bucks to wipe your tears while you mope in the corner in denial still relying on the fact that you have the BEST product or service. I don’t care about your product or service, if I don’t know it exists. I’m going to spend my money with the people who I know exist whether or not their product or service is inferior to yours. You need to market.

To my last point – please keep in mind you can’t market a shitty product or service. All the marketing in the world will only help you for so long until consumers catch on and realize you’re an idiot, and shouldn’t be in business.

Next up – I’ll relay a few points on authenticity. In this day, and age your company needs to be authentic, and relatable. If it’s not, the interwebs, and word-of-mouth will crush you into a little pulp.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

“I’m a small business, what do I do about sales people who keep calling?”

sales, person, sales person, salesman

Sales person

As you grow or want to grow you’ll be dealing with a few sales people…quite a few. Especially if you’re good at what you do. After awhile it can be annoying, and you can start to get rude with the people calling you every day. DON’T!

There’s a stat floating around that 80% of the workforce is in sales in one way shape or form. I’m a believer that we’re all in sales, after all how did you sell yourself in the interview to get the job you have today? Or how did you get the public to consume your product no matter what it is?

I understand you can’t give everyone a piece of your time. As a small business owner, you’re extremely strapped for time. Here are some things to keep in mind from a guy who’s been, and continues to be, on both sides of the coin:

1) Sales people are people too. This is how they support themselves and / or their family. Remember when you were starting out, and you wished people would give you a speckle of their time? That’s the same thing with sales folks. They just want a bit of your time to prove they are worthy of yours. Some sales people are better at it then others, but don’t let the bad ones sour your mood.

2) Get a gatekeeper, but ensure everything gets filtered to you. Your gatekeeper is probably not REALLY invested in your business. They are there to get a pay check, and at the end of the day, if they’re passing up amazing opportunities on your behalf, they’re only hurting you, and your profits (I’ve seen this on numerous occasions due to the gatekeeper being lazy). Not to mention – if your business fails, no sweat off their back – they’ll be able to do the same thing somewhere else while you’re left holding the bag.

3) Sales people are consumers, and there’s lots of sales people, so there’s plenty of opportunities for you to impress. When a sales person gets through to you think of it in two ways A) It’s an opportunity for you to grow your business. B) It’s an opportunity to SELL your business to that sales person. I can’t tell you how many rude people I’ve encountered who are business owners. And guess what – their businesses aren’t doing so well. The most successful owners I’ve seen are almost always willing to hear a pitch. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes over the phone. These owners are also respectful of the sales person, and THEIR time.

Let me elaborate some more on the last point. If you piss off a sales person, think about how connected they are. They know other business owners, they have family, friends, etc… It’s been said that one person can influence 150, so effectively if you’ve pissed off 10 sales people in a day – you’ve effectively soured 1500 people on your business. Not a very smart business plan if you ask me.

All in all, don’t be rude. It looks bad on you, your business, and your employees. I’m always willing to give someone trying to hock something a bit of their time because you never know. Think about how many people Mark Zuckerberg tried to get in front of, and how many times he was rejected because he was trying to sell something. I bet the people who wouldn’t even give him their time are kicking themselves now.

Is every sales person going to come at you with an amazing idea? In one word, “No,” but the WORST thing you can do is come off as an arrogant ass who doesn’t think the sales person is worthy of your time. I can’t predict the future, but I know what’s happened in the past. If you’re an ass to the sales people who call you day in and day out – you’re probably an ass to your customers, and your employees. When you’re an ass to all of these people, you’ll be one lonely ass out on the street looking for work.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Three things to put your advertising on the top shelf…or close to it

Disney, World

Me in Dino-Rama at Disney World.

This entry is going to be short and sweet. Why? Because I have family in town, so suck it.

I want to throw you three things that will immediately put your advertising on to the top shelf…or at least closer to the top shelf.

1) Focus
2) Consistency
3) Sponsorship

Let’s dive in shall we:

Focus

You need to focus your advertising dollars on something you can own. When you own something you win. What you own depends on how much money you have (and you have money for advertising, right…RIGHT?) For years I’ve always focused on owning the most of the market for the least amount of money. Now, I’ve been focused on big things like outdoor advertising. Your business may not be able to handle that much money.

So, what can you own? Can you own an apartment building near your place of business? A street? A neighbourhood? A town? A city? Maybe you can only afford to drop off letters you made up in a Word doc to residences by your business. Or maybe you can afford to own close to 40% off an outdoor medium. Whatever it is…FOCUS your advertising dollars and own something. PLEASE OWN SOMETHING!!

Consistency

Now that your dollars are focused, you need to hit that same building, street, neighbourhood, etc… over and over and over and over and over. The outdoor ads I’ve run in two cities are up for close to 52 weeks a year. That’s right, the message is hit over and over and over again. Plus, the message is consistent. If you don’t know what your message is or should be, I can help (email me or connect with me on Twitter…don’t be shy).

Sponsorship

This is similar to focus, but I wanted to include it anyway. Can you find an event you can own in your community? Can you sponsor it? Can you be one of the biggest sponsors? Can you own a certain section of the event?

For example – a local restaurant is the go to community bbq sponsor. If you’re having a BBQ or golf tournament and you need food guess who you call? Spolumbos. Why do you call them? Because when they were starting out (an itty bitty restaurant) they never turned down an opportunity to cook their sausage & beef at community BBQ’s or golf tournaments. They wanted to be on-site at all of these events and guess what? Now, they don’t really have to advertise, because everyone in the community knows them because they sponsored just about every event they could…and still do. And their restaurant (now much larger) is packed every day. It helps they have a great product and great service, but they were eager to tell everyone (and get their product in the hands of consumers) every chance they got through sponsorship.

Now take action, while I go have some fun with my family.

Love you,

Jordan

Consistency is Key

“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.”
Bruce Springsteen

Content is king, but consistency is the key to any business wanting to stay afloat for more than a couple years.

You can’t sell a shitty product and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell a good product  with all the noise and competition in the current market. Funny thing is, everyone believes their product is good. Of course you would, why the hell would you go to market if you thought you had an undesirable product or service?

Here’s why good products die:

  • Your market isn’t big enough to sustain your product or service (For example: you’re a personal stylist for retirees. You know how many retirees give a shit about their style? Not many. You know how many will pay YOU to be their stylist? 0.00)
  • A HUGE multi-million or billion dollar company already offers what you offer (there aren’t too many business instances where David beats Goliath)
  • You don’t market your product consistently

I’ll use the same adage I used before: Just because you build it; doesn’t mean they will come. You need to get your message out to the masses (or as many people as you can afford) over and over and over again. Whether it’s the neighbourhood your business is set up in or the entire city – you need to bang your drum and bang it loudly and consistently.

Why consistency?

This is going to sound a little weird, but most business owners market their product or service as if they were a drug user. As an owner – you’re looking to get high and sustain that high for as long as possible. Unfortunately, most business owners are junkies. In the beginning, you shoot up every now and then (I GOT A BIG SALE ON THIS WEEKEND! LOOK AT THIS GORILLA! THE BOSS IS AWAY SO YOU SAVE A TON OF MONEY!) and get a BIG high, then you hit bottom. So, you shoot up again and again and again and again until it’s more difficult to get high because your body aka customer is building a tolerance. If all you do is “one-time” and “prices will never be lower again” sales your customer will catch on and leave you broke or dead. Sorry junkie.

The intelligent business owner understands consistency. It’s not about quick shots in the arm; it’s about consistent traffic and cash flow. It’s kind of like working out. You have to go the gym 3 – 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. When you start out, you probably won’t see results for a few months. Then all of a sudden, you start seeing biceps and what appears to be abs. Then you realize it’s just as difficult if not MORE difficult to sustain that level of fitness and physique. When your business gets to the top; it’s just as difficult staying there as it is working your way up from the bottom.

Think of your marketing like you think about getting abs and biceps. Put in the work and put it in consistently. If you don’t, you’re wasting your time and money.

– Jordan