29 November 2007
Spreading the word.
I had intended to post a blog on building websites and website packages, but something more pressing is on my mind and so it will wait for another day. The topic constantly popping up in my head is that of marketing.
Now, I said from the start that this would be an honest blog about the ups and downs, ins and outs of starting up and running a small business, and so honest I shall be. Money is an issue. There, I've said it. We all mostly feel the need to play down problems and never more so than when writing a blog that may be read by the world at large, but there are not many of us who do not have an issue with money at some time or another. Mine is that there is little of it due to the fact that we are on a single income while I am home with Isabella. It's fine. It could be worse. BUT there is not a whole lot to go putting into the advertising and marketing that ensures a business's future success.
My business started officially on September 4th 2007, yet despite only running for under three months it has done amazingly well. Orders are frequent, both locally and via my website and feedback has been fantastic which is very encouraging. All feels exactly as it should be and as I hoped it would be at this stage, so where do I go from here? I know that for a business to progress it needs to widen its market; the question is 'How'? There seem to be a number of options:
1. Fairs and trade exhibitions
2. Newspaper and magazine space
3. The internet
Obviously, there are many more ways to increase visibility, but these are among the more high profile versions, and therein lies the rub...none of them are cheap.
Recently I was working on updating my website and took a break to surf the net hoping to get some idea of what was out there. A name kept cropping up, one I already was aware of from endless references in magazines - notonthehighstreet.com This is an online marketplace for small businesses many of which sell hand-crafted goods and therefore seemed to be a perfect place for a business such as mine. I visited the site, not for the first time, and decided to find out more, clicking on the 'join us' link. A form appeared which asked me to describe my business and stated that businesses without a company name and good images should not apply as 95% of applicants are turned away. I have always felt the products sold through this site to be of a very high standard and somehow this felt reassuring. A message returned promptly thanking me for my request for information and I waited for what I thought would be info on pricing, etc. A further mail came requesting images of a range of my products and was duly despatched. yesterday a highly efficient and effective brochure arrived in the post informing me that I had been accepted - and I admit to feeling on something of a high; I was not one of the 95%! More to the point, I WAS one of the 5% accepted!!!! Call me shallow, but it felt good.
I had only actually expected information on how to apply in full, yet the offer to join was here...and so were the costs. Not cheap, but around what I had thought: £450 per year. Yes, I can hear the sharp intakes. I did it too, but I knew that a company with such high media coverage would be costly. Comparing this option with fairs, etc is difficult as they vary so much. A high quality fair can cost upwards of £300 for a stall unless you trade at one of the more frequent markets; feedback received from friends with craft-based businesses is that such markets rarely bring much business as people don't expect to pay much for the goods. I do not want to work for peanuts. I know my products and finishing are of a high standard, and I am in this to earn a living; it is not a hobby but a business and I want to be paid a price that reflects that. The offer from notonthehighstreet.com came with the relevant charges - commission on items sold and transaction fee - both of which were similarly high. On the upside, there was the chance to join for 5 years at the price of one; i.e. £450 for 5 years. This seems an excellent offer and has made me wobble over what I should do. Is it too good an offer to miss? Is it better to invest money in other areas (fairs, etc) and not pay the commission and transaction fees, or is this money down the drain (my gut feeling)? It's a tricky one and I need to find out more before I decide, but it feels hard to 'use' that large sum of money and risk little short-term return, yet how can I expand the business profile without?
all answers on a postcard please!!!