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Such a big part of growing a successful business is ensuring that you’re always thinking of new ideas or making improvements to your current business. But as many small business owners know, coming up with a great idea is easier said than done. If you’re someone who struggles with creativity or can’t easily prompt a brain wave, watch this show to get ideas from a brand which is growing rapidly and improving constantly.
A popular method of tracking and recording ideas is to write them down – or to “always have a notebook with you”. Tell us, when (and where) do your best ideas come to you?
I’m stuck in a Premier Inn in Oxfordshire for the third day… Three more to go… M&S biscuits from the Simply Food outlet at the BP garage are starting to take their toll and having to abstain from the internet is leaving me itchy. Why? Because Premier Inn thinks £12 per day is a fair price for internet access. I disagree. Why am I buying expensive M&S biscuits? Because I’m bored and they’re nice.
The hotel is primarily used by business people. The room rate, at about £60 a night, is fair and everything else is fine (apart from housekeeping popping in while I was in bed). But their internet access is extremely overpriced.
In the end I had to cave in. I don’t mind buying the M&S biscuits, because they’re a treat, but being forced to pay that much for internet for one day left me feeling a little bit cheated. I won’t be doing it again.
It got me thinking: how small businesses pitch their prices is crucial. A lot of small start-ups set their prices too high and never get off the ground as a result, while a scarily large amount of others believe their only way to compete is on price and from day one their margins are so low they get trapped and never make a profit.
Over the past few years in the various businesses I’ve had experience of both. So how do you know what price is right? Test, test and test again. Just because the price seems right to you on your calculator at home doesn’t mean your customers will agree.
Cheap isn’t always the answer
At the minute, other owners I know are constantly telling me how their businesses are struggling, as they regale tales of half-price sales and the like. For me, the most important figure in any business is its gross margin. Sales mean bigger turnover yet smaller margin, so as a rule I’m not a terribly big fan of sales.
But it got me thinking, although we’re doing perfectly fine during the recession with some sort of sale – could we do better?
Not wanting to slash prices on Karacha.com, my online music instrument shop, I decided to carry out a little experiment. I sent out some of our sale products under a different name at sale prices. I wanted to see if people would buy solely on price.
Every week or so I adjusted the price to see what effect it had. At first, the weeks went by with no difference and no real sales, but then I hit a particular price at which people went nuts for one product and we sold a lot. Slight problem: the price we reached was horrendously low, no profit and no point. Sale Over? Not quite.
At the same time I was doing exactly the same experiment with another product, but things turned out differently. I thought we might have excess stock of a particular item, so I sold some at £20 off, but unlike the first experiment where £20 made no difference, sales of this second product went from one or two per day to 10-20. Quick as you like this offer has been applied across all of Karacha and it looks like every bit of excess will be sold by Christmas at a tidy profit.
This shows that what’s right for one product might not be right for all and it’s worth giving your customers options and seeing how they react.
My advice when starting out is test, test and test some more, but always go for slightly higher prices, because next week, month or year you can discount if necessary. Having to increase prices can lose you customers.
If your business genuinely brings something new to the table, build good margins into your prices, have the confidence in yourself and your products, if you do, then your customers will.
My first blog post on setting up a business at home proved popular - I thought I would follow it up with some tips on the regulatory side to working from home.
I'm always looking for new topics to blog about so if you have any suggestions - do get in touch or leave a comment below.
I lost count of the number of times my parents told me this rather irritating expression when I was small. However, recently I have met two women entrepreneurs who demonstrate just how true this old saying is. Both have used their skills in and love of cooking to create successful businesses.
Escaping from an unhappy marriage, Lely arrived here from the Far East with a tiny baby. How was she to earn a living? For the initial few years, she set up a stall in a market, baby in tow, selling culinary products from her native Thailand. Gradually the business flourished. She rented a small shop, and started producing Thai food. The combination of her excellent cuisine and her warm personality, no doubt seasoned with a hefty dose of determination, ensured a steady growth in clientele. First one restaurant, then another opened, and now Lely has a thriving chain, despite the recession, serving excellent oriental dishes.
Redundancy of her husband, who had been the main breadwinner, was the reason for Sue’s business start-up. She had been a nursery school teacher, but realising that the family needed more money than this would produce, she decided to combine her love of cooking with her teaching skills. Sue transformed her garage at home into a large kitchen, where she could accommodate a small class of students. Cleverly she marketed herself not to the bored housewife wanting to know the finer points of an asparagus souffle, but to those who might not have any cooking nous, or indeed any domestic skills at all. She now has a steady stream of students, such as kids leaving school or uni, or kitchen-incompetent guys, and provides practical, useful guidance at all levels. She also makes it fun. Now there’s a challenge!
If you're in the process of formulating a new brand for your business, you should take a peek at this show. See how they did it (with huge success) at Innocent Drinks.
Definitely food for thought. Liquid food perhaps?
So you're starting a business? There's plenty to think about, and you'll be spinning lots of plates all at once. But one thing you should really have lined up is a smart social strategy. What does that mean? Hear what Louis Gray had to say on a recent trip to London...