Opening a new business combines every emotion possible from excitement and pride to fear and loathing. Choosing a product, marketing it and making that first sale allays many of those emotions. As the business grows, or flounders, you try to create that magic formula that sends your business over the top. When opening my lingerie shop, it was an overwhelming experience, learning what worked and what would never succeed.
The first trade show experience left me feeling like the proverbial kid in a candy store. The store budget looked more like a bull in a china shop. What should have been a wonderful part of owning my own business was fast becoming a dead weight. I was ready to go home and forget the entire event. That was before I met a sales representative that recognized the deer-in-the-headlights look. He gave me the best advice any new business owner could receive.
“You may own the business but the business belongs to the customers.” He expounded upon this bit of wisdom by making me realize no matter how great I thought a product was, if the customer didn’t buy it, I would lose money. If my business policy worked for me but stopped repeat business, I would lose money. And business hours were much shorter than work hours. In summary, my choices would affect my business’ success and thinking outside the box leads to innovation.
I walked back into the trade show and knew the $75 blouse I previously thought was a necessary part of any wardrobe, would only attract one or two customers. The funny T-shirts I ignored previously, were more in line with my clientele. I started buying items with my customers in mind. I spent less money, got more product and sales sky-rocketed that spring.
Using the strategy given to me by the sales representative, I chose marketing plans that targeted specific customers. Every business targets their market but I narrowed the marketing to the specific neighborhood where the business was located. The business grew. Customers were able to utilize a lay-away program, and sales increased again. Adding a preferred customer card that provided a discount on future sales brought repeat business.
Business information is available in books, through school and from expert business owners. The information is presented, at times, almost as a formula for success. A generic formula did not fit my business. The simple advice I received at that first trade show helped grow my business by leaps and bounds.