Problem Solver: A great product is worth nothing on your shelf... sell, sell, sell!
Q: I run a craft business with my husband. We seem to be very busy producing the product, but sales at the end of the month are not really as high as we need them to be. We are not sure what we are doing wrong. Perhaps you can help?
A: Unwittingly you may have answered your own question in the information that you have provided. I recall several years ago being asked by a friend to have a look at his business as he felt they were struggling with sales and not reaching targets.
I visited the factory and saw a very fine production unit producing a good product. First I enquired as to how many staff they had, to which the answer was twenty eight. I then enquired as to what was the split between production and sales staff. The answer was very telling. Twenty seven production staff, one person focused on sales. In fact in that instance, the one person focused on sales was my friend, the business owner, who also had a whole host of other responsibilities - so in reality there was probably a half a person responsible for sales. The answer was simple for him, he needed to boost his sales team and give it the structure and resources required.
He made the necessary changes and over the following three years he doubled his sales. Yours is a much smaller business but the solution may well be the same. Both you and your husband are so tied up in the production, there isn't enough time to generate new sales and grow the business in a structured manner. There are a number of options open to you; one of you steps out of the production area and takes responsibility full-time for sales and you back fill this role with a new employee. In theory the business may not be able to afford this at the beginning, but sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate - i.e. make the change with the confidence that the new sales resource will grow the sales quickly, which in turn will pay for the new employee.
Alternatively, take a more radical approach and consider outsourcing the production of the product to another company and have both of you focus on sales growth. Very often when outsourcing a product you find that you can have it produced cheaper elsewhere then you can do it yourself due to the efficiencies gained by your larger outsource partner. In any event, it all sounds like an opportunity and I wish you well with your continued growth.
Q: I have an opportunity to feature on an upcoming television programme which will see an expert visiting my business and making recommendations of change. Is this something you would recommend?
A: That certainly brings back memories from our Retail Therapy TV series and that very same question crossed the minds of many of the participants. When considering whether you should participate in a TV programme or not, there are a number of questions to ask. Will you get access to a real expert who will genuinely bring about change in your business? Will the additional PR and coverage bring additional business?
If you do not have control over the outcome there is always a danger that you and your business might not be perceived by the public in the way you might wish.
One of the things that we were always adamant on during the filming of Retail Therapy was that the number one priority was to give the businesses meaningful advice, and hopefully help bring about lasting change. Secondly we always included the owner in the decision process and, while sometimes we challenged them, we did allow for lots of debate and input.
For the participants in the three series we filmed, the publicity it brought to their businesses was enormous. Some reported thousands of members of the public messaging them on their social media, others spent the following day replying to email queries about specific products customers were looking for, and all saw an immediate upsurge in footfall because of the increased awareness. All in all, you definitely have more to gain then to lose. Do let us know if it goes ahead.
Send your business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org