Incidentally, July’s sales continue to exceed LY. I actually have a positive open-to-buy balance with nothing that desperately needs reordering right now...for once, I won’t have to scramble when I run low on oak DayClocks, Stone Big Schnozzes, or cap lights (all of those are expensive to reorder). Now I’m reluctant to shut down for my annual week in the Berkshires at the end of this month. What if I lose the sales momentum?
My first priority should be following through on my “rescue products”. This task list is the most difficult for me, because it’s outside my area of competence. It’s going to take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, and it’s mostly chores that I hate doing:
- Improve my cap light photos. The ones you see now are the best I could do on my own. I’d love to find an attractive young lady to model them. Failing that (my social circle has a shortage of attractive young ladies) I could use a mannequin head. I don’t know where to get one cheap, without paying exorbitant eBay shipping charges.
- Define target audience(s). IT guys? Fishermen? Campers? Plumbers? Electricians? All of the above? I should probably start with one narrow group.
- Define specialty publications for the above. I floated an Octopus Overlords thread aimed at computer technicians (none of whom were impressed enough with my product pages to actually, you know, buy one…which raises a red flag about that market). I made no progress at all there with outdoorsmen.
- Find contact info for individuals who write product reviews at the above publications.
- Find ad specs and prices for the above publications.
- See if Diane will produce ads for me again, or buy a copy of Adobe InDesign and do it myself. If I’m going to advertise in print regularly, I probably ought to invest in the program. (PaintShopPro doesn’t do the CYMK format that printers want).
- Create a redirect page that will allow me to use a simple URL, as suggested by reader Chris Gwinn.
- Create and place my ad(s). Spend the entire marketing budget on this. Ideally, I’ll be able to afford a small ad running from October-December.
- Send sample cap(s) to the contact(s) identified in step 4.
- Order additional stock to cover the anticipated surge in demand.
I would like to make it through step 6 before I go on vacation.
Second, spend the rest of my “rescue money”:
- Re-evaluate cash on hand to find maximum possible spend.
- Choose between several competing possibilities…all of them promising, but none extremely exciting. Should I hold the money until something really leaps out at me? Or should I take a chance on one of the several products already in my sights?
- Write the order(s), create product pages, take photos, write PPC ads – the usual new product drill.
I should complete steps 1 and 2 early next week, and step 3 as well if I decide to go with the one summery product on my list. If I go with the non-seasonal gift-y things instead, time is not critical. I probably ought to be looking toward Xmas by now.
Third, expand or improve existing product lines:
- Add more jewelry styles. This takes only time, no money, and it squeezes a little more value from ads that I’m already running. I already added a couple of new designs this week.
- Bring in a new color or two of caps, or maybe try visors.
Fourth, turn dead products into cash:
- Remove some of the stuff that’s been in the Bargain Hut for years, and liquidate it on eBay (I’m talking about you, lightswitch covers).
- Take steeper discounts on the remaining stuff.
- Mark down whole categories – pet supplies and travel.
- Announce a big sale in the newsletter.
Fourth, continue to pursue web development:
- Keep haunting the Turnkey forums. Sunshop final release is still scheduled “any day now”.
- Determine whether to upgrade Sunshop before Xmas or not. This will depend on the volume of bug reports concerning their eventual “stable release”.
- Figure out which of the new Sunshop features I can actually use, and contact Eric about modifying templates.
- Once Sunshop 4 is running reliably and I’ve got its new features working, consider hiring professional SEO.
- Consider hiring a contractor to implement the basic site improvements that have been on my wishlist for years already.
Fifth, work toward realizing Curio City Offline:
- Research actual pre-opening cost numbers to replace my rough estimates.
- Determine whether I will need to obtain a bank loan, or try to borrow small amounts from friends, or simply put the whole enterprise on charge cards.
- Write a business plan.
- Shop for a location, and get solid cost info on rent and insurance.
- Figure out Gift Certificate accounting. It is harder to understand than you might think. I have to know whether to record the sale when the GC is issued or redeemed. Prevailing opinion seems to be to record a sale when the GC is issued. When it’s redeemed…what? And what about giving change for unused portion?
- Continue refining PPC campaigns, as I do daily.
- Keep an eye out for new products.
- Continue blogging.
- Stay on top of my various newsletters and magazines.
- Keep adding to the next Curio City Chronicle. Consider testing their Survey feature.
Suddenly, I feel very very busy.