Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

On the Second Week of Christmas, My Customers Gave Me...

...Two gorgeous days/And a big rusty pail of fail.

Now I need to rewrite the song since I can’t very well thank my customers for Indian Summer. I took advantage of the first 70-degree day to rake up a bag of leaves. It was a futile gesture with the leaves barely half fallen, but I wanted to get a head start on my least favorite annual chore (and to enjoy the weather, truth be told). Then on Wednesday I ended up unexpectedly taking a long drive. That wasn’t such a bad thing with the top down, the stereo rocking, and bright warm sunshine bathing me, but it, too, cut into my Curio City time. 

Naturally, all the leaves finally came down last night and my yard is buried. I need to carve out some serious raking time over the next week or two. We have a lot of big maples and oaks. (I probably complain about this every year, don't I?)

Downtime is OK as long as my hands are temporarily tied. I not only slammed the door on new products last week, but also started delaying reorders until after my credit card statement period closes tomorrow. It’s too bad; there are half a dozen more new products that I’d like to bring in, and I’m going to lose a few Christmas sales to stock outages. But my Mastercard bill is currently pegging $5,000 against a bank balance of $2,400. The total spend is just right to support a planned $10,000 month, and I can close the $2,600 gap before the bill comes due if Week Three makes plan. But it’s going to be a nail-biter.

Now for the numbers. I needed to average $220/day over these first two weeks. Week One only reached $151. Week Two is running at $300/day for a two-week average of $213. Veterans Day is traditionally a lightweight weekend. If the next day and a half merely match LY, I’ll be starting Week Three about $300 in the hole – not too shabby, although I’d obviously rather be up $300 than down.


Despite already-bloated advertising costs, I set up campaigns for BugLits on Google Adwords and MS Adcenter. Most of the relevant “flashlight” keywords are selling for $.80 and up to $1.50, which is obviously nutty for a $13 product. I did find a few tangential words in my $.30-.40 price range. The results so far? Thirteen clicks, 0 sales, $3.22 spent. Not enough to draw any conclusions. I had thought that BugLits might be a minor hit this year, but no joy so far.

AdWords alone is running $30 per day now to deliver 100+ clicks. So far, the conversion rate is high enough to keep that big ad spend within budget (a bit less than 10% of gross).

Microsoft Adcenter's relevancy ratings (which determine click pricing) continue to confound me. Why are “switchable nightlight” and “switchable nightlights” only ranked 2/10 when the landing page is clearly 100% accurate and “switchable night light” rates 9/10? Baffling.

I wish I wasn’t so dependent on one product. I’ve had intermittent modest successes – and even brief hits – with other things, but it’s still all about Panther Vision caps. Don’t get me wrong – without this superstar I wouldn’t be in business at all – but I sure do wish that some of my other products would help carry the load. The Mini-Briefcase is out of stock at the importer; I’ll sell out my remaining 50-odd pieces in a couple of weeks. Switchables are going through another one of their periodic dead spots after some competitor jacked his keyword bids to $0.60 (which is simply more than they’re worth, as he'll probably figure out). Whisky Stones seem to be dead in the water. After I brought in 50 sets to cover holiday demand, that’s $500 I wish I could have back.


Uh-oh…last night I sold a Science Quiz Clock to someone from New Jersey who clicked “Saw you mentioned in a print article.” The random act of media that I first wrote about on July 29 must have finally hit. The editor never did answer my questions about their magazine’s street date, and I forgot about it after their online guide came out. Now I only have two clocks left. I don’t want to reorder anything from the vendor until they straighten out a $288 shipping error. Their order fulfillment is so incredibly slow that it would take weeks to get a reorder in anyway (if they have them at all and if they don’t screw up the shipment).

If those last two clocks sell out today I’ll know that the game is afoot. The magazine might have hit the streets some time ago, and only now generated a sale.


…And just like that, my blog posts started appearing in the Facebook news feed again last week. I’m pleased to be back…at least until the next time FB screws with their interface.Every week is a crapshoot.

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