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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, January 20, 2012

Meet the New Goals

Same as the old goals...mostly. I added a few new items to last week’s warmed-over list and ranked them by priority and likelihood.

Find awesome new merchandise. This dwarfs everything else. I’ll cover it separately next week.

Control advertising costs: My marketing budget is topped out. I need to get below LY’s overspend without cutting into sales proportionately. Ideally I’ll increase sales on the same ad spend, but if sales won’t cooperate I will have to cut the actual outlay. As a first step, I’m adding Ad Spend to my monthly reports to keep this one front and center. So far this year I’ve gotten the daily outlay down to $20, but traffic has also fallen below 150 visits and sales…well, let’s not go there.

Facelift: Sunshop’s first major overhaul in five years is tentatively scheduled for October. Its true release date will determine whether I can upgrade before Christmas or if I have to delay it for another year. I have to see the new templates before I can do a cosmetic overhaul (although if I were rolling in money I would give the existing version a facelift; I hate the prospect of waiting until early 2013). I can at least mock up a layout and color scheme in the meantime.

More video: Learn how to use my new phone’s video camera. If it’s viable, I will post at least one original product demonstration video to YouTube before the year is out.

Start using LinkedIn. This one’s easy, just pointless and tedious.

Expand Facebook: Facebook is a constant source of frustration and a periodic irritant. But I can’t just ignore it. The goal is to increase my followers from 144 now to 200 by the end of the year. Secondary goal is to update my company page.

Personal incentives: I’ll raise payroll by 0.1% of gross if net sales are up by 7.5% at the end of June. If I finish the year over plan I’ll bump it another 0.1% and buy everyone in the company a new laptop. If the first three weeks of the year are prelude to the rest, there is no danger of this happening.

Insurance? Fnd out if Kraken Enterprises needs separate liability coverage or just a rider on my personal policy, and how much that would cost…without tipping off my agent that I am running a home business or inviting some other agent to solicit me. This is a low priority only because I can’t possibly afford a monthly insurance bill.

Double Reward Points? I could permanently increase my customer Reward Point awards from 5% to 10% of full-priced merchandise sold. Many people earn points; few redeem them. If that’s because of low awareness and interest, doubling the rewards for the tiny minority who do care would just cut income without improving the incentive. If, OTOH, the program is ineffective because the points are too stingy, doubling them might encourage more repeat business at a lower cost than advertising for new business. I offered double points as a promotion once last year with no discernable effect. Personally, I find customer loyalty programs to be a huge incentive (especially in restaurants)…but I’m a famously cheap bastard. 

What would really make a difference is being able to email customers a reminder that they have x.xx points. But Sunshop can’t do that. I wonder if Brad could implement it for me. This is another question to put off until Sunshop 5 ships; I suggested the feature for the new version.

Ess-Eee-Oh: It’s been on the list for years; I’d still like to invest in professional optimization should I ever luck into both a financial windfall and a reputable company with a bargain price. Meanwhile I will keep doing the small things that I can understand and affect.

Target the rich: The middle class is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer while the ruling class consolidates the nation’s wealth. Aiming for the people who have all the money is a no-brainer. I have two problems with that: First, I’m dangling from the lowest rung of the middle class myself: I have no idea what the rich buy (Gems? Furs? Apple electronics? Designer fashions?) or how to reach them. Second, their tastes are expensive and I already can’t afford to keep my current low-end inventory in stock. So why’s this even on the list if it’s out of my reach? I can try to carry more products that are $50 and up and fewer that are under $10. Bumping up my average price point hardly takes me into millionaire territory, but it’s a step in that direction.

Target corporate buyers. My biggest scores go to golf courses, resorts, universities, businesses, even churches. Yet these sales are hit-or-miss. Institutions approach me out of the blue, and most of their inquiries come to naught because they expect personalization (imprinting or embroidering), deeper discounts than I can offer, and more pieces than I keep in stock. I can’t address the factors that discourage closure, but I might be able to encourage more inquiries. The obvious question is, How? 

Cut the handling fee: Every order invisibly pays 75 cents to cover the cost of boxes, labels, ink, paper, packing tape, etc. I raised that fee last year to slightly overcharge small orders to offset undercharges on larger ones stemming from last year’s postal rate changes. Ultimately, I collected more for shipping than I paid out LY by a comfortable margin. I could afford to cut my fee by at least 10 cents, and possibly as much as 25 cents. That cuts revenue by $10-25 in a typical 100-parcel month. But would customers notice? Maybe those who place the very smallest orders would…but they’re exactly the ones I want to de-emphasize.  Anyway, the goal for this list is to reevaluate my handling fee after this year’s postal rate hikes. Would a 10-25 cent price cut make enough difference to justify the foregone revenue?


Time sure flies when you’re getting old. Every three years, Intuit requires QuickBooks users to upgrade to the newest version. This week’s “version 14 upgrade” notice included “changes to help you with the May 31 service discontinuation.” Would skipping the update prevent them from crippling my software or did it come with a time bomb built in? What happens if I simply continue using the 2009 version beyond their “discontinuation of service”? 

I appreciate that developers want to keep their user base current in order to avoid legacy issues. I also know that one buys a license to use software, not the software itself. Intuit is within their rights. It still pisses me off that they can demand upgrades rather than enticing users with actual improvements. Each new version of QuickBooks is more bloated than the last, and some of the changes that they introduce are arbitrary or actively cripple previous functionality. I bought my current laptop when the 2009 QuickBooks upgrade brought my old one to its knees.

I applied the update today. Just bend over and take it.


A couple of weeks ago the subject line “domain name dispute: curiocityonline” appeared in my mailbox. A young lady named Julia wrote to tell me that 

“This email is sent by CN Network Information Center LTD. which is a registration organization in China. Here we have something to confirm with you. We received a formal application on 11th January, 2012. One company called "Aoher Imports, Ltd" was applying to register "curiocityonline" as Network Brand and the following domain names:

(Eight variations on my name with Asian domains followed)

After our initial checking, we found the names were similar to your company's, so we need to check with you whether your company had authorized that company to register these domain names. If you authorized this, we will finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please inform us within 7 workdays, so that we will handle this issue better. Out of the time limited we will unconditionally finish the registration for "Aoher Imports, Ltd".”

My first reaction to something like this is panic. My second? To the Internet! Unfortunately CN Network Information Center has a legitimate looking website. Fortunately, this site came up first. Scores of complaints about emails identical to mine confirmed my hunch. Apparently they’re trying to trick me into registering all those unwanted Asian domains through them, and probably sell me other services as well. Lying to frighten someone into buying your service might not technically be a scam, just a sleazy business practice. Or maybe not: The company is not listed on InterNIC’s list of accredited registrars. Anyway, Googlebot take note: Chinese domain name scam!


  1. Matrix11:45 AM

    In addition, i would feature all your best sellers as much as possible, and trying to upsell. It i would certanly upgrade website, just because its not SEO optimized. Each product should be the name of url as well, i know you mentioned you cant do on this platform, but this should be priority. Also I would add right side for widgets, i feel that your site right now has too much empty space. On my monitor half the screen is blank.

    Easy to change parts:
    1) bold the intro about family store.

    2)The intro has too much white space above and bellow it, thats above the fold space, most valuable in the website. Cut all the white space, it should be hugging products.

    3) Move log in part under the best sellers, i didnt know you had best sellers section, because log in stands out and hugs the space. It should be Categories, Best sellers, then Log in. Infact, you can shorten best sellers to 5-7 items and put them above categories, test it out. Of course focusing on highest margin products. Also i would copy amazon and use Featured products instead of Best sellers title.

    I would track the changes, over month or so period and compare on item by item, and over all sales basis.

  2. Thanks for the suggs, Matrix. My eventual redesign will certainly eliminate the wasted real estate.


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