13 ways to make your customers’ day

From handwritten notes to just-baked cookies, a simple gesture can go a long way toward shoring up customer loyalty in a competitive marketplace. Even just a quick phone call can do more to earn your customers’ long-term trust than any coupon or discount code—really. To find out which methods have been most effective for my peers, I asked thirteen entrepreneurs to share one special way they get more word-of-mouth referrals and thumbs up. Their answers may surprise and delight you—and give you some great ideas to test drive in your own company:  

1. Writing Notes

During our first holiday sales season, one way we inspired word-of-mouth support for LSTN Headphones was by writing handwritten notes to each customer who purchased a pair of headphones. It seems simple, but it made a huge difference! – Bridget Hilton, LSTN Headphones  

2. Setting the Bar High

Most companies make it a mission to have satisfied customers, but satisfied customers aren’t compelled to share their experiences. The factor that inspires word-of-mouth support is having happy customers. To achieve this, you must set the bar high by going above and beyond what your customers expect of you. Underpromise and overdeliver. Shock them with delight. Wow them with service. – Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits  

3. Sending Cookies

At Speek, we use AppSumo religiously for great deals on the tools we use to run our business. One day, I got a box from Noah Kagan (the CEO of AppSumo) that contained some amazing cookies—completely out of the blue! It was a random, simple gesture that meant so much to me as a loyal customer. I thought it was absolutely brilliant of Noah to do this. – Danny Boice, Speek

4. Providing Personal Service

PeoplePerHour has a community of more than 500,000 users, but one of the main delights for customers is getting support tickets answered by myself—the CEO and founder. Customers get delighted when they see the guy at the top take time for this and consider customer support important. – Xenios Thrasyvoulou, PeoplePerHour  

5. Getting to Know Your Customers

Learn your customers’ names and some brief personal information. Establish a basic friendship with them because you’re looking to meet their needs. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance    

6. Valuing the Little Things

From time to time, we send gifts to our clients, such as their favorite tea or coffee. Another great thing all of our VAs do is really care about the client and ask about their kids and parents. It’s great because you really build a strong relationship with the client. – Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME    

7. Being a Customer Advocate

Real customer advocacy means looking out for their best interest, even if it means a short-term loss for you. Is a customer paying too much for your product? Ask him to downgrade. Did you screw up? Refund him proactively. Does he have a charge complaint? Resolve it in his favor until you can prove the opposite. Small gestures like this can build real fans for your brand. – Pablo Villalba, 8fit

8. Saying Thank You

Send handwritten thank you cards and fruit baskets during the holidays to show your appreciation. – Phil Dumontet, DASHED    

9. Retweeting Customers

We follow many of our clients as they come in the door, and then every once in a while, we retweet their tweets. They get a notification that we’ve done this, and it shows we are paying attention to them and that we’re on the same page. It establishes a bond that goes beyond client service. It shows that we respect what they are saying. – Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com  

10. Treating Them to Birthday Coffee

We always make sure to ask our customers when their birthdays are. They soon forget we asked this until their birthday rolls around. When it does, they receive a birthday card from us with a gift card for coffee. Our customers are inspired and excited to see that we remembered, thanked and recognized them on their special day. – Matt Shoup, MattShoup.com  

11. Sending Them Postcards

As a token of gratitude for anyone who reads my blog or book and has the courage to reach out via email, I ask for their mailing addresses and send handwritten postcards. The postcards match my brand and have a fun quote or saying on the front, and readers seem to really appreciate the human touch from someone they previously assumed would be inaccessible. Plus, who doesn’t love snail mail? – Jenny Blake, Jenny Blake  

12. Remembering Important Dates

If a client shares an important milestone for the company, the date she opened the company or even a birthday, you should remember them! People like to know that you were listening when they shared information, and a surprise card, cake or gift on that milestone will let clients know you are on their team. – Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding  

13. Checking In

It’s nice for clients to know you were thinking of them even when you didn’t have something on the calendar. With coaching clients, I try to reach out and check in with them or send articles I thought they might like in-between scheduled sessions. – Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E® Read more: http://articles.bplans.com/13-ways-to-surprise-and-delight-your-customers-today/

Developing a keyword strategy

Read this article to learn how to construct your first list of keywords and to get pointers on the overall keywords strategy.

How to come up an initial list of keywords

When you first start brainstorming keywords, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Your keywords strategy will evolve over time as you research various long-tail keywords, but here are a few questions that can help get you started:
  • What products or services do you offer? Come up with an initial list of the products or services that you offer to your leads and customers. Try to focus on long-tail keywords over broad keywords.  If your company sells shoes, you should create a list of keywords that includes all the different types of shoes you sell. It’s the difference between “shoes” and “nike red running sneakers.”
  • What problems do your leads have that your company can help solve? Create a list of keyword phrases that matches the problems for which potential leads search for solutions. If your company sells iPhone cases that make an iPhone waterproof, your leads would probably be searching using keyword phrases like “Waterproof cases for iPhone” or “How do I waterproof my iPhone?”
  • How would you describe your business to someone who has never heard of your company? Leads might not know all the industry keywords for your products or services. They will instead try searching using keywords that they are familiar with. Also keep in mind that various keywords may vary in different parts of the world. For example, the terms that describe what your company does can vary by region. What is “pop” in one part of the world might be “soda” or “cola” in another part of the world.
  • What common questions do your leads ask? When you read through the blog user guide, you’ll learn that answering your lead’s most common questions in blog posts is a great way to produce quality blog content. Any of your salespeople should be able to tell you what questions their leads ask. Once you identify what these questions are, create a list of keywords that match all the different ways these questions can be asked. Leads typically have questions about what your products or services cost, what features they have, how they can purchase them and what support your company offers.

Additional tips for generating keywords

Below are a few more tips for generating an initial list of keywords:
  • You want your keywords to be what people are searching for; therefore, you shouldn’t just focus on adding keywords that you think search engines will find easily (ie the exact name of your business). Think about how you would search for your own business. Also, come up with some keywords that you think someone who doesn’t know your product would search. Someone wouldn’t necessarily know to search for “Lyric snowboard 142” but they would search for “best affordable snowboards” if they were interested in buying a snowboard.
  • Make sure that your keywords are relevant to your content. People will read the keywords in a search and then determine whether they want to read the article, website, etc. You wouldn’t want to mislead visitors and give them a false idea of your topic.
  • Have a strategy for your branding so that you can focus your keywords in the same direction. For example, if you constantly describe your business using different terminology on your site, your keywords will be less consistent. Consistency in your language on your site can help your site rank for keywords that you repeatedly use in your content.
  • When coming up with long-tail keywords (see this article for an explanation of the different types of keywords), be specific to your company’s products or services. You should also have some location-based keywords. For instance, instead of “bakery” you could use “cupcake shop Savannah GA.”
With thanks to hubspot for this great article – http://knowledge.hubspot.com/keyword-user-guide/how-to-develop-an-initial-list-of-keywords

Personas 101

Personas 101 – A Quick Guide to developing marketing personas
Most marketing experts will tell you that in order to be able to optimize your inbound channels for your target audience, you should dedicate sufficient time and resources to creating personas. A persona, in its simplest form, is a fictitious character that embodies a segment of your target audience. The main premise is that by developing very specific characters, you empower your marketing team to be more strategic in terms of catering to each demographic. As you go through the process of establishing your personas, it’s best to go through a set of questions (such as “how old is he/she?”, “what is his/her job?”, “what is his/her biggest pain point?”, etc.), the answers to which will crystallize your characters. Ultimately, by answering those questions for each persona, you know much more about your target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and attitude, which enables you to target them more strategically.

Let’s look at the questions that you as a marketer would like to get answered as a result of your persona development, as well as the questions that you can ask during the discussion.

How can you best reach them? In order to communicate effectively with your audience, you want to know where they hang out (in person or online) and what media they prefer. Questions may include:
How much time do they typically spend on the web?

  • When looking for advice, where do they go?
  • How big is their social and professional network?
  • What are their preferred social media channels?
  • How do they manage their inbox?
  • What devices do they primarily use when interacting on the web?
  • Do they prefer written or verbal communication?

How can you attract and keep their interest? Once you know where to find your target audience, you want to identify how you can pique their interest, drive them to your content, and keep them engaged. Questions may include:

  • What sites do they visit most frequently and why?
  • How much interaction and engagement are they seeking?
  • What type of content is most important to them?
  • How much time do they have to interact with you and/or your content?

How can you help them? Remember our golden rule: Always Provide Value. Therefore, it’s crucial that you determine how to best serve your audience. Questions may include:

  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What are their biggest pain points?
  • What do they want to get out of interacting with you and/or your content?
  • What’s their level of expertise in their industry and in your industry?

How do they make purchase decisions? It goes without saying that ultimately, you want to convert your visitors into leads and your leads into sales. After all, you’re running a business. As a result, you will want to know as much as possible about your personas’ decision making processes, so that you can nurture them appropriately along the way. Questions may include:

  • What are the driving factors when it comes to purchasing decisions?
  • What is their role in the decision making process?
  • How quickly do they make decisions?
  • How much research do they do before making a decision or recommendation?
  • If they are not the decision makers, what types of deliverables do they need to bring to the decision maker?

As you can see, just by answering this short list of questions, you can quickly establish several marketing personas for your business and optimize your strategy to target them in a more effective manner. What are some other questions that you would want to consider as you are developing your marketing personas?


With thanks to Spectate for this excellent article: http://spectate.com/2012/03/personas-101-a-quick-guide-to-developing-marketing-personas/ 


The ultimate F-word: Why failure can be good

Business Coaching | Business Coach | Business Planning| Marketing | Marketing Coach

Written by Amy Hamilton-Chadick for Westpac Red News.

Read the original article here.


Failure: For business owners, it’s the ultimate F-word. We don’t like to say it, or think about it. But failure is now being recognised as a force for transformation and reinvention.

While it’s not something to aim for, failure is an inevitable part of life for all of us, including our most inspirational entrepreneurs.

“Even the poster boys have their own failures,” says Debra Chantry, owner of Ventell and a business coach at Icehouse. She names Xero CEO Rod Drury and GrabOne founder Shane Bradley as two entrepreneurs who have invested in ideas that fell by the wayside before starting spectacularly successful ventures.

“I’ve had two failures myself,” Chantry says. “One was through naivete, and it was a bit of a learning curve. The other one was a spectacular failure. Looking back it was one of the best things that could have happened to me, though I wouldn’t have said that at the time.”

So how can you bounce back from failure and turn it into a springboard to success?

Turn a failure into a pivot

Having coached the founders of more than 100 companies, Chantry says she’s seen all types of failure, and they run the gamut from total collapse to survivable turnaround.

For some start-ups, the failure of one idea can be used as a pivot point to turn the company in a different direction. Take shopping network Tote – its owner found that instead of buying through the site, users were just assembling collections of favourite items to share with friends. That was the pivot: Tote’s failure provided the catalyst for Pinterest.

If you have to fail, fail fast

When your business is no longer viable, it’s better to pull the pin entirely than to keep throwing good money after bad, says Chantry. It’s a difficult decision to make, but failing fast can be the lesser of two evils.

“Sometimes you do have to give up,” Chantry says. “I’ve seen some privately owned business where the owner has invested over a million dollars and then it has failed. It can be an expensive lesson. So we say fail fast. You won’t waste your energy, time and money – and you’ll still have the lessons.”

Lean on your support network

The stigma of having failed can be painful, stressful and even damaging to your health, says Dr Smita Singh, an AUT lecturer at the Department of Management, Faculty of Business and Law, who has been researching entrepreneurial failure for a number of years.

Singh discovered that one of the most important ways to recover from a failure was the ability to tap into a social support network, and sometimes a stock of spiritual belief too, in order to help you put your failure in perspective. This, she believes, is what helps people to bounce back.

“Once you’ve been hit, you have to be proactive and tap into your social resources,” says Singh. “You can’t do it alone. Networking and getting out there can minimise the damage – the stigma of failure can be quite crippling, but don’t let it get you down.”

Analyse what went wrong

It’s tempting to try to pretend your failure never happened, but it’s important to learn from what went wrong. Chantry’s “spectacular failure” resulted in a liquidated company and the laying off of 15 staff; it was a distressing episode in her career. Talking to other business owners who understood the process of failure, and had moved onto bigger things, helped Chantry to start again and build the thriving company she has now.

“Don’t see failure as a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ scary event,” says Singh. “Think of it as a chapter in your life that can be challenging and manageable – and an opportunity for a new and fresh beginning. You have to keep moving, keep working and keep making changes.”

Define your own success

Not everyone whose business fails goes on to start another one, but that doesn’t mean they’re a failure. Of the 21 failed entrepreneurs Singh interviewed in her doctoral research, 18 went on to new start-ups. But the other three were much happier going in a different direction: “On the surface the experience seemed negative but it taught them a lot about themselves, their resilience and their skills. It wasn’t a wasted experience, it was an enriching experience.”

Some people start their businesses because they love their jobs, says Chantry, and they sometimes find that running the company takes them further away from the work they enjoy. After a failure, they find out they’d much rather be working for someone else, and by not jumping into another start-up, they’ve succeeded in learning from their mistakes.

Don’t add to the stigma

Singh has one last reminder: If you have a friend or family member whose business has failed, be supportive.

“You need to remember that if a business has failed, it can be for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control – think of the businesses that failed after the Canterbury earthquakes,” she says. “The reality is that it can hit anybody at any time. It’s important for society to have an open mind and give entrepreneurs a second chance. They can get up and do wonderful things.”

MKR – Help Support Josh & Aaron – One of our Icehouse Business Coaching clients

Debra (Business Coach - Icehouse) & Aaron (Chef - MKR)I am really rather privileged to work with some Kiwi celebrities…. Through my work with Kiwi owned businesses at The Icehouse.

Business Coaching at The Icehouse

One of these is Aaron, one half of the MKR Josh & Aaron (Corporate Dads) team. W’ve also had Josh along to a couple of our meetings, but most of our business coaching work is done with Aaron & his beautiful wife, Jacinta. Today I caught up with them for the first time since he took on the challenge of competing in MKR (My Kitchen Rules).

Aarons’ primary business is www.vitamenz, however at the moment he is starring in MKR New Zealand as one half of the Josh & Aaron show:

MKR - Josh & Aaron


If they win the people’s choice award then they are going to donate their full $20,000 of Countdown vouchers to the Ronald MacDonald House.

Please help us to support them – see Aaron’s message below…

written by Debra Chantry, Business Coach | Principal

Message from Aaron & Josh

Hi Friends, Family and Colleagues!!

Not sure you will get this on a Sunday – but a lot of you do have smart phones so here goes.

As many of you know I am on that little TV Show called “My Kitchen Rules” (MKR)  with a good mate Josh. Part of the show that has recently been introduced is essentially a popularity contest at  www.mkrvote.co.nz

This is where the viewers at home can vote for  the “Viewer’s Choice” every time an episode is on TV – that is critical, it is only open when the show is on TV (Sun, Tues, Wed at 7.30 – 8.30 on TV 1)

Countdown will, at the end of the competition give the winning team of the “Viewer’s Choice $20,000. Josh and I, if we win will donate the ENTIRE amount to Ronald McDonald House. We are the only team that have indicated we will donate all of the prize.

That $20,000 will be an entire YEARS budget for RMH – they have kitchens that need to be stocked with basic needs. That $20,000 according to Claire Cooper one of the executive team at RMH will be HUGE for them.

When Josh and I cooked for the team at RMH, seen last week, it humbled us to our core. To have the privilege of having our own healthy kids blew us away. Now we want to give something back.

PLEASE PLEASE vote for Team Josh and Aaron tonight and every night the show is on TV – I repeat you can only vote when the show is on TV.  With your help we can win this and give an amazing prize to a team that I am in awe of.

Please share, please vote Via your PC then turn off the wireless and use your phones!! We are way behind in votes and we need to win this!!! DON’T FORGET!!! It doesn’t cost a cent!!!

Tell your friends, tell you relatives heck tell the pool man and lawn mower kid if you have them – forward this email. Make a difference!!

Mucho Respect if you all do – EVERYNIGHT THE SHOW IS ON!!!! VOTE

I am going to hound you!!!

Vote tonight and every night at www.mkrvote.co.nz



Aaron and Josh

Aaron - MKR - Business Coaching through The Icehouse

A Day at The Races with Harold & The Life Education Trust

Our Principal | Business Coach, Debra, is a long time Trustee of The Life Education Trust.

Each year they hold a large fundraising event at The Ellerslie Races, fondly know as Harold’s Big Day Out.

Ventell sponsors a race and this year took some of their clients, friends & team along to the races… A fun-filled day was had by all 🙂

Unfortunately they got our logo wrong, which is bad for an agency who deals with brands & marketing but that didn’t dampen the day!

Best of all, a lot of money was raised by Harold & the team!

To make a donation… Visit the Harold donation page.

What your prices say about your business – Business Coach perspective


I love this article that was written by one of my fellow Icehouse business coaches. It was published in Idealog in May 2014:


What do your prices say about you? Would your customers say your product or service is affordable? Value for money? Expensive but worth it? Or is it a steal?

I just read a powerful example of how setting your prices at a certain point can absolutely transform your client’s perception of your product. In Dr Robert Cialdini’s Influence, he talks about a friend who owned a jewellery store which sold a small range of Indian jewelry – beautiful stuff, in top-quality turquoise, similar to what you’d see celebrities sporting at premieres.

The jewellery store owner set the prices for this jewellery at what she thought was a fair and reasonable value, based on her experience. But she struggled to sell them, even though her store was constantly filled with tourists.

So she reacted in the same way most retail owners would: she cut her losses and put them on sale. The night before she left on a buying trip, she left a note to her staff asking them to display the turquoise pieces in prime position and to cut the selling price in half. When she returned from her trip, she immediately noticed that all of the pieces had been sold. But here’s where she learnt a very valuable lesson. She realised that her assistant had misread the scrawled fraction and instead of cutting the prices by half, she’d doubled them.

Why had they sold so quickly at double the price? Because with high prices come the connotation of high quality. Right or wrong, consumers think you get what you pay for and that a bargain is too good to be true. Those tourists had immediately snapped up turquoise jewelry that they perceived as being valuable and high-end.

I’ve seen it myself. I’ll see a pen knife in one store for $20 and think, “That must be rubbish” and then days later the exact same one in a fancier store at double the price and – despite myself – think, “Oh, that looks like good quality.”

Or you may pick up something that’s priced at $50 and then notice it’s been slashed from $150 – suddenly, you think you’ve got a real deal (even if the retailer had never sold any for $150 because it really wasn’t worth that in the first place.)

Chivas Regal, a brand of Scotch whisky, was struggling until it doubled the price, at which point unit sales doubled. Right or wrong, we have been brought up to believe that if it costs more, it’s better.

People assume a pricier product is better made, elite, top-end. Here’s the rub: if you’re making a top-end, top-quality, exceptional product but selling it at a bargain-basement price, you won’t get the reputation you deserve. Customers won’t value you the way you deserve to be valued. That’s not to say you should rip your clients off by simply doubling your prices – I’m simply saying to be wary of being too cheap. (Unless this is the premise of your business, of course, and it’s a conscious decision about how you want to be positioned, such as the chain of $2 Shops.) But it’s not a strategy I’d recommend.

It can be a lot of hard work for a lesser result. In fact, have you noticed lately that The Warehouse, “where everyone gets a bargain”, has been undergoing a transformation? They’ve really lifted their game when it comes to quality and lifted their prices at the same time.)

Zac de Silva is a business coach and former owner/MD of Barkers Menswear. He has owned Business Changing since 2010 and works with over 75 clients, including BNZ, Westfield, Huffer, Foodstuffs, The Icehouse, Les Mills, Spaceworks, The Engine Room and Promapp.

I have included he comments from the original article too as I thought they were very valid around pricing for services and 101 Marketing 🙂

It’s called Product Positioning……and its not new (the papers about it have been published for a good 50+ years).
It’s Marketing 101 at the AUT MBA >>>>>>>>

Hi Zac,

I like your comments & agree with you.

How does this work if your product is a service?

Hi Stew, thanks for that. Lets hope that more people do the AUT MBA so they can learn about product positioning. Certainly looks like many businesses out there do not have a great understanding around the price perceptions that can exist. I am amazed at some businesses that I come across and how their GP % is a lot lower than it should be and that is purely as they have under priced their products or services. If only such businesses better understood the fact that the quality they offer is far better than the price perception. Certainly there is a focus on being well priced vs competitors when they actually are not fully aware of the fact that their product (or service) is so much better than competitors too.

Hi Mark, thank you and good question. When your product is a service, from what I have seen work (or not work) in real life is it comes down to how good your service is (I know that is stating the obvious but…). I have heard a statistic that if you win more than 60% of your quotes, then you are quite probably priced too low. It all comes down the perception around do people believe your service is one of the best around or not. In my business, I have more than doubled my prices over the past 3 years and have seen my # of clients more than quadruple. I just make sure that you are adding little bits of “added value” at moments when people do not expect it and then you get a lot of word of mouth referrals. If you are winning more than 60% of your quotes, then it might be time to increase your prices… FYI, with my clients, when we have increased prices, we usually here from 1 or 2 customers out of countless customers, assuming my client is doing a good job for their customers (assuming your price rise makes sense and is not of course a total rip off). And what a great implicit agreement that you are doing a good job when hardly any customers complain about a price rise and your retention of customers is unaffected by this (of course if you suddenly have a lot of customers stopping doing business with you, then you have highly likely out priced yourself for how good you really are, or you had actually attracted the wrong sort of customers in the first place… Sing out if you need to.

Cheers guys…



UPDATED – Pricing for start-ups

Pricing for start up businesses | Debra Chantry | Business Coach

I was recently contacted, through The Icehouse where I work as an Executive in Residence & Business Coach, to answer some questions for www.stuff.co.nz on pricing for start-ups.

Here are the questions that I was asked and my full answers.

1. Is there a temptation to price too low? What are the risks of just trying to undercut competition?

There is always a temptation to price too low, particularly when you’re a start-up and you think that the only way you can grab market share is to make it cheaper for people.

This is particularly evident in the service sector, where people look at ‘big company’ prices and realise that they can charge a lot less than big companies because they don’t have the overheads.

Pricing is always a short-term strategy & one of 2 things will happen over time. You will become a larger company and will start to encompass some of these overheads, which means that you can no longer sustain the lower prices, or someone with bigger pockets will drop their prices to match or beat yours… and no-one wins in this situation.

The reality is that if you have established a real ‘pain point’ and / or a ‘unique value proposition’ then customers will not choose you on price alone. They will come to you because you offer them something that they need or want and they will be prepared to pay for value.

The same applies for products & services.

2. Is there a temptation to price to overvalue services in the hope of making big returns?

Not generally.

What I do find is that people underestimate the costs of running a company in general. Often people miss out on the basic costs or don’t think to the future when the company grows and what additional costs that is likely to bring. As a consequence they tend to undervalue their products & services and price too low.

I also find that Kiwis, and particularly female entrepreneurs tend to undervalue their own time & experience. We work with many companies where we take them through an exercise to understand what value they truly offer and it almost always results in increasing prices.

That said, there are cases where people have over-valued their product or service and often a change in price will create significant increase in demand, that substantially affects the profitability of a company. This can work both with a price increase and a price decrease if the pricing is wrong. It’s about getting the right balance and understanding what value you offer, what margin it can support and the competitive nature of the industry that you are working within.

3. How do you accurately value your skills and services to meet the market when you’re starting out, so you don’t have to make big adjustments later.

We encourage every start-up to do an analysis of the competitive environment. This would include things such as pricing, features & benefits, positioning, quality, selection, service, reliability etc.

From here we work with frameworks that help you map out the environment and see where your niche is and what value is to the customer, and therefore what margins it can support.

Once a company has established their niche and their value, then pricing becomes an easier task.

4. How common a problem is it for start-ups to get the pricing wrong – and what are the implications of getting it wrong

It is very common for start-ups to get pricing wrong. The implications of this is that they may get stuck in a business where they are working long hours, are not reaping the rewards and can not afford to bring anyone else in to help them.

Additionally they risk losing customers when they put their prices up.

It does sometimes happen in reverse when the price has been too high and a small adjustment can significantly increase demand but in general I would say that it is easier to start higher and lower your prices than it is to put them up.

NEW – What’s the biggest product pricing mistake?

The biggest product or manufacturing pricing mistake that I see, particularly with artisan / handmade products, is not costing the product properly – either through missing out components of the product or not taking into account the labour time to make the product.

Artisan producers often neglect to consider the costs of using a commercial kitchen and their own labour costs. At the end of the say, when you scale, you will have to employ labour to undertake this task, so it needs to be built into the cost of the product.

Add this to trying to compete in the same pricing space as mass manufactured goods or goods from China and it’s a recipe for disaster.

COLD HARD FACT – Hand made / artisan adds value to the product and you need to recognise that value and charge accordingly. If you can’t find buyers who are prepared to pay that price, then you don’t have a product that is worthwhile making for sale.

I’m always happy to have a chat to start-ups about their pricing – just contact me.

Written by Debra Chantry (Principal | Business Coach) for stuff.co.nz.


Making business planning fun – is it possible?

Business Planning | Business Strategy | Business Plan

It can be overwhelming to put pen to paper and come up with a workable, detailed and water-tight business plan. You know it’s important because without a plan you have no direction, and of course you’ve been told by every business guru around, without a plan you are doomed to fail.

No pressure, right?!

You know something? Business plans really are just guesses. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out this snippet of wisdom from the book “Rework”.

You don’t know what the market is really going to do and how it will impact your business. If you sat there and went through every worst-case scenario you’d be working on your plans for months and be thoroughly depressed in the process. Then throw in Murphy’s Law – that one scenario you didn’t plan for, will be the one that actually happens – and then where are you at?

So now that you even more daunted about the prospect of writing a business plan, let me change your focus a little and make it less daunting and more… fun!

Is a business plan important?

Yes a plan (or guess) is important, you need to write one for your financial backers, your business partners and you need one for yourself too. It is a place to start from and a place where you can refer to when you need to make big decisions. “Should we invest in the R&D department or marketing?” Referring back to your business plan will help you come to the right decision.

Planning is vital, it will save you time in the long run. Think of it this of it this way, just imagine that instead of giving your web team a clear brief, you said: “Oh just make me something, but I don’t know what I want until I see it.” You know what? You’ve just created the perfect storm for massive delays, budget blowouts and a creative team who will despise you.

A business plan works like that too. If you don’t know what you want the end result to be, how will anyone else?

Don’t get hung up on it.

But don’t worry that the plan has to be perfect. Just because you’ve written it once, doesn’t mean you’re ‘one and done’. This is a starting a place, a plan which you will revisit and tweak, that’s normal and expected. One of the first things we learn in marketing is “Adapt or Die”, if you don’t adjust to market conditions your business will go under. Your original plan may have only mentioned Widget A, but you always knew that there was a possibility that you may need to change to Widget B.

How to stop procrastinating

So you know it’s important and you know you need to start. You also know that the business plan will adjust over time, but by golly you seem to be more interested in washing the dishes and cleaning the house than writing that business plan.

So rather than having a goal of “I will write my business plan this week”, think more along the lines of a ‘system’. James Clear has some great advice on how to change your thinking and achieve more in the long run.

The idea is rather than making it a big scary goal, break it down to a process.

Something like: “Every Monday and Friday I will complete a section of my business plan.” So rather than thinking of it as a goal, think of carving out time every Monday and Friday. Then, before you know it … thy will be done. It may not be as fast as you had initially hoped, but it will get done. If you ditch the need to have it done by a certain date, and commit to writing on certain days, you will feel more satisfied and successful.

Just start.

So let’s have a little fun with it. By coming up with ways to make it less overwhelming, you may be inclined to get the plan written today – rather than sometime in the future. You could try one of these ideas:

  1. Write from the first person. Throw in a lot of ‘I will sell…’ ‘It is my belief’ etc.
  2. Don’t call it planning. Call it something else, mind-mapping, soul-searching, brain storming. .. whatever makes it more palatable.
  3. Not a writer? Use your smartphone and voice to record your plan – and get someone else to type it up if needs be.
  4. Incentive (or call it what it is – bribery). Every section complete means you reward yourself with something.
  5. ‘Not specified or TBC’. Don’t be afraid to use these phrases. As we know it’s all just guesses anyway. You really don’t know how many units you’re going to sell. So put TBC in there for now and come back to it later.
  6. Just write it. Don’t worry about the structure and making sure you fill in all the blanks, just go for it.
  7. Done is good enough. Just get it done, don’t go for perfect … it is a work in progress doc.
  8. Use a variety of media. A business plan doesn’t have to be a 20 page block of text. Use video, audio, graphs, notes, diagrams to lay out your content.
  9. Use a variety of APPS. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to online business tools. Consider an app such as Evernote, Pinterest or iMindMap to keep your plan visual, mobile, easy to access and add to.

A really fun way of getting a pretty complete business is plan is:

Your business plan in 10 tweets” method.

Since we live in the social media age you probably think and write in 140 characters anyway. Use this to your advantage. This will help speed things up and make it fun!

Think of these categories as a tweet which you can come back to and flesh out where needed. So here are 10 categories that you can fill in – a total of 1400 words.

  1. Describe your business. (Value Proposition)
  2. What ‘problem’ are you solving in the market? (Market Need)
  3. Describe your product and since visuals sell, include an image. (Your Solution)
  4. Who is your competition and why is your product better than your competitors? (Competition)
  5. Who is going to buy your product? (Target Market)
  6. What’s it going to cost? i.e. How much to produce the items, and how much are you going to charge your customer? Go for gold and decide how many you are going to sell and what profit you are going to make. (Financials: Budgeting & Forecasting)
  7. How are you going to market your product? (Sales Channels & Marketing Activities)
  8. What have you already achieved and what do you want to achieve? (Milestones)
  9. Time to introduce yourself – why are you the right person to lead the team? (Management Team)
  10. How much money do you need to launch the business and how are you going to spend the money?(Funding Needs & Use of Funds)

You could even do this in your lunch hour during the work week. All you’ll need is some ‘extreme focus’ and you could have it done in no time.

Of course you may need to flesh out the above sections if you are after financing. But what I’ve found is that the hardest part is getting through this first ‘draft’. Once things are clear in your mind and on paper, it’s much easier to take each of these sections and dig deeper to make it more palatable for your potential investors.

If you look at writing your business plan from a different perspective, it can be a fun and rewarding process.

And if you can’t get started yourself then get someone to facilitate the process (my specialty is arse kicking!).

My question to you today is then, should writing a business plan BE FUN?