by guest author hannah jones
It usually sets in slowly, as a nagging feeling at the back of your mind which gets louder as time goes on. Before you know it, you’re staring at the (desperately low) numbers, wondering what on earth you’re missing which would make things finally start to work.
In our more “together” moments, we know that such despair isn’t the end of the world – things always get better and seem much less end-of-the-world-y when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, a day off, or simply your first cup of coffee. But all business owners experience the low selling blues at some point, and we need to find a way of dusting ourselves off and moving forward at these moments.
Just like grief, I have found that there are stages to dealing with the low selling blues, and getting through to the other, more optimistic side. In the first post of this series, we looked at the realities of the situation, and concluded that our reasoning in these moments may be slightly overly fatalistic (or damn right dramatic). The second stage of handling the low selling blues was to begin looking practically at how we can use our greatest assets to change the numbers we see, and get our sales rising again – tapping in to the font of success which is our existing customer base.
Today’s third and final instalment of the low selling blues series is about getting you thinking seriously about how you can get rid of your low sales figures for good. If you’ve been going for a while, and particularly if you’re a long term sufferer of the low selling blues, you might have stopped thinking of pushing your business forward and growing – if so, this post is particularly for you.
Stage 3: plan your growth
Personally, nothing calms me down better than opening up a spread-sheet and making a plan for how I’m going to tackle my problems. Even if you’re not as nerdy as me, I’m sure you realise that having a plan for your business is really the only way you’re going to make sure you keep on achieving.
Growth should be the ultimate aim of all businesses – the alternative is stagnation, and eventually falling profits. But it takes effort and planning to get it right – from understanding how you will handle your money, to making sure you have everything in place to handle being bigger.
The more you grow, the bigger the pay-off will be; what I mean by that is, if you double the number of products you sell, you should more than double the money you make, because you will sell out quicker and start to build a troop of loyal customers who spend more.
It is about the money…
The first factor you will need to consider is money. If you have an idea of the size you want your business to be, i.e. how much you want to be spending on stock (and therefore earning) each month, you will be able to calculate the amount you need to be earning to allow you to buy stock each month and take a wage for yourself. Having aims is the first step to making a plan – so work out how much you want to earn, and think about when you want to have achieved that by.
Consider ways to get credit to kick start your growth: credit cards, small business loans and trade credit all offer ways to invest in stock even when you don’t have enough money in your pocket. If you budget well, you will find it easy to pay back these loans in the future.
Making big investments can be gut wrenching when the money is coming straight out of your pocket. Spend time making a budget and working out whether you will profit in the long run. When you’re sure it’s the right decision, you need to take a deep breath and plunge in – trust your judgement and hold on tight, knowing you’ll soon be enjoying the perks of taking such a risk.
Avenues of growth
What is growth? Put simply, it’s increasing the number of opportunities you have to make money. When you think of it like that, there are all sorts of different ways you could grow your business. The first and most obvious suggestion is to think about selling more things. That means buying more of the products which are successful, and testing and adding new products to your range (read this post for more details).
You might also want to expand the ways you are selling your things – to increase opportunities for potential customers to see your stuff. This might mean selling both on eBay, and your own website; or taking stock that isn’t selling well online to markets, fates or car boot sales. Opening an online business up to international sellers is another great option, and although it seems intimidating at first glance, it’s really simple and easy to do.
If you feel your business is already about as big as you can manage alone, perhaps it’s time to invest in some staff to help you. The great thing about this is that because you’re paying them, you can give them all of the jobs you hate – giving you more time to concentrate on the important aspects of growing the business.
Growing your marketing efforts might be particularly helpful if you don’t want to borrow money to increase the stock you sell. Instead of selling more stock at a time, attracting more customers will help you to sell out faster – and reinvest in another lot of stock. This could mean you end up selling the same number of items per month as if you simply invested in one big shipment of items.
Growth is an all-round thing, meaning that to build the business successful you need to consider all parts of your business. Consider:
• Increasing your marketing efforts – if you have lots of stock but the same number of people looking at what you’re selling, you won’t meet your growth targets.
• Making sure you have enough time to continue the day-to-day tasks of running your business – which will of course grow as the business does.
• Cash flow – will you have enough free money to reinvest, and take wages out for yourself? If you invest all of your spare money in stock, will you be able to run the business while you’re waiting for those first sales?
Plan it out
First, understand what you want – and write down measurable aims so that you can judge how successful you’ve been. Now make commitments for things you’re going to do to get there – covering all of the aspects of your business listed above. Real commitments, for example, “I will make 3 interesting tweets per day”, will be more useful than abstract aims like, “I will get 5 “retweets” per week” – which is more difficult to ensure.
Having a plan will give you a structure to work within, helping you to decide which tasks are most important, and come up with new ideas for improving your business. Being able to look back and see which commitments and aims you have achieved will also help to give you a lift on those days when you feel the low selling blues creeping back.
Below is a summary of what this series has covered – with ideas actions you could take to get rid of your future bouts of low selling blues:
• Realise how far you’ve come.
• Realise you’re not alone – and connect with people who are/have been where you are (low selling blues support group anyone?)
• Cheer up – then start taking actions.
• Think about how you can build upon your biggest asset – existing customers.
• Think about growth, growth, growth – bigger businesses automatically attract more customers – the no.1 cure for low selling blues!
• Make a plan, add structure to your working, and set yourself aims for the future.
Hannah has dedicated herself to helping others to experience the freedom of owning a successful online business. The advice provided in this series is a condensed extract from her e-book, 31Days2….Breathe Life into your Online Business – the antidote for a struggling online business. For regular advice and ideas for your business, follow her on Twitter @31days2.