Monday, April 29, 2013

My Pet Peeve and Your Marketing Mix

While owning and operating Penny’s Pastries I developed a pet peeve that to this day makes me cringe and want to correct the speaker. 

It’s all about the difference between cooking and baking.  If you're preparing something on top of the stove, that’s cooking.  If you're using your oven that’s baking; or I guess you could also roast but that’s not part of the pet peeve.

If someone asks me how long it takes to “cook the cake,” or “cook the cookies” for me it’s as annoying as running out of hot water when you're filling a tub, paper cuts or spending countless hours on a document that you forget to save; it drives me crazy.

If I gave myself the opportunity I could develop an annoyance around marketing plans.  But I choose not to because I'm much more interested in making a difference that empowers people.   

So often when entrepreneurs talk to me about marketing I quickly realize they are talking about promotion.  They are not talking about a formal, implementable strategy tethered to a budget. 

Maybe the easiest way to remember that marketing is more than promotion is to think in terms of the Marketing Mix. 

The Marketing Mix is a business fundamental that determines your product or service offering. Promotion is but one component of the marketing mix.

It’s old school but the easiest way to remember the components of marketing is to become familiar with the “P’s” of marketing.  I personally use 5 “P’s” for the marketing mix but for certain you’ll see formulas that use 4, 5 or 6 “P’s.”  I'm also aware of the 3 or 4 “C’s” making up the marketing mix but the “P’s” still work for me and they will for you too whether your business is product or service, online or physical.      

The 4 “P’s” that are consistent to the marketing mix are: product, price, placement (distribution) and promotion.  I add positioning to the mix; some add; people which is logical.     

There’s tons of information available to create your comprehensive marketing documents.  Of course look online for templates and discussions.  The city or college library remains a wonderful source for marketing books.  And don't forget microlenders and other nonprofits focused on entrepreneurship; these folks hold classes on a regular schedule that will benefit you. 

And as always don't forget MARGIN – comment and we’ll for certain answer your questions.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Listening for Luck

Late last year I was taking an early morning flight from Austin through Chicago with a final destination to Detroit.  Slowly snaking through security I pondered if I would be able to resist my favorite caramel corn at the fabulous Nuts on Clark shop during my layover at Chicago Midway.  Deep in my inner candy-coated popcorn turmoil I barely heard someone calling my name. 

“Excuse me; are you Penny from Penny’s Pastries?” I looked to my left and saw an attractive woman with short, curly hair and a warm smile attempting to roll a carryon case while holding hands with what I presumed were her elementary school-aged children.

“Yes I am, I responded.”  I owned a popular cookie bakery in Austin for many years and taught cookie classes all over the state for an equal number of years so her recognition came as no surprise.

With my response she looked at her kids and said, “This is the lady that created the cookie recipe we use to make our special decorated cookies.” 

I looked down and smiled at their sweet faces.  Meanwhile they looked up at me like their mom had just introduced them to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  Adorable

As we moved along the security line, the mom went on to tell me she had taken my cookie class years ago. Since that time she had used my roll and cut cookie recipe many times with great success. She went on to tell me of the elaborate Noah’s Ark she and the kids constructed yearly complete with multiple sets of animals, Noah’s family and of course the large boat. 

Sincerely I told her how happy it makes me that she and her family have so much fun with creating the cookies.  As the security line continued to advance, I quickly handed her my business card and invited her to send a message if she ever had a problem with the cookies. 

Later as I settled in for the flight I had a real aha moment about this woman and my cookies. 

Our signature line of cookies were the hand-decorated roll and cut cookies.  With a thriving wholesale business for this line we also built an impressive special order business, fetching a handsome per dozen price for the little masterpieces.

I always considered the cookie classes held at my wholesale accounts or at independent studios and shops as a clever way to promote this line.  And for certain some of my best cookie customer came out of these classes.  Not only do many people view cooking classes as entertainment, once they witnessed up close and personal the work that went into creating hand-decorated cookies they were more than happy to make the phone call to Penny’s Pastries. 

What I did not totally recognize (until my airplane aha moment) was a secondary group of people that could have developed into a powerful target market for Penny’s.  Those crafters were at the class to seriously learn how to make the cookies at home.  Like the woman at the airport, many of them were women with small children looking for at-home craft ideas, birthday party favors or ways to impress teachers and other parents at school potlucks and PTA meetings. 

If I'd been looking for opportunity this was indeed a potential market Penny’s Pastries could have exploited. If I had recognized these crafters as a potential market to be leveraged I could have created products to service them and perhaps created an income stream without the high labor costs associated with the decorated cookies.  Things like a collection of cookie cutters, cookbooks, gel colors, sanding sugars come to mind.   

It actually happens once we’ve been in business for a while.  We sort of stop looking and decide we know with some certainty who we’re serving; the profile of the target market. 

However we may want to take another look, or look a little closer; a new opportunity may be hiding within your market. 

It’s so easy to go on “auto pilot” especially when your Profit and Loss is healthy.  But the moral of the cookie story is to stay conscious and learn through listening.   

You never know; there may just be nuance to your target market that without closer inspection will go unnoticed. 

But if you noticed it could yield a harvest.      

Monday, April 15, 2013

Planning to Win

It’s hard not to think of money on tax day. 

As always I had my taxes prepared by my true friend and longtime accountant Ardra Alexander

I have to give Ardra a shout-out because she’s efficient, honest, discreet  smart, knowledgeable and absolutely passionate about numbers and spreadsheets.  Not only do I use her services but I’ve connected her with the majority of my clients.  She does a great job keeping them on their financial toes while making certain they file their taxes on time.

If tax talk is associated to money in my mind, money is for certain associated to budgets or what’s usually the case; the lack of budgets. 

I must say the whole conversation about budgets is so charged and loaded, isn't it?

How many entrepreneurs truly create a yearly budget that is the roadmap for their upcoming financial business activity?  How many of us can say for instance that the company projects it will increase its monthly marketing expenditure by $500.00 in June to maybe update the website?  

In other words we're not “winging it” and deciding on the spur of the moment to spend $500.00 on the website, we've actually budgeted for it and understand the need for increased revenue to cover the expenditure.  And if we do budget how many of us actually look at that budget on a monthly basis for financial guidance?     

Here are three really good reasons you might want to consider running your enterprise with a budget:     
       Planning. Planning sounds so boring until you actually do it.  I PLAN to exercise every morning and so I exercise every morning; which makes me feel fabulous and smart.  Budgeting is planning that shows us how to use our revenue to achieve a desired outcome.  So we get to feel fabulous and smart with a budget!  In addition, as we prepare the budget it makes us slow down and focus on what probable business expenses we'll face in the coming year so those issues don't show up as an unwanted surprise. 
      Cash Flow.  Which once again sounds so boring and isn't.  It’s really fun to have enough money to pay all our commitments in a timely manner without struggle.  With a budget we can identify cash flow shortages and determine when outflow is greater than revenue and make allowances. 
           Funding.  If we're looking to find money for our business from just about any source (family, credit union, microlender, etc.) they are going to ask for a budget.  How would they know if we could make the monthly commitment if they can't see a budget?  Looking for angel financing?  Same story.  And it’s not entirely about repayment – a budget indicates you're serious about the business and you put success systems in place because you expect victory.                      

Not sure how to create a budget?  Totally get it – for years I didn’t know how to create sound financial projections or budgets either.  I think this article may be helpful:

If you still have questions, post it and I'll respond. 

And if I'm uncertain I’ll ask Ardra to respond.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Actively Patient[1]

The night my water broke was memorable. 

I got out of bed to go the bathroom and like so many pregnant women was greeted with a mini flood of water splattering on the bathroom tile.  It was accompanied (of course) by pain deep in my stomach like no other pain I'd ever felt. 

I made it to the toilet in time to vomit and staggered back to the bedroom to give my ex-husband (who of course did not have an ex in front of his name at the time) the happy news that we needed to get to the hospital. . .fast. 

The labor pains came in huge uncontrollable waves all the way to the hospital.  By the time I was on the hospital gurney headed to the delivery room I heard an inner voice that I can clearly remember to this day. 

Through all the crazy cramping as I writhed in pain on the fast moving bed zooming toward the delivery room with a frantic camera-holding husband by my side I heard the voice of wisdom (that incidentally sounded very much like my own voice when I'm much calmer.) 

This voice delivered an important message; “You can do this the easy way or you can do this the hard way.”  It went on to say, “My suggestion is you take a very deep breath, calm down and let whatever is going to happen, happen.” 

Wow!  What a thought. The advice was delivered with such clarity, such wisdom that it made an instant connection with my personal power.  Wisely I decided to heed its advice.  

The pain, while still there, reduced immediately and I felt calm and controlled.  Very quickly I delivered two healthy baby boys while my ex snapped an unbelievable number of shots all from very curious angles.  

My experience is that business at times seems like childbirth.  The process can become so overwhelming we want to push when it’s simply not time to push.  We want to go against the natural rhythm and make things happen before their time. 

I've learned (and relearned) the lesson from my inner wisdom; we can do it the hard way or the easy way. 

Learn to be actively patient.  Stay focused, stay strategic, optimistic and passionately persevere even in the face of what feels like delay.  

I know it’s not new and probably not popular in this get-it-done-yesterday mindset but indeed patience is a virtue worth cultivating. 

[1] This post is dedicated to my poet friend Gladys Bullock who coined the term; actively patient.  I love it and use it with abandon.  Thanks Gladys.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Trust me. . .it works

Did I ever mention I’m a lifetime, card-carrying member of Weight Watchers™?  Probably not.  It’s not the type of thing I bring up on a regular basis.  Not very interesting really. 

Except I learned a fabulous business lesson there.

A Weight Watcher™ instructor said something to me that I pass along to you.  It’s helped in my never-ending journey to develop the skills to get things done. 

I’d gone one Saturday morning to weigh in and sit through the morning class.  If you've ever been to a Weight Watcher™ meeting you know this drill.  The key, of course is you want to register a weight loss, so you’re stripped down to almost your bra and panties and a pair of flip-flops, acting as if this is normal behavior for an adult woman.  There you stand online, patiently/nervously waiting your turn to be weighed.   It’s like a butcher shop; except the pound of flesh that’s on the scale just happens to be yours. 

Anyway at this particular weigh-in things didn't go my way.  The scale didn't go down; actually I think I’d gained a pound.  This was very crazy-making for me because the week prior to the weigh-in I’d done that obsessive thing I’m known for, following the program to the letter.  Never once did I substitute a fruit for a vegetable or drink an iced tea and call it part of my water count.  And yet I had gained. 

Indignant and beyond conciliation I told my instructor how utterly disappointed I was.  Dramatically I poured out my chubby little heart pondering the point of going on if this was what I could expect. 

Calmly she said, “Penny do you believe the program works?  Do you accept as true the Weight Watcher program?” 

“Yes,” I whispered. 

“Alright then,” she said.  So we’re not going to question our overall strategy for weight loss.  We’re going to look at your food journal from last week and see if we need to tweak something to give you a better result next week.  

And there you have it; the crazy-fabulous business lesson.

Believe in your strategy. 

Don’t shift the strategy just because you've had a bad day, week or month.  Don’t throw the strategy away because it feels harder than you thought it would.  Don’t become defeated because actually doing the strategy is harder than writing the strategy.   

Tweak.  Adjust.  Fine-tune.  Amend.  But stay the course. 

Do you remember I said I’m a lifetime member of Weight Watchers™?  You become a lifetime member by reaching your goal weight.

The program works.   And so does your business strategy.