Product Flow–Potential Hazards That Can Cripple Your Company?

Cargo containers, imported goods, dock, shipping, import, export, tariffs, global economy

Importing components, finished goods, or packaging from other countries can cause a hiccup in your supply chain.

Right now Coronavirus aka COVID-19 is taking over the news. The virus and the debate on if it is “just like the flu” or if it is the next death scourge pandemic is causing panic, shelves to be stripped of water, cleaning agents, toilet paper and canned goods. Major events on our radar, like South By Southwest (SXSW) and the American Quarter Horse Association convention, are being canceled, causing economic repercussions in cities such as Austin and Las Vegas, costing individuals and companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellation fees, which trickles down to airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. all losing money and fewer dollars in workers pockets. BUT, it brings up another side point. China is still being hit pretty hard with the virus, causing workers to be quarantined, and becoming too sick to work. When you have a product or component or packaging that is made in China….it may LITERALLY be on the slow boat or not coming at all.

Many companies, even if products are assembled or made in the US, import components from China. Electronics, sensors, plastic, metal, heating units, footwear, most tech clothing, etc. are all MOSTLY manufactured in China. Apple has already warned investors it will not hit sales targets this quarter as factories and stores in China are closed. But besides the obvious cell phone, iPad and printer that are made in Asia, have you considered that the packaging, labels (many times required by US law on food and apparel), fasteners (buttons, velcro), and even packaging tape, printer ink, or shopping bags are made in China? Think through your ENTIRE product life cycle, including marketing materials and packaging, fixtures, labels, packing materials and anything you purchase from an outside vendor. Could factory and shipping delays from China potentially interfere with YOU getting your product out the door and money in your bank? If you can’t ship completed product on time, will you lose sales? For retail stores, where is your product coming from? If you can’t fill your fixtures, what will you replace it with? Something mundane like packaging may seem silly, but if you can’t ship your product correctly and it’s damaged, what will you find for an alternative? Do you have an alternative printer for your labels if they are required on your product?

According to Economist Sung Won Sohn of Loyola Marymount University, the virus outbreak, along with the Trade War, are causing some US Companies to rethink their reliance on Chinese suppliers (All Things Considered, 2/20/2020), and consider shifting the supply chain to other parts of the world, which may increase costs. I might argue that cutting costs in the short term by using overseas suppliers may not pan out so good in the long term when you’re crippled by a missing piece of the puzzle and can’t ship or sell.

Many of my clients are running into issues with components of their process, not necessarily the end product. Steel, velcro, neoprene, and plastic supplement buckets all come on the boat. So does bubble wrap, ziplock bags, and printer ink. Now may be the time to find alternative producers, less packaging, and not put all your suppliers in one boat. Because that boat may be a long time coming.


Social Media: It’s Not The Beginning OR The End

With the proliferation of social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc etc etc. many people have been lucky enough to have success with a DIY and shotgun approach to marketing. Many people think “let’s just throw up some posts and we will get sales!” or “we don’t even need a website, they are expensive and take too long!” While some small products or at home businesses can maybe have ann exciting surge of recognition if they have a great product, social media isn’t the beginning or the end of marketing or sales.

It’s not the beginning. What do I mean by that? Well, what are you going to post? Have you thought about a name for your product? Have you researched it to make sure it isn’t similar to a competitor? Already used? Hard to spell or pronounce? Have odd or off-putting connotations? Do you have a professional looking logo that people will recognize (it’s hard to change this later)? Do you have brand colors and font?(You do know that colors and fonts give feelings about your product and service which impact sales, right?) Do you know your target audience and what they respond to? Do you have this all written down so that you have a map to follow?

You have to have a look, feel, good product photos (not snapshots), and a place to take people’s money. What content plan do you have? Social media is EASY to do, not so easy to plan and monetize.

So when I say social media isn’t the beginning, I like folks to know what they are going to post and have a plan so that they can stay true to their LOOK, FEEL, BRAND, and also be able to TAKE MONEY.

Social Media isn’t the END either. Social media is a great tool. But it isn’t FREE, and soon most folks find out that consistently posting quality photos, content, and VIDEO (pro video is huge here!) is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to maximize marketing, social media should just be part of an INTEGRATED campaign for your company or product. Let me know if I can help guide you. If you like posting, I like building content plans.

Strategic: What Does This Mean?

I get hired a lot when clients don’t know what to do. Maybe they see a decline in business, or a stagnation, or they are just starting business, and they don’t know what to do. Many times this reflects that they are just so busy doing “their thing” that they have sort of let the rest of the BUSINESS part of their business fall to reactive vs. proactive.

I like to look down the road with them to decide what the road looks like. I try to seek out opportunities for them in the future and guide them to how best prepare for that opportunity. Usually, reactive marketing or reactive strategy doesn’t position you or your product in the best place to gain from opportunities. If someone called you today and said they had a FREE opportunity, would you be prepared? Do you have readily available logos in different sizes? A cohesive array of print ads that can be sized? Promotional materials that can be emailed/sent? Copyright free professional images of you, your products, your building, your endorsees?

Those are tangible things, but many of my clients don’t have a customer in mind. They do their thing, build their product, without having a clear idea of how they will sell it or to whom. Or if their audience even wants or can afford (or find) their item.

In this day of business, it is pretty imperative to have a website or social media account that is up to date and reflects your brand. Also, it is important to manage your online brand presence coming from others. Building all the pieces of your business, your reputation, your imagery, etc etc etc is all key for positioning yourself in the best possible light.

Looking ahead and planning for the future (and potential potholes) is key on any journey, especially with your products, your brand, and your business. Call me to help you develop your road map and prepare you for the future.

How to Work the Denver Market

It’s that time of year again, the Western & English Sales Association January Market, aka Denver Market time. When all of the major western manufacturers gather in Colorado to showcase their wares for the next year to the eager buyers from retail stores all over the world.

If you’re a buyer, how do you navigate the vast floors of mind boggling apparel and tack and jewelry and get anything accomplished? Well, first off, know that there is a lot to see, and the western folks are very hospitable, so you’re going to end up spending more time in some rooms than others, as they have nice lunches and beverages and more comfortable chairs.

If your store carries tack and clothing, you have double the work cut out for you. Make sure you have a plan of which brands you MUST see first, and try to schedule appointments. If you can schedule your tack appointments on one day and apparel on another, you will save time, as most tack brands are in the temps (temporary rooms in the outlying buildings) and most of the major clothing and boot companies are in the “permanents” in the 4 story building. (note, these guys are the ones with the cushy chairs, tvs, and lunch). Try to schedule a whole afternoon if not day to walk around and see what is new that you haven’t seen before, but make sure to hit your “big buys” early to get your choices before a popular item is booked up.

Take notes, which is easier with cell phones. Always ASK BEFORE TAKING PHOTOS. These companies are very protective of their designs, as many of these are samples and haven’t been produced yet. If you’re buying an item, you should be able to take photos. If you haven’t set up an account, they probably won’t let you take a photo. This is a good way to get kicked out of a room.  Keep copies of your orders, things get chaotic during the market and you will forget what you committed to and what you were going to come back and see over again.

I like to leave a day or at least an afternoon open to re-visit any booths that were too busy, or you needed time to consider, or to do your cash and carry personal shopping. Or even to visit with friends! You never know what comes up and no one wants to forget something.

Make sure you hydrate! Denver is really a mile high, and is very very dry. If you participate in the night time activities (there are lots of parties, dinners, concerts, etc), you REALLY need to hydrate. Really. Walk and water, people. Walk and water. Pick up any healthy or protein type snacks you may see, you don’t know when you will find them again and the chips and chocolate are much more plentiful.

Wear layers. The Mart is notorious for having terrible temperature control. Some rooms are freezing and some are boiling. Comfy shoes are nice, but we all know we want to wear our most fashionable western wear. There is nothing that is too much for this crowd. Leather with sequins and fur and turquoise all at the same time is really the norm. There is a coat/bag check located in between the buildings, and sitting areas around the first floor, as well as a couple on each floor around the atrium in the 4 story building.

Denver is a great city with amazing food options, the National Western Stock Show is going on at the same time, and be sure to check out the remodeled Union Station if you go downtown.

Make the most out of your market by preparing ahead of time things that have sold well, researching brands or companies online, making a list, setting appointments, and leaving plenty of free time in between to search out new companies and to enjoy Denver and visiting with old and new friends!

Be Prepared for Press

Vintage Typewriter for writing articles

I write freelance articles. Sometimes on the behalf of clients, sometimes just because I’m interested in a subject and pitch to magazines. It’s not lucrative but its fun sometimes. I interview many companies and service providers. I like to give them ample time to prepare, often by inquiring via email ahead of time to set up an interview. I do my due diligence to research them or their company or product as much as possible. Some people are prepared and some aren’t. Guess who gets more accurate “free publicity” and marketing benefit out of my articles? Guess who I use again and again when I can? Guess who I pass work or sales referrals to?

It is important that you are prepared for press, whether you are seeking it out proactively, or not. What does this mean? Know your product, sit and write down the main “talking points” or features of your business, product, or service. Know what you WANT to get across about your brand. Be prepared to discuss your features and how you are different than a competitor. You don’t want to bad mouth a competitor, but know how you are different, this is important for your marketing as well! Plan what you want to say, and if given notice, do a little research into the publication’s target audience (or ask the interviewer) so you know how to position your remarks and what would be the best to focus on.

Here is a big one: have photos ready to send, where you can find them easily. Professional, high resolution photos. Especially important with products, but equally of you, if you are your business. Print publications need high resolution. This means MB size files, not kb size files. Ask the interviewer if they need or want photos, be proactive in providing those in a timely fashion. Pictures are definitely worth 1,000 words, and if you have an image to go with an article, it really boosts your impact out of a free marketing and PR tool.

Press, whether online or in print, can go a long way to reaching new people as well as give you credibility as an expert. But it is very important to get as much out of these opportunities as possible, and make yourself useful to the writer so that they think of you in the future. I’ve written product based articles, and then circled back and featured or pitched a business owner in a lifestyle piece later because they were pleasant, eloquent, and made my job easy. Think about how you’re interesting, as everyone has different angles. And be sure and stockpile some bullet points and photos ahead of time so you’re ready. After you gather these things up, you may want to pitch yourself or your product for some articles!