You don’t have to go and live in an organic hand knitted Yurt to do your bit for the environment!

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We all want to do our bit for the environment, we care about the future of the planet and what kind of a world we are leaving for our kids. For some of us it bothers us that we seem to take our endless supplies of material goods for granted. We buy new clothes instead of mending old ones but then the clothes we buy aren’t made to last. We waste food because it’s Friday and the label says best before Wednesday, we even buy new electrical items and furniture because the broken TV can’t be fixed and the skills to mend a chair leg haven’t been passed down through the generations….

The problem is that when we try to do ‘our bit’ it sometimes feels like our small efforts are going to waste and will have no impact at all. When you see lorries churning out great plumes of fumes as they trundle through our cities you wonder why you’ve made the effort to get public transport, when you imagine the amount of electricity used to power the lighting at a major sporting event you wonder why you bothered switching to low energy light bulbs in your home. It reminds me a sketch by comedian Sean Lock who talks about rinsing out his Marmite jar before taking it to the recycling depot being akin to turning up the aftermath of a volcanic eruption offering to help clean up the ash with a dust pan and brush… it seems too little too late.

The other side of this though is that if everyone took the time and the effort to make small changes in their daily routines, their actions would soon amount to a very large difference. If everyone recycled all their glassware, used low energy light bulbs and tried to make the most of all the food they bought, the positive impact would soon be felt. The same goes for our choices of packaging materials.

If we all made the effort to buy products that come in recycled and recyclable packaging and resisted buying the fancy products in glossy hardboard boxes with plastic wrapping not only would this have an immediate positive impact but it would also start to make the companies that sell products in none environmentally friendly packaging think long and hard about what consumers actually want. It’s one of those things that seems hard to do at first, a bit like when the carrier bag charge was introduced at the supermarkets; we all though it’d be a hassle making sure we had our carrier bags with us and for a while, yes, we did take them and then leave them in the car, but it’s now become habit and it’s sparked a whole new range of reusable shopping bags. It’s almost looked down upon now to answer ‘yes’ when the person on the checkout asks if you need any bags! The same can happen with product packaging that clogs up your cupboards and landfill sites.

As consumers, if we make positive, ethical choices about which products we buy based on what’s important to us, at some point those issues will become important to the manufacturers and notice will be taken. Increasing numbers of products are now available with recycled, recyclable or even re-useable packaging. This is one of the reasons I have focused one of the main elements of the Lubylu brand to be ‘ethical luxury’. We can still have the nice things in life, the treats and the luxury goods but we can now look for ones that have a positive impact on our ‘world’. Lubylu handmade home fragrance products come in packaging that is either recycled, recyclable or re-usable or all three. It’s important to me that my customers feel good about their choices and you don’t have to live in an organic, hand knitted yurt, to have a positive impact on the world around you, just buy your luxury soy wax candle from Lubylu!!

Lucy Pimblott, Owner, Lubylu Ltd

www.lubylu.com

Why analytics is ruining your small business.

As a small business owner we’re constantly told that we can look at the stats for pretty much everything we do and how insightful and useful they will be to us. Well, possibly controversially, I have to tell you it’s not true!

There is a fantastic amount of data out there readily available to us. The insights provided on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest, not forgetting of course Google Analytics, is mind blowing, seriously, even if you’ve ever looked at the information available I would bet that you’ve not experienced the full plethora of data and have only really scratched the surface.

We’re constantly told by all the social media gurus and the marketing experts (whose adverts conveniently pop upon Facebook when we have just looked at our stats) that we should, no we must use all the analytics and insights available to us in order to have a successful business and to drive our market influence to a point where people come to us. We are coerced into looking at graphs, economic, social, geographical, heck even psycho-graphic demographics, and are made to feel slightly inferior if we haven’t analysed our analysis to a point of exhaustion. If you don’t know the exact time of day that your best customers (and you know who they are through extensive analysis of your customer base) are on your pages and website you’re domed to fail. You’re expected to know which channel they prefer to buy your services from, what other business they like to interact with, what they had for breakfast, what newspaper they read and that their dog is called Fred. And that’s the problem.

There is so much information out there that it’s easy to get bogged down in the numbers, the graphs, the analytics, the collection and presentation of the information. Don’t get me wrong, I love these sorts of numbers, the power they have to help consumers find the exact right product, at the right price, in the right place at the right time for them is incredible. The ability for businesses to be able to use information to target their products and the marketing of them to an audience who not only wants them but has a need for them is overwhelmingly exciting for me. The power of data is phenomenal and with my history as a database marketer it’s no surprise that I love this sort of information but it used to be my full time job to collect, analyse and present and make decisions on this sort of data, now it’s a small part of all the other jobs I have to do in order to run my own small business.

I’ve done it myself, I’ve thought I’ll have a look at my Google Analytics, see where my website traffic is coming from and who they are. Or maybe even looked at my Facebook page analysis to verify who interacts with Lubylu on there. Whilst it’s important to keep a check on the high level information, I’ve been known to think I’ll just create a spreadsheet for the data so I can analyse the trends going forward. I’ll just colour code those columns and cells in the spreadsheet and then maybe even add a conditional format and throw in a pivot table to aid with my analysis later on. The problem is at this point I’ve probably wasted half a day, time I should have been either making candles, ordering new supplies or actually contacting customers and maybe even trying to actually grow my customer base. Analytics can be used as distraction technique, one which you can pretend to yourself isn’t actually a waste of time and in fact it’s something you practically have to do in order to survive the bear pit of a market place out there. I call this ‘Procrastination Analysis’!

It reminds me of when I was studying for my ‘A’ levels and the lengths I would go to to create the most beautiful revision timetable. This was in the days before computers took over everything graphic so it was all hand done, multi-coloured pens were used to co-ordinate topics and subjects, stickers, drawings, plans were made, themes were introduced and be called revision. It wasn’t of course, it was a delaying tactic to try and put off the studying of the Tudors and the Stewarts and the European Wars of Religion and other such subjects that were never going to be as interesting as who was doing what with whom in the 6th form common room!

As small business owners we have a finite amount of time to get everything done. The team running the business is often very limited and the number of tasks that need to be done very large. Whilst data is your friend and it is necessary that you have an understanding of what is available to you, how to use it and a high level knowledge of some of the key insights, it’s not necessary for small business owners to spend their very valuable time and effort trying to get to grips with data that wont help them make their day to day decisions.

The key element for me is to ask ‘What decision will I make from this information?’ If the data available to you is really just of interest and it’s not going to impact how you market your product, the strategy of your business or even your product design going forward then I would suggest that spending time on them is ruining your business.

Lucy Pimblott,

Owner of Lubylu Ltd ethical home fragrance products and previously a data geek!

 

Be proud of your prices

We all know in our hearts that in general, you get what you pay for and so the cheapest isn’t always the best yet we find ourselves falling into the price trap with our products and services, we undersell ourselves.

As the owner of a small business it’s easy to think that you have to be the cheapest at whatever it is you do in order to get sales. In these days where the media are constantly telling us that even though we’re out of latest economic crisis we still need to hold onto our spare cash, it makes us as small businesses owners feel so obliged to every single customer that we then feel the need to add an extra discount or to offer additional products for the same price. Whilst exceptional customer service is a great way forward, losing margin and therefore profit, is not a viable way to run any business.

I see so many people who are competing on price when looking to gain new business and it’s simply not a sustainable way to generate value in your business. If you don’t hold your business in high enough esteem to charge a proper price for your products or services, how can you expect other people to?

I’ve heard it say for those in the service industry that if one in ten people don’t tell you you’re too expensive then you’re too cheap. I actually think it should be more like 1 in 5 but the point is that in order for you be able to create value for someone else they have to see what you do as valuable.

Those of us who make products to sell have no way of manufacturing in this country, let alone hand making items, at a price point that can compete with the pound shops and value emporiums, and that’s not a bad thing. A recent predictions report from Positive Luxury claims that the central pillars of luxury brands are consistent in that consumers expect a high level of quality, the craftsmanship has to be exquisite and the provenance, the story behind the brand and the products must be authentic. It’s this story though that I see as the pivotal change when it comes to UK handmade creations and the place where we can add value and in so doing, charge what we are worth.

Increasing numbers of consumers want the story behind the products to be an ethical one, they want their purchases to support the UK marketplace more than ever and are prepared to pay a little bit more to have those products. If your work is too cheap there is a danger that consumers won’t believe that it is actually your work, you’ll have priced yourself out of the market in a completely different way!

There are various formulas that are banded about regarding how to calculate your prices, your worth so to speak and yes, there are costs that need to be covered to ensure you can stay in business but it’s not a simple formula to accurately value your products at a price that consumers will pay and that you are happy to receive. There is time and effort involved along with measuring, assessing and analysing what pricing structures work for you and your business and don’t forget it is an evolving process, one which you need to be on top of. It’s not a quick win and there is no perfect solution for all, what I will say though is, it’s always easier to reduce a price or run an offer than it is to increase a price….

Lucy Pimblott, Owner and Chief Glitter Sprinkler at Lubylu Ltd

lucy@lubylu.com www.lubylu.com

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How to survive a really crap week…!

Last week was just that, a really crap week! I can’t put my finger on exactly why but for a variety of different reasons I didn’t achieve what I’d hoped to, I didn’t have that ‘wow’ passionate feeling about my business choices all week, I know I focused far too much on what other people were doing and how they seemed to be achieving goal after goal as if they were lined up at a net without a keeper. But do you know what, it’s OK?!

It really is, and I’d have to say that my one success of the week is that I have come out of it knowing that whilst it was a crap week, I know it’s just one week out of my journey and one week will not define the experience or my success.

I don’t want you to think I’m doing the dramatic ‘aww poor me’ attention seeking thing that so many people do, I want to explain why having a bad day, week or even month is OK, in fact, it’s probably a good thing. Sounds daft I know but allowing yourself to experience periods when you’re not so buoyantly enthusiastic about everything means that you value it all the more when you are and when you genuinely feel it.

If next week is just as bad or worse, I will have to look at why and investigate what I’m doing that I could change. Notice I’ve placed the emphasis on me and making a change not what I’m doing wrong. It’s important that we recognise that as small business one of our main superpowers is that we have ultimate decision making capacity, we are in charge of our own destiny. Each decision doesn’t have to be scrutinised by middle management in different departments only to be lost on a senior manager’s desk for sign off, no, we can make a decision and make it happen!

Also, I said ‘change’ not ‘what I’m doing wrong’ as I don’t believe that it is healthy or beneficial to small businesses to view things that aren’t going exactly to plan as things that they have done wrong, beating yourself up about situations that have occurred even though you used your best judgement at the time will simply leave a negative trace on your emotions about your business. It’s best to accept that they are just not working for the business at that point in time and it’s time to work out what needs changing and to implement that change with the minimum of fuss. On the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and according to the principals in “The Lean Start-up” by Eric Rees, it’s called pivoting. Whatever you call it, it’s crucial to be constantly analysing your small business to see what’s working for you and for your customers and being open to changing what isn’t.

We have the power to fix a situation, to make a decision and implement it quickly so let’s use it! Have a great week…

Lucy

Lubylu Ltd www.lubylu.com