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!

 

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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

Feeling inadequate….?

If you’re feeling inadequate when comparing yourself or your business to others, my first point to make is don’t do that, but if you must, make sure you know the full story as often, what you see on the surface is very different to the reality of the situation.

I was in the gym this morning (I like saying that, don’t get to do it that often). I tried out a new piece of equipment, a bit like the elliptical trainer but your feet go side to side not round and round, anyway, it’s kind of weird but good for your thighs! The machine started on a nice middle level 5, it was hard, really hard, thigh burningly can’t get your breath hard, after 5 mins I wanted to quit but I didn’t. The lady next to me had been on her machine before I started and was powering away, she had a great rhythm going and didn’t seem to be struggling much. I thought maybe she’s on a really low level, maybe she just looks like she’s really fit but no, I snuck a little look at her machine, made sure I knew where to look on the screen so I wouldn’t be seen nosying and guess what, she was on level 14!!! Wow, did I feel inadequate??

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But then I started thinking, I have no idea whether or not this lady is a semi professional athlete. She could be well into training for some kind of endurance challenge, she could have been training all her life and she’s just well, amazingly fit and healthy. The truth is, I didn’t know and I still don’t, I didn’t have enough breath left to strike up a conversation with her, staying upright was challenge enough for me at that point! I don’t know her back -story, I don’t know her journey, her history meaning I can’t compare her performance on the crazy exercise machine with mine.

In a similar way with business, you can’t compare your journey and where you are on your journey with other businesses until you know the full story. It might look like a company has achieved and amazing overnight success (I did a blog about that previously)  but you don’t know on the surface how many years have gone into that ‘overnight’ success!

I had the privilege of listening to one such business last week. Their rise to mainstream brand awareness and their awe inspiring increase in turnover from a few thousand pounds to over half a million in 18 months seemed so incredible it was almost deflating for those who haven’t managed that yet. Listening to all the elements of business that they have had to become experts in such as manufacturing, importing, exporting, licensing, social media and so many other crucial business areas I felt overwhelmed and very inadequate that I had not managed half of the things they had. While I was feeling shockingly deflated at my own lack of experience and expertise gained in my two and a half years of running Lubylu full time I heard something crucial to the story. The business owner had actually been in business for over 20 years! They were,  in their own words a ‘serial entrepreneur’. Light bulb moment for me, I lifted my head, a smile grew as I realised that their current and no doubt ongoing success is actually the culmination of 20 years experience in various business. It’s not just the 18 months in the current business, it’s the result of all the lessons learned along the way. There have no doubt been many other successes and probably a few failures too but it suddenly made me realise that I’m not behind the curve, I’m not lagging behind I am in fact right on track. It’s my track, my journey and to quote the famous Desiderata poem ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’.

It’s only natural that we compare ourselves to others and in some respects it’s useful to provide us with a level of healthy competition, but you must remember to make sure you know the full story. If you compare apples with potatoes, the potatoes will always come out looking a bit odd and bumpy!

Lucy, Chief Glitter Sprinkler at Lubylu Ltd

http://www.lubylu.com

 

Turning a negative into positive motivation.

I know as part of my ‘e-spark’ journey I will be asked to look at my motivation for wanting a place on the programme and a desk in the Hub and it got me thinking as to why I feel Lubylu® and I deserve the opportunity.

I can’t move too far away from the fact that for quite a while now I have known deep down in my soul that Lubylu® is destined to be a well-known household name brand in the world of home fragrance and possibly even bath and body. I know that Lubylu® will achieve respect for what is created, how the business is run and the support and opportunities that will be afforded to others, but there’s something else, something a little more personal if I’m honest.

I want to do it just to bloody well show that I can! To prove to people that a business where you make lovely scented products, create beautiful bath body and home décor items and basically have fun with fragrance, colour and glitter can have a significantly positive economic and social impact on the community. I wanted to show that I can run a business and that I can do it well. I am proud of what I have achieved so far and I’m even learning to be quite vocal about how proud I am of myself and my business.

A comment was made to me quite innocently back in summer of 2016 when I moved into my lovely new workshop / office at Church Fenton. It was a huge step for me, now I have actual bills to pay and what was essentially a hobby business became a proper ‘grown up’ business that has to make money to keep going. One of the guys from one of the other businesses, a much more well established business, in that actually employs people and have engineers and everything, threw away a comment to me in chatting of ‘I assume your business isn’t one that pays the bills for your family’. Now I know he didn’t mean to be condescending or to devalue my business at all, he really didn’t see that what he said was negative but it made me take a step back, deep breath and politely reply that my business does OK thanks and I very much enjoy what I do. I couldn’t think of much else to say without going into the details of how Mr P and I split our family finances and I don’t really see that as anyone else’s concern.

This negative comment and assumption that Lubylu® is just a ‘little’ business that me, as the wife, potters about at just to keep me busy, has spurred me on to prove him and anyone else who thinks that wrong. It’s made me even more determined that one day soon Lubylu® will be a desirable sought after product and brand, one of the ones that people recommend to their friends and love giving as gifts.

It seems that I’ll have quite a bit to say when I’m next asked what my motivation for developing Lubylu® is! 😉

Lucy
Chief Glitter Sprinkler
Lubylu Ltd
www.lubylu.com

I am the very definition of success

Well, I am to me anyway. I defined my own criteria for what success means to me at the moment and I am achieving it, and that is what it’s all about!

I don’t drive a fancy car, we don’t live in a house with 5 bathrooms (which just means more to clean by the way), a swimming pool and we don’t take exotic holidays. I do however,  take my daughter to school everyday and collect her (unless she’s going to Grandma’s). I know the names of her BFF’s, her teachers and most of the parents’ names in the playground. I take her to dancing and tennis, we go shopping, we do homework together (maths is for her dad to help with, that’s not my strong point) and of course we do lots of crafty stuff. On top of all of that, I run a business that I love and never experience “Monday Morning Moroseness”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all of the above is necessary for success and happiness for everyone but it is what matters to me. When I decided to leave the corporate world the plan was to be able to build the business fast enough that I could pay myself a reasonable wage but slowly enough that I could still enjoy the years when Pipsqueak actually wants and needs me around and not just for lifts or cash!

I think too many people place too much emphasis on things that don’t matter, such as the cars, the holidays, the clothes and being seen out in the right places with the ‘right’ people. If that is what genuinely makes you happy then great, that’s wonderful, but deep down inside if these ‘things’ are not making you feel truly fulfilled, if you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next best thing to complete your life, stop, take time to work out what you really want to be doing.

Once you can picture what it is you want, it’s far easier to achieve it and it’s not a static, fixed situation either. Your success criteria today can be very different from those in the future, but by being realistic you stand a much better chance of achieving your goals.

I have great plans for Lubylu in the future and the work I do now is all geared towards where I want the business to be in 5 years, 10 years even 20 years time. I have some very specific goals and success criteria, one of which, I don’t mind admitting, is to be able to fly to New York, First Class, without worrying about the cost! I want to enjoy the experience for what it is and not begrudge the ticket price. I know this seems to go against what I’ve said before but I don’t want to be able to do it because other people are doing it, I want to do it as it’s always portrayed as such a wonderful way to fly and I really want to go to New York!

I think what I’m trying to say is that if you judge your own success by other peoples’ criteria you will almost always be disappointed and that in itself is an inhibitor to success. If you set your own realistic goals, dreams and aspirations you stand a much better chance of seeing yourself as a success and as such you will be much happier in a better mind set to achieve more!