This article is something that I originally wrote for my old Southern Soapers forum in response to customers asking how I built BloomWorks Soap Company. These five things are what I felt were the most important elements of growing my, or any Soap or Bath & Body business.
I have updated this 2003 article to include not only Google page ranking aspects, but also social media that has since exploded, as well as some of the new marketing tools that potential customers with Smart Phones have at their fingertips.
Real paper and honest face to face time (even via Skype or Youtube videos!) are still the core to creating authenticity for gaining and sustaining customer trust though, and this is still a key component for these 5 most important business tips.
My five key tips for any business, regardless of what you might be selling are:
1. Pay a professional to do your website. It is an investment, the “E-retail” image you will convey. It is also easier to hurt the feelings of a designer you are paying, than hurt the feelings of a relative you still have to live with. It is easier to be demanding and exacting so that you get what you really want as your company image. You can get a quality website from many designers, as little as $300 to as much as $3500, depending on level of design, features, complexity, and shopping cart functionality suited for your needs.
2. Invest in Quality Labeling/Packaging. Get a good color laser printer and get nice clear, glossy, or matte waterproof labels. Your label and packaging will not only be your first impression made to a buyer, but also your foot in the door to many opportunities. Invest in the most professional presentation of your product that you can afford. Each labeled product is your company ambassador in bathrooms and homes all over, hopefully flung far and wide!
3. Front Load your profit margin. Buy fixed oils, essential oils, and other raw ingredients and supplies in bulk. 50% of your profit margin is tied to the buying side of your business. Money not spent is money in the bank.
4. Cost in your Time, and Work Smart. The opportunity cost of what you would be doing otherwise, in conjunction to what you would have to pay in wages for another to do it when you can no longer do everything on your own, is a good rule of thumb. Set your processes up so that you are using your time at maximum efficiency. Stop and review your highest expenses each month. Evaluate and streamline your time. That is where you will also find a large hidden profit center: Use of one’s time… Less time used means less cost per bar, in turn resulting in higher profit margin.
5. Market Yourself and Your Product. Start with products you love, believe in, and can get ‘Religiously Fanatical’ about. Beware of spreading yourself too thin, do what you do best! I advise new business owners to select a maximum of 5 products to sell (example: soap, scrub, bath bombs, lotion, lip balms). Push for the highest price per ounce that the market will bear on those products, so that when you do offer discounts, the ‘discount’ is really the initial price you might have been willing to settle for! Remember, you can never compete on price alone, there will always be someone willing to undercut you. Promote your products with a price that reflects their exclusive nature.
Build attractive Marketing materials. Even if you do not have an artistic bone in your body, you can find polished templates at places like Vista Print. Decide if you are going to be strictly Retail, Wholesale, or a combination of both. Choose a cohesive color scheme, logo, and “theme” for your business and marketing materials. This should reflect well what your products and business are trying to project. Create a business card. Develop a series of branded collateral (marketing) materials that include possibly a glossy, two sided company presentation, or showcase sheet, a tri fold brochure on your products, a post card that can be sent to special loyal customers on their birthday, and a sell sheet (if you are wholesale).
Use QR codes on your business cards and flyers so that the Smart Phone Savvy will use this function to immediately use them to “like” you on Facebook, sign up for your newsletter, and/or access a Coupon you might be promoting.
Use good search engine optimization practices; join the Handmade Soap & Cosmetics Guild and/or the Indie Business Network professional trade associations. Connect with the Social Media channels. Be sure to create links from higher Goggle page ranking sites that will market your product to prospective buyers, not just industry peers. The Handmade Soap & Cosmetics Guild, The Indie Business Network, the Real Handmade Soap Index, all have ‘authoritative’ Goggle Page Ranks of 5 or greater.
Generally the average soap website falls at 1, 2 or 3… on a scale of 1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest. Etsy has a 9. Seek to link with websites that have higher page ranks than your own. Keep in mind that forwards and redirects from your main index.html page to a /cart or /store landing will show a deduction of one full rank point from your page ranking of the /cart or /store website level, but that your website will still benefit from the overall network effect in Google Search returns from the higher index.html page rank score. You just will not get to see it due to the redirect. Don’t try to figure Google out, they change too frequently. Just concentrate on a quality presence in a variety of advertising venues.
You can go to Google.com and download the page rank tool and install it on your toolbar, it will show you PR on every website you visit, if they have a PR.
Last, I would recommend using customer testimonials, Blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon and other social networking tools to build and extend your web of network and social media links. Each link to your business in the blogosphere and internet creates a new interstitial connection to your business website. All auction listings, blog entries, and many public forum postings are indexed by Google and contribute to your website ranking. Create and Repeat ‘Talking Points’ in your signature files, blog posts, emails, and any blogosphere dialogues. Build your own news releases, press release, and online dialogue, even if no one else is ‘listening’ yet.
Gradually, you will increase in mass like a snowball rolling down a mountain, effectively creating your own true “Network Effect”.
Good luck and safe soap making from Soapalooza Soap Arts Studio, where soapmaking is an Art, an Adventure, and a Passion!
Kelly, Chief Excitement Officer at Soapalooza!
Kelly Bloom is the owner and Chief Excitement Officer at Soapalooza Soap Arts Studio, located in Williamsburg, VA. She is a former Science Education teacher, and the founder of Southern Soapers. Soapalooza sells Kelly’s formerly Southern Soapers branded fragrance oils now under the Soapalooza brand. Kelly is a 20 year veteran soapmaker and soap business owner, supplying wholesale soap for private label as well as back bar products for local boutique spas.
PS: We would LOVE to connect with your at our Facebook Soapalooza Fan Page We also have a Facebook Soapmaking Group called Soapalooza Soap Arts Studio, and we share lots of information there! We would love for you to join us!