When a consumer buys a product, he has an expectation that it will perform its intended function when he gets it home. This is true whether the product has a written guarantee or not. What’s more, if it doesn’t work, the product will likely be returned for an exchange or refund.
Small businesses deal with these issues all the time and you may already have a way of handling them that works well for you. If that’s the case, there’s probably no need to change your current policies. This article addresses some of the common themes relating to product performance and customer expectations.
A guarantee is a legally enforceable promise that something will perform for a specified period of time, and will provide a certain benefit based on its content and quality. It originates with the manufacturer and passes through to the consumer through distributors and retailers. Guarantees come in a variety of forms, so it’s important that any guarantee you offer is clearly spelled out. Here are a few examples:
If you haven’t done so already, now’s a great time to consider opening an online store to reach more customers.
According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, the percentage of people who shopped online over the weekend after Thanksgiving (which includes “Black Friday,” but not “Cyber Monday”) rose 15.2 percent over 2009, to 33.6 percent this year. And the Cyber Monday numbers were up, too: 106.9 million Americans ordered online that day (source: Shop.org survey). While those are the annual heavy-lifting days for retailers, it does go to show that a lot of people let their fingers do the walking… to the keyboards of their computers or smartphones.
While a full page spread in The New York Times may be out of the question for most of us, many artisan businesses can afford web site advertising, which is usually cheaper and more targeted than print ads. And many web sites, in this tough economy, may be willing to cut businesses a deal.
Are you where you thought you’d be or where you want to be? Is there more you can do to advance your progress and improve your odds for success? In these days of a difficult economy complicated by ever-mounting stress levels, it’s easy to overlook options to take a few courses or perhaps even go in an entirely new direction. But regardless of your job status or where you are in your career, investing in higher education is a step you can take to improve your chances for success. And it’s easier than you might think to add something new to your busy schedule.
Options exist that allow you to interview over the phone or in person, or to let your fingers do the walking for you online. If your area of expertise involves learning that is best suited to in-person participation, many local area community colleges, business centers, and other specialized training facilities offer on-the-job programs to help your improve your technical skills and even learn new ones. Use your local Yellow Pages to find resources in or near your community. And remember to ask your neighbors, family, friends and business associates for their input. Word-of-mouth is still very effective in these days of enhanced communications.
Thanks to technical advancements especially over the past decade, numerous online schools and learning centers provide off-site opportunities for even the most remote areas of the world in varied disciplines, as well as hands-on talents like crafts. Some online education programs also offer accelerated classes and/or modules that allow you to work at your own pace. This option is particularly appealing to those with tight schedules and responsibilities that limit participation in an on-site learning program.
Use your favorite search engines (Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista, Bing, Ask, Twitter, Search Engine Land/Facebook, and others) to find programs tailored to your specialty or area of interest. Just enter your topic and targeted keywords (schools, training, learn, how to, classes, programs) to help narrow your search. Then email and/or call the number listed for information. It’s always best to actually speak with a live person when possible. In either case, specifically identify your interest and ask if and how that facility’s program can help you. Briefly tell them your circumstances and request information about cost, time lines, and other relevant facts. Get their name and contact information for faster service and easier follow-up.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/emp), “Education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.” In 2009, the following data was recorded for annual averages for persons age 25 and over and earnings for full-time wage and salary workers:
• Unemployment rate Doctoral degree 2.5; Median weekly earnings $1,532
• Unemployment rate Master’s degree 3.9; Median weekly earnings $1,257
• Unemployment rate Bachelor’s degree 5.2; Median weekly earnings $1,025
• Unemployment rate Some college/No degree 8.6; Median weekly earnings $699
• Unemployment rate High School Graduate 9.7; Median weekly earnings $626
• Unemployment rate Less Than High School Diploma 14.6; Median weekly earnings $454
• Unemployment rate Average all workers 7.9; Median weekly earnings Average $774
Financial assistance programs are available through government and private sponsorships for those who qualify. Consult www.bls.gov and your statewide resources for financial assistance for higher learning. Ask individual school programs for their financial assistance options.
When considering a higher education program, search for the most effective pathway that will meet your goals. Investigate all programs and compare them for the one that best fits your circumstances in all respects: finances, proximity, availability and accessibility. Before you begin a course, determine if getting a course extension is possible to cover any unexpected situation. Once you begin, firmly resolve to meet your commitment to complete the course. The process may be an inconvenience for a short while, but your determination will make a significant difference to your success.
CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.
According to www.soapmakingfun.com, there are two ways to make seasonal soaps this Christmas: 1) Create bars suggestive of the yuletide, and 2) encase handmade soaps in holiday-themed packaging. Use traditional Christmas symbols (e.g., Santa, snowmen, angels, wreaths, pine trees, stockings) to create the perfect combinations of color and holiday theme.
Traditional colors of red, green, white and gold are always good choices. The use of micas combined with liquid colorants produce the more vivid colors: Ruby Mica or thoroughly mixed Ultramarine Red for reds, Emerald Mica for greens, and Polar Ice Mica for white. For more natural colors, the use of turmeric for gold, Moroccan red clay for red, and alfalfa for green produce less vivid hues. Adding seasonal scents, like pine and peppermint, give your product that Christmas smell certain to attract buyers, and appreciative recipients will love them.
To accentuate holiday packaging, pack soaps in:
- Fabric gift bags made of muslin, calico or mesh
- Handy-sized pine wood crates
- Gift baskets bundled up with glittery organza or cellophane paper
- Christmas stocking-shaped nets
- Corrugated carton sheets tied up with hay-like or ornamental string
For that polished, professional look, finish your products by using package trimmings made of strips of Christmas paper resembling colored aluminum foil, raffia ribbons, red and green checked cloth, shiny Twistee wires, and Christmas ribbons.
In her article, “10 Top Tips for Melt and Pour Soap Making,” soap making enthusiast Jennifer Christine (www.soapmakingfun.com) offers these tips:
- Use a good recipe. Even though it’s easy to make soap this way, you still need a recipe to ensure the color, fragrance and optional additives are in the right amounts.
- Make sure you wear the appropriate safety equipment. I like to wear protective clothing, shoes, gloves and safety goggles. Melted soap is very hot! You don’t want to get burned if you accidentally splash yourself.
- You need suitable soap making equipment. You can melt the block of soap in the microwave, but you need a sturdy microwave safe bowl or jug for doing this. If melting on the stove, you need a double boiler. You also need rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, measuring spoons and a metal whisk or spoon.
- Ensure you make soap in a well-ventilated area (e.g., with window/s open).
- Don’t be disturbed by children or pets when making soap. You don’t want them (or you) to be accidentally splashed, which can happen when you’re distracted by an interruption.
- Ensure you’re using a good quality melt and pour soap base with colors and fragrances suitable for soap making.
- Have fun choosing the molds you’re going to use. You can use shell molds, flower molds, heart molds, or whatever kind of molds take your fancy.
- Allow enough time for the soap to set. It usually takes a few hours to set in the open or about one hour in the refrigerator. Never place it in the freezer to set.
- If you have trouble unmolding your soap, run some warm water over the base of the mold. The soap should pop right out.
- Enjoy using your scentsational hand made soap! Once it’s set, you can use it right away!
- Melt and Pour Soap Base: a combination of clear base for the chunks and white base for the overpour, but you could do the opposite, or use one or the other for both
- Mica or colorant for the chunks: GemTone Ruby Mica and a bit of Liquid Red colorant for the red chunks, and GemTone Emerald Mica and a bit of Kelly Green liquid colorant
- Basic soap mold: a 9-bar version of this Basic Soap Mold
- Fragrance oil of your choice
- Cutting board, knife, measuring cups
Visit http://candleandsoap.about.com for complete details on how David makes these lovely holiday soaps. There you will also find directions and videos to other soap making projects and a myriad of ideas and instructions on how to create products for sale or as gifts; for example, Christmas melt and pour scrubby soaps, hand soaps and bath salts, holiday soap on a rope, fizzy bath bombs, and budget soap and bath kits.
A great resource for quick and easy Christmas decorating ideas is http://interiordec.about.com, where article writers feature various materials and themes for decorating. Examples include home areas such as table settings and doors that are adorned with ribbons and bows, pinecones, candles, nuts, wreaths and swags, as well as holiday plants. If you lack ideas for your holiday business or just want new ideas for your holiday inventory, visit http://interiordec.about.com for easy-to-do projects that will work for most budgets and stretch your wholesale investments.
Quick-and-easy, affordable, and personalized gifts are always a big hit during the holidays, whether you make and sell the items yourself or you're the gift recipient. While your products may have advanced to more sophisticated levels over the years, always remember the basics and have some of those items in your holiday inventory. The benefits are that they’re easier and less expensive to make in an economic crunch, but they yield big rewards and add to the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with the holidays.
CYNTHIA BULL (www.cynrje.com) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.