Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bubble Wrap Heaven

In yesterday's post, I talked of shipping supplies and bubble mailers specifically. Today I want to add one of the hardest things to find: the best price and value in bubble wrap. Last year I used 10,000 12"x12" sheets of it, so I need a good price and I found it in a place you wouldn't have thought of for this product.

The best price and value goes to Sam's Club. It is made by 3M using the Scotch brand. It comes in a box, which I cut up and reuse in shipping which is helpful for my shipping needs since I ship a lot of books and use cardboard backing for softcover books. It has 240 sheets on a roll in each box and the cost is under $13.00 per box. That gets each sheet down to about $.06 each. The previous best price I could find was $.07 and then that company began raising the price each quarter. I am thrilled to have found this bargain!

I have found some very good prices online and even through Value Mailers that I talked of yesterday, but none are below $.07 except Sam's Club. A big thank you to Sam's Club for providing maximum value and thank you to 3M for the outstanding product.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Best Value In Shipping Supplies: ValueMailers

Today I am plugging a company that I am pleased to have found: ValueMailers. I found them on eBay (their eBay ID is THREERB) while looking for a good price on bubble mailers. I not only found the best price, but the best and consistent service, a superior product and a huge selection. They ship immediately, notify you of shipment and tracking numbers and their communications are complete.

If you have need of shipping products like bubble mailers, poly bags, Zip Lock bags, carton sealing tape, stay flat mailers, bubble wrap, labels, packing peanuts, tissue paper, record mailers, or boxes, this is a good place.

I buy a lot of bubble mailers in a number of different sizes. Last year, I bought several thousand of them. They have the best price I have found and also the best product, service and in-stock selection. I love that I can buy and have them shipped the same day so that I need not carry too much inventory. So far, I have only been buying bubble mailers from them, but I just found out they carry the extra large Zip Lock bags in various sizes. I have been looking all over for those and they have over a million in stock ready to go, so I will be buying some of that product from them. They are not the best price on bubble wrap, but it is a very good price.

All in all, this company is worth sharing with everyone I know. If you ship products and have need of shipping products to get them there safely, you can count on Value Mailers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Website & E-Marketing Seminar

Local Seminar

Vacaville, CA
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Websites Made Simple
(and Effective!)

* Understand the value of a website for your business.
* Common misconceptions of websites explained.
* Tools and Methods to creat effective websites.
* Plus, Bonus E-Marketing Tools!!

Galaxy Banquets
600 Orange Dr
Vacaville CA 95688

Admission is only $7.00
Refreshments provided

Hosted by The Queen of Marketing and Galaxy Banquets
Presented by Upward Trend Management Services, LLC
Call 707-480-0959 or 707-591-1632 for more details!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Want More Business? Expand Your Market!

Do you want more business? If so, expand your market. One great way to do this is to get on the web with your products or services. The great benefit is that it will be incremental business and business you would never have seen before.

I have had a little eBay business selling mostly used books since 2004. Just a couple of minutes ago, from a listing I had in my eBay store, a person made me an offer on an audiobook in Spanish. It is a rare item--especially in Spanish. The offer was reasonable and I accepted it. When I sent the invoice, I notice that it is a person in Germany! My little business is in California. How cool is that?

Here's another point: My little business is in Northern California and I charge sales tax as required for sales inside the state of California. Guess what percentage of my total business last year was inside California? It was 16.7%. Let's flip that number: 83.3% was outside the state of California! This is a clear and very good reason to get on the web with your product. Look at all the business I would miss. Indeed, my business is Internet only. I do not have a place for people to come and buy. Only 2 people from my city bought anything last year. That means that 99.9% are from out of town.

Want to increase your business? Get on the web. There is a learning curve, and you can do it. If you need help, give us a call.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creation vs Competition

How do you want to build your business? Do you want to compete or create? Think of it this way: To create is a glass half full and to compete is a glass half empty. Competition means that there are limitations, that only a few can win and the rest must lose. Creation means that all can win and there are no losers. Thinking in terms of competition means that you are always looking over your shoulders. Creation means your eyes are on the horizon.

My best advice that has been hard to learn, but I finally got it is this: build your business with the creative method and forget about competition. Keep your eyes on the horizon and continue ever-clarifying your business. It works like magic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Focus On Your Customer

It's so easy to be thinking about you and what you want and what you need and how business is affecting you. It is better to be thinking about your customer, how you can serve them better, how you can help them get what they want and need and how your business is affecting them. Build your business around how you can serve your customer and you will be well cared for.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finding Your Niche, Part 3

This is the third and final piece about the music store niche, and it really is the first part. One of the things we did in the first few weeks was to find a good guitar teacher with a list of students already and give him a good place to have his students come to and for us to have an opportunity to market to as a matter of course. This turned out to be the smartest of all the things we did. It gave us an immediate market and traffic which gave us great word of mouth advertising.

It was this along with the focus on guitars and the guitar strings. We started the business at the beginning of the 1979-82 recession and with this 1-2-3 punch did $100k in sales the first year. Not bad for starting with so little and three other well established stores already in town. If we would have continued to try to cover the bases with products, there is no way we could have done as well. It pays to carve out your niche and fine tune what your business is. Today we call that clarification. Yes, that is a good word for it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finding Your Niche, Part 2

Continuing with yesterdays post on Finding Your Niche, another thing that we did was to focus on certain accessories. Accessories in a musical instrument store can run up the inventory dollar cost quickly, especially in things like guitar effects pedals and other electronic items. So we decided on a niche in our accessories that was totally compatible with the guitar niche: Guitar strings. To keep good tone, guitar strings should be replaced regularly.

So we decided to go into some serious depth in strings. A few advantages were clear: 1. we could carry a wide and deep selection and have strings that other stores would have to special order, such as individual strings for custom gauges or replacing just one broken string. 2. we had a strong base of guitar students, so there was consistent demand. 3. we could create a marketing system that would help to keep business coming back--the String Club.

We chose a 6' wide section of wall and ordered up some nice spring loaded displays so the strings were attractively displayed and people could instantly see the volume of strings we carried. Because strings are a fast moving commodity, string discounts were very good and considerably better in volume. By buying in quantity and taking full advantage of maximum discounts, we were able to discount the strings to our customers and still have a full margin, unlike everything else in the store.

Next, we started the String Club. We had cards made (actually, we typed on the back of our business cards . . .) and we gave 10% off each set and every 4th set was free. This amounts to a 33% discount at the 4th set, but if they stop buying prior to buying the 3rd set to get the 4th free, the discount was just 10%. Sometimes people would buy three immediately to get the 4th free. We had a special punch to punch their card to show where they were in the buying cycle and we also had a master sheet at the store. The String Club was one of the best things that we did. We sold a serious number of strings and had the largest selection within 50 miles--all on our relatively small budget.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Find Your Niche, Part 1

Many years ago I owned a musical instrument store. We started with $5,000 worth of musical instruments and accessories. With that small amount of capital for inventory, it is really hard to cover very many bases, but we did our best. We focused on guitars, but had drums, cymbals, a flute, a trumpet, a saxophone and a couple of amps and some accessories. As time went on, we decided to give up the band instruments entirely along with the drums and cymbals. We began to build a niche in guitars and focus about 80% of that inventory into acoustic and acoustic electric guitars.

We honed it down to two basic brands: Yamaha and Ovation. These decisions and changes allowed us in a town of about 40,000 to carry more models in these lines that the huge stores in San Francisco. We probably outsold almost all the stores in Northern California on Ovation guitars. Yamaha was our entry and beginner level. These were quality instruments so a student had a good chance by not having a bad instrument where it fights the student all the time. We would give a 100% trade-in toward the up line Ovation models and that worked extremely well. About 70% of the students who kept with it traded up. The store down the road wouldn't give them even 50% trade in. We got to sell the Yamaha as a slightly used instrument and did very well.

This strategy is something I would recommend. Find your niche. Better to have a lot of one brand than one of a lot of brands. You can also attract a wider audience who will come from far away to visit such a store. In addition, the Internet store will make you famous. Focus is a good thing. Find your niche.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Your Website Needs You!

Last year we started this business and have built a good number of websites. We are learning so much every day. One thing that we have noticed with many customers is that they want their website to be complete and effective with very little input from them. Isn't that what we all want? Someone to come in and take care of it, take it off their minds and then go away. I've had those fantasies too, but this I now know from experience: your website needs YOU. It needs your information, your photos, logos and other graphics. It needs your personality more than anything. It needs your consistent follow up and follow through. It needs you. It requires participation and attention.

A website that is built and is complete and done is not worth building to begin with. A good website will be constantly changing, growing, enhancing, informing and entertaining. The better it is at those things, the better the website effectiveness. It is truly all about content.

The good news is that we can help you. You don't have time or interest in doing it all or you would have done it by now. You know you need the website to be an effective tool for your business. We can take care of the building and expanding and changing part if you will provide the personality and content. You don't have to do it all at once. It is really better to do this over a period of time. You want it built and online quickly, but changing and evolving constantly.

We can help you help your website and make it easy on your budget and your busy schedule. Give us a call today and find out how great it will be to have some help to get this project done well. Call Ryan at 707-480-0959 or Terry at 707-434-9967.