Updated: Apr 15, 2020
It happens to everyone.
Your business is struggling. Something's not quite right. You're not generating enough (or any) revenue. You might be hemorrhaging money, either on advertising and marketing campaigns with no return, or having a lot of your money tied up in an inventory that only grows, and never shrinks. Maybe you're investing hundreds of dollars for events, and not seeing anyone swing by your table or seeing any increased visibility in your social media platforms or website metrics. It might be a difficulty at the introductory stage, or perhaps your business has matured and is seeing signs of decline.
Especially for the folks in the creative industry, struggle is common. There are now more creative entrepreneurs than ever before, and all of them are using similar marketing mixes, offering similar products, and targeting the same price sensitive audience segment.
This might seem like I'm living in utopia, but I sincerely believe that anyone can generate income doing exactly what they want to do. Truly. That doesn't mean it's easy.
So here are some of the ways you can help yourself out when you're stuck.
Tip One: Look at Your Target Audience
This might seem like a no brainer, but do you know who your target audience is?
If you are just casting out your products and brand into the cyber void, then you're looking at one of your key problems right there.
You need to know who you are talking to. Who your product serves. How the product meets the needs of others.
This is going to help you communicate more efficiently with your audience.
Tip Two: Develop Better Relationships
Just because you know who your audience is doesn't mean that you're communicating with them. Like with, well, everything, you have to develop relationships with prospective clients before they become clients. Just because you have some visibility, doesn't mean that someone is going to purchase from you.
In this digital day and age, there are so many different brands and what's going to assist someone with taking their hard earned money and giving that money to you is feeling a level of mutual interest in the form of creator attention.
Tip Three: Look at the Environment
Sometimes, it's not about *what* you're doing it but *when/where* you're doing it. If you're creating four-figure product offerings exclusively during a recession and targeting working class audience members who are being effected by the recession...then, you are not going to be successful.
Are you sourcing your materials for products in countries where tariffs are being raised...but not adjusting price points or managing client expectations as the price points inevitably rise?
Okay, and besides economic factors - consider:
Political: Back to the aforementioned scenario, is there political instability between these two countries? Are things changing politically in your country that you think will make your sourcing more difficult?
Social: What is trending in your target audience? Are you selling something that is no longer fashionable or out of touch with your target audience (this is a very common problem - see it all the time!). Are you keeping in touch with the trending platforms for not only e-commerce but also for marketing? They don't stagnate, it's perpetually changing, which leads us to the final tool..
Technology: This is a BIG one in this day and age. Look at the way that Instagram has evolved over the course of the last two years. Are you keeping up to date with the tech trends, or are you stuck in an archaic realm of making things way more difficult for yourself than you need to? I know there's a comfort in the familiar, but you're going to be left in the dust in this saturated, highly competitive environment really quick if you don't keep in touch with what's happening in the now.
Tip Four: Look Inside the Industry
Generally speaking, it's just a great idea to understand the industry you're in. One of the best ways to do this is by using something called Porter's Five Forces.
This rather nifty tool can assist you with developing a better understanding of the competitive forces within an industry and your ability to thrive/profit in them.
These select forces are:
Threats of new entry: How hard is it to get inside the industry? The harder it is to get into an industry the more likely it is for there to be increased competition.
Threat of substitution: Can someone substitute your product with another product? Or perhaps a lower costing product/service? This will also increase your capabilities to increase profits.
Bargaining power of buyers: Also known as negotiating power of your consumers. The more customers you have, the less price sensitive they are, the harder it is to substitute, gives you more power and the buyers less power. However, if you have a limited amount of price sensitive consumers who could easily purchase elsewhere, your buyers have a lot of power and kind of leaves you at their mercy.
Bargaining power of suppliers: Another important one, for those of you who are creating products in larger quantities and investing a lot of money into inventory. The more reliant you are on a particular supplier (or even a print on demand service) the more power the suppliers have over you.
Competitive rivalry: This has to do with the ability to mobilize within your industry. If there already are a ton of people competing, with similar product offerings, with very loyal customers, you're looking at a real high competitive rivalry. I have a real hot take on this - while I believe that competitive rivalries might exist, I think that it's important to have a true understanding of how saturated or aggressive an industry is, and moreover know how to angle and differentiate yourself from the competition.
This might just be the longest article I've written on here. If you've made it this far (or skimmed to the bottom) I reward you with a more succinct recap: - Know your audience
- Speak to them like you know them (because you do!) - Make sure that you have the RIGHT audience
- Know what's going on in the world outside of your business
- Know what's going on within the industry and like-minded businesses
- Be aware of your reliance on suppliers and buyers (and try to find ways to be less reliant to gain more power Any or all of these can help you with some of the barriers in your business.
Go forth and do some thinking, and if you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to email me.
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