Ready to know your monthly numbers? Here’s how I know mine.

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As a maker, I’m keenly aware that the love of making can often outshine the love of business-ing. But, if you want to succeed in this ultra-competitive handmade industry, then you have to make time to give the business side of your business attention, too. Knowing your monthly numbers is key to understanding the health of your business and for making strategic plans for how to grow it.

 

Not sure what to measure? Here’s is what my team tracks, every month. It lets me put my finger on the pulse of my business while still maintaining a high level view of what’s happening.

  1. Financial Overview. This includes both dollars sold and numbers and products sold. For Lucky Break, this information is available in our cart back-end software.
  2. Social Media Overview. This includes followers by platform, posts by platform, and top engagement by platform
  3. Website Analytics. This includes monthly statistics, top 10 pages visited, and top 10 referrers. The Lucky Break team uses Google Analytics for this piece of information.
  4. Newsletter Data. This includes new subscribers, average open rate, average click rate, and our unsubscribe rate.

 

Ready to dive into your own numbers? I pinky promise that it will serve you well. Download my  editable three page template below and get to work!

Monthly Numbers Template

Setting Yourself Up For Success in the New Year (and a free checklist!)

NewYearSuccess

Setting Yourself Up For Success in the New Year

 

The turning of the calendar to a new year holds the promise of a fresh start on your entrepreneurial adventure.  There’s a rare break in the action- a precious few moments of calm on an otherwise frenetic journey. I hope that this season delivers not just a blank slate but renewed energy, too, as I have little doubt that your soul is due for some R+R after the holiday rush.

 

Entrepreneurship is a wild ride, and we’re in the midst of an especially exciting time.  Barriers to entry are dropping and people the world over are showing increasing interest in beautifully designed products that created with soul and intention.  As business owners working in the midst of the maker revival, it’s fantastically easy to be swept away by a wave of passion, making decisions on the fly, and moving from one urgent task to the next.

 

Throughout the year, I find myself accumulating clutter (both mental and physical). I’m often too busy to spend significant amounts of time on my own website or notice that my costs are slowly and insidiously creeping north. I’m pulled in a zillion directions and constantly “dinged” at by a myriad of devices. I hardly ever carve out the time to look at key customer touchpoints and ensure that they’re up-to-date and reflective of my current brand. Sound familiar?

 

I like to begin each year with a very intentional series of steps designed to help me critically analyze the year that was, boost my focus, clear my space of mental (and physical) clutter, and see my company through the customer’s eyes. The results are always worth the effort. I know these exercises will help you get into fighting shape, too, so I made a downloadable checklist and I invite you to play along! Click the image below to grab it…

 

 

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May the coming year bring both focus and fulfillment. The Lucky Break team will be cheering you on as you tackle new trials, expand beyond your comfort zone, and press ever-closer to the empire of your dreams!

 

REVIEW YOUR SALES DATA.
Pull it directly from your e-commerce platform or accounting software and lay your eyes on total revenue and revenue-by-product. Don’t rely on your memory or your perceptions of what sold over the past year. Pull the numbers and get down-n-dirty with them. They don’t lie!

 

REVIEW YOUR PRODUCT COSTS.
Go through your product costs with a fine-tooth-comb. Raw material prices have a tendency to slowly creep up unnoticed throughout the year. Double-check your raw material costs, labor expenses, and overhead to see if a price adjustment is needed. If you have my Price-O-Matic software, then updates are blissfully easy! Pull the most recent invoice for each raw material and update the costs in the “Inventory” tab of the POM software. The system will automatically search for that raw material in every product you make and instantly retabulate the costs of each product made with that raw material. Technology is beautiful, eh? If you don’t yet have my Price-O-Matic software, then you’re wasting time and leaving money on the table! Why not grab a copy?

 

GET YOUR INBOX TO ZERO.
This is what I lovingly call “The New Year Purge.” All of those stray emails that have collected for months need to TLC ASAP. Set aside a few hours and quickly go through your entire inbox. Answer whatever is outstanding and discard the rest. You have no idea how good a “zero inbox” feels until you’ve experienced it! A clear space allows you to start the new year off right.

 

CLEAN OUT YOUR OFFICE.
Continuing on that theme: Tidy up your workspace. Remove clutter, file or discard papers, and reorganize if needed. Whipping your office into shape changes the way you feel when you sit down at your desk and is well worth the investment of an hour or two.

 

TURN OFF YOUR NOTIFICATIONS.
You know all those things that buzz, ding, and whirl? They need to die a swift death! The perpetual inundation of alerts and notifications contributes to mental overwhelm and they break focus every single time they make noise. You needn’t be notified when someone places an order, sends an email, favorites a picture, likes your page, or shouts you out on Twitter. Remove all audible notifications and ensure that your email isn’t auto-checking throughout the day. Do whatever you need to do to set up these systems so that you’re in control of when you review information, not the other way around!

 

UNSUBSCRIBE + THEN RESUBSCRIBE TO YOUR OWN NEWSLETTER.
Whaaaat? No, I haven’t been drinking! By unsubscribing and then resubscribing, you’ll have an opportunity to see copies of all the emails you programmed a loooong time ago into MailChimp, etc. The information you share in those autoresponder emails is especially important because it’s some of the first information you present to new customers, but we often “set it and forget it.” Give it a good once-over and update as necessary. Is it up-to-date? Is it relevant? Is it in your brand voice? Make adjustments as necessary.

 

MOVE THROUGH YOUR WEBSITE AS A CUSTOMER.
Click through and read every last page of your own website. Keep an eye out for outdated or inaccurate information. Place any single in your cart and complete the entire checkout process. Double-check the order confirmation email you receive to ensure that it’s formatted well and up-to-date.

 

CHECK FOR BROKEN LINKS.
Use this uber-cool (and free!) broken link checker to identify misdirecting links on your own website. Simply pop your website address into the box in the upper-right corner and it will magically find every stray link that isn’t functioning as it should. Which this tool can find broken links, it can’t fix your broken links. Make certain that you get into the backend of your website and reprogram them to direct peeps to the right spot in the coming year.

 

LET GO OF FRUSTRATIONS, BETRAYALS, AND PERCEIVED FAILURES.
I’m not in the business of quoting Disney Princesses in my day-to-day life, but I have to hand it to Elsa: that chick really knows how to let go. Make like Elsa and let go of any angst that you’re harboring. This may sound a bit “woo-woo” but stay with me for a moment…it’s incredibly cathartic.  I like to  take a handful of index cards and write a single grievance on each one. Be it frustration with myself, displeasure with a teammate, jealousy of a competitor, or the disappointment in an unrealized expectation- inscribe those cards with whatever plagues you.  Then start a good fire and release them one-by-one!  I read them aloud individually, toss them into the flames, and allow myself to feel the release as each one crackles. I envision myself feeling lighter as my cares melt into ash. Whatever happened exists exclusively in the past, unless we allow ourselves to be burdened by the energy. Make a conscious decision not to carry that energy into the new year.

 

SET ONE “BIG PICTURE” GOAL PER MONTH.
As entrepreneurs, we have a lot of plates spinning in the air every day! It’s incredibly easy to stay busy all year long without actually moving your business forward. I like to choose one “big picture” goal each month to ensure that I’m constantly stepping up my game. It could be new product photos, rewriting product descriptions, doing some media outreach, developing new product offerings, doing a cost analysis, exploring collaborations, etc. I recommend plotting a single Big Picture Goal each month and then directing all spare time + energy towards stepping up your game in that one facet of business.

A sneak peek inside my press kit

LuckyBreakPressKit

LuckyBreakPressKit

 

We recently finished up a fun little project here at Lucky Break + I wanted to share it with you, too.  It’s so important that we, as entrepreneurs, put ourselves “out there.” That effort can take many incarnations: engaging on social media, appearing at retail shows + wholesale trade shows, reaching out to PR professionals + wholesale buyers, entering contests, and/or collaborating with others.  As a coach for product-based brands, I’m perpetually encouraging my clients to stretch themselves by putting their brand on the radar of others.

Well, it was time for a taste of my own medicine, I suppose.

 

Press-Kit-4a

 

Over the last few months, the Lucky Break creative team has been busy writing copy, designing layouts, approving print proofs, commissioning fun brand swag, researching potential collaborators + hand-assembling a press kit mailing of which I’m particularly proud. It was a tremendous group effort, but we put the final polish on them this week. After a sprinkling of good juju + they’re winding their way into mailboxes all around the world.

 

Our goal was to create a fun package that expresses the Lucky Break personality, establishes my credibility + suggests ways in which we can collaborate with different trade organizations, live event organizers, podcasts hosts + the like. Keep in mind: as a consultant, I’m a service provider who’s selling myself as the product, so there’s a more intense focus on me as a person than most product-based brands would warrant. Nevertheless, I’m hoping that this serves as inspiration for a mailing designed around your tangible product.

 

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Tucked inside a 9×12″ white mailing envelope:

  • A square stationery card with a hand-inscribed, personalized message. The cards are decidedly luxe: thick paper stock, gold gilded edges, letterpress gold foil. That’s tucked into a gold-lined envelope + the recipient’s name is handwritten on the exterior. I wanted to make a striking first impression!

 

  • A black linen presentation folder imprinted with my logo in gold foil.

 

  • Tucked into that folder: my press kit, my course catalog, my business card, a doorhanger + a vellum envelope stuffed with entrepreneurial goodness.

 

  • Inside that vellum envelope: two handlettered, custom metallic gold tattoos + a custom-stamped pencil + a pouch of champagne-infused gummy bears. Because… why not?

 

  • I invite you to leaf through a digital copy of the course catalog + you’re most welcome to browse through a digital copy of the press kit, too.

 

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Finally, the exterior of that 9×12″ envelope has a custom address label + a cheeky sticker to tempt the recipient about what’s inside.

 

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Interested in building a press kit of your own? While it’s not absolutely necessary that creative brands have one, they are a lovely introduction to your company + your work. And they provide a deliciously succinct way for PR professionals to understand why you are, what you do + why it matters.  I designed a handy checklist to help as you build a press kit.

 

 

What-Is-A-Press-Kit

 

If you have a press kit you’re willing to share, then please drop a comment below. I’d love to see it! xo

The difference between a commodity + a brand

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Many of us have been thinking about the process of branding all wrong.

 

We think our logo, color palette and font selection is what defines our brand. We mistakenly believe that the visual aesthetics that we’ve carefully constructed to represent us are what sets us apart in the marketplace. And while that’s certainly one piece of the puzzle, your brand’s visual identity is hardly the largest or even the most important piece.

 

At its core, branding is the process of understanding who you want to serve + how you want those people to feel and then working consistently + passionately to create a consistent emotional connection with that audience over time.  So the first question to ask yourself in the process of branding your company is: how do you want your customers to feel? If you’re able to create and sustain emotional resonance, then your products enjoy the opportunity to go beyond mere commodities and transform into a true brand.

 

Commodities are products which can easily be substituted for one another. They’re items for which a demand exists, but no qualitative difference across a marketplace.  Think:  fresh corn, gasoline, steel beams and gold bars.  We could buy one ear of fresh corn or another, but we’re not predicating that purchasing decision on loyalty to a brand. Conventional or organic? Sure. We assess the color and health of each ear, but sell me ABC corn or XYZ corn- I care not, so long as the price is right and the produce looks fresh.

 

In contrast, brands create differentiated products which are highly desired by their customer base. Their customers have some degree of brand loyalty, seeking out those specific goods in the marketplace. Brand customers are less likely to substitute products based on price + availability.

 

Did you catch that? Because it’s pretty damn important. Brand customers are less likely to substitute products based on price + availability. They don’t care that one product may be more readily accessible than their favorite brand. They’ll gladly trek to the market across town or patiently check their mailbox for a week, awaiting the delivery of a much beloved product. Fans in that customer base are no longer slaves to price, grounding each and every purchasing decision on which company can provide the cheapest widget. No, brand customers will gladly pay more to support companies and causes they believe in, that make them feel important or reinforce some aspect or another of their personal identity.

 

True Nike fans won’t purchase a pair of Adidas shoes, even if they’re on sale. Starbucks fans will drive eight more blocks, bypassing the Dunkin’ Donuts shop, in order to satiate their morning coffee fix.  And in order to be successful in the long term, you and I have to discover how to make our handmade soap the soap of choice for the people at the farmer’s market on Saturday. We have to give them a reason to load the kids into the car seats and trek across town replenish their stock at premium pricing. We need to drill deeper into our jewelry, our stationery, our handbags, candles and ceramics to understand what we’re really selling, why it truly matters and how we can enrich the lives of the people we get excited to serve.

 

If you feel as though the current marketplace is growing uncomfortably + increasingly crowded, then it’s time to up your brand game. It’s time to think less about your logo and more about how you can create emotional resonance with the people you get out of bed for each morning.

Spend a few minutes today meditating on the three key questions I recommend asking yourself to get at the very heart of your brand:

1.    Who do I want to serve?

2.    How do I want them to feel?

3.    What will I do to enrich their lives?

The answers to those three queries guide everything else your company will do from product design + development to pricing. And they’ll inform what fonts, colors and imagery you select to represent your brand. But that’s a story for another day…

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If you’re in search of creative brands who are hitting it out of the park, then I’d like to
introduce you to a few dozen companies which are fertile ground for inspiration.  Click the image above to download my hyperlinked list of brands to watch- hover over any brand name in green, then click to be whisked right over to their front door.  Look carefully at brands both inside + outside your product category, and take cues about how they execute on their brand promise.

 

Instead of looking exclusively at brands which share an aesthetic that resonates with you, explore new brands and see if you can ascertain, simply by looking at their websites:

1. What are they attempting to “own?”

2. Who are they striving to serve?

Scrutinize the language used on the websites, the story + details revealed via their “about” page, and the colors, fonts, + product photography which is created to communicate their core. What can you learn by watching these brands in action?

 

If you’re interested in drilling deeper into your brand to create brand loyalty and passionate fans, raise prices and to create a sustainable business, then I’d be honored to welcome you into my Brick House Branding webinar series. It’s maiden voyage is happening this month and the reviews have been so positive and the demand so high, that I’ve decided to teach the series again in June + July. Registration opens Monday, May 26th and seating is very limited. Every last spot was claimed within 3 days last time, so I recommend securing a spot as soon as enrollment opens if you’re interested in building a stronger brand this summer.

 

And if you’re keen on mastering the wholesale marketplace in 2015, then I want you to know that registration opened this morning for LBU Live, my seven-week “how to wholesale from A to Z” program. It encapsulates my juiciest teaching and present the opportunity for us to work together in a decidedly accessible fashion that ensures you won’t break the bank while building your empire. Seats always move quickly in that program, so I wouldn’t waffle for long. 🙂

How to Build a Press Kit for Creative Brands

DESIGN A PRESS KIT FOR YOUR CREATIVE

When I work with creative brands of all stripes, one of the brands assets I recommend they develop is a Press Kit. You’ve likely heard of them, but there’s a good bit of confusion surrounding them, what they’re meant to accomplish and how to design a press kit. My LBU Alumni Coaching Group has been working on building press kits as one of our monthly projects and I wanted to share the project prospectus with you, too, in the hopes that it might provide some guidance and inspiration.

 

WHAT IS A PRESS KIT?

A press kit, as one piece of your brand assets, is a bundle of promotional materials provided to the media to tell the story behind a company or product. They’re sometimes called “media kits” and are designed to:
•    Introduce your products to the media
•    Give journalists a peek behind the brand
•    Show off your achievements
•    Provide journalists with content for future product features

 

They’re sometimes called Media Kits. Poe-tay-toe. Puh-tah-toe. It’s all semantics!
DESIGN A PRESS KIT FOR YOUR CREATIVE

 

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA BEHIND A PRESS KIT?

The secret to getting traction of any kind is to make yourself easy to work with. If you’re wanting to sell wholesale, then make your brand visually compelling and blissfully easy to order from and you’ll score the accounts you’re lusting after. Want to catch the attention of editors and score free press? Do some of the legwork for them and you’re far more likely to get featured.

 

Must you have a media kit? Certainly not, but let’s meditate on this scenario for a moment: If an editor notices your brand alongside another in your product category and she’s equally smitten with both- what will tips the scales in your favor when she’s considering her next big feature? If you appear ready and eager to work with media professionals, if you have a story to tell, if you have brand assets at the ready so the editor needn’t create them… then who do you fancy who will ultimately land the plum editorial feature?

 

WHAT’S IN A PRESS KIT?

 

A media kit is typically a multi-page PDF document that you can either deliver digitally (park it at Dropbox + email the link to interested parties or post it online with a free service such as Issuu) or print in hardcopy format. Printed versions are lovely, indeed, as they can accompany sample mailings and be tucked into the press room at trade shows, but a digital version will eliminate printing costs while accomplishing several important goals, so please don’t let the cost of professional printing hold you back.

 

The core components of a press kit…

 

COVER SHEET: Something to capture attention + introduce the brand. Think: visual + dramatic. Include your logo + tagline.

 

BACKGROUNDER OR FACT SHEET: A concise, one page document detailing: the brand story, key players, sales channels, timeline of growth, achievements + company location. Essentially, this is the entire company distilled down to a single page.

 

BIOGRAPHY: Brief stories which provide a more well-rounded peek at key players behind the brand.

 

STORY ANGLES OR PRESS RELEASES: Potential story lines that you develop so that an editor can quickly + seamlessly feature your brand and/or products in their publication. Essentially, you’re doing the “thinking” for the editor. You pitch the story and they just need to flesh it out!

 

SOCIAL PROOF: Show them how press-worthy your brand is! Potential inclusions: past media mentions (i.e. press clippings), awards received, customer testimonials, etc.

 

PRODUCT IMAGES: Images should be print-ready, high-resolution images, which means a minimum of 300DPI.

Also, title images with your company + product name.

For example:
BellaLucce_ManukaHoneyDrizzle.jpg
LuckyBreak_LelaBarkerHeadshot.jpg

 

CONTACT INFORMATION: Make yourself deliciously easy to reach by including your phone, website, email, and social media handles.

 

Assemble those pieces, polish them up through careful editing, weave some compelling imagery into to mix and then throw the pretty on your press kit with good graphic design and you’re off at the races!

 

Want to see a few of my favorite press kits in action? I designed a worksheet to serve as a guide while you build your press kit. Click the image below to grab a copy and look for the fancy green hyperlinks on the second page for a peek inside the press kits of 22 creative brands in the apothecary, apparel, gourmet, paper + gift, houseware and jewelry categories.

 

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As I mentioned, my LBU Alumni Coaching Group built press kits as part of our March monthly project and I immersed myself in designing a press kit for Lucky Break, too.  Want a peek?  Click the image below to be magically teleported to my press kit. One thing to keep in mind: As a service professional, I’m selling ME. I am the product. This kit was specifically built to highlight my entrepreneurial journey, communicate my expertise and provide event organizers with a list of my talks and workshops. It’s decidedly Lela-centric, because I’m the product being sold.

 

My “suggested story angles” are  the entrepreneurial workshops mentioned on pages 10 + 11.  In much the same way that a creative brand is attempting to do the thinking of an editor in order to make themselves easy to feature, I’m doing the thinking of an event organizer.  Upon reading the press kit, if they feel connected to my story and decide to invite me to their next event as a speaker, then I’ve made that blissfully simple to do. They’re invited to flip to page 10, survey my entrepreneurial workshops, decide what’s a good fit for their audience and BAM! All done. The alternative? To dazzle event organizers, but then leave those same people struggling with how to work together. No bueno.

 

For creative, product-based brands, I recommend featuring a compelling product image on the cover and sprinkling great product photography throughout. But no mistake- your shining face needs to be in the press kit, as well. Editors and consumers alike want to connect to brands with soul, and its hard to communicate soul without putting a face on it.

 

Click  the image below to take a stroll through my press kit. Think I’d be a good fit for your next live event? I’d love to connect with you!

 

Lela Barker / Lucky Break COnsulting 2015 Press Kit

 

Got any hot media tips to share? Burning questions about press kits? A favorite example of a press kit you’d love to share? You’ll find me in the comments below- let’s chat about it!