Tariffs and Their Impact on Small Business

Price increases.
Delayed shipments.
Complicated paperwork.
Uncertainty in vendor relationships.
Welcome to life in the age of heightened tariffs.

 

When the Trump administration announced new tariffs with China in August of 2018, I was optimistic that this was a short-term problem that would resolve itself in short order before many of my clients felt any significant impact. Regrettably, we’ve had no such luck. The administration seems to be digging in its heels, announcing successive waves of new tariffs that have expanded both the scope of goods affected and the degree to which they’re affected.

 

Cargo Ships On The Sea With Mountain On Background

 

Small businesses are beginning to feel the crunch, so I’m diving in to help decode the impact these new tariffs are having on our community.

 

WHAT IS A TARIFF?

Tariffs are a kind of tax leveraged on a particular category of imported goods. The amount of the tax depends on many factors, including the type of products you (or your suppliers) are importing and the country in which those goods originated. These charges are collected by U.S. Custom and Border Protection agents at all U.S. ports of entry, and the funds are deposited into the U.S. Treasury.

 

Tariffs aren’t some new taxation scheme. They were first introduced by the U.S. government in 1779, but 2018 saw a flurry of new tariffs assigned to Chinese goods in an attempt to “level the playing field” while renegotiating international trade agreements.

 

tarrif+blog+post+4a

 

That might sound good in theory, but tariffs aren’t generally welcome news within the small business community, and economists have been putting in some serious overtime to analyze the current situation and fact-check the administration. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum as a voter, these tariffs are likely coming home to roost for you, too. I surveyed my community this week and discovered that 46% of my clients have already felt the squeeze.

 

WHICH PRODUCTS ARE AFFECTED BY TARIFFS?

There have been several waves of new tariffs enacted by the administration, with the most recent taking effect on January 1, 2019. Many basic supplies used by artisans were included in recent tariff expansions, including:

  • Leathers
  • Wool
  • Yarn
  • Silk
  • Cotton Fabrics
  • Buttons
  • Glass containers
  • Metal containers
  • Citric acid + many common personal care ingredients
  • Pigments, dyes, inks, paints
  • Plywood
  • Film
  • Paper
  • Glass beads

 

(more…)

#LBCWantsToKnow >> July 2018: Pricing

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Pricing

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Pricing

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion of a specific subject.  For the month of July, we dove head-first into pricing… one of my favorite topics. Often worried about, but seldom discussed, I welcomed an opportunity to roll up my sleeves and see how I could help.

 

When was the last time you implemented a price increase? How did you roll it out? How was it received?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

 

lillabarnclothing: Ah! I need to do this now. I’m going to up prices by 10%. Rolling it out next week after my summer sale.

 

stellachroma: At my rebrand a year ago. Just did it. No one batted an eyelash. Granted, it was at a rebrand. 🙂

 

yukonsoaps: A year and half ago. I just did it. No questions asked! And sales increased!

 

cocosabon: I increased on two products last year. I informed my customers prior to the increase and explained why it was necessary. No problems at all. 👍🏼

 

MY THOUGHTS: I recommended that my clients carefully monitor their costs and review them at least once per annum. If a nominal (3-7%) price increase is needed, it’s better to roll those out once a year as opposed to “saving them up” for years and then hitting your buyers with a large jump in pricing every few years. Anything less than 10% is typically received well by buyers, provided that the rollout is properly framed. Price adjustments on the order of 10%+ require more of a brand re-positioning (connecting with a new audience) and are decidedly more complicated, but totally possible.

 

I find that the very subject of price increases unnerves many makers + product designers, but this doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing affair. There’s definitely an art to framing the announcement, but we’re usually far more worked up about it than our wholesale partners and retail customers. Need some help in this arena? My instantly-downloaded price increase workshop can build confidence and guide you through the process of designing an elegant announcement. And Price-O-Matic, my product pricing software, can help you keep an sharp eye on costs and profitability, too.

 

Do you feel like you’re currently charging what your products are worth? If not, what’s holding you back?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

westcoastleslie: I’m not mostly because I feel like it will hold me back from making sales. And I know you’ll say “those people aren’t your customers” which is true to an extent. But tell me who is going to buy a $200 scarf?🤷🏻 Honestly, point me in their direction!

 

idigyourhair: No, but I want to. I feel unknown and feel I need to grow my brand in order to do that. I have made them slightly higher online.

 

normalish_: Nope. I don’t feel like I am because I’m stuck in this crazy Facebook bubble of small businesses that all feel like we can only charge so much. Even the customers in this bubble complain/dictate if your prices are higher than the average. I’m desperately trying to work my way outta there.

 

focsimama: I wasn’t but I will be once this new brand launches.

 

scentshomebodybaby: Agree with all these comments!! Just trying to charge enough for people to purchase to make my brand known. It’s so hard.

 

sasaloo.living: There is the never ending question!…. among others, lol.🤦🏻

 

MY THOUGHTS: Pricing is decidedly complex. It brings together many elements (brand presentation, audience awareness, consumer psychology, distribution strategy, tricky math… blech!) and we must take all of those elements together to create a narrative and a presentation that both taps our people and keeps food on our tables. That’s no simple task!

 

Finding the right people, crafting a capable narrative, and increasing your company’s ability to communicate value are all pillars of strong brand development. If you haven’t laid the critical foundation for your brand, then it’s virtually impossible to command the prices you want or need. I echo the sentiments above: we must break out of our bubbles by becoming aware of the larger competitive landscape and staying tethered to the players in that market. As to the $200 scarf question, I ask: Are there $200 scarves on the market? If so, there are $200 scarf people out there!

 

Not everyone can afford a $200 scarf, and not everyone who can afford it wants to spend that sum, but pricing runs along a spectrum. You could buy a new car for $12,000 (Smart cars) or a new car for $260,000 (hello, Ferrari!), and virtually every price point in between. The Ferrari peeps know their audience and they aren’t worried about the Smart car audience. It’s up to each of us to decide where on the pricing spectrum we want to play, and the key is to build value that’s commensurate with the price tag we attach to our work. You can’t sell a Smart car at Ferrari prices, but you can sell a Ferrari at Ferrari prices. And you’ll need to create a Ferrari-worthy experience for buyers at a premium price point.  Think: flashy showroom, attractive salespeople in elegant suits, champagne as you shop, etc.

 

We can all take the reigns on our pricing by doubling-down on our attempts to control costs and create efficiencies. In this case, every penny saved really is a penny earned. I’m often tasked with helping my clients develop more efficient production strategies, seek new suppliers, and offer a “bird’s eye” review of expenses to help trim things down. Once we’ve become as efficient as possible, then the work pivots to cultivating the customers we want, becoming more aware of the market, and sending the right signals to show that we’re creating premium products for a specialty audience.  It’s possible, I promise!

 

If you want to work on becoming more intimately aware of your audience, broadening your view of the marketplace, and upp’ing your brand presentation, then I invite you to explore Brick House Branding, my 9-week brand mentorship. Enrollment for the first live semester of 2019 opens on October 2, and the program is now available in an instantly-available “On Demand” version, too.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In August, we’re chatting all things website.

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

Hi! Lela here. I recently passed my blog microphone to Shannon, Lucky Break’s Creative Director- and she generously gave you a peek behind her Hettie Joan brand launch. This week, I’m passing the mic to Melissa, Lucky Break’s Operations Manager a.k.a. “My Right Hand.” She’s a brilliant project manager and ball juggler here at Lucky Break, but she also has a pretty amazing stationery company as well.  I invite you to discover Print Therapy and then read on to learn how Melissa recently crowdfunded a $7,000 loan through Kiva to help her launch a new product collection.  

 

I’m a big Kiva fan… after all, who else invites entrepreneurs to borrow up to $10,000 to grow their business at ZERO interest, with ZERO fees, and without having your personal credit attached to the transaction? Kiva a reputable non-profit with a long track record of facilitating microloans to entrepreneurs around the world. And Melissa’s going to pull back the curtain and show you how it’s done. Take it away, M!

 

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from being a part of the Lucky Break team, it’s that I’m not alone when it comes to my dreams being bigger than my wallet. The idea of starting a business can be intoxicating, but when you learn the dollar signs associated with that dream? That can be pretty darn sobering.

 

I spent the first three years of my business sort of floundering, trying new things, learning what worked, and learning what didn’t. Once I honed in on my niche (thanks, Brick House Branding!), and after a few brainstorming session (thanks, Lela!), I had a handful of ideas I knew I wanted to bring to market. The one thing I didn’t have? The money.

 

Although I had heard of Kiva before – in fact we lend through them as a part of Luck Break’s philanthropy efforts – I had never thought about attempting to raise a loan through them for my business. I mean who wants to fundraise? Who wants to raise money? Who wants to ask the people they know for help? I’ll tell you who. This business owner. And maybe you, too.

 

During one of my consultations with Lela, as we were discussing products and the financial state of my business (spoiler alert: I was out of money), she mentioned casually that she thought I could get a Kiva loan funded with relative ease. I’m not sure why, but I shrugged it off. I’m not the best at admitting that I need other people to help me, and asking people for money always feels a bit weird. But once I hung up the phone after our consultation, and the dreaming phase was over, and the get-to-work phase began, I realized that I needed to find money somewhere, and I needed to find a good amount of it, fast.

 

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

 

I’d like to tell you that I did my due diligence, studied Kiva and their stats, and took a few days to make my decision. In reality, I did a quick review of the site to understand their terms … and had my application started not even five minutes later. And about twenty-five days later, the money was comfortably in my account, ready to make those dreams a reality. Curious to know how it happened?

 

THE APPLICATION

 

1. The Application process was pretty straightforward, but it included creating everything you see on my lender page.  My story and my dream were just as important- if not more important- as statistical information about my business. Also important? A great photo that shows the people – and the heart – behind the business. The application is also where I indicated the amount I wanted to raise, and the number of months I wanted for my repayment terms.

 

Hint: You’re only allowed to have one Kiva loan active at a time, which means you cannot initiate a second loan while you’re repaying your first. Think wisely about how much money you’ll need – and don’t let fear talk you into a smaller number. First-time Kiva borrowers can tap up to $10,000.

 

2. About 24 hours later, I had a call scheduled with Kiva, and my application was approved (HOORAY!) on the call. We also discussed repayment terms, and, most importantly, what it would take to make my loan public. As it turns out, once you’re approved, your loan page doesn’t just go live on the Kiva site, for any and everyone to throw money at you.

 

3. My Kiva rep, Richard, informed me that I needed to have at least 22 people I’m personally connected to lend me $25 each within the first fifteen days in order for my loan to go public, and for any Kiva lender to be able to find it and lend to me. It’s important to Kiva to see that you’re committed to your own success and that the people who know you believe in you, too. If I didn’t hit that magical number of 22? My loan would effectively be canceled, never to see the light of day.

 

 

THE FUNDRAISING

 

1. As soon as my Kiva page was live, I wasted no time sharing it on social media – both through my business pages and through my personal page. I knew that I had 15 days to get 22 people to lend me their hard earned money, along with their belief and support. I shared daily on both Facebook and Instagram.

 

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

 

2. I then proceeded to stalk my lender page, and I’m pretty sure I wore out my mouse with all of the incessant refreshing. I was on pins and needles, nervous that I wouldn’t find 22 people who believed enough in me to lend me $25. In those moments, my lack of money was only matched by my lack of confidence. I. Was. Nervous.

 

3. As it turns out, people like to give their money to things and people they believe in. I had 50 people within my network – friends, family, old high school and college classmates, former co-workers – lend to me in the first two days, bringing in over 30% of the money I had to raise. I was on my way! My loan was now public on the Kiva page, available for all Kiva lenders to see.

 

4. 30% was great, but I knew the momentum would begin to slow down if I didn’t keep fanning the flame. I posted. I blogged. I newslettered. I posted again. I blogged again. I newslettered again. I talked about how the money would support my business. I talked about how the business would support my family. And I talked about how much their support would support me.

 

I harped on the fact that this was not a donation; my business dreams were not a charity case. I had every intention of paying every cent back. And the people who had already lent to me? I was able to send notes to them, letting them know how things were going, and sharing my gratitude with them. Every day I tracked how much money had come in, and what I had left to be fully funded. It was a great reminder to keep on talking.

 

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

 

5. On Day 20, I received a loan from “Tom”. It was my biggest loan by far, at $900. And it took me all the way to 100% of my goal. I had no idea who this Tom was until I received an email a day later from this mystery Tom, and his wife, Heidi. They were my high school classmates that I hadn’t talked to in 15 years, but they had been following along with my business on social media, waiting for the right moment to jump in to help. They found their moment. And it gave me my moment. I was funded.

 

6. In the end, 147 people lent their money to my campaign, most lending $25. I know less than half of them. I’m grateful for all of them (especially those of you who are reading this blog). That’s 147 people who said, through their wallets, “you can do this. I believe in you.” We all know money talks, but in this case, it really did.

 

THE FUNDING

 

1. Kiva is an all or nothing lender; if you don’t reach your goal 100%, you don’t receive any of the money. And when you reach your goal? You get every single penny. There is no fee associated with the distribution.

 

2. The money is distributed via PayPal, and it’s pretty instantaneous. One day the money isn’t there, and a few days after you’re fully funded… there it is!

 

3. This is a 0% interest loan, so what you borrow, you pay back. No more.

 

4. Kiva prefers an automatic repayment setup, where they withdraw the monthly repayment from your bank account each month. At each repayment, each lender gets a percentage of their loan paid back to them – usually a few dollars each month, depending on how much they loaned. Hint: When I was determining how much money I wanted to apply for, I built-in a cushion for a few additional months. I knew that it’d be hard to start making repayments while I was getting my new products ready to sell, so I allocated a portion of my funding to, well, re-funding my lenders.

 

5. After the funding is completed, it’s recommended that you continue to update your lenders with your progress, to let them know how you’re putting their dollars to work. Sure, they care about their money, but many of them care more about your success.

 

A Inside Peek at the Kiva Loan Process with Print Therapy

 

The beauty of the Kiva process is that you’re not getting approved by some guy at a bank who deems your credit or business savviness is worth investing in. You’re getting approved by normal, every day people who deem your dream, and your story, worthy. They deem you worthy. They believe in what you believe in, and what you’re trying to do.

 

So you believe in you, too. Put yourself out there. Tell everyone and anyone why you, and your dream, and your story, are worthy. And get that money, honey.
Hi, Lela again. *wink* How much do we love Melissa, eh? I’d love to hear about your Kiva experience… please pop a comment below and let me know if you’ve given Kiva a try- either as a borrower or a lender. And if you’ve discovered other creative ways to fund your business, then I’m “all ears” to hear about those, too!

 

YOU AREN’T TARGET: A BETTER WAY TO MANAGE BLACK FRIDAY/ CYBER MONDAY PROMOTIONS

BlackFriday-Cover

BlackFriday-Cover

 

I know, I know. It seems like the entire world is hosting sales of epic proportions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is the season when the whole world loses its damn mind, slashing prices to the bone in an attempt to garner attention. While that may be a wise strategy for Best Buy and Target, it’s likely not a smart strategy for you, my friend.

 

IF YOU’RE NOT TARGET, THEN YOU NEEDN’T BEHAVE LIKE TARGET

 

Each year, I attach myself to the proverbial legs of my clients, pleading with them not cut off their nose to spite their face with sales. There is a better way to promote your brand this holiday season, and I’d be delighted to help you build a roadmap that creates a win-win for you and the customer. But before I do, let’s pull back and look at the “big picture” behind those generous holiday sales:

 

  • The kinds of products which are purchased at Target and Best Buy are likely mass-produced. If your creative process doesn’t look a whole lot like factories full of people, then your promotions probably shouldn’t look at whole lot like theirs either.

 

  • Department stores and huge chain stores sell commodities- things that can be exchanged one for another. Commodities are purchased based on two things: price (lowest cost) and availability (easiest to get your hands on). You- my friend- are a brand, which means we need to think like a brand rather than a commodity.

 

  • Target is banking on the fact that when you come in at 6am to snag that TV with the ultra-low price tag, you will also pick up a holiday onesie and some beauty products that aren’t on sale. So they lose some dollars on the TV, but they make up some ground with the other items. Many of the makers and product designers I know and love don’t have products to help them make up lost margins, so there’s no “win” in the massive BFCM sale.

 

  • Target and Best Buy offer 83,916 different products. Their goal in luring you through those doors in the pre-dawn hours is to capture as much of your holiday business as possible, so that you’ll keep coming back to them for diapers and sports bras and alarm clocks and school supplies all year long. But if you’re an artisan entrepreneur with a more focused product collection (please tell me that you have a deliciously focused product collection, yes?), then your peeps can’t come back and make 47 more purchases from you this year. So while the “big guys” can dangle the carrot, indie makers are serving up honey-glazed carrots alongside prime filet topped with blue cheese and accompanied by grilled asparagus and truffles…at 60% off. No. Thank. You.

 

I hope we can all agree that an indie brand doing a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale and Best Buy hosting a holiday sale are two very different things. Apples and oranges, if you will. There’s no need to compete with chains who are transacting a billion dollars a year in business. We aren’t them.  They aren’t us.

 

Trying to apply their promotional model to our business is an unwise endeavor. I freely concede that the Giants of Retail have trained the American public to suckle at the teat of sales on this critical buying weekend. But how does a smart brand tackle that? Good question! I like where your brain is headed with this one…

 

Quotes_02B-10_FB092215

 

THE PROBLEM WITH TRADITIONAL SALES

 

I not-so-secretly loathe discounts and sales. When promoting a sale, you move the conversation away from value and place it squarely on price, and that’s not a wise direction in which to focus attention. It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that price-conscious shoppers don’t typically exhibit a great deal of brand loyalty. They’ll abandon ship once a new “cool kid” brand rolls onto the block or the moment a lower-priced option appears.

 

Even worse? Announcing a special promo code this week miffs all the customers who ordered last week. When I launched my first product-based brand, I hit this stumbling block with a vengeance! My customer service team found themselves fielding calls from disgruntled customers each time we launched a sale. So we implemented a new rule: If the customer had ordered up to three days before the sale announcement and they contacted us within 24 hours of the announcement, then we’d honor the promotion and offer a refund equivalent to the sale price. That worked well, until customers from days four and five called, miffed that customers from days one to three got the deal, but they didn’t. There’s no bottom and absolutely no way to win as the brand owner!

 

Running frequent promotions also trains customers to order only when there’s an opportunity to score a sweet deal. And once they’re spoiled, it’s virtually impossible to entice those customers to order anything at full-price.

 

A SMARTER WAY TO BLACK FRIDAY

 

You are officially invited to raise your right-hand and take the No Sales Pledge.

 

“I [insert your name here] do faithfully pledge to abstain from offering discounts. I say NO to percentages off. NO to flat-dollar discounts. NO to luring new subscribers to my email list with a coupon in exchange for their email address. In short, NO to crazy gimmicks that temporarily fatten my bank account while crippling my business in the long-term. I know my worth and I believe that there’s a better way.”

 

Can I get an “amen”?

 

But there’s still the Black Friday Cyber Monday buying frenzy and I want you to take advantage of that as much as possible. Accordingly- dear friend- here’s my list of 8 smart ways to capture the dollah dollah bills this holiday season. I hope you’ll try these strategies on for size…

 

YOU AREN'T TARGET: A BETTER WAY TO MANAGE BLACK FRIDAY/ CYBER MONDAY PROMOTIONS

 

 

1. FREE SHIPPING
Amazon has trained us to loathe shipping fees with an especially fiery passion. Make them disappear for orders which meet a minimum threshold and your customers will be happy campers. If you normally offer a “free shipping” promotion, try cutting the threshold in half for “limited time” holiday promotions.

 

2. EXPEDITED SHIPPING
I prefer to hold this offer back until the week before Christmas when half of the country is in a full-tilt panic about their still-long shopping list. Offering to upgrade their ground shipping to 2-day delivery will ease their anxiety without depleting their wallet and they’ll love you for it.

 

3. BUY THIS, GET THAT
Who doesn’t love “free?” Instead of deducting dollars from an order, why not throw in an additional product or a deluxe-sizes sample? This generous offer never fails to capture attention and it does two important things: a) prevents you from being seen as undercutting your wholesale stockists, and b) introduces new products to your current customers, increasing the chance of future purchases. Win-win!

 

4. COMPLIMENTARY GIFT WRAP + HANDWRITTEN NOTES
Raise your hand if you feel completely swamped during the holiday season. Did you see that sea of hands shoot up? We’re in good company! Take something off your customer’s “to do” list, and they’ll be tickled pink. Offering to elegantly giftwrap purchases and include a handwritten note saves your customer’s time and enables them to ship directly to the recipient, which also saves them dollars. Trust me: They won’t be mad about it.

 

5. BUY THIS AND WE’LL DONATE THAT TO A SPECIFIC CAUSE
Altruism is important all year-round, but it has a special place in the heart of Americans during the holiday season. Tying purchases to philanthropy can be an especially effective marketing technique that helps lift others up as you build your business. In fact, “Giving Tuesday” (the day following Cyber Monday) has become a national movement that gains more steam each year. Why not do some good as you generate some dollars?

 

6. BUY THIS AND RECEIVE SAMPLES OR PRODUCTS FROM OTHER BRANDS
Hello, collaboration opportunity! Partner with a complementary brand and swap products to be tucked into outbound orders. This strategy enables you to tap their audience to grow your customer base while unleashing a small tsunami of cross-promotion opportunities.

 

7. BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE
Have some soon-to-be-discontinued products? This is an ideal way to get them out of your workshop and into the hands of your fans. “Free” is everyone’s favorite 4-letter word and it’s a powerful lure to encourage purchases.

 

8. DOUBLE OR TRIPLE LOYALTY POINTS
If you offer a loyalty program that enables customers to earn points based on their purchases, then it’s fantastically easy to tinker with the technology to boost the point values during select time periods. Try offering double or triple reward points over the BFCM period to draw loyal shoppers to your site.

 

SmarterWaytoBlackFriday

 

In short: Add value, but never deduct collars. Slash-n-burn sales may win in the short term, but you’ll almost certainly lose in the long run. And I pinkie-swear that it’s quite possible to build a wildly successful product-based brand without tempting your customers through sales!

 

Pray tell… How do you plan to capture revenue this holiday season? I’d love to hear about your planned promotions. Drop a comment below and let me know!

 

 

A Sneak Peek Inside the Launch of Price-O-Matic

Price-O-Matic

Price-O-Matic

 

I never set out to design software.

 

Quite the contrary, my goal in launching Lucky Break was to share the wisdom I’d gleaned over the years as I crawled deep in the entrepreneurial trenches.  But I quickly realized that some of the systems I’d established for myself were desperately needed by others. So I began my software journey in earnest, with the hope that I could help creative entrepreneurs streamline and systematize their business.

 

Price-O-Matic was my very first software launch in 2013, and it was a labor of love between my husband and me. I was so stinking proud of it the day it launched and so pleased to hear that it was having a significant impact on my client’s businesses. We gave it an aesthetic makeover in 2014, and we fine-tuned some features while we were at it. But the system was always a bit buggy because of its dependence on Excel.

 

As I continued digging deeper into the pricing struggles of my makers and product designers, I started to envision new features that could shift their mindset. Meanwhile, Excel kept upgrading their system, often throwing Price-O-Matic into a hissy fit. And Lucky Break itself had undergone a pretty new rebrand, making it visually out of synch with the software. Taking all of those factors into consideration, I decided to bite the bullet and scrap the entire program to rebuild from the ground up. I must have had an especially good night’s sleep the night before I agreed to take on the project!

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to design and launch software for the maker community, then I hope you enjoy this peek behind the curtain, walking you through the process of breathing life into the newly released Price-O-Matic. FAIR WARNING: Having vodka or dark chocolate nearby as you read will make this less painful…

 

At the Lucky Break team retreat that was held in Savannah, GA in October 2016, the team decided to rebuild POM from the ground up. That decision required that we commit a sizeable amount of resources (hours, energy, dollars) to the project and we began making plans to carve out the resources needed to make it happen.

 

In November, my husband (the creator of the original Price-O-Matic) and I developed a 52-page project scope, detailing how the old POM worked, along with high-level sketches of the new features we’d like to see included in the next evolution of the program.

 

We quickly engaged a prospective software team in a series of conversations about timelines, technical capabilities, and budget.

 

In December, I locked in the software team and slid a small mountain of money in their direction.

 

Shannon from Team Lucky Break spent the month of January designing wireframes for every webpage and pop-up, illustrating the page layouts and the placement of buttons, graphs, charts, and tables.

 

In February, the wireframes began to come to life as the software team undertook initial development on a top-secret testing site.

 

That same month, we hired a hand-lettering artist to begin work on new logo concepts. Shannon eventually took the raw handlettered elements and evolved them into a finished mark. She also designed the “skin” of the site, nailing down all the colors, fonts, and textures for the finished version.

 

The earliest incarnation of the new Price-O-Matic was passed back to Team Lucky Break in early March. My husband and I took round one of internal testing, creating 44 pages of detailed revisions that we slid back to the software development team.

 

They dove back in, cranking out Price-O-Matic 2.0. The Mister and I scrutinized every button, every calculation, and every graph, passing 51 more pages of revisions back to the development team.

 

Though I can’t formally confirm it, I’m pretty sure this is when the software development team unleashed a tsunami of swear words in my direction before plugging themselves into tequila IVs. My perfectionism is a blessing for our clients and sometimes a curse for my teammates. Cue tense phone call… we (thankfully) moved past it.

 

POMbythenumbers

 

My teammate Melissa began gathering a cohort of beta testers, comprised of both devoted POM users and new souls who were interested in putting the software through its paces before its public release. It was a careful and intentional mix of product categories and experience levels.

 

Price-O-Matic 3.0 was delivered to Team Lucky Break on April 2. More rounds of internal testing (the testing team expanded to include Lucky Break teammates Melissa and Eileen this time) netted just 15 pages of notes and revisions. At this point, our focus was on refining the user experience.

 

I spent a handsome chunk of April drafting text for all the help pop-ups. All totaled, there are 47 pages of pricing wisdom packed into those help screens.

 

Version 4.0 landed in our laps the second week of April. We tagged in the beta testing team and encouraged them to run through the software and report their findings. They rated the ease of use, recommended new features, and created snapshots of 3 fully built products. We’re eternally grateful for their willing hearts and eagle eyes, which helped us test-drive hundreds of scenarios across multiple browsers!

 

Once those screenshots made it back to us, we carefully hand-checked each calculation on every page to ensure that all the math was correct.

 

The software development team dove back in one more time, meticulously implementing dozens of adjustments to the program. And I can speak from experience here: They LOVE when you add changes in the eleventh hour to make the program easier to use. </sarcasm> We managed to sneak in a few last-minute features based on feedback from the beta testing team.

 

Team Lucky Break began designing the onboarding process. We needed a smart plan for migrating 1500+ current users to the new system. It requires some serious coordination to elegantly get all of that user data migrated over so that our current fans can hit the ground running.

 

Once the final incarnation of Price-O-Matic was finalized, development of the responsive version began, enabling POM to be accessed on tablets and smartphones.

 

The baton was passed back to me for development of the educational pieces. That included the creation of the library of video walk-throughs to help users quickly acclimate to the software. I built a meaty slide deck for the pricing workshop that accompanies the software, too.

 

I spent two days recording the pricing workshop and video tutorials before tagging in my (long-suffering) husband. Christopher spent an entire day editing and producing all of the videos to remove my ah’s and um’s and make me sound smarter and smoother than I am. Thank you, sugar!

 

With the software and educational pieces complete, we migrated all the goodness from the top-secret development site to the live Lucky Break Consulting site. How any of that happens is a mystery to me, but that’s why I have a software development team. *wink*

 

My teammates and I then worked together to create the new Price-O-Matic page at the Lucky Break website to share with the world all the awesome new goodness we have in store.

 

We launched the new Price-O-Matic on Tuesday, April 25. The launch was immediately followed by deep sighs of relief, champagne toasts, and long naps. And a good cry on my end… not the bad kind. More of the I-Felt-Like-Hercules-Trying-To-Get-Through-That-Project-And-I’m-So-Relieved-That-It’s-Over variety.

 

I’m so, so pleased with the final result and now that I’ve had a few nights of good sleep, I can absolutely affirm that every ounce of energy was worth it.

 

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There are a mind-boggling number of new features, but I’m happy to share some of my favorites…
1. POM is now universally compatible, cloud-based, and accessible from anywhere on the planet that has an internet connection.

 

2. The new version works in 5 separate currencies:
• U.S. Dollars
• Canadian Dollars
• Australian Dollars
• British Pounds
• Euros

International users can now add GST + VAT, too.

 

3. I built a new REVERSE PRICING TOOL to help you pivot to a value-based pricing mindset, and then use that mindset to create a product development budget (it takes 3 clicks and less than 1 second!) that ensures that you’ll never again develop overpriced products that miss the mark.

 

4. The new REVENUE PROJECTION CALCULATOR enables you to see the revenue paths you’ll need to carve out to in order to make the kind of money you desire each month. Tell POM what your revenue targets are and the software will automatically calculate how many units of your highest-priced, lowest-priced, and average-priced products you’ll need to move to hit that benchmark.

 

5. There’s a whole suite of printer-friendly reports that show a profitability snapshot for each product, a cost analysis for each product, and a listing of inventory items for each product. Hooray!

 

6. A new feature on the PRICING STRATEGY page helps you understand how various promotions affect your ultimate profitability. Choose from: percentage off, buy one-get one, free shipping, or buy one-get one at x% off. The software will crunch all the numbers for you to ensure you don’t lose your tuckus.

 

7. Price-O-Matic is now instantly delivered (it’s ready within 60 seconds after purchase!) and a fancy new help desk system ensures that we can service tech issues quicker and more efficiently.

 

8. The software is 36 times prettier and 94 times easier to use. Yes, I counted!

 

If you’d love to take control of your numbers, increase your profits, and sleep better at night, may I humbly suggest that you check out the new Price-O-Matic?

 

If you’ve had a chance to see the new Price-O-Matic, then I hope you’ll leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I’m eager to hear it.

 

We do offer free upgrades for life, so all current users can upgrade to this new system. I’ll leave instructions for upgrading in the comments below. I made it quick and easy… promise!