My goodness the days certainly run together when one is taking care of a newborn! I knew that my time would be limited for the first few months following my daughter’s birth, but I can honestly say I had NO FREAKING CLUE just how frantic and desperate things could get. For the entire holiday season, the most I could do for my business was ship out orders when my assistant was on vacation, respond to customer inquiries, and disperse minimal marketing. Fortunately, because of systematizing much of what goes on in my business, things never got too far behind or overwhelming that I couldn’t handle it, but many of the projects I’ve considered tackling while on maternity leave will probably have to wait until long after I return to my day job.
It’s is however, a new year. And like most business owners, January has the effect of causing me to reflect on what worked and what didn’t for my business the year before, so I can be smarter about what actions I take moving forward. With my time being even more limited than ever, it’s that much more important to be smarter about what I have to work with. Even if you aren’t a member of the “parent club” I’m guessing you could likewise use some more freedom in your life and business, even if it means simply being able to steal away some extra hours for bubble baths or Game of Thrones marathons.
Evaluating when didn’t and did work for me for the prior year is only possible because of the tracking I do within my business. If you feel like you can only guess at what made a difference and what was a waste of time for your business, then you need to start deliberately tracking the following things:
1. Your best-sellers.
This may seem obvious, but a see a lot of handmade sellers that don’t really pay attention to this one. Instead of making the types of products that are continually flying off the shelves, they consistently run out of stock on these items, and instead, just make what they feel like making. This is fine if you only make your product as a hobby and don’t really care if your business makes any money or not, but if you are in business to bring in income, then you need to seriously pay attention to the exact products and categories of products that spend the least about of time sitting in inventory prior to being shipped out.
2. Your highest-sellers.
This could be your best-selling product, or it could be a product you sell less units of, but because of it’s higher dollar amount you end up making more money off of it over all. For a lot of handmade businesses, it’s the best-selling product that serves as the impulse buy to bring customers in, and the high-selling product that is the easiest to sell to trusting, repeat customers. Knowing and tracking what these products are will help you more effectively market them to the right people (easily doubling or tripling your sales as a result of doing so.)
3. Where your traffic is coming from.
A lot of handmade business owners think they need to be everywhere online in order to market their business and sell their products. So they stretch themselves thin trying to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, WordPress, and on and on… While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to sign up for many of these places (if only to reserve your name and post a link directing platform searchers to visit your website) it simply takes too much energy to be excellent at all of these. Instead, I suggest honing in on only 1 or 2 social media channels, and really dedicating yourself to making things work there. Then, after a few months of observing how each platform affects your traffic and sales, you can then judge from a much more concrete standpoint whether or not your time spent on social media marketing is bringing in the right kind of people that are your target demographic and leading to sales.
4. Your expenses. ALL of them.
It’s all too easy to wait until tax-time at the end of year to start tallying up receipts and calculating your business expenses. But this could easily mean that your business isn’t making any money and you won’t even know it until it’s too late. Things like shipping supplies, merchant processing fees, and of course, the supplies required to make your products add up. It’s important to know where your business stands at any given time before you make the decision to shell out for a Facebook ad or purchase those shiny new beads you’ve had your eye on. It’s also important to make sure you’re tracking ALL of your expenses, not just the obvious ones. Some that you make not be considering include travel expenses (if you have to drive long distances to attend craft shows, for example), the cost of your internet service and/or data plan, and the amount you spend on furthering your own business education. When filing your business taxes this year, be sure to talk to your accountant about all of the things you can deduct (so long as you keep track of them and save your receipts!) keeping in mind that these are all things that are taking away from your bottom line, whether you claim them as business expenses or not.
5. Your e-mail list.
E-mail remains the most effective way to sell to your audience. Even if only 10% of your subscribers are opening and clicking on the links in the e-mails you send, that is still a far better lead conversion rate than what most people are going to get out of any social media platform. (This is why having an e-mail list remains my utmost regret for what I wish I would have started sooner.) Tracking not only your number of subscribers, but where they are coming in from, will help you most effectively increase your sign-ups and ensure you are attracting the right people to your list.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what you pay attention to is what what gets done. Tracking at least the 5 things mentioned in this blog post will have you making smarter decisions for your business and start offering you results long before it’s time to do another yearly review.