Early Bird Pricing for Workshops – 6 Things to Consider

Early bird pricing is just one way to encourage customers to sign up for your workshop at the beginning of your promotional cycle, rather than waiting until the last minute.  Early registrations provide an influx of revenue to help cover costs and make planning easier for the actual event.  They are also an indicator of how appealing your event is and whether you will need to promote it more heavily than planned.  But before you decide to offer early bird pricing consider the following.

1 – How will it impact your revenue? Early Bird Pricing

Take time to consider various revenue goals for your event, and how early bird pricing will impact these.  For example, if you want to attract 50 attendees with an early bird price of $49 and a regular price of $79 consider the financial impact.  Assuming you will fill the event, the difference is $900 if 10 attendees sign up as early birds versus 40 attendees.   Don’t get hung up on the amount, but be aware of the general implications and possibilities.  Work through a few different scenarios to understand your numbers.  Review your costs and ensure that your early bird pricing is sufficient to cover them.

2 – Do you have a system that can handle early bird pricing?

If you use an online tool such as a shopping cart to process registrations think through how the system needs to be set up.  Is there an automatic tool that takes care of everything?  Or will you need to create 2 separate types of registrations?

If you will be processing the sales without an automated system you will need to create a chart to track purchases.

3 – What will your cut off date be?

Decide on a cut off date that fits with your event goals and timing.  If you are using other pricing incentives, consider whether they will be offered along with an early bird offer, or on their own.

4 – Think of the to do’s to be done when early bird pricing ends.

For example, will you need to change wording on your website?  In what areas?  If you are using print materials do you have 2 versions, one that promotes the early bird, and one the regular price?  Ideally, once the early bird deadline has passed, you want to remove mentions of it.

5 – Have a promotional plan.

There is no sense in having early bird pricing if no one knows about it.  You should have a promotional plan for the entire event, but be specific about how the early bird offer will be promoted.  For example, through your e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, website, handouts and other promotional tools.

6 – Do you feel comfortable promoting an early bird price?

It is important to be comfortable with the difference between your early bird and regular price so you don’t hesitate to promote it.  Make sure your regular price is realistic and not incredibly inflated to make the early bird price offer look even better.  The regular price should be at a level where you will still expect to make sales.

With proper planning and execution early bird pricing can be a great tool for attracting attendees to your workshop.  Having attendees sign up through the early bird offer is a great boost of confidence as you organize the event and assists with planning.  If your early bird offer is not successful, it can be an early warning sign to gear up promotional efforts.

*Looking for more event suggestions?  Another helpful blog post is …..#1 Benefit of Events & 7 Tips.

7 Blog Ideas for Green Businesses

Stuck on what to write about next for your blog?  Consider these questions and let the ideas flow!

 

1 – Why do you do what you do?iStock_000005164183XSmall yg woman chalkboard light bulb

Did you experience an illness or health concern that got you started?  Was there a specific childhood experience or tradition that you loved?  Be personal, but then expand on how individuals can take their own personal experiences and grow from them.  Look for statistics and facts related to your experience to include in your blog.  For example, ‘A Gluten Free Diet Is Not The End Of The World’ or ‘Teaching Your Children To Love The Outdoors.’

2 – How did you get started?  What was your personal journey like?

As it relates to your product or service, provide basic step by step suggestions on how individuals can get started.  Use your personal experience as a starting point and then translate this into how this experience could help others.  Perhaps it’s ‘5 Tips For Eating More Greens’, or ‘7 Steps to Healthier Lunches’, or ’10 Easy Games to Play Outdoors’.

3 – What questions do you always get from friends/family and customers?

Sit down and think about what questions you get asked the most.  Talk to a friend or family member who is not as familiar with what you do and find out what information they find most interesting.  When you are selling to customers keep a clipboard and record any questions asked.  Answer these questions in your blog.  If possible dedicate one blog to each question.  Turn the question into a statement to create a title for your blog post.

4 –Have you told your customers about your individual products or services?

Pick one and write about it.  Why do you offer this item?  How do people use it?  What benefits does it offer versus mainstream options?  How long does it last?  What kind of feedback do you get about it?  Be sure to include a photo and avoid being ‘salesy’.  Keep it informational with a touch of promotion.

5 – How does your product or service fit in with an upcoming event or season?

For example, consider holidays – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.  Or consider the seasons – Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter.  Would your product or service make a perfect gift at one of these times?  What kind of production activities do you take throughout the year and which ones are impacted by the seasons?

6 – What facts or research could you share?

For example, would your followers find information about the Dirty Dozen vegetables helpful?  Do they know about the top chemicals to avoid in personal care products?  If you sell second hand clothes, what are the current fashion trends?  Some of this information can be negative – balance it with positive information or suggestions.  Don’t forget to clearly recognize the source of any statistics or quotes.

7 – Think about your day.  As you go through your day, why do you make the choices you do?

Eg.  If you are a food coach – What do you eat for breakfast and why?    What did you pack in your child’s lunch?  If you sell cloth diapers, did the sunny warm weather this week prompt you to hang diapers outside to dry?  What kind of hanging system do you use, and how long did it take for them to dry?  As with any post, use your personal experience as a starting point to generate ideas and then write the post as it would apply to your followers.

Providing information through a blog helps you share your story and is very educational for your followers.  As your customers increase their knowledge so will their loyalty to your products and services.

Green Business Owners – Tell Your Story!

Are you a passionate, determined individual that has started a business offering a green product or service?

Perhaps you have created a line of toys made from recycled materials, or skincare products without chemicals.  Perhaps you provide permaculture landscape design consultations, or teach canning workshops.

As a green business owner you face unique challenges.  Tell them your story

Your products or services are often higher priced and not always seen as essential.  It may be inconvenient (compared to mainstream options) to locate, purchase and use your products.  For example, you may only sell your produce at the local farmers market once a week in the summer months.  Those who purchase your vegetables need to further prepare them for consumption.

There are many benefits to telling your story.

You build trust.  In providing information in an ongoing, consistent manner about your products and services, customers see your long term commitment to the environment and to your business.

Customers understand your product better.  For example, you could provide information on the ingredients you use and why you chose them, the steps you take to create your product and why you do these steps or how it should be used and its benefits.

Your products and services become essential in the customers mind.  Knowledge is power.  And as you educate customers about what you do and how you do it, they will become more committed to what you offer, and see mainstream options as less appealing.

Customers will become more committed to obtaining your product or service, and will make the necessary adjustments in their life to purchase it.

Consider a mainstream example.

Think of a popular brand name figurine type toy.  Visualize how it looks on the shelf of a big box store.  It likely has bright colourful packaging and the figurines might be posed in some kind of scene.  The figurine is well known – it may have a television show, movie(s) and/or books.

If you were to purchase the toy you may find that although the package took up a lot of space on the shelf, the actual toy and included accessories really aren’t that big.  In this case, the brand name of the toy and the packaging created perceived value to help increase the appeal of this item.

When you tell your story you create perceived value around your products and services.  No longer are you selling JUST ANY OL’ tomatoes, but you are selling heirloom tomatoes with amazing taste!  By purchasing them your customers can help preserve diversity, feel pride in supporting a local farmer and feel comfortable feeding them to their family because of your sustainable or organic practices.

When you communicate your story you are communicating all of the intangible benefits of your product or service.  As customers increase their understanding of these, they begin to understand the overall value of what you offer, and can see beyond the price tag.

Ideas to Freshen Up Your Website!

When a visitor arrives at your website you want them to be intrigued and impressed.  You want them to be ‘eggcited’….   (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

You don’t want them thinking… “Are they out of business?”  “They haven’t posted on here in months!”  Keep your website fresh with these ideas.

Make sure you can do updates yourself.Freshen up your website with some eggcitement!

Relying on the web guy or girl for revisions is time consuming and costly.  Ensure your website is built on a platform such as WordPress or CMS that allows you to easily make changes or additions.  In some sections, you may need assistance from your website developer but these should be areas that do not change as often – such as your header, footer and/or graphics.

Have a designated area for new information.

Ideally, this is your blog where you will post regular updates.  Sometimes this might be a “News” section.  Perhaps you regularly change the statement on your home page.  Although you want to keep the whole website current having specific areas where updates will be posted keeps you focused in what to add, and helps customers know where to check for updates.

Look for ways to make updates obvious and automatic.

Most blog systems will show the date it was posted.  If not, be sure to include the date yourself.  Have a small area in your footer or side bar where the most recent blog titles are displayed automatically.  If you have a very strong, visually enticing blog you may want to make it your home page.  If you are very active on Facebook or Twitter you might consider an embedded window feed on your website although I don’t always recommend this.

Monitor event dates.

If you are not using some kind of automated system to post upcoming events, program dates, registration deadlines etc. be sure to manually remove these once the date has passed.  For example, if you will be offering a foraging hike on May 8th, be sure to remove this listing after that date.

Update photos.

Sure the picture of the cow in the meadow might be timeless but what about the group photo from your workshop 3 years ago?  The hairstyles and clothing worn by your students may give away that it is an older photo.  Remember to make sure people in the photos are smiling!  I recommend gently ‘staging’ the photo as necessary.  Often it is better to ask people to stop and pose for the camera mid action with a smile rather than try to capture that impromptu moment perfectly.

Ensure your business hours and location information are up to date.

If these are not consistent or change on a regular basis you may want to leave them off to avoid any confusion.  For example, if you do many of your sales at the farm gate it may be better to simply state “by appointment only” and clearly provide contact information.

If you do social media well, don’t ignore your website completely.

If your Facebook account is buzzing as you post and share interesting photos and stories – terrific!  Keep in mind though, that potential customers may find your website before your Facebook profile, and rely on the information found there.  Ensure you are spending at least some time, on a regular basis, keeping your website current.

With these tips in mind visitors to your website will easily recognize that you are in business.  As time passes, and you continually add updates you will also develop a depth of content on your site that will strengthen your credibility.

Milkweed Marketing can help you with your website!  Has it been a long time since your website was updated?  A website review of your existing site will include a detailed list of recommendations.  If you struggle with creating new content consider a Blog Boost package.  For more information email susan@milkweedmarketing.com!

 

Tips to Help You Get the Website You Need

Your website is the foundation of your online presence.  It’s also a significant investment of time and money.    Here are some tips to help ensure you get the website you want.

Before you hire a web developer, put together a “creative brief.”

Generally, website developers are not mind readers so it is important to think through your requirements.  Absolutely your developer should have suggestions for you; but if you are well prepared the developer will be able to provide a more realistic quote and it will also make the process more efficient.Website under construction!

Map out what you need.

Think about the information you want to provide on your website, the desired reactions of visitors and what actions you want them to take after visiting.  Start brainstorming!  Write each unique topic, reaction and action on a post it note.  Do you need a section for recipes?  Will you include photos of your family?  How about an e-newsletter opt-in section, link to Facebook or a shopping cart function?

For more ideas…

Look at your marketing materials such as brochures, letters, etc.  Check out your competitors websites.  Think through the steps a customer makes to find you and buy from you.  What information do they need and should it be included on the website?  Once you have your pile of post it notes start grouping them together to help identify the different areas and flow processes for your website.  (I like post it notes because it allows you to move everything around to develop a basic map or layout for your website.)

Caution!  Friends or family may not be the best choice to create your website.

Sometimes the results are great and you save a lot of money.  In many cases, the website takes a long time to get finished, or it never gets completed at all.  It may be set up on a system you have no idea how to use and is difficult for another web developer to continue working on.

Other important items.

Think about how you will use the website after it is finished.  Ask your developer to set up a backup system and Google Analytics.  Will they provide you with some kind of instruction manual and/or training session for the website so that you can do many of the updates yourself?

Passwords, logins, renewal dates – keep track of these.

Be sure to know who your domain name was purchased through and who is your website host.  When does your domain name and current hosting contract expire?  Have you signed up for automatic renewals?  Which email(s) did you use for these services?  If the web developer helped set up these systems, be sure to get the information from them before the project is finished.  It can be very difficult and awkward to track down your web developer a year or two later.  (And even more so if you plan to use someone different.)

Stuck on how to get started?

I believe one of the most important parts of any creative brief is a section where you list 2-3 websites you like and two to three you don’t like.  This can be a great way to start thinking about your website.  Make notes for each one as to why you like or don’t like them.  Is it the colours used? The font?  The overall feel?  The information provided?  How easy or difficult is it to find your way around the website?  Including this information really helps communicate your preferences to the web designer.

Although there are other aspects of website development to consider, giving thought to these areas will certainly help you on your journey.

Milkweed Marketing can help you with your website!  If you need a new website, assistance is available to prepare a creative brief, find a website developer and manage the project.  Another option is a website review that includes detailed recommendations on how to improve your existing website.  For more information email susan@milkweedmarketing.com

Getting Ready For Your Trade Show Display

You’ve made the decision and signed the contract to be an exhibitor at an upcoming event.  To increase your success keep the following in mind.

Be recognizable and branded.

Display your company name or preferably your logo prominently.  Ensure your booth reflects the style and feel of your brand as well as the colouring.  If someone was familiar with your logo and website before attending the event, would they automatically recognize what booth is yours?   For example, a Spa Sisters booth is instantly recognizable.  “We’ve worked hard to create an environment that’s eye-catching – who doesn’t love fuchsia??” say Kerri Foster Roberts and Tricia Foster-Mohan, owners of the Spa Sisters.  They add that other elements add to the bright, playful look that is their brand.  “The pink curtains, polka dot lamps and feather wreath catch people’s attention making them more likely to stop and look at our products.”

On a tight budget?  Use inexpensive frames painted in one of your brand colours, featuring large photos of your product to make your booth look more visual.  Bring a tablecloth in the same colour as your logo.

goodlines Decor at One of a Kind Spring 2012
Lois of goodlines Decor at One of a Kind Spring 2012
Know how you will stop customers in their tracks.

How will you ensure that individuals walking by your booth will stop?  Will you provide samples?  Will there be some kind of activity such as an equipment demonstration?  What will you say to initiate conversation?  Do you have a specific product or service you want to focus on?

Lois Ward, of goodlines Décor features her thought provoking quote pillows prominently.  “People are drawn right into the booth to read the quotes.  The display is lively but uncluttered and we ‘fluff’ product often to attract attention.  Warm friendly smiles from staff make people feel welcome.”

For the Spa Sisters, testers are the key.  “We’ve found that people love to sniff and sample body meringues and lotions, so we put them right out front so people feel comfortable trying them.  It’s a great way for us to begin a conversation with someone and we love hearing the instant feedback on which flavours people prefer,” say Kerri and Tricia.

Have Marketing Materials Available

Be sure to have brochures and business cards on hand – something that individuals can walk away with.  Your website address and contact information should be easy to find on these materials.  The conference organizers should be able to provide you with an estimate of the number of attendees.  Not everyone will choose to pick up your information but the estimate will at least provide a starting point.

If you have an e-newsletter, provide attendees with an opportunity to sign up for it.  This is a great way to build your list!  Be sure to enter their information to your list immediately after the event.

Think through the logistics

Make a list of everything you need to take to the event.  What steps do you need to take to prepare these items?  What other actions are required?  Take time to think through each step of the event.  How will you, your products and other supplies get there?  Will they fit in your vehicle or will you need to rent or borrow a van?  Do you need help to set up?  What do you want people to do when they visit your booth?  How will you cover bathroom and meal breaks?  Are there specific guidelines set by the organizers?

Plan for follow up & rest

Mark time in your calendar for follow up activities such as entering e-newsletter subscribers, unpacking, paying bills, filing paperwork, etc.  This is a major investment and you want to ensure you have the time to follow up properly.

You will also be tired and not want to return to a heavy personal or professional schedule immediately after the event.  Although it took time for Lois of goodlines Décor to regain some balance after her last show she did eventually make progress.  “About a month after the show I was able to once again create moments of relaxation by returning to yoga and meditation once a week, as well as spending time with family and friends,” she notes.

Getting Started

If you haven’t been involved in tradeshows before try a couple of lower cost, local shows before moving on to larger, multi-day events that may also require travel. Remember to create lists to help you prepare.  Add to the them as you get ready, review the lists after the event and keep them for future reference – even if they are covered in scribbles.  Your lists will help you be successful and make your next event even easier!

Enjoy the show!

 

How To Identify Your Customer…and Target Your Marketing To Capture Their Attention

Don’t make the mistake of not defining who your target customer is.

But I have no idea where to start!

Consider it a work in progress.  Is your business relatively new?  Start by writing down your best estimate of who your customer will be.  Decide on the basics, will they be male or female?  Age range?  Geographic location?  Education level?  Income level? Your Ideal Customer?

Is your business more established?  Consider who your best customers are.  These customers are the ones that provide the greatest benefit to your business.  They are the ones who purchase the most, are loyal and/or provide referrals for you.  Pick 5-10 of your best customers and reflect on who they are and what they have in common.  You’ll likely see trends, and realize you want more customers with similar characteristics.

Additional ways to describe your customer…

Motivations – What motivates them to lead a greener lifestyle?  Concern for the environment?  Concern for their own health?  Concern for their children’s health?

Hobbies – Yoga? Meditation? Camping? Cooking? Pets?

Their shopping habits – Average purchase price.  What do they do with the product after they purchase it?  Time of day they shop.

What happens when you define your target customer?

You can make better marketing decisions.  When planning your marketing activities you will choose or seek out those that help you reach your target market, making your efforts more effective.

For example, you sell free range eggs and you have determined that many of your customers are pet lovers.  Sponsoring the local pet shelter might be a good way to reach new customers.  When approached with marketing ideas, you will be able to judge them against your target market to help decide.

For example, you sell cloth diapers.  A magazine offers you a great rate on advertisements.  It is a regional magazine with more of a male focus.  You decide to pass, because your services are only available in a section of that larger region and your target customer is moms, usually in their late 20s to late 30s.

It’s liberating.  When you define who your target customer is, it requires you to accept that not everyone is your customer.  This makes it much easier to accept the unavoidable rejections you may get as you promote your product or service.

Keep working on it.

As with any marketing efforts, your target customer definition will become more refined as your business grows.  With experience you will identify what works and what doesn’t.

Customer segments.

If you have a lot of customers, you may be able to identify 3 to 4 different types of customers you have.  Identify each and prioritize which of these customers is most important.

Want to avoid other marketing mistakes?  Register for my teleseminar – 5 Marketing Mistakes To Avoid As You Grow Your Business & Influence.  Click here or visit the Events Tab.

Should You Sign Up For A Tradeshow Booth?

Making a decision on whether to participate in a conference or trade show can be difficult.  Organizers may show you charts outlining all of the amazing benefits.  You may feel pressured to respond because of an early bird deadline that is about to expire.  There are only x number of spots left and you don’t want to miss out!

Spa Sisters Display

Spa Sisters Display

Exhibiting at conferences can be a wonderful way to promote your business.  “The opportunity to interact with clients and hear their immediate feedback to our products continues to be the main reason why we do shows,” says Kerri Foster Roberts and Tricia Foster-Mohan of the Spa Sisters.

Lois Ward, of goodlines Décor echoes this sentiment.  “In addition to great sales volume, participating in the One of a Kind Christmas show confirmed what my most popular products are and provided further insight into the exact types of customers they appeal to.”

While there are lots of positives, there are also significant financial costs that need to be considered.  Not to be ignored are the demands placed on you and other staff.  Leading up to the trade show you may have to significantly increase production of your products, preparing your booth will take time and then there are the long hours of the show itself.

To determine if you should sign up consider the following questions.

Will you reach your target customer? 

Review the characteristics of your target customer.  Are they male or female?  Approximate age range?  Income level?  Education level?  Where do they live?  What interests and hobbies do they have?  Will you find lots of your target customers at this event or just a few?  More sophisticated events should be able to provide you with a demographic profile of their attendees.  Watch that your investments of money and time are comparable to how many target customers you expect to reach.  If you won’t be reaching your target market, don’t be an exhibitor.

How successful do you expect the event to be? 

Is this an event with many years of success or is it just starting out?  What efforts will the organizers take to promote the event?  Does the event offer an exciting experience to attendees such as a keynote speaker or a variety of workshops?  Have major sponsors been confirmed?  Look for events with a history of success or those with strong promotional efforts.

As Kerri and Tricia of the Spa Sisters note, “we look for shows that are well organized, well-publicized, and well-attended.  A show with a proven track record is much more likely to be successful for us.”

What is the true total cost? 

The most obvious cost is the initial fee for the booth space.  The other most significant cost will be your booth display that might include lighting, a backdrop, banner, signage, table cloth, shelving, etc.  (If you plan to re-use these materials you can divide their cost over the various events.)

You will also need marketing materials such as brochures, flyers and business cards.  The organizer should be able to provide an estimate regarding the number of attendees and then you will need to estimate how many of those may want to pick up your information.

As Lois Ward of goodlines Décor notes, “payment processing expenses also need to be considered – a point of purchase credit card device, credit card transaction fees and cash float.  From a comfort point of view I also invest in shoe insoles to combat standing on concrete floors all day.”

Other costs can include door prizes, meals, hotel accommodations, transportation and parking.  And although this isn’t a direct business related cost, assume you may do some personal shopping as well.

Are there added bonuses? 

Having a booth and meeting lots of potential new customers is great – but are there other ways you can market yourself?  Can you be featured in promotional material for the event?  If you provide a door prize will you be able to personally present it to the winner from the stage?  Can you be a workshop speaker?  The more bonuses there are the better.

Is there an alternative? 

Consider the alternatives to being an exhibitor.  Are there sponsorship opportunities?  Could you be a speaker without having a booth?  What if you attended and simply networked with other businesses and attendees?  If you feel you could realize similar benefits through other less costly alternatives then choose those.

Conferences and trade shows are often filled with energy and excitement.  They offer a great way to promote products and services.  Just remember to choose carefully to ensure your time and money are wisely spent.

 

3 Ways Your Accountant Can Help You Market

Did you know that your revenue and expense records can help you market your product or service?

Due to government requirements most small businesses like yourself keep detailed records about your finances.  But these records can be used for more than filing your taxes.

Here are 3 ways you can use your financial records to benefit your marketing.

Know your true marketing costs.

If done well, your books will provide a detailed list of any marketing related expenditures including those you may forget.  Sure you might remember the upfront cost to have a booth at a tradeshow but your records will help you identify the other related costs such as parking, printing and signage costs.  With this information you know the true cost for participating in the trade show.  In the future you will be better prepared to make decisions about this and other related opportunities.

Use the past to help plan for the future.

Look through your list of marketing expenses.  Which ones would you like to continue doing because they resulted in revenue and other positive outcomes?  Was it the series of ¼ page ads in your local newspaper or the free workshop you gave on menu planning?  Schedule and budget successful activities into your coming year.  Discontinue those that were not successful.  Also look for seasonality trends in your revenue.  Consider marketing efforts to promote increase revenue at slow periods while ensuring peak periods remain supported.

Which products or services sold the most?

Analyze sales information to understand which products, services, distribution channels are contributing the most gross revenue and net revenue.  Perhaps your course “Backpack Essentials” is very popular, but doesn’t contribute very much to your net revenue.  Review pricing.  If your e-book “Camping Essentials” contributes a lot of net revenue per unit but isn’t selling well – plan to increase your marketing efforts of this book to increase sales.

Once you take a look at your numbers from a marketing perspective you will discover a gold mine of information.

Ready, Set, Germinate!

If you reflect over the past year, how did you make decisions and promote your business?  Did you often find yourself stressed and unsure of what to do?  Did you try to ignore marketing and then found yourself scrambling and reacting?

When you react to things it often creates inconsistent marketing and can be very costly.  When you take time to plan ahead it is less stressful, you’ll make better decisions and be more effective at reaching your goals.

Just as seeds need water, oxygen and the right temperature to germinate, you need a plan in place to help your business grow.

What I often find is that green inspired business owners simply don’t have a plan.  They have an idea of what they would like to achieve but never solidify it by writing it down.  The problem is that without a plan on how to make that idea work it never happens and is doomed to failure.

Planning doesn’t need to be scary.  You don’t need to spend weeks and have a 25 page document at the end.

Here are 4 steps to creating a plan.
  • Set a revenue goal.
  • Decide what you need to do to reach that revenue goal.  How much produce will you need to sell?  How many workshops will you need to offer?
  • Schedule in the revenue generating activities on your calendar.  In which months will you sell your product?  When will your workshops take place?
  • Decide on how you will promote your product or service.  If you need to sell pumpkins in October – what promotional efforts will you need to do before October?  If your workshops will take place on April 15th – when will your promotional flyers be ready?  When will you start promoting it through your e-newsletters?
Need more tips?

Want to build up some energy and motivation to tackle planning?  Join me for a free teleseminar on December 11th on this topic.  Visit the events page or click here to register. 

By the end of the call you’ll have started your plan for 2013 using a template I provide.