The last six months of any year seem to pass at lightning speed. Once summer hits, there are marketing promotions to run, gearing up for back-to-school and then the holidays are right around the corner. Before you get caught up in the rush of Black Friday preparations, take a little time and evaluate your end-of-year needs.
There are more than 1 million retail establishments in the United States alone. That number ebbs and flows, of course, as businesses open and close each year. Part of outpacing the competition and ensuring your cash flow remains high throughout the last two quarters includes paying attention to the needs of retail businesses in general and assessing how your brand measures up.
Here are six things you should assess before the end of the year and see what adjustments you need to make before the new year arrives.
1. Prepare Your Holiday Marketing Campaign
Well before November arrives, you should already have a full marketing campaign in place. Once the busy season hits, you’ll have little time for planning social media posts, which items to get in stock and what to put on sale. Instead, use the summer months — which are typically slower for most retailers, unless you’re in a tourist town — and plan how you’ll reach your target audience.
Think about some of the better-known retailers. One example of a store that often prepares for the holidays well in advance is Macy’s, with their famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to the parade, they tell compelling stories through videos and print campaigns that tie into their message of “Believe.”
Macy’s also hosts an annual fundraising event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which ties in nicely with the other elements of their campaign. If you can find a purpose you believe in and tie into it with your marketing, those who support the same cause should respond positively.
2. Create a Retail Business Map
For retailers, foot traffic can make or break you. Choose the wrong location for your store, and you risk not making enough sales to afford the rent. A retail business map shows potential foot traffic in the area and even what times of year are busiest. For example, if your store is near a college campus, you might be busy when school is in session, but lose out during what should be the busiest time of year because everyone goes home for the holidays.
3. Beef up Your Content
If your retail business doesn’t yet have an online component, it should. Studies show people often begin searches online, even if they’re planning to visit a local store in person. One easy way of beefing up your content through the end of the year is adding a content marketing system and managing contributors to your site. Happy customers, employees and management can all contribute to your blog.
In a recent survey of marketers, 74% of business-to-consumer marketers felt their content marketing campaigns were successful. However, you must know your audience well, create unique content and market that content in the right places. Accomplishing that feat requires diligence toward internal data about your specific audience.
You’ve likely seen people post their dollar store craft ideas on Facebook and Pinterest. Did you know Dollar Tree maintains a blog with tons of DIY ideas for crafts, decorations and even recipes? Every suggestion on the blog uses items you’ll find in Dollar Tree stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun, and they prove that with their blog posts, which hit their target audience perfectly.
4. Revisit Quarterly Budgets
Now is an excellent time to revisit your budgets for Q3 and Q4. Is there enough money left in the coffers for advertising, ordering extra inventory and paying seasonal helpers? If not, you may need to revamp your budget. During your slow time, you should also begin mapping out your first-quarter budget for the next year. Remember, you’ll be crazy busy once the holidays hit, and the new year arrives right on the tail end of the most hectic shopping season. Preparing for your first quarter now saves you valuable time later. You can always adjust as needed.
Toward the latter part of each quarter is a smart time to look at the budget for the next quarter. Make sure everything is in order and still makes sense based on your goals and profits. If you feel overwhelmed with this task, hire an accountant to help you out. A financial professional may see opportunities to save money you would never spot. You can hire an accountant on a contract basis to come in occasionally, or employ one full-time.
5. Update Software Now
Do you need any major software upgrades? Perhaps you plan to implement a new point-of-sale system before the holidays hit. It makes much more sense to update your systems now when you aren’t as busy and work out any bugs. If updates won’t be available until just before the holidays, considering delaying the updates until after the first of the year. People will only wait in line for so long. If your POS system is down or having issues, you risk losing sales. Once customers leave your store, it’s unlikely they’ll return.
6. Order Inventory
Based on sales so far and what customers are saying, what will the hot products be for the holidays? Think about gift sets and items people can pick up quickly during last-minute shopping. Not only should you begin increasing stock — within reason — on those items, but think of ways you can make them easier for your customers, such as pre-wrapped gift sets and baskets aimed at specific audience segments, such as Dad, Mom, boyfriend and best friend. The easier you make shopping for your customers, the more they’re likely to buy from you.
A word of caution here: Many business owners have spent a small fortune stocking up on inventory for the holidays, only to find they’re stuck with stock they can’t sell. Make sure your sales for the last few years justify the inventory you’re ordering, or have a backup plan for how you’ll move the items if they don’t sell. Cash flow issues plague many small businesses, so be cautious about the inventory decisions you make.
The Secret to Success
Planning is the secret to ending your year on a successful note. The more planning you put into your last two quarters, the easier your marketing and sales will be when the time arrives. Spend a little time prepping now, and have the best year you’ve ever had in your retail store.
When selling a product, the first option that may spring to mind is to become a retailer for that item. However, you also have the potential to become a brand owner — the person or group that holds intellectual property rights.
In that case, there is more control over which outlets sell the brand, how available the product is in the global marketplace and other specifics. Below, we’ll go over several things you need to do during your quest to become a brand owner instead of just a retailer.
Have Ideas for Products That Aren’t Available Elsewhere
A major factor that causes a person or company to be a brand owner rather than filling the role of a retailer is the presence of ideas for things that aren’t currently available — or knowing how to make things that are better than what people can buy now.
Maybe you love the outdoors and have been thinking about creating a water bottle that makes purification easier when people are roughing it in the middle of nowhere. You might already run a business that stocks outdoor products. However, it probably feels like carrying a selection of inferior water bottles makes your customers miss out.
In the above scenario, becoming a brand owner lets you stock your products in your store. As a result, you can spread the word about them and give current customers easy access to the merchandise.
Protect Your Brand or Product
It’s crucial to go through strategies that protect your brand from dilution. It occurs when there are too many similar products in the marketplace, causing people to become confused about all of them and have difficulty with differentiation.
If your own name is also the brand, you can trademark it, as Oprah did. She’s one of the few people who’ve taken that step to set herself apart. After securing the trademark, it’s also necessary to keep an eye on the internet and make sure merchants aren’t using it without permission. Setting up Google alerts can help you stay more aware compared to manual monitoring alone.
If your product is unique or has characteristics other items don’t, you need to strongly consider filing for a patent. Otherwise, other brand owners could see your products and copy attributes about them.
To ensure your brand and products and properly and thoroughly protected, consult a lawyer who has experience assisting other people in your situation. That person can advise you on the best measures to take, plus tell you what to do if you notice companies or individuals infringing on your property.
Generate Curiosity About the Brand
As a brand owner, it’s necessary to adjust your business strategy and focus on stimulating interest within multiple groups. The more curiosity you cause, the higher the likelihood your efforts will lead to sales and fruitful business partners.
Retailers merely convince shoppers to buy products. As a brand owner, you not only have to do that but also network with distributors that extend the brand’s reach when necessary. Being successful in that task requires showing genuine excitement for your brand and describing why it’s worthy.
Build an Appealing Website
The internet is the first place many people will find out about your brand. Invest time and money into creating a strong web presence that reflects what you offer. Does your brand cater to busy businesspeople, or adventurous travel lovers? Regardless of specifics related to the target audience, make sure the website’s design, copy voice, images and content support the brand. Then, it’s easier to convey what makes your brand stand out and why people should care.
Set Up — and Oversee — Social Media Accounts
Having an informative and user-friendly website is a good start, but you also need to maintain active and interesting social media accounts. Take your time during the setup process and fill out all the relevant sections of a social media profile. Use the same approach to content as building your website and angle it to develop and strengthen your brand at every opportunity. Update social media regularly, too. Ongoing updates boost traffic and engagement.
Also, realize a social media page could quickly become the go-to internet destination for someone who wants to tarnish your brand or is unhappy for some reason and wants the world to know. That’s why it’s crucial to develop and uphold a plan for moderating social media pages.
If you can afford it, hire a moderation team or person to supervise social media and intervene when required. Also, decide what constitutes intolerable behavior. If people continue to break the rules after being made aware of what’s acceptable, ban them and keep track of their IP addresses.
Also, never ignore customers who are truly disgruntled about something brand-related. Instead of keeping up with a publicly viewable content string, you may find it’s more comfortable and private to ask an upset person to send you a private message or call a dedicated phone number to explain their concerns further.
Come up With a Licensing Plan
Licensing is the best way to realize the full value of brand equity because it provides new avenues for promoting, manufacturing and distributing your brand in new markets. It’s essential to prioritize obtaining license agreements as a brand owner to achieve staying power in a crowded marketplace.
There are various ways to do that. Visiting trade shows is a great initial step. They connect brand owners with companies interested in growing the collection of merchandise they offer.
Furthermore, don’t ignore cold calls and social media outreach techniques from potential licensees. Consider that some of the companies most suited to signing licensing agreements may be from other countries, meaning you’d not necessarily encounter representatives at domestic trade shows.
Also, don’t get too eager and sign agreements with any company that gets in contact. Licensees are representatives of your brand, and if they don’t stick to minimum standards when associating with it, all the hard work you’ve done as a brand owner could quickly become nearly useless.
When evaluating whether to accept a potential licensee, ask about the direction they want to take the brand. If it doesn’t align with at least most of your goals or seems in direct opposition, think carefully before finalizing a contract.
Understand What to Expect
Many aspiring brand owners fixate on all the positive aspects of the outcome. Indeed, the advantages are compelling, and the ownership and responsibility involved are quite motivating.
Having a realistic perspective is crucial. Taking steps to become a brand owner is typically more difficult and less straightforward than being a retailer. Because of those realities, you cannot anticipate quick results.
However, it’s not hard to understand why brand ownership provides such a substantial payoff to the people who do it right. Many brands become timeless segments of the pop culture landscape. Consider names like Coca-Cola, Apple and Mercedes-Benz.
As an owner of your brand, you enjoy an unprecedented amount of control over how it appears in the marketplace. Brand ownership also gives more freedom to shape what people think of the brand and perform reputation management as needed.
After reading these steps, it shouldn’t be hard to realize why many entrepreneurs see brand ownership as such as appealing concept. If you can relate, don’t get intimidated by the length and complexity of the process. Instead, persevere and recall that owning a brand could result in long-term profits and recognition within an ever-crowded consumer landscape.
How to Start Your Own Clothing Company:
a Quick Guide by Your Friends at Go Media
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With hundreds of posts in our archives sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. Our Start Here page is a great place to get started. This page holds 7 quick guides to becoming the creative you’ve always dreamed you’d be (brought to you by the best web graphics company in Cleveland, Go Media). You’ve landed on one of these lists so let’s get started, shall we? Read on to learn how you can:
Start Your Own Clothing Company
1. How to Launch a T-Shirt Line in One Day
2. The Fundamentals of Great T-Shirt Design
3. Starting your own shirt line. PART 1
4. Starting your own shirt line. PART 2
5. Apparel Printing: the Designer’s Guide
6. How to Get Your Apparel Line into Retail Stores
7. 15 Awful Mistakes Made by Designers in the Music & Apparel Industry – 1 of 3
8. 15 Awful Mistakes Made by Designers in the Music & Apparel Industry – 2 of 3
9. 15 Awful Mistakes Made by Designers in the Music & Apparel Industry – 3 of 3
10. Pointers for Designers Working with Apparel Companies
11. A Designer’s Guide to Pricing
12. How to Charge For Your Graphic Design Work (& Get What You Deserve)
13. 10 Tips to avoid designer’s block
14. How to Win at Design by Humans
15. Apparel Design: 120+ Inspirations from Go Media’s Portfolio
16. 5 Keys to Branding Your Apparel Line Like a Boss (+1 Top Secret to a Successful Launch)
1. Anatomy of a Band T-Shirt
2. Design Process: “Sick” Metal Band T-Shirt
3. Tutorial: “Lady Luck” T-Shirt Illustration
4. Go Media’s Rapid-Fire Illustration Technique
5. How to Design Your Own Custom Hoodie
6. Sexy Holiday Vector Pin-Up Girl Technique
7. How to design a t-shirt on a budget and a tight deadline
8. Ornate Lettering Process
9. Designing Ultra SceneXCore Apparel!
10. Beautiful Vector Illustration
11. How to Create Vintage T-Shirt Designs with no drawing ability
12. Pro Tips on Preparing Artwork for T-Shirt Printing
13. Keys to Launching an Online T-Shirt Business