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    24 Replies Latest reply on Dec 19, 2008 9:26 AM by CustomFashion

    Event: Creative ways to grow your business.

    SBC Team Guide
      This year's holiday season is proving to be extremely important for retailers across the country as they look to increase their bottom line and end 2008 on a profitable note. Bonnie is back for her second appearance on the Small Business Online Community, to provide tips to small business owners about staying on track to reach their end of year business goals and creative ways to grow their business in today's environment.

       

      Bonnie Marcus is the creator and owner of her own stylish stationery company, Bonnie Marcus Collection. Before launching her business, Marcus worked as a wedding planner in New York City and as the Special Event Coordinator at the prestigious 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Having also worked for a number of years in the fashion industry for top designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Bonnie was able to team up with a number of fashion illustrators who helped make her dream of chic, stylish stationery a reality. Bonnie started by launching a wedding invitation line, Down the Aisle in Style, and a holiday card line, Holiday Style. In addition to the wedding and holiday designs, the line has expanded to 10 collections including a line of invitations and note cards for moms-to-be, Expecting in Style, and a collection of fashionable flip flops launched earlier this year. Bonnie has been recognized as a pioneer for women in business. The Bonnie Marcus Collection can be found in over 1,000 retailers around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Barneys New York and Kate's Paperie. Company website: http://www.bonniemarcus.com

       

       

      Post your question here and then check back on December 18 at 2:00PM EST or anytime after that for Bonnie's response. You can also pose a question in real time to Bonnie any time during the event hour.
        • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business
          Tori Adventurer
          Hi Bonnie,

          Thank you for this encore appearance on the SBOC! We're very excited to have you back!

          Can you give some tips that small business owners can implement today on how to stretch a dollar in today's economy? Maybe some simple things that they can do around their (home) office?

          ~Tori
            • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business
              PaperPrincess Newbie

              Hi Tori.

               

              Thank you for your question.

               

              This year we decided to implement a number of "green" procedures in our office to be more environmentally friendly. Surprisingly, in addition to helping the environment, our costs have been reduced significantly in many areas as well. One simple process we have implemented is to use hand towels instead of paper towels in the office. We wash the towels once a week, and have cut our costs dramatically since we no longer go through so many paper towels in the office kitchen & bathroom - a very simple, easy & "green" way to cut costs. In addition, we have been re-using the corrugated boxes that we receive shipments in to ship out our orders to customers, rather than purchasing new boxes. Also, instead of purchasing post-it notes at the office, we have been re-using scrap paper. Since I have made my employees aware of these procedures & asked for their input, they have also been turning off the lights when leaving their office for an extended period of time, and they have become conscious of their spending as well. Our efforts to "go green" have not only helped the environment, but our bottom line as well.
            • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business
              rossowineshop Newbie
              I own and operate a retail wine shop with a wine bar. My business has grown pretty well over the last years through grass roots promotion and great word of mouth. I want to take it to the next level by doing some key advertising. How would you prioritize these and why? And do you have any other suggestions?

              Utilize exsisting customer base by making offers for them to enlist friends (free)
              Print door hangers and canvas the immediate neighborhood to gain more local business (printing charges minimal)
              Begin direct mail campaign of postcard mailers to targeted list (medium investment)
              Arrange an advertising campaign in local publications targeting our neighborhood (medium investment)
              Advertise in higer end food and wine publications that reach more people but not all in the area (most expensive)

              I really appreciate this type of forum and thanks very much for your input.
                • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business
                  PaperPrincess Newbie
                  Congratulations on the success of your business.

                   

                  You have outlined some fabulous ideas to help take your company to the next level in 2009!

                   

                  In terms of where to start, I would first suggest to market to your loyal customer base. The best form of advertising is through an existing customer who has had a positive experience with your company, so I would start with your first idea of marketing to your current customer base.

                   

                  In order to do this in the most cost effective way possible, I would suggest sending your existing customers promotional emails, rather than direct mail pieces. If you do not have the email addresses of your current customers, start collecting them now! Email marketing is an amazing cost-effective way to reach all your customers for free & it will only take minutes of your time, once all the data is inputted. (At my office, we have wonderful interns who are fantastic on the computer & work for college credit, so this is no cost to us as well.) This will allow you to touch your customers in the comfort of their own home. In addition to special offers, you can also email them about new wines coming in or any "fun facts" about the industry that they may be interested in. Emails are a great way to keep in touch with your customers & I am sure that when they have their next special event, they will visit your store first!

                   


                  Another way to reach out with minimal costs is whenever a customer comes into your shop, have a coupon at the counter for their next purchase. This will hopefully get them back in your shop faster because now they have a reason to come back. If using a coupon, include an expiration date so people don't hold on to the coupon and forget to use it.

                   


                  Best of luck!
                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                  smilez893 Newbie
                  Hi Bonnie,

                  I have watched the business grow over the past few years and I am a big fan! I am actually in the process of opening my own stationery business. After working in the bridal industry for some many years I know that stationery can be a lucrative business, but I have no idea where to start. I have some great designs stored away from my designer days, but need some tips on how to get started. Can't wait to hear from you!
                    • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                      PaperPrincess Newbie

                       

                      Hello.

                       

                      Thank you for your post. It's always wonderful to hear from people who are familiar with our collection!

                       

                      Of course, starting a stationery company (or any business) is not as easy as it may seem . . . My first recommendation for anyone looking to start a stationery business is to attend the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center in New York City in May. Take your time & speak to the other manufacturers. Learn from them about price points and packaging. Although your designs may be fabulous, having the correct price point & knowing your costs are actually the most important part of any new business. In addition to attending the Stationery Show, I would make appointments with local retailers to show them your designs & get their feedback - this information is extremely valuable! When I started my business, my local retailers gave me the feedback I needed to help take my business to the Stationery Show the following year, where I took on about 200 retailers!

                       

                      Best of luck!
                    • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                      nikki123 Newbie
                      Hi Bonnie,

                      I've been to your website and your Press section is very impressive. How do you manage your PR and is there any advice you can give to small businesses to get their name out?
                        • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                          PaperPrincess Newbie

                          Hello!

                           

                          We have been fortunate to develop some wonderful relationships with the press over the past six years. Although I have worked with PR agencies in the past, I have found that we have gotten the best results by handling PR in house. We love to send editors "pretty packages" with samples of our new releases, and we take the time to know the editors at the magazines. If we know an editor is getting married, we may send her wedding-themed stationery. If we know an editor is having a baby, we may send some wonderful expecting thank you notes. I think establishing personal relationships with editors (as well as with your customers) is imperative in this economy.

                           

                          Of course, it is just as important to develop relationships with press on a local level as well. Develop a spreadsheet with the editors of your local newspapers and magazines. (Again, this could be an intern's job as well.)
                          PR is a very inexpensive & effective way to get your name out there!
                          Good luck!
                          1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                          tinalynne Newbie
                          Bonnie- I am starting a new business. I was wondering how you got your first order??? Did you participate in any shows at the Jacob Javits center and was it worth your investment?. I just found out how much the accessory show will be and I am very nervous.
                          Thanks
                          Tina
                            • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                              PaperPrincess Newbie

                              Hello Tina.

                               

                              Thank you for your post.

                               

                              I think trade shows are a wonderful way to grow a business! However, before you invest in a trade show, you need to do your homework . . .

                               

                              As I said in a previous post, take the time to get FREE feedback from your local retailers first! Make sure your price point & packaging is in line with the competition. Develop a plan for the trade show - how many orders do you need to get in order to "break even"? Make sure you do your homework & know all the stats before you make the investment. When you are ready, go for it! Trade shows could be instrumental in the growth of a company, but only if you are adequately prepared.

                               

                              Best of luck!
                            • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                              lucygnyc Newbie
                              Hi Bonnie,
                              First off, I need to tell you how much I love your stationery and gifts!!! Not only do I use your products but almost every party invite and card I get is from your line...
                              I am thinking of starting my own creative business and just wanted to know how you were able to get your product in so many different stores and how do you make sure they reorder?
                              Thanks!
                                • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                  PaperPrincess Newbie

                                  Thank you for your wonderful feedback! I love to hear from our customers.

                                   


                                  As I said in the previous post, I believe strongly in trade shows. Our first show in New York brought in about 200 new customers, and now our product is now in over 1000 retail stores around the world, which is mostly due to trade shows. In addition to attending the trade shows myself, I have 60 reps around the country who attend the trade shows in their territory. Although they get a percentage of the sales, it is more cost effective than constantly traveling around the country.

                                   

                                  Your point about re-orders is very important. I never just want to sell my product to a store, I want to make sure the product sells AND that the store re-orders. Again, I think one of the most important things is developing a strong relationship with your existing customers. In this economy, you want to make sure that you keep your existing customers, even if another manufacturer decides to reduce their prices lower than yours. Again, this can be achieved by KNOWING & CARING ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS. If the owner of a store is getting married, make sure to send a card. Don't forget to send a card for the holidays. (If you already missed your holiday card deadline this year, send out NEW YEAR cards.) If you do not have a budget for cards, reach out to your customers via email. The most important thing is to stay in front of them so they think of you the next time they need an order, and they WANT to buy from you because they know that you care, and of course, that your product sells.
                                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                  caffeinated Scout
                                  Bonnie,

                                  You have an amazing story! How did you take your business internationally?

                                  caffeinated
                                    • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                      PaperPrincess Newbie

                                      Hello caffeinated (love the screen name!).
                                      We developed our international customer base through the New York City trade shows as well.
                                      Surprisingly, many international customers visit trade shows in the United States. Furthermore, it is cost-effective for them to buy now, whereas in the past international customers always requested discounts. Our international customer-base has grown significantly in the past year. Many international customers also find out about us through our website as well. One thing to remember is that shipping costs may be very high when shipping internationally. All of our customers pay for their own shipping. It is definitely not necessary for you to take care of shipping costs.
                                    • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                      oceanwaves Newbie
                                      Hi Bonnie,

                                      We love your cards. Can you offer any suggestions to improve business in these tough economic times?

                                      Thanks in advance for your advice.

                                      Louise
                                      • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                        Vince Adventurer
                                        Hi Bonnie,

                                        Are promotions (coupons, special offers for customers on a mailing list, deep discounts or sales) a good way to keep your business growing in this environment?

                                        What risks are associated with running a promotion? Is there a possibility to lose money?

                                        Thanks, Vince
                                          • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                            PaperPrincess Newbie
                                            Hi Vince.
                                            Great question.
                                            Promotions are an excellent way to encourage people to buy in this economy. We have been running many promotions on our website over the past few weeks such as free shipping and even 20% off (which is currently advertised on the home page of our website).
                                            These promotions definitely helped with business over the past few weeks.
                                            However, you are correct - promotions could be dangerous if you do not know your costs! When offering promotions, it is always important to keep your profit margin in mind.
                                            You do not want to put your product on sale so low that you are actually losing money.
                                            If you are aware of your costs, offering sales & promotions are a win/win situation.
                                            Happy Holidays!
                                          • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                            SBC Team Guide
                                            Community,

                                            Please join me in welcoming Bonnie Marcus to the SBOC.

                                            Remember to refresh your browsers often to see Bonnie's latest response.

                                            With that, take it away Bonnie!

                                            The SBOC Team
                                            • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                              SBC Team Guide
                                              Community,
                                              We have less than a half hour left with Bonnie. Try to get those questions in to ensure she has time to respond :)

                                              The SBOC Team
                                              • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                                nikki123 Newbie
                                                Hi Bonnie,

                                                You seem to have a strong focus on customer service. Is there any advice you can give on managing relationships while focusing on the important re-order people?

                                                Thanks!
                                                  • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                                    PaperPrincess Newbie

                                                    Hello Nikki.

                                                     

                                                    One of the most important things to remember as a small business owner (with 3 boys under 5) is that I cannot be at every meeting & deal with every customer who contacts our office.
                                                    Therefore, it is important for me (& any small business owner) to feel confident that my employees are aware of my beliefs and what is important to the company. They know how important it is to KNOW OUR CUSTOMERS & they take the time and make the effort to help our customers in any way possible.
                                                    We have had tremendous success & developed very stong relationships with this belief.
                                                  • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                                    SBC Team Guide
                                                    Bonnie, we appreciate all your professional responses and can't thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join us for this very special event.

                                                    Community, our time with Bonnie has concluded. We thank you for all your great questions! If you want more information on Bonnie and the Bonnie Marcus Collection, please visit http://www.bonniemarcus.com.

                                                    Thanks,
                                                    The SBOC Team
                                                    • Re: Event December 18: Creative ways to grow your business.
                                                      CustomFashion Newbie
                                                      Hello Bonnie,

                                                      I love your insight, I've been to your website and I must say it's impressive and user friendly. I'm the owner of a custom fashion business and I'm trying to grow my clientele base, my question is how do you obtain good PR on a limited budget and where is a good place to start that would have the most impact.