Hello again! Today I’m in Southern California, attending “Costume College,” an annual event chock full of classes on all kinds of costuming stuff, along with shopping, and a sweet costume tea, ice cream social, pool party, and gala. So far I’ve met oodles of awesome people, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.
As a small business owner, the personal connections you make with your potential customers, and well as with other business owners/bloggers/etc. are so very important. These days, a slick corporate facade can actually do you damage, as customers actively seek out the unique, underground, grassroots kinds of businesses that are run by honest people similar to them, and offer a good customer experience all but lost in the hubbub of mega-stores of the 21st century.
|Let’s be friends!|
As you move forward in building your company, you are also building your brand. Most likely YOU are the brand, the face of your business, and more often than not, the person actually making the products! Your face will become synonymous with the name of your business, or your blog (they’d better be the same name!) – perfect examples are Lauren M, aka “Wearing History;” Laurie, aka “Daze of Laur;” or even me, aka “American Duchess.”
That being said, it’s important to show that face of yours! Attending costume or craft events is the perfect place to start. If there are slim pickings for costume or crafting events in your area, throw some yourself. They don’t have to be big events – my particular favorite is a casual tea in a local tea shoppe, or a picnic in the park. Invite everyone who may be even remotely interested in your niche. Whether you are attending a local event or throwing your own, this is a great opportunity to meet people, let them meet you, and network.
|Throw your own costume or crafty parties|
Of course, for many this is easier said than done. I admit I am painfully awkward when it comes to meeting new people. Honestly, I find it really difficult, and even more uncomfortable when I meet fans at events. I just never know what to say, so usually what I say is something lame!
I’m still working on how to meet people gracefully, but so far what I’ve learned is…ask a lot of questions, listen lots, talk little. You want to get to know your fans and customers, and you also don’t want to come off as a pompous ass by talking about how awesome you are.
|Remember, you have something in common!|
Meeting folks out-and-about allows them to get to know you as a “real” person, and you to learn about your fans and customers one-on-one. It forges personal relationships that result in happy customers and a business owner that really cares about giving good service to the people buying her products.
So get out there and attend some events! Don’t forget to take business cards, or even some cool promotional goodies, like buttons, stickers, etc. Be honest, elegant, open, and a good listener, and you will not only capture potential new sales, but make friends too. 🙂
If you have questions you’d like answered, or are a small business owner and would like to guest post for SBB, drop me a line – [email protected] .
AgnesAugust 4, 2012 at 8:16 AM
Be yourself and say "Thank you" when receiving a compliment. Be gracious about it and do not say anything diminishing about your work. That just makes the "complimenter" feel bad.
On the rare occasion of negative criticism just accept it and put it away to digest later, not there on the spot – don't argue if you can help it. Don't let things get under your skin. Step back and look at things from a distance the next day if there is some disagreement.
Those are the recommendations I can give you from both the business person and the customer point of view.
AllisonAugust 4, 2012 at 6:23 PM
Great addition to the good advice in this post, Agnes–especially the part about not saying anything to diminish your work. Negative criticism can always be responded to with a smile and a respectful "You've given me something to think about." If a disagreement is becoming heated, ask for a reasonable period of time to come up with a proposal for how to solve the problem. Some people need to vent their frustration before they are able to move on to problem-solving, often because they haven't figured out yet what they actually want to have happen to resolve the conflict. A little cooling and thinking time can stop the escalation and get things moving towards a mutually satisfying solution that doesn't necessarily end the relationship.
Lauren StowellAugust 4, 2012 at 9:39 PM
Thanks Agnes! That is really good advice. I think many of us, definitely me, tend to discredit our work because we feel a little embarrassed or awkward about being complimented. I didn't realize it would also make the one giving the compliment feel bad.
Everyone has been wonderful nice, no disagreements at all, here at Costume College. If a disagreement should arise, NoMatterWhatMom, your advice is excellent. It does not good to fight!
AngelaAugust 6, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Lauren, thanks for raising the idea of a 'public face' for your company. I think that many of the grassroots newbie companies may not think about the public aspect of their business as they are concentrating on their product. I love how your blog has really helped you develop your product niche. Even though I know you as Lauren, I still refer to you as the Duchess. Its funny, when my friends and I talk about your last yummy designs, its usually, "What has the Duchess got going now?" or "OMG! Did you see what the Duchess has put out for pre-order?" So, you are so right! Building your business with a persona is really working for you.
Re: Shyness, I am that way, too. It is so difficult for me to talk to people who see my art work or my historical clothing and compliment me on what I do. I never know what to say! Yet, there is a skill and art to meet and greet. It takes practice, right? Anyway, thank you again for this forum. I am totally appreciating this as it is helping me fine tune my goals for a future business.
Lauren StowellAugust 7, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Angela, I am glad to hear that these articles are having some benefit. 🙂 It's weird, I never think of myself as the "Duchess." Rather that's just the name of my blog and now brand. I'm just Lauren! lol
UnknownAugust 7, 2012 at 2:23 PM
Thank you for continuing to post "Small Business Betties"! The advice is great and really useful. My best friend and I are in the begining stages of starting our own business right now and I have found these posts both inspiring and helpful. It's true, we do tend to forget about the public face of things when we are just getting started. And accepting compliments is definitely something I need to work on….I never realised it made the comlimenter uncomfortable as well!
Lauren StowellAugust 7, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Becky, good luck to you and your friend in your new business venture :-). Thank you for reading my articles, too! If you have any questions, I'm happy to share my experiences. 🙂
LaurenAugust 9, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Thanks to your post, I have successfully convinced the husband that Costume College is in the plans for next year 😉
Actually, we were already planning on going halfway through the weekend, but it sure did help! Thanks!
KatieAugust 10, 2012 at 8:00 PM
I think that's totally true, Lauren. As a small business owner myself, being a "public person" was something I had to get comfortable with. But now I just find that being myself and being passionate about what I do (not to mention constantly tweaking my business focus) is the best approach and why I'm happy working for myself. I've known people who start internet businesses because "they don't like dealing with people" (for whatever reason) and it kind of baffles me.