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: General Business Question  ( 14718 )
bobbin
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« #15 : August 01, 2013, 02:37:28 PM »

I am finding my diverse skill set difficult to market.  Perhaps I'm impatient with "word of mouth"? dunno. 

I am trained in tailoring/alterations/clothing.  Also awnings/marine canvas.  Drapery work, slipcovers, and cushions.  Many years of experience makes me an excellent/creative repair seamstress. I am a juried member of the League of NH craftsmen in hand painted floor cloths and possess a good deal of decorative painting acumen.  Skills aren't lacking, marketing those skills IS.   

I have cranked out some really nice jobs in all of those aspects of our trade.  But I really struggle with how to winnow it down to a snazzy, "least common denominator" website.  I certainly don't pass up more mundane work, but I need a web presence that will click with the interior designers and clientele who will be more interested in the "finer" array of skills I've accumulated over the years.  I'm not terribly interested in patching awnings and boat canvas coated with bird crap, thanks.  ;)
Mike
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« #16 : August 01, 2013, 03:52:46 PM »

I find nobdy here uses the phone book anymore and my shop is not visable in an industrial park  or it was at my home shop. people are new to the area here retiring all the time they come some go and more come . and all  the newbys usualy tell me they found me on the net even big jobs an hour away I get  one or 2 a year. I used to be the newby now most I see moved here a year or so

baileyuph
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« #17 : August 01, 2013, 08:29:02 PM »

mike,
Curios,  are you listed in the phone book?
I get a lot of work by being listed in the yellow pages, I understand they search for upholstery shop close by.  There are the repeats, the referrals and those new calling every week.  Then, there are those who see the business, it is probably less than 2 or 3 hundred feet from a major interstate.  They drive in almost daily and remind me "you worked for me before". 

Then, work comes from other people in the business who refer their customers who want a service they don not render.  I calls every week, so and so said he doesn't do this and you came highly recommended.

I had one customer who needed a rug bound, just this week, someone said, you know I would call so and so, he does a lot of all types.  I answered the phone, said yep, bring it over if you want it by end of the day.  They did, those are good cash jobs. 

People moving in and out of an area, surely would search the computer for local business and that would be searching on the net or yellow pages or?.  If you aren't in yellow pages, well...............?  New to a neighbor hood would be good prospects.

I have never had someone to ask if I had a web site, except someone looking to sell me one.

Doyle
sofadoc
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All types of upholstery.....except cars and boats.


« #18 : August 01, 2013, 09:10:25 PM »

My family business has had an ad in the local YP's since 1960........until last year. The idiots at YP simply left my ad out due to an oversight.

Knowing that a large percentage of upholstery customers are in the over 50 demo, I was nervous about going an entire year with no presence in the local YP's. I was afraid that the older crowd still relies on the old fashioned way of locating a business.

The phone book came out last September. So far, I haven't noticed even a tiny drop-off.  In fact, I'm having one of my best years of the last 10. Even the "senior set" is finding me without the use of a hard copy phone book.

I'm not sure if I'm even going to bother to get my ad reinstated.

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
baileyuph
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« #19 : August 02, 2013, 06:37:59 AM »

Ad?  I have never had an ad, just listed by category and am not concerned about going out of business if the YP died.  It is just another facilitator for customers to gain information.

If I continued a business that had been there a long time in a smaller town, YP is not essential but it could be additive.

A start up business will benefit more from additional exposure.

A YP listing now could be more beneficial since the number of shops are less and will continue that way.

Doyle
« : August 02, 2013, 07:31:44 PM DB »
sofadoc
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All types of upholstery.....except cars and boats.


« #20 : August 02, 2013, 08:12:05 AM »

Ad?  I have never had an ad, just listed by category
The geniuses at YP not only left out my ad last year, they didn't even include the listing.

When I called to complain, they kept referring to the listing as a "free courtesy listing".........obviously implying that they had no obligation to include it in the first place.

I told them that it was MY understanding that when you pay for a commercial rate landline, the "courtesy listing" in the local YP's is part of the package. They didn't argue that point. So YES....they DO have an obligation!

As recently as 3 years ago, it probably would've been devastating to not be in the local phone book. Now.....I'm not sure if I even give a rat's behind.

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
bobbin
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« #21 : August 03, 2013, 11:44:22 AM »

I regard a website as a way to showcase the sorts of work I'm capable of delivering.  On a recent field trip to a show house I picked up business cards of designers whose work I liked.  Every single one of them had a neat, concise website with some handsome work beautifully photographed. 

I don't think a website is the perfect way to advertise by a longshot, but I do think it's a great way for potential customers to look at your work and learn about you and your philosophy with respect to the services you offer.  And I have enough "whipper snapper" friends who are hip and have money to spend on the sort of quality work I do.  I need my workroom to be "a click away" and appealing so they'll call or e-mail me with questions!



Mike
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« #22 : August 03, 2013, 01:19:32 PM »

mike,
Curios,  are you listed in the phone book?
I get a lot of work by being listed in the yellow pages,

I have never had someone to ask if I had a web site, except someone looking to sell me one.

Doyle

doyle I never paid those ridicules fee for we yellow page add I took the free listing and I have always been mixed up not under boat canvas and top usually under canvas good  like I sold canvas .

my shop in NH for years was very visible rite down on the bay next to my bait shop so boated coming in for bait or the adjacent launch knew I was there everybody did. 

I got a website back thewn but didn't need ut ive never had anyone ask me if I had a website either, allot find me because of it some are out of state like a guy in texas last year who kept his boat at his FILs who called me most Google  in the area

Boat Canvas

or 

Boat upholstery

Mojo
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« #23 : August 04, 2013, 07:40:38 AM »

I am finding my diverse skill set difficult to market.  Perhaps I'm impatient with "word of mouth"? dunno. 

Skills aren't lacking, marketing those skills IS.   


Bobbin:

Do not feel bad or beat yourself up. Alot of my consulting work was with tradespeople who were masters at their craft but lacked marketing skills and had a difficult time making a go of their business. My own brother is an amazing auto mechanic and I helped set up a marketing program for him. I watched his business fail twice because he never listened to me or put my marketing plans into place.

I have the complete opposite problem. I have little experience in upholstery outside what I am doing but have over 30 years of marketing, PR and business experience. I consulted to mom and Pop stores and also fortune 500 companies. But for me to do an enclosure on a boat.......no way. I do not have the skills and I readily admit it.

Like others on here that I have quietly and confidentially helped, I am always available for you to bounce ideas off of and / or look over websites or marketing/pr materials. Send me a PM if you need any assistance.

Chris
Mojo
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« #24 : August 04, 2013, 07:53:22 AM »

Outside of the rallys and seminars I conduct, my entire business is all Internet bound. If I had no internet presence I would have had to close my doors a long time ago. If I am not getting business from internet forums then I am getting it from my website. Almost all of the contact, billing, conversations, etc. all take place via e-mail. Many customers I never even talk to on the phone.

My website  www.stonevos.com appears to have too much info on it but one has to remember my customers are HUGE information hounds. Also, many of my web site pages helps eliminate alot of the time I would otherwise spend answering questions through e-mails. I designed it this way because I am a 1 person shop and do not have the time to sit on a phone or typing e-mails to answer the same questions over and over again. My production time is extremely important and during busy seasons I cannot spare any lost time away from the machine.

I really am extremely happy with the way I set this business up. I rarely have to deal with customers directly and because almost everything is internet based my wife can step in and handle some of the billing and inquiries. Being a people person I enjoy meeting and greeting people from time to time and my presence at rallys and my seminars provide me with this opportunity. But the nice part is after I am " peopled out " I can head back home and hide out in my shop and do nothing but sew. :)

I cannot speak for everyone here but for me a major internet presence is a make or break thing for me. Without it I would go broke and have no business.

Chris
baileyuph
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« #25 : August 11, 2013, 09:30:25 PM »

Mojo,

After reading about your brother's automotive garage experience,

Question:  In a case such as his, what was his primary reason for failing?

I ask for a few reasons, his business is much like an upholsters who, for example, does furniture upholstery in a one man fashion.

Both, an automotive mechanical repair shop and an furniture upholstery shop will largely depend on local clients for their business.  If, in either case, a garage or an upholstery shop, what is the primary essential ingredient for success that was lacking that contributed to the failure of your brother?  Did he put out good work(I would think he did), spend most of his time productively?  Was there a personality issue or poor time management, or ?

I have been in business for many years, never had a problem of getting work, stated to make it easy for you to understand why I am asking such questions

Just searching for common denominators that likely exist for upholsters.  

Respect your input,

Doyle
« : August 12, 2013, 07:20:13 AM DB »
Mojo
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« #26 : August 12, 2013, 07:44:03 AM »

Doyle:

Go get some coffee. This is going to be a long post............LOL..:)

I also believe the upholstery business is a close match to an automotive repair facility in that both require an investment in tools and knowledge, both have the same types of overhead ( shops, utilities, etc. ). The difference between the two though is competition. There are 50 repair facilities for every one upholstery shop. Maybe more.

In the case of my brother, he failed twice simply because he was one of the very best mechanics I have known, honest and a perfectionist. In nutshell he was one of the very best at his trade. Unfortunately he sucked as a business man. His expertise was under the hood of a car, not in the office creating ad copy or marketing programs. He was also damn bull headed and refused to listen. Even to me.

He committed the same fatal mistake I have seen a hundred times before. He sat on his proverbial butt and waited for the business to come to him. During my consulting years it was routine to talk with a new business owner who claimed " I have the best service and best product going but cannot get any customers through the door ". After discussing this with them and going over their business plan I soon learned they did no advertising, had no marketing program and was essentially hid away from the public. The only customers they had were the ones who accidently found them. This was the case of my brother. Sure he had referrals, but he had few customers to begin with which meant few referrals.

I tried to get him to adopt a marketing plan I laid down for him and he agreed to but in the end never did. So he went broke, closed down shop, stored his equipment and 3 years later opened up in another town. Guess what happened ? Yup. He went broke again. And like the first time he never advertised or had any type of marketing or business plan. He sat in his shop day in and day out waiting for business. I had a golden opportunity for him that would have brought in customers by the dozens. I asked him to contact an old friend of mine who owned the largest towing company in the city. He never called him.

Rarely do you find a trades person who is excellent at his trade and also a great business person. Look at me for example. I consulted to Fortune 500 companies as well as Mom and Pop businesses yet I do not consider myself a very good trades person. This is why I selected an easier form of upholstery - flat canvas work. I would struggle big time if I did furniture, autos or marine work. :)

The thing that happened with my brother happens a 100 times a day throughout America. Someone with a great deal of skill ( Baker, Chef, mechanic, HVAC tech, etc....etc..) opens a business and because of the lack of a solid business plan and poor business skills fails within a year or two.

Part 1...........lol....
Mojo
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« #27 : August 12, 2013, 02:09:59 PM »

You know that old saying " Build it and they will come "  ? Bulls***. No they wont. You have to build it, market it, advertise it, develop it, position it in the market place, brand it, promote it and push it and then they may come. I have been frustrated with clients in the past. Some I wanted to literally smack to wake them up. But it was real hard to watch your brother fail when you know you could have made his business a very busy shop. I probably should have smacked him. :)

One of my biggest success stories came from a manufacturer in Europe. I spent weeks touring their customers facilities as well as days inside their factory, watching, talking to employees, etc. I knew in my heart they had the best product line going but they lacked promotion and marketing. I designed a complete program for them and they followed it right down to the last item. Bingo, they captured 80 % of their market. But let me be clear, it wasn't because I was a magician it was because I got them to believe in what they produced and got them to tell the world about it. I injected a sense of energy into a burnt out owner and staff. I gave them a few tools to use and showed them how to market their product line. No biggie. They did the work themselves, I simply showed them how.

Over the years I have ran across some great businesses and some bad ones. I have seen some genius marketing plans and some very bad ones. But even the good ones failed because the owners were either too lazy or too bull headed and wouldn't adopt and put their plans into action. I used to conduct customer focus groups which were always interesting. This is where they are called into group sessions and a moderator asks them pre-designed questions. In the meantime you and your client sit behind a one way glass and listen and watch and take notes. It is an eye opening experience, especially for the business owner. You learn real quick where the business is dropping the ball.

In the end, you can be the best trades person in the country but if you do not promote your business
your going to have a rough time surviving. I myself do not advertise, instead I promote by putting myself right in the middle of my market - RV Rally's and events. That gains me enough business to survive. But the kicker is I go above and beyond on my products and customer service and that gains me one helluva lot of referrals which is my bread and butter. it took a few years to get name recognition but now in the big bus world my name is mentioned along with the big companies. That is something I can be proud of.

To be honest, I like what I do but I really miss being a business consultant. I loved that job. I cannot explain it but every client I signed up back then supercharged me. I lived and breathed marketing and business back then. Still love it today and miss the hell out of it. :)

Chris
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« #28 : August 12, 2013, 04:36:35 PM »

Doyle, and Chris - there is one major difference between auto mechanics and upholsterers:  most -people need their cars, and are required to have them inspected.  People don't "need" their furniture, or even their marine work.  So, many consider us a luxury, especially in this economy.  (And the younger crowd would just as soon toss and buy new cheap crap!) 

That said, how would you go about marketing a valuable, but not necessary business?

Jan
baileyuph
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« #29 : August 12, 2013, 08:31:27 PM »

For Chris,

Very interesting expose' Chris, injoyed it and found it very meaningful and quite energizing, to say the least.  Inspiring is another way to put it.  I like your themes, first believe in it yourself, never take defeat as an outcome, and keep on telling the world about yourself.  Sure makes a lot of sense to me buddy!!!  As you have also read, Jan has a very interesting question, I will spread a few experiences but yours will be the real answer. 
................................................................
Now to Jan:

Jan, you put it in perspective girl.

Well, I am going to defer the best answer to Chris.

But, will insert a point.  My business does not buck the trend of things, I am having some of the best years in business.  How does or did it happen, well I take no credit for the idea(s) but lets just say I did not swim upstream, instead, I have decided to flow with where the money goes.
  
I decided to learn the new technologies of how the new stuff is built and it prepared me for the technical requirement of working on the junk.  New stuff breaks often and even though it is cheap, the young people or low information consumers of all ages (price driven folks maybe) still want it fixed while it in style and near new.  They will spend for repairs while it is their pride and joy, in other words.

Believe it or not I have learned a bunch from sticking my toe in the water.  Like I say, it is made from some of the newest technologies available which by the way are very efficient as well as proficient.

Too add, new furniture actually looks good to the consumers who buy it.  They see traditional stuff as old fashion and on and on.  Their money let them spend as they wish, huh?  They see themselves as "in style".

I could have said it all by saying:  "If you can't beat them join them".  Honestly, I am enjoying learning about it all.  Built with low quality does not over shadow the sophisticated technology, the latter is what really consumes me.

Now we can wait for the best response from Chris.  I gurantee you his presentation will be awesome!  Plugging the pot in now.  Wink.

Nice to hear from you Jan,

Doyle
« : August 12, 2013, 08:51:11 PM DB »
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