You may have already read about why I decided to start my first business (in Part II and you may have even heard why people go into business for themselves to begin with) and how I went about setting that up (in Part III). Those earlier stages were largely focused on getting a product made (period). Then, letting people know about it.
Subconsciously, I had been developing my brand values which largely had focused on small businesses, locality, the art of hand-crafting and hand-making a product. At the time, I didn't even really think to myself, "these are my brand values" -- I simply just knew what my business was all about and focused on those aspects of it while making decisions.
After I made a few sales, I started to understand the entire process more clearly. I had largely underestimated all of the steps required aside from getting a product made and marketed (e.g. packaging, fulfillment, shipping, delivery, ongoing engagement with customer, etc.). For me, pricing was a huge challenge. I eventually realized that was in part due to the fact that my product was so inconsistent (in shape, size, weight, etc.).
At this stage, I began testing a few new things:
For my product:
I knew I couldn't accurately price my product or figure out my margins without some more consistency. I found a silver tin vessel that later evolved to an iconic look for the Wicked Candle brand.
I experimented with a few things like colored wax (hated it! seemed so off-brand after I tried it), ribbon treatments (super cute, but so time consuming and a little too handmade looking), wood wicks (didn't properly test these and the quality failed on a few products).
Seasonality became a bigger aspect of my business (duh! who wants a Christmas tree candle in April?!) and also helped with predicting supply orders. This also impacted my messaging.
I bought a custom stamp, which gave my packaging a cool 'handmade' feel and reinforced my branding. It also saved a TON of time opposed to those old print outs glued onto the gift tags (see Part III for reference).
For my promotions:
My promotions focus still relied heavily on social media (free!).
I started to highlight customer testimonials, feedback and integrate lots of images. Seems obvious now, but at the time it was pretty interesting to see the level of engagement on posts with pics.
For my placement:
Not only was I up and running on Etsy, I also starting actively seeking out (and also was being contacted about!) participating in local trunk shows and markets.
I hosted a few of my own to a small group of friends.
I also started selling in bulk for weddings.
After a few sales were under my belt, I realized that the full process (product ideation → materials sourcing → build → launch → package design → promotions → sales → fulfillment → distribution → customer service → and so on...) was a tiny bit more complex than just making a product, marketing it and selling it. But understanding this full spectrum allowed me to properly plan for it, assess (rather informally) what was working and what needed improvements.
Small tweaks were made across the board. Some of those refinements to the product helped maintain consistency, increase quality and ultimately produce higher profit margins. I also noticed that people (customers) were focusing much more on the scent offerings than the vessel type, which was a total surprise for me. The consistency gave Wicked Candle a look, this helped with the brand identity. Because the tweaks were minor and gradual, it brought my customers along for the evolution and development of the product. They weren't caught off guard, they were along for the ride.
Have you made any adjustments to your product? If so, why did you make the updates? How did your customers feel about the changes? What did it do for your business?