For all the gloom and doom I hear about the economy every morning on CNN, I read an article today based on a report just out in AOL Money and Finance that makes me feel a little better about things. And it seems I am even contributing to bucking the recession in some product categories. The report gives an overview of the changes in consumer behavior since everything went belly-up on Wall Street. It seems that consumers are still living their lives and not giving up the things they like, but are merely scaling down on choices. Lets see how I rate with these changes in consumer behavior:
• Wine drinkers are still imbibing—but they’re looking more closely at cheaper selections. **Check.** You can’t beat $3 bottles of Jackeroo Australian Chardonnay.
• Used car sales are on the rise, as are parts at auto stores. **Check.** Just last night my husband and I were talking about our next “new used vehicle” and who gets one first.
• Sales at Goodwill Industries are booming—while those at luxury retailers like Saks have plummeted. **Check!** Not only do I find some incredible deals on great brands, I’m helping to recycle.
• Comfort food is king: Chocolate-maker Hershey’s sales were up 20 percent in the first three months of 2009; sales of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese have gone through the roof. **Double check!!** A glass of Jackeroo and mac and cheese are the ultimate comfort food after a long day.
• Do-it-yourself is tops. Consumers are buying things that they can use themselves such as fishing equipment and seeds for at-home vegetable gardens. **Check.** I have a sore back 3 days after planting new seeds over the weekend.
• DIY fitness is booming. Sales of running shoes are robust, as are those of bicycle helmets. Does a new pair of walking shoes count? If so, then **Check!**
So I can tell clients firsthand that it’s not all gloom and doom. Customers are buying products that resonate with their new focus on thrift, on the home and on indulging just a little.
Source: Deb Riechmann, AP
Are you getting good reports from your email vendor or IT administrator? If not, you’re missing some important stats to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns. You should be monitoring trends, clearly matching response to revenue and making sure that you have good open rates. Some statistics that should be examined for each blast or campaign include:
• Revenue per email campaign
• Revenue per subscriber (and subscriber segment)
• Conversion rate
• Unsubscribe rate
• Average order size
• New subscriber growth rate
To improve performance make sure you’re looking at the data at the subscriber level or at least subscriber-segment level and not just the numbers in whole.
Do you know how the Flying Wallendas got started? The patriarch, Karl, answered an ad for a “hand balancer with courage”. Sometimes running a small service business seems like walking a tightrope straddling a giant bar. (And for someone that doesn’t like heights, that analogy is pretty scary.) A small business is, by definition, imbalanced. Because 80% of all small businesses (i.e. defined as businesses with under 100 employees) have fewer than 10 employees and as many as 50% have fewer than 4 employees.In most small businesses, the owner(s) usually sell, serve customers and do all the support work, creating an imbalance. It can be a struggle trying to determine what area of the business to focus on: sales, operations or support.
In an article by Chaitanya Sagar who writes a lot for American Express, he describes how to keep that balancing act in check.
• Create an On-Demand Model – find other companies who deliver similar services and establish a referral/reciprocal work agreement. It helps not only with cash flow, but with time and resource allocation.
• Hire the True Multi-Taskers – Especially in these times, it’s critical to have employees that can effectively handle more than one activity.
• Outsource Non-Core Activities – Find quality providers who want to and can understand your business and support you.
While the Wallendas didn’t use a safety net, it’s critical for small business to create their own utilizing smart practices.