Friday, December 31, 2010

Focus on Your Customer, Not Your Competition

Here is a very informative article about staying focused on your business, your customers and not your competition. Marsha Lindquist is a successful business strategist, author, speaker, and CEO of The Management Link, Inc I found it very useful to put me back in the right mindset.

For Better Business Results, Focus on Your Customer, Not Your Competition

By Marsha Lindquist

In running, as in business, looking behind you to see what your competition is doing only slows you down. Worrying excessively about your competition distracts you from the job at hand—doing your best for your customers. After all, if you are focusing on the customers’ wants and needs, then you don’t need to worry about the competition overtaking you. However, if you stop to look behind you to see what your competition is doing, you risk slowing down and having them overtake you.
Obsessing about your competition is wasteful. Time, manpower, and money are not infinite. Any effort you expend to focus on the competition means you’re wasting valuable energy by playing the competition’s game. You should only be competing against yourself—playing the best game you can by serving your customers right.
While you will undoubtedly be vaguely aware of what your competition is doing, it shouldn’t be anywhere near to your primary focus. If you’re constantly worried about what your competition is doing to outsmart you, then you are never going to be able to satisfy your customer. You will always be spending your energy and resources worrying about outsmarting your competition instead of trying to satisfy your customers with what they want and need. So ask yourself, “How can I satisfy the customer so my competition isn’t even an issue?” Then, take action.
You need to focus on how you do business, determine if you are the best solution for your customers’ problems, and then go out of your way to meet their needs. When you implement the following tips, you’ll be able to confidently compete only against yourself and stop playing the competition’s game.
1. Focus on your customers’ needs and wants: Your customers should be your top priority. With new customers, you need to work to get them on board; with your existing customers, you need to make sure they stay with you. If your current customers are not happy with you, they’ll leave. Ask them how you’re doing. Listen to their input. They already know you and love you, and they will be glad to tell you what they need from you. Your job is to meet those needs.
2. Assess your own resources and strengths: Don’t worry about who else is interested in your customers. Just like a horse in a race, put blinders on. Focus only on why you are the best company to solve your customers’ pain. Assess your assets to determine why your customers love you. Keep doing it. If you do what you do best, you will keep your customers happy.
3. Differentiate with the customers’ best interests at heart: Tell your customers how you are different—how you are quicker, better, easier, or more cost-effective to do business with. This is your opportunity to shine—don’t be modest. Here is a scenario where you do need to know enough about your competition to differentiate yourself. Once you have that information, you have the opportunity to show, demonstrate, or tell your customers all those things that are different about you so your customers remain with you.
4. Make a wiring diagram of their needs and wants: Make a map. On it, write your customers needs and wants. Also write down your resources. Then record how you provide your customers’ needs better and faster. Make a cross-diagram that shows how their needs and wants map, or relate, to what you can do. Now you know exactly what your role is and who your ideal customers are.
From an analytical standpoint, your cross diagram will show you the solution to what your customers are looking for. You may find one or two things they want or need that you can’t satisfy. Don’t panic: this puts you in the perfect position to provide a needed solution. If you have a customer need you can’t meet, go to your competition and say, “I need you to help me with this customer for this particular item. I need you to develop one small piece of what this customer needs.” And you bring the business to them because they do it best. You are still focusing on your customer, while using your competition to your advantage.
5. Focus only on that wiring map and you can’t get off-track: You won’t get distracted by what else, or who else you’re going to chase. You are now going after the same kinds of clients and that’s how you become successful. Your success happens because you’re taking this process and repeating it time after time after time. You’re riveting in on how you can focus on this customer and what they want, not on, “Oh my, what is my competition going to come up with next?”
If you worry about your competition, you’ll start second-guessing yourself and changing the way you do business. You won’t be satisfying that customer; instead, you’ll be trying to “one up” your competition and spend money on doing fancy stuff rather than the basic stuff that makes your client happy. You will start to get derailed and off-track. When that happens, you start losing business and you lose a customer. And you lose it to the very competition that you are worried is going to take over.
Hone Your Customer Focus for Better Results: Worrying about your competition is a natural phenomenon. You need to have some idea of what your competition is doing, but it shouldn’t be anywhere near your top business focus. Don’t let your competition infiltrate your thinking. You are playing your own game, not your competitions’. If you can consistently meet your customers’ needs, you will be able to stop wasting valuable time and money trying to compete with your competition. Remember, you are in business for your customers, not your competition.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Sparks Your Creativity

             8 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

This is an article I read and thought I would share. I often hit brick walls while trying to create. I think Henrik makes some really good suggestions on how to "get over the hump". Or hydrate a dryspell.

8 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

by Henrik Edberg
Creativity is a strange, elusive creature. Sometimes is flowing like a river. Sometimes it’s all dried up and nowhere to be found. Here are some thoughts and ideas that I like and have found useful to spark or improve my own creativity. Most of them are pretty obvious, like so much advice, but I have found that if I actually use them they can be quite helpful. Also, I find it useful to – as much as possible – have a notepad and a pen around to quickly jot down the new ideas before they disappear.
1. Generate a boatload of ideas – If you haven´t had any it may because you haven´t had enough ideas yet. Have a look at One Simple Way to Get a Good Idea for some thoughts on that.
2. Take a trip outside your personal bubble – If you just have the same input every day it may be hard to come up with many new ideas.
Take some input from outside own your little bubble. Meet new people, read book about something you don´t anything about, take up a new hobby, listen to music you normally never listen to. Do something different and get some new input into your mind. This can set off a creative spark and generate fresh ideas you hadn’t thought about before.
3. Get rid of all the distractions – Shut of your phone. Close the door. Close your IM-programs. As best you can create a space where you can be creative and focus without having disturbances or having to worry about them.
Consider decluttering this space so your mind don´t have to focus on unnecessary things. And decorating the space in a way that makes you feel relaxed, centred or however you want to feel to improve your creativity. You may also want to experiment with music and silence. I have found that music sometimes boosts my creativity – wordless music seems to work best – but that more often silence is the way to go for me.
4. Criticize later – Or some part of your mind may feel threatened and shut up and withdraw. Just let ideas flow out, don´t try to censor yourself or worry about how silly the ideas may be. It’s important to keep an atmosphere of openness when trying to generate ideas and being creative, either if you do it alone or in a group at work/in school. You can sort the ideas later and determine which ones may be of best use.
5. See yourself as a creative person – Everyone is creative. Not everyone think they are. If you do not see yourself as a creative person this can seriously limit your creativity, stop the flow of ideas and make you not believe in the ideas that do surface. Even though the ideas might be good or just what you need.
Allow yourself to be a creative person. And think back to instances when you were creative and let those memories be proof that you really are a creative person. Don´t focus on the memories of when you had troubles being creative.
6. Build it – Like so many things in life creativity is bit like lifting weights (or doing your sport/exercise/game of choice). You can´t go into the gym and lift the heavy weights when you´re there for the first time. You have to start with smaller ones. Then consistently and progressively work your way up. Over time you´ll, if you train and work at it, build your creative muscles.
7. Sleep less – Here´s something that works pretty good for me once in a while. When I feel a little groggy and sleepy because I´ve slept too few hours it´s like words start flowing out of my fingers when I sit down to write.
I think it´s because when you’re a bit groggily tired you don´t think too much. Your mind doesn’t have the energy to criticise and halt your creative outflow. It´s like more doors than usual are open in the corridors of your brain and thoughts can run around more freely.
However, what is poured out when you´re in this state isn´t always pure gold. So you may want to go back and edit on a day when you are more well-rested to cut down and rewrite the sometimes non-sensical ramblings of your sleep-deprived mind.
8. Relax and play – This is very useful and a great use of your time. Go out and do something with your friends or family and just relax and have a lot of fun. Doing this for a day or an evening can recharge not only your creativity but also your motivation and general sense of well-being for days or weeks to come. Working non-stop and never playing will not.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Valentines Day

Christmas has come and gone. Time to get working on Valentines Day. I've already seen my fellow artisans working hard on their new lines. I need to pick up the pace. Here are a few jewelry designs that I have listed already.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Help for a Fellow Artisan

It's with sadness that I am posting about one of my fellow Artfire Artisans. Jean, aka LadyHawk, has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The prognosis is not very good, but she tries to move forward. The New Year will bring a host of new treatments, new medication and, unfortunately, along with that, new financial burdens. Fellow Artisan, Em of Exquisite Studios is spearheading a fundraiser to assist Jean with her financial burdens. We are donating items for sale and donating money directly. Please visit Artfire and search "jeanlove". This will bring up items available for purchase that will directly benefit Jean.
I am personally donating 100% of the proceeds of my next sale to Jean. Please visit my studio, Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs.

Keep your loved ones close. Live each day to the fullest.
 Please say a prayer for our friend Jean (LadyHawk).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Promote, Promote, Promote

I love designing and creating jewelry. I really can't say that I have a particular "style". I dabble in just about everything. Crystals, gemstones, glass, wire, chain, weaving. I go with whatever mood I'm in when I sit down at my workbench. It isn't just about creating though. In my journey to become a jewerly artist, I have learned that there is so much more to selling your art than initially thought. I have learned that I need to balance creation with promotion. This week it is all about promoting. I have tweeted, Facebooked and joined a few of the promotional sites on my long to do list. I still have many more to visit and join.
We artists and crafters have many hats we wear. We are designers, CEO's, secretarys, creators, makers, marketing directors, inventory specialists, promotion officers, photographers (don't let me even go there), bookkeepers, postal workers, packagers. The list goes on. And that's not including our domestic duties and day jobs. Not thinking too much of it, I applied for a business license and got my tax ID # and my sole proprietorship certificate. Only weeks later, did it sink in, that I am a business OWNER. Me, little ole me. WOW!
So now it's time to really sit down, figure out my business plan, carefully plan my schedule and list of daily to-do's. Right now, the Holidays are upon us and there are lots of things to do.

 The first of the year will bring many changes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's December......Already?

December is here and I can't help wonder how I got so behind. By now, I usually have my Christmas decorations up, my annual letter and Christmas cards written and ready to send, my infamous rumball ingredients bought and the majority of my shopping done. Where did the time go? I have be so focused on my jewelry making, My Artfire Studio, working that over for the holidays. Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales, promotions, etc, etc. Time has gotten away from me. My daughter and sis are coming in from North Carolina and Seattle, respectively, to attend my nephews wedding. I'm afraid this weekend will be a bust unless I can make shopping and decorating a family affair. Time to put it into overdrive and get moving.