Recently, I was asked a question, “How do I increase the sales in my soap and cosmetics business?” This business’s main base of recurring customers is from family. The business owner stressed their difficulty in building their customer list, along with their desire to stand out in the crowd of stiff competition that is filled with fellow direct competitors.

Many things come to mind when I read this person’s email. As an entrepreneurship instructor, there are numerous avenues that lead up to making a sale. The first thing that comes to my mind is knowing your niche. There are many direct and indirect soap and cosmetic businesses on the market. As a business owner, you definitely need to know who your competitors are. I suggest that you analyze your competition. Identify who is making the same products you are. Analyze their products and services like you would going into a store for the first time. You know how we do it — we look at how well the product is packaged, the store setup, the customer service, what product or services are they offering, etc. As you analyze your competitors, also look at what they are not doing. Is there an opportunity for you to fill a need that is not being met? That need could be the niche that you are looking for to stand out among your competitors.

Determine who your ideal customer really is. Who are you targeting. If you are selling soaps made with organic ingredients, then selling them at the flea market is not where your target client will most likely be. You need to identify who that person is, followed by where they shop. Try this exercise: Think about a customer that would buy your products. Draw an outline of their face on a piece of paper. Then, think about their details. Is this a face of a man or women? Then fill in their features. If it is a man, for example, concentrate on details such as, is he bald or does he have long hair wavy hair? Does he have a beard or a mustache? What type of job does he have? How much money does he make? Is he married, single, divorced? Where does he spend his free time? What is his favorite type of music? Write all your target market attributes down on the paper along with the drawing. Finally, determine where this person does their shopping. Write it down. Your goal is to sell, be present, where they will shop.

Last, but not least important, how many products are you making? I know all too well from my own personal experience, if you build your business too wide before building it deep, at some point there will be burnout. If you make a combination of products—soaps, lotions, body butters, lip balms, bath fizzies, body scrubs, bath salts, bubble bars, and facial serums, you are headed toward burnout both physically and financially! Also, when you sell so many items it is difficult for customers to make shopping decisions. When an in-the-store customer says, “I’ll be right back,” after spending several minutes smelling and sampling your products, they don’t come back. I know why. It is because they are overwhelmed and don’t know which item to purchase. How do you correct this? Focus on your best-selling products. Limit the number of products you offer. Now, I am not saying you can’t expand your product offerings, but do it as you build deep. This way as you grow so does your support team to help you scale your growth.

In the next blog post I will share more things to consider. In the meantime don’t be discouraged. No one said being an entrepreneur will be easy. The journey is challenging but it is also rewarding. You have to be willing to make changes in your business until it works like you want it to. The great advantage to operating your own business is that you can make those changes as needed without the vote of a board of directors.

So in review:
1) Know Your Niche
2) Who is Your Target Market
3) Limit Your Product Offerings