START-UP 101 FOR BABY BOOMERS

AS WELL AS CO- RUN­NING CON­SULT­ING BUSI­NESS TBC PART­NERS, MARISA FONG IS ALSO IN THE THROES OF LAUNCH­ING HER ON­LINE SKIN CARE START- UP. SHE SHARES SOME OF HER LESSONS SO FAR.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - MARISA FONG IS CO- OWNER OF TBC PART­NERS. ( WWW.TBC. PART­NERS)

As well as co-run­ning a con­sult­ing busi­ness, Marisa Fong is also launch­ing her on­line skin care start-up. She shares some of her lessons.

A s a per­son born on the cross­roads be­tween the Baby Boom er sand Gen X, I thought I’d share the key lessons I’ve learned through launch­ing an on­line-only, busi­ness-to-con­sumer (B2C) en­ter­prise. I’ve come from a very tra­di­tional, busi­ness-to-busi­ness (B2B) pro­fes­sional ser­vices back­ground and this whole ex­pe­ri­ence has been a bit like drink­ing from a fire­hose!

One thing that has par­tic­u­larly struck me is re­al­is­ing just how much the game has changed.

I knew a bit about e-com­merce and on­line busi­ness but had no idea of how steep the learn­ing curve would be.

It makes a lot of sense as to why mil­len­ni­als are suc­cess­fully cre­at­ing and scal­ing th­ese types of busi­nesses – they’ve grown up on­line. For us more tra­di­tional types, we may be on Face­book and In­sta­gram but we aren’t ac­cus­tomed to do­ing busi­ness there.

Here’s a round-up of the most sig­nif­i­cant lessons that I’ve learned so far – and I ex­pect there will be many more to come.

UN­DER­STAND­ING SO­CIAL ME­DIA

There’s a lot more to it than there seems – it’s a real mix of art and science! Large busi­nesses can af­ford to en­gage an agency to do all the hard work, but it’s usu­ally at a fairly sub­stan­tial cost and, nat­u­rally, the agency won’t share its tech­niques – in­stead black box­ing what they do.

For a small com­pany or start-up it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to in­vest a huge amount to out­source all of the dig­i­tal and e-com­merce setup. So the free­lance/con­trac­tor model is a great al­ter­na­tive for my needs and my bud­get and it also al­lows me to learn as much as I can from those I work with. I’ve at­tended some sem­i­nars in order to bet­ter un­der­stand what mea­sures to look for and to learn what the jar­gon means. Be­tween th­ese sem­i­nars and work­ing with open and un­der­stand­ing con­trac­tors, I know what to mea­sure, and con­se­quently can see what suc­cess looks like.

One dif­fi­culty is iden­ti­fy­ing good tal­ent. In a rea­son­ably new field – and a con­stantly evolv­ing one at that – with no easily recog­nised qual­i­fi­ca­tions to judge a con­trac­tor by,

it’s hard to know which one will de­liver. Get­ting re­fer­rals and tes­ti­mo­ni­als has been key, but it has still meant a bit of trial and er­ror to find the per­son that has the so­cial me­dia tal­ent but also un­der­stands the brand and sec­tor.

GET­TING TO GRIPS WITH E-COM­MERCE

Ex­clu­sively sell­ing on­line, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally, comes with its own chal­lenges. It’s a hard task to un­der­stand the pros and cons of the myr­iad e-com­merce tools – and harder again to dis­cover which ones in­te­grate well with oth­ers.

Things to think about in­clude: • In­ven­tory man­age­ment sys­tems, CRMs and pay­ment plat­forms. • Con­sid­er­a­tion for con­ver­sion af­ter driv­ing traf­fic to

your web­site. • In­ter­na­tional ship­ping costs and lo­gis­tics. • Manag­ing dif­fer­ent sales tax for dif­fer­ent ge­ogra­phies.

Again, you could out­source all of this but it’s an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise and won’t al­low you the same in­sight into the process as tak­ing a more hands-on ap­proach will. Find other busi­nesses that can give you feed­back as to what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. Col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­ers has helped me tremen­dously – as has us­ing well-briefed con­trac­tors!

CON­SIDER YOUR IN­VEST­MENT

Go­ing DIY in a new world of sales and mar­ket­ing tools means you need to know where to spend your money to get the best bang for your buck. It also means you’ll need a pot of cash in order to launch a min­i­mum vi­able prod­uct.

So far, I’ve spent cash on a range of ar­eas, in­clud­ing: • Video mar­ket­ing. • Con­tent cre­ation (that looks good but isn’t too slick). • Pack­ag­ing de­sign (crit­i­cal, as it’s the con­sumer’s first

im­pres­sion of you). • Prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

CRE­AT­ING A PROD­UCT TAKES LONGER THAN YOU THINK!

De­spite hav­ing a pretty good idea of what for­mu­la­tion I wanted and pro­vid­ing the key in­gre­di­ent from the out­set, the time to get a fin­ished prod­uct has been longer than ex­pected.

There’s been much tweak­ing of for­mu­la­tions, find­ing in­gre­di­ents and sourc­ing pack­ag­ing. Although sup­pli­ers have been re­spon­sive, I am at the mercy of long lead times, and dis­tance does mat­ter when lo­cal sup­pli­ers don’t hold large stock vol­umes.

THE IM­POR­TANCE OF GOOD DE­SIGN

When you’re sell­ing to a con­sumer, de­sign is para­mount. It goes across ev­ery­thing; think web­site, brand­ing, logo and pack­ag­ing as well as mak­ing it work across so­cial and tra­di­tional me­dia.

You take a big leap of faith when de­cid­ing on your brand­ing, es­pe­cially given you may not yet know if you’re pitch­ing it at the right cus­tomer seg­ment. I’ve held fo­cus groups, but a lot of it has been guess­work.

Ba­si­cally, I’m well and truly ap­proach­ing this new ven­ture us­ing the ‘Lean Start-up’ method­ol­ogy!

Mean­while, as I launch the en­ter­prise and dis­cover the on­line world of busi­ness, my TBC part­ner Galia has suc­cess­fully com­pleted her PhD. This once again re­in­forces the im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ous learn­ing, al­low­ing us to stay rel­e­vant in a world that’s chang­ing at an ever-in­creas­ing pace.

“When you’re sell­ing to a con­sumer, de­sign is para­mount. It goes across ev­ery­thing; think web­site, brand­ing, logo and pack­ag­ing as well as mak­ing it work across so­cial and tra­di­tional me­dia.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.