Those Optimize guys seeks to take the mystery out of finding the most efficient solutions to your technical challenges. In this section, you will find an ongoing series of articles both answering you current questions, and introducing you to new ideas in work efficiency.
I have had so many converstations about this, I thought I should probably write it up. Not as much for everyone elese, but to make sure it really did sound like a good idea, and not another one of my whacky ideas with no legs. I figured if I saw this in writing, it would be pretty obvious if this would work.
One of the things I have heard from so many new mothers is that they would love to go off disposable diapers, and use cloth as much as possible. The main problem is that there is alot of work involved in making this happen. There has been much written about using the new types of cloth diapers, but there is still a bit of work involved.
How great would it be if you could have someone do the collecting, cleaning, and maintenance of these diapers?
Cloth diapers are not the same diapers we wore as kids. Before pampers, our moms would attached a stylized bandana to our butts and hope for the best. Now, cloth diapers are made with new leak proof materials with kid safe closures. The only problem with this, is there might be a bit of expense getting a business stocked up with these diapers. My first suggestion would be to contact the manufacturers and see if you could work out a deal to get diapers in bulk and on the cheap.
The service would enlist new moms at a weekly (or monthly) charge, and every few days, pick up their soiled diapers, and leave clean ones. One trip to the laundromat could clean a great big pile of such diapers. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of nasty for the ones who use the machine after you, but I am guessing that at a public laundromat, many more hideous things have been through the spin cycle.
It seems like with a minimal investment (enough to only bootstrap the business), such a business could get started for a very small amount of money (two hundred bucks?). Once the business starts making money, the first thing to attend to would be gathering more diapers and clients. It seems like it would scale very well.
If it were me, I would do the following:
- Keep an eye on the local newspaper. Send a postcard announcing your service to all new parents.
- Keep all of your current clients stocked with postcards that they can give to their friends.
- Maintain a Facebook page so that your new clients can share baby photos and stories. Above all, they can share their testimonials.
Does this have legs?
The more and more I think about it, this sounds like a great idea.
- It is a nice local niche business that will not soon be outsourced.
- It scales well. It would take a good deal of diapers to fill up an industrial sized load. Once you do fill one up, a second load does not take more time to process.
- It appeals to the consumer's green sensibility.
As always, if anyone decides to try this, and makes it work, I would love to hear from you!
This is a business I have been thinking about for years. While this may not be applicable to all cities, it certainly is applicable for our area. I am sure there are thousands of areas like ours.
Our small city had 22 salons at last count. If there is an average of six stylists per salon, that is 132 potential clients and a potential of $1,980 dollars per week.
Salons Need Supplies
Each town has about as many salons as it has bars and churches. This is a big number. Salons purchase a great deal of supplies each week. In just about all cases, their needs are very well defined each week. It's simply a matter of filling out a grocery list and buying the items at the supply store. The catch is, these supply stores are specialized brick and mortar stores. Their clientele is very limited: only licensed cosmetologists are allowed to shop in them. Since the clientele is limited, these stores are not found on every street corner. In our case, the nearest supply store is 20 miles away.
A salon owner / independent contractor in this town must make this trip at least once a week. Sometimes twice. When you break the cost down to the stylist, it can be daunting.
- This trip will take at least two gallons of gas, or $7.50.
- This trip, by the time it's said and done, will cost about two and a half hours in time. This time could be more productively spent marketing the business and generally working smarter.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a person who would make that trip for the stylist each week? wouldn't it be worth $15 to have them you this for them? They would only be paying $7.50 for the service, as they will save $7.50 on gas. in the end, they will be paying $3 for each hour that they can spend working on developing their business.
I can't imagine why no one is doing this yet.
The Business Plan
Well, I wouldn't call it a business plan, but a business outline. Here's a quick play by play:
- Contact the supply house. Make arrangements to pick up completed (and paid ) orders from the supply house for delivery. While I have not looked into it, I am sure some arrangement could be made.
- Start contacting stylists in the area and offering the service. Depending on the proximity to the supply store, adjust your rate to something reasonable.
- Establish a schedule. Do your runs twice a week at first. As business grows, this can be adjusted.
- Require payment at time of delivery. This is a business that you don't want to run a billing system for.
Startup costs would be minimal. Design (it doesn't need to be done professionally) a postcard. Have it printed professionally, as contrary to popular belief, it might be faster and cheaper to have a pro do it.
Once you have bought your first stack of postcards, it's just a matter of making sure every stylist in town knows about your service.
Since this is something I have thought through for a very long time, I would love to hear a success story from someone doing this. Keep me posted!
I tend to work in the field of "All things technical." The upside is that when I work on a project, its fruits are immediately visible to the entire world. This also has a great deal of downsides.
- Once an idea comes to fruition in the form of a website or app, the whole world has access to deconstruct it.
- After my group has done the work of creating the customer experience, it is out in the open for the entire world to improve on and compete against.
- Since my group paid for the initial development, any other startup has access to that process for little (or no) investment.
- Improving on an idea or customer experience is orders of magnitudes cheaper than developing a new idea.
While I am comfortable with the above risks, I am finding that this model does not fit well with a great deal of potential entrepreneurs' comfort levels and technical skills sets. This got me thinking about opportunities that might exist for people outside my technical world.
Business Ideas that are Less Technology Reliant
One of the biggest questions I get is, "How do I start a small business without having to learn the internet?" At first, this question boggled my mind. Initially, I thought that I was being asked how to start a business without having to learn something new. This is NOT what I was being asked. On further inspection, I found that they were really asking me: How do I start a small business while fully utilizing the skills I already have. My new understanding of what they were asking me made all the difference.
After thinking about this at depth, I realized that there are several businesses that could be completely self sustaining with minimal financial outlay and minimal technical expertise required.The could be:
- Locally run: They would not require the entrepreneur to compete on a global scale.
- Service based: They would allow the businessperson to provide services that a customer wants on a local scale.
- Minimally reliant on bricks and mortar: While the economy has taken a dive, landlords have not gotten the message. They are perfectly content with leaving their properties vacant until the economy can fuel their requirements for rent dollars.
- Outsource Proof: There are still businesses out there that cannot be shipped to China. Really, there are.
So Where are these Big Ideas?
Okay, okay. In the next few days, I will outline a few of these businesses that could be started in just a few days with minimal expense. I would love to hear more ideas from the readers, and most of all, I would love to hear your success stories with using these ideas or variants of such.
As I complete the articles, I will list them here, so you can follow along with the home game.
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Another call I get about once a week: can you help us get set up with Google AdWords? Wait! It Google AdWords costs money? Hmm.. Should we do it?
I get this call more than you'd think. A lot of times, I get this call after a company has run an AdWords campaign for several months (and a few thousand dollars). It's usually at this point where the company realizes that there is a little more to targeted advertising than they initially thought.
So, Should we set up AdWords?
Really, it depends. In order for this kind of marketing to be effective (because it is fairly expensive), a business needs to make sure that it has something to offer or something to receive from a visitor to this site. In most cases, there are two different things that a site might be looking to do: sell a visitor a product or service, or get a sales lead from them. Keep in mind that these ads are Pay Per Click. This means that you pay every time someone clicks your ad, regardless of they purchase status. You want to make sure that since you have paid money to get a visitor to a page on your site, you can make that money back.
Here are two examples of cases where AdWords makes sense.
Selling Goods and Services
In this case, a company sells a product. They may have a widget factory that sells deluxe widgets. In this case, they need to do some serious keyword searching to find if there is a market for deluxe widgets, and how much it costs to corral potential deluxe widget buyers. If deluxe widgets are a specialized enough item, and the internet marketplace is not flooded with them, they might find that they can cost effectively reach out to those buyers.
Once they have done this, they need to actively work on their campaign to do the following:
- Optimize your site so that when a keyword search is captured, the user is delivered right to the page where they are able to immediately buy.
- Find out which keywords are driving users to buy. You don't want to buy keywords that bring lookiloos to your site. You want people who buy to come to your site.
Qualified leads are valuable. For the most part, there needs to be a high profit margin to make these leads worth paying for, but this does happen every day. In order to use AdWords to gather qualified leads, there are a few things that you will need to do besides driving potential customers to a page. You can have them sign up for a mailing list, request more information, or fill out a survey. In all cases, there needs to be a "call to action." A task that a potential lead must do to prove that they are interested and worth pursuing.
Obviously, there is much more to this than meets the eye, and I have just skimmed over the top of the problem. This article really isn't a how-to as much as it is a "Should-I?" If you decide that your business is a good candidate for using targeted marketing, I would definitely suggest you enlist the help of a someone who has a working understanding of these concepts. Sure, you could learn to use the tools and manage your campaigns yourself, but you most likely have a business to run.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to drop us a line at any time.