I was vending at a show yesterday and every time I vend, I like to walk around and meet current Vine members as well as talk to potential members. Before I approach possible new members of our network, I scope out the tables and layouts with the eyes of a customer. I check for organization, aesthetics, but above all, I look for a focused business because a focused business has the highest chance of success.
What is a focused business? A focused business concentrates on selling one-to-two categories of related items. This is incredibly important because it builds authority and trust in your brand. As I was walking around, I saw a honey table that also sold soaps, lip balms, and leather key chains. I also saw another table that was selling jewelry, bags, and skincare. While all the items looked like quality items, the tables lacked focus, and on the bigger scale, that meant the business lacked direction.
In terms of business, there are two scales – a vertical scale and a horizontal scale. The vertical scale refers to scaling up and down, which means creating and/or selling products on a bigger or smaller volume. The horizontal scale refers to scaling in and out, which means creating and/or selling a larger variety versus a smaller variety of products.
The key to scaling up is to scale in. If you try to scale your business out of the normal bounds, you face the following needs:
- New packaging
- New materials
- New marketing
- New target market (a.k.a, new customer)
- New authority
When you try to take on too many varieties, you lose the focus on your original product and business. You’re going to be stuck buying so much material to feed all the areas of your scale out that it will become cost prohibitive to scale up. Even worse, you might lose your original customer.
Trying to scale out means you’re either testing new markets, or someone said they would be interested in something so you decided to offer it to them. While this can be a positive experience, if it’s related, it can be detrimental if it’s unrelated. Using the examples above, if you’re selling purses/bags, why would a customer come to you for skin care? Suddenly, the bags seem less valuable because you’re making a reach elsewhere. Think about bigger companies, like Clinique or Aveda – do they make bags or clothing? No, because it’s an entirely different market which costs lots of money to tackle. People who run direct sales companies who suddenly are involved in more than one direct sales company, how can you grow your downline if you’re trying to run two businesses?
You need to turn your focus into your own category and continue to educate in that category so you can “become” that category. As an example, in the Vine, we have Jenn Rivera who has now become known as “the LuLaRoe Lady,” as well as Tina Bilcher Murphy, who has now become known as “the Bra Lady.” These two women took their focus in one direction so that when they have a customer, she tells her friends who are looking for that same item. Customers trust focused businesses on having authority and knowledge in their products.
Before you decide to scale out, ask yourself what the long-term expenses will be. How much new marketing will you need to do? How will you acquire new customers? How will you package and produce the new products? How will you store the extra inventory? How will you keep up with demand? How will it serve your vision?
Don’t stick yourself in a hole by trying to be everything to many customers, instead, be the one thing that your target customer needs and will always come back to.