The Smell of Success

Two days a week, I work at an entrepreneurial training center. I coach in the area of marketing and advertising. More and more frequently, people ask me for advice about selling products and services online.

Earlier today, I was sitting down talking with a young lady who produces a line of aromatherapy products. She was discussing her plans to open a 1,000-square-foot retail store. She’s midway through her business plan, she has done most of her financial forecasting, and things are looking pretty good.

All was going well until she said something like, “Oh, and I’ll have a web site just as another way for people to find out about the store.”

Well, being the Internet expert that I’ve told my mother I am (course, Mom is easily impressed by her sonny!), I told her off for saying such a terrible thing.

I gave her the full party line about how you can’t have a web site as just an add-on! I told her about the foolishness of people who assume that offline business models will work online. I told her that you can’t mix the two. And I told her she had to make a choice – create an offline business or an online business.

Fortunately, she wasn’t as impressed by my credentials as my mother is. She asked me where this “rule” came from. So I paused, disengaged from expert mode, slipped into thinking mode, and we came up with an interesting new plan for her offline/online store.

Here’s the plan.

  1. Her retail store will be much smaller than originally planned about 200 square feet.
  2. Her store name – in the offline world – will be the same as her domain name in the online world. And her store signage will be BIG.
  3. She will sit in her store, mixing her various aromatherapy products on one desk. But she’ll have her Internet site on screen on another desk.
  4. She’ll advertise locally for customers to come to her store – just like with any other store. But she’ll let these customers know that they can reorder online at any time. Of course, her customers will be able to see her site on the screen right there in the store.
  5. But this isn’t just about getting local business. She’ll use the reach of the Internet to sell her products across North America and beyond.
  6. But here comes an interesting part. She’ll have a video cam in her store. People visiting her site can see her sitting at her desk, creating the products. (Cool,huh)

    All of a sudden, her site is no longer about bottles of aromotherapy oils. It’s about her, in her store, creating the products.

    You live in Toronto and want a custom blend? She’ll not only make it she’ll let you know when she’s going to make it so that you can log on and watch her working on your order. It’ll cost you but you’ll like it.

    And while she’s there, she’ll have the opportunity to answer the questions you post on her bulletin board.

  7. And, as she’s a highly trained practitioner in aromatherapy, you’ll likely want to check out the large information and reference area she’ll have.

Well, after we’d chatted about this for a while, I begin to see the light. I think this kind of offline/online model could work. Her offline store will get a lot of attention because there’ll be nothing else like it. And her online store will get a lot of attention because she’ll really be there, in person, every working day.

How will she pay for the site?

With the $6,000 a month she’ll save on her rent by reducing the size of the retail store. And for a small, one or two person store/site, that should be enough.

What do you think?

I know one thing – she was jumping up and down with excitement once we had finished talking. As for me, I was once again reminded why I spend two days a week surrounded by high-energy, entrepreneurial thinkers.

The pay isn’t very good, to be honest. But the value of having people nudge me out of whatever rut I’ve been learning myself into is priceless.

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