Making the Change, pt. 3

You can read the first part of this saga here, and the second part here.

I was sitting at the beach, and I’d lucked out on a bench swing overlooking the ocean.  The air was nippy (it was April), the water was a beautiful greenish blue, the sky was a crystal clear gradient blue, and the wind whispered through the sea oats on the dunes.  I closed my eyes and allowed my other senses to study my environment.  My mind went back to countless beach days – warm beach, friendly kids for the girls to play with, sand in the bathing suit (hey, it happens), sunscreen.  And there it was.  I would make soaps that capture by scent my memories and associations of various North Carolina beaches, and this would be my niche.

I already had been making one soap, Crystal Coast Morning, that was inspired by wonderful memories of waking up at Emerald Isle in the late autumn (think early December) when the air is clean and brisk and the beach is silent but for the waves and breezes.  Kure Beach is kissed with a bit of sunscreen and a little sand.  Outer Banks is wild and primitive – sudden storms, cedar-sided houses, the ghosts of pirates.  And Ocean Isle has a hint of fruity drink (with an umbrella, of course) served ocean-side.

These four soaps form the heart of my new niche.  A surprise gift of 5 pounds of Bolivian pink sand were the inspiration behind a new type of salt scrub, also in these fabulous scents (though, being a “man scent,” Outer Banks isn’t yet available in salt scrub).  You know how your skin feels after you’ve been at the beach?  That fine layer of sand exfoliates your skin as you wash it off.  Then you wash off all the sunscreen and salt, slathering on the lotion afterwards, and you feel sun-kissed, moisturized, and completely luxurious.  That’s what Bolivian Pink Sea Salt Scrub does for your skin.

From my niche came my conception of my ideal customer.  It was the oddest thing.  I was transferring soaps from table to rack late one night before bed, and I started talking to her in my mind.  In a flash, my ideal customer came to me, and I knew everything about her.  Experts put out worksheets to help businesses identify their ideal customer, but I kept getting stuck when I’d do them.  Apparently, though, at 11:00 while I’m doing mindless tasks, I can come up with lots.

Anyway, moving on…  (I just get really excited about my new products, if you couldn’t tell!)  We’re moving forward on this rebrand, right?  I had the blessing of 1 1/2 weeks without the girls to make products, take pictures, talk to my web developer.  Things were looking good!  I would take a few pictures a day as soaps cured and were close to being ready for sale.  My web developer and I worked hard, troubleshooting and setting things in place.  The launch date was 1 June, and I was trusting him to be working his coding magic behind the scenes while I dealt with the front-end and administrative tasks.

Then another one of those screeching halts came at the end of May.  My husband and I both lost two people close to us – his mentor/friend and my grandmother.  My work time was then pushed into traveling, and I pushed the launch for the following Monday, giving us the weekend for final tweaks and adjustments.  I wasn’t hearing anything much from my developer, so I took deep breaths and trusted that all was going fine on his end.  Then Monday comes.  And Monday goes.  No website, and nothing at all from my developer.  It’s like he’d dropped off the face of the earth.  Panic ensued.  If this site was going to be ready for the grand new business launch, I was (a) going to have to build it myself, or (b) pay someone big bucks to build it for me.  I knew I couldn’t afford option B, so A it was.

I started with my shopping cart, a trusted one that I’d used for years with my old site.  I was familiar with the admin, was pretty comfortable navigating the cpanel, and I was ready to roll.  The first problem hits.  No big.  I go to the support forums, find the solution, fix the problem, roll on.  The next problem crops up.  Same thing.  By the third problem, I had figured out I was in over my head and started exploring other shopping carts.  Getting started and through the first three problems took me…  probably about 20 hours to deal with, and I hadn’t gotten very far at all.  I found a new shopping cart, scrapped those twenty hours’ worth of work, installed the new cart, and after about another six hours’ work, had a rough but working website.  Score one for the not-developer!

Several more hours, messages between the shop’s developer and me, even more hours, and the site was done and ready to launch a little over a week later.  Given that website development really isn’t my forte’ at all, I really have to be proud of the fact that the launch was only delayed by two weeks, and for the most part, I built my site by myself (though again, with valuable help from the template developer’s team and my own friend Bobby).  My web developer is still MIA.

Even while all that was going on, I ordered note cards, postcards, and business cards.  I invested time in sending personal notes to some of my customers.  I set up email addresses…  And to my surprise, last Monday, one of my customers who received one of those notes talked about it in her own blog.  You can read about that here.

So, that was pretty much my rebrand, start to present.  There’s so much minutiae to doing this – opening new accounts, changing account information on websites, making it official with the state – but that’s boring stuff.  However, if you’re rebranding or launching your first new brand (the steps are quite similar), be sure to include these tedious but necessary tasks on your task list so you don’t forget them.

If you have questions about rebranding I didn’t address, please leave them in the comments below.