Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to Court the Elusive Customer

This morning, I watch a young bunny nibble on my garden plants an immediately rushed out the door to capture this elusive rabbit. Of course, I had no tools or plan on how I would capture this little guy, and it proved a lost cause. The bunny eluded me by jumping into a massive planting of Black Eyed Susan plants. As I walked back into the house, I wondered if this is how I treat customers at times. Am I courting those elusive customers, or am I scaring them to run to some other company to make their purchase? Do I have no plan on how to capture their sale?

We live in an era where technology and the Internet are changing all the rules in how we engage with our customers. In the midst of all these changes, how do we reach out and compel customers to do business with us? Every week I get a report on how many dollars are left in abandoned shopping carts. These are my elusive customers. How does a company court these elusive customers? Here is what I have found helps lure those customers back.

Listen, Don't Ask

• Whether a customer complaint is justified or not it is irrelevant; perception becomes the customer's reality. At this point, it’s all about listening. Often, customers just want you to hear their side of the story.

• Many dissatisfied customers won't take time to complain. It's simply not worth the time and effort and is easier to not take the risk of placing another order. It’s difficult to capture these sales because you have no idea what went awry.

Be Honest

• If you post that you will respond to an email request, do it! Customer surveys have shown that most customers send an email and don't receive a response for more than a day, and for many they never receive a response. For smaller companies with limited staff, it's not always possible to have immediate phone contact. However, if this is the case, make sure that you reply to customer emails and voice messages within 24 hours. A 1-3 hour response time is even better. Not everyone can man an 800 number 24/7, but with today's technology and devices it's easy to stay connected to your customer at any given time.

• Know that most customers ordering for the first time will be skeptical. Help them overcome that fear by offering the best product in your market. Show them why your product is the best. Best doesn’t always mean the lowest price. If your product is priced higher than the competition, show them why your product is better. Forego all the product hype, just lay out the facts and let your customer decide.

Help Me Spend Less $$ and Less Time

• Offer incentives on ways to save, coupons, discounts codes and free products to be included with an order. These are always a plus on the customer end and from my experience very appreciated.

• Understand that customers often spend way more time with self-service online web sites than they do with brick & mortar stores. This is where you need to make things easy. Simplify the shopping cart; make it easy for customer to find your store policies, note return policies up front.

• I like to believe that my customers take time to read all the fine print. Not true! Customers don't always have the time to make informed decisions. They have busy life’s and are usually ordering on the fly. They want their shopping cart experience and product descriptions to make the ordering process easy. Good pictures and accurate descriptions will go a long way in capturing a sale.

The ultimate goal should be a comfortable joining together of two friends that leave the customer satisfied and wanting to do repeat business with the company. A customer’s perception will always be influenced in a positive or negative way based on the customer's expectations. Were customer expectation met, exceeded or disappointed? This is what will determine a repeat customer or an elusive customer that escapes into the black-eyed susan plantings.

With the Internet age, customer service has become a rarity. It’s a tremendous competitive advantage for any company willing to understand and develop the tools necessary to unleash it.

Making Memories: What a Day it Has Been

I love having Fridays free to enjoy family time. Sadly, we can only do this through the summer months. Once grandkids are back in school and GoPlanet's busy season kicks into high gear, we're back to working a five day week. Here are some pics of my Friday fix! My grandson, Carson, is in the white swim trunks.

Miss O, chillin' out at the splash pool. It was a perfect place to go after the zoo considering it was a steamy, muggy 80 degree day. Couldn't have asked for better weather.

Miss O and Carson taking a camel ride. My littlest grandson, Fischer was very upset he couldn't go too. He keep pointing and saying, "I go, I go, I go". It broke my heart. He wants to do everything the older kids do.

The ponies saved the day for Fischer. He got to have a pony ride with sister Olivia. My heart beamed with pride when the only person he wanted to go with him was his NeeNee.

And there they are, my grandkids, my pride and joy. I love them more than words can express. Here we're having a hand-packed picnic just before we enter the zoo. The kids played on the playground, ate PBJ sandwiches along with popcorn, and fresh fruit. It was a fabulous day, though tiring for NeeNee. My mom came along with us and the grandkids loved having their great-grandma hang with us. At 79 years old, she was a real trooper.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is Your Competition Playing by the Rules?

This statue of Hercules and Diomedes has been on display in our home for many years. We've never given much thought to it. It was a sculpture my husband picked up on one of his trips to Florence, Italy. In fact, we use it as door stop from time to time. However, this week I was reminded of its presence when my 7-year old grandson happened to take note of it.

Of course, he quickly pointed out the obvious and questioned why someone would grasp "private parts" in such a manner. It gave pause for consideration and the best answer I could muddle through was "Not everyone plays by the rules". Certainly, for us adults, there is some humor to be noted in this famous sculpture. Clearly one wrestler is in trouble. However, he elects to "not play by the rules". He is strategically positioned and can walk away victorious. End of story!

You know, business is much the same. Just when you've done all the legwork, poured your heart and soul into developing your business, you find that your competition, or even customers, don't play by the rules. Someone sabotoges your work, recreates your packaging, slams you on a message board, duplicates a design, reprints your copyrighted work.... the list goes on. Is it fair? Of course not. But this is life. Life has never been fair and there will always be those who don't play by the rules. Get use to it. That's the best advice I can give and the same advice I gave my grandson.

I have always been a firm believer that "what goes round, comes round". It's a principle of life that has proven to be true over and over again. Do what you know is right. It will pay off in the end. To those that "don't play by the rules", it will ultimately be your demise. I prefer to play by the rules. I'm convinced that when I do, good things will happen. Maybe I've seen too many "good guy, bad guy" movies with my grandson, but I'm a firm believer that good will always prevail when you do what you know (in your heart of hearts) is right.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Personal Rambings: Hellooo Friday, I Can't Wait

I'm off to Hawk Island and the zoo this Friday. It's a "grandkids" outing before they head to Northern Michigan for their annual Lake Michigan / Pentwater stay with the "other grandparents". They'll be gone for two weeks and I will be so lonesome I could cry. So, Friday we're scheduling a day of fun (even their Mommie is coming along!)

Hawk Island has a splash park, beach, boat rentals, trails and a gigantic playground to die for. I'm crossing my fingers for great weather. The zoo is just down the road and has plenty of great exhibits that the kids will love.

So, if you try to phone on Friday, just know, I'll be out of the office having some fun. Lord knows I need a break after this week. Everytime I look at my desk, I sigh deeply. I still have two articles to write tonight and it's already 8 pm. Geez, is there no rest for the weary? Heck yes, it's going to be this Friday. Hope you all find time this week for some fun time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

These new cupcake liners arrived these week. Perfect for the upcoming Halloween season and work great with our Mold Market Original mold. Not only are these great for cupcake soaps, but look at what Kare over at Hazelbloom has done with these cupcake liners. How cool is this?

Here's what it takes:

•One string of 50 white lights (white or green cord, your choice)

•Cupcake liners in color or print of your choosing

•Phillips head screwdriver for poking the holes (I know there must be a better way, but this is how I did it, and it worked just fine).

1. First, put your lights up.

2. Place about 20 of the liners on a flat surface you don't mind poking (or on a magazine or piece of cardboard).

3. Poke the screwdriver into the middle of the cupcake liners, until it pokes all the way through. You want a hole big enough so you can slip the liner all the way over the light, but not so big the liners are going to fall off.

4. Do this with the rest of the liners.

5. Slip one liner onto each light, all the way back past the bulb to the main wire.

6. Dress it up even more with garland, if you want.

Are You Missing Out on FB Savings?

If you are not currently a "Fan" of our FB page, you are missing out on some great savings. We randomly post specials, including shipping discounts throughout the week. I encourage you to "LIKE" one of the post on our FB page. Once you do that, you are eligible for any of the FB specials that we post. In fact, we are giving away a $50 online gift certificate to one of our FB friends in August. You'll need to join our FB page in order to find out how you can qualify for the drawing.

You can find out today's FB special here. It's valid today only!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Customer Review on the 2-Piece Oval Soap Mold

Ever wonder how well this soap mold works? Check out this customer review:

Dear GoPlanet,

"I recently purchased the two-piece oval soap mold (Item #242). WOW!! Way more than expected. I followed your directions on connecting the two pieces and it worked perfectly.

My customers raved about these 3-D soaps. It was worth the extra time to connect the two halves for the 3-D soap effect. Thank you for making such a wonderful soap mold that is so easy to use. I was able to charge considerably more for the 3-D effect with very little effort."

Belinda S.
Southfield, MI

Melt & Pour Tutorial: How to Frost A Cupcake Soap

How to Frost a Cupcake Soap
GoPlanet now offers two different decorator kits for soap frosting. The Decorator Plus is our most recent addition. It is made of plastic and contains 5 decorating tips. The clear plastic allows you to see just how much soap frosting you have left in the tube.

The Decorator Pro kit is made of stainless steel and is very durable and comes with six different tips. I've been using this particular kit for many years with great success. Below is a short tutorial on how to use the "Star" tip to create a nicely frosted cupcake soap. We suggest using the Mold Market Original Cupcake base. Place a paper cupcake liner in the mold before pouring the soap if you want the look of a "real" cupcake.


Hold Open Star Decorating Tip 1M approximately 1/4" above cupcake top at a 90° angle to cupcake surface. Pipe a spiral of icing, beginning at the outer edge and working inward.


Stop pressure; pull tip away.


Pipe a second spiral, smaller (not as wide) on top. End spiral at center. Stop pressure; pull tip straight up and away.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Basic SoapMaking Instructional DVD

Basic Soapmaking DVD Tutorial DVD
This instructional DVD gets a "10" on my scale. If you are a melt and pour soaper wanting to cross-over into cold-process soapmaking, you will want to have this informative tutorial in your soaping library.

Our soapmaking diva, Irene, shares detailed instructions, tips and secrets to create cold process soaps. Learn from one of the best soapmaker's in the industry. A featured speaker and demonstrator at the Annual Soap Guild conferences, Irene will help you breeze through the basics of making soap.

We're currently offering a limited introductory price of $19.95. That's $5.00 off the list price. If you visit our FaceBook page and "like" us, you'll find a coupon for an additional $1 off. TODAY ONLY.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hello Halloween... are you retail ready?

Black and orange holiday sprinkles have arrived. Perfect for dressing up the top of the Mold Market cupcake soaps for that special Halloween event.

Halloween Melt & Pour Cupcake Soaps

Sprinkles are a seasonal item and available while quantities last.

Halloween Melt & Pour Cupcake Soaps
Look for some way cool Halloween cupcake soaps to be displayed in the next few weeks using our soap frosting recipe. Here are some suggested fragrance oils for the Fall / Halloween season. There's only one more month left before we start into the Fall craft /retail selling season. Order early to ensure you're ready!

  • Apple Autumn
  • Pumpkin
  • Caramel Apple
  • Cinnamon Bun
  • Fireside
  • Harvest Moon
  • Roll in the Hay
  • Sage & Citrus
  • Turning Leaves
  • Vanilla Spice

Melt & Pour Soap Making: Frightfully Fun Sophie Soaps

Fun Halloween Melt & Pour Soaps Two new flexible silicone molds arrived this week and our girl Sophie was excited to give them a try. Here are the soaps results from her test drive of the new molds. For those of you not familiar with Sophie, she is our college employee who works for us during the summer. In the Fall she will be going back to school where she is studying criminal justice. In the meantime, she works for GoPlanet filling in as needed and helping to train our two newest employees.

Sophie used Black Liquid Gel color for the pumpkin eyes, nose and mouth, and also for the skull base. The pumpkins were poured in orange oxide in clear base (front), neon bright orange liquid gel in white base (back right) and tye dye orange flower child color (left front) in clear base.

The injector tool from the Professional Tool Kit was used to fill in the skull and pumpkin facial features. If you are new to soap making, these are great molds that easily introduce you to two color soap pours using the injector tool.

I hope to work on some nifty, creative soaps this weekend to share with you next week. It's all about finding the time. I think I might actually have this weekend free for soaping fun. Crossing my fingers that it happens because that's the part of my business I love the most... making fun soaps to share with you!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is the Customer Always King?

Good question and one that online businesses, such as ourself, address on a daily basis. I sometimes agonize when a customer decides to create their own set of rules on how an order should be handled and then DEMANDS that we make it happen. Should I give in to their demands knowing that other customers have not been granted the same exceptions, or do I hold my ground on our posted company polices?

I don't care how customer focused a company claims to be, there are certains customer emails that give pause to this whole "Customer is King" marketing concept and makes you reassess this mantra. The idea that the customer should be the core of all decision making sounds great on paper, and is a concept that our company truly tries to practice, but in reality the customer is not "King" 100% of the time. There will always be that small percentage of customers who will never be happy even if you bowed down and kissed their big fat toe. So how does a business handle these "problematic, demanding, never to be happy" customer types?

As for me, I take a look at the big picture. These are some of the questions I ask myself when working toward a customer resolution.
  • Do I want repeat business from this problem customer?

  • Is the customer threatening to bad-mouth my company on every message board and forum to which they belong? I find these types of threats totally unacceptable and liken this type of behavior to that of a two-year old throwing a tantrum because they can't have their way. The chances of me going the extra mile is unlikely. If the customer elects to bad mouth the company, so be it. I have to allow the customer service experience of our many other customers to speak for itself. Part of preseving our company reputation is holding to the policies we have implemented that ensure equal customer service.

  • Is the customer demanding that we change posted company/business policy to fit their situation? There are times you may need to bend the rules, but if you're bending the rules just because a customer is kicking and screaming the loudest, then you're not presenting a single face to all of your customers. GoPlanet's customer service philopsphy is not just selling soap making product, but we also strive to make it a value-added experience. As with all companies, there are occasions when a customer believes we've not met their expectations. When such occasions arise, we look at each of those cases individually and do our best to offer an equitable resolution.

  • Is the customer's expectations realistic when dissatisfied with service?

  • Is the customer pointing blame on our company for an error they made and failing to accept accountability?

  • What is the attitude of the customer when requesting help with an order issue?

It's a tough market on the Internet. Millions of companies competing to get that sale. However, I still believe that a company should maintain its integrity when dealing with customer service issues. I am convinced it's bad for business when you give in to the demands of dissatisfied customers at the expense of your good, loyal, repeat customers. Through the years, I have found that the most problematic customers are those who are one-time buyers, looking for deep discounts on a $10 order, and have no intention of developing a business relationship with our company and want the world and demand that we give it to them.

So... is the Customer Always King? From my standpoint, in most cases a big fat, YES! But if you're trying to bend (our) company policies because you didn't take time to read the small print... well, sorry! It's not fair to those customers who DID take the time to review the return, order, and shipping policies.

A big thanks to our many, many loyal customers who have become friend to us through the years. To our new customers, WELCOME. We will do our very best to service your account promptly, courteously and with accuracy. Should you encounter a question or have a concern, please contact me directly and I will work toward a fair resolution.

As Featured On EzineArticles

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NEW Mold Market Soap Mold Designs Arriving Soon

I always get excited when new mold designs arrive. Especially, the designs from Mold Market. These are quality molds and always a great value for the dollars spent. Here is a sneek-peek at two of their new designs (they are introducing 8 new designs). GoPlanet should have them in stock within the next week.

The polka dot heart is so clean and simple and allows for multiple color pours using our injector tool from the Professional Soap Tool Kit. I can't wait to see wait fun soaps we can create with this basic design. Sometimes basic designs allow the most flexibility for creating your own unique soaps. This mold design is a first for Mold Market. It includes a preformed slot for a wooden popsicle stick which makes it ideal for both chocolate pours and soap pours. If you don't want to use the stick area, just fill the mold with soap and cut away the stick area with a kitchen knife once the soap/chocolate is released from the mold. Again, this is another mold that allows for multiple color pours.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation: Is it Worth the Time Away?

Yep, sure enough. The woman behind the (swim) suit is none other than me. I can't believe I posted myself in a swimsuit, but once you reach a certain age, it doesn't matter. I'm never going to win a beauty contest unless my grandkids are the panel judges. Thankfully, they love me just like I am.

This past week I've been on vacation. It was outstanding except now I must return to face folders of customer questions, orders that need my assistance, and emails that are overflowing into next year. This is the first year that I did not sign onto my laptop (OK, maybe I did for one afternoon, but that was it!). Instead I used my iPhone to address emails that needed immediate answers and then would text my staff when I needed them to take care of business.

Quite honestly, this was a test drive to determine how I might be able to operate remotely when away from work for a lengthy period. It was a learning curve to say the least. Not having a wi-fi connection at the lakehouse was difficult. But, it also allowed me to take a "real" vacation. My daughter and husband were so proud of me as I was not on my laptop doing business while on vacation. In the past, I've always wondered if vacations are really vactions anymore. Is it worth taking time off while spending countless hours on the laptop and, even then, returning to a back-log of work?

My answer is YES! When I looked back on the vacation photos, I couldn't help but smile at how much fun I had with my daughter and her family. We made memories that my 7-year old grandson will long remember. This was his first year knee-boarding and as you can see from the picture, he did quite well. I'm certain he'll be skiing by summer's end. I think the highlight of his vacation week was when I took him to a sporting goods store to purchase ski gloves. He thought he was hot stuff out on the lake.

Certainly, there were business issues that needed addressing while I was away. I did the best I could and then let it go. I have a wonderful assistant and staff that worked diligently to get out orders and take care of those things that were in the scope of their knowledge. The rest, well... it had to wait. It had to wait while I took one week out of my 16 hour, 365 day a year job. Business was on hold while I fished, swam, sat by the lake fire, ate popcorn, watched grandkids slop ice cream all over their faces and clothes, watched movies, played Go Fish, and hugged and loved on my grandkids like there was no tomorrow.

Vacation: Is it worth the time away? You bet!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hello Vacation!!!! A Recess from the Soaping World

Hello Vacation!!! Yes, yes, yes, I am so ready for some down time. As a business owner, it's important to step away from the business and regroup. That's what I will be doing next week. On Saturday morning, I'm leaving for a week at the lake house in Traverse City, Michigan. My grandkids will be there and it's a welcomed annual event. We fish, build sand castles, take boat rides, read books, and just hang out.

I have able staff that will be fulfilling orders. HOWEVER, and I emphasis the however, I will only be available on a limited basis to respond to emails and questions. Kristy, is my main girl, and she will respond to any order concerns. Please be patient this next week as we process orders as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

More Sophie Soaps: Colorful Retro Deco Bar

Our girl Sophie has done it again. She's taken Mold Market's Retro Deco Bar and created a colorful bar of soap using our Flower Child colors. There's a bit of shimmer in every bar since the Flower Child colors contain a hint of mica.

Sophie says it's easy to do. Here's how:
  1. Melt clear soap in several microwaveable containers. How much soap you melt will depend on how many bars you plan to make. The Mold Market Retro Deco Bar has 3 cavities per sheet, so you can make three 4 ounce bars.
  2. Next add color. In this project the Flower child colors were used, but you can use any of GoPlanetEarth's colorants.
  3. Scent is optional. You can add fragrance before or after you add the color, it really doesn't matter. We suggest adding 2-3 teaspoons of fragrance per pound of soap base. You can keep it simple by first melting one pound of soap, add the fragrance, and then divide the melted soap into several pourable (micorwaveable) containers. You can then incorporate different colors into each container.
  4. To get the graduated colors, Sophie tilted the mold each time she poured and let each color set up until a thick skin formed on the surface of the soap. She then liberally sprayed that layer with rubbing alcohol, tilted the mold in a different direction and poured the next color.
  5. Continue pouring and tilting the mold until you top off the mold cavity.

It's that simple! We would love to see what colorful soaps you create using this mold. If you submit your finished soap pics, we'll post on our blog.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Advertising: Thinking Outside the Box

The above photo is what prompted this post. It's a picture taken while visiting Annapolis for a family wedding. Pictured is my niece (the obvious bride) and her new husband. After their Chesapeake Bay wedding, they headed into the historic district of Annapolis. The downtown area was filled with holiday weekend tourists. That didn't bother them one bit. They, and their photographer, walked the city snapping pictures that were fun and unconventional.

This particular shot was inside a storefront window. It just so happened that a group of our family was walking back to our hotel after dinner. What a surprise to see our niece and her hubby acting as mannequins inside a vacant storefront window. It was inventive, creative, and outside the box. I loved it. So, where am I going with this?

Let's translate this into business. No one was expecting to see a bride and groom on display in the window of a vacant commerical storefront. It's likely that the property managment company received a good deal of exposure as people huddled around the window watching the posing couple. Those watching became engaged in the uniqueness of the moment.

It's this same engagement that we strive to have with our customers. A marriage of product and customer is all about finding a unique and creative way to broadcast ourselves to the world. Whether it is our packaging, product, or service, we are looking for creative ways to have our customers stand back in awe and say, "Wow, this is a company that is thinking outside the box and really wants my business." You may not have a storefront window to display your goods, but you do have a storefront web site. Use it to your advantage. Make sure your customers are immediately engaged in your main page. Create that storefront window that will customers in to see all that you offer. Make them huddle at your main page and chatter about how inventive you are in your presentation!

Here are four simple ways to ensure customer engagement:
  1. Entice customers by offering something unique
  2. Be creative in displaying the product being offered
  3. Make sure your product packaging exceeds the norm
  4. Take photos that accurately display the product being sold

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Fourth from Annapolis

Happy Fourth Weekend. I am currently in Annapolis for a family wedding and staying in the quaint historical district. It is awesome and the weather is sunny and 80's. This is the deli where we walked to breakfast this morning. Brick streets, history on every street, and plenty of great food places and boutique type shops.

Breakfast at Chick & Ruth's included a pledge of the allegiance to our wonderful flag. At 8:30 am for the last 21 years, the owner's voice projects over a loud speaker and everyone stands to pledge our flag. This particular morning, a Vietnam Vet who served in Hanoi for 5 years (and was a prisoner of war) was applauded for his service to our country.

You've never seen anything like this diner. Every table was packed, it was greasy spoon looking, but gourmet food. Very retro, unique, and a must see for anyone visiting Annapolis. It's fun to hang with family and since the wedding we're attending is outdoors, you couldn't ask for better weather.

May each of you enjoy this weekend and the many freedoms that come with living in the USA. May liberty and justice always prevail.