Sunday, August 1, 2010

What We're Up To At

Hello DreamWorthy Friends, Fans, Followers and Customers!

Some of you have asked what we're up to, since you haven't seen us online (representing DreamWorthy, at least) or marketing heavily through Social Media, like we used to. Others have kindly written to check on us, out of concern.

First, all is well. The business is still running, albeit quietly, and we are well, personally. It has been a wonderful summer so far.

What we have been doing, is thinking. (Yes, I know. Scary stuff. ;-)

Between us, we have a ton of business experience, some of it even B2B ecommerce experience. But this was our first venture into retail B2C, online. As some of you well know, it's a very different world. Over the last two years, we have been mildly successful, while we were figuring things out. But mildly doesn't really cut it, for the long-term. We believe we've learned what it will take to make DreamWorthy wildly successful.

Here's what we believe we need:

  • A complete, modern ecommerce website redesign with a great shopping cart software and full social media integration and Web 2.0 features. Think beautiful, functional, easy, inviting, intuitive. Stuff like this.
  • Then, we need to employ the best thinking in A/B testing, usability, and landing page click-pattern tracking to ensure the design delivers a customer experience that encourages conversion. This is great stuff straight from the great authors in Website Magazine, which I can't say enough great things about.
  • A merchant account to take payments directly, rather than only through PayPal.
  • A separation from our current primary dropshipper, replacing them with a fulfillment system that we control or can trust completely (Amazon fulfillment comes to mind as an option, if we outsource). Zappos' CEO wrote an article about their journey through this process and it was immensely enlightening. Different article, but here are some lessons he learned that resonated with us. You can't deliver phenomenal service if you don't control the fulfillment process.
  • A separation from our current primary supplier, to create private-label products of the finest quality, in one specific niche - likely continuing our current bath and body focus and dropping the other product lines. This and the fulfillment choice make stocking inventory mandatory, at our location or the fulfillment center.
  • A well-run SEM campaign.
  • A great SEO plan, built into the site during the redesign - not an afterthought.
  • Integration with, but less reliance on, Social Media as a marketing medium. Social Media should be our channel for listening, learning, connecting, creating a loyalty magnet and a human voice for our business, not the primary way we get orders.
  • An aligned PR/Marketing Plan that reinforces our SEM, SEO and Social Media presence and voice.

So, this has been two years' worth of learning. In retrospect, with hindsight being 20/20, I wish we had done these 2 years' worth of research first, and launched the business this year, but I'm not sure we'd really have learned everything we did without the experiences we've had. Kind of an interesting Catch-22 loop.

One thing that would not change is the thing we got right from the start, in our opinion:

A kind human voice, a sense of humor, an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction -- even if it means losing money on one order, and a commonsense approach to problem-solving when something doesn't quite go as expected.

Now, the question is, what's next? The above plan would give us a truly good chance at making DreamWorthy a very successful brand and business. Not "compete with Bath & Body Works" successful (from a scale perspective, at least), but it might take us to a platform from which we could decide if we want to go that far. A lot of successful businesses have started in a basement or garage.

So, what's holding us back, you ask?

  • This is a completely new level of commitment for two people with one very demanding full-time career, a family, a daughter headed to college, a busy household with two younger children, 2 cats and an unruly but infinitely entertaining Dachshund.
  • Financing. Do we risk funding this from personal funds or seek an SBA loan or other funding?
  • Is the "bath and body" space saturated enough that our entrance would make only a small ripple? (In other words, are we overestimating the potential return for this plan and do we need more market research?)
  • Choices and decisions. We're researching site designers, carts, and private-label options and costs.
  • One big decision: has this been a fun and interesting experiment that has lead to some cool new knowledge and skills, or is this the springboard from which we are going to leap and change our lives? Do we have (enough) passion for this business and the bath and body world?

For me (this is Mike), if I free my time up, I have an opportunity to focus deeper on my career in the training and organization performance profession (outside of work hours), and with 20+ years of highly successful experience, to become a respected voice in that industry and community. I have personally been wrestling with this choice, because choosing DreamWorthy means a continued, focused, dedicated effort outside of my already-long work day, until there is no longer a need for that work day. In essence, do I want to make a career change, leaving my training world behind? (Until, perhaps, based on our success, I could free up to teach others how to make the same journey?)

So there it is, friends, all laid out for the world to see. This is what we're doing, thinking about, going through, researching, and deciding. In the end, one of two things will happen. We'll either:
  • Close DreamWorthy Gifts and move on.
  • Execute the above plan and you'll see a relaunch of the store.

We'll keep you posted.

In the interim, we want to THANK YOU for your friendship, support and patronage. It has meant more to us than we could possibly tell you here.

Until next time, your online friends,

Mike & Kali


Lauri @grnladybug said...

Saying a prayer for you both that you will know the right road to follow.

Thinking of you both....


LaineysPawtique said...

May i just leave a comment..... and this is JUST from MY point of view.... as far as amazon drop shipping. I have ordered things online obviously for my biz....some have been through companies that work through Amazon... I WILL GO OUT of my way IF POSSIBLE to order from ANYONE else for ONE reason and ONE reason only..... SHIPPING!!!! they take WAY too long. I will place an order it takes sometimes 3-5 days (YES NO LIE) BEFORE it EVEN gets shipped out and THAN they take the LONGEST time to get here. As I also ship and NOT with a price reduction... I can ship myself faster.

so that is my one little opinion of Amazon!

Your DreamWorthy Gifts Shopping Advisor Team said...

Thanks for the feedback, Judy. Using Amazon for fulfillment was just an example of the kind of outsourcing we'd consider; it wasn't meant as an endorsement of Amazon Fulfillment specifically. But I always appreciate your spot-on input and passion for customer service. I guess our point is, if we truly did what was needed, and cranked up the volume, with what's happening in the rest of our lives, we couldn't personally keep up with shipping.

Moot point, though, it's very unlikely that DreamWorthy will survive the next month.

Hope all's well with you!

Mike & Kali