Used with permission from Mouse Marketplace
Lately, it's been tougher than ever to keep businesses open while state after state goes back into lockdown. Because of that, let's talk to a business person who's making it work while she runs her small business.
The entrepreneur I talked to for today has found a way to pivot her business and grow while being isolated inside her home in Florida. She has a unique company that will hopefully inspire you to discover your next big idea.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
Used with permission from Mouse Marketplace
Please Welcome to the Stage, Erica
Erica Price co-runs a small business from home called ‘Mouse Marketplace’ that she helped launch in January of this year.
Mouse Marketplace is a themed box fulfilment company that sends Disney snacks and other products to customers all over the country.
Erica runs Mouse Marketplace with Bonnie Cribbs who I interviewed last month.
Disney Parks make a lot of their revenue from selling snacks and other food and beverage products that synergise with movies and TV properties. Because of this, guests form an attachment with something they’re eating while enjoying a Disney park, then go home and miss the feeling.
Erica’s company is able to sell you back the feeling by supplying you with the food you were eating while you were experiencing your Disney moment.
Mouse Marketplace offers a variety of boxes that are packed with an assortment of Disney goods that will remind you of the time you spent on vacation. Customers have a variety of themes to choose from, depending on what’s available at the time.
Erica is stocked by other small businesses and a local baker who learned Disney’s baking practices during his time working for the parks.
Because of that, she’s able to replicate the taste and experience of Disney without relying on the parks themselves for stock.
So what’s her secret? How is she able to find and sell to her customers? She relies entirely on working social media the right way.
Doing Social Media Properly
Erica co-runs a massive Disney fan page that captures Disney fans with genuine engagement and interaction.
All too often, when I go onto Facebook pages that are run by businesses, all I see are calls to action.
The business owner is only interested in selling the product and makes no effort to draw in the customers or make them feel part of a group.
The illusion we’re trying to create with a Facebook group is the feeling that we’re all in something together. We’ve been brought together by a common interest, and we’re invested in taking part in the conversation.
That’s literally never going to happen if all you do is post links to your blog or the latest sale on your website.
Erica’s Disney page discusses Disney news, Disney trivia, and anything else that people want to talk about.
Anyone can post, so people are always posting whatever is on their mind that is either related to Disney or Erica’s business.
After she worked to capture her audience by being authentically interested in what her customer base is interested in, she took advantage of Facebook Live.
Facebook Live has become her most effective function in fuelling her business success.
Mouse Marketplace is not a box subscription service. Instead, customers can buy boxes with a one-off purchase.
This means that when a box is announced, there is only a finite number that will run out when Erica’s stock has run out.
Also, just because you’ve paid for a box once, it doesn’t mean you’ve subscribed.
Avoiding the subscription model has meant that the customer must continue to interact with the group to get more boxes in the future.
First they become invested, then they become hooked; but it’s not a set and forget system like a regular box subscription service.
Because of the nature of constant interaction and mindful purchasing, Erica’s product isn’t just well suited to the target demographic; it has sparked a habitual purchasing style for her customers.
Customers factor her boxes into their budgets, because they’ve become hooked on the experience and interaction. She’s created excitement, which has resulted in loyalty. This result is the best case scenario for the long-term success of any business.
Livening Social Media
If you (the customer) want to buy the next box, you’ll have to tune in to one of Erica’s Facebook Live’s and see the box being announced.
If it suits your tastes, you’ve got to hurry up and order it quickly.
If you miss it, it’s gone, and it may not come back.
Treating every product like it’s an event is adding excitement, prestige, and a feeling of FOMO for her customers. (Fear of missing out).
I asked Erica about how she managed in the beginning when times were tough, and she admitted that it was hard.
“In the beginning, it’s just you and your small team and trying to figure out how to make it all work within 24 hours in the midst of juggling your day job, family, etc.
It’s important to remain focused and remember your why.”
Your why is the reason you’re even doing this.
Beyond money, what is your true motivation for running your business?
For Erica, she genuinely believes that she’s providing hope and happiness to people who are stuck at home and locked out of Disney parks.
Used with permission from Mouse Marketplace
A lot of people around the world get a lot of happiness from visiting and experiencing Disney, and being cut off has had a genuine impact on their mental health.
Erica’s service keeps them fulfilled until the parks re-open once again.
When everything becomes too hard, you need a good why to fall back on to stop yourself from burning out.
Erica’s number one tip for those who want to start a small business is to be responsive to complaints.
It’s inevitable that people are going to sometimes be disappointed with what they’ve received, but it’s how you handle that disappointment that can make or break your business.
Having an active community of customers can be a two-edged sword because that vehicle of direct communication can easily be weaponised by a disgruntled customer that you haven’t done right by.
Erica chats with her customers directly over email whenever something is wrong, and will do anything she can to make them happy; whether that means returning or replacing whatever that customer has ordered.
Making it Work
Erica’s business is entirely reliant on her ability to turn each product into an event.
Every time a new box becomes available, it’s announced with a Facebook Live and an email blast to all of her subscribers.
She doesn’t rely on a webpage or text posts to get the word out.
She interacts with everyone who’s in her community of customers and because of that she immediately sells out as soon as a new product is announced.
If you have a small online business that ships goods to customers and you’re holding onto stock for months at a time, you’re doing something wrong.
The only sure way to keep a physical product based business alive is to find a way to keep stock flying off the shelves.
The longer you’re holding onto product, the worse it is for your bottom line.
Creating a social media presence for your business is essential, but leaving it to flounder on its own is useless.
I can’t tell you how many business pages I’ve “liked” for a friend then never heard from again.
Instead, build a community of like-minded customers around your page who genuinely like it because of the content.
If you sell surf products, build a community of surfers by posting passionate surf content that engages those that share your interests.
Why did you get into your business in the first place? Surely it’s because you’re in love with the product you sell.
If you sell surf products and you love to surf, surely building a community of surfers through engaging surf-related content should be easy for you.
Build the community, then market your products with engaging live videos that build excitement within the community of people you’ve engaged.
Turn every product into an event, then watch products fly off the virtual shelves as engaged customers get in before stock runs out.
Once customers have purchased your products, remember that your job doesn’t end there. Erica credits her own success to listening to customer feedback, and responding quickly to customer complaints.
Her ability to resolve every issue quickly is essential for the continued success of her company.
I especially recommend visiting their Facebook and seeing for yourself how Erica turned an interest into a passion product, then into a thriving company in only a matter of months.
Disclaimer: Nobody was compensated in the writing of this story. Erica volunteered her time to talk to me in the interest of helping others who wish to start small businesses.
What’s more, there is no compensation being offered to me, the author, when you click any of the links in this story. I don’t take part in those types of shenanigans.