Mar 13

Creativity on Demand

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Vibe Consulting

According to Donatella Versace, “fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream.”

Ok it is a new season and you have to design your collection. Except you just finished last season and your creative juices are running a bit thin.

Wouldn’t you love to be consistently creative?

The truth, though, is that we all get stuck from time to time. So here is what I do when I need to turn on my creativity.

First, I submerge myself in inspiration.

I look at the runways, on line, pinterest, magazines, museums, movies, stores, pretty much any and everything that gives me ideas. Then I start to see a thread develop and my vision takes form.

Second, I start to focus in on what I truly find exciting. From there I create. The more ideas I have the better. And I don’t censor them. I throw a lot on the board before even think about narrowing in.

“Studies from the University of California Davis and MIT have shown that groups who produce a large amount of bad ideas also tend to produce the most amount of good ideas as well.”

Sometimes having no inspiration and living totally in my head helps me create ideas.

I find hiking, driving a car, or even taking a shower is where I get some of my best ideas from. Doing something that I can do on auto pilot is also a great way for me to get my brain to start dreaming. (Just don’t space out while driving!)

Another tool that I hear works well is to just start.

Writers for example will start writing anything just to fill a page in order to get themselves in the mindset. For a fashion designer that might be just starting to sketch and see what comes from it.

Finally if all else fails, walk away.

Just like there is writers block, there can be designers block. Instead of pressuring yourself to the point where your mind is a blank, do something else completely different and then come back to it totally refreshed.

After all, we aren’t robots. Although creativity comes more naturally to some people than others, you still can’t expect to be constantly “in the zone.” Give yourself a break and let the inspiration occur!

Mar 09

3 Stockbrokers walk into a bar…

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Once upon a time I was married to a stock broker.

I know it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s true! One thing he would tell me is that when everyone is excited about the market, that is when the NASDAQ is about to go down. Like Warren Buffet says, “the time to buy is when everyone else wants to sell.” When everyone wants in, the smart money starts to take their money out – in order to capture profits.

While I wouldn’t say fashion cycles are exactly the same as the stock market, there are some similarities. When a trend is being bought by everyone and their mother, we know that it’s about to start fading.

Right now we are going to start seeing that with Athleisure. I mean they are putting the word in the dictionary soon for goodness sake.

Athleisure product is everywhere and every major brand from Tory Burch to Calvin Klein is now doing some kind of performance/casual brand.

Of course they all look the same.

One of the biggest fails of our industry is the way we copy things to death without having a unique point of view. Don’t you think wearing yoga pants every day is getting boring?

Aren’t we jonesing for a fabulous skirt with a cool pair of pumps?

Industry site the Robin Report predicts that athleisure “is rolling over for fall and its growth rate will dramatically slow, and then stall out”.

I don’t believe that this trend will ever fully end. The American people love casual dressing so this kind of apparel will leave the realm of trend and become a staple category just like jeans did.

However, I think the next trend is going to be a bit more dressed up.

And I for one am glad.

It will be fun, new, and, fresh. Isn’t that what fashion is about…change?

Feb 28

You Screwed Up. Now What?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

You saw the news everywhere.

While announcing the best picture Oscar award at this past Sunday’s event, there was a mix-up of cards and presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty initially declared the musical, La La Land, the winner.

Ooops!

But just as La La Land’s producers were accepting the award, they were interrupted by Host Kimmel who stated La La Land was not the winner, Moonlight was. As you can imagine chaos and confusion erupted on live TV.

Wow! That is a big error!

Who’s fault was that? And how does the guilty person recover from such a huge mistake? Can you image that person’s rep in the industry? I bet they won’t be stuffing envelopes for a while!

Embarrassing, yes – but not really all that uncommon.

In the fashion industry people screw up all the time, many times publicly.

Remember when Lululemon had to recall their yoga pants because they were too sheer? Or the time Andrew Marc was sued by The Humane Society of the United States after an investigation revealed raccoon dog fur violations? The investigation uncovered evidence that the brand continued to sell raccoon dog fur (a species of dog) despite a court order prohibiting it after March 2013.

Think of one of the biggest business blunders ever! Coca Cola changing their soda formula. Overnight Coca Cola experienced a huge drop in sales.

How do businesses come back from these mistakes? And they all did.

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming Brilliant Mistakes, most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains.

I know in my many years in business there was a time or two where I made cringe worthy mistakes. We all do. Then I dwelt on them for months rather than remembering the successes.

So how do you handle a mistake?

First you own it. Acknowledge it, even if it has to be public. Maybe apologize. Learn from it. Then course correct.

You can’t undo what’s already happened. You can’t miraculously make people forget.

However, by being honest, humble and up front about it, your chances of quickly recovering are good. People are usually forgiving of honest mistakes.

They may laugh at you for a while, but remember: no one ever died from a red face!

Feb 23

Should your Fashion Business Go “Seasonless”?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

My goodness, is spring already here?

Wasn’t it snowing a couple of days ago?

The weather is so strange. It seems winter is later and spring is earlier every year. Climate change is all too real an issue for our industry.

Many years ago I was taking May 30th for Fall deliveries from Saks Fifth Ave. Now no one wants inventory before August. For 6 years I worked in the coat industry. Each year business became more and more difficult as the cold weather took longer and longer to arrive.

One solution is the buy now, wear now model. Creating clothing much closer to need as opposed to showing way in advance of the season. “The current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” stated Tom Ford.

Another solution is to include “seasonless” pieces in your collection.

These are items that feel timeless and can be worn again and again, but are still interesting enough to make the customer want to buy. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wearing the same clothing all year round.

This is a trend that brands need to be on.

Seasonless fashion is on the rise, and we can’t afford to ignore it. And this isn’t just about heavy coats and lighter fabrics. This change breaking some of our hardest kept fashion rules.

Now you can wear white in the winter and cashmere in the spring. Also using lighter weight fabrics that are layered in the fall and then stripped down in the summer. You see women without hose in the winter, and all sorts of weird fabric combinations.

Then there are companies like AYR (https://www.ayr.com) that stands for All Year Round. They were founded in 2014 when the founders saw the need for seasonless clothing. And Catherine Quin (http://www.catherinequin.com) who’s website says the brand was “created as an interchangeable wardrobe reflecting the needs of the modern woman, the Catherine Quin collection transcends occasion, climate and culture with seasonless versatility.”

Is this a strategy for you?

Obviously I can’t be sure. However, I think this is a strategy everyone needs to consider. Almost certainly there should be some element of “seasonless” incorporated into just about every collection.

Feb 17

How Much Margin Should Your New Fashion Brand Include?

By Maria Pesin | Vibe Consulting

It’s a recurring question.

When I sit down with a lot of new companies, this issue comes up quite a bit.

The challenge new brands have is they are not doing enough business to reach production minimums in order to get competitive pricing from factories. So the question becomes “Do I set my retail price based on the current cost of goods, or, do I work on a short margin and retail based on future quantities?”

I encourage you to follow the steps I have all my clients take.

When I start working with an emerging designer, the first action I have them follow is to conduct a competitive analysis. One of the reasons I have them do this is to learn what the prices are of their competitors’ collections. This serves as a guide to help us establish their pricing. Through this exercise they find out more or less where they need to be.

The next step to pricing is for them to decide if they are going to sell directly to customers, or wholesale, or both.

If you sell directly to the customer you have only one margin to worry about. The difference between making the garment and what you’re selling it for at retail. However, if you sell wholesale you have to have the margin between your cost of goods, what you sell to the store wholesale, and then the margin between the stores and what they sell it to their customers for.

The decision on what to do is unique to each entrepreneur.

Ideally you want to retail your line competitively in order to maximize sales. However, if your costs are 10-20% higher you can sometimes start a little higher than your competition.

This isn’t always possible. Sometimes your costs are so much higher that you are not even in the ballpark, and then you have to bite the bullet and take the shorter margin.

In the end, you shouldn’t expect to make as much margin in your first two seasons as you will further down the road. Part of being new is tightening your belt and assuming the upfront costs of starting a new business.

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have a financial plan in place that allows you to tackle these beginning seasons with enough certainty to survive.

If not, give me a call and let’s work on your plan before you find yourself in a dangerous pickle!

Feb 15

Should You Pay to Send Traffic to Your Website?

By Dennis Lewis | Digital Marketing , Guest Posts

OK. It’s true.

There’s just no question about it.

Creating a website without traffic is like putting a neon sign in the deepest depths of Lake Michigan. At best, you’ve wasted the effort, and at worst you get electrocuted.

There’s no quick answer to the problem of getting the right people to visit your site.

Unfortunately, the simplest questions often have the most complicated solutions.

By now, you’ve probably come to terms with the fact that you need to do something to get people to visit your website.

But at what cost? Should you pay to send traffic to your site?

If so, how much?

First of all, the most important advice I can give you is the following:

Until you can accurately measure return on investment, don’t pay a dime for any type of traffic.

Don’t work on SEO.

Don’t share on social media.

Don’t buy a single click.

Nothing. Nada. Absolute zilch.

You have to be able to judge the return on every campaign you run on the internet. Everything else is throwing money down the toilet.

So before starting, stop and decide how you’re going to measure success.

Later in this article we’ll go over some of the most standard metrics, but whatever you do heed this advice. Measuring is key to success.

The next question you’re probably asking yourself is “why pay for traffic when there’s tons of free traffic out there?”

As a response, let me ask you a different question?

Why do companies pay to advertise in the newspaper or on tv, when they could just get journalists to write stories about them for free?

Or better yet.

Why buy tomatoes at the supermarket when you can plant them for free in your back yard?

The answer to all three questions is identical.

Free tomatoes don’t exist. Free advertising on TV doesn’t exist.

And free traffic in internet does not exist.

But wait. When someone does a search on google, sees a link to your website and clicks, you get free traffic, right?

While technically true, if your website is located on the eighteenth page of the organic search results, how many clicks do you think you’re going to receive?

The truth is that positioning your site in the best keywords requires, in the best of cases, hard work, dedication and significant amounts of time.

I don’t know about you, but do these three things sound free?

Most SEO work requires creating great content, doing onsite optimization and then building back links to your site. None of these are free.

So if free traffic isn’t free, the question remains, “How much should I pay for web traffic?”

Is 20¢ a click a good deal?

How about $1?

Perhaps $150?

The only correct answer for all of the above is “it depends”.

For example, if for every 10 clicks you make a sale worth $3,000, then $150 per click is a great deal. 10 clicks will set you back $1,500 and you’ll make another $1,500 in profit.

However, if it takes a thousand clicks at 20¢ a click to make a sale worth $150, then you’re paying too much. A thousand clicks at 20¢ will cost you a total of $200 and you will have lost $50.

The only way to determine what price to pay for traffic is to base the calculation on your specific metrics.

First of all, what are you trying to achieve? Signups to your list? Sales? Referrals?

Second, what are the metrics you’re going to track?

A few of the most typical things to measure are:

CPC: Cost per click. This is simply the cost of every click you’re paying for.

CPA: Cost per action. This is the average cost for whatever action you’re hoping to achieve.

CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost. This is the average cost for acquiring a new customer.

ROI: The economic return on investment.

Obviously not all traffic is created equal.

Traffic that is highly targeted to your ideal customer demographic will usually cost more than general “low cost” traffic. While your CPC may be low, your CPA or CAC may turn out to be prohibitively high.

So once you find a good traffic source at the right price, how much of a good deal is too much?

In the end it depends on your ability to handle the business.

If you can attend an unlimited amount of business, then you should concentrate your efforts on optimizing and scaling your campaign.

If, on the other hand, your production capacity is limited by factors such as raw materials, human resources or elaboration time, then you will need to match your marketing to get as close as possible to your maximum production level without burning out your resources.

In conclusion, the answer to the “how much should I pay for web traffic?” question should, if we do things right, transition into “how much can I pay for web traffic?”

When you have built a finely tuned sales funnel and are carefully controlling the right metrics your focus will change from worrying about the cost of each click to trying to figure out how to get as many clicks as you possible can.

Believe me, that’s when digital marketing starts being fun!

Is your sales funnel working like it should?

Why don’t you click here and we can analyze your digital marketing situation?

Feb 13

Ever Feel Discouraged?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged.

Deliveries are delayed, samples come in wrong, stores are late making payment. Believe me, I know that sometimes things happen in my business that are out of my control and I also get discouraged. It’s just human nature.

Running a business is not always smooth sailing and it is often harder than you ever expected. (similar to marriage and raising children, lol).

For entrepreneurs, being discouraged from time to time comes as part of the gig.

Entrepreneurship is filled with peaks and valleys. And from experience, I know the valleys can feel like someone has trounced on your spirit. Someone wearing big heavy military boots.

This can lead to questioning and self-doubt.

So what is the solution? Sometimes you just need to step away. Read a book, see a movie, or go to the gym. But what do you do if that is not an option?

Listen closely, because I have a multi-step sure-fire solution that works for me:

Step 1: determine what the exact problem is…without blowing it out of proportion. For example if a delivery is delayed, rather than thinking I will go out of business, I slow down and state the exact problem. Many times it is not as bad as I thought.

Step 2: make a list of possible solutions. For the delayed delivery I may ask the factory to give me a discount, or send by air rather then boat if they are coming from overseas. There are always viable alternatives if you breathe calmly and look closely.

Step 3: take action. In our hypothetical case of the delayed delivery, I get on the phone and start negotiating. The key step is taking action.

To me the cure for discouragement is activity.

Movement always beats sitting there in the dumps. I totally understand that when you’re in the thick of the problem it can be difficult to see a solution as you get so emotionally involved. You just can’t think straight.

When that happens get your team on board. This is when your business consultant is worth her weight in gold.

Contact them to talk you off the roof and brainstorm solutions.

And remember, a month from now today’s mountain of despair will seem like just a bump in the road!

Feb 09

Why Fashion Businesses Are Drowning in the Facebook QuickSand

By Dennis Lewis | Business , Guest Posts

You’re posting regularly.
You’re running “like ads” to grow your audience.
You’re advertising your online store.

And it’s just not producing.

Sound familiar?

This is the Facebook quicksand trap that is slowly but surely drowning far too many fashion businesses.

But before I continue, I’d like to share a quick tip with you that could save your life.

You see, drowning in quicksand must be a truly awful way to go. While maybe not the most clear and pressing danger for many “city slickers,” you just never can be sure, can you?

So, file this away in your memory: The best course of action when you find yourself being swallowed by a hungry puddle of quicksand is to slowly raise your legs while leaning backwards. You’ll float right to the top!

With that now out of the way, I’d like to try and save your brand’s marketing budget as well.

You see, all too often I talk with fashion entrepreneurs who seem to be flaying away – desperately trying to do a bit of everything while pretty much going nowhere.

Don’t let this be you.

You see, Facebook is the most powerful advertising platform in the world. It offers unparalleled targeting options and can drive torrents of high quality traffic.

But it’s notoriously tricky.

And even worse – it is a terrible place to try and drive organic, free traffic!

Why? Because for brands, Facebook is decidedly NOT a social media network.

Nope. Those days are long gone.

Facebook is an advertising platform that sponsors a social network for individuals. Just like the good old days when Coca-cola sponsored Gilligan’s Island, today your brand’s messaging is sponsoring Uncle Ben’s ability to check in on his grandkid’s trip to Fort Lauderdale!

So, what should you be doing?

First and foremost, EVERY fashion startup should be dedicating four times more effort to Instagram than Facebook!

Instagram is where the engagement is.
Instagram is where the loyal followers are.
Instagram is where the sales are being made.

Data has proven that Instagram drives 58 more times engagement than Facebook! It is highly visual and people spend enormous amounts of time staring at their Instagram feeds every day.

If you’re interested, please check out my Powerhouse Instagram Marketing Service here.

Next, in order to avoid the Facebook quicksand you need to play a different game over there. A game that will be clear when you answer the following question:

What does Facebook love almost more than racking in your ad dollars?

The answer is: great content that genuinely appeals to highly targeted groups of users.

Facebook loves content that drives engagement. This is the key ingredient in their success. So much so, that they are willing to give away their most precious asset – user eyeballs – in exchange for awesome content.

So, my recommended formula for getting the most on Facebook is:

  1. Consistently invest a small amount ($5 – $10 a day, for example) on like ads to grow your facebook page following. Be super careful about how you target these ads!
  2. Make sure you are growing a Facebook retargeting audience of everyone who visits your website.
  3. Publish both original and curated content to your page everyday.
  4. Promote the content that gets engagement and ignore all the rest.
  5. Only run traditional ad campaigns to people on your retargeting audience.

Want to have a conversation about how this is all done?

Signup here for a couple of hours of 1-on-1 marketing assistance.

I’m looking forward to seeing your success!

Feb 07

Is Your Website Stuck in Traffic?

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Over the last several weeks I’ve spoken with four new clients, and they all seem to have the same nagging ache: converting online traffic into sales. For some reason, this is a recurring theme with many fashion brands out there.

You see, all four had great products – that wasn’t the problem. Their prices were reasonable and they mostly had good images too. So, what’s the story?

The story’s the story – that’s what!

The truth is you have about 8 seconds before the majority of visitors leave your site. And in that short span of time you have to achieve a whole lot. Most importantly you have grab their attention and reel them in by giving them a compelling reason why they should stay on your site.

Does your landing page clearly show visitors who you are and why they should do business with you? Is there a clear call to action? Is it easy to see what their next step should be?

If not, you’re leaving money on the table.

One of the four clients had a very confusing website. I didn’t know where to go or even when I hit a button it didn’t do what the button said it would. That kind of sloppiness causes a really bad impression.

Also, how good is your photography? Are you products shown to their best advantage? Sometimes it is as simple as using a steamer to press your clothes.

Is your traffic the right traffic?

Acquiring the wrong traffic is one of the biggest reasons your website isn’t converting. Make sure you are focusing your marketing on the right demographic for your line. Believe me, it is better to have 1,000 raving fans on your list, than 10,000 lukewarm ones.

Does your website load quickly? Have you ever gone to a website that is incredibly slow to load? Most people just bounce away when that happens.

Do you require too much information to check out? I find it very annoying when I am required to set up an account in order to check out. I want things to be speedy (It seems I am always in a rush).

Make it easy for a customer to seal the deal.

Competition for customers on the internet is high. Make sure your site is as effective as it can be.

After all, you may only get one shot at that potential buyer!

Feb 02

Is Fashion Customization Here To Stay?

By Maria Pesin | Vibe Consulting

Customization, or made to order apparel and accessories, is a growing segment of the fashion industry. In an effort to be more consumer centric, brands are finding that personalization is something their customers respond to. “Mass personalization is set to become a reality, with 36% of consumers saying they are interested in personalized products or services,” according to research by the business advisory firm, Deloitte.

By offering different colors, styles, designs, fabrics, and fits, companies can truly empower customers to make their products feel unique and special. This allows the brands to differentiate themselves in the minds of their clients.

While it’s great in theory, it’s definitely not always so easy to deal with in the real world.

“The self-service, online customization experience is still very, very broken. The shopper is asked to configure their apparel by selecting from a vast array of options like collar types, pocket types, fabric materials and colors, etc. One custom dress shirt company used to boast that they offered over 7 billion possibilities to choose from. That’s nothing to boast about; that is way more than the human brain cares to process, i.e., the ‘paradox of choice.” Wrote Dave Sloan of Big Talker.

Another example is Shoes of Prey, a company out of Los Angeles, that customizes shoes according to the features a customer chooses. Nordstrom carried them in several stores, but found that customers spent hours of a sales persons time on designing their custom shoes. While it might be fun for the consumer, this is not something a commissioned salesperson wants to do. In the end, it just wasn’t practical.

Perhaps the best approach is partial personalization. The customer can change some features rather than being overwhelmed with the task of designing the whole product. After all, that’s what good designers do, no?

Like many business questions, the answer is almost always in finding the right balance. Is offering your customer choices a good idea? Almost certainly. However, you must take into account all of the implications before launching into a venture of this nature.