Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tips to indie polish makers on business model

You see all these polish makers and you think, "Hey, I like to design. I love nail polish. This is the world for me!" But before you dump glitter, pigments, and micas into base and toss it onto a store front you need to get some things into place and realize a few things. Please note I am NOT a nail polish maker. I am a graphic designer with strong emphasis in business identity and marketing. Read I work with people to make their product packaging sellable. We live in a high demand world where most markets are saturated with product. Your product is on a virtual shelf with a hundred others (minimum). Why should anyone buy YOURS?

First and foremost is the quality of your product. A pretty package will sell but disappointment will get you in the long run. We've all heard about the testing process. It's well known that not everything will survive in base. Some things just won't so don't put things in base, list them the next day, and then be shocked when your customers are angry that the color has changed or the glitter has disappeared. Always test your product and be passionate about your creations and hold them to the highest standards. This is THE best way to treat your customers the way they should be treated. You would be incredibly upset to receive a bottle of polish that became something it wasn't when you bought it. Don't expect your customer base to react any differently.

Reactions are key. Think beyond your bottle to your customer. You yourself are a customer. Think about places you take your business. What stood out to you? I've received several packages of indies and the ones I remember and cherish are the ones that come packaged nicely. Cult Nails, for example, has made the "burrito" their signature. They also use cotton balls to pad their packages. It's thoughtful and memorable. Obviously they care so much about each and every polish that they carefully wrap each one to make sure it gets to me to enjoy. That thought and care tells me, the customer, that they care about me and want to make sure my money and time wasn't wasted. Don't skimp on the packaging you buy as there are lots of options out there. If you need cheaper buy good packaging but buy in bulk to get the cheap item price. It pays to plan ahead.

 That brings us to the touchy topic of investment. Investment comes in two forms: time and money. You've heard it time and time again and it is TRUTH. To make money you have to spend money. The key to be wise on your spending to maximize on your profits. Do research. It's amazing what a Google search will turn up. Start a running list of resources and ideas (Excel is a great tool that most of us have to start a spreadsheet to keep track of options). Look at reviews. Spend some time planning out how you will bottle, package, invoice, list, and deal with correspondence. Plans save on time and money. If this is going to be business treat it like one.

Now you have a good product and a method. You don't really need a good label right? I'm wondering if you walked into the grocery store right now and saw a jar of peanut butter with a handwritten label if you would actually buy it. Sadly image sells. There are SOME exceptions to this, but those exceptions are those few who started this race (ie Lynderella) and the handwritten labels ARE her image. Unless you have a driving force of repeat customers chances are you'll do better with a label. That identity should stretch across your media outlets as well. Matching screams professional. Customers tend to respect it better. Back to the peanut butter. If you look at their website, Facebook, magazine ads and other resources you will see a consistent identity. It's working for them so make it work for you too.

Alright now you have a product, an image, and a plan. It's time to forge ahead and list up the pretties and wait for the orders. But they aren't coming in. Here is the step most starting businesses want to cut out but is vital. I have watched many physical and virtual companies go under simply because they don't want to shell out the money and it boggles my mind. Let's jump over to the Superbowl for minute (I promise I'm going somewhere with this). When we think of the Superbowl a couple of things come to mind. Football, tailgating, yummy food (just being honest), and commercials. Those commercials literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and upwards of millions for halftime ads. Why would a company spend that much for a two minute ad??? One word: customers. YOU! They want to reach you. How will you know about a product if you never see it? Advertising is the most costly and most effective part of a product campaign. A company will spend about a quarter of the product budget on advertising alone. If a company that has had HUGE success like OPI or Coca-Cola is doing it and far more then thriving why do small companies continue to think they can cut it? The answer is they, you, can't.

BUT we are on the cusp of an internet evolution where the advertising power is in the hand of bloggers. You don't have to spend thousands to reach your consumers. You just need bloggers and a willingness to send out samples. Here you are in luck because many are willing to review your polishes. BUT you HAVE to step back from your polishes. You have done what you can and if you are honest and open and make it clear that if they run into a problem TESTING the polish that you'd like to be contacted first so you can make it right you WILL get amazing reviews. In doing this you will develop a friendship with these bloggers so you can go back to them in the future with later lines. They will convey this friendship to their readers (read: new customers for YOU). Those consumers don't want defensive stances or arguments. They just want to be right. So let them. As a business owner with a product to sell your job is to make it right. Make it right in all ways from your start up, your identity, your methods, your professional relationships, and your handling of your consumers.


  1. Wow, this is very thoughtful and informational. I already thought of the majority of this, but it's nice that I came across this for what I may not have thought of. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much for reading through it - it's easy to overlook some steps or try to cut corners, but seeing it written out helps everyone try to be on the same page. It's important for indies to provide high-quality product as skipping those steps has resulted in a bad name, at times, for other indies.