Monday, August 22, 2011

Whither Goest BeadEnCounter?

I'm going to write this once and then distribute it, because I've had some inquiries and I've been contemplating myself where the program has to go from here.

We're nearly 4 weeks into launch for BeadEnCounter, and sales are...disappointing to say the least.  Tragic would be more like it.  Like any new project, one hopes for that miraculous "crash the servers" response from the public. It's quite deflating to realize we're going to have to settle for the normal "build over time" business curve.

But it is early days yet. I've found in other ventures that three years is about the normal time to get a new business established.  I don't have the capitalization to hold out quite so long on this project, I need the cash flow in order to pursue the future I'd like to see happen for the software.

Since I was pushing so hard before and during the beta testing program, and then to get the whole website up and store revamped and installers made, etc. I kind of got used to a frantic pace and constant work on the software. Now I feel a little at loose ends. But I continue to fine-tune the website, and to seek optimum marketing opportunities.

So here's what I see happening:

  1. Marketing drives the universe. This is my entirely new and original thought. Yeah. Right. I had thought print advertising was the way to go, in national publications.  Well, perhaps I'm being way too impatient, but I expected a better response. Turns out that repetition drives people to be aware of ads, and for print ads in monthly publications, the repeat rate is realllllllyyyyy lowwwwww.  So we'll be redistributing some of our long-term money commitments from print to online venues.  I've got one lined up, others will follow.  Repeated viewings happen a lot faster online. Hopefully click-throughs will happen faster as well.
  2. Refine the website. I'm working on photos/images to convey the concepts in the software to the visitors to the website. Something that shows how using the product assists in organizing, and creates productivity and profitability.  Abstract concepts conveyed in concrete images. Any suggestions to improve the website are welcome. 
  3. New features in the software. As has been noted by testers and commenters, the Consignment area is particularly underdeveloped, and the Inventory process needs fleshing out. Currently we don't have true inventory management. I want to add much more functional Vendor tracking features, and incorporate some very clever feature requests by early users.  As with any software product, there comes a point where you have to freeze features and just ship the darn thing! Otherwise you just develop eternally and never get a product out the door.  Once again, suggestions on features are welcome at any time at the forum we've set up for just this purpose. You can see what others have suggested, add your own, and discuss with other users how they use the software. Some of our users are very clever.
So that's our future focus. I had expected that after our launch, work, meaning marketing,  would continue. I didn't anticipate that it would be nearly full time!  

If anyone is considering buying BeadEnCounter but is hesitating, or has considered it but rejected the idea, I would dearly like to hear about the reasons why. I want to make BeadEnCounter the best product it can possibly be, and offer an irresistable bargain to artists, beaders and crafters everywhere. My testing group can tell you I take criticism well, and am very willing to listen and adapt. 

Visit us on the forum, and join the conversation!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beads in Unexpected Places

Claremont is a small town in the great sprawl of Southern California. It's upscale, clean, and beautiful and has more "gee, I'd like to try that place" restaurants per square foot than anyplace I've ever been.

Necklace at
Tibetan Artcraft
We visited Claremont for the second time today, and walked through several blocks of the downtown shopping district looking for our lunch place. This is the kind of foot-traffic friendly shopping area that has been largely killed off by mega-malls and Walmart in so many places in the US. I'd love to know how Claremont has maintained the vitality and health of their central district even in the face of bad economic times.  There were very few vacant fact, I saw a couple, but they had "Coming Soon!" signs in the windows. Contrast that to many towns around our house, like Bellflower, where about 80% of the available storefronts are vacant.

There is a bead shop in the Claremont Packing House, which are both worth a visit.  International Glass & Bead has a fine selection of Swarovski crystals, glass sculpture, and other interesting items. Don't go there for seed beads or tools. The Packing House is a converted, you guessed it, packing house, with a wide array of community-serving restaurants, shops, and places for kids to learn and explore cooking, art, and music. Great space, and everyone there seems to be genuinely friendly.

Similar Tibetan turquoise
But that's not the big discovery of the day. In walking back to the (free) parking next to the Packing House, we passed Tibetan Artcraft Imports, a small shop tucked on a side street.  It's filled with exotic goods you'd expect in an import shop, but this link to their very basic website doesn't begin to cover what's there.

There is also case after case of imported jewelry and stones. Although it totally busted my budget, I fell for a strand of antique, natural Tibetan turquoise stones in greenish shades, and had to have it. It's similar to the one in the picture, but the beads are oval, not irregular. 

There are more pieces in the store I want to go back for, if I can get some cash together. (sell, software, SELL!!) But I'll have to hurry. The very sweet and helpful old gentleman who owns the place is slated to retire in January.  Oh, and I expect the very cute and friendly little dog who keeps him company will retire too.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by. You won't be sorry.