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Profit from Pony Beads: Marketing Strategy so Easy a Kid Could Do it…

Rachel Wilkie - Profit from Pony Beads...Literally! At the ripe age of 10 I was already seeking ways to turn a profit, and a lemonade stand wasn’t cutting it. So, like any smart kid, I used what little resources I had – pony beads. In fact, I had too many. Remember the little plastic, barrel-shaped beads used for crafts? For about a week I went around asking my mom, dad, aunts, uncles, anyone who would listen – what their favorite pony bead animal was. I got a variety of answers such as cats, dogs, alligators, even a skunk as I recall.

I tallied up everyone’s response and found that the majority of people liked the idea of a cat or a dog. I was a peculiar child with a need to match everything. Because of my matching obsession, I laid out all of my beads and separated them into small piles of colors. Then I knew what was available for my next animal. Now that I was prepared, it was time to get to work.

With my list of animals and tallies in hand, I started making the pony bead animals on key rings. At first, I had no plan, and started making them randomly. Beginning with a cat, then a dog, then alligator, and so on, then I realized I was forgetting the patterns. I quickly figured out if I stuck with a dog layout, then I would remember how to do it for the next one, meaning I could make 10 or 15 in no time. So, that’s what I did. Actually, I was on such a roll I figured, why not make more? I had no other plans for my massive collection of pony beads.

After I finished making all my key rings, I went back to all the people who participated in my little tally and presented them with these delightful pony bead key chains. How could they refuse to buy one from me? I even made the one they asked for. It was a huge hit. I already had plans for the remaining bead animals - I loaded up my red wagon and went door-to-door in my neighborhood selling my masterpieces. Later that night I came home with nearly $200, which was a lot then. It was such a success that the next year I did something similar with home-made sock snowman and cocoa in holiday coffee mugs.

Besides a cute childhood antic, there are some valuable marketing lessons about my "product launch" that can be taken away from this experience.

Lesson # 1: Determine your resources

For me, this was my pony beads. How many did I have and what color or size, etc. For the real world, this is time and money. You may have a lot of one, both or neither. Figure out what it is you’re willing to sacrifice to make your marketing plan work. If you have a lot of time, but little money, then there are still plenty of guerilla marketing tactics that you can execute that will only cost you only your efforts.

Lesson # 2: Analyze the marketplace

Don’t assume you know what your customer wants. Find out what your customers are looking for in your product or service by listening to them in places like discussion forums, survey results, social media venues, or consider asking them directly. You could find out surprising outcomes like they are more concerned about quality customer service then cost or vice-versa.

Lesson # 3: Construct a methodology

When it came to me and my pony beads, I knew that it was way faster to make each animal in batches. The same can be said with your marketing tactics. Don’t randomly choose promotional methods and then expect them to work. Spend time researching the best avenues to reach your market and then establish a system of tracking so that you know exactly where you are getting the best ROI. Then, adjust accordingly.

Lesson # 4: Don’t miss an opportunity

Just because I had only taken tallies from immediate friends and family, doesn’t mean the results wouldn’t be similar in my own neighborhood- which happened to be a very similar demographic. Consider expanding your horizon on who would find your product/service useful. You may find it is not as narrow of a market then you imagined.

Lesson # 5: Plan for the future

So everyone had their bead buddy key chains, now what? Well, the next year I came up with another plan that no one could refuse. Keep your product/service valuable to your customers. Add upgrades, additional features or support that will be beneficial to your customer and maintain your relationship with them. Give updates of such changes or releases with email marketing or a personal phone call.