In this article I will tell you how a few years ago my partner and I tried to run a seasonal business and sold Christmas trees in St. Petersburg. It was in 2013 and 2014, at the dawn of my career and agency, when the lack of any experience was compensated by the desire to act, and the knowledge gained in Internet marketing was immediately applied in practice.
At a business meeting, my partner and I met a wholesaler of Christmas trees, who offered to cooperate. He buys Christmas trees from the Perm nursery, at a certain moment, ships them to the warehouse, from where we had to pick up our batch. In 2013, New Year’s markets officially opened on December 20. A few days before this date, the trees should arrive at the point of sale. We had to find the place of sale on our own and in advance.
My partner and I drew up a business plan and began to act. Here’s our plan:
- Find a point of sale. This is not difficult, especially if you are in a circle of entrepreneurs. We went to the director of the Northern Market, with whom we agreed to lease a point and a warehouse for two weeks.
- Make a landing page for contextual advertising. also not a problem, there is experience, performers too. Looking ahead, we did not have time to make the landing page and context, but we implemented this point already next year.
- Create a VKontakte group, arrange it, fill it with content and get subscribers there (there were times when it was possible to wind up subscribers, now this can no longer be done).
- Offline advertising: two stands that we placed at two entrances to the market before the start of sales.
- Flyers. Needed to alert and attract residents of nearby houses.
- Launch of the promotion on several coupon sites: Boombate, BuyKupon, MegaKupon, MyFant, VygodaRu, WeClever, Bigbazi. This helped us increase our sales. We had contacts of managers.
- Organization of additional sales: purchase of stands for Christmas trees and garlands. These are related products for increasing the average check, as well as gifts for those who will come on flyers.
- Omitting the preparatory process, I will go straight to the main points.
The trees arrived at the main warehouse as planned. Around December 13, we transported our batch (400 out of 5000) to the market and began to prepare for sales. It turned out that we did not calculate in advance and did not take into account some of the disadvantages of our point:
- A place. It was absolutely not passable. It was more profitable to take a point near the metro (but it is 2-4 times more expensive) or in those places where people pass when they go home from work. The people went to the market purposefully, their flow was small. Well, it’s obvious who goes to the markets now.
- Working hours. The market closed at 20:00, but in fact after 18:00 there was nothing to do there, there were no people at all.
Among the advantages are:
- The name of the place. With ads and coupons, people knew exactly where to go.
- Administration assistance. We were given a place at the entrance, helped with the installation of a fence and electricity.
This is what our point looked like:
And this is our warehouse:
Despite the fact that the official start of sales of live trees was planned on December 20, we were allowed to sell from the 16th. In which, as we later became convinced, there was no point: we had our first customer on December 17th. And in the first four days, there were only four sales.
We were very unlucky with the weather: the rain charged the numbers from December 25 and did not stop until the 30th. People were in a non-holiday mood, and this lowered our conversion rate.
Now for the results.
- Dot. Not the best place. They came out in plus only on December 29, and only two days worked for profit. Our comrades chose a passable place, stood there until 00:00 and went into plus on December 24th.
- We sold about 250 out of 400 trees. The rest had to be thrown out on December 31 (it’s good that they are specially grown for this in nurseries for the New Year holidays).
- The VKontakte group worked. We overtook people there, some of them even placed an order. The ad was not launched: it was 2013, and then the ad worked differently. The group still exists.
- Coupon sites. To launch promotions, we made a regular website on the constructor (it also works now). Overall, they worked well. About 160 people came with coupons. It was interesting to watch the reaction of other sellers, when a man ran into the market with a printed coupon and immediately came to us. They then asked with surprise how we did it, but they did not fully understand
- An interesting situation with flyers. We scattered 1000 pieces into the mailboxes of the nearest houses, and five people came to them, only two of them bought. Calculate the conversion yourself 🙂
- Additional sales. We bought the garlands from the wholesale warehouse (most of them remained for the second year). The stands were taken from Leroy Merlin and sold twice as expensive already at the outlet, they were in excellent demand.
We took Christmas trees for 200 rubles. Moreover, they are sold in bulk without taking into account the height, and at the points the price depends on the footage. We bet 800 rubles for a tree up to 1.7 m. A tree with a height of 1.7–2.5 m cost 1300 rubles, above 2.5 m – 1700 rubles. For people who came from coupon sites, prices were 2 times lower.
The point with the warehouse cost us 14,000 rubles for two weeks of work. VKontakte group – about 2,000 rubles.
The income was approximately 80,000 rubles for two for 10 days of active work. Whether it is beneficial or not, think for yourself.
Second approach in 2014
The next year, we took into account the mistakes of the first experience, and did not put an end to it, but worked only with advertising and coupons. The warehouse was chosen in the same place – in the Northern Market (the point is a fence in the center of the market, buyers walk past it; a warehouse is a room where Christmas trees are stored, there spontaneous buying is practically impossible, a person usually goes there on purpose). In addition, many buyers remember us and came this year as well.
What else have we done:
- Landing page. This year we created it, it was ready by about December 10th. It had an application form and a number that the client could call. I accepted applications and called back to customers directly from the warehouse.
- We launched contextual advertising in Yandex.Direct and Google AdWords. I even found a screen from the advertising office.
- The VKontakte group continued to work and brought clients. We published posts, made reposts ourselves and asked partners about it. We held an action for repost and handed a free Christmas tree to the winner. The target was not configured.
- Coupon sites. In that year, they had a reorganization due to a decrease in clients. Therefore, they worked a little worse than in the previous one. We have teamed up with partners and launched one joint promotion on the largest couponers: Megacoupon, Benefit, MyFant, Boombate, WeClever. The result was an amount of about 70,000 rubles, which we divided into three. Customers took the coupon and came to the nearest point. It is impossible to predict how it will work, but none of the partners complained.
My partner and I assigned responsibilities: I was in the warehouse, gave out Christmas trees with coupons, took orders from the site and threw them off to a partner who delivered the trees to the addresses. For delivery, we selected the best Christmas trees, and we brought five of your choice to the address, there were no refusals.
By the way, related products – garlands and stands – were not sold well from the site. We made a free stand as a USP when ordering Christmas trees at home.
Contextual advertising brought about 10-15 orders per day. Taking into account the calls, the price of the application was about 250 rubles in Yandex.Direct and 180 rubles – with Google AdWords. About 20 people came from social networks.
A total of 260 trees were sold – slightly more than in 2013. As for the income, this year they were more, about 100,000 rubles for two for 10 days of work.
The market has changed a lot over the past four years. Therefore, if you are thinking of participating in this business, consider the following when promoting:
- Contextual advertising will definitely work. Although the competition is definitely higher now, the auction will be warmed up more.
- The social media tools we used then won’t work now. The ideal option is targeted advertising through promo posts and a carefully thought-out content plan in the community.
- Coupon sites are getting worse. In addition, you need to take into account the target audience of these sites: they are mainly used by people who want to save money, they are more demanding on the product and service. And in my opinion, it is better to sell 100 trees at 1000 rubles than 200 trees at 500. Use the channel? Rather yes than no. But I would not count on a great return.
- Online advertising vs. offline.
- There are different customers: someone buys offline, someone online. That is, both channels are working. However, online is more profitable and requires less costs (time, labor, money), its ROI is definitely higher. People are increasingly buying online and using mobile devices.
Therefore, if I were organizing a business this year, I would do this:
- Created a responsive landing page with a good offer and USP. You can use the constructor.
- I must have launched search advertising in Yandex.Direct and Google Ads for hot queries with increased adjustments to mobile. Advertising in networks is also needed.
- Launched targeted advertising on VKontakte and affiliate programs in related areas. For example, with those who sell fireworks, you can organize mutual PR with posts, etc. With direct competitors from other cities – exchange orders for a percentage.
- Sales through Avito. We’ll have to lower the price, but the flow of customers will be sure.
- Organized a storage warehouse for Christmas trees.
- Arranged delivery with several gazelles.
Such a model will definitely allow you to avoid unnecessary actions and get more profit at the exit. Good luck!