COVID-19 lockdowns and layoffs have resulted in a recent boom in people starting their own home business, from chocolate brownies baked with love to artistically sculpted designer cakes. But while some home businesses have taken off exponentially, other intrepid entrepreneurs have struggled to get their home business off the ground. Here are 5 of the most common reasons your home business isn’t growing - and what you can do about it.
- Poor product fit
- Lack of a unique selling point
- Poor branding
- Lack of social media engagement
- Poor order management
1. Poor Product Fit
The Problem: All food is created equal, but some are more equal than others. Even if you make the best pancakes or waffles in town, the medium of home cooks and food delivery simply makes some foodstuffs more viable than others in the race to a customer’s stomach. Baked treats like cookies or brownies, which are much more durable and can be enjoyed at any temperature (or even easily reheated) fare much better in delivery compared to other food such as corndogs or hotcakes. This is especially the case for home businesses - compared to franchised chains who have their own dedicated partner delivery services, home cooks often have to resort to using third party courier services for last mile delivery, which can be inconsistent in terms of the time taken for delivery.
The Solution: If your forte lies in foods that fare poorly in the delivery game, not all hope is lost. Proper packaging of your food can do wonders in order to preserve its quality over the course of the delivery, although some experimentation is required to find the right method for you. Other than that, strongly consider pivoting your business strategically to items more suited to the medium, else risk fighting a losing battle.
2. Lack of a unique selling point
The Problem: At the opposite end of the spectrum, some home cooks stumble due to a lack of creativity and innovation for their products. While you may certainly be the best baker among your circle of friends, making the jump from much appreciated potluck contributor to selling your goods online is a different story. Not only are you competing against a hundred other home cooks, many of them just as experienced and talented as you (if not more), but as a newcomer, there is an inherent barrier to entry, where incumbent groups enjoy the benefit of an established customer base, that you have to forcefully fight them for.
The Solution: As far as possible, try to differentiate yourself from your competition! This can come in many different forms, be it a secret special recipe or a strong personal brand. Make sure to take a look at the current competition, and ask yourself what holes exist that you can fill in! Once you do find that unique selling point, drive it home at every opportunity you have. Thee key question to be answering is: why should we be buying from you?
3. Poor branding
The Problem: On the topic of a “strong personal brand”, another pitfall that some home businesses fall into is failing to develop an appropriate brand. When it comes to naming, less is more. You want a name that’s simple to remember and rolls off the tongue, making it easy for potential customers to look you up or talk about with their friends. At the same time, avoid being too generic with your naming - a quick search for “Tasty Treats” or any other variant will show you what we’re talking about.
The Solution: Rebranding can be a scary process, but as a new home business, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment! Don’t box yourself in from reinventing your image out of fear of the unknown. Remember - your advantage as a small business is precisely in being nimble enough to quickly adapt, so if something isn’t working, go out and fix it!
4. Lack of social media engagement
The Problem: Let’s face it: social media doesn’t come easy to all of us. Even if you’re a whizz Instagram Influencer on your personal account, managing the social media of a business can involve an entirely different skill set. But without consistent social media engagement, you can forget about customer acquisition or even retaining your existing fanbase.
The Solution: Like most things in life, the hardest part is starting. Try getting into a regular routine of posting content, be it stories or posts, and make use of scheduling services in Creator Studio to save time and effort in the long run. For some content ideas, besides the requisite stunning food promo pics, try mixing in some “behind-the-scenes” pictures of your working process that will help humanise your brand and emphasize your “homemade” quality.
5. Poor order management
The Problem: At the start of the average home business’ life cycle, sellers are often dependent on DMs over social media to manage orders. While this has the advantage of personal interaction with your potential customer base, in the long run it is unsustainable. Firstly, a DM order system requires you to constantly be responsive - any delay in response could easily lead to customers losing interest. Secondly, DMs are inherently not built to fulfil an order system. Instagram in particular is notorious for this, owing to the inability to search your chats for keywords, as well as the separated inboxes leading to orders easily being missed. Finally, such a manual order system is a hassle in terms of payment verification, further increasing the amount of back and forth between you and your customer.
The Solution: While many ecommerce platforms and solutions exist in the market, Cococart uniquely situates itself to helping small businesses. With its basic functionality being entirely free, it’s the perfect solution for new businesses who don’t want to commit to the hassle involved in other ordering solutions. Among their many features are the ability to pay by credit card or bank transfer, setting inventory and calendar availability, as well as a dashboard to add or remove products from your menu.
At the end of the day, starting a home business can be a scary prospect, and there is never any guarantee of success. But at the same time, there is very little at stake to lose. If the idea of selling your homemade food online has ever appealed to you, don’t be afraid to plunge in head first, with these tips in mind. You never know if it could take off!