It’s Time to Pull Out all the Stops…

Behind the Scenes

With just mere weeks to go, it’s time to pull out all the stops for your holiday products. Behind the scenes, large retailers are sending out offers, telling you- ‘Our Stylist Recommends’, reminding you of this season’s color combinations and offering their Loyal Customers – ‘Secret Sales’. Using their wonderful words to draw shoppers in. No matter what size or type your business is- you can use those same well worded and well timed techniques. If they seem ho-hum, remember they’ve stood the test of time. Marketers do it because it works!’

shades of winter whites and graysRight now, shades of Winter Whites and Gray are easy on the eyes, it’s cozy and frankly folks love it. This year, soft comfort, natural materials and the classics are high on shoppers’ lists. Buyers also love seeing how shades of One Color can help the shop their closer while adding or accessorizing with just a few things. We all know this year will be different. It’s time to make the adjustments.

It’s a fact that humans respond to lists- Update your Gift Guides to 5, 10 or 15 Things ‘We are Loving Right Now.’ 5 Hostess Gifts, 10 items you need this winter, 15 things for the folks who have ‘everything’. As a business person, it will be helpful for you to zero in on your most profitable products or services, then pull out all the stops to offer those products, now. Offer a ‘Our Top Picks’ guide. Changing up your gift guides isn’t a gimmick- it’s a helpful tool when shoppers are feeling overwhelmed.

shades of redHelp your customers budget by offering ‘Under $50, Under $20’ for stocking stuffers. This will not only help them- it will also help you sell slow stock- in fact, slow stock is where you need to discount your items – Now! Make your offering delectable- if you’re talking about Shades of Red clothing- show a berry pie- perhaps even offer a recipe alongside.

shades of green and mercury glassWe all love Shades of Green, show them how beautiful green looks with gray mercury glass. A new combination is always welcome- looks fresh and new too! And while you’re pulling out all the stops- don’t forget a bit of whimsy, an easy truffle recipe for ‘Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’ found in Camellia’s Christmas Sweets… or a festive Red Car.

'not a creature was stirring...'Brighten their day and lift the spirits too! This is the time to pull out all the stops and make your products the merriest they can be! All the best, I know you can do this!

Love y’all, Brenda

And a Big PS…don’t forget reminders for when the last date for Standard Shipping is and when the last date for Guaranteed Delivery before Christmas! Don’t miss the last sleigh! Your customers will love you for it!Festive Red Car

The Little Black Dress of Marketing…

A thank you note is the ‘Little Black Dress’ of the marketing world. Every one needs one and you can personalize it anyway you want to and it will always look good! There are so many ways to say ‘Thank You’ to your customers – I’ve chosen 8 of my favorites!

  1. Find a way to personalize- maybe it’s a hand painted touch, a bookmark, a snippet of evergreen or a package of seeds… depending on your business, the options are practically endless.
  2. As a way to say thank you- offer free or reduced shipping on an item purchased after the New Year.
  3. A Gift for You. I know this may seem humdrum- yet when used a $10 off your next purchase, this is a powerful sales tool and keeps the momentum going into the next few months. And, by the way- A ‘$ amount off’ is far better than a discount that every one’s offering! Other ‘gifts’ you may offer is a consultation, a small swatch of a cleaning cloth or even samples of other products you carry.
  4. That old standby Free Gift Wrapping has been around for a reason- it works! For everyone it means far more than you realize. Wrapping can be fancy or all natural- just make sure it’s unique, even unexpected.
  5. If you sell any types of containers or coffee mugs, you’d be surprised how delightful a little gift tucked inside is- even cello wrapped coffee beans, a tea bag, a cute baked cookie. For garden centers, adding a bit of moss or a few pine cones in a container is low cost, yet is festive and welcome. It’s the little touches that say- Thank You!
  6. There’s something so charming about an unexpected blank seasonal card or gift tag tucked in, even a length of twine or ribbon is a welcome sight and guess what? You can use up extras because these little touches don’t have to match every time!
  7. If you work as a team in your business, it takes no time at all- snap a photo and print it out on card stock- Put a little bit of the personal in and folks love it. When I worked in retail I always had preprinted cards- I signed my name and a Thank You for companies I worked for- large and small. I’ve even been known to scrawl ‘Thank you!’ on the receipt!
  8. And here’s a great thing- sit down, write a stack of generic Thank You notes, then as each item sells, personalize it before packaging, then insert- especially for Loyal Customers! *I have received several packages in the last few months- from large companies and small boutiques, several of them had either pre-printed or handwritten thank you notes in them. Do what the best product based companies are doing and you can’t go wrong.

I’ll say it again, a Thank You Note is the Little Black Dress of Marketing. You can coordinate it anyway you choose and it’s always right!  Please remember, these days folks are looking for a more personal shopping experience- give them one from start to finish! And while I’m at it- thank you all for stopping by so often, it means the world to me!

Love y’all, Brenda

7 Easy Marketing Tips…

I took some time recently to jot down some easy marketing ideas. As we’ve reset the clock- the holiday season begins. I’ve had several small businesses have asked- ‘What will success look like in 2020?’

‘Success, right now, is all about people. Take care of them, and they will take care of the business.’ Jon Juliano

That’s what this and every other holiday season is all about. Remember to take care of people. Your customers are overwhelmed and anxious, just like you are. If we can adjust our mindset from seller to a valuable advisor, one who can be trusted, then business will be easier all around. Let me rephrase that a bit- Move from being solely service or product based to a ‘resource based brand’. They’ll rely on you as a trusted resource. Here are a few of ideas I jotted down:

  • 1. Put together a Gift Guide.  In your gift guide, add things of various price points and add in a few things you don’t actually sell, yet would be good add-ons. Collaborate? It’s possible or just make a simple easy recommendation. A seller of Handmade Soap, might recommend adding Mineral Salts for a relaxing Bath. 
  • 2. Offer Ideas –  Be the ‘idea’ resource for your products. For example- how to extend the life of perishables- pink pumpkins?  *Refrigerate. Use through Thanksgiving for decor. Save the seeds, dry, put into little packets to add some ‘magic’ to a gardener’s gift!
  • 3. Offer Gift Certificates. Product based of course! Service based- exercise or dance? Whatever you do, off a good old fashioned gift certificate. *For instruction, perhaps add the perfect dancing shoes or a foot soak too! Gift Cards are always welcome.
  •  4. Folks will be hosting smaller events. Bakers? Suggest an easy breakfast, dinner rolls and dessert. One stop shop! *Pastry Gift Card? Smaller budget conscious events inspire DIY projects…If you’re the one who makes Gingerbread House parts- add a recipe for icing and decorations. Are you beginning to get the picture?
  • 5. For existing customers- keep in touch. In stress filled times, saying- ‘We’ll get through this. Thinking of you.’ May be all a person needs to hear. 
  • 6. Provide Value. Value and extra value which is really adding convenience. A length of twine, a ribbon, a small gift tage or an inexpensive surprise adds joy- it’s added value for them- and your business. 
  • 7.  The all important, Four B’s Be memorable. Be Consistent. Be Kind. Be Grateful- a thank you note tucked in goes a long way… 

So, there you have it- my 7 Easy Marketing Tips… now don’t go far because as a special edition for a special time… I’ll be sending out an extra post this week for 3 Tips for Product Based Businesses (I personally think there’s probably a way service based businesses can get involved too!’ So! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Brenda 

Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

At Home…

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I’m a homebody. I do love to be at home. Of course, I’d prefer not to have to stay at home. Yet, even if I were out shopping, I’m basically a window shopper. So! During this critical time, I’ve been doing what I  naturally enjoy doing… looking at catalogs, magazines, reading books and I do love a good success story. I might be at home- yet I guess what I’ve been doing is collecting.   I started collecting success stories right after the stay at home orders.  What would folks do? The small restaurants, the home owned businesses and cute shops I count on or enjoy rambling around in? These are the hardest hit right now.  The major holidays were past- though I knew Mother’s Day always adds a boost in spending or dining out. And, what inspires me most is the ingenuity of businesses large and small, to adapt quickly, embrace the situation, make the adjustments and move forward. And you know, this has always been true, pandemic or not.

The folks who face facts, protect and respect others even when life was disrupted, they made hard decisions and knew they would take some losses, yet are using their genius to move forward.
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So, here’s a few I’ve admired and a few things I’m working toward; I hope you’ll be inspired too!  A large retailer who I’ve long admired, has added At Home features, updated to reflect what they’re doing at home now, rather than just trying to sell home products- it’s in their blog area on their website. His wife’s recipe for waffles, a peek into their home life with games and outdoor walks.  It’s being updated regularly and rather than pointing to the retail products,  they’re opening with an At Home feature in their notifications and ads, with this soft thoughtful approach.
img_4483I’d like to do something similar by giving you a link to a dessert we’re loving right now here at our home, Camellia’s Cottage! The ever popular Lemon Squares…

And, may I add, this large retailer, is doing something I love with their At Home blog- they are micro-blogging, writing short up to date, time appropriate content. We bloggers would do well to be inspired to micro blog right now!
img_4487Another large retailer, known for their classic clothing quickly added stylish face masks from the fabrics of their most popular styles. Guess what? They’ve sold out! Masks are on backorder, I predict they will have added substantially to their accessory line!

img_4194A beach hangout renowned for it’s good food and rowdy fun loving crowds- made the decision, when they were allowed to reopen- they would have tables set ‘one alligator apart’ in distance that is! They set their tables six feet apart outdoors, closed the interior  spaces and provided their employees with protective masks and gloves for food preparation. They decided the safety of their customers and employees was imperative and did it in an amusing way!  I predict they will have a good season. Other local cafes and restaurants hopefully will be able to serve in outdoor settings too!

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Retail clothing sales will be different for the foreseeable future. For years now, Alabama fashion designer, Natalie Chanin has employed folks who work from home, doing the hand applique required for so many of her designs. Those employees may not face the layoffs since Alabama Chanin was a forward looking company to begin with! (find them @alabamachanin on Instagram) They were already a slow fashion company, it’s paying off now! And p.s. they also have a blog within their website- it’s a thing, y’all For instance, a beautiful gardening product site I love has been doing this for years- it’s called @shopterrain) If you have a business website, adding a blog is vital now!

And here’s a few more ideas I’ve seen… businesses who are finding new ways to do business!, after we’re allowed to img_4475

  • The owner of a small chain of breakfast places- is serving drive thru only, yet he reconfigured the inside of his restaurants as a small grocery store- using his supply lines, he’s buying milk, bread, bacon, eggs and more. The customers are thrilled to get their breakfast to go and pick up a few grocery items while they’re at it!
  • At a local Chinese restaurant, the owners have converted one of their glass storefront windows into a takeout window, they accept phone orders only and have reconfigured to accept payment safely or by phone.
  •  A small women’s boutique in Wisconsin, has added an online business and has personally contacted their loyal customers. When my friend in Houston orders from their shop- they’re now offering free shipping and have started including a handwritten Thank You Notes! (they never go out of style) Think. Personalized Shopping Experience!
  •  Rethinking consumer habits during the time of COVID 19, a dry cleaner who was already doing pick up and delivery has been able to retain their alterationists by offering face masks at a reasonable price. I think this is brilliant!
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  •  Collaborating is becoming one of the best things to do for small businesses. A gift shop works with a garden shop, to create gift containers and baskets including live bedding plants or herbs – even small garden tools, seeds and small bags of potting soil. Even potting up windowsill gardens or indoor plants that are vital to indoor air quality are great ideas too! They’re offering free gift wrapping and curbside service and delivery options! Ditto for bakeries collaborating with florists!
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  •  A hair salon is offering products for stay at homes with facetime calls for directions for using these products. Another is making house calls. (Some states are allowing this) Still others are collaborating with small cosmetics, small boutique clothing shops or health food stores to offer personalized care. Why? How to look good on video is highly popular and much needed now! We all need all the Tools we can get!
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  • An Interior Designer shifted her focus from interiors by collaborating with a local landscapers and realtors to create Curb Appeal for her customers. Brilliant isn’t it? Using antique urns, outdoor safe containers, paint for shutters and front doors has helped all of those businesses keep going, not later- Now!
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    Some are organizing Pop Up shops, with permission and collaboration with essential businesses for a set number of hours, with safe payments and limiting handling of stock. Pop up shops would be a wonderful addition for grocers and plant nurseries or florists assuming the grocer doesn’t already carry these items!
  •  Travel and Food photographers are pitching magazines in their fields to sell photographs- buffing up a few writing skills has helped many. Even contacting stock image sites is becoming a way photographers are adding to their incomes. *Check out @greatescapetravelpublishing for all sorts of hints and tips for photographers and travel writers- don’t wait, do it now!img_4495
  • The most amazing thing I’ve seen so far is from a large printing service which is now offering face masks with a package of filter liners. I ordered masks from this company- after I ordered, they notified me that the price of the filter liners had gone down– and they refunded me the difference- now, I ask you? Who do you think I’m going to do business with? The one who refunds or the one who decides they’ll pocket that extra profit? Find them @vistaprint

Now, I told you that I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own. Here’s one or two I’m ready to share now-img_4461

One of the reasons I was motivated to write this blog in the first place, was to record my grandmother’s recipes and other southern classics. I’ve now written over 400 blog posts, many of those recipes have been shared, so! I’m thinking of using these recipe blog posts including a few humor posts to produce an Ebook! I’m checking out Kindle Direct Publishing (print on demand) since I’ve already self published a physical paperback and Ebook before.  Please know it’s a rigorous process. If I do publish an ebook, maybe I’ll help others do it too! There are lots of books and courses about creating ebooks, just know the prices for online instruction may vary widely. Just look into everything carefully!

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One recipe I’m sure to include will be Homewreckers… a recipe for the most decadent brownies you’ve ever tasted from a famous screen star!  And, I would love to combine all of the humor posts I’ve written into a book as well… I’m sure to include what was one of my earliest posts and continues to be a favorite… I warn you it’s longwinded like me- yet, it’s my Mother’s Day gift to you! If you’ve read this far, you deserve something for your trouble! I do believe businesses and blogs should offer something for your time, right now! So, that blog post? I’ve made it easy to find…You’ll find it here Our Southern Mothers…

Now. It’s Mother’s Day here in the States, yet there’s another holiday being observed here and abroad- it’s VE Day- the day Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to European Forces on May 8, 1945. I was reminded this morning in a dear friend’s post of this quote by Winston Churchill, which is perfect in these days when we’re finding out new ways to succeed at living and doing business.

‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’

Keep moving forward with all of the enthusiasm you can!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A word from Brenda

I am trying to support local businesses, I hope you are too! And, if Camellia hadn’t been so longwinded today- I would add I am also using stock photos, along with my own- and gleaning ideas wherever I can to bring them to you! That street side café is a cute example of a stock photo- yet? If you’re wondering who that beachside restaurant is- with tables ‘one alligator apart’ it’s none other than the Florabama ! find them @_florabama along with over 42.1K followers, we love them too! They also offer watersport rentals and plan to follow CDC guidelines. In other words, they’re keeping their business open because they know- it’s not about them- it’s about their customers!

* Remember- Accept the situation. Adapt quickly. Embrace this time as an opportunity. Make the adjustments. Move forward. Y’all, we can do this- stay inspired…. the photo below is one I clipped and put in a journal years- I took a pic…it inspires me to work At Home!img_4471