Isn’t what sells the whole online business thing the fact that it’s supposedly so easy? I mean, how hard can it be, right? You switch on your computer, and boom, you’re off to the races and going.
It may be easy to start an e-commerce business. But, those of you who have been at it for any length of time can agree it’s no walk in the park.
It’s just like starting a physical business. It’s hard, tough work. Long hours sometimes. Stressful. Overwhelming. Lots of dead ends and obstacles to overcome.
It’s anything but instant success. Of course, the nice part is you get to do it all from the comfort of your own home.
For as many success stories as Â you hear, there’s plenty of failures too. Except, you rarely hear about those because almost no one posts about their most recent failure on their blog.
To get through all the difficulties, what helps you succeed? The following traits:
No matter what kind of entrepreneurship you engage in, you need to have persistence. Some days, everything that could go wrong does. Other days are boring and unfulfilling. You need the ability to take things one day at a time and steadily step forward, regardless of the difficulties that happen in the meantime.
Since you’ll come to so many dead ends, you’ll have to be a fast learner from your mistakes. You can’t get psyched out by the fact things didn’t work out yet again. Of course, some feelings of failure and doubt are normal.
But, you can’t hold onto them for too long or let them define you. You must be able to look at the situation objectively and learn what you can do better next time.
Generally, online businesses don’t grow fast. They certainly can. But, you shouldn’t get into them for instantaneous results, and especially so if it’s your first online business.
It may take months or years before you finally experience the fruits of your labor.
4. Being Comfortable Promoting Yourself
Yes, theÂ online world is less about sales and more about relationships. But, you still have to promote yourself to make more sales. And you can’t be obnoxious about it.
Most online business owners are afraid to do any self-promotion at all. All you really need to do is to educate others on the value of what you do and why you’re different. You don’t need annoying “I’m the best” marketing hype.
In 2016 and beyond, those qualities will help you succeed in online entrepreneurship. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can always learn the skill.
Have you been on Facebook for any length of time?
If you have, you know they’re making it more and more likely that your audience won’t see your posts. That is, of course, unless you pay them some money.
Guess that’s why Facebook is worth $350 billion (plus) right now, isn’t it?
And many other social networks have followed through on that too. Twitter’s been doing it. LinkedIn has paid advertising options.
They’re not as aggressive at forcing you to use those. But, it’s there.
So with organic reach falling on social media sites, what can you do? How do you reach your audience without having to fork over a small fortune for it?
Here’s some ideas:
1. Spend More Time Actively Promoting
With organic reach becoming less of an option, you can spend more time promoting your content on social media and building partnerships. For example, you could reach out to other Facebook page owners and offer to share their content if they share yours.
You can also like and comment on other pages, contributing value.
2. Spend More Time Creating Content
Several years ago, you could create almost any kind of content and get some attention for it. Now, you don’t get nearly as much attention if you do the same level of work.
So, you can get around that by creating more useful content. Find out what’s in your niche, and top it. Then, promote like crazy.
3. Work on Building Your List
Your email list gives you a lot of control you don’t get other places online. You can’t control Google’s algorithm and how it ranks you. You can’t control what Facebook does. But, you can control what you do once you have people on your email list.
You have their undivided attention.
4. Look at Less Costly Options
Reddit, Pinterest, Product Hunt, and many other similar websites offer low-cost advertising. Remember, the biggest name will always cost the most and have the most competition.
If you know what you’re doing on Facebook, that’s fine. But if you don’t, try somewhere else less costly first.
If you like to talk with others and network, a podcast could be a great idea for marketing. After years of existence, podcasts areÂ finally gaining widespread use.
Remember, Facebook’s only going to do what’s possible to continue growing their revenue. So, if you don’t like their costs, you’ll have to get creative and find ways to keep your audience’s attention.
Say you start a brand new e-commerce business. You’re about to write your first blog post.
Can you make it one of those “smash hit” type posts that attracts crazy amounts of customers?
I’m not going to promise you those results. Some luck is involved when content succeeds. For example, your post gets shared by a key influencer, and then a few other influencers happen to notice yourÂ content and share it themselves too.
But, you can absolutely create a stellar blog post that attracts many more customers on your first try.
The key lies in knowing what elements make content persuasive.
Here’s a few:
1. Targeting Your Customer’s Pain Points
Nothing sells better than a solution to your customer’s primary pain. That’s what your business is all about, isn’t it? Your customers have a problem. And so they’re coming to you for a solution to it. If you have, in their eyes, the best solution, they’ll buy from you.
So, your content must fill a need.
2. Your Content Should Give Your Customers a Reason to Change What They’re Doing Now
What solution do your customers currently have for their pain? Do they slap together their own hand-rigged solution? Do they rely on another competitor of yours that really only offers a cheap solution?
Your content must build the case as to why what they do now isn’t the best solution.
3. Focus on Feelings and Experiences, Not Your Product or Services
When all’s said and done, nearly every person buys because of the feelings and experiences they get from using your products and services. Let’s say you’re selling a wall mount for a flat-panel TV.
What’s the pain there? It’s going to take time. The TV could get broken by kids or pets if it stays where it is now. The instructions could be complex. And what if the wall mount isn’t strong enough to hold the TV?
So, your content could focus on how easy and simple it is to install the TV mount. Or, how it could even be fun. That’s selling the experience. And then you can talk about the feelings of safety and security your customers get because they know their expensive flat-panel TV won’t get broken. It’s nice and safe and secure on the wall up there.
4. Make it New and Different From What’s Already Available
You know how you can easily find like 10-15 content pieces on any content topic. Some refer to that as “content saturation.” So, it’s important to know what your competitors do and say on the same topic. Then, yours must be new and different.
I can practically guarantee you a healthy amount of attention online if you follow those steps with your content. Make sure you follow them if you want to get serious about earning customers from content marketing.
Have you heard of, or do you use “chatbots?” Have you ever interacted with one?
It’s another way of automating interactions with customers. A simple messenger app responds to users and questions, taking care of them so you don’t have to.
While convenient for your business, should you use them or not?
Take a look at some of the considerations:
1. One of Your Key Competitive Advantages Versus Big Online Retailers Is…
Your ability to deliver personal customer service. All kinds of machines exist these days. Call your cable TV or satellite company, and you get a computer voice.
Call a company that doesn’t rely on personalized service, and you’ll get a voicemail.
What if you could call and talk to someone who can make a yes-or-no judgment on your question right then and there. You don’t have to wait 15-20 minutes to get through to the right person.
You don’t have to talk to a computer who misunderstands.
This is the first reason I don’t think chat bots are a good idea for small e-commerce companies.
2. Limited Understanding
I don’t know the exact comprehension level of chat bots. But I do know this: they can’t understand what a human does.
Your customers aren’t going to like being dropped or kicked by the wayside because a computer can’t get what they’re saying.
A human can ask clarifying questions and get understanding without causing much inconvenience.
3. Chat Bots Don’t Answer Personal Questions
Let’s say you have a big customer that really wants to get to know you. Instead of you talking, it’s your chat bot.
They ask your chat bot a personal question. They get a bizarre answer, or none at all.
One of the primary benefits of internet marketing is to deliver a personalized experience. Chat bots suck the life out of that.
I’m not sure it’s a good idea to use anything that makes your customers feel less like people and more like…just customers.
4. Where Chat Bots Might Work Well…
All this said, I don’t think chat bots are completely useless. The one area where they might work well is during off-peak hours where you can’t be available.
For example, during the night at 3 AM.
You could hire your own US-based reps to cover that time. It’s also an area where foreign labor, like hiring people with good English from the Philippines could be an option.
It’s more your judgment call here.
So…that’s my opinion on chat bots. What impact do you think they would make on yourÂ business?
You have what you know is a quality product. However, you also have a big business problem. It’s not really new, unique, or different than many other products in any way.
In fact, it’s exactly like about half a dozen other products.
So, that basically leaves you only with the option of lowering your prices. At least, if you want to get more sales anyway.
…Or is that your only option?
No. It’s not. If you don’t have an original product idea, or the money or skills to create an original product, or if inventing and innovation isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry.
You can absolutely make great sales on an existing product. And that includes one many of your competitors already offer.
The Embarrassing Truth about Marketing…And Especially at the Small E-Commerce Business Level
Much, and perhaps most, marketing doesn’t persuade consumers to buy. And this effect gets even more magnified at small e-commerce businesses.
Because many of the owners believe their products are so great they’ll just sell themselves. That may be true.
But it only comes into play when your consumers actually have your product in hand. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get more of them to want it in the first place?
Here’s what to do (and not do) to make that happen:
1. Remember, Marketing Simply Works Like This…
Marketing is not where you brag and boast about how great your product is. Consumers see right through that. And they won’t buy. In fact, you’re likely to lose business using that approach over time.
Marketing only involves making your product as attractive as possible to your targeted consumer. That means telling them what they’ll get when they use your product (usually some kind of good feelings).
Most marketing, including manufacturer descriptions, focuses on facts (aka “features”) about the product.
That bores consumers. They want their lives to be easier, more exciting, happier, or more peaceful after using your product. So you have to communicate how your product does that for them.
2. Tell the Truth
Many business owners think marketing involves lying about the benefits of using their product.
There’s no doubt some small businesses do their marketing that way.
But as an honest business owner, you don’t want to deceive consumers into buying. Not only will you feel a dreadful amount of shame and guilt, but it’s bad for your business too.
They’ll find out your product doesn’t work as advertised. They get angry. You get complaints. You have to offer refunds. You don’t get referral sales. Eventually, you may have to close your business.
Don’t worry about that stuff. Because, telling the truth works in marketing. Giving your customers realistic expectations about what they can get with your product is effective.
In fact, your customers will respect you even more for doing so because it’s so rare.
So yes, you absolutely can market your business to success in a completely honest way that makes you feel good and your customers happy.
Consider using that approach if you have a product that appears the same as many others.
Working 50, 60 hours per week, or even more?
Are you enjoying it?
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to work a more balanced workweek? Like, say maybe 40 hours per week or so?
Or, what if you could be like one of those dream stories you hear and put in a 15-20 hour week, while still making an income that more than exceeds your lifestyle’s needs?
It’s up to you as to how much work to put in on your e-commerce business. Some owners like the high demands of 70+ hour work weeks.
But others don’t see it that way.
If you want to work less hours, consider using outsourcing like this:
1. Only Do What You’re Really the Best At
Do you know your business skills? Have you ever made a list of everything you do in a day, and compared that to what you’re really the best at?
Do all of those tasks require you to be there? Could someone else, with just a little bit of training, do them just as well as you, or nearly so?
If you haven’t prioritized the tasks you need to take on, consider doing that. You’ll often find opportunities where you could hand simple or menial tasks off to someone else.
2. Don’tÂ Outsource What Really Differentiates Your Business
Is customer service one of the top reasons people come to Â your company, and not others? While helpful, outsourced services and vendors are never as committed to your company and your philosophy as you are.
If customer service is your major point of differentiation, for example, do it yourself or hire employees.
3. Outsource Services Where You Need the Expertise
What do you know about website design and conversion rate optimization? If you’re already an expert, great. No need to outsource that.
But let’s say your expertise is traffic generation. Don’t spend your time trying to design your website. Instead, find a company that charges fairly high prices for that service and leave it to them.
You can also learn their expertise, but that takes years of trial and error.
4. Outsource Your Marketing, If You’re Not a NaturalÂ Marketer
Marketing has two major aspects:
1) Positioning/branding (how your customers think of your company, compared to others)
2) Visibility to your market (most often represented as “SEO”)
For one thing, SEO’s getting too time-consuming to do on your own. And for another, most e-commerce companies don’t focus on branding or positioning (which also eat up a lot of time). But, when you find the right position in your market, sales come so much easier.
It’s really something that gets overlooked often. And it’s one area where it makes sense to use someone else’s outside expertise.
That’s the gist of outsourcing here in 2016 and beyond. Think of outsourcing at your business as a puzzle. You have to identify the pieces and assemble them in a way that makes sense for your business.
Ready to sell your e-commerce business?
Is that what you got into it for?
Some e-commerce entrepreneurs live by buying and selling e-commerce businesses.
Regardless of why you’re thinking about selling, the simple fact is you do want to sell.
How do you make sure you get the most money for yours?
Some tips to follow:
1. First, Know the Average Sale Price
According to eCommerce Platforms, the typical ecommerce businesses sellsÂ for 2-3 times its net profit. And the average total sale price is between $20,000 and $2 million.
So, unless your business is absolutely tanking in a dying market, you should be able to pull a price around there at a minimum.
2. What Factors Affect Your Sales Price?
Every buyer wants a good ROI within a few years. No one wants to wait an extended period of time. Everyone wants to make money.
Here’s a few of the factors you need to have:
â˘ A solid age of at least 2-3 years
â˘ Consistent profit growth
â˘ Diversified traffic sources
â˘ High amounts of repeat business
â˘ Large, engaged mailing list
â˘ Repeatable growth strategies in place
â˘ Demonstrated ability to grab market share
â˘ Experienced team in place
â˘ In a hot and growing market
â˘ Experienced employees and leadership
â˘ No legal threats
Basically, the more predictable a good ROI seems, the better.
3. Why Don’t Buyers Buy?
Let’s say you start talking with a buyer or two, and then they suddenly drop off the face of the earth. It’s rare in business that you get a straight and direct answer as to why this happens.
But when you lose touch with someone, it means something caught their interest that told them not to buy. That could be:
â˘ You’re overly optimistic about your business and want too much money
â˘ The funding the buyer thought they had lined up is no longer available
â˘ The buyer was involved in multiple deals and spotted a better opportunity
â˘ Something about your data doesn’t quite make sense to Â your buyer
â˘ Your business or niche, upon closer inspection, doesn’t appeal to your buyer
4. Get Multiple Offers
If there’s one tactic you should follow, it’s this one. This helps you negotiate either better terms or a higher price.
Make sure you can show your buyer email offers from other buyers so they have convincing proof you’re telling the truth.
If you’re not getting multiple offers, then work on your business until it is in prime position for getting them. The leverage you get from multiple offers is that powerful and is worth your time.
Good luck selling your e-commerce business. Make sure you do your due diligence so you guarantee yourself the best possible deal!
Considering different blog post types?
Awesome for you! Youâre starting to advance in content marketing sophistication much more than any of your competitors.
Very few, if any e-commerce SMBs, consider writing different types of blog posts. They just want to get as much information out there as possible. Or, at least thatâs the way most people think when they start content marketing.
What are the different types of posts you should have? Hereâs an overview:
1. Oldies but Goodies: How-To
âHow-toâ type content was the go-to even before content marketing erupted on the internet. Magazines and newspapers would use this type of content and rock it with results.
Your blog today is the same: it should have how-to posts to succeed.
2. Thought Leadership
Personally, I hate this term. Thatâs because thereâs no research shows âexpert contentâ results in more sales. However, I do use this term because thatâs how most businesses refer to it.
âThought leadershipâ content is okay. But I advocate for a different definition of what it is: new and different info that canât be found anywhere else. Thatâs because anything ânew and differentâ attracts more customers. Itâs just the way business and marketing works.
3. List Posts
Another standard for any content marketerâs repertoire, list posts get shared a lot. For added value, do a towering list post of 50-100 tips or resources. Thatâll shoot your shares up even further.
This one Iâve made up. The basic point is to take some form of conventional or accepted thinking out there, and then challenge it with your own opinion.
Thatâs going to attract attention because again, it taps into the idea of ânew and different.â
Donât challenge just for the sake of it. Only do it when you really believe you have a better way of thinking or doing things. Your audience will easily be able to tell the difference between these approaches.
5. Expert Roundup
Youâve seen these before: they collect the opinions of 100+ experts on a simple question. Theyâre huge because they build a lot of connections for you. Plus, they attract a ton of traffic. Naturally, you get lots of links and social shares too. Plus, your audience loves them.
A lot of work. But oh so many benefits!
6. Company Updates
Yes, you can talk about your company on your blog. Just make sure you do it on 10% of your posts or less. Get as personal as you can. Do an employee spotlight, or a department spotlight.
People want to get to know you personally online. Itâs a huge way to build strong relationships with your customers.
Those are six types of blog posts to have on your blog! Get âem on there to keep things fresh and interestingâŚand watch the interest and sales roll in.
Think of some of the leading brands in the US marketplace, like Nike and Apple.
Why do they engage consumers so much better than other companies? WhyÂ is Nike worth more than $93 billion? Why does Apple have more cash than Google and Microsoft combined, and several times more cash than the US Treasury?
The discussion could go on for hours. But for now, one Â reason is both company’s ability to tell compelling stories.
One says “Just Do It,” and the other “Think Different.” Both are highly successful in consistently charging prices well above the market average for their products.
They simply have engaging stories that captivate the consumer’s mind more than almost every other company.
Let’s take a look at both and why they work in detail:
1. “Just Do It”
For pro athletes, and even just the common person, this brand slogan resonates so well. Because, in part, it speaks to their market’s mentality: competitiveness and taking action.
And you know the commercials: famous pro athletes are always sweating, striving, and working out intensely. What an engaging story.
2. “Think Different”
No company has done a better job of positioning the quality of its products in consumer’s minds than Apple. Over time, even though it often hasn’t been the inventor of many products it’s known for, Apple has taken ownership of many products because they’re “different.”
The Macintosh is known as a quality, high-end personal computer. It has a simple design. But Macs have traditionally been used for high-end work, and especially graphic design. They’re thought of, including by Windows users, as “top-of-the-line.”
The same goes for smartphones. Though IBM released the “Ericsson” in 2000, Apple first popularized the smartphone.
When you think of smartphones today, do you first think of Androids or iPhones?
Yes indeed, Apple does successfully position its products as “different” and “better” than most.
Why Come Up with Engaging Brand Stories Like These Anyway?
When it comes to marketing, most e-commerce companies focus on “SEO.” That’s a tactic, not a strategy. And while it’s definitely something you need to do, you need a high-level brand story that really drives your marketing strategy (but only if you want explosive growth).
Because, when you have that, word about your business, products, and services spreads far and wide. Then, you get “free SEO” because people are happy to link to and talk about your company.
Psychologically speaking, stories are the most powerful way to engage consumers. Think of them as your “secret weapon” for slipping by your consumer’s resistance to buying.
Yes, it’s hard to find a story that resonates with your consumer and works to an extreme degree like “Just Do It” or “Think Different.” But, it’s well worth it. And it could make growing your business almost effortless.
So what story could resonate with your ideal customers?
Entrepreneurship gets so dreamy and idealized sometimes.
Think of a popular, and successful, entrepreneur like Mark Cuban. He seems to have it all. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. He shoots the breeze with big-name celebrities. He’s worth $3 billion. And he talks about being a vice president for either Clinton or Trump.
To get there, he worked 70 hours a week and never took a single vacation for 7 years.
Could you do that?
I know I couldn’t. The damage to my emotions, psyche, and even soul would be too great for me to bear. I’d literally implode. It wouldn’t be pretty.
As an online business owner, you have a unique challenge: working in isolation.
Let’s say you’re not Mark Cuban. You work a normal 40-50 hour work week or so. If you work from home, that’s still an awful lot of time where you don’t come into contact with other people.
How do you cope with it?
Here’s some ideas:
1. Give Yourself Downtime withÂ People who Re-Energize You
For most of us, this would be family. Hopefully, you can go to your own family for positive support. And if you can’t, hopefully you have some social circles and groups where you can.
If you don’t have positive relationships with your family, then it’s time to start working on improving those. And regardless of who you spend time with, they must support you and your goals.
It’s tough being an entrepreneur. The last thing you need is more challenges with your primary social relationships.
2. Get Out of Your Home
Yes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the grind and doing the same old thing over and over. It’s fast and simpleÂ to get working in the morning, so that’s exactly what you do.
If the weather’s decent out, take your laptop outside. There’s something about being outside that’s refreshing. Personally, for me, I don’t mind being outside in humid weather. In fact, I love it.
You could also rent “co-working” space, which is affordable. Some people suggest co-renting studio space with other entrepreneurs. I’m skeptical of that because you never know if the other person will pay. And you don’t know what they’re like to be with 40 hours per week or so.
It’s up to you. I’ll present that idea as simply another option.
3. Keep Regular Office Hours with Healthy Boundaries
It’s easy to let the the line between personal and work life get blurred when you work from home.Â If you have trouble shutting down for the day, give yourself standard office hours.
Then, share those with a friend or spouse who can help you stay accountable and actually stop when you say. Hard to do, but it’ll help you keep your sanity.
When all’s said and done, you have to create a plan that works for you. Everyone’s different. Remember, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness. Working a sane lifestyle that doesn’t isolate you from others 24/7 gives you so much more than $1 million ever could.