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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

What’s Your Marketing Communicating to Your Customers?

fortune3-e-commerce-understanding-marketing-imageIs marketing really all about links, keywords, rankings, page load times, click-through rate, and all that technical stuff?That part of internet marketing gets most of the attention.

But what about the other part of your marketing?

You know – the messages you say to your customers, and the words you use to say them. What about  you as a company?

How do you solve your customer’s problem uniquely? That part of marketing makes an astronomical impact on your sales rates.

But few people or businesses online talk about it! The conceptual part of marketing, which is only ideas, makes up much of your business success.

Have you thought about these aspects of your marketing:

1. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) In 2-3 sentences, this shows how you offer a unique solution to your customer’s problem. Many companies think being “full service” qualifies as a “USP.”

It doesn’t. That’s because many businesses offer “full service.” A USP for a financial planner would be,”I make investing fun and exciting again.”

Many financial planners talk about sound, fundamental strategies that get results. Can you name one that talks about “excitement” and “results?”

2. What Benefits Do You Offer?

Most companies talk about features – facts about their products. They don’t talk about the solutions those features help customers achieve.

Let’s use the proverbial “Customers don’t want to buy a drill – they want a hole in their wall” as an example. That conventional wisdom isn’t true!

Do you want to sit there looking at a hole in your wall? Ick! I don’t.

Instead, customers really want the good feelings associated with hanging their picture on the wall. They want to “feel happy remembering their wedding day” or “make their house a warm and comfortable home.”

What feelings do your customers get from buying your products? Does something in their lives become easier, faster, or more fun?

Focus on selling the feelings and practical results of your products. And you will blow away even established competitors in your field!

3. Are You Fun and Personable? 

Most online businesses want to bore their customers with their marketing approach. “We have 18 years of experience selling products to…” “Our products are the very best in the industry” and “We have a relentless pursuit of excellence.”

Everyone says those things. So they have no meaning for your customer. And if they have no meaning, your customer has no reason to buy from you instead of someone else.

Keep your conversation lighthearted and fun. Save the serious stuff for your competitors. Tell jokes in your copy. Make witty remarks (in parentheses like this!).

Customers are overloaded with information. If you can entertain and engage, you’ll stand out.

And guess what follows? You’re right – more sales!

Get Your Marketing Right & Good Things Will Happen 

You don’t have to hype your products. But you do want to realistically present how they make your customer feel. Get them to envision your benefits, and you’ll have customers lining up to buy from you over and over again.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Getting Your E-Commerce Site Selling Fast

fresh-start-fortune3-e-commerceAre you new to e-commerce? Do you have little money to start?

But you’ve got plenty of time?

Great! Here’s how you’d start marketing and growing revenues right away:

1. First, Have a Professional Design

Design’s actually costly. But that’s only if you hire an agency or independent web designer. Going that route gets you a great design from the start. And if they have e-commerce experience, they may know how to design your website for better sales immediately.

If you don’t have a few grand available for that, then your best bet is a an e-commerce suite. You can pay monthly fees (starting at $10 per month) for many of the basics you need to start, like:

• An easy online store builder

• Shopping cart software

• Payment processing

• PPC marketing

• SSL certificates

It takes hours and more money to get these things going on your own time. That may be your best bet to start.

2. Get Your PPC Campaign Going

Yes, PPC costs money. But you don’t need much to start. Just a few hundred bucks per month will do. And you can spend more if it’s available.

PPC takes just a few days to start. But you need to check your campaign daily. Otherwise, your costs skyrocket out of control. At least you get your revenues going so you can start doing other business activity.

You may want to start with Bing/Yahoo first, as they charge more reasonable fees for their advertising than Google’s Adwords.

PPC Hero is a great website to follow to learn more about PPC.

3. Grow Your E-mail List 

This is the huge key early on. Imagine your a prospector in the Old West in the 1840s, and you finally strike gold. That’s what a big e-mail list is like.

Once people buy from you, they trust you enough to buy again. And they repeatedly buy in the future because they love you.

You must give customers an incentive for signing up. This could be something like getting free shipping with your next order when you sign up. And then maybe a referral incentive too – like free shipping for additional orders or a 25% discount for each friend you refer that signs up.

4. Produce Valuable Content

You don’t have to go crazy with this. But you should do at least a 500-word blog post per week. Aim to be the most useful resource on your products in the industry.

If you sell vacuums, teach people simple maintenance steps for vacuums. If you sell sports apparel, tell people what types of clothing work best to boost their sports performance and why.

That’s enough to get your revenues up and going from the start. From there, it’s up to you to make mistakes, adjust, and grow.

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eMail Marketing, How To, Online Marketing Strategies, SEO for eCommerce

The Ultimate Guide to Make Free Shipping, Well, FREE

free-shipping-fortune3-e-commerceIt’s a dream for your customers – the ability to try your products out and return them at no charge.

Not having free shipping is one of the greatest barriers to high sales online. Isn’t one of your greatest hesitations to buying online the fact you can’t physically touch the product?

For example, is that new clothing soft or stiff? You don’t want to buy something only to find out you can’t stand wearing it.

While free shipping is great for your customers, it can be a logistical nightmare for you to pull off behind the scenes.

Here’s some help for you to make that happen:

1. A “Free Returns” Policy Actually Skyrockets Profits

Your results may vary, but one company saw a 357% increase in purchases after offering an unconditional “free returns” policy. You may be tempted to think that if you are “fair and just,” only giving free shipping to customers whose orders were messed up, that they see you as a good company to buy from.

But, that same study found that’s not the reality. Essentially, you make sure you don’t get ripped off, but you also prevent a number of future sales (and net profits) from these customers.

2. Do You Absolutely Have to Work the Numbers Out? 

If you do, here’s a calculator to help you do the math. It’ll give you the exact profit margin you have leftover after you include all shipping costs.

3. A Few Ways To Make Free Shipping Work

After you quick run the numbers, you might be surprised to see lower profit margins. You will need to increase your profits, in some cases, to make free shipping work for your business.

Good news: there’s things you can do to increase your margins. A few of them:

• Set a minimum order value. Amazon did it before Amazon Prime came out. They required an order of $25 before you could get free shipping. You set your minimum order value by calculating average order value, average shipping costs, and gross profit margin.

Come up with a minimum cart value. From that, subtract the average order value. Take that number and multiply it by your gross profit margin. Then subtract your cost of shipping from that. Repeat this calculation until you find a minimum order value that works.

• Offer free shipping during the holidays or as a limited-time special promotion.

• Give free shipping only on your high-margin products.

• Make shipping free for customers who subscribe to your e-mail list. This works great because you make lots of long-term profits off people who sign up to your e-mail list. Think of this list as the equivalent of striking gold.

• Make other customers pay for the free shipping.  You do this by offering free shipping to everyone. But, you also offer an option for “rush shipping.” For an additional fee, customers can get their product a day or two faster. You simply pack and ship their orders with priority.

Win-Wins Makes You Profitable

If you can offer your customers free shipping, do it. This guide gives you ways to make the math work. And your company will be so much more  profitable with happier customers after offering free shipping.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

6 Easy Ways to Validate Your Business Idea

businessman-with-a-good-ideaHow would you like to spend thousands of hours and six figures or more on marketing your business…only to find out no one really wants it?

That’s what entrepreneurs USED to have to do!

Now, with the web, you can validate your business idea on the cheap so you know if it’ll work before you even launch your business.

Check out how the internet makes this possible:

1. Go to Amazon Best Sellers

If you have a product, life’s easy. Just follow this link. If you see several companies selling what you want to sell, you know there’s a market for your idea. And you also know there’s enough demand to support more than one business.

You can also check out eBay to gauge demand.

2. Google Trends

This shows the number of searches over time for the key term you enter. Check out this graph for “essential oils” below:

google-trends-essential-oils

Google gauges interest on a scale of 1-100. At point “A”, farthest to the right, essential oils scores a perfect 100. Wow, they are in high demand right now!

3. Approach People with Obvious Pain 

Who are your customers? What’s their demographic? Do you think they hang out on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or somewhere else? Whichever social network you think they’re on, spend time there.

Find the questions, objections, and complaints they have about a product you want to sell. Then, contact them and ask them how you could improve it. If they’re willing to share, ask them to sign up to your e-mail newsletter list.

4. Use Craigslist

Yes, the humble classified ad has great marketing value these days. All you do is run an ad on Craigslist, like Noah Kagan did. If you don’t want to read his whole post, here’s how things went down:

1. His friend bought an expensive camera that retails for $600 – $1100

2. Noah suggested he try renting the camera out on Craigslist in the “Photography” section because that’s one place people might look for something like that

3. Someone rented the camera out that afternoon for $75

4. It was clear the idea had at least some demand

5. The next step would be to make the camera available for 30 days and analyze and interpret the results

6. You could do the same process without even having the product, and then simply judge your demand by the number of inquiries you get

6. E-mail Friends and Family Who Share Your Pain 

Tell them you’re thinking of creating a product or service that solves their problem. Ask them to try out for free and give you their thoughts. If they insist on paying, which some will, tell them to name their own price.

Then, ask them how much they’re willing to pay for that product or service if it goes on the market. You want their honest feedback, not them telling you what you want to hear.

So those are some simple ways you can validate your business idea without throwing your entire life at it for several years.

The internet’s great when you know how to harness its power, isn’t it?

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

4 Devastating Mistakes You Make Right Now in Your E-Commerce Business

fortune3-scared-businessman-e-commerce-mistakesBusiness truly is “fail your way forward,” isn’t it?

Some of that’s good, but a lot of it’s unnecessary. And we want to save you some time and money.

So read these tips and avoid these all-too-common e-commerce mistakes:

1. Thinking “If You Build It, They Will Come” 

They might come, but they won’t just because you make it available. Who knows, there might already be 100 stores that sell the exact same thing you do!

They will come. But you have to do some research first and get a good grip on your unique market position. An easy way to do that is to look at your competitor’s social profiles and see what people complain about.

Build your website as a solution to those complaints. Now you’ve built something your market wants, so they will come.

2. Not Using Social Proof Right

Your site should have social sharing icons on every page from the start. But, make sure they don’t show numbers unless you’re proud of them.

If visitors see zeros on every page, they’ll think your website’s a ghost town (even if that’s not true). Then they leave.

The same goes for reviews. Wait until your website has several thousand visitors per month to set those up. When you release them, ask for reviews left and right so you get a bunch immediately.

3. Your About Page is Stale and Corporate

If this page uses “we” a lot and tells a generic history that fits any company, it’s not doing you any good. With “about” pages, you want to tell your story in explicit detail.

A great way to make it interesting is to discuss what problem made you decide to start your business. For example, “I was so angry when I learned most companies don’t use green cleaning products.”

Or, maybe  you solved your own problem: “I kept tipping my chair back and nearly falling over. So I invented this 5th leg to stop that from happening.”

4. Using a Scattered Marketing Strategy

“Ooohh! That shiny new approach got that company loads of traffic. I’ve got to try that for my business too!” Before you know it, you have 8 different marketing tactics going.

That’s too many to focus on in the early days of your business. You need  a team to help you out with that. Instead, start with 2-3 channels, and get a steady stream of interested prospects from them.

When you get more revenues, then you can add more channels.

Do any of those seem familiar? Which? Let us know in the comments below:

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

Have You Heard about Google’s Responsive Update?

fortune3-responsive-design-imagePerhaps by now you’ve heard of Google’s new responsive design update. Search Engine Land reports that Google will release this update on April 21st.

No one knows the exact consequences, but some estimates hold that not having a responsive website could cost you around 40% of your mobile traffic and 20% of your site’s total traffic.

The good thing about this update? You know about it, and exactly what you have to do, BEFORE it rolls out. And you have several weeks to make your fix.

How Do I Know if My Website’s “Responsive?” 

It’s actually easy to tell. Visit this URL and take Google’s “mobile-friendly” test. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll see something that looks like this:

 

Yikes! The owner of that website’s in trouble.

Google is sending e-mails with the subject “Fix mobile usability issues found on http://www.yourdomain.com/”

Google’s Actually Talked about the Importance of Responsive Design Before

While it’s not totally clear how having a responsive design affected your site’s rankings in the past, Google loudly and clearly discussed the importance of having one. In fact, they did so on their Webmaster Central Blog on June 6, 2012.

The New Algorithm Update Affects Mobile Search Only!

So if users search from a desktop or laptop computer, your rankings don’t take a hit. At least, that’s the current understanding. In terms of total impact on search rankings, it could do more damage than either Panda or Penguin.

What Should I Do If I Don’t Have a Responsive Design? 

You need to redesign your website so it is responsive as soon as possible. You really have no way around it. No one’s sure of the exact consequences, but it will cost you a significant percentage of your site’s overall traffic.

To check your potential impact, go to Google Analytics. Then navigate to “Audience” and “Mobile.” There, you’ll see what percentage of your traffic comes from various sources. Some estimates believe around 50% of your mobile traffic could be gone after the update.

Most sites have an average of 50-60% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. If you hit the “devices” sub-menu under the “mobile” menu, you’ll learn which mobile devices people use to view  your website.

Do you really want to risk the hit?

Web designers will be busy, so you should contact one right away.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

How to Sell Your E-Commerce Site for Maximum Profit

fortune3-sell-your-e-commerce-business-imageWow, so you’ve got the best problem any business owner could have!

It’s time for  you to sell your e-commerce business. Now, the real issue is getting a fair price for it.

That word “fair” – it’s important. Yes you built it. But you have to be willing to sell your business for a fair price. It’s hard, because the temptation is to sell it for too much because you put years of your life into it.

But be realistic! That being said, here are some tips for determining a fair market value for your e-commerce site:

1. The General Guideline – Sell for 3-6x EBITDA

“EBITDA” refers to “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.” In plain English, that means roughly 3-6x your revenues. Around 3x is the average, and if you have a stellar site with lots of growth potential, you may get closer to 6x.

2. Bigger E-Commerce Sites Command Higher Sales Prices

Shopify has a chart showing this information. Businesses with a current cash flow of $5 million or more sell at the highest prices. Businesses with $2-5 million in revenues sell for reasonably high prices also. Finally, companies at lower revenues than that all sell at similar prices.

3. Factors that Affect Your Website’s Sale Price

In general, they boil down to profitability. Specific factors that also affect your sale price include:

• Recent and future growth
• Traffic levels
• Brand strength
• Income streams
• Percentage of repeat customers
• Potential business risks

 4. Sell When You’re Growing or The Overall Market is Hot

You just might find an aspiring entrepreneur who believes he can skyrocket your business’s growth. It’s always easier to sell when things look good to the buyer. You can sell if business isn’t going so well, but that gives the other party more negotiating power.

5. What’s Your “Table Selection?” 

This is actually a poker term. How it relates to e-commerce is you want to be in a market where you have high growth and margins, but don’t have dominating competitors. You may want to be in an “evergreen” market – one that always has strong demand.

6. How Old Is Your Business? 

Less than 2 years is young, and you’ll have a hard time commanding top-tier prices. 2-5 years is average, and you can expect your sales price to come in at a 2-3x multiplier. At 5 years old and older, your business is considered “established.” That means perceived risk is much lower, which allows you to command higher prices.

7. Do You Sell Your own Products or Resell Others? 

If you sell your own products, buyers perceive you have a stronger market position. They’re willing to pay more. If you resell other people’s products or dropship, your business can easily be replicated. That makes you a weaker market player, and it’s harder for you to sell your business at a higher price.

Selling your e-commerce business is actually a long process. You’ll most likely want to hire a broker to help you. But, these tips get you going in a good direction from the start.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

How to Make Your First Sales

fortune3-e-commerce-selling-footwearGetting sales momentum going is the difficult part in e-commerce, isn’t it?

How do you do it? What should you do?

There’s about a million different things you can do – so where’s your time best spent?

Read these tips and find out:

1. PPC’s a Good Starting Place

All your product pages should be set up like landing pages anyway. Start driving PPC traffic to your website immediately.

On each of your product pages, the number of actions your users can take should be kept to a minimum. They should be able to read a little about the product, click buy, and maybe subscribe to your e-mail list.

2. Grow Your E-mail List Rapidly 

You can start growing your e-mail list immediately on Twitter with a lead generation card.

If you don’t know how to write great content to offer from around the web, then share other people’s content.

No, it doesn’t necessarily cost you business. In fact, it makes you look more credible because you’re sharing stuff that’s not your own.

To your users, it looks like you really do place their best interests in mind.

You should view your e-mail list like marketing gold. This is where your best leads come from. And e-mail marketing is so cheap, you get some of the best ROI from it.

3. Tell Friends & Family 

The key here is to make it no-pressure. Don’t try to twist your mother’s or grandmother’s arm into buying from you if they have no interest.

Just let them know what’s going on and ask them to spread the word to people who might like your products and services.

4. Don’t Cut Your Prices! 

This is easy to do when you’re desperate. And it’s okay to do from time-to-time. But, especially in the beginning, you don’t want to compete on price.

That kills your margins. Then, you can’t hire the best employees, buy the best tools, or do anything at all to the best of your ability. That becomes obvious to your customers, and then you either:

1) Attract the wrong kind of customer

2) Scare good customers away

5. Create a Link Roundup on Your Website

This works marvelously. Basically, what you do is compile all the best pieces of content on the web on some subject of use to your customers.

Make sure many of the pieces of content are from websites with large, active social communities.

Run your link roundup and let the owners of the sites you mentioned know about it.

They’ll give you links and social shares…great organic growth!

Those are some easy, and in many cases no-cost, ways to make your first sales.

Do any intrigue you?

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Pay-Per-Click

Do You Need a New E-Commerce Platform? Find Out in This Post!

e-commerce-platform-upgrade-pictureWe can’t make this decision for you – there’s too many unique circumstances surrounding your situation.

But, we can give you some guidelines so you can make this decision on your own.

You are the expert on your business, after all.

With that in mind, here are some things you should look for that may indicate it’s time for a new e-commerce platform to help you manage your website:

• Lots of growth – You may need a better website host than you have right now

• Increased back-office integration – As you grow, one of the biggest needs you’ll have is the ability to logistically manage inventory and all your orders. Does your current e-commerce site support that?

• Are your customer’s security needs met? Probably don’t need to say too much more here. You need at least 128-bit encryption, and ideally 256.

• You decided on new goals for your store - Depending on what they are, you might need a new e-commerce platform to support them.

• You’re not sure your site appeals to your customers - Then it’s time to get an e-commerce platform that does.

• You’ve been adding ad hoc features with regularity – This means your current web store no longer meets your user’s needs. It’s time to find a platform that does. You might also need to hire a full-time designer.

• You use your current data in many new ways - In the past, the simple reports you looked at always seemed to be good enough. Now, you need to do all sorts of complex things that you didn’t before.

• Your inefficiencies continue to increase - Your website load time is grinding to a halt. You spend a lot of time creating custom code and adding new widgets that make your website more useful for your visitors. And growth, for whatever reason, has been slowing lately.

• Your customers complain about the same problems repeatedly - Okay, a complaint here and there is no big deal, is it? No business ever goes without getting any complaints at all. But, if you hear customers complaining about the same issue over and over again, you may need to upgrade to a better platform.

• New technologies have come out, and your platform doesn’t support them - Pretty straightforward here. Your customers expect you to use the latest and greatest, and your platform simply must support those features.

If your current e-commerce platform exacerbates those problems, then it may be wise for you to consider moving on to a new one.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

How to Get More Sales from Pinterest

You get endless Facebook and Twitter tips on the web.

Over the last 6 months of 2014, Pinterest grew its active user base by 111%.

Other social networks may get all the publicity, but Pinterest is one you can’t ignore.

Here are some simple tactics you can implement today to get more sales from Pinterest:

1. Simply Show Photos of Your Products

It really is that easy in some cases. This infographic shows 20% of Pinterest users buy a product after pinning or liking it.

2. Use Rich Pins

For one thing, this makes your pins easier to discover and click on because rich pins are eligible for Pinterest’s curated feed. Another way they help your business is they send e-mail notifications to your customers who repinned them when you drop the price of the product.

3. Only Pin Images Likely to get Repinned

What makes an image get repinned? There’s no guarantees, but if you follow these guidelines it’s much more likely your images will get repinned:

  • Images without faces are more likely to get repinned
  • Pins with multiple colors get repinned more
  • The larger the image, the more likely it is to get repinned
  • 2-4 PM and 8-11 PM are the most likely times for images to get repinned, but do check your analytics to make sure that’s when you get the most repins
  • With your product images, make sure they appear on a white or gray background, in a person’s hands, or in their natural environment

3. Don’t Sell your Products, Sell the Lifestyle They Help Your Customers Lead

Let’s say you sell high-end camping gear. Your product images should, of course, feature the products themselves.

But, to sell more, you have to take it even farther than that.

At the end of the day, remember your customers don’t buy your products – they buy the benefits they get from those products.

So, you show people around the outside of a tent smiling and enjoying their day – making it clear they get an experience you don’t get with the average tent.

4. Use Keywords in Your Pin Board Names

Anywhere you can enter information on the web, that’s a good place to enter in keywords so you can be found.

Pin boards are no exception. Use descriptive words so people know what yours is about, but also use keywords too.

5. Advertise Your Coupons

“Free, discount, and deal” are still very powerful words in marketing. You can take advantage of coupons on Pinterest by creating a separate coupon board. Just make sure you use an application like Wishpond to manage the whole process – it makes your life much easier.

There are numerous other ways to get more sales from Pinterest, but by using these you’ll definitely give yourself a leg up on the competition.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies, Social Media For eCommerce