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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

6 Top Sources of Funding in 2016

fortune3-funding-sources-imageNeed money to grow your business?

In 2016, it’s easier to get and more abundant in supply than ever before. And more options are coming available because of the web.

So what can you do in 2016? Here’s some options:

1. Hit Up Family Members

There’s a lot of risk in this decision. Your family members have to understand you could lose all their money and not have the ability to pay it back fast.

You could also have relationships irreparably ruined. If you have no other options, the risk may be one worth taking.

2. Traditional Bank Loan

For many new e-commerce businesses, bank loans are out of reach. Banks want to be relatively confident they’ll get all their money back. And they want businesses likely to grow and have more capital needs.

However, their requirements are often so strict that actually getting money is very difficult for businesses without a track record of success.

3. Short-Term Capital Financing

Because of the difficulty of accessing bank financing, a new niche that serves short-term capital needs is arising. The pro of this is that they make getting the capital you need easier. They won’t ask for collateral. Your credit history will be considered, but won’t be a huge deal. And you can usually use the money however you want.

However, as you can guess, it does come at a cost. You’ll pay a higher interest rate. Since they don’t investigate you as much as banks, your idea may not be as bulletproof as you think it is.

But all in all, it’s not a bad source of capital.

4. Crowdfunding

You know about this niche. The pro is that you only pay some fees on the money you raise, and that’s it. You don’t have to pay it back.

However, the hard part is getting your idea funded. It seems easy at first, but just a small percentage of ideas actually get the funding they want. And you can’t get as large of amounts of money.

5. Equity Crowdfunding

This one’s been sprouting up in the past several months. Basically, your small business works similar to a stock. You sell shares of your company to small-time investors.

The biggest con is you’re losing ownership and control of your company. And you also may have to work harder to manage investor expectations, which may not be as sophisticated as those of VCs. There’s also lots of legal issues raised in the whole process, which could cost you time and money.

However, you don’t have to please venture capitalists, which is a pitfall if you would raise larger amounts of money on Wall Street. And you can get the money fairly quickly.

6. Sweat Equity

Finally, if you don’t like the cons all those sources offer, you can always put in your own hard work. You have fewer people to please and greater control. But, you will make more mistakes on your own and it will take you longer to hit that “sweet spot” where success comes with ease.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what route to go. But now, at least you have information that helps you make the best decision for your situation.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

What Kind of “Entrepreneur” Are You?

fortune3-busy-successful-entrepreneur-imageWhen most people hear the word “entrepreneur,” they think of someone rich and famous, who seems nearly flawless in their ability to make decisions. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Mark Cuban, and even Oprah Winfrey may come to mind.

But, you don’t have to live up to their extreme levels of success to be considered a “successful” entrepreneur. What you really have to do is come up with your own definition, and live up to that.

Here’s some different kinds of entrepreneur you might choose to be:

1. Solopreneur

You want your business just to be you. You might have a few contractors or VAs offering you support to relieve you of boring, menial tasks or others outside your knowledge. But for the most part, you want to work by yourself.

You don’t like dealing with all the stress of managing employees. You don’t need lots of money to be happy. You just like to do your own thing and be helpful to others. And that’s it.

2. Lifestyle

You have a certain lifestyle you want to support. This could be pretty simple, or you might want to be more ostentatious. Maybe you want to be able to go on vacation for a month twice a year.

Or, maybe you just want to own a home and work 20 hours per week, while making the equivalent of two full-time incomes so your spouse doesn’t have to work.

Absolutely nothing wrong with being a lifestyle entrepreneur. It’s up to you how you want to do it.

3. Renegade/Trend-Setter

You just don’t like the conventional. It’s important to you to be in the limelight. You want to be the person or company who took on a huge challenge and won.

As a result, consumers want different things, or businesses in your industry now look at things in a different way.

4. Problem-Solver

Something really irks you. Maybe you don’t like how much a service costs. Or, maybe the big guys in your industry are ruthless and offer poor-quality products and service.

Or, maybe consumers are just irritated because they know they should be able to do something without so much hassle.

You love to provide a solution that helps people or businesses, or both.

5. Superstar

Here we’re talking about the big names. You want to be the Gary Vaynerchuk, the one who always has the light shining on them. You want big money, and all the big cool things it buys.

You’ll have to judge which style is right for you, and the ethics behind each. For now, those are some types of entrepreneur you can be, and what each might be like.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

How Can You Disrupt Your Industry?

Consumers buy from businesses they know, like, and trust. But they also do business with companies that do things in a “new” and “different” way.

This is a proven fact. Any marketer worth their salt will tell you this.

For example, would you rather go to a grocery store and get a “doughnut,” or would you rather pay a little more for one of these from Voodoo Doughnuts:

voodoo-doughnuts-disruptive-marketing-image

Mmmmmm…can’t you just taste one of them now? Even if you can’t, aren’t they just cool to look at, and maybe a little more worth a try than the same old thing?

By the way, the company’s located in Portland, Oregon. So if you live in the area and love your sweets like I do, it’s definitely worth your time and money.

That’s a prime example of disruptive marketing at its finest. It may be an offline example, but the same concept certainly works online.

And while you don’t have to be “disruptive” to succeed, it certainly makes your success a lot easier and certain. And it could drive your sales through the roof too.

Examples of Disruptive Product-Driven Businesses

Voodoo Doughnuts is a great, but far from the only, example of a disruptive small business. Take a look at a few others, and what makes them so different, to inspire your thinking:

1. Bumble Bee Linens

The products this company makes are achievable. They sell high-quality wedding linens, and now for other occasions too (like the birth of your child).

The linens can be customized with a message to your loved one.

Highly disruptive in that industry.

2. The Eggxer

This interesting product scrambles an egg inside its shell into a golden egg in just 15 seconds. The inventor’s child didn’t like egg yolks. So he got them to eat the eggs, along with the yolk, using this simple invention.

Talk about a creative, and possibly disruptive, idea!

3. Damn Heels

Ladies – don’t like wearing high-heels? Or, tired of wearing them all day long and need to slip into something more comfortable?

These shoes have the beautiful appearance of heels, without putting all the stress on your foot and ankle.

Nice!

4. nPowerPEG

Do you, or do one or more of your family members run around like a maniac all day long? Sometimes, they might notice their smartphone suddenly has almost no charge.

That’s where the nPowerPEG comes in. It harnesses the kinetic energy your body creates by moving around all day. Then, it places that energy on a battery. And, you can use that battery to charge up devices that don’t require a lot of energy charge – smartphones, for example. You won’t be charging your car though!

So, those are examples of disruptive products. Think about your skills and interests. Then, consider how you can use those to build a product that solves a problem in a unique way.

At it’s simplest, that’s all business is.

Have fun!

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

Content Marketing: Have You Ever Written a “Case Study?”

fortune3-case-study-marketing-imageDo you know what a “case study” is?

If you sell B2B products and services, you might. If you sell B2C, you might not because they don’t get used as often.

However, “case studies” can be your most powerful marketing tool. They tell a story that your customers can relate to…a story that shows how you helped a customer just like them get the result they want.

And these stories slip right by their resistance to buying. Instead of saying,”Why should I buy from you?” they say,”How do I buy from you?”

How Do You Make Case Studies Work for You?

The biggest mistake made with any case study is they focus too much on the company providing the product or service. The goal is to put all the focus on your customer…mentioning your company at the very end.

Don’t worry, customers will read that far if you write a compelling case study.

How Do You Write a Case Study That Drives More Sales?

It’s not that hard. You don’t have to be a super-expert writer either. Just follow these steps, and the brief instructions that follow:

1-Who is the customer? Give as much detail as you can about the customer. The goal is to make that clear so other customers can say,”Oh, hey. That sounds just like me.”

2-What problem did they have? Again, the same goal here. Show their problem in excruciating detail.

3-What solutions did they look at and ultimately reject? This helps to show why other solutions weren’t credible. You’re discrediting your competitors in a more subtle, believable way.

4-Why did they choose our product as the solution? Again, straightforward here.

5-How did they install our product or implement our solution? Again, the more detail, the better. You’ll probably have more detail with a B2B product or service.

6-How is the customer using our product now? Pretty straightforward.

7-What results have they attained with it? Critical. You must be specific here. Too many case studies get vague and say things like the customer was “happier.” Quantify that.

The result attained should also be the title of your case study. Include a few quotes from your customer to further the credibility of your case study.

Close with a call-to-action, such as sending customers to your product page and asking for the sale.

Then, Promote The Heck Out of Your Case Study!

Don’t just bury it on your website somewhere. Send it to your e-mail list. Put it on your social media profiles from time to time. You could it even advertise it on the front page of your website.

And you? You’ll get more sales with greater speed. Guaranteed.

FYI, if you’re doing this process right, it should take around 10-15 hours to write 800 – 1000 words. But, it’s more than worth it over the long run.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Sell More with Mobile Marketing

fortune3-mobile-marketing-image.jpgWith more people in the US using their smartphones for research and purchasing than ever before, you have a huge opportunity in mobile marketing. But a lot of companies still struggle to capitalize on this.

What works today? What doesn’t?

Find out some of the latest ideas and insights so you can formulate your own mobile marketing strategy:

1. Texting Works

We’ve talked about e-mail marketing on this blog before. It’s your highest-ROI marketing channel by far. Nothing else even comes close.

That holds true when you use e-mail marketing over mobile devices too.

The Oracle blog quotes Visual.ly as saying e-mail open rates in general are 4.2%. But for texting, they shoot up to 19%.

With texts, remember that they’re intended to be very personal. When you get customers to subscribe to text alerts, make sure you get their first name too so you can insert it into texts.

And above all, make sure the text alerts are useful and relevant to your market.

2. Consider a Seasonal Texting Program

Starbucks, for example, offers special SMS programs around Christmas and New Year’s. What holiday at your business is most relevant to your audience?

Identify and create a texting campaign around it.

3. People Love to Express and Share Themselves Through Mobile

Have you ever gone clothes shopping with your wife or daughter? What does one or both do when they try on new outfits? They send a picture text to their closest friends to get feedback on how they look.

You can also think of Coke, which did the Share-a-Coke Selfie campaign.

How could you make your product quickly and easily shared through mobile in a similar way?

4. Let Customers Customize Their Products

If you want to charge high margins, this is a great route to go. In China, Nike let customers take a picture of colors they wanted on a shoe. Then, they got a shoe in those colors.

Not too many things excite customers more than their own unique products. All you’d have to do is ask them to share their experience via mobile with their friends and family as soon as they get the shoe.

Nearly guaranteed great engagement there.

5. Make Sure Everything Works for Thumb Navigation

You may need separate websites for mobile and desktop users. Yes, the experience is that different. It’s something to strongly consider doing anyway.

To check to see if any part of your site isn’t useful for mobile users, simply use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.

Does mobile marketing work? Absolutely. However, marketers are still getting a grasp on exactly what works. And that means it’s your opportunity to grab some market share.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eMail Marketing, mCommerce, Online Marketing Strategies

Branding: Can You Sell Without “Selling Out?”

fortune3-integrity-not-selling-out-image.jpgLet’s face the facts:

Some business owners do whatever it takes to make more money. You can probably think of a couple examples.

But, you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to compromise who you are just to make a buck. While you might get some money from it, the guilt and shame you’d experience afterwards would far outweigh the material benefit.

Sometimes, in America, we’re bombarded with so many messages showing how good material wealth is. Sometimes, it seems to be the only thing you should live for. There’s nothing else.

That’s one way you can do things. And many businesses do it.

But since you’re reading this post, you’re already considering doing things the other way. You’d rather stick to who you are.

But you’re a little afraid. That’s because you think “sticking to your values” will cost you in the long run. You’ll miss out. At worst, you could fail.

Strong Evidence Supports Sticking to Your Values Works

Well, I’m here to tell you that, while things may seem to work that way, plenty of evidence supports sticking to your values works in business. In fact, it’s an essential part of success.

And even better, you don’t have to choose the “right” ones. In fact, all that matters is you stick to them, no matter what they are.

The two greatest business books of all time, in my opinion, are Built to Last and Good to Great. Jim Collins and his team studied dozens of publicly traded companies to find why some endured over time, and why others fell by the wayside. Those two books were the result of that research.

He concluded his research by noting he believes the process discovered works for organizations of all sizes and types.

One of the big factors in the success of the studied companies was “sticking to their core values.” You should have around 4-6 core values you do not sway from. Ever. For any reason.

Some of the companies that succeeded massively were:

• Walmart

• 3M

• Procter & Gamble

• Abbott Laboratories

• Kimberly Clark

• Gilette

• Walgreens

• Wells-Fargo

• Phillip Morris

What, a tobacco company made the list? Yes. That’s why Collins and his team concluded the core values don’t matter. Only sticking to them does.

By the way, you may feel some of these companies are bad examples of how to do business. They’ve changed a lot over the years. At the time of the study, they were definitely good examples.

So, you don’t, and in fact you shouldn’t, compromise your own values in business. Decide what they are. Write them down. Never bend. Customers and business contacts alike appreciate that.

And you’ll do just fine.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Educate Your Customers about Your Product

fortune3-educating-customers-imageYou have the greatest product in the world, and you know it, don’t you?

Who doesn’t?

But what do you do if your customers don’t see things that way? Instead, they look, shrug their shoulders, and walk away in the opposite direction.

Why?

Well, from a high level, they simply don’t see how your product solves their problem. Or, they don’t know how it solves a problem better than any other product. Or, they don’t realize the problem they have.

Here’s how to show customers your product has value and is worth the price you ask:

1. First, Don’t Market!

Technically, when you educate, you are marketing. That’s just the new way to do marketing. However, when most business owners talk about “marketing,” they mean the old form of marketing. That means using hype, discussing features, advantages and benefits.

But, today’s consumer has the internet available, and most likely in their pocket with them. So, you have to go deeper than the simple marketing of the past.

That means educating.

2. Say You Sell a Simple and Commonly Available Product, Like Dri-Fit Shirts

When they first were sold in the late 1990s, dri-fit shirts immediately became a smash with athletic programs. That’s because athletes then mostly wore cotton t-shirts that soaked up sweat under their gear. Not only was it uncomfortable, but it added weight, heat, and reduced their mobility too.

Dri-fit shirts reduced that phenomena greatly. So all it took was a little education on why that was better.

That’s what you have to do today. You have to compare all the options available, showing the benefits of each.

3. Educate About Options – Don’t Try to Show Why Yours is Better

Nothing works better today than selflessness. That’s because most businesses have more interest in themselves than their customers. They’ll always show why their product is superior.

But, you don’t have to do that. And you can score big sales when you do.

Remember, not every person you encounter is a sale to be made. So, instead of trying to convince the prospective customer why your product is better, simply show them the benefits of your products and competing ones.

They can sense when you’re trying to convince them. And they naturally resist anything you say when they feel you doing so.

This approach means you get the best customers, the ones who actually want what you have. In the case of dri-fit shirts, for example, even though they’re better than t-shirts in almost every way, not every customer wants them. Some people may prefer the cheap prices of cotton t-shirts. Others may not like their texture or style.

Your job is simply to find the people who do want dri-fit shirts, lesser sweat and heat, and who don’t mind paying more for a shirt.

To get those other people as customers, you’d have to create a product that fits their needs.

That’s How Marketing Works Today…

When you remember it’s not your job to convince every person to buy from you, but rather to find the ones who want to, your business gets a lot easier and much less stressful.

And you’ll find much more success too!

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

The Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

fortune3-influencer-marketing-imageA handful of “influencers” dominate social media in just about any online niche. You’ve seen those blogs with hundreds of shares, dozens of comments, and they seem to get that kind of activity on every post.

The truth is that’s hard for almost everyone to pull off. In most cases, just a few of the top blogs get that kind of activity. And the rest get next to none.

But if you could build a relationship with those powerful bloggers, you could get your product in front of a huge audience. That would mean many more sales nearly instantly. And it could mean a lot of customers over the long-term too.

But how do you get another blogger to promote your product? You can greatly improve your chances using the process below:

1. Don’t Do What Everyone Else Does…

The vast majority of business owners try to build these relationships in ineffective, self-centered ways. For example, they’ll send a single e-mail asking the blog or website owner if they’re interested in promoting the product.

That’s it. And that tactic doesn’t work. That’s because blog owners want you to find something important about them first.

So follow the steps listed ahead instead.

2. First, Do These Things

Your chances of building a successful relationship with an influencer skyrocket when you give value to them in some way first. You could mention them in your blog (but be sure to e-mail them and let them know about it).

Comment on their blog posts. But make comments that are of value. Don’t just say “Great post,” or,”I agree 100%.” If you do agree or think the post’s great, say why. Then, add a little of your own viewpoint.

Like, share, and mention their name in social media.

After you do that for a while, then you’ve positioned yourself well for an ask.

3. Focus on an Enriching Relationship for Your Targeted Influencers

In #2, you learned what to do. Now, you just need to keep that up and find more creative ways to build your relationship over time.

Anyway you can add value – whether it’s for them personally or their audience, that’s a win. And if you ever get any response from them without asking for it, that’s huge.

Keep doing that, and you will succeed. Remember, most people ask nearly immediately. And that burns the bridge because they’re only looking to get what they can right away.

When you follow that simple strategy over time, you will build relationships with influencers. Some work out. And some don’t. Stick to those principles though, and you’ll score some big wins.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Social Media For eCommerce

What Online Marketing Methods Produce the Best ROI?

fortune3-best-digital-marketing-roi-methods-imageAs you run your e-commerce business, you may wonder what the best avenues are for promotion. When you do, you’ve immediately started to think about “marketing.”

The nice thing about online marketing is that you have as many options to promote your business as you can dream up.

The bad thing about online marketing is that you have as many options to promote your business as you can dream up.

Hah! So it’s kind of a catch-22.

What should you do?

I’ll offer some stats from Econsultancy, along with a few insights. I can’t say what’s right for your business because I don’t know your business well enough. But, you can use this information to formulate your own strategy:

1. First, Look at the Econsultancy Data

Here’s what Econsultancy found when doing its own research:

econcsultancy-digital-marketing-data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. E-mail Marketing Was Once Again #1

In 2016, e-mail’s making a comeback. Businesses are rediscovering its effectiveness as a marketing tool. If you subscribe to lots of lists and sources, you may notice them bombarding you with more messages than ever.

That’s because e-mail has an incredible, and unbeatable, $38 for $1 spent in ROI – 3800%. That’s according to the Direct Marketing Association.

But, the problem is it’s getting more competitive. So, if you’re going to do it, you have to find ways to sneak by your competitors.

Plus, you do have to build your list before you can make money from it. And that takes a fair amount of time.

3. SEO And Content Marketing

As you can see, they both came in right behind e-mail. In fact, even though 68% of those surveyed found e-mail “good” or “excellent” in terms of ROI, SEO came in right behind at 67% and content marketing at 63%.

So, they’re right up there with e-mail.

The problem with both is they take a lot of time to execute. They can cost a significant amount of money. And it may be 9-12 months before you see any results.

However, once you get them working, they produce a great ROI for years.

4. Paid Search

This one had a rating of 54% as being “good” or “excellent” at providing ROI. So it’s a step back from the other methods, but not too far.

The nice thing about paid search is you can rank, get traffic, and start earning sales right away. The bad news is it costs a lot of money. So you may need a couple month’s worth of losses while you learn before you start to profit.

So if you need to get revenue now, it’s a reasonable solution. And, when you get those visitors to your site, you can try to capture them on your e-mail list. While there’s a little more risk involved, PPC’s not necessarily a bad choice.

Special tip: use Bing’s ad network to get a better ROI if you have a very limited budget. They charge less on average than Google does.

Those are my thoughts on some various digital marketing methods available. Which make most sense for your company?

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Stop Customer Complaints Before They Start

fortune3-stop-customer-complaints-before-they-start

Do your customers complain a lot? Don’t worry! You’ll find the answer to that in this post.

Have you ever had that time in business where all your customers seem to complain at once?

You want to serve your customers.

But a lot of complaints makes your business difficult. Pretty soon, what started out as your dream now becomes your greatest source of stress.

Instead of being excited to start your day, you wake up and sit in bed, filled with dread. Who knows what nasty things you’ll hear this time?

It happens in every business at one time or another.

Don’t take it personally. Don’t think you’re a failure. Listen to what customers say and find solutions to their problem instead.

Or, simply avoid doing these things in the first place to make sure you never even hear most of those complaints:

1. Not Following Through on What Was Promised

Customers simply want you to do what you say when you say you’re going to do it. Believe it or not, that’s a premium customer service feature at many companies.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Only make promises you can keep. Don’t promise things faster than you can do them.

And if you can’t keep the promise, don’t make it at all.

Keep track of everything you say. And simply do it.

2. Employees Hiding Behind Company Policy

This is actually one of the harder complaints to deal with. Because, you’ll have to take a look at your company’s service policy to see how you can modify it to make it work.

Evercall a company and keep asking questions until you finally hear,”I’m sorry, but company policy doesn’t let us do that.”

Not what your customers want to hear. And one of the great advantages of a small business over a large one is flexible, excellent service.

So, make your policy flexible and give your reps power to make customers happy. And only make policy come into play as a very last-ditch effort.

One legendary customer service story holds that a customer wanted to return 4 car tires…to a company that didn’t even sell them. To make him happy, they took them anyway.

Try that once, and then promote the story.

3. No One Knows Where the Customer’s Order Is

All customers like to know exactly where their order is. And with order tracking easily available to even small businesses, you should deliver it to them.

It’s a benefit to you because many customers won’t even call. And you can add a question about it in your FAQ. Plus, you can notify your customers through your newsletter that they can track their order online.

Make it a standard feature you offer your customers. It more than pays for itself.

It’s almost always better to prevent customer complaints where possible. However, customers love it when you take the time to fix their problem too.

So if you have a high volume of complaints, think of it as an opportunity to turn one-time customers into lifetime customers.

You won’t regret your decision!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To