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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

Should You Hire an E-Commerce Business Coach?

fortune3-business-coaching-image

Business coaching makes you a winner.

Tom Brady had the same passing coach, Tom Martinez, since high school.

Usain Bolt, by any standard the fastest man in the world, has a coach named Glen Mills.

Every best professional athlete or team in the world has a coach.

So why do entrepreneurs think they need to do it all alone?

That’s probably the great American mystique, isn’t it? Who coached the best entrepreneurs of all-time like Bill Gates, Henry Ford, or Steve Jobs?

The truth: Bill Campbell coached Steve Jobs. Bill Gates used a coach. Ford learned from people like Thomas Edison.

The Benefits of a Good Business Coach

You can certainly do it all alone if you want. It’s up to you as to what to do.

But you might want to hire one because:

1. You Save Yourself Mistakes

Business coaches have either made your same mistakes themselves, or they’ve coached someone else who has. So rather than spending years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars making mistakes, you can avoid many of them in the first place.

2. Gain Insights You Might Otherwise Never Learn

Everyone has blind spots. Michael Jordan had blind spots. I have blind spots. You have blind spots.

You simply can’t learn everything on your own. Your business coach will give you insights that you simply won’t learn on your own.

And they can be very valuable to your business in the long run.

3. Save Yourself a Ton of Stress

When you make mistakes, it’s stressful wading your way through the chaos that follows. With a business coach on your side, you’ll avoid some of those big mistakes.

You might even avoid a killer mistake that puts you into bankruptcy.

Remember, you won’t avoid all stress and mistakes. Business coaches aren’t perfect and don’t know everything. But you can avoid some of the showstoppers.

But Be Careful When You Look for One!

Unfortunately, lots of scams have popped up online. So research carefully when you look for a business coach.

Some want to charge you a membership fee to a forum. Others want an up-front fee, then an ongoing monthly fee.

You want someone who contacts you in person though. Not access to a digital forum. You don’t know if you’ll get fast responses to your questions.

You want a person who offers you a 1-hr free consultation and gets to know you and your business. Someone who meets with you personally at least once per month.

Whatever you do, research all your options carefully. Subscribe to their newsletters. Compare what they say on their websites.

Ask for a list of successes. Contact references. Never pay the lowest, or highest, fees you can find.

It should be ridiculously obvious you have one of the best coaches you can get. And this process might take months.

But that’s okay. Because a good business coach pays for themselves many times over when you find the right one.

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5 Tasks You Should Outsource…Rather than Doing It Yourself

Ifortune3-burned-out-e-commerce-owner-imagen the early days of your business, almost everything’s gotta be you.

You’re the accountant, web designer, marketer, salesman, director of operations, and customer service department.

But, at some point, you have to let those things go. Otherwise,  you spend all your time working and not actually enjoying your life.

And it’s generally better to outsource because you save 30-50% more time than you do by hiring employees. Think about all the training and ongoing management you have to do with employees.

With freelancers, you just say the words, and it’s over. So they have to work hard and to your satisfaction.

So here’s things you should strongly consider outsourcing so you can work on instead of in your business:

1. E-mail Customer Service/Live Chat

Your company has a personality. It’s hard for your customers to tell what your personality is through written words only.

So hand these tasks over to someone else. Leave the phone customer service to yourself, or to a trusted employee.

2. Accounting/Finance

The strategic tasks related to finance should stay under your control. But the minutia – entering and tracking all the transactions in QuickBooks, should go to others. The same for all the paperwork and administrative work related to processing payroll.

That can be done by a firm. You need to get information from them and decide what to do with it.

3. Marketing

Do you have proven success marketing? Have you created your own strategy and executed it online, leading to consistent growth?

If you haven’t, or you’re not even sure what marketing is, it’s not a bad idea to pay, and pay well, for marketing help.

Basically, marketing is communicating with your customers, showing them why you’re the best choice for their money.

If you’re saying “we’re the best” or “we’re the market leader,” in your marketing materials, you need serious marketing help.

Good marketing gets your business off the ground fast…much faster than it would without professional marketing help. It basically involves figuring out what to say, and how to say it in a way that connects with your customers.

4. Shipping

It eats up a lot of time to pack and ship product. And it doesn’t require a specialized skillset to do. Outsource that part to someone else.

For you, though, you should focus on creating the most efficient processes. And you should work with shippers to negotiate the best deals on shipping. That’s where your time’s most valuable.

5. Receiving Stock

This is another time-eater that’s just not worth it for you to deal with. Should you really be reading the packing list and counting everything to make sure your order’s correct?

You can pay just about anyone to count. Spend your time on building relationships with suppliers instead!

Did You Notice the Common Theme with All of These?

The “grunt work,” the simple stuff, should be hired out. You can pay Americans $7.25 per hour to do some of this work (You might want to pay more to get better quality work and trustworthy workers), and some of it can even be sent overseas for cheaper (if you’re comfortable).

You should do the higher-level stuff that grows your business.

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How to Keep Your Work-Life Balance in Good Order

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Superstar entrepreneur Elon Musk is said to have worked up to 100-hour weeks. If you do the math, that’s about 14 hours and 12 minutes per day.

Of course, you never hear what goes on behind the scenes.

One Quora user, who claims to have worked on some of the scenes in the Lord of the Rings for 100-120 hours per week said he developed:

‚ÄĘ Facial ticks
‚ÄĘ A sickly skin complexion
‚ÄĘ A growing pot belly
‚Äʬ†A hunched back
‚Äʬ†Headaches
‚Äʬ†Bad vision
‚Äʬ†Irritable mood

And he also didn’t have time to spend the good money he was earning. Of course, he had no time for family, friends, or anything else outside of work.

Most of us probably can’t even imagine sustaining 100-120 hours per week for months at a time, or even a single week. Perhaps a few super-humans can do these things, but most can’t.

And there’s some research pointing to the fact that your ability to create and innovate diminishes as you consistently work long hours.

So How Do You Stay Balanced?

A few tips:

1. Hire People Smarter than You

Are you the final authority on running every last aspect of your business? Do you pull all the grunt work yourself?

Odds are you can hire out a lot of what you do. And there’s many people that can do it better than you. Instead of spending 10 hours per week doing it yourself, mentor someone else for 1 hour per week.

You’ll have more time to focus on business tasks you like. And your business will be stronger because you have intelligent help that doesn’t solely revolve around your mind.

2. Get Feedback from Family and Friends

As well-intentioned and smart as you are, you can’t see all parts of yourself. You give your employees feedback. So, get feedback from your family and friends.

They can help you see where you might not be the person you once were. Or, they might notice everything looks to be in perfect order.

You’ll feel ¬†your best when you have your life in balance.

3. Have 1 Hobby You Like…Besides Work

You may get a real high from working. But, the excitement it provides wears off.

Having at least one hobby outside of work helps you stay calm, relaxed, and focused.

4. Recharge Your Batteries with Family 

You typically only hear about the extreme workaholics – those that put in 80+ hours per week. But there’s another breed of entrepreneur emerging:

The one that takes his time to go through the day and meets all his family’s needs. This is the kind of entrepreneur that spends 40-45 hours per week on work…and stops.

It is 100% possible (although not easy) to run a successful business while working sane hours. Hopefully these tips help you make that a reality.

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Why Isn’t Your Website Selling Like You Want?

So you’ve spent all this time working on your e-commerce site, and you’re just not getting the sales you want.

Hopefully you can still hang in there while you figure what’s going on.

And it could just be one of these things:

1. You Don’t Have a True USP

We’ve talked about this issue before. It’s hard to find a USP. But basically, what it is, is a 2-3 sentence statement that makes your products different from all the other website who sell something similar on the web.

When you get right down to it, many products are exactly the same. So, you have to position yours better in the mind of your customers. And you do that with a USP.

2. You Don’t Have Reviews or Testimonials

Reviews are only good if you have a lot of them. If people click on to your products pages and see none, they get turned off and leave. It works the same with testimonials. If you can fit them in on your product pages, that’s where they work best.

3. It’s Hard to Find Your Contact Information

You must at least have a phone number and e-mail address on your website. It’s even better if you have your physical address. They should all be clearly laid out where your customers can see them – you really can’t make it too obvious.

4. Your Branding Doesn’t Make Sense to Your Customers

If you sell products that help people relax, you want to show them calming colors – like blues. If you show red (which energizes and builds confidence) they’re not going to buy as much (or maybe at all).

5. You Don’t Use Enough Calls-to-Action

You must have “buy now” buttons all over your website in a color that stands out from your brand’s main color scheme. Put them at the end of your copy. You can have around 2-3 per page (not including category pages) without overwhelming your visitors.

6. You Ask People to Join Your Newsletter Way Too Early

If people get hit by a popup the minute they visit your website, they’re not likely to sign up. In fact, you might chase them right out your doors again.

A better place to use your popup is to have it show up a 30 seconds or so after they land on your website. That way, you know they already have some level of interest in your products.

You could also ask as they check out, or right after they check out.

Those aren’t all the reasons your website doesn’t sell as well as you want. But they are some very good reasons why it might not.

Figure out which ones apply to your site, and start making the changes that take you to the leading position in your market!

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When Was the Last Time You Updated Your Online Store?

fortune3-update-your-website-imageDo you go to your doctor at least once per year for a checkup?

Your e-commerce store needs the exact same thing on an annual basis.

Before you know it, you’ve been in business for years – and there’s all kinds of stuff you need to fix with your website that you haven’t thought about during that time.

Have you checked for things like these:

1. On-Page SEO Stuff

Titles and meta descriptions get truncated or forgotten entirely. You may not have a focus keyword for your pages. Perhaps some of the copy doesn’t reflect how you currently do business. Maybe some of your titles and descriptions are exactly the same (yikes!).

2. Optimize Your Images

Yes, the web has increased its bandwidth. But unfortunately, it’s still not at the point where everything downloads fast. You still have to optimize your images and compress them for the best resolution – and the best download speed at the same time.

The faster your site downloads, the better the user experience, and the more sales you make.

3. Get an ALT Tag on Every Image

SEO is most certainly not dead. When you put your keywords (in a natural way) inside of your ALT tags, that helps Google understand what your website is all about.

You just have to do it in a Google-friendly way. That means adding 1-2 keyphrases, for about 7-10 words total, and making them descriptive of your image. Besides being useful for search, remember they are for visually impaired people as well.

4. Do You Have Permission to Use Your Images? 

Yes, you can use vendor stock photos, but you should really get permission to do so. If you don’t, technically they can come back and sue for you using them. For example, Getty Images/iStockPhoto used to (and maybe still) installs tracking code on their images. Then they sick high-power lawyers on you and try to extract outrageous sums of money from you for violating their copyright.

It generally only leads to bad things when you use someone else’s photos without permission. So, get permission, or make sure you take the photos yourself.

5. Check Out That Link Profile 

You can never look at this too often! If you have too many bad links, you’re going to lose an awful lot of traffic. You can get away with some bad links and exact-match anchor text, but not much these days.

You really must have a lot of content going that attracts those awesome natural links you want.

Go to Google Webmaster tools and review yours – your website’s health won’t regret it.

If you haven’t reviewed your website’s health in some time, you should start now. Your search rankings will improve, and so will your marketability.

And finally, the profits follow!

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Did You Know Reddit Can Help You Sell?

Fortune3-Sell-ImageYou may or may not be familiar with Reddit. It’s certainly well-known among some circles, and it has more than 5 billion monthly pageviews.

But it’s not on the radar of the mainstream American like, say, Facebook.

If you’re not familiar, it’s basically one gigantic internet forum.

And of course they’ve got to make some profit to keep business going, so they let you pay to run ads.

These ads are great for the bootstrapping startup because they don’t cost a heck of a lot, and you can get a pretty nice ROI.

Here are some tips for making Reddit your next profit center:

1. Know the Demographics

KISSmetrics notes Reddit’s typical user is a 25-34 year-old male with an income of $25,000 – $50,000 per year. Most are in the US, while some are in Canada. They typically have some college education, but many have bachelor’s degrees.

Finally, a good portion of the user base comes from Seattle and San Francisco. So, you’re going to be talking to people with generally more liberal attitudes.

2. Don’t Use Shortlinks

They typically redirect to websites with junk or malware. Your links won’t get clicked if you shorten them.

3. Who Does Reddit Work For? 

If you go to Reddit and post your link and content all over the place, you’ll quickly get flagged for spam and booted off the site. So you have to be wise about the way you approach the community.

KISSmetrics continues on to state that this is generally what works well on Reddit:

  • Photography
  • Art
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Videogames
  • Technology
  • Science
  • Music
  • Comics
  • Food
  • Fitness

4. Skip the Hard Work and Just Use Reddit Ads

You can target your ad to the entire Reddit community, or you can drill it down to more targeted sub-Reddits. You can also target based on interest group and location. Reddit has a wiki that discusses in more detail what you can do with its ads.

5. Finally…

Just because we’re saying to use Reddit doesn’t mean you should. First, you should make sure your company is a good fit for this site to the best of your ability. For example, Gabriel Weinberg, who created DuckDuckGo, experienced phenomenal success using Reddit for marketing purposes.

And when you think about it, that is a good fit for Reddit’s user base because only highly technologically adept people, and geeks, know and appreciate DuckDuckGo for what it is (a direct competitor to Google).

Are You Going to Test This Channel? 

If you don’t have enough already, or if you’re running out of ideas, Reddit is an option.

If you think it fits, go for it!

 

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2 Lucrative E-Commerce Niches (And How They Were Found)

fortune3-e-commerce-startup-ideas.jpgIt’s a nightmare to compete based on price, or to get most of your business from Amazon (the fees kill your profits). ¬†For small and startup e-commerce businesses, success lies in finding a profitable niche.

If you compete on a product that’s already established in the market and being sold, it’s difficult to turn a profit. ¬†Another larger, older company is most likely offering benefits and guarantees like free shipping that you cannot compete with.

You’ll end up working long hours for low wages, and you’ll wonder why you ever wanted to run an e-commerce store in the first place.

To succeed, either you provide a high-quality version of a common product, or an entirely new product people don’t already have.

But how do you find those ideas?

Here are some stories to draw inspiration from:

1.  LongRangeHunting.com

This website is an e-commerce store/hunting magazine hybrid. ¬†My friend’s dad started it and makes a very healthy income from it. ¬†I don’t think they plan to get too big, but a couple other family members work there. ¬†It’s a very nice small business.

They sell all sorts of hunting gear and products.  He got the idea by talking with people in online forums.  Once the site started, everything grew from there.

What really helped it take off was its focus on a very select hunting niche – hunting animals from long distances (1-2 miles away).

2.  BumbleBeeLinens.com

This website sells high-quality wedding linens, the likes of which you can’t find anywhere else. ¬†The owner of the store and her husband loved planning their wedding so much they got involved in every detail of it. ¬†They even embroidered presents for the bridal party themselves.

They tested the idea out on Ebay, expanded it into their own store, and everything took off from there.

The Point?  Stay in Touch with Your Market! 

These are examples of niche business ideas that small business owners can identify and act on. ¬†If you don’t have a large personal network in the real world, or if it’s difficult to get in touch with them in person, there’s plenty of ways to interact with people online.

Find people with similar interests on internet forums, and begin listening and asking questions. ¬†They’ll happily discuss their real problems in life, and any issues they have with products they currently own.

If people’s eyes light up, or if they sound very passionate when discussing their problems, you’ve stumbled across a business idea. ¬†From there, it’s up to you to make it a reality.

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5 Inspiring (And Results-Getting) Twitter Campaigns

twitter-campaigns-fortune3-e-commerceHave you ever strategically thought about how you could engage your Twitter followers and get more business?

You only have so many hours in the day, so maybe you haven’t.

There’s no one magic secret to creating a successful Twitter campaign.

But, it’s fun to look at the bigger brands, and see how they run their own. ¬†Here are some of the more successful Twitter campaigns, and what those companies did to make them happen:

1. ¬†Network Solutions “Go Granny” Spoof

You know how domain registrar GoDaddy likes to be a little more risque, using Danica Patrick to promote its services? ¬†Network Solutions decided it didn’t want to throw big money at its advertising efforts.

So, it established a $200,000 budget, and invented a character called “Go Granny,” the “original domain name registrar.” ¬†Twitter tweets drove traffic to a YouTube video over Super Bowl weekend.

Network Solutions increased sales of .CO domains by 500% that weekend, and also got 3,500 tweets and 20 million Twitter impressions.

2.  The Minnesota State Patrol Keeps it Simple and Wins

All they did was look at the trending hashtags on Twitter. ¬†Then, they tweeted accordingly on a frequent basis. ¬†The goal of this campaign was to get a diverse pool of applicants, and that’s exactly what they got.

3.  ESPN Gets More Readers with Conspicuous Tweet Buttons

You’d think ESPN would be know by everyone by now. ¬†They have an obvious social sharing bar on every page of their website. ¬†When videos get played on their website, they have a button within the player that allows you to tweet the video itself.

ESPN gets 60,000 additional readers each month using this simple tactic.

4.  IBM Uses a Centralized Social Media Landing Page

I have to admit that I’ve never heard of this one before. ¬†But, what IBM did is create a web page where a live stream of tweets, blogs, and all sorts of other digital chatter accumulated.

The video channel the website was promoting got 34,000 views, and a total of 41 million Twitter impressions were created.

5. ¬†USA for UNHCR Holds What it Calls a “Tweetathon”

On the day of the “Tweetathon,” several power users began tweeting. ¬†Plus, the UNHCR sent out its own tweets. ¬†They also used a special guest – the Khaled Hosseini Foundation.

The event average 50 tweets per day using the hashtag #bluekey.  The day of the event, they got 1,524 tweets with that hashtag.

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Top 5 Biggest Social Media Blunders Ever!

fortune3-ecommerce-social-media-blundersYou have the sense not to make these mistakes, but some big companies unfortunately did make them. ¬†If you do make these mistakes, or even smaller ones, you can easily recover from them, so don’t be worried if one happens to you.

What have other companies done? ¬†Check ’em out:

1.  Atlanta Journal-Constitution РBad Sense of Humor

A Georgia man won $1 million in the lottery. ¬†So, the newspaper decided to make a joke and Tweet: ¬†[Lottery winner name] can get 40 acres and a whole lotta mules. ¬†If you use humor, be careful, and don’t base it on stereotypes.

2.  NYU Lecturer Slams Obese People РJust Plain Wrong

In his Tweet, he said, “Dear obese Phd applicants, if you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation.

Don’t slam your customers or anyone else for any reason, ever.

3. ¬†Applebee’s Mishandles an Incident

One customer wrote on a check to a waitress, “I give God 10%, why should you get 18?” ¬†She got upset, understandably, and posted the note on one of her social media accounts. ¬†Applebee’s caused more tension though, by firing the waitress, which outraged the public.

Lesson to learn:  If you do something wrong, take responsibility, handle it in a fair way, and make sure the public knows only what it needs to know regarding the situation.

4.  Facebook Fails to Follow through on a Promise

The company offers a bounty to individuals who identify hacks and security leaks, figuring that will inspire them to come forward to the company rather than selling the idea to other hackers. ¬†So, Khalil Shreateh, showed one problem to Facebook – he was able to post on other user’s timelines. ¬†For whatever reason, Facebook called the problem a “bug,” and refused to pay his bounty. ¬†So, he did it to Mark Zuckerberg. ¬†Facebook never paid him, but he did get $13,000 donated by people from across the web.

Lesson:  if you offer a reward, follow through on it.

5. ¬†Don’t Try to Profit from Tragedy Like Epicurious¬†

Remember the Boston marathon bombings? ¬†Epicurious started out with compassion when they tweeted¬†‚ÄėBoston our hearts are with you.” ¬†So far so good, ¬†but then they followed that up with a special offer: ¬†“Here‚Äôs a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today.”

Just don’t do that, please.

Hopefully you have the sense not to make these mistakes. ¬†And if you’r ever not sure about what you’re going to do, run it by a few other people first and see what they think. ¬†Better to not cause any problems at all than to have to clean up a big PR mess.

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Happy Thanksgiving – What are You Thankful For?

fortune3-ecommerce-thanksgiving-imageWow, it’s hard to believe we’re almost to the end of the year here! ¬†It’s flow by so fast. ¬†With that in mind, we’d like to take a look at the history of Thanksgiving Day, which often gets lost amidst the business of our lives and the chaotic Black Friday.

How it All Started

Dismayed with the state of European religious affairs in 1620, the Mayflower, which carried 102 passengers we now know as the Pilgrims took off for Plymouth, England for the mouth of the Hudson River.  The treacherous trip took 66 days, and the Pilgrims ended up landing much farther north than they wanted at Cape Cod.

Winter back then wasn’t pleasant. ¬†Most of the Pilgrims remained aboard the ship, where they remained exposed to the cold winter. ¬†Scurvy (caused by a lack of vitamin C) and outbreaks of contagious disease plagued the Pilgrims.

About half of the original 102 inhabitants lived to see the Spring.

During the thaw of Spring, the survivors finally made their way to shore, where they were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who spoke English (almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?). ¬† The Indian returned later on with Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe.

Squanto showed the starved and diseased Pilgrims how to grow corn, extract maple sap, fish, and identify poisonous plants.  He also helped them become friends with the Wampanoag tribe, an alliance that would last 50 years.  Sadly, it remains one of the few such alliances between European Colonists and a Native American tribe.

Finally, in November of 1621, after the Pilgrims harvested their first crop of corn, Governor William Bradford invited several Native American allies to a celebratory feast.  Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, was among the attendees.

The feast lasted for three days.  Deer meat was the primary meat available.  Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving with pies, cakes, and desserts, the Pilgrims had virtually no sugar available so they likely had little of these foods at their feast.

How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday…Eventually

The Pilgrims held a second celebration in 1623 after a long drought (they just didn’t get it easy, did they?). ¬†Throughout the rest of the New England area, thanksgiving celebrations like the one the Pilgrims held became commonplace.

The Continental Congress,which governed the US during the American Revolution, assigned a few days of thanksgiving each year. ¬†In 1789, George Washington officially proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving, which celebrated our country’s independence and signing of the Constitution.

New York became the first state, in 1817, to adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday. ¬†In 1827, Sarah Joseph Hale (the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) began a national campaign to establish an official Thanksgiving holiday. ¬†After 36 years of sending hundreds of letters to governors, senators, presidents, and other influential individuals, her request was finally honored by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

What are You Thankful For?

There’s more history in this holiday than you thought, and the Pilgrims sure had it a lot rougher than we do today. ¬†Even though you may have some stresses going on in your life now, you have some good things happening too.

What are you thankful for in life right now?  Let me know in the comments below:

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