E-commerce has become a household word and becoming an entrepreneur is now a logical career move.
If you've been wondering whether you are on the right path, read through what I think are some of the key stages we all go through when we first start our adventure into entrepreneurship.
Growing Your E-Commerce Business
Step 1: Have great intentions.
Great entrepreneurs have great intentions. It is from intent where so much of what makes a successful business comes from.
Without intent you won't have clarity, without clarity you won't be able to set priorities.
Having great intentions is really the first step if you want to accomplish something, if you want to do something, if you want to be someone, err if you really you want to achieve something...
Being someone is more of a byproduct of doing the thing that you do. You don't really want to set out to be someone for the sake of being someone.
It happens naturally because what you're doing is next level, what you're doing is skyscraper.
Too many people try to be someone before they do something because their intent was aligned with that. I struggled with that before many times. There is always a desire to rush.
But what is next level simply put?
It's going above and beyond what's been done before. That is what makes a name for people.
So have great intentions.
This is also to make sure that you are going to have the passion to sustain yourself in the long run, to see through your objectives, to play a patient game and to be in it for the long haul.
Step 2: Build your brand.
Build a brand around everything you do. Build a brand around yourself. Build a brand around your business. Building a brand is really about telling people what you value.
Sometimes people think of brands in very weird ways, like they can't comprehend what a brand is or it's too existential for them. I get that. It can be weird to consider.
But then you realize that a brand is just someone who does something with a certain level of quality and consistency…
A brand is an indicator of quality assurance.
When you buy our brand, which has this stamp on it, our logo, you can expect this level of quality. That's why people like brands because they can expect consistent quality. Their money is safe.
When they want to return to spend their money again, they can count on it being another great consistent high-quality experience.
Building a brand is about building great relationships with your customers. It's about having a set of values and living up to those values and the relationship is created there.
Just to note, maybe your brand is known for the fastest speed but you don't have anything to do with quality. That’s perfectly acceptable.
That can be your brand, you can be extreme like that and just focus on one pain point like speed rather than quality. As long as you live up to it you can expect great results from branding this way.
You don't need to win in every category, in fact the opposite is better, win in one category then take over others. Own your niche. Be the best. Be the first. Be next level.
Creating a brand around yourself is all about sticking in your chips on what you believe in, going all-in and sort of making it a lifestyle.
So many e-commerce businesses these days become a lifestyle for people that they are sort of one in the same.
You live and work, you breathe the products you use, you share, you make content, so much synergy there.
That's why you're seeing more and more of it, but the thing is you have to stand for something.
You don't want to be all over the place and that's why creating a brand both within yourself and within your business is so critical. To get clarity and know your true purpose.
Entrepreneurship is a powerful (and sometimes costly) way to get to know who you really are.
But here's the good news,
Great intentions create great brands.
When you have a strong intention…
When you know what you're going to be about…
When you know what your mission is and what you're living for…
While you are answering all this…the brand can come quite quickly out of that to become a direct expression of what your intention really is.
The name or the logo will become more obvious. The colors will be obvious. It all comes back to the original intent – the why.
Once “the why” is known many decisions are already made.
When you're all over the place, when you don't know who you're speaking to, when you don't know what your mission is or if you even have any intentions, you will always struggle to say what am I? Who am I?
Go do something. Everyday. Be the best at it. That's what you are. The best at _________.
Then who you are is the person who is the best at _________.
The who doesn't come first. Not when you start out. It's the doing that starts everything.
It all comes together because your passion and your reason for being this world helps you fill in those blanks. And you go from artist or expressionist to business person as soon as the doing is valuable to someone else and you can figure out how to exchange money/doing with them.
That's why so many entrepreneurs need to go back and fix themselves first. That's why when you do fix yourself you often want to quit your job because you realize you didn't take the job with the right intentions, you aren't fulfilled.
Clear all the junk out, all of the garbage or people that are saying, “hey you should do this…you'd be good at that.”
Forget what other people have said. You need to find a business that is based on what you are truly passionate about because it's the passion that's going to carry you the distance.
Step 3: Move fast.
At this stage you have to realize speed is so critical because now we can buy traffic on Facebook in under an hour.
We can essentially have traffic tomorrow. We can have a thousand people coming to the website and potentially spending money with us. Millions if we want.
So anything up to that point where we would consider sending an ad out – needs to be done as soon as possible.
The faster we can get to that point the faster we're making money.
We need to move fast to get your store outfitted, products in, product imagery done, product descriptions, pricing, shipping, taxes, you need all of that ready to go.
Get minimally viable.
At this point you should move as fast as possible…start realizing your potential…start realizing your dreams and goals – you need to move fast here if you are serious.
Step 4: Traffic Generation
You need to start generating traffic for your website.
You're probably not going to just be using just paid advertising (you might).
And since haven't built up enough customers, testimonials and confidence, your ROI on Advertising is going to be quite low (not all cases).
You won't get as many sales as you think, you might get traffic but it might not be converting so you need to have a lot more organic and search traffic or you’ll drown in ad spend.
There is absolutely no reason you wouldn't want to create content. At this point you need to start creating content most likely on your blog or videos for YouTube.
You should be using the keywords of the products in your business, you're making lists posts about your products, you're writing question and answer posts, you're going on Google, on Quora, and on Facebook looking at what people are searching and asking questions about.
This is basically what SEO keyword research is.
Did you know you can go on Google and start typing and it fills the box in for you with things that other people are searching for (it guesses your search based on others). It’s called predictive search.
Most people don't even clue into that you can look at predictive search as insight to what people are searching for (and the wording they are using).
You can also go into Google Keyword Planner or some of the keyword tools online – just Google them.
Once you see what keywords people are using, this can be the basis for your content marketing plan.
This is all about generating traffic and you need that if you're going to have people in your store shopping.
And as long as the products you sell are relevant to the content you're probably going to see some results. But getting traffic is half the battle.
Step 5: Stop Guessing
Traffic is now coming to your website. Maybe you've even ran an ad campaign or two.
You should have some metrics, you should have some results, you should know some conversion rates.
All you have to do is take the amount of people that visited your website and divide that by the amount of times the goal was achieved.
Was that goal email optins? Was that goal a purchase? You simply divide the goals into the number of website visitors (sessions) and you get your conversion rate.
100 sales and 1000 visitors equals 10% conversion rate. Higher is better.
FACT: a less than 1% conversion rate is very common.
The conversion rate is the percentage of people that took the action that you wanted. This number…that's the reality of it all.
If 1000 people came to your website and only 1 person purchased, that's the reality – 999 people were not interested in your product. 0.1% conversion rate. This may happen to you. Don't freak out.
Realize that the low CR could be for a variety of reasons.
It could be that your ad was not properly created and you had clicks that were not truly interested in your products. That's why I tell so many people they need to make sure they're using the right negative keywords when they're running Adwords.
It could also be because you're landing pages aren't very good (so many possible issues).
It could be that your product images are not high quality. It could be that you didn't have the right language. It could be that you had a overly high shipping rate. We have many things to consider before judging any results.
Remember that analytics can only answer questions we already have. You cannot go into analytics and find some magic insight without a question first.
Ultimately, you need to start asking some questions, stop guessing about the reality of your business and start to use the data to get the answers you need to make sound decisions.
Step 6: Scaling opportunities
This is where you've really started to hone in on your customer data.
You need to know what is working inside your business. You should be creating content by now and engaging your audience.
I know not every business can really thrive in this area because of the nature of their products but you still have to find a way to connect with the people who are looking…
Or you're going to have to create some very targeted ad campaigns where you can seek them out on Facebook and sell to them that way.
Either way you're looking for scalable opportunities via content or via paid search. There isn't much else out there.
Either they come to you via content or you go to them with targeted ads.
Keywords that are really working are areas where you can double down. Meaning make more content and own the long-tail keywords in that niche or increase ad spend because profits are showing. Maybe even start buying media or influencer campaigns.
You can really push hard and essentially grow your business very quickly at this stage. You know you've been setting it up for this point, it’s also going to be combined with this timing of added social credibility.
By now your social account should be up to 5000 plus followers. You should have an email list of a thousand names, You should have some of this built-in social credibility that's going to really help the acceleration process at this time. The trust is forming.
You should be tracking your monthly unique visitors, monthly sessions. goal completion ratio, monthly sales, average customer value, average visitor value. These number are critical in understanding your sales funnel and why people aren't converting.
A lot of people think they have to double their traffic to double their sales but you can actually double any key metric in the funnel and your sales will double.
Your email optin results can be doubled, your autoresponder results can be doubled, your upsell results can be doubled. It doesn't always have to be traffic.
Some people make one change to their homepage and magically double their profits over night. This was happening to me a lot years ago as mobile came in and we added responsive shopping carts – sales skyrocketed with that single change.
Step 7: Where to go next
The classic phrase is pivot or persevere.
Do you believe you can continue to grow on the current path your business is on? Or do you need to shift strategy because none of the scaling opportunities seem to be showing up. Customer feedback is so critical here.
Most startups have a “runway” which is how long they have until they go broke based on the investment and their daily costs of operations.
If you are not using a runway and doing more of a side-business, you either have to double your efforts (because you probably aren’t taking it seriously enough) or you have to give yourself a time limit where you will assess the viability of your business. It shouldn't be open-ended.
Part of becoming a successful entrepreneur is letting go of the failed projects and moving on. That’s why validation is such a key part in business these days. Don’t overextend yourself until you are sure the market is there asking for your product.
I hope this gives you a sense of how to approach building your e-commerce business. If I think of any more massive spots where you can find leverage I'll update the post. Leave any questions or comments below and I'll be sure to answer them.
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