Remember the CEO from Seattle who decided everyone at his company was going to get paid $70,000? Well, he won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, and received global accolades. The story was just about everywhere. Unfortunately – it hasn’t worked out so well for him, but of course the negative story hasn’t appeared nearly as much as the positive one. To find out more – click here. Don’t get too jaded by all the success stories you see online. You never know how it is, until you’re in it.
This is where reality has to kick in. It’s extremely tough in the business world. Competition is everywhere, and if you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know I like to get real. And this entry is no different.
Let’s get real
The biggest challenge I’ve seen / heard from startups – aside from cash – is how to get more of it. I’m astounded at how many people think they can build something, and just let it sit there, and hope 1,000,000 people buy from them. That’s not how it works. Even though you might not know it – you probably have hundreds of competitors doing what you’re doing in the online space.
My wife and I’s business – Ever Rose – is no different. Although we’re playing to a smaller market – there’s still competition from all over the world. Having said that – I’ve recently seen / heard from a few businesses, who started up around the same time my wife and I did, about their struggles. These businesses are in the fashion category, they launched around the same time my wife and I’s online shop did, but they’ve only had 1 or 2 sales. Their sites look great, and professional, and they’re on all of the social media channels you can think of. Sounds like a slam dunk – unfortunately you can have a website, have social media accounts, pump your SEO, but no one will know you exist. If people don’t know you exist – you’ll never have sales no matter how fancy your site looks. And money is what all businesses need to survive.
Here’s how my wife and I have achieved close to 40 sales in 4-months (it’s not a huge number, but it’s on a path to becoming profitable):
- market our site using Facebook, Google AdWords and Bing Ads (typically $10 – $20 a day)
- Post and share a product from our page once a day on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram
- Work with influential bloggers (aka those with lots of activity on their accounts – not just followers, but actual people commenting and interacting) in the fashion sphere. We sometimes give bloggers a clothing item in lieu of a post on their account
- Pay to be showcased on Instagram accounts (Instagram is HUGE for fashion or any other product in the ‘visual’ realm)
- Promoted our email list on our website through a contest where we gave away free items (more than doubled the amount of people on our mailing list)
- Give those on our email list exclusive deals on our products (we typically get one sale per e-blast)
We spend quite a bit of money on marketing, whether it be cash or in the form of clothing to bloggers. And guess what – it works. If you don’t have money set aside to market your product – you’re most likely going to die a quick death. Before you jump in to any business – you should have marketing dollars allocated or at least have a plan of how you’re going to get the word out.
Typically – my wife and I spend about 10 – 15% of our sales budget (total revenue) on marketing. Depending on how much our product costs, we understand we’re going to have to dump more money into it, because we need to market it. So, if a dress costs us $20, we add a markup of 2.2 (20 x 2.2), and then ensure we have at least 10% more to spend on marketing. It looks small to begin with, but when you’re spending $20,000 on product and you’re expecting to generate at least $30,000 in revenue (sales budget), then your marketing budget should be at least $3000 (10% of 30,000).
Don’t expect to make a profit right away. You won’t be sipping champagne for awhile – if ever. My wife and I have accumulated some debt due to the purchase of the resale product we carry. However, our assets drastically outweigh our debt, so we’re not too worried. We know if we ever need to get out – we can easily sell off our product, and pay back our debt. I’m not saying its easy, but it helps us rest easier at night. Besides, what’s business without debt?
If you’re burning through cash, not marketing your product, and have limited sales – you should probably stop what you’re doing, and adjust. Either you’re in the wrong line of work or you need some outside help. Don’t be afraid to ask. Feel free to connect with me, and we can discuss, and improve what you’re doing. Or continue to do what you’re doing. Your choice.
Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft