4 Tools Essential To Your Online Business

When starting out you can be swarmed with the endless possibilities of starting, promoting, and ensuring the longevity of your online business. The mass amounts of information at your fingertips is astounding, and you can end up drowning in that info. Here are some of the tools essential to your online business. These tools can also be translated into brick & mortar locations as well. The bonus with online is you don’t have to get into a 5-year lease on a physical location at $20 – $40 (or more) per square foot. You can invest that money elsewhere – like marketing your biz seeing as you won’t have any foot traffic.

apps, iphone, iphone apps

Shopify

Any e-commerce tool like Shopify or Bigcommerce is absolutely essential if you don’t want to develop, and pay big $$$ for your own website. Simplified templates, amazing apps, fantastic support, and a low monthly rate give you the opportunity to test, and develop your offering without diving head first, and pumping tens-of-thousands of dollars into something you’re not 100% certain will work.

I prefer Shopify as it’s Canadian although you still have to pay in USD for their services. Do your homework on the other e-commerce platforms out there, but Shopify or Bigcommerce are great places to start. There are free options, but even the paid options are affordable. I pay $30 a month.

Wave Apps

Another Canadian app essential to your online business – or any startup for that matter. Wave is your online portal to accounting. You can send invoices, pay bills, track payments and do day-to-day bookkeeping. Come tax season – Wave is your friend. Instead of using a bookkeeper Wave will produce all the essential reports you need to file your taxes, on top of being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Plus, they offer professional bookkeepers to help you out when you’re in need.

You’ll still need an outstanding accountant who can help you out with the bigger picture stuff like tax breaks, filing, etc…, but Wave is a free tool you can use when starting out (some options like invoicing and paying bills require an affordable monthly fee).

Social / Search

While I dislike having to pay Silicon Valley for my marketing / advertising dollars they are an essential piece to your complex online puzzle. Unless you have an amazing product / service that people already know about, and a following of devoted followers – you’re going to have to invest some $$$ into social / search. If you’re a product based business – you should dabble in Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to use these tools, just start and you’ll figure it out as you go. Here’s a quick starting point. If you’re more service based – think consulting – use Twitter and possibly Instagram and YouTube. Video is a HUGE differentiator in the market right now. If you can provide weekly or even daily videos about your product / service – you’re going to excel. Cost per day is anywhere from $5 per day to $20 per day.

As for search – you have to fight the Google and Microsoft battle. My biggest thing is to own your name. Using Google Adwords and Bing Ads ensure you’re the top ad that shows up when someone searches for your name. For example – when you search Ever Rose on any platform – my wife and I’s online dress shop is the first thing you’ll see. Cost is $5 per day on both Google and Bing.

From there – you can start pulling back your dollars and invest it more in the people who have visited your page or have purchased from you. You can do this through your weekly e-marketing campaign from Mail Chimp or Klaviyo (a cool Shopify app). Don’t inundate your fans with e-blasts. A weekly update will do with new products / services. Even a special deal exclusive to them is always something to keep in mind.

Spreadsheets

It’s a bit old school, but having a few trustworthy spreadsheets will help you in being able to breakdown a few key items. One of my favourites is the profit workbook. When starting out it’s essential to know you’re making a healthy profit, so you can invest back into the business to help it grow. I have a sheet that calculates to the percentage point – how much Ever Rose is profiting from the sale of our goods.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into any of the tools above – a quick online search will help you out or connect with me by leaving a comment below or finding me on Twitter.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Summer Marketing Checklist

Kids are out, it’s hot…damn hot, and people are spending money more frivolously. What are you doing to stay in front of your potential and existing clients? Are you speaking to them in their language, about what they care about at your point of contact with them? If you can or can’t answer these questions – here’s a quick summer check up:

Your customers / fans:
What’s their mindset for summer?
Where are they going? Beach? Lake?
Where are their kids going? Camp?
Do they have kids?
Are they using their vehicles?
Are they on their mobile devices more or less? If so, what programs / apps are they using?
Are they going to weddings? Or having babies?

You as a marketer:
Is your marketing touching on these points? Is it related to summer?
What colours are you using in your messages? Do they reflect summer?
Do your social media sites reflect the summer? Does it reflect what your potential customers are doing?
Is there something topical (event or otherwise) you can piggy back on to get your message across? For example – it’s the Calgary Stampede and we ran targeted marketing to those in and around Calgary with a message that would resonate with the market.
Is there something you can sponsor or fundraise for?

The Top 3

1) What’s going on in your potential customers head? Lock yourself away for 5 minutes and think like your customer. Or think about what you do in summer. Most likely, a sum of your market will be doing or consider doing the same thing. Is it the beach? Family vacation? R&R while the kids are away at camp?
2) Based on the above – where can you place your message? The goal is to hit as many people as possible within your budget. Whether it’s a community board at your local beach or a national mass media marketing campaign. Figure out where your potential customers are going to be and hit them with your message.
3) The ‘summery’ message: Once you have the first two down, how will you relay your message. Don’t use a generic message or branding. Target it specifically to what your potential customers are doing or may be doing this summer.

Here’s a hard example from a campaign my wife and I ran for Ever Rose leading up to and during Calgary Stampede:

Stampede, Calgary Stampede, Facebook Ad, Stampede Facebook Ad

Hyper-targeted, hyper local, and the message resonates. What are your marketing plans for summer? Come fall everyone is gearing up for the holidays, so now’s a great time to get your message out, and avoid all the noise that will follow.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

You’re just a Sheep, and that’s okay

You, and I aren’t much different than sheep when it comes to our nature in business and marketing. You tend to follow the path of what others are doing. You do this because it’s safe, and it’s tested. You’re risk adverse, and you’d rather fail doing what everyone else is doing than be the black sheep and fail at something no one is doing. You may not think this is true, but it is. Even if your larger than life ego tells you you’re different. I’m here to say you’re not, and the proof is out there.

sheep, pasture, sheep in pasture

Digital Media

This is the pen where all the sheep are. 10 years ago this was an unkempt grassland just looking to be harvested. Pretty much every player – big and small – has an online presence or will have an online presence very soon. It’s still seen as the ‘shiny’ new thing, and uneducated business owners are dumping thousands of dollars a month into online / social / retargeting / remarketing / SEO / SEM and the list goes on. Why? Because everyone is doing it, and you don’t want to be the black sheep – do you?

Here’s the deal – I’m a firm believer in digital and what it can offer, but let’s pull back the curtain and be self-aware of what’s going on. Your business is currently one of the millions online. You’re just another sheep, so let’s take a look at other, greener pastures shall we.

Direct Mail

This is making a resurgence in the marketing world. Why? Because no one else is doing it. Everyone is obsessed with the shiny objects, and most forgot about what came before the newest, shiniest thing. Maybe your market is different, but I remember getting loaded with direct mail marketing pieces on what seemed to be a daily basis. Now, I usually get a few direct mail pieces at the beginning of the month and that is it. This could be a market for you to exploit. Why be one of millions when you can be the ONLY business in your category mailing direct to your potential customer.

Legacy Mediums

Just like sheep move from pasture to pasture only to come back to where they started and do it all over again. Your business can take advantage of where the sheep used to be, and where they’re headed. Knowing the legacy mediums like print, TV, radio, and direct mail is where businesses used to be throwing their money and now have cut back. This leaves you the opportunity to attack. If you’re going to dabble in one of these mediums – ask your sales rep how many competing businesses in your category are currently advertising. If the number is low – that’s a good sign for you to get an extremely high share of the marketing voice.

Legacy mediums aren’t dying – the fat is merely being trimmed. The strong will survive – the weak will not. I’ve started publishing hyper-targeted monthly magazines that are directly mailed to some of the most affluent people in the country. And we’re one of the fastest growing privately held media companies in North America with close to 3.5 million readers every month. With zero magazines going out of print over the past 7-years. Print isn’t dying. The content has changed a bit, but the medium itself has not.

Go where people used to be or are going to be

One way to gain a considerable advantage in getting your businesses marketing message out is to realize where your competition used to be, and see where it could be headed. It’s impossible to be an early adopter of everything, but at least try and be aware of it. If no one in your category has experimented with e-commerce – take some time and figure out how it works. It could be a HUGE goldmine for you in the future. Or look at other categories of business. What are hotels doing to stay ahead of the curve? You may be in the car business, but you might be able to see how other companies are operating and try and be the first in your category to tap into an untapped market.

New Opportunities

Social platforms are starting to get heavily involved in the e-commerce business. Facebook and Pinterest are both working on, and have launched (in small scale) the ability to buy a product on their platform. No clicking a link and going to a website – you can conduct business directly on the social network. With my wife and I’s online store (EverRose.com) we have the ability to promote our products on our social pages, and with the click of a button you – the customer – can purchase. Unfortunately, these features haven’t been rolled out in Canada yet, but when they are – we’re already optimized and ready to go. We see this as a future opportunity, and we’ll be one of the first to pounce when it’s launched. Total time investment – 5 minutes. Not much when opportunity knocks.

Follow the Sheep

It’s okay to follow, just be aware of WHY you’re doing it, and don’t forget to ask yourself – where did business used to market? Where people have been and where they are going are enormous opportunities for your business to gain market share and invest marketing dollars. Just like sheep go round-and-round looking for the best pasture only to come back to where they started – business is similar. What’s old is new, and what’s new is old. Just be aware of where your market is currently at, and you can gain a distinct advantage on the competition.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft