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

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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

Journey of the Do – What’s in a name?

The name of your business is one of the most overlooked, and important parts of your business. Some owners will use their personal name or pull something out of thin air, and say, “That sounds good.”  This may have worked 50 years ago, when there was only one baker, locksmith, carpenter, etc… Now, it’s an extremely competitive market with you not only having to compete with businesses in, and around your community, but also around the world.

So what’s in a name?

This week I had someone refuse to work with me based on the name effUmarketing. She thought it was highly inappropriate. I said, “Good!” A name is supposed to evoke a response…a feeling. I was thrilled when it brought upon that feeling. Why? Because it means she felt something for my brand. She will probably never forget me now. Funny enough, effUmarketing also evokes a strong emotion in the people who do work with me. They love the name, they love how it’s different, and they love how it immediately shines a light on who I am for, and who I am not for. If you’re a church group – I’m probably not for you. If you’re someone who has a bit of an edge, and isn’t afraid to piss a few people off – then I’m for you.

In a world where everyone has a say (thanks internet), you have to stand for something. When you stand for something – you’ll have people who love you, and people who hate you. Those are the facts, and if you want to get into business you’ll have to accept that. Some of the savviest business owners get this, and aren’t afraid to flaunt it. Mercedez-Benz is Mercedez-Benz for a reason. They’re a premium brand, and they showcase it at every moment. When they design a car, the don’t design it for a low-income family in mind.

What’s your sandbox?

When you first went to school you immediately found people formed groups. Usually the girls stuck together, and the guys stuck together. Then as you got older, the jocks hung out, the nerds, the theatre people, etc…Think Breakfast Club. This happens for a reason. People play in a sandbox where they’re most comfortable. They like hanging out with people with similar mindsets, and interests. Think about who you hang out with. It probably says a lot about who you are.

sandbox, empty sandbox, kids toys in sandbox

Who’s playing with you?

In business – you have to be aware of what sandbox you’re playing in. Mercedez-Benz is in a certain sandbox, Dodge is in a certain sandbox. Yes, they have others playing in that sandbox, but they’re self aware of who they are, and who they’re playing with. The same can be said for Facebook, and Snapchat. Facebook encourages you to share everything publicly, where Snapchat is for those who want to have some privacy.

Quick test

When you understand what sandbox you’re playing in or going to be playing in find similar companies, and look at their name, their logo, the look and feel of their website. What are they trying to convey? How do they make you feel? Once you get an idea of who’s doing what in your sandbox – that’s when you should start thinking of a name. Is it going to be a hard name like effUmarketing or is it going to be a softer name like Ever Rose (my fashion company – coming soon). What colours are you going to use to convey a certain feeling?

When naming your business, try to stay aware from something that can become an acronym. How many names can be shortened to BBC, CAA, DLP, MNP, etc… If you can find one word, that may sound ridiculous at this present time for your company use it. Google is a ridiculous name when you think about it. At the same time, it’s different, sounds good off the tongue, and it’s kind of fun to say.

Questions to ask yourself: Does your name convey the mindset you’re in? Does it convey a feeling to those who could be your potential customers? Remember your sandbox, and then find a name.

In my case – if I had a different name other than effUmarketing – I probably could’ve worked with the potential client I mentioned above. However, she probably doesn’t share the same mindset or the same values as I do. Which probably means we wouldn’t get along, my ideas would be watered down, and I wouldn’t be a very effective partner for her.

Don’t be afraid of who you are, what sandbox you’re in or who your customers are. A name will help build that identity for you. A name will create a feeling, and following. We haven’t changed much since we were kids. Find your sandbox, know your identity, and create a name that reflects that.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

2015 Marketers Guide For Those Who Don’t Have Marketing Departments – Budgeting

marketing, budget, cutting

Don’t cut your marketing budget

2015 is nearly upon us, and you don’t have a budget to market your fantastic product or service. Too bad, 2015 is going to be a terrible year for you, and I don’t need a crystal ball to forecast that. “But, I have social media, and it’s free,” you say “But, I know a VP of Marketing at this HUGE company, and they’re going to help me out,” you say. I wish I had a big WRONG button.

#1) Social Media isn’t free – you already missed the train where social media was actually a social media. It’s now overrun by marketing people who puke messages out constantly that don’t resonate whatsoever with consumers (Have you seen my updates?). Social media used to be a two-way conversation. Now it’s not (although some brands are way better at the two-way conversation than others). Plus, think about the time you need to put in in order for Social Media to work for you. How much money is your time worth?

#2) Your VP of Marketing friend is useless to you as a small business owner. The VP is used to having HUGE budgets, relying on ad agencies, and having a team of well-trained “Yes!” donkeys on their side. How do I know? I used to be one of those donkeys. Not to mention your VP is probably too swamped to actively focus on you, and YOUR needs. Plus, they’re probably old (45+ or getting there), and are SOOOOO out of touch with consumers, especially the younger generations.

So, what do you do?

First – find a damn budget. I elaborate more on this here (it’s one of my most popular posts from this past year, so the majority of you probably read it, right?). Once you find a budget, find something you can own whether it’s a street, apartment complex, community or city. Just find it, and OWN it repeatedly. Ever notice the same Realtors on bus benches in certain communities? In the Real Estate world this is known as ‘farming’ a neighbourhood. Figure out your neighbourhood, and farm it. You need to make money in 2015, don’t forget that.

Second – after you found your budget, start cultivating your existing clientèle. Ensure the people who are coming through your doors, continue to do so, and they bring friends. I HATE incentives for new customers. Eff that. You should have incentives for REPEAT customers, and I don’t mean a loyalty card. Once you start seeing the same people repeatedly, encourage them to come back for private functions, and “Hey, bring a couple friends with you.” Or even have an event for your repeat customers or give them stuff for free or give them a hug. Whatever you do, ensure these people keep on coming back or at least refer people to you. Make these people your FANS! Fans = a continuous flow of money, and you need to make money in 2015.

Third – market your product or service. And stick to one thing in your marketing message, and steer clear of mentioning your ‘great customer service.’ So many people mention this, and trust me…you are not exceptional. As a consumer, I expect great customer service every time I walk through your door or come into contact with you. Don’t tell me how you have it. PROVE IT!

Fourth – understand that you need to market your product or service. I don’t care if you are too busy or your product is sooo good that you can rely on referrals. My dad fell into the same trap, and now he’s hurting a bit. Every time I hear that people are too busy or they don’t need to market I think about starting a competing business in their category because I know I can crush them (funny enough, I’ve already started).

How do I know?

Marketing trumps a better product or service. Even if you do have a better product or service, the guys who market their inferior product or service more than you will always win. They will make more money, they will have more fans, and they will gladly give you a few hundred bucks to wipe your tears while you mope in the corner in denial still relying on the fact that you have the BEST product or service. I don’t care about your product or service, if I don’t know it exists. I’m going to spend my money with the people who I know exist whether or not their product or service is inferior to yours. You need to market.

To my last point – please keep in mind you can’t market a shitty product or service. All the marketing in the world will only help you for so long until consumers catch on and realize you’re an idiot, and shouldn’t be in business.

Next up – I’ll relay a few points on authenticity. In this day, and age your company needs to be authentic, and relatable. If it’s not, the interwebs, and word-of-mouth will crush you into a little pulp.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Social Media & Traditional Media

cat with a bow tie

Scotch with a bow tie

Social media and traditional media. Notice how I didn’t say social media vs. traditional media. I’ll touch on that in a moment.

Social media is exactly that. It’s social and it’s media. However, as our society usually does, it pretty much has already destroyed the social aspect of the media. There are more PUSH marketing messages than actual social conversations. Again, marketers are trying to stuff things down consumers throats.

It started out as people being able to have conversations on Twitter, Facebook, etc… all over the world. Now, it’s more of what we’re used to. One directed messages from a company or person not really concerned with carrying on a conversation.

This past week, I searched Twitter for #personalbranding. And guess what, I found numerous people using the hashtag, so I started a conversation with one of those people (in this case it was a brand). I recently wrote an article on my ‘Guy with the Bow Tie’ person brand (check it out here). I reached out to this company and shared my post. They liked it and guess what? We started a conversation. Ha! Go figure. It wasn’t a one way message. It was a back-and-forth on a subject that BOTH parties are interested in. Funny how that works.

Anyway, you can call my bullshit on the following, but the more the media world changes the more it stays the same:

Google Search = Yellow Pages
YouTube = TV
Twitter = Radio / Print
Facebook = Radio / Print

I could be way off, but let’s start the discussion. It’s not as if one is better than the other. They all are media and they all work if your message and strategy stays consistent (that’s a whole other bag of beans). The one striking issue with social media is message credibility. @JoeBlow could put something out there and we have no idea if it’s remotely true. Remember when a shark appeared after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern seaboard? Ya, it never happened, but it made its way around the globe because someone was half-decent at Photoshop and tweeted it. Then again, it’s become increasingly difficult to take traditional media as credible.

The point I’m trying to hit on is the media landscape hasn’t changed much. There happens to be more people at the table fighting over the same scraps, but even the social media types have realized they need to start charging for ads and pulling back the freebies. As a result, the more the media landscape supposedly changes…the more it stays the same.

For example, I hear plenty of small businesses talking about Google Adwords. Well, it’s no different than the Yellow Pages. Google is a directory (like the Yellow Pages) and everyone’s fighting for the top of the page or the biggest ad. Funny enough, it doesn’t matter who’s first on Google. What matters is familiarity. People buy what they know regardless of whether or not you dropped a serious chunk of change on words like Calgary, Car, Pizza, etc… (more on what makes people buy here).

Social media and traditional media. The more we change, the more we stay the same.

Love you,

Jordan

Mining for Followers and Facebook Fraud

For the past month I’ve been doing some digging while trying to build my digital network contacts. And what I’ve found is emptiness. I started by searching for ‘interesting’ people on Twitter. People in the tech category or places I’d like to work for in the future. While doing this, I’d follow people based on their feed. I’d visit their blog / website and get to know a little bit more about them and / or their business. I wanted to show my general interest in them. I DM’d the few that followed back and mentioned something I found on their blog / website that piqued my interest. What did I get? No response.

It was then obvious to me that some people are only interested in seeing their Twitter followers grow. They could careless about engaging with their followers. What’s also funny, is the people who didn’t respond were generally those who had the same amount of followers as people they followed. They obviously scoured the Twitterverse and started following as many people as they could in the hope people would follow back.

Those people aren’t for me. I’d rather have quality followers over quantity. I know when I tweet my followers will read what I tweeted because they trust what I’m posting will be of interest to them. That’s the whole point of Twitter on a peer-to-peer basis.

What I also found and continue to find is people who follow me don’t engage with me. I check out their stuff, follow them and DM them asking them what made them follow me. Were they interested in my content? Or were they only ‘mining’ for followers? Again, I get no response, so I unfollow them.

Like any social platoform out there. It’s about QUALITY not QUANTITY. If your business has 10,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 ‘likes’ on your Facebook fan page, but you haven’t seen your profits grow, maybe you should double-check your social media strategy. Come to think of it? Do you even have a social media strategy?

On that note – check out the ‘Facebook Fraud’ video below. It may explain why you have sooo many ‘likes’, yet haven’t sold a damn thing through Facebook.

By the way – you can follow me on Twitter here

Celebrating your birthday the Facebook way

If you haven’t been inundated with Facebook 10th anniversary videos yet, you’re probably not on Facebook and you should probably stop reading this post.

If you’re on Facebook and haven’t seen your own video simply log in to Facebook and then go to facebook.com/lookback.

Here’s what I love about this campaign. It’s about ME the user. It’s about MY history. Yes, it showcases Facebook, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. When most businesses celebrate their birthday or anniversary they only preach about themselves in their advertising.

‘Look how good we are, we’re still in business…YAY!’ And then they throw some gimmick at you like, ‘because it’s our 10th birthday, we’re giving everyone 10% off this week.’

BARF!

These are just as bad as ‘the boss is away, so we’ve slashed our prices’ sales. It’s a cheap gimmick to get people into the store, but in reality it doesn’t do anything for ME the consumer. We’ve become so immune to sales, because EVERYONE has them. We almost expect to walk into a store and see sale signs everywhere. Sales lead to ZERO brand loyalty. If I can find something comparable at a cheaper price, I’m going to go there. I don’t care if it’s your 10th, 20th or 50th birthday. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU BECAUSE YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME. 10% off means nothing to me.

Now, I don’t care that much about Facebook. Having said that, the 10th anniversary videos I do care about. My wife and I sat down while on vacation and viewed our vids. We shared laughs and then shared our videos to our friends. Why? Because we cared about what was shown. It reflected who we were and just how connected we are to our friends.

Next time you’re celebrating a business anniversary, don’t do a sale because EVERYONE DOES A SALE. Be different. How about pledging to give anyone who purchases an item from your business a birthday cake on their birthday. Simply make a purchase in store, sign up for the birthday club and on your next birthday the store will buy the cake. This is a great way to make a sale about the CUSTOMER. Not you. You silly business owner.

This is also a great way to build a database of customers who you can reach out to in the future, including birthdays. An email database is one of the MOST useful tools you can have in your marketing toolbox. There are plenty of people I know who generate hundreds-of-thousands of dollars by only using an email database.

If you’d like to sign up for mine, fill out the form below and I’ll add you to the list. I won’t buy you a birthday cake, but I’ll gladly give you specific tips on how to improve your businesses marketing.

xoxo

Jordan