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

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