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

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

I’m a small business, how do I get publicity?

publicity, effUmarketing

Getting stuff for free or close to free is always tough. Working in / with the media industry for as long as I have, I can tell you right away, you’ll need to offer some VALUE in order to get publicity.

#1 thing to keep in mind – you’ll have to offer a media company something whether it’s your product, or a small chunk of change in order to be seen / heard.

Who to call or reach out to

You may be inclined to speak with a sales person or management when it comes to getting publicity. DON’T! Try to go to the bottom of the totem poll first as these people are usually underpaid, and under appreciated. If you fluff them with some of your product they’ll probably be willing to go the extra mile for you. Management, and some of the more senior personalities are more prone to turn you down, because throughout their career they’ve caught on to how the game works.

Here are some ways to get the word out about your product / service for next to nothing:

  • Connect with a radio, TV or journalist by calling them, emailing them or reaching out to them through social media. Say you listen to them, watch them or read them on a regular basis (you probably should know a little bit about them before you reach out).
  • Once you’ve connected, offer to drop off your product or meet in person to discuss your service. DO THIS IN PERSON. I can’t tell you how many meaningless press releases media companies get on a daily basis. Very rarely do companies show up in person to showcase their product / service. DON’T BE LAZY.
  • If there is some resistance from the on-air personality, try contacting the promotions or marketing department. They may be able to help you out. You’ll probably have to throw something their way like a free dinner, or a night out to the movies (have something on hand of VALUE).
  • Try asking about contesting whether it’s over the air (very unlikely), on the website (getting warmer) or through the media companies social media platforms (Bingo!). I can guarantee you the media company has a way stronger following on their social media platforms, their app, and / or website than you do. Try to leverage this by giving the promotions or marketing department the opportunity to giveaway your product or service online.
  • PROVIDE SOMETHING OF VALUE. 10% off is not value. A free dinner when you bring a friend, and spend more than $40 is not value. If you’re going to give something away. MAKE IT BIG! Stop thinking about how you need to make money off of your offer right away. Make your giveaway meaningful, like haircuts for a year or a dinner for two up to $100 (or however much it costs to get an appetizer, two entree’s, dessert, and a couple drinks).

Yes, this will cost you some product / service. Yes, it may cost you a small media buy, but it’s worth it. Think about the amount of people you’ll reach by getting the publicity.

My favourite way of getting publicity

Go after a known brand (stick your stake in the sand – more on that here). If you’re a new restaurant, why not take on a chain, and say you’re against them. If you source your product locally, go after the ‘big guys’ and get the conversation started with your consumers, “Where do you think they get their food from?” A good example of this is Chipotle in the US. They started out attacking the ‘big guys’ in a non-direct way about food, and where it comes from (now, Chipotle is one of the ‘big guys’). You will probably piss some people off by doing this, but that’s okay. You need to stand for something.

Another alternative

You can’t forget digital, and social media. Although most of you lack Facebook fans, have limited followers, etc… You can still make an impact.

First – FIND SOMEONE who is an influencer or has already been in the media discussing your product or something similar. For example – if you’re starting up a business that accepts Bitcoin, then ‘Google’ Bitcoin, and see all the names that come up. I would reach out to each one of those individuals that come up (Winklevoss twins) or tag them in your post on social media. This way, they could do the work for you because they want to see Bitcoin succeed, and the more businesses accepting Bitcoin the better off they are.

Stay relevent

One of the easiest ways to stay in the public eye – is to stay relevant. Can you do something special around the holidays (Xmas, New Years, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc…)? If you can, then do it, and make sure you tell people. I’m not talking about a sale, I’m talking about a $3 burrito if you come into your store dressed in a costume on Halloween or partner up with a local Easter Egg Hunt. Think fun, and your fans will follow.

Getting publicity is tough, and it requires a bit of work on your end, but it’s totally worth it. Try out a couple of the items above, and let me know how it goes.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. Like what you see? Get more freebies here

Everyone wants to buy and they want to buy from YOU

Me carrying a load.

Me carrying a load.

The art of selling has changed, especially if you’re a new sales rep or a new business opening its doors. Authenticity reigns supreme at this day and age. No longer can you hide behind your marketing and PR. People will find out about you through Google, a Yelp review, Tweet, etc… Fancy sales lingo and closing techniques are things of the past (although I’m sure some still work).

PEOPLE WANT TO BUY

No one wants to be sold. Marketers used to tell people what they want. Now it’s a discussion or it should be. As a marketer you should put all the information you have out there. That’s what we’re accustomed to now. We’re information junkies and we want to load up on the info before we buy. If we’re interested in buying, we’ll ask you a question. Please don’t shove it down my throat.

Think about this – not too long ago if you wanted to buy a car, you’d see / hear the ad, visit the dealership, talk to a sales rep, negotiate and away you went. Now, it takes 2-3 months for the average person to go through the process of buying a car. For me, I had a general idea of what I wanted, so I went online and searched through a ton of info (customer reviews, spec sheets, videos, price comparisons, etc…). When I was ready to BUY (noticed how I didn’t say ready to be sold) I went to the dealership for a test drive.

My wife and I were interested in a hybrid and the Toyota Prius came to mind (Yes, we’re THOSE people). We popped into the dealership, got hooked up with a sales rep (this part of the sales process is still the same) and off we went for a test drive. We liked the car, so the negotiation began. Instantly I could tell the sales guy was going by the book (aka script). He was relatively young, and he’d only be doing this for a year or so. I commend him for going by the book. Why? Because that’s what our managers tell us to do. “Here use this script and all of your dreams will come true.”

Unfortunately, those managers have been out-of-touch for a couple years on what people want because they haven’t been ‘pounding the pavement’ like the sales reps. And they’re out-of-touch with the new generation of buyers.

BE YOU 

We’re intelligent beings (for the most part). We know when you’re reading from a script and when you’re uncomfortable. We can sense it. The easiest way to sound confident and to be confident about what you’re selling is to be you. Be your genuine self. How many people 30-years-old and younger have ever bought something from a telemarketer? My estimation is slim to none. We know you’re reading from a script and we know you only have one goal in mind…to SELL us something.

When I started out in the sales world (everyone is in sales in some way, btw), I used scripts and techniques that were passed down to me. I read countless books on the sales process and human psychology. I tested everything I learned from those books, managers, and scripts and what did I find? When I CONNECT with people and put them into a position to BUY. They buy ME first. Not the product or the service I’m peddling. THEY BUY ME. Then, they buy the product / service.

Why do they buy me? Because I’m genuine. I’ll tell you things most people keep as secrets. I’ll tell you things my managers tell me not to say. I’ll be as open and honest as I can, so you can make an intelligent buying decision. That’s my personality and that’s who I am.

Maybe you’ll buy me, maybe you won’t. Business is a series of rejections. If you stick with being yourself, you’ll find plenty of people who accept you. Those people are your fans. Continue pleasing your fans and you’ll be very successful and very fulfilled. Don’t lead with the product or service. Lead with what you know best…YOU.

Love you,

Jordan

PS. My wife and I ended up buying a different hybrid from a different sales rep. He didn’t use scripts, he told stories and gave us the information my wife and I requested to make an informed buying decision. I was a fan of his because he was real.

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

2014: The year to be different

There’s been much hullabaloo over the “Misunderstood” holiday ad Apple is running. Many say it’s wonderful and potentially the best ad of the year. I like it, but it doesn’t feel like Apple to me. Take a look:

I’ve been a fan and customer of Apple for close to 15 years. I was an Apple user before it was cool to be an Apple user. And I always enjoyed their marketing. Under Jobs, Apple’s marketing was always about the product, its simplicity, and clean lines / look (white everywhere!). As soon as the ad came on or I flipped to the magazine ad, I instantly knew it was Apple. There was no mistaking it. It was different.

Before the above campaign it was the “Mac vs. PC” campaign. Again, unmistakable as to what it was and what Apple was selling. And the campaign keyed on points of differentiation. One of the tests you can use to see how effective your marketing campaign is / was is to use the ‘Swap Technique’. Cover up your logo on a print ad or watch / listen to your TV or radio ad without a mention of your brand’s name. If it’s unmistakable as to what brand the message is conveying, you win. If your ad could easily be used as an ad for a competitor, you lose.

For example, take a look at the Google India ad which caused quite a stir earlier this year:

This very well could have been an ad for an iPhone. Vice versa the “Misunderstood” Apple ad could very well have been an ad for an Android device. Don’t get me wrong, the Google India ad and Apple “Misunderstood” ad are great and will probably win a creative award or two, unfortunately they miss the mark on selling the product. When it comes to advertising, your marketing shouldn’t be about winning awards, it should be about making sales. One way to do this is to show how your product is different than everyone else’s. Don’t worry about being ‘creative’ focus on being different.

I wonder whether or not the Apple “Misunderstood” ad would have flown with Steve Jobs. For me, it misses the Apple feel, the simplicity, the sleek, clean look and for the most part the product.

Your mission for 2014…stop being creative and start being different.

Look at what your competitors are doing and do the opposite. Being different should scare the shit out of you and that’s a great thing.

Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who don’t. Don’t wait, be different and lead in 2014.

If you need some help being different in 2014, shoot me an email at effumarketing@gmail.com and put “I’ll be different in 2014” in the subject line. I respond to every email.

– Jordan