You’ve launched an online business – How do you get your first sale?

The advantage of a bricks-and-mortar location is foot traffic. That’s why you pay a premium for real estate. In the online world – web traffic is difficult to come by. And don’t bother going down the rabbit hole of trying to trick Google or search sites into sending traffic your way. It just won’t work when you’re starting out. ‘Build it, and they will come’ just doesn’t work online, and it rarely works in bricks-and-mortar locations unless you’re in a small town.

If you’re launching online, and you don’t have a following already. That’s a problem. You need to go back to the start, and focus on what I wrote about here. It’s so important to research, and test your assumptions BEFORE you launch. My wife, and I went straight to our family and friends when it came to the research. We sent numerous surveys (using Survey Monkey) to friends and family to gauge interest, and price points for certain objects we were interested in carrying for our online dress shop (Ever Rose). It also helped having this blog, but YOU don’t need a blog to get feedback from friends and family.

The First Sale

Ramit Sethi always preaches getting your first sale as it’s the most challenging one to get. If you don’t know Ramit – check him out here. I’ve learned a ton from him.

Then after you get your first sale you can optimize that, and scale. Your first sale will most likely come from a friend or family member, and that’s okay. It’s what you do after that first sale that counts. Yes, my wife and I posted on our social media pages, and our first fan liked, retweeted, etc…That’s another bonus by having a friend or family member purchase your first item, they’re more willing to share with their friends through their social channels. This is how you can build organically.

On top of that, you should reward your first few customers with incentives to review your products, and share your online store to their friends (stay tuned Kate – you’ll be receiving a gift from us soon!). Kate was our first fan, and she will be rewarded with not only a dress that’s going to look amazing on her, but also with future incentives.

Ever Rose Order Payment, Shopify

First sale!

Building organically

This is how you create a following without spending too much on marketing, and customer acquisition costs out of the gate. You also can figure out your processes to see if they’re working as effectively as you thought. Then you start turning the crank encouraging your first few customers to come back (through incentives / customer service), and share with their friends. All this from simply involving friends, and family in the process from the beginning. Then you can start hammering out the marketing. More on that to come.

Things to watch for

It took less than 12-hours for my wife and I to get our first sale. It may be different for you, and that’s okay, but if you build a strong following through family and friends from the beginning you will see a quicker return. And that’s why I write this. I want to give you some insight into launching your own store as it’s very humbling, and time consuming up front. At the same time – when you make that first sale – it’s exhilarating. It’s also frightening because then you’re like, “Now what?” You actually have to fulfill this order, and sometimes things pop up that are unexpected.

With any online store shipping is a HUGE expense. My wife and I didn’t realize how much of an expense until we got our first order. Having said that, you have to understand there is always going to be costs associated with business whether you like it or not. You have to spend money to make it, and we now have a firm grasp on what our shipping entails, and we will continue to tweak it as much as possible to ensure we’re not adding costs to our fans. We’re trying to make it as affordable as possible. There are some brands who have beautiful packaging, and boxes, and displays when they ship. And that’s okay. You can do that too, but you have to realize someone has to pay for these costs, and usually it’s the consumer. My wife and I are trying to be as affordable as possible while maintaining a solid service, and experience aka we’re trying to limit the costs we pass on to the customer.

At the end of the day – it’s all about your customers (aka fans), and whatever you can do FOR them. You aren’t going to be making thousands of dollars within your first week of launching your business, but if you make a solid plan from the start, and get friends and family involved – you can jump over the largest barrier to your success…and that’s getting your first sale.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. I mentioned Kate above as she is a former colleague of mine who reads this blog often. She was involved in the process early, and it just so happens she was our first fan. Thank you Kate!!!!

Pps. Case and point – the process works.

Journey of the Do – The Launch

It’s finally here. What you’ve been working on for months, maybe years is finally ready to launch. My wife and I’s new biz is in the same boat. We started working on it at the end of January, and now it’s time to launch. As with everything – you probably found a few things pop up that you didn’t expect. Whether it be supplier issues, cash flow issues, design work…whatever. Alas, it’s time to showcase the world what you have to offer. Your gut has been telling you to do this forever, and now it’s your time to do it.

What you’ve learned

For me I’ve always loved the process of starting a business. It’s in the creation where I get really excited, and then I get to sprinkle in my marketing talents, which is even more fun. You may not share the same love as me, but you know you want to create something. Whether you’re a tech company, a contractor, or someone who’s launching a blog about how to eat healthier. Whatever it is you’re a do-er. You’re about to create something when 95% of the population would rather think of cool ideas, but never put the time in to act on them. You’ve learned a lot, and what you’ve learned will stay with you for a lifetime.

This is the scary part

Before you launch there are going to be a bunch of nagging things in the back of your mind like, “What if no one likes what I have to offer?” or “Am I sure this colour scheme really works?”

Whatever is nagging you don’t let it eat you up. You’ve put in all this effort, and now it’s time to launch. This is the moment you’ve been building toward, so don’t stop now.

Funny enough – this is the toughest part. Whether you’re a writer, entrepreneur, designer…it’s always the toughest part to finish. To actually put your product / piece / service / book to market. Why? Because you’re afraid. You’re afraid you’ll fail. You’re afraid people will make fun you. There are so many things urging you to stop when it’s the most important time to move forward. It’s easy to say, but you have to conquer this fear, and you have to finish. Believe me – I know how hard it is to battle these negative thoughts.

Battle the inner voices

One way to battle the ‘lizard brain’ as Seth Godin calls it – is to JUST DO IT (thanks ad agency representing Nike). Keep in mind your product / service doesn’t have to be perfect when you launch. It can still be rough around the edges. That’s okay as long as you’re open about it. Call it a soft-launch. You’re putting the fruits of your labour out there, but you don’t have EVERYTHING figured out yet. There are going to be some things that pop up over time like shipping issues or customer service that you’ll have to take care of, but right now you have no idea about what’s to come. By soft-launching you’ll be able to test the waters, get your processes down, and truly find if there’s a market for what you have to offer.

For my wife, and I – we have a limited product selection of female fashions, and we’re okay with that. We’re also very transparent about how new we are. We want to build something alongside our customers.

First, and foremost – we’re going to reach out to family and friends to take a look at our site, and to potentially even order stuff from us. We want to build organically before we start turning the marketing crank. Early adopters of your brand are generally more lenient on you than the general public. Early adopters understand there may be some hiccups when a business is first starting out, so attach on to these early adopters, and work with them to build your business. In our case – the early adopters are going to be friends and family. How do we know? They’ve already been apart of our research before we decided to jump into this business.

Here it is

Ever Rose, Fashion, womens fashion, dress, dresses

I’ve also decided to share this with you. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you won’t. Ever Rose has launched and you can check it out here: www.everrose.com.

Currently, we’re only shipping to Canada, but you can still provide feedback from wherever you are in the world. Please take a look around. Let me know what you like, don’t like or can improve.

Thank you for being apart of the journey from day one to launch. The Journey of the Do is now complete. Now, comes the tricky part…actually keeping this thing going 🙂

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

Journey of the Do – Stage 11 – Mindset

Over the past couple months, I’ve been outlining how to ramp up your online business from nothing to something to profits. I’ll pass along some more updates soon just before my wife, and I’s online store hits the web.

Let’s chat about mindset

You’re out on your own when you’re starting a biz or it can seem that way, and the psychological barriers to success can limit you. These little rodents pestering your mind can keep you up at night, keep you away from family, hell it can ruin your business. So, how do you get your mind in shape to handle the day-to-day tasks?

You’re one of the very few, but you’re not alone.

I was speaking with a young, entrepreneur yesterday, and he told me about having a beer with his buddy a couple weeks back. His buddy has a decent paying 9-5 job, and he was in awe of this entrepreneurs new truck. Let’s call him Lee (the entrepreneur, not the truck).

Lee’s friend was pounding back a cold one, and the conversation went something like this:

Friend, “Is that a new truck? Didn’t you just come back from Disneyland? Didn’t you just remodel your house? How the hell do you afford it?”

Lee: “You see the ‘fun’ parts about working for yourself, but you don’t see what happens when I’m juggling numerous projects, when I’m up until 1am putting together estimates or when I have to forgo having a beer with a friend because I’m running a business.”

It’s sometimes tough to get over the illusion, and remember the good about what you’re doing. When you’re starting out – you have to do the things most people don’t want to do. You have to crunch numbers, deal with annoying suppliers, figure out who to hire, and plenty of unglamorous stuff. All of this can seem insurmountable. So how do you get around those barriers?

One little trick I’ve found that works for me is to set my phone timer for a few minutes, and tell myself I’m going to work on the website for x amount of time. Even though it’s only for a few minutes, when I get started, it’s difficult to stop. So 5 minutes turns into an hour, and a bunch of stuff gets done.

It’s like one of the lines from Dumb & Dumber, “I can’t stop going when I’ve started…it stings.”

Jim Carrey, dumb and dumber

Lloyd Christmas at his finest

It’s a little trick to frame your mind, and put it into work mode. I used to do this when it came to cleaning the house. I would tell myself to start with one bathroom. Then after doing the one, I know I wouldn’t like the second bathroom to be dirty, so I would clean it. Then I would clean the floors, and on we go.

Set your mind into work mode, and you’ll find yourself to be more productive, especially with those tasks you don’t really want to do.

Another tool

Do you use a calendar? It’s one of the most useful tools in my tool belt. I put EVERYTHING in my calendar. If it’s not in my calendar it doesn’t exist. I even go as far as putting when to shop for groceries in my calendar or when to sit back and think about whether or not I need Netflix (I do this about every 3-months). It’s the little cues that keep me going, and keeps my mind focused on the business at hand because I don’t have to worry about forgetting to shop for groceries because I know it’s in my calendar. It doesn’t seem like the most glamours thing in the world to have a schedule so regimented, but it works for me. Anything I can do to save brain power, I will try and do it.

Re-energize

Do you take time for yourself? This is key. Find a time, put it in your calendar and cherish it. Maybe you like going to the gym, meditatation or do yoga like I do, but find time for yourself to reflect, rest, and re-energize. It’s easier said than done, but it’s so important. I usually like to read before I go to bed or as I mentioned above – practice yoga. I do this every Sunday morning, and rarely anything gets in the way of it.

Find time for yourself, and your business will benefit.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. Feel free to leave some ‘tricks’ you use to get your mind in the place it needs to be by leaving a comment below.

Journey of the Do – stage 10 – Your own media company

I’m not the first to mention this nor will I be the last. In this changing age of tech anyone and everyone can be a media personality. Even your brand can have it’s own channels to promote and market your product. One of the folks who pioneered this trend is Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a little over the top, but it works for him. He reinvented his father’s retail wine store into an online juggernaut through daily video blogs starting in 2006.

Another example, and one of my favourite people on the planet who uses his own media channels is Jesse Peters – your social savvy Realtor in Winnipeg (of all places). Do yourself a favour, and follow him on one of his many platforms. You’ll see what I mean.

I’m not here to bash the existing forms of traditional media. I used to work in traditional media. Even items like Nest (radio), and internet.org by Facebook (TV) use traditional mediums to get the word out about their products. There are places for everything in this ever changing world. Having said that – if you want to put in the time, and effort – you can do it on your own. If you have a smart phone, you’re pretty much set.

JP Arencibia, Blue Jays, Guy with the Bow Tie, Radio

Interviewing former Blue Jay JP Arencibia back in my radio days.

For my wife, and I’s business we’re going to use YouTube, and other video sources to pull back the curtain, and let fans / followers in on what’s going on. We’re going to be very transparent of what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. The beautiful part – you don’t have to spend a crazy sum of money on camera equipment, editing software, lighting, etc… Yes, you can do this, but when you’re starting out, just use what you have, and let people know that you’re just starting out. It’s okay to be vulnerable even as a business.

For example – my wife, and I are taking our own pictures for our site. We purchased a lighting kit for $100, and we already have a decent SLR camera. Does it take the best photos, and do we really know what we’re doing? In one word, No, but we’re going to be open about that fact. If we grow, and as your business grows you can hire professionals to do the work for you, but when you don’t know where you’re going to end up we figured there’s no sense dumping a HUGE amount of money into something when we don’t have to. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to fill the need of a customer, and be open about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

A slight tangent – when I was speaking with a recent high school grad about his future (he wanted to go into sports broadcasting), he didn’t know where to start or how to build his portfolio to get into college, etc… I simply asked him, “What’s stopping you from doing what you want to do right now?”

He has all the tools available to him. If he wanted to write about local sports he could start a blog. Yes, he won’t have a HUGE following, but that’s okay. It gets you thinking in a professional way about something you want to do. Do you want to be on the radio? What’s stopping you from doing a Podcast or using Soundcloud, and social media to get the word out through your friends? Want to be on TV? There’s a little thing called YouTube, etc…

What I mentioned above will never replace the traditional forms of media. You need those ‘professional’ checks-and-balances. With technology – media has shifted a bit, and it favours those who are willing to put in a bit of time for little to no reward (at first), and a little effort. For your business – this could be an amazing way to share your stories, your personal beliefs, and further connect you with your potential customers. You may not see giant sums of customers at first, but with time your CORE fans will develop that personal connection with you, and next thing you know – you’ll start to see your brand grow through referrals, and satisfied customers who come back time-and-time again.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 9 – Marketing Messages

Some form of marketing is essential to your business. My wife, and I have extensive marketing, and advertising backgrounds, but the roots will stay the same for your business. The pendulum has shifted back to a very open, community-based society. Most likely this shift in mentality will be around for the next 10 – 15 years. Knowing this – my wife and I are going to be as authentic as possible when it comes to our marketing, and our messaging.

Last week I briefly touched on what I call ‘Culture Marketing.’ It’s based on building a brand around your values, and beliefs. And everyone within your organization believing in you, and your company. From that internal belief you’ll see it expand to your customers, and potential customers.

pumpkins, guy and girl

Hanging out on some pumpkins

Your Cultural Message

My wife, and I are firm believers that you can still make a healthy profit, while supporting those in, and around your community (or your world – if that’s your thing). With many companies surrounding themselves in greed, and the folks at the top making more and more while the worker bees do not is not how the latest generation of business builders see as healthy or sustainable. That’s why you’re starting to see companies who give back to the world they’re in. Those that are very open, and authentic about their policies are thriving.

For your messaging – you should try and stay true to yourself, and your beliefs as after all your business is a reflection of you. My wife, and I are going to be very open about our products. We’ll let you know where they came from, and who the product is best for. We’re not here to make a quick buck and disappear. We want to build a fan base. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE fan base to begin with, but we want fans who believe in not only our products, but our values.

Up front we’re going to be very open about the price. The price, is the price, is the price is our mentality. One thing that ticked us off about shopping online is you never know what the final price is going to be until you ‘checkout.’ For us we want to be as transparent as possible. Since we’re only dealing with Canadians – we’re not going to have to worry about duties,and shipping fees above and beyond what’s already there. That was the biggest beef my wife had with dealing with US stores. You see this great price, then you have to factor in the exchange, the duties, other fees and the shipping (and shipping times…7 – 21 days C’MON!). We’re going to remove those fees and work that into our messaging. Again – the price is the price is the price.

Another one of the messages we’re going to work with is who our product is for. Sometimes it’s easier to say who you’re for, and against than just puking out a message. We’re for young professional women who want to showcase their personality at work without feeling, and looking like a skank. It’s affordable dresses that you can wear to work, and after work for drinks. It’s for the woman who wants to express herself through her fashion choices, and not be stuck wearing bland, ‘safe’ clothes.

On top of that – we’re going to include our fans in the discussion – whether it’s through social media or our internal database. Before we add any new product – we’ll encourage our fans to comment on whether or not they like it, how much they’d pay for it and what colours they like it in. Based off this – we’ll have a better idea what to buy, and where to price it. This way the fans will involved in the process and further get them entrenched in our brand.

That’s not all. With our plans to grow – we plan on bringing in our own ‘house’ line of dresses. Where we’ll source the cotton ourselves, design it ourselves, and  produce it ourselves. This way we’ll know exactly where it’s coming from, how much people are getting paid, and we’ll be able to ensure we’re using sustainable practices. At the present time – most clothing, and accessories are made overseas in who knows what kind of facility. Our goal is to move away from that, and support those in, and around our community. Pay them fairly, support their families and build better relationship with our peers. It may cut into our margins, but we’re fine with that. We feel it’s the right thing to do, so we’re going to do it.

Now, just wait till you see how we’re going to go about our business to reach our customers. As the times have changed – you don’t have to be on TV or the radio or in the newspaper to get press. You can do it yourself, and create your own media company to drive fans, and potential customers to you.

More on that next week.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Journey of the Do – Stage 8 – Where do I find customers?

You have this idea, you’re ready to roll it out, but will people care? And where will you find customers? The old ‘build it and they will come’ thought process is dying if not dead. There are so many competitors, so many niches, and so much market noise (think about how many people are trying to sell you something on a daily basis). So what do you do?

Last week I mentioned a few things around creating a culture, and fans for your brand. This is essential nowadays unless you have millions and millions of dollars to market your product. Even then, people’s BS meters are so high that marketing efforts are becoming less and less effective. The reason why my wife, and I are trying to create a culture is because people who buy into the culture of your brand will be your fans for life (as long as you don’t screw it up). On top of that, my wife and I’s beliefs go hand-in-hand with what we’re doing. This isn’t solely a money making venture. There’s more to it than that.

Culture marketing

Don’t be afraid to piss people off for the sake of furthering your beliefs and your cause. Yes, my wife, and I are going to ruffle a few feathers in the fashioin industry, and that’s okay. By telling people who we’re not, we immediately tell people WHO WE ARE (if that makes sense). It’s okay for you to do the same. Don’t be shy about pointing out how you’re different, and pulling back the curtain on what you’re doing and why. Think of all the tech companies that are distrupting the status quo. You can do the same with your business as long as you’re not afraid to take a stand. If people hate you, that means there will be people out there who LOVE you. For every culture there’s a proftiable counter-culture.

In going through this process, my wife and I have decided to grow organically through friends, and family in order to get our processes down. When / if we see there’s a definite market, then we’re going to start plugging away on a larger scale. The plan is to target market (we don’t have the funds or the inventory to mass market, and I still believe mass marketing mediums like TV, and radio are the most cost effective way to go about your marketing, especially when starting out. In most cases, the cost per person reached is so low). Our philosophy is to own what we can own. Can we own everyone in our target market? No, because we don’t have the funds necessary to reach them, and even if we did, we don’t have the inventory necessary to fulfill orders on a mass scale. More on how to develop a marketing budget here.

cat, man holding cat, man, young man holding cat

Is your story apart of your message? Also, I occasionally swap bow ties for sweaters.

We’ll do some targeted marketing in a few cities across the country to see the kind of traction we get. We’re going to do a bit online, and possibly through social media. The biggest thing is we’re going to test, and work our PR and media contacts to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re not afraid to make a mistake, and you shouldn’t be either. The catch is most people who spend their marketing dollars love to test stuff. The trouble with this is most people don’t test LONG enough. They try something for one month, and then give up after they don’t get a response. WRONG! Usually when you start marketing, and are about to give up on the medium you chose, that’s the exact time that things are probably going to start working. On top of that – if your message isn’t working that probably means your message is so off point that the people who you’re trying to market to, don’t care about what you’re saying. You’re not speaking to them in a way that’s meaningful. More on purposeful copy here.

That’s why it’s so important to focus on the culture around your business. Who are you? Why do you exist? Do the people in your organization believe in the same things you do? Is your marketing message clear? Does it say what you stand for, and what you stand against? Most importantly – why is what you’re doing important? Not for your sake, but for the sake of your potential fans.

I’ll out line some of the marketing messages we’re working on next week.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft