Post #101 at MollerMarketing.com!
Like the Dalmations – this is post #101 at MollerMarketing.com! Why is that such a big deal? It’s not really – just a small milestone. Last year I finished the year with about 90 posts. This year I plan to at least do 120 posts – that’s only 10 per month, 2.5 per week. I’ve found that the more you post, the easier it is to come up with new ideas to share with your target audience.Ã‚Â You start walking around the house thinking, “I could blog about that…” or watching TV and saying, “That would make such a controversial blog post…”Ã‚Â I know, kinda crazy, but it’s amazing how powerful blogging can be as a marketing tool.
In the near future I’ll be sharing something I learned recently about the beauty of podcasting and how it ties in to blogging and content creation.Ã‚Â Stay tuned!
Thanks for all your comments, subscriptions to my RSS Feed, and feedburner email subscriptions.Ã‚Â If there are topics you’d like to learn more about, please send an email to mollermarketing (at) gmail (dot) com.
Top 5 Ways to Find Suppliers
Finding suppliers for products is debateably the most important thing a small eCommerce business start-up can do. Without products, there are definitely other ways to make money on-line but they generally take a lot longer to develop and require knowledge that many don’t have if they’re just getting started.
Here are 5 ways to find suppliers that I feel are the best and quickest:
- Your Own Products: ever heard of “spring cleaning”? This is such a great way to start making money on-line. I’ve seen amazing results, both personally and with clients, on Craigslist.org. It’s Free, it’s Free, it’s Free – need I say more? You can list practically anything on Craigslist and it doesn’t usually cost a dime (there are a few things that do cost). Before trying another option, why not give Craigslist a try? I’m sure we all know about eBay too. eBay is a great source to sell your own products too. There are fees to list and also fees if the product sells, but they are minimal if you play the game (list low to start). I’ve seen clients do amazingly well with eBay as a way to get rid of things. In fact, within their first few weeks in the coaching program, I’ve had clients sell over 50 items on eBay. Not a bad start if you ask me.There are other ways too: amazon.com, shop.com, shopping.com, overstock.com, become.com, half.com, etc. These are all buying solutions where you can list products. Most of these options have fees like eBay. Google also has a few options that you can look in to like http://www.google.com/products.
- Trade-shows: this is probably the best way to find suppliers of products that you want to sell over and over again. A trade show is ideal because this is where manufacturers and wholesalers go to find retailers for their products. Here are some good things to be prepared for or find out when going to a trade show:
- Attendance Pricing – Some events will cost you very little or even nothing; others may be pricey. It’s good to find out about this prior to making the trip. Even though some may cost, the return could be well worth it.
- Vendor List – Find out who’s going to be there. Before going to a trade-show, you need to have an idea what types of suppliers are going to be attending and if they fit in with your plan. You may be able to find out this information on the trade-show website or in a book or pamphlet they send prior to the event. The good news is, new vendors may be added to the list up until the very last minute.
- Floor plan and booth locations – Plan, plan, plan! “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” These trade-shows can be huge. Try to create a path you can follow that hits the key contacts and passes by other possibilities along the way.
- Build relationships – When going to a trade-show, I would say this is the most important point. Putting a name with a face can make such a difference long term. A trade-show is your best chance to build a solid relationship with a supplier and to get the best deals you can. Take business cards, write things down about contacts to help you remember then, try to interview them if it’s fitting for the event.
- Contact people you know: although this may seem odd, sometimes people don’t even realize who they know and what connections they may have. One of the first fears you have to get over right up front is talking to people. As a new business owner you’ll have to talk to people all the time whether you like it or not. Also, you can’t be afraid that someone might say no. Every “no” means you’re that much closer to a YES! As one client told me, “‘No’ is the first two letters in ‘Not Yet’!”
- Local Searches:
- Companies – go to a local company that sells the products you are interested in. See if they have a dropshipping or wholesale program. If they don’t, maybe they will give you someone to contact. As many of you know, this is how I found my first supplier for women’s clogging shoes: I went to a local company who I thought would make a great partner – they didn’t have a website but had access to the products I wanted to sell. Unfortunately they weren’t interested but I asked, “Would you by chance know of someone I could contact that might be a manufacturer?” Surprisingly they gave me their manufacturers contact info and things eventually worked out.
- Manufactures (that are found on the products in fine print) – talking to the right person may be difficult here, but it’s always worth a try. Even if they’re not interested, they may know of distributors that have drop shipping options.
- Storage unit auctions
- Case lot sales
- Garage sales (I won’t talk about these three too much now – come back for more information.)
- On-line: there are quite a few companies out there that claim they are the answer to all our product sourcing problems. BEWARE! Many of them have been found to be unreliable and expensive. WholesaleMatch actually goes to trade-shows for us. It’s a company that actually has a guarantee that they will help us find suppliers within industries that tie in to what we are doing. The one recommendation I give all clients is that WholesaleMatch is just one source, not necessarily the “end all cure all”. Occasionally a client will expect WholesaleMatch to find the exact brand and style of product they want. I’m sure this company will do all they can to help, but that is not part of the guarantee.There are other sources online too. www.thomasnet.com, www.alibaba.com and www.worldwidebrands.com are websites I’ve seen but haven’t personally used for my product sourcing. The other way would be to go to google.com and type in “‘your product’ dropshipper” or “‘your product’ manufacturer”. This will give you a lot of information, most of which may not be completely helpful to you. Just beware.
These ideas are specific things I’ve tested. However, I’m sure there are other ways too. Best of luck in your search. Let all readers know what’s worked best for you.
Doing What You Love To Do – Part 1
(This is the first part of a two or three part series on “Doing What You Love to Do”.)
- Doing Stuff You Love to To
- Doing Stuff You’re Good At
- Doing Stuff Someone Will Pay You to Do
Why do you think these concepts are so important to consider as you start your first on-line business? One of my good friends, Melissa S., couldn’t say it better:
I think it is very wise for Prosper to encourage the students to pick something they love to market. I love ballroom dancing and I guess there is a gene in most women that makes them love shoes.
Because of Melissa’s decision to do something she loved to do, she has seen amazing results with her first website.
As many of my readers know, my first website was all about clogging shoes and the clogging dance industry. I was such a wild little kid that my mom did everything she could to calm me down. She put me in every sport, piano lessons, singing and finally, after exhausting all other options, clogging was an attempt to drain me of unnecessary energy. At the time I don’t know how much I really liked it, but, it’s paid off now in more ways than I ever imagined. Clogging is really why I’m now so actively involved in the search engine optimization and on-line marketing industry. Without that first website idea, I would not be doing what I do today.
So why is it important to do something you love to do? As I mentioned in a previous post, starting an on-line business isn’t easy. You have to be patient, diligent, hard working and persistent. Luckily I had a mentor that took me by the hand and walked me through some of his trials and errors (although he wouldn’t claim he had too many 🙂 ) so I didn’t have to go through them on my own. He didn’t tell me what industry I should get involved in to start, but he did have me write down hobbies, interests, and things I enjoyed doing. As I look back at my education, this was one of the first steps towards my success.
If you are just getting started with an on-line business or thinking about starting something new, this is my biggest recommendation – Do Something You Love to Do! Many people have a tendency to think, “What will make me the most money?” or “What’s the best selling thing out there – I’ll do that.” I’m yet to see a mindset like this become really successful. Yes it’s important to do market research. Just because I love to watch sports on TV doesn’t mean that activity is going to make me money. But as you consider different options, don’t rule some out just because you “think” they wouldn’t be profitable or you “think” they are too saturated with competitors.
In Part 2 of this post I plan to do a case study on a client that has really seen success with her first on-line business because she followed this simple concept – she picked something she loved to do and then monetized it.
Setting Sales Goals for an Online Business
One thing I’ve realized lately is how important it is to not sit back and “wait” for sales to happen on a new eCommerce website. No, you don’t have to be a jerk like the picture below explains 🙂 but you do have to go out there and make things happen.
I run one website that sells clogging shoes and dance bags. One of the initial ways I made sales was to start contacting people I already knew that may be interested in what I was selling. Yes, I had to take a few big steps out of my comfort zone at first; however, as I talked to friends and family, they were willing to give me good feedback and even criticism which helped my site make progress.
Some of that feedback was positive. I used this feedback as the start of a “testimonials” section. Am I positive that it had a direct effect on sales? No. I do know that many large companies use feedback and reviews to give their products and services more credibility.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goals and how this ties in to sales online. I heard that Monday, January 21st is known as “Blue Monday” because people realize they probably aren’t going to keep their infamous “New Years Resolutions”. Three weeks have come and gone, they realize they’ve fallen in to the same patterns as always – they decide to give up and quit.
Why does this happen? Were they not serious when they set these goals in the first place? Were they not committed? Did they not want to succeed or overcome a bad habit? Of course they were serious; of course they were committed (at least at first); obviously they wanted to succeed or cut the bad habits. But, in my opinion, their goals were probably based on “outcomes” and not individual “performance”.
I would say that my greatest “discovery” to date as an entrepreneur has been a better understanding of how to set and accomplish goals. When it comes to sales, some things are obviously out of our control. I really wish I could just turn on a magic button and all of a sudden the money would flow in to my merchant account on a consistent basis. However, this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Why, Why, Why? I’ve actually heard a few clients ask this very question: “Why the hell am I not making sales?” My simple response, “What have you done TODAY to make a sale?”
So my advice is this: as you think about your goals, what you want to accomplish with your online business, or with anything, ask yourself the question – “How much control do I have of that outcome?” If you can honestly say you have COMPLETE control, this is the type of goal you go after. Here’s a ficticious example:
Goal: Make $60,000 this year with my online business.
Let’s break it down:
- To make $60,000 this year, assuming we are starting today, Tuesday, February 19th, means we have 10 and 1/2 months.
- $60K / 10.5 = $5715 per month.
- $5715 / 4 weeks = $1430 per week.
- $1430 / 7 days = $205/day.
By doing this break down I can actually see what it’s going to take on a day to day basis if I want to achieve this financial goal of $60,000 by Dec. 31, 2008.Now I have to ask myself that important question: How much control do I have of that outcome – to make $205 per day?” Some might say this is debateable but think about it, can I actually MAKE a visitor to my website buy the products I am offering on a specific day? From my experience, the answer to that is NO. However, there are things I can do every day that will improve the likelihood of this happening. What are they? Phone calls, emails, weekly or daily promotions, testing different wording strategies, client feedback and referral systems, offline marketing, joint ventures – the list can go on and on. But look at this list – “How much control do I have of [these] outcomes?” All the control!
I can set a goal to make X amount of phone calls today, send Y amount of emails to my database. Then, after doing these things, I can monitor my progress. Maybe today I called 20 people and 5 of them purchased for an average of $50. That means 25% of my contacts purchased something and I made about $250 today. If I contact 50 people tomorrow I have a chance to sell to 12.5 people for about $625 in sales. The numbers won’t always be perfect every day, but keep track of your progress (what was working, what didn’t seem to work), and then duplicate your successes more and more and more!
I’ve rambled long enough today. These strategies will pay off with your businesses. As the cliche states: “Practice makes perfect!” Now start practicing!
So is Roger Clemens Guilty or Not?
Dang it baseball! I grew up loving this “Great American Pastime”. Every night after school I’d beg my dad to take me out to play catch until the sun went down. Grounders, Pop-Flys, dives in to the seats (or bushes in my case), the hard line drive – Dad had me act out all the possible scenarios except one – the steriod one.
Now baseball seems to be getting some bad PR: from the Barry Bonds binge on the “cream” to Jose Canseco making money by ratting on everyone, many fans like me have a hard time wondering who isn’t on some kind of performance enhancer.
The other day I watched parts of the Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee hearing, which was a waste of time. It made me so mad to know that one of those guys is straight up lying to everyone, including himself. How can this happen? What are these guys thinking? I don’t know enough about the entire story to take a big stand either way, but I really hope for baseball’s sake that Roger is being honest. He’s been a Cy Young Award winner. A World Series star. And now, even if he’s not convicted, people will label him as part of the “Doping Era”.
How does this tie in to what I generally talk about at MollerMarketing? I could take it a few ways: brand management, the power of press releases, or viral marketing strategy. I’ve read quite a few articles lately about brand management and how helpful it can be to build the credibility and long term existence of your business. Wikipedia.org has this to say about brand management:
Brand management is the application of marketing techniques to a specific product, product line, or brand. It seeks to increase the product’s perceived value to the customer and thereby increase brand franchise and brand equity. Marketers see a brand as an implied promise that the level of quality people have come to expect from a brand will continue with future purchases of the same product…
One thing I’ve learned about brand management is that it’s never too early to start protecting your brand. I’ve also learned that there are multiple ways to do so. Tony Wright mentioned the following six strategies to protect your brand. Let’s see how Roger Clemens meets up (think about these with your new online business as well):
- Keep your customers happy: “The Rocket” has done this for many years. The question is now, did he do it legitimately or not?
- DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t screw ex-employees: BZZZ! Pardon the language here but it doesn’t look too good for Clemens or McNamee on this one. Someone is screwing someone in the Clemens/McNamee trial!
- DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t screw partners: Weren’t Clemens and McNamee really close friends at one time? In the world of business and business partnerships, the Golden Rule still applies. If you want someone to take care of you and help your business grow, you better treat them the way you’d like to be treated.
- Practice good business
- Practice good customer service
- Admit your wrongs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ through the proper channels: I skipped going in to any detail on the prior two because this one by far takes the cake – one of these guys is completely wrong. It’s time they cut to the chase and just be honest. In online marketing, there are times when we all make mistakes. The best companies acknowledge those mistakes and do the best they can to resolve the problem. By going the extra mile with clients, even if the experience wasn’t a perfect one, you’ll generally leave a positive impression on the people you work with.
Keep these things in mind as you continue to build your prospective businesses. The sooner you start protecting and building your brand, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Marketing Pilgrim Subscriber Contest
One of my favorite marketing blogs is by Andy Beal and his crew at MarketingPilgrim.com. They share online industry news, facts, figures, and their opinions about what’s happening in the world of search and online marketing. Since I’ve subscribed to their blog via an RSS feed, I found this new contest they are promoting to get more subscribers. Here it is:
All you have to do is subscribe to Marketing Pilgrim via either daily email updates or our RSS feed. If you love getting the latest breaking internet marketing news – and some opinion along with it – you should really consider subscribing anyway. Now you have an added incentive! (Here’s what you could win…)
Some of you may be asking, “Why are they doing this?” Good question. Here are my thoughts – they want to build their subscriber list, which in turn can help them monetize their site even more. The bigger the database of contacts one has, the more potential they have to cross promote, sell sponsors and really get to a new level fairly quickly.
I currently work with a client, Mark K., who is really understanding this concept. He is a radio announcer by trade and has developed a unique database over time in his field. That database is something he’s now using effectively to market his site. That database also has helped him “monetize”. Within the last 45 days he’s made almost $2,000 in commissions, products, and sales.
He and I are both realizing that the more he leverages the already established opt-in list, the more he can capitalize on what he has. This leverage is also beneficial to his list: they get great reviews and discounts on products he is promoting. The comment I made in regards to Andy’s contest was this:
Will be fun to hear about how many new subscribers you get from a competition like this and what that does for the company.
This is the reply:
Currently 8,824 subscribers. Up 45 since yesterday, which is a 0.5% increase. I didn’t get a pre-contest count so the total lift is most likely higher.
As you can see, the list is already growing; the bigger the number of opt-ins, the better! Now, what are you going to do today to build your database?
Starting My First Online Business Wasn’t a Walk in the Park
I just talked to a client who was wondering about how I kept my confidence up while developing my 1st website. Great question! It wasn’t easy, especially when it took about 5 months before I found the actual supplier I now use. Can you imagine working on something for that long without seeing much progress? I’ve also been asked how long it takes to get to the top of search engines. This is a pretty loaded question – it really depends on the industry you chose to market in. Aaron Wall, author of a great SEO EBook, has some great things to say about getting ranked in google and how long it takes.
My mentor, Mat Siltala, gave me plenty of good things to do while waiting for a supplier. Everything he taught had the intent to help me move up the search engine rankings sooner than later. He also frequently reminded me that some things are out of my control. Here are 3 of the best things I did to keep my confidence and self motivation up while working on finding suppliers and moving up the rankings in Google:
- Sell, Sell, Sell on eBay (and now Craigslist.org). Although some of you may be gun shy when it comes to eBay, it really is a great tool to help you start seeing money come in. In the first quarter of 2006 eBay had over 190 million registerd users. They had over 500 million new listings in that same quarter, and they made $1.39 million dollars in net revenue. They are for real. They make money, while at the same time giving you every opportunity to make money as well. What are you waiting for?
- Record all the “Small Success that is leading to Big Success” in my business journal. This really helped me as a student. I didn’t even really realize why I was doing this “business history” at the time. Maybe it was so I could prove to Mat that I’d done everything he taught me – who knows. What I learned was that writing down the day to day and week to week results on paper really helped me start to “see” what was happening. I could go back and read over things I’d learned in my first mentoring session that, 3 weeks later, seemed really easy. At the time, they didn’t seem easy at all but things were coming together, and I could see it all right before me. Even recording my first 99 cent sale in eBay helped my confidence grow and, as they say, “Success breeds Success!”. If I had any doubt about my capabilites before, they were now gone because I was filling my mind with positive reinforcers that told me “You know you can do this, look what you’ve already done, why would you ever turn back now…” It wasn’t always easy; I had my share of times (even now) where I think, “What am I doing?” but looking back at all the progress I’d made always helps me re-commit and take steps in the right direction.
- Ask lots of questions, strive to understand as much as you can, and then put to practice what you’ve been taught. First off here, if you don’t have a mentor, get one. The majority of highly successful people didn’t do everything on their own – they learned from those that have been there and done that. I worked with a great mentor who I feel taught me a lot of what I know about eCommerce and SEO. I’m sure some of the questions I asked my mentor and the other resource advisors at Prosper were added to a list of “Nate’s Stupid Questions” but honestly WHO CARES! If I wouldn’t have asked the “stupid” questions back then, I’d still be pretty “stupid” about all this stuff today. As I tell clients all the time, “The only ‘stupid’ question you’ll ask is the one you don’t ask.” It drives me crazy when I look at the history of a client and see that they have never asked any questions. Nine times out of ten I could predict without talking to the client that they are not satisfied or happy with the results they AREN’T getting. Why? Because they were afraid to ask the questions that would have taken them to the next level.
So, to some all this up, I encourage you all to EXPECT SUCCESS! If hundreds of thousands of others have seen results with their online businesses, why not you?