Tue, 28 April 2015
A business you can run from home and immediately turn a profit? Sounds like a dream come true! If you want to provide an income for your family, from the comfort of your home, ecommerce might be the right step for you. But how do you begin to learn the ropes of ecommerce? As someone with 18 years of experience in e-commerce, Kat Simpson believes that EBay is the perfect stepping stone for learning how to effectively sell online.
On the Podcast
02:07 – The Business of Beanie Babies
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear Kat’s episode
The Business of Beanie Babies
When Beanie Babies were all the rage, Kat saw an opportunity to make some money on the side for her family. Thus began her almost 20 years of ecommerce experience.
A Business Model that Fits your Schedule
EBay is a great platform for military spouses who have to pick up and move. Kat began selling second- hand items she had at home or picked up at yard sales. The advantage of EBay is that it’s super flexible. You can work on it for a bit, put it on pause, and come back to it when you are ready. That was just the type of business Kat needed for that time in her life.
A Podcasting Interruption
In real life, our podcast is full of interruptions since we always have kids at home when we record our episodes. Thankfully, Kat loves the interruption! She loves helping moms succeed in business in order to stay home with their kids if that's their desire. Kat loved being able to sell on EBay when her kids were little, because the flexibility was wonderful.
Is Just Listing Items Enough?
Kat started selling on EBay in 1997 and a lot of things have changed over the years. You used to be able to get sales by simply listing your items. Now, you can’t depend on EBay alone to bring you traffic. There are several reasons for this.
Strategies to Get Found
The best way to get found on EBay is to have a niche store where you can sell a large quantity of the same item and cater to a specific type of person. Determine your ideal customer and build your store around that customer. It is much easier to market a store that is cohesive and caters to the same type of customer. You can advertise and be present in the same places where your ideal customer hangs out online.
Finding Products to Sell
This is the number one question that people ask, but Kat says this is actually the least of your worries. Finding things to sell is easy. Kat buys a lot of wholesale and liquidations. Everyday wholesalers contact her wanting her to buy their items. The tricky part is determining which items will be profitable.
The Benefits of Ebay
Many people don't realize that Ebay has many great features that make it easy for a shop owner to get started online. For $15 a month you get a website on EBay with 300 pages and a suite of tools to help with marketing. Your EBay store has built in SEO options, and you can even change the SEO keywords for each page of your store. EBay provides a newsletter that you can use to market your products.
Since EBay has a very confusing fee structure, it can be difficult to figure out if you are actually making a profit. The general rule of thumb is that you will pay 20-25% of the sales price to PayPal and EBay in fees. For more expensive items, the fee percentage will be less. Kat recommends that new sellers shop around their house first for items they can list on EBay. These are zero cost items that help you learn the photography process, the listing process, the selling process, and the shipping process, all without having tons of money at stake.
Next try other low cost items you find at thrift stores and garage sales. Kat recommends that you use these zero and low cost items to learn the ropes. Learn how to sell on EBay before you plunk down $500 to a wholesaler and large amounts of money are on the line.
Buy It Now
Kat recommends using the Buy It Now feature on EBay as opposed to the auction method. Combine the Buy It Now feature with the Best Offer feature so that people can offer you a price that you can choose to either accept or decline.
Beyond EBay Marketing
Kat recommends finding out where your customers are hanging out on social media and head there. You could spend hours on social media, so set a timer so you have a limit each day.
YouTube can be a powerful marketing tool for EBay. Use YouTube videos to show that your product works, to demonstrate its operation, or to show off product features. You can embed the video right into your product listing so every person who looks at your listing immediately sees the video explaining your product features and benefits. Kat had a vintage Biff the Bear video that she created in 2008 to show that the Bear still talked. That video has since gotten 50,000 views, and continues to drive traffic to her EBay store long after the actual bear was sold!
Earning Loyal Customers
People buy from sellers they know, like, and trust, so cultivate a relationship with your customers. Kat recommends packaging items to look like a gift and include a freebie in the package to wow them. Getting your customers on your email newsletter is critical. When you communicate with them via your newsletter, make sure it's not about you. It should be all about them!
Kat's $6,000 Mistake
When the Beanie Baby craze was in full swing, Kat was buying and selling Beanie Babies and couldn’t keep them in stock fast enough. She kept putting her money back into more Beanie Babies. What she didn’t realize is that she was dealing with a fad. When the fad died and Beanie Babies stopped selling, Kat was left with $6,000 in Beanie Baby inventory that she couldn’t unload. Her advice? Know when you are selling a fad, and get out.
EBay vs. Amazon
There are a lot of advantages to selling on Amazon:
However, E-bay still offers a few advantages, and it's a great place to learn e-commerce skills. Kat maintains accounts on both EBay and Amazon. EBay lets you build your own business, brand, and customer base. On Amazon you are nothing but an Amazon order filler. Amazon is not a customer acquisition channel. Most of the people who buy on Amazon, don’t even realize they are buying from a person. If you want to have your own long term business and brand, go with EBay. For fast cash without long-term goals, go with Amazon.
Helping Moms Earn a Living From Home
Kat feels called to help moms who want to support their families and stay home if they choose. Her site ThatKat.com has Webinars, a weekly radio show, sales tax help, and much more. Kat is clearly a seasoned, E-commerce expert and has lots of great advice to offer!
3 Must-Haves for Business
Kat's Adorable Grandma Moment
Kat shares a bittersweet moment with her grandson who loves his Nona!
Find Kat Online!
Tue, 21 April 2015
Why Strategy Makes the Difference
Do you ever feel like that hobby blog of yours... the one you've had for years - the one that's never really taken off like you planned - will never become the business you're dreaming of? Cassie Howard chats with us on the podcast today to dispel that myth. It's absolutely possible to turn that hobby blog into a business with a plan and a strategy.
Hear Cassie's story, learn her favorite books and tools for getting ahead, and get to work turning that hobby into a business. You can do it!
On the Podcast
01:29 - From Online Diary to Frugal Living Guide
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Cassie's Interview
From Online Diary to Frugal Living Guide
Cassie started her blog in 2007 when it was just she and her husband. It was more of an online diary where she would write about what she did that day.... "boring stuff" as Cassie says. Having grown up in a very frugal family, Cassie was into couponing and saving money. As she began to blog about couponing and how she was able to save 50-90% off of retail prices, her readers wanted to know how she did it.
Her site, MrsJanuary.com morphed from a personal diary into a complete focus on frugal living. Cassie's site is one of the top frugal living sites for Canadians.
How to Monetize a Blog
Cassie's blog was just a hobby for many years. Although she was helping many Canadians to live more frugally, she didn't have a strategy for turning her blog into a business. She made a couple hundred bucks a month on her site, but for all of the hours she put into it, that low income wasn't worth it.
When Cassie decided it was time to get serious about her blog, the first thing she did was look at other sites in her niche to see how they were monetizing. From there, Cassie tried similar strategies on MrsJanuary.com
What strategies did Cassie try?
After trying things out, Cassie got rid of what didn't work or what felt too salesy and kept what was workingto bring in more income while letting her stay true to her vision for the site.
What income strategies worked?
Ebooks, private services for her readers such as coupon classes and coaching, and sidebar ads are monetization strategies that have worked well for Cassie.
After Cassie tested different strategies and homed in on what was working, she immersed herself in learning everything she could about those monetization strategies, to truly make the most of them.
In a few years' worth of effort, Cassie grew her site from a few hudred dollars a month in income to 10-15,000 dollars a month of income... and that number continues to grow.
More Traffic or More Products ?
For MrsJanuary.com, traffic has played the largest role in increasing her income. Obviously, more visitors allow for higher ad rates, and more potential customers for her products.
However, Cassie says that creating and selling her own products has played a huge role in her business as well. She gets to control the price and the marketing efforts she puts into place for those products, and you don't get that level of control with something like sponsored posts.
Which Products did Cassie Add?
In growing her blog and business, Cassie had to keep her target audience in mind. Her blog readers are frugal-minded, so she knew they wouldn't spend a lot of money on a fancy product. She's kept things simple for them, but has since branched out with CassieHoward.com to offer higher-end products and services to women who are looking for that.
2 Strategies to Grow your Traffic
Cassie has used two key strategies to grow her blog traffic, and therefore, earn more money online.
SEO Tips for Mom Bloggers
Cassie shared 4 great tips for improving your On-Site SEO for your blog.
What is a Long-Tail Keyword Phrase?
How to Find and Keep Great Staff
Cassie admits that she didn't start out hiring the right way. She put out a call on her website announcing that they were hiring. Now, though, Cassie recommends going through a site such as Elance.com. You can find people there with a wide range of expertise who can help you at reasonable prices.
(Cassie's tips on hiring are quite different from Tiffany Romero's. Thoughts?)
A Timeline for Blog Growth
Cassie encourages other women saying, "it doesn't have to take a million years to grow a blog, you can do it in just a few years if you focus and have a clear strategy in place."
A Typical Day for a Full-time Blogger
Cassie starts her days at 4:30 AM. She loves to have at least two hours without the kids up to just enjoy the quiet and having zero distractions. Cassie also does her best work early in the morning. She's most focused and efficient at this time.
She writes her to-do-list the night before so she can dive right in when she wakes up. Cassie usually starts with email. (Yes, she knows that goes against typical advice on productivity, but hey, the most important part of productivity is doing whatever makes you most productive.) Cassie checks to see if there's anything from her team that she needs to address.
Then Cassie moves on to writing blog posts. Finally she does marketing for her new site, CassieHoward.com. By 6:30 AM, Cassie has two hours of "mom mode". She's getting her kids ready for school, feeding breakfast, and cleaning things up.
Once the kids are off to school and daycare, Cassie does calls with clients, interacts with her team for MrsJanuary.com, and does more social media marketing.
Cassie generally ends her day at 3:00 when she goes to pick her son up from school. From there, it's 100% family time until 4:30 the next morning.
Helping Moms do Work they Love
In 2015, Cassie created a new website to help stay-at-home moms learn how to create successful blogs. She has a 4-month program that teaches them how to build a blog from the ground up or how to grow their current blog so they can make at least $30,000 a year
Cassie believes that if women put in the effort and use the strategies she gives them, there's no reason they can't make money with their blogs. She's so passionate about helping other moms live the lives they want, stay home with their kids, and do work that they love.
Cassie has enjoyed the success that comes along with having a big blog, both the financial aspects and the freedome she has, and she wants other moms to enjoy that success too.
4 Great Resources to Keep your Biz Going Strong
The One Thing Cassie is Most Proud of
Cassie is most proud of the group coaching program she started this year. It was a random idea, but when Cassie asked her audience what they thought, they loved it!
Cassie has assembled a small group of women who connect on a regular basis. They help each other to brainstorm ideas for building their businesses, and they are just all around, a great group of women.
3 Books that will Change your Business
A Funny Mom Moment
You'll be cracking up when you hear what Cassie's sassy daughter said to her the morning of the podcast!
Stay in Touch with Cassie!
Tue, 14 April 2015
Land Wholesale Accounts & Get More Press
Would you like to have your products featured in a national magazine? What about features in over 200 publications and TV shows? Andreea Ayers did just that with her Tees for Change business, along with selling over 20,000 units.
A move across the country, a baby on the way, and dreams of having her own business pushed Andreea to go for it and work like crazy to grow her brand. Hear her best advice on getting started, earning loads of wholesale accounts, and gaining massive PR for her business.
On the Podcast
01:28 - From Pregnant and Jobless to Brand New Mompreneur
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear the full story.
From Pregnant & Jobless to Mompreneur
At 5 months' pregnant with a recent move from New York City to Colorado, Andreea struggled to find a job in her chosen field of marketing. She thought about what she loved to do and the kind of business she'd be passionate about running. With a love for inspirational quotes and all things eco-friendly, Andreea settled on an inspirational, eco-friendly t-shirt line.
Now a mom to three kids ages 3, 5, and 7 years old, Andreea launched her first business just one month before her first child was born. Entrepreneurship and motherhood have always gone hand in hand for Andreea!
Andreea took 3 main steps to launch her first business - Tees for Change:
How to Manufacture a Custom Design
When Andreea started her business in 2006, it was much more difficult to find organic and eco-friendly t-shirts. Many brands were just starting to explore the industry, so they'd have only a very basic black or white t-shirt with an unsophisticated fit.
Andreea did a lot of research as well as asking others in the industry, and ultimately she found several companies who could supply eco-friendly t-shirts. There wasn't a clear winner among her options, so for the first few years of year business, Andreea tried several different brands to see what sold best.
There are two options for having your product custom-made by a manufacturer:
Andreea used option two. She worked with the factory where she was already buying pre-made t-shirts, and took an existing style that sold well and had it made in custom colors. Those custom colors weren't being sold to other companies or retailers, so Andreea had an advantage.
Although the thought of using a pattern designer felt overwhelming to Andreea several years ago, she told us that in many cases today, factories have someone on staff who functions as a pattern designer. (Creating your dream product keeps getting easier and easier!)
How to Kill it with Wholesale Orders
Fairly quickly after launching her Tees for Change website, Andreea started reaching out to retailers to get her shirts into stores. She brainstormed all the different shops and marketplaces where her t-shirts would be a great fit. She thought about gift shops, organic stores like Whole Foods, but ultimately, she decided that yoga studios would be the perfect fit for her t-shirts. As someone who does yoga herself, Andreea knew what that target market would want, and her inspiring t-shirts with quotes and sayings would pair perfectly with that audience. Andreea focused solely on getting into yoga studios early on.
Andreea spent one weekend doing nothing but researching yoga studios that she could reach out to with her product. She told us that she stopped work only to eat or nurse her son, but by the end of that weekend, she had a spreadsheet with 3,000 yoga studios, and the contact information for the owner or buyer for that studio's boutique.
When Monday came around, Andreea sent out emails to the studios asking if they'd like to carry her shirts while her son was napping. She got a great response right away. The studio would write back and ask "do you have hang tags" and Andreea would panic and ask herself, "what are hang tags?!"
She got a bunch of business cards, thread, and safety pins and printed her first batch of hang tags herself. Looking back, she's a little embarrassed at the quality of that first round of hang-tags, but she was doing everything herself and learning as she went.
When a studio asked for a line sheet or order form, Andreea would say, "oh yes I do have that!" and then she'd Google what that was and put it together on the spot. Within the first month of business Andreea sold out of her first run of t-shirts!
Andreea invested about $1,000 initially to start with 96 different shirts. She knew that if her business didn't work, she could live with losing $1,000.
She played it safe with a small first run, but when all of the yoga studios were interested, and they would ask for 10 or 15 different shirts, she was panicking because she only had 6 of each shirt!
She went back to printer to ramp up production, and with her second run, she got 70-80 shirts in each and every style and size. This time, she was meeting the demand she had created from all of the yoga studios
After that very first run she had enough sales to then only use her business money for the next run. Andreea continued to grow her business by never investing in more money than what she had in that business bank account. She never went into debt. At the time, her husband was in grad school, and she was the only one making money. She didn't have the luxury of taking from their own bank account.
Shipping & Logistics for a Product-Based Business
For the first two years of her business, Andreea was doing all the shipping herself or with her husband's help! She would print out her orders in the morning, put them on her desk and kindly ask her husband if he had time to pack them. Sometimes he did, and sometimes he didn't.
Her t-shirt inventory lived in her son's bedroom in their tiny, 2-bedroom apartment. They had to move his crib into their room and use the nursery as a mini warehouse.
Before he went to class each day, Andreea and her husband would pack up their car with tons of packages for the post office and UPS. Two years into her business Andreea received a huge order from whole foods. She spent a whole week just packing and shipping t-shirts! At that point she knew her solo shipping system had to end.
PR Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them
After getting featured on a blog whose theme matched perfectly with Andreea's shirts, she realized the power of publicity to grow her brand. Unfortunately, Andreea made a few left turns before figuring out how to leverage PR successfully.
PR Pitfalls to Avoid:
Ultimately, Andreea took back control and secured loads of great PR opportunities for her brand.
Get Your Products Featured in National Magazines
Andreea took several steps to finally get Tees for Change the exposure she wanted:
Sales Breakdown for a Product-Based Business
When Andreea first started and focused on yoga studios, about 85% of her business came through wholesale orders and 15% came through sales on her website.
As Andreea worked hard to get more press and national recognition, her business slowly shifted. By the time she sold Tees for Change 4 years later, 65% of her business was from wholesale orders, and 35% of her sales came through her website.
4 Tips for Growing an Online Business
How to Scale Handmade Products
While the traditional business world may scoff at the idea of making a handmade business work, Andreea believes that if making and creating are what makes you happy, you should continue to do so. She shared 3 excellent tips for scaling a handmade business.
Andreea first started selling her t-shirts for $28, which already seemed quite high for a t-shirt. It took her a while to be ok with that price. Still, at that price her business wasn't sustainable. She couldn't pay herself or get better photos or other things she needed, so she raised her price to $32.Once she increased her price, her sales increased too! Her customers were buying more and others valued her products more. Raising your price could be the missing link to hiring help and getting all the other tools and support you need to scale your business.
How to Get More Traffic
One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is getting more traffic to their online stores. Then, once they get that increased traffic, they need to know how to convert that traffic into sales and customers.
Andreea is sharing all of her knowledge in three online courses on Creative Live, May 4-6 2015. Grab all the details here.
Andreea's Littlest Entrepreneur
Andreea shared the sweetest story about how her seven year-old son is testing his entrepreneurial skills. He wants to be just like his mom!
Andreea says, "Even when we think our kids aren't watching, they're always learning, watching, and trying to do what we're doing."
Stay in Touch with Andreea!
If you loved all of Andreea's advice in the podcast, be sure to check out her talk at the Maker Mentor's conference May 14-16th, 2015. Use our coupon code BBMVIP for $50 off your ticket :)
(This is our affiliate code. At no additional cost to you - and actually at a steep discount to you - we earn a commission off of your ticket purchase.)
Tue, 7 April 2015
When you think about your site or business, what's the message you're trying to convey? If you think that your message is that you "sell pretty jewelry", then it's time to re-think your marketing strategy! Telling a compelling story about how you can help your customer is key to connecting with them and earning their business.
Maggie Patterson is a copywriter and communications strategist who can help you do just that. She works hands-on with entrepreneurs to help them market their businesses and meet their goals.
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear her best advice for telling a compelling story, writing copy that converts, and growing your business.
On the Podcast
02:20 - JUMP!
Ten years ago when Maggie had her son, she decided not to return to her cushy, well-paying job at a PR firm. When her year-long maternity leave was up, she started her own business as a communications consultant. As Maggie says, she just pulled the ripcord and jumped! Almost 10 years later, she's still here!
How to Earn Six Figures
Maggie encourages other entrepreneurs to look past the lure of a shiny new website or all the other things they think they should have and just get to work. Maggie didn't have her own website until 2013 - yet she earned six figures her first full year in business! Clearly, she's doing things right!
Maggie took advantage of two key strategies to grow her business early on.
Compelling Communication - How to Nail It!
As a communications consultant, Maggie focuses on three core things with each of her clients:
Storytelling isn't just a popular buzzword, it's essential to growing your business and brand. Storytelling works, and science proves it! At the most basic level , storytelling is connecting with your audience in an emotional way. When we appeal to someone's emotions, we activate more parts of their brain versus using logic and facts. As humans, we're wired for emotion, it's a pattern we learn from a young age. The audience you're trying to reach will understand your message much more clearly if you use storytelling and an emotional appeal to reach them.
(Jonah Berger's book, Contagious, gives great examples of scientific and case studies indicating the value of emotion in things catching on.)
There's an important point to remember when it comes to story-telling in business: It's not your story that your audience wants to hear. It's the story about how you deliver your customers results. For example, you don't need thousands of words on your website about how you quit your job and how fulfilling your current business venture is. You need to figure out the story your customers need to hear to connect with you.
Your customers care about what's in it for them. Your story should indicate how you can help them. If you don't understand your customers and what they need, it will be incredibly difficult to come up with a compelling story to tell. Your prospective customers don't need an epic Star Wars tale, they need to understand that at the heart of your message, you understand them, and you're here to help.
When Maggie discusses story-telling, she wants to be clear that this doesn't mean being inauthentic. You should be honest when conveying your story.
When you tell an inauthentic story:
So tell that story, but make it an authentic one!
How to Make your Customer the Hero
Maggie shared five key points for making your customers the heroes and connecting future customers to your brand.
Copy that Converts
Before you even consider the words on the page, you have to be clear on your goal for every website visitor or blog reader. Are you trying to get them on your email list? Do you want them to buy a product? You need to simplify your site so that it's incredibly clear as to what step your visitors should take next. What will move someone from visiting your site once to actually engaging with you and becoming a customer?
How many times have you visited a website and thought, "oh, this is pretty," then you just sort of stumble around. Instead, orient your visitors to your universe. Tell them where to go. If visitors have too many options, they'll suffer from decision fatigue and leave. So, for example, you may tell them, "you can subscribe to my email list or you can see my services," and leave it at that.
Does this apply to the mommy blogger who writes on various topics each week?
YES. If you're a mom blogger your goal may be to have people stay on your site longer. So for each blog post, you want to engage them with another blog post. Or perhaps, your more important goal is to get them to sign up for your email list. So include a way to subscribe at the end of every post, within the post, in your sidebar... wherever you can possibly put it.
Always remember that people are busy. They may think, "oh I'd like to go back to that website but I can't remember what the address is...." but if you've got them on that email list, they'll see the email and click over and come back for a second visit.
How to Get Published on Leading Sites
Maggie's posts have been published on top sites such as the Huffington Post and Duct Tape Marketing. She shared several tips for landing key guest posts.
(For more tips on guest posting, learn from Amy Lynn Andrews here.)
Why Press Releases Stink
Press releases have been around since the 1900's. At this point, they're antiquated and highly ineffective at reaching your target audience. The media are not sitting around poring through press releases saying, "Oh! Awesome!!! They just released the THING!" They don't know who you are. They don't care.
If you're a tiny business or solopreneur, you can connect with the media on twitter, follow them, and share their stuff. Then send a quick email, saying, "hey I noticed you write a lot on this topic. If you ever need a source, I'm happy to help you."
Another point to remember when you're marketing your business? "People are not nearly as excited about your new thing as you are. They're just not. We need to make them trust us and then maybe they'll care a little bit...." says Maggie.
Business Tools for your Team
Basecamp. Maggie and her team use BaseCamp and she believes it's worth every penny for project management. They also use the program for their clients with bigger projects. Basecamp will help your team to organize files and cut down on email chains.
Google. Maggie's team uses Google Drive, Mail, and just about everything Google has to offer! Google Drive makes it incredibly easy to edit and share files in real time. There are no issues with version control that you may get with other file-sharing services. Maggie says that she's so much more productive with Google. She no longer deals with crashes or lost documents.
The Best Way to Grow a Business
Maggie's number one piece of business advice is to remember that your business is always about people. It's easy to get caught up in our list numbers or social media stats. But those aren't numbers or even blog readers and commenters. They're people. Never forget to treat them that way.
If people take the time to comment on her blog, Maggie interacts with them. If someone needs to ask her questions before they purchase a service, she gets on the phone with them and has a real conversation. You're not dealing with Paypal accounts, you're dealing with a person who should be nurtured, respected, and cared for.
Doing Business with Canada
4 Things You Might Not Know About Canadians
We couldn't resist asking Canadian Maggie Patterson about misconceptions we Americans have about her country.
Maggie's Funny Mom Moment
Maggie listens to a lot of podcasts in the car, so naturally her son has been hearing them for years. He loves to imitate all of the podcast introductions! Maggie's pretty sure she can make money selling these because they're just too good!
You'll have to tune into the podcast to hear which famous podcaster Maggie's son impersonates the best!
Stay in Touch with Maggie!