How to Start an Online Business Today

How to Start an Online Business Today

Buying more things online this year than usual?

If so, you are far from alone! In the US, e-commerce grew 32% in 2020 to reach $790 billion, up from $598 billion the year before. (link)

If you’ve been on the fence about starting an online store, you do NOT want to miss this episode (and you might want to share with a friend, too!).

Steve has his own businesses, but he also spends a tremendous amount of time helping other people be successful with their online stores, so we’re going to ask him all about getting started!

– How much money do you need?
– What are the absolute must haves?
– What mistakes do beginners often make?
– Which tools and platforms do you recommend?
– And lots more!

I have been excited for all week i have just been uh a twitter we’re not on twitter yes we are on twitter we are we are the vestiges of uh periscope but as always thank you guys so much for joining us we want to make this all about you so as we’re going along today make sure you’re asked your questions so steve can we can pick his brain as much as possible and also if you’re going along you’re like hey listen i know i’ve been thinking about having a store i’ve been thinking about doing e-commerce and my friend they’ve been thinking about it too feel free to at mention them down below because we want to draw them as many people into this conversation as possible make it all about you so feel free to do that and also share it among all the socials just sprinkle it out all the love across the interwebs we would super appreciate that and we’ve already got people stopping in we’ve got rocky saying hello hello rocky uh good to see you this is gonna be a fun show very fun show so elisa how have you been taking it away yes i’ve been good i’ve also been very excited about this show this week i we’re a little later in the day um because steve too is here yes okay okay if you don’t know steve2 well you need to so steve has two seven figure businesses uh bumblebee linens and my wife quit her job.com my quit her job.com um that podcast is amazing i’ve been listening to it for years so if you if you’re thinking about e-commerce and you’re not listening to it yet you need to um so i don’t know about you jeff and steve but me and the ups guy are like on a first name basis i know they make me happy when i see him in the driveway like wow where did this all come from so i i know i’m not the only one and the reason why i know is because uh in the us alone e-commerce grew 32 in 2020. 32 yeah it is crazy because we couldn’t leave the house i know i know right but i don’t think this is going to all go back to we’re all going out to the store right it’s it’s probably a trend that’s going to stick around a while so if you’ve been thinking i want to get in on that i want to make a change well stevie’s here to help with that um he is the creator of the prof profitable online store course and he’s been featured in wall street journal forbes new york time on and on and on and today of course the pinnacle of his success is being on our short marketing unleashing i’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a very long time to ask yes you have you went on abc just so you could come on our show um and you could steve what’s the best link for people to find you uh just my wife quit herjob.com it’s okay to find me great because they always they all want to find out about you now and by the way so i will stay oh good i know your conference is taking over because my mom does not go to the grocery store anymore she now combines all the groceries online and before it was not like that and she was not a believer but the pandemic do you think so do you think that she will she will continue to buy online like that even if she feels safe she has the vaccine you can go now but it’s a permanent lifestyle change now i agree with my parents too i mean they’re going there they stole my sam’s card and they go and they buy bulk toilet paper and all sorts of things so oh wow so by the way before we get started we want to make sure and we mentioned this last week but if you guys haven’t checked this out make sure you go to vit.ly forward slash tw pinterest toolkit all lowercase all smashed together we’ve got some brand new april um templates that you can check out they’re they’re really really cool but they’re also available on canva i mean tailwind create they’re also canva but tailwind create where you can go check those out because they are amazing you want to make sure you go there so vit dot ly forward slash tw pinterest toolkit and also i want you to talk about this this new um url this sales from pinterest what is this that we are promoting today this is a webinar that i actually completely redid for steve’s group and he wanted a webinar about using pinterest specifically for e-commerce we had one but it was old and really outdated so i went real deep on catalogs and how to use all of the cool features of pinterest to sell more for your business awesome so that’s at sales bit.ly forward sales from pinterest that’s all lowercase all smashed together so make sure to check that out all right i didn’t think you did it justice alisa it was very comprehensive in fact we went overtime if you remember because there was so much content and i couldn’t stop talking she is very in-depth i mean she makes your brain melt a little bit every time so yes so it’s a great webinar so make sure you check it out excited all right so we’re going to talk right before we get started we’ll dive in i want to talk to you guys real quick about this new news that came out i don’t know if you’ve heard but like elise and i have teased about social audio and steve i know you know about clubhouse and everything and well facebook last week in the news has really talked about the all these new um tests that they’re doing and they’re gonna roll out their clubhouse clone they’re doing all sorts of things uh like elise is excited about the linkedin version there’s gonna be one reddit just launched one i mean everybody’s getting into social audio well another one that they have rolled out that facebook’s r d uh platform has rolled out this thing called hotline and it’s kind of a mashup of clubhouse and instagram live you can have your camera alisa and i tested it the other day and in fact we are actually going to go after this show so at uh would be 3 30 central time we’re gonna go into hotline i somehow facebook allowed me into this they never let me have anything and i i got into this and so we’re gonna test it out after the show if you’d like to join and continue the conversation go to hotline.co forward slash jeffc which you have there on the screen uh so that’s the news but that’s it we’re gonna jump right in now to steve and all his e-commerce wisdom so i know you have a question right off the bat elisa i do i do um i have a question about bumblebee linens so this is the company that you and your wife and i think it’s funny i had to do some digging to find out what your wife’s name was because it was always just my wife but now i know her name is jennifer um so she likes to stand her down low that’s why yeah yeah i read that too she’s a little bit shy she doesn’t like to admit that she’s married to me you know how it is yeah so i have the same problem i believe that but okay so so sh she’s she started you both started this this bumblebee linens company like what led to that what made you wake up and decide to do that well realistically uh when we got married when she became pregnant with our first child she said i’m just staying at home and uh and not even live in silicon valley right it’s really expensive here really expensive where we live so in order to get a good house and a good school district pretty much need two incomes and so at the time she was working for a fortune 500 company and she was making six figures and all of a sudden she told me she was going to quit which i supported mainly because i didn’t see my parents that much growing up so i wanted to make sure that you know the parents were around so we basically thought about a whole bunch of different ways to make money and then we stumbled upon e-commerce and specifically handkerchiefs because when uh my wife and i got married she knew she was gonna cry and we actually looked all over the place for hankies couldn’t find any she was gonna cry because she was happy jeff okay okay thank you and then finally we found this factory in china and then we only used maybe six of them even though we bought a couple hundred and then we at that time we sold all the rest on ebay and they sold really like hot cakes and so later on when she became pregnant we got back in touch with that vendor made a large purchase and decided to open a store so so how long have you had uh the the store i mean how many years have you been doing it yeah that was that was 2007 and we knew we were on to something because we made six figures in profit in our first year which basically replaced her salary and it’s grown in the double and triple digits ever since then and today it’s a seven-figure business wow so what do you when somebody says okay steve i get what you’re saying you guys you guys got it while the you know struck while iron was hot is it too late for somebody in today’s economy in today’s world to start from scratch and do an e-commerce store now is actually the good time because everything is transitioning over to e-commerce now ironically is probably one of the best times to do it because everyone is shopping online i can’t remember what the stats were but i think uh e-commerce was something like 15 of uh overall sales and now it’s it’s jumped to like 18 or 19 wow yeah yeah uh and what’s also nice about now is that the barriers to entry are much lower too back when we got started i literally had to code up my own site and everything today there’s a whole bunch of services out there that’ll just do it for you even for free right now wow so oh that’s amazing so so steve did you and jennifer have this huge nest egg that you invested all in your linens business no we invested 630 actually that’s awesome um and most of that was not inventory actually inventory was only like a couple hundred bucks at the time um mainly because the minimum orders are so small we literally got back in touch with that vendor and just made a small test order really is what it was yeah so um let’s say okay you convinced me steve i’ve listened to your podcast for years like elisa but i’m actually going to do something i’m not just going to listen to it like at least i’m going to start a store uh so can i do this like as a side hustle um can i like can i do it and still like i’m sure you don’t recommend people like quit their job and here you know put up a shopping website and there you go so but can i i mean how many hours a week do you have to like i mean i’m sure it depends on the niche but is it possible to do it as a side business too yeah absolutely i mean we did it as a side business i was a director of engineering and my wife was a you know financial analyst and uh you can definitely get by i would say the minimum that you should devote honestly is probably like five hours a week and in response to your other question in terms of doing this as a side hustle there’s actually many different e-commerce business models so if you don’t have a budget at all meaning you you don’t have enough money to invest or a lot of money to invest there’s drop shipping or like even affiliate store model if you guys don’t know what that is an affiliate store model is basically when you refer business to another company and you get a cut of the sale drop shipping is when you take orders and someone else like your supplier actually is responsible for fulfillment but the business models that i actually recommend typically are private labeling this is where you actually go and you make your own product put your own brand on it and you make it your own because when you own that product and the brand that has the longest term potential for an e-commerce store but of course it takes more money so where’s something like drop shipping and if the affiliate model you can start for free literally private label will typically cost you i would say at least two thousand dollars to get started with your initial inventory on average so i just want to i want to kind of go back to this this private label thing so i’ve heard about it you know i i’ve i’ve done software where you white label you pay extra so you can use the software it doesn’t have their logo on it or whatever so let’s say i i have a friend who he makes all these goat milk products and he makes a beard bomb and i want to start my own beard bomb business beard oil business so i would pay him a fee and i would able to take his product and he would slap the label on it and then i would sell it is that how that kind of works so that i mean everyone mixes up the terminology that i consider like white labeling this is literally when you’re just taking someone else’s product you’re putting your label on it and then you’re selling it um which happens all the time actually if you look at like the tech industry i’m trying to think of an example like those usb sticks you might see like an ibm branded one right you know different companies it’s all the same stick same manufacturer that all they’re doing is putting their brand on it really that you can certainly do it that way i think the best way though is if you actually make your own improvements to the product and then make it your own so that no one else is exact selling the exact same product and i know that sounds intimidating but it’s actually not that bad and you don’t really need any design experience as long as you’re working with the right factory so can you kind of share how you did that yeah so handkerchiefs really is just fundamentally a piece of fabric right so when we make our designs we just work with the factory and sometimes we’ll literally just take like a pencil drawn mock-up and show it to them and they’ll like get they have artists in-house and they’ll sketch something out and we’ll just kind of go back and forth to modify it sometimes we’ll just even take an image and have them just kind of recreate it to some embroidered design so everything that we sell is embroidered and when you go through that process and this is kind of just unique to what we do you have to basically convert an image to separate colors like maybe like five colors for the for the stitching out and then you just kind of go back and forth like you know obviously i’m don’t know anything well i know about handkerchiefs now but at the time it’s just something you learn and you don’t really have to know exactly how it’s done you just have to have the vision for how you want the product to look in the end so would another example be so like pat flynn has that switch pod i mean and tripods have been out before i mean you know people they’ve been out forever so but he created this really quick opening you know really thing for doing selfies and all that sort of stuff so is that what you’re kind of talking about is that kind of another example where he’s taking it his example is a little bit more involved because it literally involves designing something from complete scratch okay right so with his i would imagine for doing something like pat i would imagine it would cost at least 25 000 to get started with something like that okay what i was suggesting which is what i guide most of my students to do is just to take something that’s already out there uh i’ll give a simple example let’s say you want to design like a bag right moving around pockets or changing the round design of a bag is very simple right because it’s a textile product and let’s say you want to make um there’s this example that i just gave the other day when i was giving a presentation for some reason weighted hula hoops are really big right now and it’s because we all need to lose that weight yeah one of the biggest complaints of these weighted hula hoops is that they’re weighted so they like hurt your hips right so if you wanted to make a change to make that product better for example you could literally just tell the manufacturer to add more padding around it it would cost you more but if you add more foam padding that would make it a better product than what’s already out there right and that wouldn’t require any design expertise gotcha so so interesting so now i gotta go get a weighted hula hoop from my collection um so karen asked this question she goes is print on demand a good business bottle model to try and i know you’ve talked about this like in your podcast like a lot of t-shirt sellers out there hawking different things and that kind of stuff yeah well i can speak from this from experience because my nine and 11 year old kids at the time they started their own print on demand business for for zero dollars and they ended up making almost a thousand dollars in their first month of business just through social so print on demand is viable what the problem with so if you’re very creative and you can come up with really good designs that appeal to a very specific niche you can make that work i would and you can do it for free because the way print on demand work it’s a form of drop shipping where you take the order and then that order goes to the print manufacturer and then they ship it to the end customer i think you can make it work what’s difficult about that is that there’s just rampant piracy going on right in that space so you might have a really good design but then someone will copy it and then make like this slight adjustment to it so that it doesn’t violate the copyright so if in order to make that sort of business work you have to be constantly putting out designs yeah i got into that for a while i have a shopify store that i still sell stuff but that’s true i mean it’s it’s very cool that now you can do that i mean like you can set up a site with shopify and just like i can make my own stuff anytime i want and people buy it so it’s very cool and it’s great for like creators you see a lot of youtubers who have you know things at the bottom their their merch that they sell a lot of that is print on demand so that’s very very interesting so i have a student in my class she makes seven figures her man’s admit her name is amanda she’s a designer she makes her own cards and she’s just so prolific that it’s impossible for anyone to knock her like as soon as someone knocks her off it doesn’t matter because she’s churning out so many designs every single month and she it’s great yeah awesome so her labor is in her creativity and not the actual product fulfillment so drona says this is fast so i’m very i’m i know i have so many questions tony you’re exactly right but jacqueline has this she goes so when you alter a product like your handkerchiefs do you need to file a trademark for each design that you develop no so the trademark is actually only for your brand name so we actually have a trademark for bumblebee linens and in terms of our designs uh what you can do is you can like register a copyright for those designs and that’s actually pretty inexpensive it’s like a couple hundred bucks to do that uh we actually don’t go that route because for us it’s all about brand i mean what we in reality actually everything in the world is a commodity right right chances are if you’re selling something someone else has sold it before so it really just depends on your brand and we’ve been doing this for a while now and we have pretty good relationships with our customers so that even if they saw a knockoff they would still buy from us because they we’re handkerchief specialists right they bought from us before they know the quality and we can guarantee that quality and that’s why people come to us even though there’s probably hundreds of other sellers of handkerchiefs at this point yeah and i think from what you said before it could probably become a full-time job to pursue those copyright violations so it might be better just to keep creating yeah i mean once you’ve established a good name for yourself then just knockoffs becomes less of a factor in general so this is a good question too from michelle she says hello from ireland hello back um i’m looking at your products and i can’t see any labeling of or a logo is this a design a decision and i think a lot of people think the same thing is like when you create a product you’ve got to somehow put your logo on it or somebody is going to knock it off so what are your thoughts on that yeah so the because we sell handkerchiefs like we’re not gonna like stitch in our logo to it right although our aprons we actually have like tags with our with our logos on it but for something like a handkerchief and a wedding uh someone’s not gonna want like the logo on it they’re gonna want their own you know stitching in their own design on it right so we do have our logo on it but i would say the logo is more important for the packaging and it depends on the product right like if you’re selling bags obviously you should put your brand on it somewhere but our items are pretty small and i think our logo especially for the handkerchiefs would just take up too much space on the actual item gotcha gotcha makes sense okay notice we have some questions about getting started let’s let’s get into that what what are the must haves to getting started like the bare bones must have in order to succeed so the model that i actually recommend now is a little bit different than if you started like a decade ago i think these days amazon has 50 of e-commerce and your ultimate goal should be to have your own brand which is very difficult to do on amazon so what i usually the way i teach it is start come up with an item to sell start trying to sell it on amazon first and then once it has traction start your own website and your own brand so in terms of getting started first thing you need to do obviously is you need to figure out what you want to sell right and in the event that you are not a creative person like i don’t consider myself a creative person from a product perspective there’s actually a whole bunch of tools out there that will allow you to just kind of browse amazon and know exactly how much money that particular item is making in a given month for example like a tool like jungle scout literally it’s it’s a chrome plug-in and as you’re browsing on amazon you can click a button and it’ll tell you how many units that’s sold in the last 30 days so you can do your product research that way there’s also keyword tools out there that will tell you which exact products are being browsed or searched for the exact search terms that they’re typing in the search volume and how difficult it is to rank for that keyword and so with that hopefully you can find something that you can sell where you could add some sort of value to right we we talked about that weighted hula hoop example where you’re improving upon an item so once you have that item uh you need to find a manufacturer and i often get asked this question like can i get things manufactured in the united states versus asia the reason why people get stuff manufactured over in asia is because the cost of labor is significantly lower let me give you an example so for our handkerchiefs right the cost of the cotton is actually going to be the same whether i buy in the u.s or whether i buy it in china but the fabric needs to be cut and sometimes it needs to be hemmed and that sort of thing that labor cost is very expensive in the u.s versus china so just a typical handkerchief might cost me four dollars in the u.s but it might only cost me 25 cents or 50 cents in china and this is why a lot of people go over there anything that involves any amount of labor is generally going to be less expensive to to source over there so on that when we talk about like you’re setting up that kind of supply ch um pipeline so are there some tips to do that because i know like even recently we had that blockage in the canal where things couldn’t go through and people were like ports were stacking up i mean is there ways to protect yourself from those kind of things i mean do you hold so much inventory locally versus i mean how do you balance all that i guess yeah so it takes some time to get this right but over time you’ll understand what your sales rate is and how much inventory that you should stock so we try to hold no more than three months or so because when you have to hold extra inventory obviously that that requires more warehouse space and again it takes some time to understand what your sales velocity is going to be but things like the suez canal getting blocked is uh hopefully an anomaly uh recovered yeah yeah or covid uh so we did get affected by the supply chain but so so some of our shipments were like three weeks late one thing you have to realize is that when you source from overseas there’s going to be a lead time right so our lead time is typically actually three months typically takes them a couple months to make the product and then we budget usually like a month for it to come over by boat and clear customs gotcha that’s really important to know so you can’t really have so you have to plan for the holidays or your really heavy seasons and for like weddings and stuff way in advance that’s what you’re saying so again this is only for the private label model like for for drop shipping it’s there’s less planning involved because you’re not really in control of that but yes if you want to make the most margin so let me just give you an idea what the margins are for drop shipping the margins are between 10 and 30 but for private label margins are typically at least 66 sometimes in the 90s like that handkerchief example i gave you where we’re spending like 25 to 50 cents on a handkerchief sometimes we can sell that handkerchief for 25 dollars if it’s personalized right for a wedding and it’s it’s partially due to the industry that we’re in where you know people in in weddings and special occasions they’re they’re less price sensitive so true wow so you mentioned you have like having a certain amount of inventory in a warehouse was there a time when your spare bedroom and your and your garage were full of handkerchiefs yes yes we started out in our garage um and it was it was actually quite hilarious because we have we bought industrial racks for our garage and we left this like tiny hallway where you had to like kind of slither around in the beginning you know if you don’t live in california like we if we didn’t live in california we probably would have moved it out of our garage much sooner but it’s just real estate here is so expensive but these days actually back when we started we didn’t have opportunities like this but now these days there’s three pls which stands for third party logistics firms where you just send them the inventory and they do the shipping for you and then there’s also amazon fba where you can send all your products to amazon and they’ll fulfill it for you even if you’re selling on your own store so for example if i have a shopify store and i get an order i can literally have that my shop automatically send a signal to amazon to ship that item to the end customer as well i’ve seen that yeah so do you lose out a lot on margin when you do that so amazon probably will try and again just depends on how much your item costs but you’ll probably lose like a maybe 10 to 15 percent off your top line okay um the only downside really is not the money so much is when you use amazon’s fulfillment it actually arrives in an amazon branded box whereas if you use your own 3pl they’ll insert like whatever box you want whatever inserts that you want so that’s like the advantage of going with 3pl over amazon so let’s talk about marketing a little bit because i know you know i’m sure that when you first started your marketing has changed from where it is now um but gianni i even asked this is great also you’re going to talk about putting items on pinterest so do you use all the socials with with your marketing i mean do you have like a whole like part of division of your company that you do or just have your e-commerce store or how do you let people know about your product yeah so i have a couple fundamental principles because we we like to run things very lean and so what we had focused on is uh mainly search and paid advertising now when it comes to e-commerce really all you need is one good channel to hit six figures and you probably need two or three channels to hit seven figures so our first channel was actually uh google adwords and we did really well with that that actually got us pretty close to six figures by itself and then we had a content strategy which which involves pinterest and seo where we were putting out craft projects that brides would actually want to read or basically uh content that our target customers would want to read we get their emails email marketing is huge also and then our third prong was you would think that there wouldn’t be that much repeat business in the wedding industry but it turns out that when we started selling a lot of people were buying like 50 handkerchiefs which seemed weird to me right uh-huh so one day we actually got on the phone and called one of these customers and said hey we noticed you ordered a large amount um can we give you like a dedicated rep and a coupon code if you order again then we found out that all these event planners were ordering right so now whenever we get a large order repeat business is the most important aspect of having your own store by the way yeah so now when we get a large order we reach out to them and we say hey here’s a dedicated point of contact if you need anything just call us up we’ll give you a discount and we’ll make sure that it gets there on time because it’s an event and it’s very so that’s our three-prong attack so we run email marketing represents 30 of our sales like repeat business is actually 36 percent of our sales even though only 12 of our customers are repeat customers wow um so in terms of traffic we run facebook ads google ads we also do a lot of we get a lot of traffic from seo and uh in terms of getting people back to our site we are doing facebook messenger email and sms sms or text message marketing is probably the thing of the future right i don’t know if you guys are used to getting texts from stores now but people are used to it and it actually does really well so on so how do your emails work because i’m just trying to think of like how do i get a handkerchief email it just i mean how often do you send those i mean it just seems it just seemed different to me so i’m really interested in that because that would be think of a hard get people open that or something i’ll walk you through the process so the way we get emails primarily right now is this pop-up on our site and it’s a wheel of fortune pop-up so in return for an email address you get a chance to spin the wheel to get free stuff and who doesn’t like free stuff right so they give us an email address and they spin the wheel and every every spot on the wheel is a winner whether it be a coupon code or like a free handkerchief or or whatnot all right and then we make them redeem that offer via text message so for example let’s say you win like a 20 coupon in order to get the coupon code you have to text uh we use what is called a to tab this is where you click a link and then the text the text message app automatically opens and you just hit send and then you get sent the coupon code and then you make a purchase so in the event that they don’t make a purchase the email sequence it’s actually pretty long at this point it’s it’s probably like three months worth of emails we emailed them in the beginning we yell more frequently maybe like every other day or every third day and what we’re doing there is we’re not talking about handkerchiefs right we’re humanizing our company essentially we’re talking about our brand story uh we’re talking about what we sell what are all of our value propositions like we’re the largest uh purveyor of handkerchiefs on the internet we can do personalization and then we just talk about different products that we sell and then we tell funny stories like uh we taught our wedding story um here’s a funny story that actually resonates with people for some one time like when my wife and i were dating uh i i made a really nice dinner but i used these cheap paper napkins and my wife like everything was perfect except for the napkins that’s right and then we talk about our line of monogrammed linen napkins and how that can add a lot to the wedding it’s to this special occasion anyway yeah she married me anyway we talk about different crafts that you can make with handkerchiefs so one that’s really popular is this hanky bonnet and i didn’t know these were things until later on but it turns out like you can make a bonnet out of handkerchiefs that that you use for your baby and then you use that exact same handkerchief when you get married as you’re something blue like little things like that that’s really cool so the goal of email marketing isn’t necessarily get to sale right away but it’s just because people might not be ready to buy right away but the idea is you want to keep them in your mind share over time so that when they are ready they think about your store yeah trona says she’s she’s signing up just to see your secrets so maybe you get some more emails out of the show yeah so yeah that’s really cool so the magical part though is the post-purchase sequence oh yeah this is all automated depending on what you buy you will get cross-hold different items so let me give you an example so we sell cocktail napkins lunch napkins and dinner napkins in our shop right so let’s say you buy just cocktail napkins well our system will detect that and it’ll try to sell you matching lunch napkins and dinner napkins and remember what i said like the key to running your own online store is the key advantage is having repeat business and access to your customer base when you sell on amazon you don’t have access to any of those things and so what’s cool about you can set up these automated systems that kind of generate sales on autopilot and someone who’s bought from you before is much more likely to buy from you again so you can literally just feast upon the people who’ve already purchased from you super sleepy so is this my mind three months i know i know so much here um the three month sequence is is that kind of based on why did you decide three months i’m sure there’s so much it didn’t start out as three months it really just started out as what i could feel like writing like my brain goes differently so it’s just something you add over time right you might start out with only three emails and then you just add to it over time and one thing one thing i forgot to mention actually about that pre-purchase sequence is every five or so emails will send out a coupon code and because the goal of that pre-purchase sequence is literally just to get a sale no matter how much right yeah so we’ll intersperse these coupon codes but if they make a purchase in between that like before they get the coupon code they actually won’t get the coupon code anymore so everything there is designed just to get that first purchase because the magic really happens once you actually have them as a customer and you can cross-sell them different items in the store awesome well some great questions we have our audience is some of the smartest people around there but um trona asks this she goes are you using a i for those matching items like when somebody picks it it’s not a i it’s just all based on data so um i’ll just give you an example something really simple so so the napkin example i already gave you but here’s a different one let’s say someone buys a particular style of handkerchief but whenever they buy that handkerchief we have data that says that this other handkerchief is commonly bought with it then we’ll try to cross-sell that and if we don’t have that data based on what someone bought we just simply cross-sell categories so for example yeah let’s say someone purchased a color embroidered handkerchief like one of the pre-embroidered ones we might try to cross-sell them personalized ones where they can write whatever message they want that’s just as an example you’re selling them more the same because we have a lot of skus and when you’re shopping this happens to me all the time i might not even know about different categories of products that the store has to offer because i was laser focused on getting that one particular thing that i was looking for that’s something that’s very and we have another great one from rocky about uh that game base wheel that you’re talking about says does that does using a game based form like that lead to a lot of fake emails uh do you check your open uh rate on that um so it can maybe depending on what you sell but it’s it’s mostly coupons right so right no one’s gonna really want a coupon code unless they have the intention of actually buying from you and in terms of the conversion rate i actually had data uh so before my lead magnet was just a coupon code right off the bat and i think that converted at like 1.5 or 1.4 percent and then i switched that over to a different pop-up where we were giving out like a book of crafts or a napkin folding book depending on what type of product they were looking at so it was like a content specific or product specific lead value and that improved it to like two percent and then when i went to the spin to win it jumped up to like three point six percent opt-in oh wow so the gamification aspect of it really actually adds something to it because people love to gamble i guess or yeah are you always testing things all the time i mean i mean are you always a friend i’m an electrical engineer at heart like i i rely on that i can’t help it yeah i rely on numbers yeah all right okay so if you’re just starting out maybe you have one or two products is there anything that you need to do to protect yourself legally legally well what are we selling here um like do i need to have business insurance um yeah yeah i think uh when you’re first starting out i would probably just get limited liability okay and once your business gets big and you have something to protect then you can get liability insurance and again it really just totally depends on what you sell like for us like handkerchiefs chances are i know the us is very litigious but chances are people aren’t going to hurt themselves on like a handkerchief right so yeah yeah right so we put off that whole process of getting the liability insurance until a little bit later once we already had established something but if you’re selling like consumables and that sort of thing maybe i might be a little bit more careful yeah you have to start putting like like disclaimers on your handkerchiefs like these are too soft like the mcdonald’s this coffee may be hot okay thank you mcdonald’s um so it’s really interesting to me because i think when i’ve i’ve heard you in the past you were kind of like not as pro amazon as you are now and it seems like you may have changed a little bit my question is is i’ve heard so many people that have gotten i’m trying to say this nicely not had good experience with amazon they’ve lost their entire store or they’ve started amazon and they’re getting like 90 of their sales from amazon and 10 from their own site or maybe not even that much and it feels like and they are in fear of amazon like i could lose this in a day so what are your thoughts on that because it does sound a little scary that they have that much power they do and in general like i you can’t really ignore amazon so i’m not pro amazon per se but i’m pro sales right and what you’ll find that some people just only shop on amazon and some people like to shop on boutiques and you really have to cater to both of them right so for those people who are getting most of their sales on amazon chances are they’re spending most of their time working on amazon and not their own shop right whatever you tend to work on is what will tend to improve and let me just i’ve been teaching this class for a very long time the top mistakes that i see from people with their own stores number one is that it’s not trustworthy so you have to you have to make your store you have to make your site trustworthy you have to emphasize like that you have no hassle returns fast shipping you have to have contact information and the store has to be laid out in a way like there’s testimonials press mentions whatever to make it feel like it’s like it’s shopped in it has to have social proof and it has to be designed there’s a whole bunch to it right there’s even like the call to actions on the site your value props they all have to be there because on your own site no one trusts you right off the bat like they trust amazon so number one most people the design isn’t even good and then second of all they don’t have a way to retain their customers right the the average conversion rate for an e-commerce store is something like two percent which basically means 98 of the people are not gonna buy from you and so you have to have bare minimum email to get people back a lot of people don’t do that also a lot of people don’t forget focus on the repeat business uh i mentioned like that post purchase sequence stuff like that is kind of like par for the course a way to get people to buy more maybe like have a loyalty program and only then once you have all those things in place should you even be thinking about driving traffic what i find is that new people they’ll throw up a site they’re so excited they’ll spend money on advertising not get as many sales or repeat sales or anything and then they give up and then they go okay amazon’s working here because amazon does most of the work and gives you most of the sales i may as well focus more on my time there gotcha on the amazon front can you even charge for shipping anymore i mean it’s just i mean it’s like free shipping is kind of like everybody’s expecting that can you i mean if you if you get started okay okay this is what you should do like when you have your own online store what you want to do is you want to have a free shipping threshold right and amazon actually has this if you’re not prime right right if you’re not a prime member they i don’t remember what their shipping threshold is but it’s fine and what’s cool is once you have this shipping threshold you’ll find that people will start adding an extra item just to hit that threshold i do that so let’s say you want to try to increase your average order value you can play around with that amount to boost your sales yeah yeah i’m a sucker for that i do that all the time like i’ll buy another shoe yeah i’ll do some much more shoes i do i do that math in my head i’m like okay that would be like getting this item for only four dollars even though it’s 12. yeah yeah so a question it sounds like you have everything really well set up and really well like highly automated um in a good way um can everyone do that from the start or is that the kind of thing you have to kind of work up to to be able to afford you work up to it i i would say like bare minimum if you were to just start out get your website and your value props and all that stuff in order and then just do email at the very beginning i’m in kind of like a different situation uh since i teach a class on this i treat my store kind of like a laboratory so anything new that comes out i’ll immediately implement it right and i’ll usually document all the results on the blog um and usually it i usually devote my like at least a year for everything so last year was the year of sms the prior year was the year of facebook messenger and then you know so on and so forth okay i like wow so what’s what’s this year yeah uh this year is actually social oh okay oh fun yeah so you know all the good tools right uh i know which ones are good and i have all the tools because just by nature of running my blog every service provider just gives them to me and i’ll try them right and i’ll kind of use what i like the best so what just for an example because i get this question a lot what sms tool do you like to use the most i’m using postscript.io what i like about them is that they are very specifically tailored towards e-commerce and they’re very inexpensive so what uh for most of you guys who are used to email you typically pay by the number of subscribers that you have but with postscript what’s nice is you only pay for what you send you don’t get charged for how many subs that you have and i find that pricing model very refreshing that’s really cool so as an ecommerce store owner what scares you the most or keeps you up most at night i mean you’ve been doing this for a while and i know you’ve put in measures to keep things but i know like if i started a store i’d be worried about amazon you know that would keep what what worries you the most about ecom like today so what i would say is like if you’re all in on amazon i would be very afraid um mainly because okay i’ll just tell you what’s happening to us recently uh we’re on amazon and we obviously we make both we make the bulk of our revenue from our store so i’m a little bit less worried about this but we’ve gotten people that just purposely buy our stuff and market as defective and occasionally we’ll wake up with our listing suspended and that’s really stressful if all of your income is dependent on that right right well yeah um the reason why we can sleep at night is because we have such a solid repeat customer base for our store today as i mentioned before 36 of our revenues every single year are kind of in the bank right for repeat business and so that just gives us peace of mind right there and then the fact that we’re in control of our own traffic generation and that sort of thing makes me a lot more comfortable if my business were entirely amazon to be honest maybe i might be generating more revenue it’s possible if i because we only have actually like 10 or 15 of our products on amazon for that reason any sort of suspension or anything negative like we’ve been attacked many times by people also on amazon anytime something bad happens it like literally ruins my wife’s entire day and uh she’s in a bad mood and that puts me in a bad mood and then no one’s gonna lose that’s right so you have to weigh in your mind how important peace of mind is like if you go all in on amazon in the very beginning when you’re first starting out it can be very attractive because amazon has that large audience that can drive you the traffic but at some point something bad is going to happen to you whether someone just purposely leaves negative reviews on you someone just knocks off your product or someone tries to get you suspended and when that happens oftentimes it takes something like that happening for you to realize that oh maybe i should be working more on my own brand in my own online store is that how a lot of students come to you like they’ve tried it one way and it didn’t work well what ends up happening is i always teach them to start on amazon to validate their product because you don’t want someone buying a whole bunch of product not knowing it’s going to sell right right but what’s up happening is they make so many sales on amazon that’s like a drug right imagine if you’ve never sold me all of a sudden you’re making like i’ve had students make six figures within like a couple of months after launching on amazon and they’re like oh my god this is amazing and then they say why should i even bother working on my store right because it’s a lot more work to get the store correct there’s a lot more moving pieces there right and then they get their product suspended and they’re like okay okay now i understand okay steve you were right yeah because getting your product back from a suspension can take weeks right sometimes even months depending on the severity right can you if you can imagine amazon’s holding your money at that point too and they’re not paying you out when you’re suspicious oh i didn’t know that wow okay so let’s can we talk about tools a little bit yeah absolutely good tools for beginners so we’re not we’re probably not going to have steve set up with all the pre-sales and after sale sequence maybe we are what’s what’s kind of the best stack of tools for a brand new ecommerce seller yeah so bare minimum i think you probably need a good shopping cart uh the ones that i like are i’ll go and order a price shipped for shop is actually a relatively new entrance they offer their entire shopping cart for free and it’s as power it’s more powerful than shopify wow and the reason they are able to offer for free is because shift 4 is fundamentally a credit card processing company and they make their money off of the credit card processing so you have to use their credit card processing which is also free and if you use that the cart is free okay the second next in terms of being powerful is woocommerce that’s like the a very inexpensive option that’s a plug-in for word for wordpress if you guys are already using wordpress i imagine most of your audience is probably on wordpress right or a lot of them are important so too yeah and then after that is big commerce and then shopify is probably the most popular one that people always talk about it but it’s also the most expensive one over time as well yeah is that because it’s easier for people to get set up with or is it just because people know it so it’s popular a lot of people there’s a lot of developers for it’s really easy to find help there’s a lot of tutorials on it but what they get you at is the shopping cart at a base level doesn’t do very much so you end up having to pay for plug-ins that have monthly recruit fees right got it so outside of your shopping cart all you pretty much need is clavio which is my email marketing platform that i always recommend just to everyone it’s a no-brainer that will do all the sequences uh like the abandoned cart the pre-purchase the post purchase it knows what everyone has purchased so you can do very granular things like like that example i gave you where if someone bought like a cocktail napkin you can cross-sell them a dinner napkin for example and that’s something a brand new seller could afford to it’s free for up to 250 subscribers and the idea is is that the revenue per email is clearly given to you and so you know how much money you’re making off of email and so that’s why you can justify it once it starts bringing the money it’s gonna once you exceed 250 it’s going to cost you money but you should be making more than what you’re paying very cool wow so those are some great free tools so i can see everyone’s writing them down scribbling furiously yes so i want to i want to before we go to i know we’re going to talk about like we’ve kind of already talked about some common beginner mistakes but i i know that i’ve had some friends that this have happened to is they just started the thing and they put their product out there and immediately it seemed like somebody had copied their product and and put it on amazon so how do you protect yourself from it seems like there’s a there’s almost like a epidemic of people like as soon as they see something and they’ll try to beat the price or they’ll you know make it a little bit cheaper and they’ll get all the sales or how do you protect yourself from like ripoff artists yeah so are you referring to the case where they’re literally just copying the exact same product and putting it on amazon yeah i’ve seen some people like they’ve they’ve actually almost gone to the same factory at where they were getting it produced and they kind of they made a slight little you know modification to kind of get by maybe um because most people can’t fight it in court but and they take it and they actually put it a couple dollars or a little bit cheaper and they start getting all the sales and that one kind of goes yeah yeah i mean fundamentally speaking that’s one of the problems of selling on amazon right because there’s no brand most people will buy just based on the number of reviews or like the amazon tags that are given there right um so i would say like if you want to protect yourself let’s say a factory starts selling the products you’re selling that you’ve modified and made your own to somebody else if you register the copyright for that you can go up to amazon and say hey i own the copyright for this and that amazon will usually just take them down right right um if you need some like further level of enforcement you could actually file for a chinese copyright like i actually have a lawyer that i work with in the class who does sort of things like this where you can actually work with the chinese government to try to shut down the copycats at the source as well i wouldn’t go this route until unless you’re really worried about that happening the goal here is to establish a brand and there’s always going to be knock-offs for everything in life right if you like walk into costco you’ll notice that there’s kirkland branded stuff all over the place right i went to the drugstore the other day to buy allegra and then there was wallegra at walgreens right right yeah yeah so if you take the time and this always takes time to establish a brand but once you have that brand people will tend to stick with you you know once you have that name share and that’s really hard to do on amazon which is why i always recommend people start their own sites yeah can you can you give us a little insight into how you started to do that i think you mentioned like packaging might be important and maybe your email sequences but like how does a person start to build a brand from nothing yeah i mean it’s just like it’s it’s building an audience really is what it is so it’s through content it’s through email it can be through social media um just all these little things over time word of mouth is actually really huge too so if you make a customer happy they’ll tell their friends so here’s one thing another advantage of private label that i forgot to mention so our customer service policy is that if someone complains about our product we just let them keep it for free and we give them a full refund and we are able to do that because our margins are high if your margins aren’t high you obviously can’t do that but word of mouth is really powerful because if someone’s just really ecstatic about it they’ll tell their friends whereas if you piss someone off they’ll probably tell even more people right yeah so what about this huge and never underestimate the power of legwork so i mentioned earlier that we actually physically call up our biggest customers and establish relationships with them that matters actually actually a voice call is worth infinitely more than like an email right and so it just takes time i mean like how do you become friends with somebody right in the beginning you meet and it’s only through repeated exposure like i have a great rep i have a great relationship with you guys because we’ve like worked together now for quite some time right and so let’s say a tailwind clone starts coming out you think i’m going to use the tailwind clone i hope well maybe if the price is right but yeah if they give you a separate free account yeah interesting wow so so i guess i’m what i’m hearing you say is that um it takes you know it’s that relationship that you you try to make it’s almost things that you can’t scale but you have these tools that you make them kind of scale like the the calls and the the emails and telling funny stories and all that stuff the so let’s say that somebody already has a great social following let’s say they’re lisa meredith and they have all these thousands of people following them on social does social itself translate like if elisa said she’s going to start a store and start selling uh i don’t know um what do you you know her she’s going to let you struggle with this cat food okay yeah you’re all careful there jeff be careful i know she well there will be a cat that’ll walk behind her in just a second but um she’s going to do that would that would social proof translate into sales or does that it absolutely does okay it absolutely does and in fact you know influencer marketing can be a big factor too uh we worked with influencers in the past because we’d sell these really cute mother-daughter aprons and so we were actually working with mommy bloggers at one point where we would just give them some aprons and they would just bake on their facebook lives with them and say hey did you like our aprons they’re they’re matching and they’re monogrammed go here to check them out and we we have an affiliate program and you know both parties win right the more they sell the more money they make yeah that’s a great point i didn’t even think about affiliate marketing well i was thinking about you know this morning i was thinking about mark shafer okay a great friend of ours um and a really great marketing mind and and how many connections he has and the personal brand he has built for being just a really great guy with a huge heart well he he now paints watercolor um on his in his free time and i was thinking you know what i bet if he wanted to he could probably make a business selling watercolors just because people want a piece of someone they love you know in a nice way yeah but yeah it absolutely translates yeah so we’ve got about five i was gonna say we’ve got about five more minutes left elisa so uh i’ve got some questions to bring up from the people i mean i could nerd out on this stuff for the rest of the month with having steve back this is super fascinating um so somebody asked steve um where this is mindy and she goes what is steve’s course um where can we find that at so yeah it’s over at profitableonlinestore.com okay yep there it is profitableonlinestore.com you guys can go check that out i’m sure you guys are um super interest this is just i mean it’s fascinating um so uh we’ve got um some uh yeah so jacqueline says this guy’s the best this guy steve is the best so much valuable info yeah i love the question are these shows getting shorter no they’re they’re just so exciting they’re getting so much more exciting they go by so fast yes yes and uh so um so um i think we’ve covered it what else have we missed alisa i mean i know okay okay i don’t know how we can answer this one in the time we have left but okay this can be a challenge for steve the thing that i think frightens me the most or is the most intimidating to me about all the things we’ve talked about is finding a supplier that you can trust yeah yeah like how do you do that i have some advice on that um again it’s just like building a relationship with anybody else so the way we do it is we always just work our way up right you start out with a small order and once you’ve established trust you start you then move up to a larger order a large order we actually like to take that extra step and we’ll like literally fly to china to visit our vendors and usually they’ll take us out and we’ll spend some time with them sometimes it’s awkward but uh but just the act of socializing with them actually makes them give here i’ll tell you a really good example a really good story about this up so one time we were working with this vendor and we were like negotiating on costs to get them lower and then they agreed to our price and then they shipped us product where the fabric was like paper thin because they they kind of you know cut corners and we didn’t we weren’t really specific enough and we we got but we really liked them and they were the only vendor that actually produced that particular item that we wanted to sell or that particular style so we wanted to stick with them and so when we attended the canton fair which is this annual fair in china we actually took some time to visit them at their office and for some reason like we spent like almost the day together where we kind of had a meal and we just hung out and for some reason after we got back to the states we got the same price and all of a sudden we never had a quality problem ever again oh that’s so loud yeah and i i think it i i don’t know for sure but i think it has to do with the fact that we already had this relationship and today there’s still one of our vendors like almost a decade later and here’s the thing other people have reached out to them to try to knock off our products and they won’t sell it to them and they let us know oh that’s amazing yeah so it’s just time really so mark asked this question in follow-up and i think this will probably be our last one do i need an intermediary when i get started with dealing with a factory in china you do not because everyone there has at least one person who speaks or can write the language i’ll tell you a funny story there one time i went to the canton fair and i was like okay i’m just gonna use my chinese and i actually tried to speak chinese to one of the vendors there and they replied to me in english because my chinese was so bad they’re like okay i’m just gonna forget yeah so now whenever i go i just speak in english with everyone what’s cool is like these messaging apps now like i can just have them use wechat and literally show me the product as it’s being made on the factory floor also wow it wasn’t like this when i first got started 14 years ago right right so much easier now that is awesome man we have this has gone by i’m we have to have steve back because this is amazing and this was very popular with everybody here thank you guys for all your questions i’ve been listening to his podcast uh for years you guys need to check it out like i said i’ve snuck in and secretly watched him at social media marketing world where probably i was supposed to be doing real work but uh he’s amazing if you have a chance to get it to hear him speak go i mean go check out his course go to go to my wife quitter job.com and it’s he’s amazing and you can tell he knows his stuff so make sure you guys do that and don’t forget make sure you check out the profitable online store as well because uh yeah we learned a lot today but oh there’s a lot more to learn i’m sure yeah i’m gonna pull that up one more time for you guys so it’s profitable onlinestore.com go check out steve’s course if you’re interested in uh e-commerce and setting up your own uh your own store it’s amazing and don’t forget also our awesome templates this uh for april that are at tw pinterest toolkit that’s vit dot ly forward slash tw pinterest toolkit we’ll check that out and also this course that elisa actually did for steve that you guys now can have access to at bit dot l y forward slash sales from pinterest uh go check that out and go through that it’ll be amazing alisa always does a great job don’t tell her i said that but we love you guys thank you guys so much for sharing feel free to share this to your friends like oh my gosh my mind was melted from the steve guy you need to go check him out share that out for for all your friends we will see you guys this oh i’m going to let lisa have the next the i wondered if i was going to get the last so come back next week yes um because we have trona on trona who is on every single show has some cool stuff to talk about with pinterest and google seo and how they work together so tune in for that one as well and steve that was so fun i feel so much smarter now and i want to go starting next thank you bye everybody bye

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