Warren Buffet once said:
‘Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked’
The question is… Am I one of them?
Throughout the past couple of weeks, the ugly truth reared its head, as thousands of employees were left blindsided by pay cuts or the cruel reality of losing their job entirely. In the blink of an eye, many realized they had been swimming without a life vest this entire time. Those who have spent decades working in a specific area are now left with more questions than answers, uncertain if their job will still be available when they wake up the next morning.
For most, they haven’t felt this powerless since entering the workforce. Leaving many to ponder what other alternatives are available in this time of crisis; a time in which the nation can no longer support the beating heart of its economy- the small business. With so many questions left unanswered, it’s inevitable for the affected to weigh out the options; either ride out the storm or take back control of their life.
The reality is, while we still have the same 24 hours in the day, this quarantine period has freed up a substantial amount of time that most have never been afforded. Now, if you decide that the best use of your extra time is to finally see what the buzz behind Game Of Thrones is all about, or look at old prom photos, then this article isn’t for you.
However, with uncertainty, comes massive opportunity. If you aim to take your life back one step at a time, then this article can guide you.
Before we get into the rest of the piece, I want to introduce myself as quickly as possible, my name’s Ethan Dobbins and for the last two years I’ve taught entrepreneurs exactly how to start their own profitable online business. Today, you’re going to learn five crucial steps to creating your own e-commerce business even as a beginner.
1. Establishing A Foundation
In chemistry, one needs a large burst of initial energy to jumpstart a chemical reaction. The same applies to any challenging task in life, as the first step always presents the most daunting challenge. Conjuring the right business idea as a beginner feels nearly impossible, simply because you don’t know what pieces are required for this unknown puzzle.
So let’s break it down. Every successful e-commerce business focuses on a specific group of people in their niche.
The niche is the backbone behind every successful business as every decision is guided upon it. Your color scheme, social media posts, branding, name, logo, website, are all predicated upon this one choice. That’s why eco-friendly brands primarily utilize a vibrant green color on their branding instead of a blood pressure raising red.
It’s beneficial to choose a specific segment that you’re either knowledgeable or passionate about, as the marketing and product research becomes second nature. As you understand exactly what the customer wants better than anyone else since you’re one.
Understandably, it’s incredibly time-consuming to discover the right niche for you. Most tend to overthink themselves to death in this area. So, here are the two main facets to consider:
- What nonessential products do you buy frequently for yourself?
- What topics pique your interest the most?
Popular niches include fitness, health, beauty or jewelry, however, the options are seemingly endless, so long as there’s a sizable audience in that area. Keep in mind, the broader your niche, the more competition you face.
So if you do intend to step into a crowded pool of sharks, there’s more demand to differentiate your business from the rest of the herd. In many cases, the smartest way to carve out your own space is by focusing your attention on a smaller pond.
For instance, if you want to step into the fitness niche, it’s a much wiser decision to focus your precious time and money on either home fitness, young athletes, adults, or seniors. That way, you’re crystal clear on your target audience and now can tailor your social media, advertising, and website to that individual pocket of the market.
When it comes to designing a logo, you can craft a free one by using Canva or outsourcing the process to a graphic designer on Fiverr for less than $20.
2. Finding The Perfect Product
We’ve picked out our niche and now have a clearer idea of what the rest of our business will look like, but how do we find desirable products to sell?
Think of each product as an investment, you want to pick the one that you’re most knowledgeable and confident about. After all, you will be investing your time and money into whichever horse you back, so make sure it’s a product you believe in.
There are various websites to source products from- eBay, Etsy, aliexpress, Alibaba. Now, if you want to start a clothing brand, Printful and Printify are the industry leaders in print on demand products from t-shirts to canvases.
Clothing tends to be a riskier investment due to the industry’s absurdly high 40% average return rate. Also, it can take 10-20 failing designs until you finally find the one that takes off.
As a beginner, aliexpress dropshipping is your best bet. Without a doubt, this business model poses the least risk as the owners don’t need to see, touch or ship the items they are selling. Essentially, you become the middleman. People buy from your site, then you purchase the product from your supplier who then ships it out to the customer’s location.
Dropshipping is easier than ever in 2020, as the tools at your disposal are more sophisticated than ever before. Product research tools like Ecomhunt, Adspy, Alishark, and countless others offer a wide collection of trendy products in nearly every conceivable niche. After clicking on a product that catches your eye, the software delivers useful analytics like daily orders, links to other sites selling it, profit margin, and much more.
When evaluating a product, it’s imperative to answer these questions before adding it to your website.
- Does your product solve a problem?
- Is it popular right now? You can measure this with Google Trends.
- Who would you market this too?
- Is your product eye-catching, would it stop your scroll on Instagram or Facebook?
- Would I personally buy this product?
If you answer yes to all these questions, then there’s a favorable chance that you have discovered a winner.
3. Website Design
This usually ends up taking the most time for beginners, not that it’s difficult, but many get caught up in the minutia. Your website doesn’t need to be perfect; some of the best brands in the world have ugly looking websites to limit the number of distractions there potential customers have. At the end of the day, the name of the game is sales.
There are multiple e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce that offer plug and play options for designing your website. After devoting some time to learning one of the platforms, it becomes an exciting adventure to discover how you can bring this blank canvas to life.
Shopify offers both free and paid themes: different layouts and designs for your website. I always recommend using a paid theme as your website is the first impression potential customers will have on your brand. Unconsciously, they will determine the validity of your business based upon your site.
To increase the trust and professionalism of your site, add these pages.
- Refund Policy
- Track Your Order
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Terms Of Service
- Cancel Order Policy
- Shipping Times
There are numerous templates available online as to how to structure each page, however, the majority of these pages will be unique to your niche and product selection.
If you would rather outsource this process and save the time, you can hire a freelancer off of Upwork or Fiverr to create a beautiful site in no time at all. I don’t recommend spending more than $85 to a designer, as the supply outweighs the demand.
4. Marketing Like A Pro
We have a brand, niche, product, and website, but now we need traffic.
The two consensus ad platforms are Facebook and Google ads, both present unique opportunities for your business. Facebook ads are generally easier to set up, as you simply have to create an audience of people you want to market too (age, gender, location, interests), then create either video, image, or carousel ads to display on their Instagram and Facebook feeds and stories.
Make sure to test different ad copies, ad creatives, and audiences, to discover what works the best. The sooner you find out who your ideal target audience is, the faster you will be able to scale your advertising and make a ton of sales with your new dropshipping store. Keep in mind, not every ad, product, or audience will be a winner, so having the right system for knowing when to kill or scale a campaign, is instrumental to your success.
Now, before you get started with Facebook ads, you will need to set up an Instagram and Facebook page for your newfound business. Often overlooked, social media plays a crucial role in the minds of potential customers. If your business doesn’t have a lot of brand equity (followers or posts), it will arouse a mountain of suspicion among people who are seeing your brand for the first time.
Social proof is the key to persuading consumers to choose you over the competition. Which is why user-generated content is at the forefront of establishing legitimacy. You can generate custom content by ordering your product and taking pictures to upload to your feeds, website, and even ad campaigns. Also, you can reach out to influencers and offer a product for a post on their account, that way you can earn sales from their audience while also receiving a new piece of content.
Make sure to stay consistent and post at least 4 times a week with your business. This will grow your audience and drive free traffic from social media to your website. Hashtags can also dramatically grow your audience over time and capture more eyes on your brand.
Finally, direct messaging your followers with discount codes is an innovative way to drum up some more sales without spending a dime.
Shifting to Google ads, Google is the most popular search engine, receiving 3.5 billion search queries a day. Not to mention, according to Google, advertisers earn $8 for every $1 they spend on Google Ads. However, it does take a fair bit of time to learn the platform.
With Google, one can run video, display, and search ads for their product.
Google Ads utilizes a bidding system where the advertiser selects a maximum bid amount they’re willing to pay for a click to your website. The higher your bid, the better you will rank.
You have three bidding options.
- CPC, or cost-per-click, the amount you pay for each click on your ad.
- CPM, or cost per mille, the amount you pay for one thousand ad impressions, that is when your ad is shown to a thousand people.
- CPE, or cost per engagement, the amount you pay when someone takes a predetermined action with your ad
The main reason why Google ads are so powerful is that users have intent. They will only see your ad if they’re actively searching for your product, unlike with Facebook ads that show your ad no matter if the person is interested or not.
While many try to sway you to pick only one platform, when in unison, these platforms can be the jumpstart to creating your own 6 and 7 figure e-commerce brands.
5. Investing Into Your Education
In school, we have teachers. In sports, we have coaches. In life, we have our parents or family members. But for business, beginners tend to overlook this step, believing they can make it on their own despite the obvious lack of experience.
Arguably, the most crucial element of this puzzle, the one that separates the successes from the failures, is investing in courses or mentors. Time after time, beginners believe that after watching some YouTube videos, they will be fully prepared for the battle that’s ahead of them.
Only to be left straight on their bottom when they realize that there are an endless amount of nuances and subtleties that will make or break your e-commerce business.
You don’t want to be the person who doesn’t ask for help, it rarely ends well. Many have to swallow their pride and realize they simply don’t know everything. The faster one realizes that, the better. As then you can focus on learning the correct systems and strategies for growing your brand incrementally.
Now, there is no one way to skin this mule, in fact, there are countless teachers in the e-commerce space that claim they have the easiest and most stress-free method to grow your business.
Look for a teacher who doesn’t overpromise results and delivers meaningful free value on their YouTube or social media. Also, do a thorough job of researching someone who you are considering investing in, as unfortunately, a large percentage of “experts” are faking their results and renting out sports cars to pull the wool over your eyes.
The best teachers won’t use materialism to win you over, they will use their teachings and results from their students.
Understandably, it can be incredibly difficult to find the right teacher, therefore, go with the one that has the results and is willing to share their best strategies with you in a course or mentorship. Your gut feeling is usually right in these situations.
Hopefully, with these 5 powerful steps, you feel a spark of ambition to go out and create your first e-commerce business. There will be trials and tribulation, however, this is the fastest and easiest way to take back control of your income in these troubling times. You have the framework, but now it’s time for execution.