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Your Marketing Podcast
22 minutes | Dec 25, 2020
Episode 10: Taxes, Returns, Promotions, Oh My!
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. I’m totally diggin’ the title of today’s podcast – “Taxes, Returns, Promotions, Oh My!” Because just like Dorothy and her crew, we were quite terrified of these scary monsters lurking in the forest. We knew they existed, we knew they would catch up to us soon, and we had little to no idea on how to combat the beast or more like, soothe the beast. So we’re going to cover what we learned, messily, haphazardly, so you can have a much smoother yellow brick road experience. But FULL DISCLOSURE: we are not accountants. It’s best to consult your accountant and ask for their professional advice and stick with that. And if you get good advice, don’t be selfish now, pass it on to us too! Before we dive into taxes, I just wanted to quickly go over our last episode which covered all about Operations, like shipping, Customer Service, and more. Don’t overlook Operations because you want to be extremely prepared when orders start coming in. Okay lions, I mean, taxes, let’s do this. By the way, Sales tax has never had a more accurate depiction – big messy mane, sharp teeth to swallow you whole, and claws to take that money right out of your hands. Hm, I guess you can get a pretty good idea on how I feel about taxes. And I’ve got an inkling that you’re probably right there with me or will be after your first year in business. Running an eCommerce store that sells tangible personal property means you have to collect Sales taxes. A tangible personal property is defined as any item that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched. Gift cards might be the only item that’s exempted from sales tax in your Store. A sales tax is a tax paid to a governing body for the sales of certain goods and services, and it’s made up of your State tax + your local tax. So for instance, if you operate in Orange County, California, like we do, your sales tax is 7.25% (6% state tax + 1.25% local tax). This tax is collected from your buyers at the time of purchase and then you are liable to pass it over to the governing body during your tax schedule. Although the consumer carries the burden of paying the sales tax, you are liable for collecting and passing the sales taxes to the governing body. For eCommerce, oy vey, it gets complicated. Not only does every State have different Sales Tax requirements and percentages collected, but you have to care if you have Nexus in these States. Nexus, you’re going to hate this word. Sales tax nexus is the relationship between you, the seller, and the state, that mandates that you have to register than collect and remit sales tax in that state. Usually this is because you have a physical presence in the state or you reach a certain sales threshold, like over $100k in annual sales. Let’s demonstrate this in an example: You’re located in California and your home address is listed as the company’s address; it’s also where you house all your product. In this case, you have a Nexus in California and therefore have to pay California State Sales tax. Now, let’s say you ship 50% of your goods to a friend on the East Coast in Maryland to send out items from her home to fulfill East Coast orders. Maryland will want a piece of that pie too, because you have a Nexus in that State. You just created a physical presence, or a fulfillment center, in the state and should therefore probably collect Sales taxes in case the State requests it. If you don’t collect sales tax from the consumer, you are still responsible to pay, so then you have to pay out of your bottom line. Let’s add one more piece, just to make it even more messy – District taxes. A district tax can be anywhere between .10% to 1.00% per district, and are voter-approved general or special taxes imposed by a city, county, transit district, etc. Now District taxes are a funny thing, because it’s just not very clear. We lean on the side of being cautious and therefore collect district taxes in California, since Roam Often was established here. Talk to your accountant about District taxes to get the best advice. The eCommerce world is constantly changing. For example, it used to be that you only had to collect taxes from buyers in the state where the business had a physical presence. This is known as a “sales tax nexus.” But that is no longer the case. The case of South Dakota v Wayfair is one example of how the eCommerce world is changing. The states are going after companies for sales tax, regardless of whether the business has a physical address in that state. South Dakota came after Wayfair demanding sales taxes, since they believed the number of sales shipped from Wayfair into their state exceeded the threshold that they established in 2016. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of South Dakota and Wayfair had to pay. And because of that ruling, 31 different states have passed tax laws requiring taxation of Internet purchases. If you ship more than 200 shipments into the state or exceed $100K in revenue you will have to pay taxes for that particular state. This varies by State, so ask your accountant and stay up-to-date with tax regulations. The easiest way to collect and pay sales tax that we’ve found is the app TaxJar on Shopify. If you aren’t using Shopify, there are probably other apps similar to TaxJar to make sure you are collecting the appropriate sales taxes. TaxJar automates your sales tax calculations, reporting, and filings in minutes. Plus, TaxJar’s sales tax experts track every change to sales tax laws and monitor potential changes for the eCommerce industry. It’s super easy to install, just download the app and follow the steps to complete it. It does come with a monthly cost, but, in our opinion, it’s worth the cost to save the headaches. The only thing we’ve noticed is that district taxes for California are not included in TaxJar, so we’ve actually uploaded this information into their systems to calculate. It seems pretty accurate, but we just did this. So only time will tell if it works out well. Pay attention to your tax schedule. We pay taxes on a quarterly basis. You’d pay your State’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration. It’s the same place you went to obtain your Seller’s Permit, so you should already have an account; if not, register! Okay, taxes covered. Let’s head into the next belly of the beast – Returns. It’s going to happen. You are going to get returns; hopefully, you have way more happy customers than returns. But you will get some. In fact, eCommerce stores experience an average return rate of 20% and this can be even higher if you’re talking about apparel and shoes that don’t have a one-size-fits-all product. This is just the nature of the eCommerce business because people cannot physically try on or feel the product until it arrives on their doorstep. Now that being said, there are some ways to really cut down your return rate, such as: Display the product as accurately as possible in your photos and videos. Don’t touch up your product photos too much to the point where it doesn’t look anything like what the actual product looks like. People want to feel like they are getting the exact thing that they purchased on your website. Nobody wants to feel scammed! Make sure your visuals reflect that, otherwise you will see a higher return rate.Allow past customers to post photos with their reviews and encourage them to do so, like with a promotion or contest. There’s nothing better than user generated photos of your products to give it authenticity and show other prospective customers how it will look once it arrives.Give a longer time frame for returns like 60 to 90 days. Okay, this one might sound crazy. But a longer return timeframes can ACTUALLY lessen your returns because people are not in a rush to return and will take their time in deciding on whether to return or not. And that can be a good thing. Because people change their minds all the time. Anyhow those are some ways to lessen your returns but there are also some good practices when it comes to return policies in general to ensure you get customers to purchase your product in the first place. For instance: Make sure you have a clear return and exchange policy. It should be easily accessible on your website and outline all the details, like when a person needs to return their items by, in what condition does the item need to be in to qualify for the return, and what the customer can expect like a full-refund, partial, or exchanges only and who will pay for the return shipping. Be very direct.If possible, make the process super simple for the user, like providing a return label.Communicate during the whole process, so set expectations on when they will receive their refund/exchange. And be responsive to emails so customers feel heard. The best return policies involve offering a full-refund or exchange when a customer is 100% unsatisfied with the product. But you need to do what makes sense for you and your business. Like can you afford giving full refunds? Or pay for shipping? Or do you need to have an exchange only policy? Also, certain products like undergarments cannot be returned for sanitary reasons. So make sure you really hammer out all your details and that you let the customer know what they are getting into you. Because at the end of the day, returns aren’t fun for business owners, but coupled with a really bad review, it can be even worse. Also, you have to realize that return policies can have a significant impact on your customer satisfaction. For instance, a 2019 survey from UPS found that 73% of shoppers said the overall returns experience impacted how likely they are to purchase from a given retailer again. If your returns policy is too strict, you might upset customers and earn a negative reputation. So tread lightly. Okay now that we’ve made you fearful, hopefully, not too much. Let’s go over the last beast in the room – Promotions. Everybody loves a good promotion – 30% off, free gift with purchase, buy 2 get 1 free. BUT, does it make sense for your brand? Too many promotions can dilute your brand and you’ll start to see customers wait for a promotion before placing their next order; they’re waiting for that promotion in their inbox before clicking buy. BUT, what are your competitors doing? If your competitor has the same product as you (for example when you are a reseller) and is running promotions constantly, you may need to get into that game too to make sure that they are not taking away your market share. But if you’re worried about cheapening your brand, maybe run a free gift with purchase instead. That’s what we did when we first started – we offered a free pair of earrings with every purchase and it worked well. We even got people contacting us to make sure we would be including the earrings with their order. They really wanted that free gift. Also, a pretty standard offering, is a discount off of your first purchase like 10% off. Or 10% off for signing up to receive your emails. You’ll want to capture their emails, so that you can send them future product releases and promotions. We will cover this in more detail during our Email episode in our next Series, so stay tuned. And just some basic things to cover about promotions: make sure you setup the necessary codes and take into account: How long will you run the promotion? Pick a start and end date. If you run it within a short period of time, like 24 hours, you can push urgency like “hurry buy now, only 24 hours left in this deal.” But if you run it for a week, you could see sales come in all week long. We recommend testing all timeframes to see what works best for you.Which items will qualify for the discount? You could offer promotions only on certain items like your best-sellers, seasonal items, or items you want to clear out. Or you could run the promotion across all items. And lastly, Pick a promotional code that is easy for your customer to remember like GIFT50, FREEGIFT, EARRINGS, etc. But make sure it doesn’t get abused. So put a cap on how many times a person can use that coupon code, or if they can combine it, etc. and you might even want to use individual codes per a customer. Okay, so taxes, returns, and promotions, oh my! We did it! Now it’s time to bring up the “L word”. Launching! Yes, we’re ready, my friend. On our next podcast we’re going to cover all the steps necessary to launch your eCommerce store. It’s going to be a big, exciting day! In the meantime and if you haven’t already, we urge you to sign up at yourmarketingpodcast.com/letsgo to receive email alerts with check-ins. It’s so easy to get distracted and derailed on this path. And we want to see you launch your eCommerce store and crush your goals! These email alerts will keep you on task and come with even more resources because we can’t cover everything on the podcast. Thank you for listening to yourmarketingpodcast. See you next week!
27 minutes | Dec 15, 2020
Episode 9: Deciding on Operations
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Ishani: Hey, guys, we are so close to the end and yet have so much to go over still. Starting an eCommerce store is definitely for the strong-willed and uber-focused. But don’t lose heart, keep chugging along, we are going to get there. Today’s podcast goes over Operations – from package design to customer service options to shipping methods – we’ll take a deep dive into the necessary steps you need to take to have your store running at an optimal level. There is so much more to running an eCommerce business than just throwing a product onto a website. You have to think about the Operations. How will you get your products into the hands of buyers? Who’s going to be picking and packaging your items? Where are you going to ship from? Who will handle customer service inquiries? Initiating returns? Those are all solid questions, and you need to have the answers lined up before you start selling your product. So let’s start with the first one – Shipping. How are you going to get your product out to the customer? There are a couple of common shipping options for eCommerce stores: Dropship. If you’re a reseller and shipping your product directly from the manufacturer, the manufacturer or supplier will likely have options where they handle the whole process of sending it out to the customer on your behalf. This is called dropship. How it works is an order comes into your website, you pass that order to the supplier who then ships the order to the customer.The main advantage of dropship is that you get to keep low overhead costs, since you don’t need to purchase the inventory yourself, and store it in a warehouse, hire people to pick, pack and ship your products etc. but the margins can be small. You will have less control over the shipping process and you’re at the mercy of the supplier to get items out on time and delivered well. You also need to look into integrations to automate the process of passing the customer order to the supplier so you are not doing it manually. There are a lot of prepackaged options available depending on your platform but you should do your research beforehand.With dropship, it’s unlikely that you will be able to customize the packaging to your brand, unless they have what’s called private labeling or white-labeling options. So brand awareness might be lower when you use dropship method.Ok going back to other Shipping options… you could use a 3PL (also known as a “third-party logistic warehouse provider”), where your items are shipped from the manufacturer directly to a 3PL Warehouse to store and ship out of. Basically 3PL will handle your business’s distribution and fulfillment services. Always, do your research on the fees associated with this type of warehouse before you sign up. Fees can vary based on your product because bulky items will require a larger storage area and therefore cost more. Some companies we’ve heard positive things about are Whiplash and ShipBob.What’s great about 3LPs is that you can typically hold inventory in multiple fulfillment locations like one on the West and East Coast, so you lower your transit time to the customer and save money on shipping costs.Renting space and starting your own warehouse is another option. But OMG this is going to be a HUGE undertaking and not recommended for businesses owners who are just starting out because the overhead costs can get pretty expensive. Think: warehouse rent, software costs, employee wages, equipment purchasing and/or rentals, etc. It’s a hefty list and we don’t recommend it for eCommerce beginners.The last option we will cover today is what most small eCommerce business owners will start off with. Fulfill the orders yourself. Okay, so let’s be brutally honest here, if you’re just starting out and you have the room for it – you’re going to probably ship the item from your home, garage, or storage unit. It saves you on storage costs and gives you complete control over the whole packaging and shipping process. But there are, of course, downsides to this, like you might die underneath the weight of it all. If you are getting an influx of orders, it’s going to take up your entire day to pick, pack, and ship orders. It can be quite a lot to take on yourself that’s why we recommend:Researching 3LP options now. So you can quickly transition to a warehouse without wasting any downtime once the orders become too much (which is always a good problem to have). Run some numbers and come up with a plan. Like “If the daily orders reach an x amount, then I will move to 3LP option.”Use Fulfillment software to print out shipping labels and track inventory. Shopify is great for beginners but there are others like ShipStation to help print your shipping labels, update inventory, and save you money on shipping rates. It’s good to shop around and see which Fulfillment software is most cost-efficient for you, since every cent saved in shipping helps your bottomline. Okay, I’m going to take a gamble and say that you’re probably leaning on that last option – to ship the items yourself to customers – at least, to start. And that’s great news when it comes to your packaging because that gives you full control! So why is packaging so important? Because first impressions matter! And it’s another opportunity to market yourself and create a unique experience for your customers. Building loyal supporters who purchase from you again and again is cheaper than getting new ones. Let’s put some thought into your packaging. I’m going to share some tips: Take a peek at what your competitors are doing. It will give you an idea of what is already out there and inspire you to take it to the next level when it comes to your packaging.Chances are that you are probably ordering a lot of items online these days. Take this opportunity to really pay close attention to the packaging. What do you like and dislike? Take note and maybe even photos of what you like, so you can easily replicate it. For instance, I’m not a fan of plastic wrap or boxes with a lot of writing on them, especially unrelated writing. The wrong packaging can easily cheapen your product.You don’t have to overspend on custom packaging. A sticker, thank you card, or even a stamped box can go a long way in making the packaging special and memorable for your customers. There is a huge push for eco-friendly and sustainable packaging these days. So that’s an option for you to consider as well. Determine where you can cut and still send the product safely and with a little pizzazz. There are a TON of options for packaging. Definitely think outside the box – like colorful bubble bags instead of cardboard boxes, a canvas bag instead of plastic bag, etc. Try to be different and cost-effective at the same time. Also, once you start narrowing your packaging options check the weight for shipping. Shipping is, unfortunately, one of the larger expenses that can really hurt an eCommerce store. And because of the “Amazon experience”, many customers expect free shipping nowadays.And lastly, include a thank you note. Including a thank you note adds a personal touch and really makes your brand shine. You could offer a returning discount, ask for a review, and/or include care instructions and/or return instructions. Hopefully you won’t see too many returns. But definitely squeeze in that “BIG THANK YOU!” That leads into the last part of our episode that covers all things related to Customer Service. Your customers will give you positive feedback (this is preferable), requests for returns (hopefully not too many) and customer complaints (definitely not what we want). But this is just the nature of the eCommerce industry. We will cover customer complaints and returns in more detail in another episode, but let’s start thinking about it a bit now. So who is going to handle your customer service? Like answer the phone, reply to chats, respond to emails, initiate returns, and monitor your brand’s social media activity. All of these channels need to be monitored regularly to offer stellar customer service. Incredible customer service means repeat customers and referrals. Look at Amazon. The number one reason people use them is because of their customer service. They make everything so EASY! So don’t underestimate the power of great customer service. According to Forbes, instead of competing on price, more than two-thirds of companies now compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. Because it makes a difference! So what options do you have when it comes to Customer Service? You could: Hire a third-party company, like ModSquad or Helplama. There are plenty of Customer Service companies out there that charge by the number of customer service reps you need, or by the number of hours you need, or by channels they will be managing (and by channel I mean – phone lines, emails, chat, social media, etc). But make sure the fees are not too high and more importantly that choosing this route will NOT dilute your brand image and brand experience. The main benefit of using a 3rd party company is to give you some flexibility to scale, but not at the cost of your brand image.Hire a Customer Service rep. Hiring someone allows you to train them to truly represent your brand and have more control over the customer’s experience with your company. The downside is that you will have to invest the time to train someone, and if that person leaves, you have to start all over again to hire and train another, payroll can be a headache, especially for a new company just starting out. On top of that, you’ll need to invest in a Customer Service software, like Zendesk, Gorgias, etc. to make it easier for your employee to stay on top of customer tickets, inquiries and returns.The last option is to Handle it yourself. Okay, so I know you’re juggling a lot. And customer service, although absolutely necessary, is a total timesuck. But, hey, if you’re just starting out, it’s definitely the cheapest option and can present some benefits. You learn more about your customers! You hear first hand what they like and dislike about your product. And although at times it hurts to hear someone saying they didn’t like your product, you do learn why so you can do better. So look at it as a way to improve rather than taking offense. Easier said and done, I know! Another benefit is to learn about the questions your customers have about your product. And you can lessen your customer service inquiries by providing the details on the product detail page or even creating a FAQs section on your site. In FAQs page includes ship time, tracking, return policy, and care instructions. By providing easy access to frequently asked questions, you will be saving your time from answering repetitive customer service inquiries. Alright, that sums up Operations. Now to bigger and scarier things…: taxes, returns, and promotions, Oh my! On our next podcast, we’re going to cover all the details of sales tax, return policies, and how to run promotions. Don’t miss out! In the meantime and if you haven’t already, we urge you to sign up at yourmarketingpodcast.com/letsgo to receive email alerts with check-ins. It’s so easy to get distracted and derailed on this path. And we want to see you launch your eCommerce store and crush your goals! These email alerts will keep you on task and come with even more resources because we can’t cover everything on the podcast. Thank you for listening to yourmarketingpodcast. See you next time!
18 minutes | Dec 8, 2020
Episode 8: Amazon – the Giant in the Room
11 minutes | Sep 23, 2020
How to Prepare Your eCommerce Store for a Black Friday During a Pandemic [Special Episode]
Hello Marketers! It’s Ishani here – host of Your Marketing Podcast. We interrupt our normal broadcasting to bring you a special announcement. No, seriously, we are taking a pause for a brief second on our current Series – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days, to talk about 2020 Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For e-Commerce businesses, the holiday season is huge! Most eCommerce business owners see the largest spikes in revenue from October through December, and with good reason: It’s really a mega shopping holiday! During the holiday season, a majority of eCommerce stores will double and even sometimes triple what they make for the rest of the year, combined. It’s pretty gnarly when you think about it. But this year is special, 2020 has been a wild ride for everyone. So should we throw-away the holiday season? I think not! To get the most out of 2020 (even with COVID), you’ll need a good plan for great sales. Let’s do a round up of what others in the industry are saying regarding preparing for the 2020 eCommerce holiday shopping season. Hopefully, we can recover some of the loss businesses had to endure during earlier days of COVID. Earlier Holiday Shopping Season First thing’s first, experts are predicting the holiday season is going to start earlier than previous years. Here’s why: An increase in online shoppers – More individuals are shopping online now more than ever before. Because most want to mitigate COVID exposure and also because many brick-and-mortar stores were closed, which has forced more people to shop online. We know this because eCommerce sales are up 55% year over year for the first seven months of the year due to the pandemic. I know personally I have experienced delays in shipping and also out of stock items. And So smart shoppers are going to order earlier to ensure they get their gifts on time.Being stuck indoors has been, well, depressing. Pinterest is already seeing increases in searches for holiday decorations. Everyone is ready to spread some cheer even if it’s 6-feet away from everybody else. So they are predicting people will be spending more to make this holiday season even grander! So what does this mean for you? Start preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday now. Literally, now now. don’t wait any longer. The latest estimates from Adobe put 2020’s online sales matching 2019 levels by October 5th — that’s well before the holiday season. Here’s what you should do: Make sure you have inventory to support an influx. It would be horrible if you got traffic but they weren’t able to purchase. Make sure you are all stocked up or, at least, able to order more inventory in a timely manner.Start running advertising now. You don’t have to do huge sales or anything like that, but maybe start testing out different ad copy and promotions with your email list to get those early-birds in.Put together a gift guide on your website, like “gifts under $25”, “gifts for her”, etc. You can even make themes like “Stay-at-home gifts” etc. Since more people are shopping online, it’s key to give them a little push into what to buy for others. Make it enticing so they “buy.” Now. This leads me right into the next BFCM prediction, #2, – items that are COVID-friendly might outperform your best-sellers. Crazy right? But everyone wants to give a gift that impresses and is usable right now. You may want to plan now to add more “COVID-friendly” items to your product lines. Items that skyrocketed in popularity since the Coronavirus outbreak include pajamas or loungewear, alcohol, skincare, electronics, fitness equipment, and furniture. Basically, fun stuff to do at home. If you’re unable to add to your product line in time, then think about your messaging. Can you change your angle? Maybe use “at-home” language? Or “stocking stuffer”? Be creative and try to relate to the situation of your customers. Now, let’s dive into our 3rd prediction – your promotion is going to be more important this year than anything else. According to the shopping agency, Sales&Orders, “COVID-19 has put an enormous amount of financial stress on the people – what with a notoriously high unemployment rate in the US and government infighting only but exacerbating it all…Put the two together and you have a “perfect storm” of consumers who want to spend less and get more for their dollar.” Shoppers will be looking around for the best prices, the best deal, and free shipping. So it’s key that your promotion stands out. Here are some creative promotions you could try: Sitewide Sale like 20% off. It’s a bold promotion and easy to market, but it needs to be enough of a big, exciting promotion to really entice your customers. A 5% off just won’t do.BOGO: Buy one, get one free. It’s a try and true method, and can make sense if your products are great for someone wanting to keep one for themselves and gift the other.Free gift with purchase. Everyone, and I mean, everyone, loves getting a free item with purchase. This is a great promotion type if you’re worried about diluting your brand with a percentage off sale. And it can help clear out some of your inventory. Making a charitable donation on a customer’s behalf. If the customer makes a purchase, you match a certain amount to a specific charity or a charity of their choice. It makes everyone feel good all around. If you’re still unsure of your BFCM promotion, head on over to yourmarketingpodcast.com/promotions to get a more robust list with pros and cons of each type. Okay, moving onto #4 prediction. According to a survey released by Mental Health America, new evidence shows that depression and anxiety are on the rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Augh, so sad. Everything is so sad lately, am I right? And nobody wants sad news anymore. In fact, using happy, upbeat language can help you stand out to your customers. Use emojis, personalize them with the recipient’s name, and accentuate the positive. A cheerful message in their inbox will make them feel good (and that much likelier to open your email). Okay, here is the last trend we are seeing that will affect Black Friday, Cyber Monday. There is an uptick in love towards local and small business. “The pandemic has instilled in many consumers a greater interest in shopping local. People want to support their favorite coffee shops, breweries or dress boutiques — so that they don’t go out of business,” says Lauren Thomas of CNBC. And with more and more memes coming out against Jeff Bezos’ income (he makes roughly $2-3K a second, a SECOND!). It doesn’t come as a surprise that being small and local is going to be an asset this BFCM. So make it a promotional message on your website! Let your customers know your story, how you started, and how you are appreciative of the support the community has shown your small business. Small but mighty, we like to say. Create messages that call out that you are a local business, Women business owner, community, etc. in your emails, on your website, and in your marketing ads. Okay, so that rounds out our BFCM trends for 2020 and what you should do to get ahead of your competitors. If you need help coming up with a more concrete plan for BFCM, reach out to me and my team at Your Marketing People. We are a full-fledged digital marketing agency that specializes in driving eCommerce results for our clients. Our team of data-driven analysts and creative strategists have produced millions in sales for our clients. Discover how our paid search, SEO, social media, and video marketing expertise can benefit your bottom line by contacting us today at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for listening and talk to you soon.
28 minutes | Sep 15, 2020
Episode 7: Online Store Options and Basic Store Set-Up
30 minutes | Aug 7, 2020
Episode 6: Creating Worthwhile Product Visuals
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Hello, everyone. Ishani DePillo here. Today’s podcast is going to be an interesting one – talking about creating worthwhile visuals through an audio podcast. Definitely going to be a bit challenging, but I think we can pull it off. Real quick, let’s recap the last podcast in case you missed it. It was all about product development and how to successfully create and manufacture a product to sell. By now you should have a prototype or a sample of your product. On Today’s episode, we are going to be covering some really stellar ways to capture photos and videos of your product, using that sample product or prototype. I say sample or prototype because You don’t want to wait around for the bulk order to arrive because that could take months and you want to keep moving forward. Using the sample or prototype for photos and videos can help save you time and launch faster, especially since editing video and photos can take some time. It seems like photos and videos are taking over the world! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. But with 1 billion active users on Instagram and 1 billion hours of videos watched every day on YouTube, the way of the world is heavily dominated by visuals. Your customers want to see, feel, and experience your product before they commit to making a purchase. And to be very successful in selling your product, you, the brand, needs to provide that. So how do you create worthwhile visuals that speak to and engage your target customers? Let’s start with the bigger elephant in the room first: VIDEOS. Customers nowadays have the mindset of ‘try before you buy’ and that reshapes how people shop. Did you know that in the past year, 40% of users turned to YouTube to learn more about a product before they bought it? Crazy right? And according to Unbounce, adding video to a landing page can boost conversion rates by 80%. So what does this mean to you? The underlying take-away here is that you need videos that feature your products and you need them to launch your website. So since your customers want to “experience” your product before they buy it, you need to create a video that brings life to your product. To do that: Start with a video strategy. Think of your favorite product. Have you seen their commercial? I’d bet that the commercial struck a chord with you. With this in mind… launch a video marketing strategy. Start with goals for your video: Your video needs bring awareness to your product, to have your target audience consider your product and lastly decide to purchase your product. So that’s awareness, consideration and decision.Next, think of your target audience because you need to create a video that will connect with them: What’s their age, are they male or female, or both. Also, use your target audience as a guide to choosing the talent to be on the video.Then, Start to think about the story you want to tell. Remember it needs to be one that will resonate with your prospective buyer. One that will motivate them to buy your product. The basic framework for your video should be to: Bring up the customer’s pain point or problem.Introduce your product.Provide the solution. This is how “the product your selling” solves the problem.And lastly keep it real. Authenticity speaks volumes. We interviewed Emily Briggs, our in-house videographer for Your Marketing People. She shared some starting points when coming up with your video strategy for your first product video Once you’ve got the concept nailed down, workout the details. How long does your video need to be? Which scenes do you need to include? Do you need a voice over? How will you film it – with an actor, with a customer, with b-roll only? Decide whether you are going to do it yourself or hire a professional. If you are going to hire a professional, then you don’t need to worry too much about the details since the professional will likely take care of it. But it’s still good to be informed about the process. Here is Emily Briggs again with her recommendations on hiring a professional versus not. If you are going to do it yourself, then:Get the right equipment. A video only looks as good as the equipment you use to produce it. For beginners, we recommend 2 DSLR cameras (one of which should have a zoom lens), a tripod, portable digital recorder, and a Lavalier microphone. Sometimes less is better. Emily shares additional advice on equipment and what to get when you’re first starting out. Once you have the equipment Prepare for the video shoot. To produce a successful video, you need to plan out well in advance. This means:Creating a play-by-play shot list that brings your storyboard to life: Include shooting details, like whether you’ll be using an aerial shot or zooming in tight on the subject’s face. Provide time estimates for each shot, but leave plenty of buffer time. There has to be room for the unexpected, errors, and creativity! Finally, bracket your shot list with wiggle room for set up and tear down.Gather your crew and assign responsibilities. As you go through your shot list, you’ll probably realize you’re going to need multiple hands to manage all the gear and to capture all the shots. Make sure each team member knows what his or her focus will be, whether it’s capturing movement shots, close up shots, wide angle, or making a coffee run. Make sure you don’t forget any gear, props, etc. by making a gear checklist. This includes lenses and camera equipment, your actual product, microphones, lighting equipment, extra batteries, extra memory cards, external batteries, and any props or background drops. Manage your time during the shoot. Even with all this planning, expect things to go a bit off schedule on the day of shooting. To help you maximize the time you have, prioritize the shot list. The shot list should indicate critical shots vs. the nice-to-haves. Make sure you film the must-haves first. There is going to be a lot of excitement on the shooting day. It can be hard to pause and make sure you’re getting the essential shots. This is one of Emily’s biggest pieces of advice. Take your time setting up, especially if there is audio involved. You want to make sure the audio is captured clearly. Does all of this sound like way too much? Well, I hate to break it to you, but we haven’t even gotten to the editing part! Again, If all of this is flying over your head, hire a professional or better yet, a marketing agency to do it for you. If you do decide to do the video yourself, Emily’s tips can help you get it right the first time around. When searching for a professional, make sure you ask for their portfolio to see if you like their style and if they have a background in creating commercial-like product videos. Ask for customer reviews or look online to make sure they have a positive reputation. And I recommend NOT go with the cheapest option. You could end up with unusable footage or an unprofessional videographer and have to reshoot everything, which is going to cost you more in the long run. Now the fun begins. Let’s dive into video editing tips, also known as post-production tips. To create a worthwhile product video, you’ll want to: Review your footage: Carefully look through all your footage. Take notes on the time and clips you may want to use for the next step.Start creating the story: By this point, you have a bunch of clips to work with. Sync up the audio for everything you decided to keep. Organize what you have into scenes, and start crafting the story with your selected footage.Use the power of Music: Now that you have a feel for the footage and an outline of how the story is going to unfold, use music to help tell that story. For a great selection of royalty-free music, we recommend PremiumBeat and AudioJungle. When choosing your music, think about the emotion you’re trying to elicit from your target audience. You can search for music with these emotions. When selecting your music, be sure to choose a dynamic piece; a repetitive beat can get annoying in a video. Although, don’t choose anything too dynamic. You want your music to complement the video, not overpower it. To make the track fit your video, match your footage with the beat of the song.Making the final cut: Remember the goals of the video; it’s to bring awareness, get them to consider, and finally to make the purchase decision. Does your video align with those goals? Check to see if there is anything that’s unnecessary you can cut out. The faster you can get the point across with your video, the more effective it will be. Try not to go over 1 to 2 minutes in length, because consumers do not have the time, the patience, and let’s be real – the attention span, to get through anything longer.Add in the transitions: Just like adding music, the transitions of your video also depend on the video’s concept. This post-production technique is to connect one shot to the next. Transitions help with the mood, tell the storyline better, and spice up the narrative. Correct the color: Color correction is the final and necessary step in a professional-level video. Raw footage is often oversaturated. To evoke the mood of your video, and make everyone look their best, you need to balance out the colors with color correction. Adobe Premiere, includes several built-in color presets. For accurate color correction, we recommend using one of these as your base and adjusting from there. You can also use the color wheel to warm up or cool down your video as necessary.Lastly, don’t forget
28 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
Episode 5: Designing and Building Your eCommerce Product
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Hello everyone, Welcome to Episode 5. I hope you are feeling good about the progress you have made thus far with your eCommerce business. Today we are going to cover how to design and build your custom product. Now, if you’re going to be reselling an existing product, feel free to skip ahead to the next episode, since this episode will not apply to you. But if you’re designing a custom product to sell, you’ll want to listen close. But before we get started…if you missed last week’s episode, I urge you to take a listen before tuning into this one. The last episode covers how to develop your brand and tell your story. This is super important to keep in mind as you build your product. Okay, let’s dive in. I’m going to start with a warning: Product development is hard. You will get frustrated at some point during this process. You will want to pull your hair out; I remember my business partner, Alisha almost going bald over developing products for Roam Often. But stick with it – and it will be rewarding, I promise you. So get in that mindset now – plan for challenges, be patient, and you can overcome it. And we’re here to help. Skip to 1:44 Step 1 in product development is drafting up a cohesive idea of the product. This is the phase where you come up with your great ideas as solutions to your customer’s problems. Basically, what problems will your product solve? Create a bulleted list of all the problems your target audience is facing and how your product will address each of the problems. Jot down the solution next to each bullet. For instance, let’s say you are designing a new chalk for kids, because you’re tired of your kid getting chalk all over their hands and clothes, then they go about the house touching everything and getting chalk all over the furniture, beds, etc. Can you tell I’ve had this happen to me?! The goal of step one is to figure out what problem your product needs to solve for your customers before you make it. But what else? How about figuring out what your customers think about this goal? Ask other parents! Look to your target audience to learn their pain points and feedback on what’s currently on the market. Parents may say that the colors are dull and boring and they wish it was brighter. Mark those problems down and prioritize which ones you really want your product to address and fix. The easiest is to find friends and family members that fit your target audience and create a focus group. More than likely they will be happy to give you feedback and it’s all FREE market research! You could also put a listing out there, on Craig’s List or a post on Facebook. You will be surprised by the number of people who will provide good feedback. Step 2 – Let’s narrow down to product features. What features does your product need in order to help solve the problems you’ve listed? For instance, for the chalk, you might want to add a plastic case around it to make it less messy and offer brighter chalk color selection. Make a list of all the bells and whistles that you want your product to have to entice customers to buy and solve their pain points. This list will come in handy when the product is being manufactured and for when you are marketing your product. Step 3 – Keeping your bells and whistles list in mind, look at your competitors. Go back to the competitor list you created and hone into those who are making a similar product to yours. Review their products – make note of the positives and negatives of each product. You’re going to use this information to shape your product design. You may even want to order the competitors products to touch and feel the quality and test it out to see if it holds up. It’s crucial that you successfully complete the first three steps of the pre-development process so you can seamlessly head into development. After you do this, you will have a better idea of the features, the pain points your product will be solving, and an idea of what’s already on the market. Skip to 5:13 Step 4 – Prototype Development. Now, it’s time to draft up a product design mock-up. The simplest way is to use a pencil and paper to sketch a rough design, or if you’re skilled with Photoshop, or any other design software, you can try those instead. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to make sense to the person who is going to be doing the prototype. Include important measurements and material suggestions, as much as you can. Be as thorough as possible, it can only help. Sometimes the prototyping process can be more unconventional. We spoke with someone who has a more unique approach to her process, I’ll let her introduce herself. “” Once you feel comfortable with your design mock-up and you have the measurements added, connect with a prototype designer or engineer to help create a clean and polished prototype. This is intended to verify your design. You can find one on Upwork or any other freelance website. For Roam Often jewelry case, we were lucky enough to have one in the family and utilized him to create a 3D drawing in CAD. We did learn very quickly on how to best work with a product engineer and we’d like to share those tips with you. Be thorough, like we said before. Make sure you get your vision across to the prototype designer so the product is created successfully the first time around. Note, all your likes and dislikes, must-haves, etc.Ask for help. Your prototype designer should be well versed in product development and understanding the mechanics of it all. Ask them for guidance anytime you’re not sure.Be accurate on your measurements. If you’re not 100% sure on the measurements, have the prototype designer guide you.This is optional, but probably a good idea to hire someone with a specialty or background related to your product’s industry. For instance, a designer in fashion and retail is a good fit, if your product is a luxury travel bag, etc. We asked our product designer for Roam Often, Jason Rechberg to give some advice for this phase of the process. He outlined for us, some items you’ll need to provide the product designer upfront, as well as explained some of his biggest challenges in working with people like us, who have all the vision in the world but no idea how to bring it to life. “” What you want from the prototype designer is the actual prototype of your product or a rendering of your product with product specifications and exact measurements, so you can hand that directly to the manufacturer who can then create a prototype. Okay, your drawing is ready to go – you’ve checked it, you’re happy with it, and you’re ready to see it come to life. Step 5 – Product development. Now it’s time to send your prototype or rendering of your to the manufacturer to get a sample made. Wait, what manufacturer? Skip to 11:11 This is where the struggle can start. We had quite a difficult time here in finding the right manufacturer. There are a couple of ways to locate a manufacturer: Use a directory. There are a ton of free directories out there to help you find a manufacturer. Some of the popular domestic manufacturers are: ThomasNet, Maker’s Row, MFG, Kompass for domestic; Oberlo, Alibaba, AliExpress, IndiaMart, and Sourcify for overseas vendors. Ask for a referral. Nothing is better than getting referred to a manufacturer. This way you know you can trust them right away. For us, we ended up using Alibaba to get started. We sent messages to about 10 manufacturers asking if they are open to making custom orders. We were surprised by the number of manufacturers willing to create a custom product as long as you have the specifications. I should note that originally we wanted to work with a local manufacturer. We found one in downtown Los Angeles to produce the Roam Often Jewelry Case, However found out the materials alone would cost $60/per bag. That doesn’t include the cost of labor, shipping costs, etc. We had already done the market research, and we knew we wanted to sell our case for around $50. To go locally, meant that we had to either price our item way higher than we initially anticipated or barely make any profits. That was not going to work. That’s not to say that Local manufacturers do not work. They absolutely can. You just have to do your due diligence to ensure that it’s cost effective. The benefits of using someone local is that you can visit the factory, verify quality, it’s easy to communicate with them, and much faster shipping. Plus, the benefit of saying you are “Made in [insert your country here],” can be a very compelling marketing message. The disadvantages of going with a local manufacturer are typically higher costs and less options to choose from. Whereas when you go overseas for production, you typically experience lower manufacturer costs and a wider selection of manufacturers. But the negatives to using someone outside your local area is that you may not have as much control over the quality of the product, there can be long shipping times and language barriers that lead to miscommunication. Plus, you’ll need to account for additional custom fees and tariffs. Ethical businesses are huge right now as well, and something you may want to think about in your manufacturing process. Things like, how are the workers, who are producing your product are being treated and what is the impact on th
35 minutes | Jun 19, 2020
Episode 4: Branding & Pinpointing Your Target Audience
INTRO (Male Voice Recording): Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Ishani: Hi, everyone, Ishani DePillo here. Welcome to another episode of Your Marketing Podcast. I’m so excited to cover today’s topic with you. It’s all about branding, and how to determine your target audience. So last episode was packed full of helpful tips on business fundamentals. We covered getting your entity set up, keeping your personal finances separate from your business finances and funding for your eCommerce store. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to that episode yet, I recommend that you do because we go over a lot of recommendations that are essential to creating a new business. Okay, so You have your product. You know it’s going to be in demand and you know that it’s going to be profitable. Now, we need to build your brand by talking about your story. You might be asking, “What? Why does it matter who I am? I have a product. It’s going to sell on its own. Why do I have to tell my story?” But is it going to sell on it’s own? Is the product truly enough nowadays to compete with SO MANY online businesses? Well, let’s take a look back…to 2006. A man travels around Argentina, noticing the hardships faced by kids who can’t afford a pair of shoes. He then starts a company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need, for every pair of shoe sold. Now over 50 million pairs of shoes have been donated and in 2014, the company was valued at $625 million. What’s the name of this company? If you guessed, TOM’s shoes, you are correct! What a great brand story – it pulls at your heart strings and makes you feel positively towards the brand. But a brand story doesn’t need to be altruistic. It could be many things. Let’s take another walk down memory lane. It’s 2009, San Francisco, California. An app launches to “evolve the way the world moves” and “make cities more accessible.” Can you guess this giant who’s worth over 14 billion? Uber, yes, uber. Their story was all about going against the status quo and redefining the ride-sharing experience. And it worked! But not all brands are going to disrupt the market. And that’s ok! You should still highlight your brand story. Skip to 3:19Let’s go over some great ways to build a memorable story for your brand: Highlight a problem, a problem that’s relatable, that almost everyone experiences. Remember in episode 1 when we talked about developing a product that solves a problem? If you used that method to come up with your product, then you can use the problem as part of your brand story. In fact, that’s exactly what we did for Roam Often. Three tangled necklaces. That’s all it took for Roam Often to be born. After untangling necklace after necklace—in Napa, in Greece, and in Spain— my co-founder Alisha, was fed up. She wanted a functional, beautiful way to transport her style without the hassle. And being a fellow jewelry aficionado myself, I agreed. And so Roam Often was born. We used a problem to draft up a compelling brand story that most women can relate to. Embrace your uniqueness, what makes you stand out from the rest. Are you an underdog in your market? Did you face hardship? Have you experienced something unbelievable that made you stronger, professionally or personally? If so, then talk about it! All of that makes you, you, and your brand, your brand. People want authenticity, and realness. You need to find a way to feel connected to your customers and they need to connect with you and your brand. Can your brand be more than a brand? Can it be a lifestyle? By creating a “lifestyle” centered around your brand, you are essentially creating a fanbase who follow the same ideals and live and breathe your brand. A good example here is what Red Bull did with extreme events and sports, like kitesurfing and skydiving. The lifestyle and brand are so intertwined that Red Bull is more than just an energy drink. What does your brand stand for? Your brand story has to be more than a simple mission statement or company profile that you post on your About page. It trickles down to your company’s core principles and will impact your company as a whole. Take time here to really develop your vision and your core values. For instance, yes, Roam Often sells jewelry travel cases, but our brand is more than that, as we say on the website, “Roam Often is much more than a tangled necklace, though. It’s about inspiring style everywhere your travels take you. Our products are designed to help you, be you, wherever you roam.” Okay, let’s start building your brand story? Start with bullets and then expand from there. If you get stuck, take a minute and walk around. Try to get those creative juices flowing again and reread your bullets. Your brand story can evolve, especially in the early stages, so don’t get stuck and just keep going. Get a rough draft of your brand story written; you can always hire a copywriter to finesse it later on. Just keep at it! Danielle from DNM Studios, who specializes in branding and human-centered design provided some easy questions to ask yourself to develop your brand story. Now I’m going to pivot a little bit here. Because we’ve covered a lot about “you” in this episode, and not enough about “them” – your future customers, your future buyers. A brand has to be more than about you. Brands that fail to add their customers into the brand story equation miss out on truly connecting with their customers. You need to understand your ideal customer – their challenges? their fears? What do they like? What do they dislike? Where do they hang out? What are their values? What do they care about? You need to think about as much information about them as possible. This is where buyer persona(s) come into play. Having a deep understanding of your customer is a critical part of any business because it drives a lot of factors from product development to customer acquisition. Skip to 10:04Let’s dive into how to develop buyer personas, so you can fully understand who you want to attract, and sell to. Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are basically a very detailed vision of your ideal customer or customers. Like Mommy Martha or Too Busy Tom. You create fictional personas so you can understand how to better serve your ideal customers and how to speak to them. For example, maybe Busy Mommy Mary is your ideal customer – She’s a mother of two, constantly running around between dropping off and picking up her kids from school, exercising, managing the household, plus she’s trying to find the time to get her business off the ground. She’s been struggling to find time to devote to her baking business. She has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that would make your mouth water. And guess what? You are selling the mixer that cuts prep time in half, that will not only save her a ton of time but also make those cookies taste even better. Busy Mommy Mary needs your product to save time (because she doesn’t have any to spare), she needs your product to help her business soar, and she’s accidently helped you discover your value proposition – your product helps your customers create delicious creations in half the time, so they can get back to living their busy beautiful life. Now, one thing to keep in mind, your customer personas may change. In fact, you might be super surprised, once your product launches to find out that other personas are buying your product (you didn’t even think of!). That’s to be expected, because once you start collecting data, you can really hone into those customers. You might be asking, “Well then why do this exercise before I have customers?” The reason we recommend doing this exercise early is to help shape your brand and make sure that your product, brand, and customers all align. For instance, let’s say your product is geared towards teenage girls, then your brand colors, website tone, etc. needs to speak to the teenage audience, and you have to market your product on platforms where your target audience is at. It’s unlikely the typical teenage girl is on LinkedIn so marketing on LinkedIn won’t work. Know your audience and it will help shape your brand, product and all marketing efforts. That’s the recipe for success. Now, let’s do a quick check-in: Brand story, Check. Customer personas, Check. Next up, Brand name and logo… Coming up with a brand name can be daunting because there isn’t an exact science to it. A brand name should allow you to grow without having to limit yourself to one product, location, services, etc. A great brand name will introduce your product to your customers and be memorable, so they come back again and again. Let’s go over some ways to come up with your perfect brand name: Brand’s Purpose – A brand name should somewhat make sense to what you are selling but also give you the opportunity to expand into other products. For instance, if you use “Everything Cereal” as your brand name, then you are limiting yourself to just Cereal, but what if you decide to expand yourself into other types of breakfast products like Oatmeal, breakfast bars, etc. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself to one product. What if Jeff Bezos named his company “Online Bookstore”? He would have been stuck just selling books or would have had to rebrand at some point to what is now known as Amazon. Chances are you are going to grow and add more to your product line. So make sure you pick a name that can be an umbrella for everything you sell. The best way to do this is by thinking about your brand’s purpose. What d
31 minutes | Jun 11, 2020
Episode 3: Business Fundamentals
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Hello, it’s Ishani. Thanks for being here. This is episode 3 of “How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days”. This is exciting – In Episode 1, you came with your product idea and in Episode 2, you’ve analyzed demand, competition, and profitability. Now, it’s time to complete some fundamentals of starting an eCommerce business. And we should get these going now, rather than waiting to do it later. Today’s podcast is going over: Setting up an entity, and how to determine which type is right for you Setting up a business bank account and why it’s important to do so Applying for a Seller’s Permit Understanding Sales taxes for your State Exploring your funding options Before we get started, just a quick reminder that this podcast is about going over all the steps it typically takes to get an eCommerce store up and running, like what we experienced with launching Roam Often. But not every case is going to be similar to ours and different states have different regulations, always consult a professional accountant or attorney when needed. Okay, now that we have covered the disclaimer, let’s go over the first topic Setting up an entity. Generally speaking, there are 3 types of entities you will want to explore, LLC, S-corp, and C-corp. There are a number of reasons for setting up a business entity. You want to limit your personal liability, maximize your tax benefits, your ability to raise money for your business and much much more. Skip to 2:35 For those who are starting out, you are most likely going to be deciding between an LLC versus an S-Corp. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company and S-Corp is named after subsection S of Chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code. Both entities come with limited liability, meaning they shield your personal assets from business liability. For both entities, you are required to keep your finances separate – one for the business, one for your personal finances. And the best part? Both entities allow you to deduct expenses like travel, uniforms, computers, phone/internet bills, advertising costs, promotions, car expenses, and so on. There are some intricacies involved with these expenses, so always check with your accountant. To be quite frank, many business owners just starting out will most do an LLC because it’s easy to set up, and depending on the state you are in, it will most likely cost less than a grand to get started. For example, an LLC formed in California can be done by: Filing Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State and the filing fee is $70 Within 90 days of filing the Articles of Organization, the LLC must file a Statement of Information and the fee is $20. Then annually, you must also pay an $800 franchise tax fee. Additionally, depending on how your business is set up and depending on who does your taxes, you could save on accountant costs because a single-member LLC doesn’t have to file a tax return for the LLC since it’s reported on their personal tax return. Also, you can elect to be taxed as an S-Corp while remaining an LLC. I highly recommend setting up an appointment with your accountant to figure out the best entity for you. And we did just that for both our businesses. One thing to note is that it’s beyond important that no matter which entity you go with to not pierce the “corporate veil” which means you have to operate the business entity completely independent of your personal income. If you don’t operate separately, you could lose the protection of your personal assets. S-Corps offer some key advantages, such as tax benefits when it comes to profits. Your accountant can advise you on when it makes sense to switch to an S-Corp. An S-Corp has to pay employees a “reasonable” salary; that includes you! A “reasonable salary“ is what the industry pays for a particular position. After payroll and other expenses, any remaining profits can be distributed to an S-Corp owner or owners, if you have a partner, as dividends, which are taxed lower than income. For instance, you’re a Print Designer, turned eCommerce business owner, but the bulk of what you do for your eCommerce business is print design, then look up the salary for a Print Designer. Depending on where you live, it can be a range like $40K to $80K. It has to be reasonable. Let’s say you decide to go with $65K, based on your experience. After your salary is paid out, the remainder of the profits can be taken out as dividends and taxed at a lower amount. This can save you a lot in taxes. Plus, S-Corps are more favorable to investors and for IPO. We had the chance to speak with Eric Aragon on this topic, a California licensed CPA and the owner of Aragon Accounting Corporation. His practical advice and unique experience are a couple of reasons why we think you’ll find his response very helpful. “As far as my background goes, it’s a little bit unique because I have been at the C-level as a CFO, worked for big companies and I try to bring all of that to help small business owners with tax, bookkeeping, and with strategy. It’s that kind of a combination of higher-level thinking that allows me to help provide value for small business owners. Just to give you a perspective C-Corps are companies like Microsoft and Apple. Those are all C-Corps who have to worry about double taxation. But if you’re confident that you have this business model that is going to need more money and you want to get investors, then we would typically say, ‘go with a C Corp.’ But again in most cases, unless you’re a doctor or accountant where the state restrictions won’t let you be an LLC, than you have to be a corporation, we almost always recommend that you go with the LLC. Because of the legal protections and, again my perspective, I think probably you know 90% of my clients have used an LLC and we are able to help them more because of that designation and the flexibility that it brings. So lots of cool options, but if you’re just getting started – go get an LLC. It’s really cheap to step up and then work with somebody that can help you know when the timing is right to transit the LLC into an S-Corp or partnership. When thinking of when it’s time to take the LLC to an S-Corp, it mostly revolves around how much money you are making in a particular year. Again though that is really income-based and a trigger point is somewhere right around $50K to $60K of net income. Just to keep in mind, net income is after you’ve deducted all of your expenses. Once you get to that threshold, you’re going to want to consider working on transitioning out of an LLC sole proprietorship and into an S-Corp. And part of the reason, just to give an explanation, all taxpayers have to worry about federal taxes and they have to worry about state taxes. But when your business owner, there’s a third tax and it’s called a self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is just another fancy word for payroll tax, where the IRS says, ‘hey you’re a business owner, we want to get our FICA.’ And in order to get that, they tax business owners an extra percentage and there’s this play where at a certain threshold with again right around 50 $60,000 a year, you can use that S-Corp to plan around and minimize that self-employment tax. That’s a key part of what we do with our clients and helping them pay less in taxes is knowing that trigger point and helping them transition out.“ Now the downside to S-Corps. There are a lot of guidelines, way more than LLCs, that you have to follow in order to qualify. For instance, you have to be a US citizen or resident, you can’t have more than 100 shareholders, you can only have one class of stock, you have to hold shareholder meetings, and there are many, many more. Consult your accountant or an attorney to learn all the ins and outs before you go down this route. Eric Aragon gave us some valuable insight into when it’s critical to seek a professional and when you can set up your entity yourself: “When you’re setting up a a new entity whether it’s an LLC, S Corp or C-corp, there’s kind of two routes basically you can go: there’s the do it yourself route or the use of a legal professional. These days with the technology world that we we live in, if it’s a really simple, just like one person set up and you don’t have to worry about like buy-sell agreements with a partner or buying a partner out eventually, and it’s just you, you can go do something like LegalZoom. It’s only going to cost you between $300 and $500 to do. If you’re getting into where there are multiple partners and there are some complications around how you’re going to share profits or you get into all these legal things like what happens if the owner passes away and who takes over, I would definitely recommend to get a competent lawyer and have them help you navigate some of those nuances, in order to protect yourself and make sure you and your partner are on the same page. So again, it just really boils down to how complicated is it and if you’re not sure, you know most CPAs and lawyers will do a consultation and they’ll give you some good advice on how to proceed. If it’s really simple, just you go to LegalZoom. You can again $300 to $500 and you can also get a free EIN number on the IRS website. Just again doing it yourself, but again if it’s complicated definitely go the lawyer route. If you like to learn more about us, you
27 minutes | Jun 10, 2020
Episode 2: Evaluate Product Profitability
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast. This is Series One – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! And here’s your host…Ishani DePillo. Hello, hello. This is Ishani DePillo. Welcome to the 2nd podcast of the series “How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. I’m so happy to have you. We had such a great start to the podcast. In the first podcast, we covered how to best identify a product to sell. The podcast was full of great tips for discovering a product to sell. You could trend-hunt or use your own passions and interests to come up with a product to sell. If you haven’t heard it yet and you are struggling to still come up with a product to sell, I highly recommend starting with that podcast first and coming back to listen to this one. Okay, so hopefully, you already have a product idea in mind for your eCommerce store, maybe even a couple of different ideas that you’re contemplating? And that’s awesome, because today’s podcast, the second podcast in the series, is all about evaluating your product’s demand, competition, and profitability. I am going to show you how to assess the true demand of your product idea, how to strategically (and discreetly) spy on your competition, and how to crunch those numbers to ensure your product is going to be profitable. Profits are really important not only because you need to make money, but it also helps you grow your brand to make even more money. And while money isn’t everything, it does give you the freedom to do what you love to do. Whatever that may mean to you. Anyway, as I mentioned, I will be addressing product demand, competitors, and profitability all of this in this podcast. It’s a LOT so bear with me and let’s dive in. Skip to 2:16 Let’s get started with the first concept: product demand. How many people actually want your product? What is the current demand out there for a similar product? What can you expect in the future? Those are some tough questions to answer. Especially if you don’t know how or where to find the answers. Thankfully there are a couple of helpful tools out there to find the product demand: The first one that we are going to look at is the Google Keyword Planner. It’s a free tool and super easy to use. But there’s a catch: In order to use the Google Keyword Planner, you will NEED to have a Google Ads account. You just have to enter information about yourself and your business, and you’re in. When you do a search related to your product on Google Keyword Planner you will see monthly search volume for your keywords. Ideally, the higher the search volume, the better. Because that means your product already has demand… meaning that people are actively looking for the product. Anything over a thousand is generally worth exploring in my opinion. Another product by Google, that could help you identify product demand is Google Trends. This is also a free tool and it will show you how much your product has been “trending” for the last few years. You can see whether the interest for your product has grown over time using Google Trends. It’s very helpful in making sure your product is on the rise, rather than on a downturn. The two tools that I mentioned by Google are Free, but we also use a paid service called Ahrefs. Let me spell that for you, it’s – A-H-R-E-F-S.com. This tool is pretty affordable and they are currently offering a 7-day trial for $7. And you can use their Keyword Explorer to find searches related to your product, and then get the search volume. We have an SEO expert here, Chris Casarez, who recommends Ahrefs as his first choice when it comes to SEO tools: “I’m a huge believer in Ahrefs. I’ve been using that for years. It’s got pretty much everything that I need. Now, it’s not free, but it’s also not horribly expensive so I would say it’s something within the scope of a small business. You can get your keyword research done, find out what your competitors are doing, whatever it is you want to emulate, you can sort of reverse engineer their strategy. So you’re not reinventing the wheel.” So a side note here… Save all the keyword research that you are doing because we will be using this information in the near future. So don’t forget to export and save. Another metric we like on ahrefs is the keyword difficulty. Basically the keyword difficulty tells us how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 organic search results on search engines like Google for any given keyword. It’s on a scale from 0 to 100, so anything below 30, is great in my opinion. Because if your product has demand meaning it has high search volume (for example over 1,000), and it has a low keyword difficulty rating (meaning below 30) then you may have a good chance of ranking for that keyword on search engines like Google and actually get free traffic to your website. Here is Chris Casarez again with his recommendations on the use of difficult keywords: “In regards to whether or not new businesses should go after difficulty words, I would say it depends. Number one: if those difficult words don’t have a lot of search volume, then certainly not. But usually, that’s not how it works, usually, the more difficult keywords also have greater search volume and possibly better returns. I would say, if a new business has the budget and the time to take the long game, I would say go ahead and do that. If you can ride it out for a year or two, and then start making those huge gains and getting that revenue than I would say it’s a go. If not, if it’s more of a pay-as-you-go scenario and the business needs to see some returns within the first few months, then I would say that’s not a good strategy. Look for low-hanging-fruit keywords where you can start seeing some returns sooner and then start building up once you see revenue come in and then you can just expand to more difficult words that are going to bring in a little bit more revenue.” Another tool that’s very popular is SEM Rush, especially amongst marketers. Some beginners may find it a little pricey though, especially if you are funding your own venture. SEMRush is currently $99/month. Over 5M of us, marketers use it. You can get a free 7-day trial, but you do have to enter your credit card information and remember to cancel within the 7 days if you decide it’s not the right tool for you. Those are some helpful tools to assess your product demand. But there are some other ways you can evaluate demand. These methods require a lot more effort but could end up being very fruitful if done right. For instance: You can run a Kickstarter, iFundWomen, or Crowdfunding campaign to collect funding for your product. There are some category limitations and you will have to put a lot of work into getting it set-up. AND if people are funding your creative product that’s a clear indicator that you will have demand once your product is ready to sell. We connected with Oliva Owens who is the head of Partnerships at iFundwomen, a crowd-funding platform for female entrepreneurs. She shares her biggest piece of advice to those who are starting an eCommerce store: “My biggest recommendation for eCommerce sites that are just getting started is to prove demand for your product or service before you invest in supply. That’s really the genius we see behind crowdfunding. It allows you to test out, ‘okay I have this idea. Our my customers actually willing to pay for it? and at what different price points do they want to come in at?’ Through a crowdfunding campaign, you’re able to test that out and then ultimately use the funds that you need to build out a strong e-commerce platform that you can continue to build on.” Another way to figure out product demand is to survey people. But you will likely have to do it anonymously so that they feel they can give their honest opinion without having to worry about hurting your feelings. And if you decide to go down this route, SurveyMonkey is a great tool to use. Another option for surveying is putting together a focus group. Perhaps select people who have strengths in marketing, product development, funding, etc. The people within your own circle help you discover places of demand in the marketplace. That’s how Charith Perera from TDot Performance started. Here’s an excerpt on their early beginnings: “Then eventually we bumped into a gentleman who said, “Stop selling these lights and start selling the auto products at his local store.” And he had like a small little Flea Market booth at the time. So we went to his store with a camera, my mom’s drapes, and a scale. And took pictures of every single product that he had in the store. Literally created a PDF catalog that we started distributing at school, saved enough money there. And then realized no one was selling Automotive Parts online; no Canadian Merchants were selling it online. And that’s honestly how we started, we just figured out how to create an online store. Our first store was through ProStores. We went to the library, figured out how to launch a site, launched it, and then started adding our products.” TDot performance re-sells automotive parts, so researching the demand for each new brand is critical to the success of their business. “Most of the time I would advise on focusing on a product that already has some search demand. We focus on uploading products that have a brand presence, and we look at the Google search history to see in that there are already a thousand people searching for the product. That way you don’t hav
23 minutes | Jun 4, 2020
Episode 1: Intro and Discovering a Product to Sell
Welcome to YourMarketingPodcast – How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business in Less than 30 Days. This is your step-by-step guide to quickly launch an eCommerce store and start seeing those sales roll in! Hi Everyone! Welcome to our first podcast. I’m your host Ishani DePillo. I’m going to start with some background on myself and the hardworking team behind this new podcast – yourmarketingpodcast. I have been in the marketing industry for over 10 years now and I’ve actually been working with the yourmarketingpodcast team for almost just as long. In 2017, I started a digital marketing agency, called “Your Marketing People” with this same exact team. Talk about a crazy and long partnership and friendship! And since our inception in 2017, we have been handling digital marketing for a range of clients – from small budgets up to multi-million dollar ones. And we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experience working with eCommerce clients. And to branch out our skillset, even more, we just recently launched, in January 2020, to be exact, an eCommerce store called Roam Often. And boy did I wish there was a podcast out there to help us get started with that new venture. Especially because this year has been a very strange one. We’ve seen first-hand the devastation and turbulence that the COVID-19 also known as CoronaVirus has caused for many businesses across the world. It’s been quite uncertain, which is another reason why we wanted to start this podcast – to help store-front retailers successfully transition into an eCommerce store to help generate sales right now, during shutdown, and in the future. Everyone benefits from having an eCommerce store. I’m a big fan of podcasts and I have wanted to get one started since 2017. Finally, after 3 long crazy years, we are here today! To talk about how you can get an eCommerce store up and running in less than 30 days and how to successfully sell online. With this podcast series, my hope is that you have a much smoother process than I did in launching an e-commerce store. We will walk you through every step of the process, from deciding on a product to sell to creating your eCommerce website, to marketing your product successfully, and if you have questions at any time, feel free to email us at email@example.com. So let’s jump right in with today’s topic: Discovering a product to sell. First thing’s first, what are you going to sell? It’s the big Kahuna of questions and makes all the difference in everything you do moving forward… like who is going to be your target audience or customer? What is your brand going to look like? Will it sell? Will it generate enough revenue and more importantly, profits? It’s so important that you spend a lot of time figuring out the right product to sell. It’s no secret that You have to sell a product that customers will want to buy, a product that has demand, that is different from what is currently on the market, and a product that will sustain profitability long term. That last one – sell a product that can sustain profitability long term – is important and one that we will cover on our upcoming podcasts. But first, let’s start with how to generate product inspiration. There are 3 main ways to do this that we’ve discovered. One way to garner inspiration is to use an application that predicts upcoming trends out there. They call this “trend hunting.” Let’s go over a couple of our favorites: Exploding Topics. I’m subscribed to their weekly email and always find the email very interesting. Exploding Topic’s technology analyzes millions of searches, conversations, and mentions across the internet. And then their algorithm identifies Exploding Topics before they take off. It’s free to sign up on ExplodingTopics.com. The application is fairly new in the space, so it doesn’t have a ton of suggestions every week, but you never know, it could spark an idea for you! We have Joshua here the co-founder of Exploding Topics sharing some trends he’s recently discovered in the eCommerce space that you may want to take advantage of. “There are a bunch of cool, really broader trends right now for eCommerce. Two examples of these meta-trends jump to mind. The first one being pet products. They are huge right now and taking off. It makes sense because people are willing to spend more on these niche-pet products to look after their pets because they see them as family. We’ve detected like dog toothpaste – literally toothpaste for your dog, but not minty, it’s actually flavors that your dog will enjoy like chicken and meat. And then another one right now is cat supplements that’s similar. Another one in the pet products sector is insect hotels, which are small wooden structures containing like logs and wood pieces that house different kinds of insects in your garden. That’s this broader pet trend; if you’re in eCommerce, pet market, and then one within that niche is a good one. And then another broader right now that is really relevant for eCommerce is bamboo products. And all kinds of products made from bamboo and I think this is taking off right now because people see it as a more sustainable alternative and people like the style. Specific examples of this are bamboo clothing, made of bamboo fabric; there are bamboo toothbrushes and even bamboo toilet paper made from the bamboo pulp. That’s another good trend for eCommerce – bamboo products. I see these all the time, these broader trends with specific opportunities within them because we are finding them for Exploding Topics. If you want more like that, there are loads of those that would be great for eCommerce products on ExplodingTopics.com. There are untapped, really.” Those are some really cool ideas. Thanks for sharing your algorithm findings with us, Joshua. You know Joshua started Exploding Topics initially to help his own research and now he’s expanded that into an app and a newsletter all because people around the world have found the data so helpful. Another is Kickstarter Trending Product. You’re probably pretty familiar with Kickstarter. But just in case for those who are not, Kickstarter is a funding platform where you propose a creative idea, product, or project, and communities come together to fund those ideas. It’s a great way to see what types of products and projects are popular. So head on over to Kickstarter.com to see what products are trending. Another one is Pinterest. Pinterest, as you all know, is a popular social media platform where you can find visual ideas to pin onto your boards. People around the world use Pinterest for inspiration on things like cooking, crafting, traveling, and much more. Pinterest recently introduced trends.pinterest.com where you can view the top US search terms within the past 12 months. I highly recommend checking it out. The last one I like to mention here is a big one! TrendHunter. Trendhunter.com leverages big data and AI to identify consumer insights and innovative opportunities. The site definitely has a lot to digest. So head on over and start poking around to get some really cool, out-of-the-box suggestions. Don’t be surprised if you spend hours on this site, absorbing all the creative trends. We spoke with Trent Hunter who gave us insight into how their platform can help business owners like you, determine what consumers really want to see in the future and here’s Ady with some Insider information: “So we have over two hundred thousand people all over the world who are consistently scouring the internet, trying to find the latest trends. Now once they submit these articles or trends to Trend Hunter, they are not automatically going to go live, we do have a rigorous editorial panel that essentially parses down all of the clutter and really finds all the great gems that we have on our platform. Now the editorial panel will go through and make sure that everything that we’re publishing is new, that it has that editorial flair to it, and it is not something we’ve already covered on our platform. Now from there, the articles essentially go live on Trend Hunter and they’re tested against everyone that comes to our platform. So if you go to TrendHunter.com, you will notice that every single article is attached to a score and that consists of three main criteria. So what we’re really tracking on the back-end is, of course, the freshness, so when the article was published to our platform; we are tracking the popularity, which is essentially tracking how many eyes are on the article, how many clicks it is receiving, and then, of course, we are also tracking the activity. This is actually a little more robust and what we are tracking in terms of the activity is how long the readers are staying on the article, if they are clicking through the images, or even resharing that on their social media platforms. So once an idea is actually live and being published. On the back-end, we have our team of researchers and our research advisors who are actually looking at the popular ideas, but furthermore what they’re actually doing is trying to connect the dots between seamlessly unrelated ideas and once a researcher can gather enough information on a variety of trends, they can make those connections and create what we call our Consumer Insights. Now Consumer Insights is something that is actually not live on TrendHunter.com. Those are actually exclusive to the clients that we work directly with. And these are really the crown jewels of Trend Hunter and they’re essentially how we help brands find the next big idea and really understand what the underline Consumer’s desires are.” Isn’t this so interesting to learn what goes on in the back-end? How Tren
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