Whenever you read about an entrepreneur who has a made a large sum of money in a short period of time, there is always this misconception that their path to success was quick and smooth.
Take John Chow for example. If you read his blog and his tips, it seems as though he can make tens of thousands of dollars per day by barely lifting a finger. What you never hear about though is the pain and hardship he went through to get to this point.
The fact is that once your online business is up and running, life does get easier and we tend to forget about the early stage pain. Looking back at our online wedding linens business, there were several times when I was a neurotic mess and I did a lot of stupid things. (Notice the use of the word “I”. My wife was usually more level headed and patient).
Some of the more often questions I get asked are, “Was business slow early on?”, “Was there any point in which you didn’t think things would work?”, “Was there any point that you got frustrated and wanted to quit?”. If you were planning on asking me any of these questions, I’ll just save you the time right now and say “YES!!” as loudly as I can type. In fact, there were many stupid things I did early on which I will share below.
My Moods Were Dictated By Sales
After the many weekends and late nights spent launching our business, I wanted to see results right away. In fact, I wanted sales so badly that I became obsessed with every customer that visited our site. One of the coolest and biggest time sucking features of our shopping cart is that you can follow a customer as they browse your store. What product are they looking at? Are they in checkout? What do they have in their shopping cart? You have all of this information at the click of your finger.
Early on when things were slow, I used to stalk our customers and my mood would be dictated by their actions.
Me: Come on baby! That’s right…Put something in your shopping cart. You want those linen napkins. I know you do. They’ll look great on your dining room table.
Wife: Will you stop stalking our customers already? It’s just going to get you all worked up.
Me: Nonsense! Oh!!! They put something in their cart!!! I think they might buy something! C’mon baby. Buy it!! Buy it!!
Me: Sweet! They are entering in their information!!!! Just a little further… C’mon, click on ‘submit’. you can do it. It’s the big purple button on the lower right. Wait….what’s going on? They’ve been stuck on the payment page now for over 5 minutes…What’s wrong?!? Mayday!! Mayday!! Why would they leave without paying for their merchandise. Crap!!! Is it something we did?….Is their something wrong with our store? It’s game over man…Game over!!(I would go on like this for several minutes)
Wife: I think you need to get a life….
Me: You are my life dear….and we just lost another customer.
Whenever we did successfully sell something, I would be on Cloud 9 for the entire day. But when customers abandoned their cart, I’d be left with this empty feeling of despair. This roller coaster of emotions wasn’t healthy for my psyche.
Taking Things A Step Further
It’s one thing to passively observe the behavior of your customers online, but I desperately wanted and needed feedback in order to improve our store. Why did customers not complete checkout? Why did customers leave the store so quickly? I wanted to know.
Unfortunately, when you just launch your business and people aren’t buying, feedback can be hard to obtain. Which brings me to neurotic action number 2… Sometimes after a customer had abandoned their shopping cart, I would call them directly and ask why. As you can imagine, some customers were shocked by the call and some of these conversations were downright uncomfortable.
Me: Our records indicate that you attempted checkout and your order didn’t go through properly. Do you require any assistance to complete your order?
Customer: Huh? Who is this?
Me: I’m sorry. You were trying to purchase some wedding handkerchiefs from our online store about 15 minutes ago.
Customer: That’s strange, I don’t remember buying anything. I was just looking around. How did you did get my number?
Me: (You entered it when you left your unpurchased items littered all over our online store!***This is I wanted to say***) Oh okay. Was there a particular reason that you did not complete your purchase?
Customer: **pause**. No reason…I was just looking around. What is it you want again? Please don’t call again.
In my defense, even though I drove away a bunch of customers early on, I actually did get some quality feedback. For example, one time a customer told me that there was a bug with our credit card processor and the use of his debit card. Another customer I called told me that our pictures were too small to make out the product details. I also discovered that many customers went through checkout just to find out the shipping costs because it wasn’t obvious what the final total was. I was even commended once for good customer service! Even still, getting called by a store right after you decide not to buy is not a wise thing to do…
Changing Too Fast
Whenever I did receive any sort of feedback, I acted on it fast. And as a result, our online store was in a constant state of flux. I never gave any of my changes anytime to digest. Instead, it was like “Customer X couldn’t find the Checkout button very easily. Perhaps I should make it twice the size and move it to the left”. “Customer Y thought she needed an account to buy something. Perhaps I should re-implement the checkout process”.
What ended up happening was that I was constantly making tweaks without observing the impacts of each change. It was counter productive and stressful as well because I worked at such a quick pace that I often made mistakes. Probably the most egregious mistake I made was when a syntax error caused a picture to not load properly on one of our checkout pages. Customers trying to make a purchase were greeted with a big red X where one of the photos should have been.
We All Have To Go Through It
The next time you read about someone making it big or making lots of money in a short period of time, realize that they had to work hard to get where they are today. We all have our neurotic moments that we’d rather not share. We are all not as confident as we appear to be. The scary thing is that I’ve barely scratched the surface with my mistakes. The fact is that there aren’t any true shortcuts. Things will come along gradually as long as you constantly try to improve.
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