How Our Online Business Needs To Be Improved

I just wanted to take the time to thank you all for your emails and your comments. They really are what keeps this blog going and motivates me to write more often. In fact, I look forward to answering questions each and every morning! The other day I received an excellent question from a reader asking me whether there was anything left to improve with our business and whether my wife and I were satisfied with where we were at.

Photo By Pink Sherbet Photography

First off, I just want to say that there’s always something that needs improvement. There are many things about our business that need to be fixed and we are currently at a crossroads in terms of where we want to go next. Second of all, the moment that you become satisfied with what you have is when you leave an opening for the competition to overtake you.

What We Do Well

If I look at our business from a high level, we are really good at several things. First and foremost, our customer service is top notch. I don’t believe that we’ve had more than a handful of dissatisfied customers. And those that were dissatisfied, we usually gave full refunds to even if it was not our fault. We go out of our way to meet customer deadlines and we do whatever it takes to accommodate our clientele which are usually brides and event planners. In other words, if a customer needs some linens on a certain date, they are going to get there…period. Going over the top with our customer care has facilitated the spread of our business through word of mouth. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to receive a flood of visitors all from the same little hometown.

In terms of product, my wife has a good eye for what is attractive and trendy so in general we only carry products that will in fact sell and not sit on our shelves. We also perform quality assurance on all of our products (usually required when importing stuff from Asia, but not all vendors do it) so we know that the customer is receiving quality goods.

Finally, we are pretty good at getting a customer to buy once they’ve reached our site. Using a combination of craft tutorials, unique content and reasonable prices, we convert at a pretty good percentage.

Why I’m Worried About Next Year

So far in our 4 years of existence, we’ve had double and triple digit growth every year. In fact, we are poised to hit another 25-30% increase at the end of the year if things continue at their current pace. But in order to maintain these increases in the future, we need to continue to improve. For the last 4 years, we’ve changed at least one aspect of our business every year in order to achieve growth, whether it be maxing out our advertising, introducing new products, redesigning the website etc… but mostly it was low hanging fruit. Here are some problems that we currently have and what we need to improve on.

We Are Too Dependent on Google

Relying on Google is a double edged sword. The search rankings for our site fluctuate all the time and all it takes is a single extended lull to kill revenues. Right now, we are way too dependent on Google. Looking at our stats, 80% of our traffic comes from the search engines. If all of that traffic were to be taken away, our little store would be screwed. On one hand, we rank extremely well for our keywords, but that could change at any time.

In short, we need to diversify our traffic somehow and I haven’t formulated the final gameplan just yet. What I would like to do is to create a following for our store just like with MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. The main difference between running a store and a blog however is that with MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, I don’t try to sell anything. Everything I write about is more or less pure content. But with an online store, I run the risk of turning away followers if I push our products too aggressively.

Most likely, we will create a new newsletter and rely on various social media outlets to show off our content. And by content, we’ll focus on our arts and crafts. Perhaps we’ll offer a new craft every month and send it out to our customers. Whatever we do, we need to find something to hook customers into reading our newsletters because they are interested in the content and not because they are looking for coupons. We need to create a captive audience and use subtlety when slipping in product advertisements.

We Need To Branch Out On Advertising

Today, our paid advertising consists mostly of Google Adwords but Google is no longer the only game in town when it comes to PPC advertising(Yahoo doesn’t count). Now that our budget has increased, we’re going to give Facebook and Amazon ads a shot. What I like about Facebook ads is that you can target a very specific demographic. In our case, Facebook users love to share news that they’ve gotten engaged. We can target our ads to only those who plan on getting married in the near future. In addition, we can also target our Facebook ads based on profession. Because a lot of people list their occupation on Facebook, we can show specific ads to target wedding and event planners directly.

Amazon ads are attractive because everyone and their mother knows what Amazon is. Over the years, Amazon has become the largest superstore of products online. When I have problems finding something using Google, I usually go straight to Amazon, so it seems like a no brainer to advertise there.

We Need To Fight Complacency

My wife and I have been running the same store for about 4 years now and while it has been a heck of a ride, the business has allowed our lives to become a little too cushy. In other words, it’s way too easy to slack off on any given day because the money keeps flowing in.

“Let’s take this week off honey. The business isn’t going to go anywhere.”
“I don’t feel like adding content to the site tonight. I’m tired”

I’m sure that you are familiar with all of the excuses. The fact is that every quarter, I see at least 1 or 2 new competitors pop up in our space and unless we are constantly improving our business, we are at the mercy of new entrants beating us out.

Personally, I’ve found that the mental hurdles of running a business are the hardest ones to overcome. Especially when you have a small business like we do that is generating a healthy amount of cash, it’s easy to get complacent. There are literally a zillion small tasks that need to get done but we haven’t made significant progress on them because we get lazy and procrastinate.

We Need To Delegate More

Which brings us to one of our next goals….We need to outsource more of the website and virtual work. Simply put, with my full time job, I don’t have a ton of time to be a webmaster and writer. Our shopping cart is slowly becoming obsolete so at some point, we will need to do a major upgrade. I’ve been meaning to do this for some time, but honestly, the task is probably too large to complete in a reasonable block of time by myself. The ideal solution is to explore the use of outside web programming contractors.

The problem is that I’m not 100% sure that I’m willing to give up control of our web site development to someone else. In the back of my mind, I know it’s probably the right thing to do, but mentally I’m reluctant to do it. Giving up the reins has always and still presents a major problem for me. I’m pretty anal about the things that I do and I’m deathly afraid of some poor programmer messing up the entire backbone of our business.

The Future

As you can tell, our business is far from perfect and we have lots of things to improve upon. And having two kids running around the house isn’t helping things either. Every now and then when I’m on my computer, my daughter will run by and bang on the keyboard while I’m typing:). Anyways, if my wife and I can overcome the mental aspects and take action, I think we’ll do just fine this coming year.

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5 thoughts on “How Our Online Business Needs To Be Improved”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I like your honesty in this post. From what I’ve read facebook has been a poor investment for most people. Maybe because it just isn’t the target market. However, I think you have one of the few products that might actually do very well on facebook. Tons of people get married and I hear photography companies so fairly well on facebook. I can’t wait to read that post about your success there!

    Also, I think if you want to create more revenue you should just keep expanding your product line. Who else needs customized linens? Or maybe you should start a 2nd site so as not to dilute your first brand. I have tons of ideas if you want to discuss them!

    Cheers,
    Jeremy

  2. Steve thanks for sharing your thoughts on your business. I found it really interesting, especially the bit about being too dependent on Google. My little niche sites aren’t producing much and I still have tons to learn. A few bucks from Amazon, CJ and Google adsense so far. My biggest problem is backlinks as I can’t afford the backlink building programs that are out there. I find backlink building really tiring. I built my pedometer watch site up to 2500 backlinks and then started working on other sites, now my links have dropped to 160 over a period of 3 weeks. I think I’m on page 2 but it erks me that sites with no content and seemingly few backlinks can rank on page 1. As always thanks for a very interesting post.

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