I often get asked by my friends whether I truly enjoy running my online store and whether selling wedding linens really floats my boat. In fact, most of my friends still find it hard to believe that I’m in the linens business in the first place.
After all, everyone knows that I love technology and selling pieces of fabric is about as far away from hi-tech as you can get.
In reality, what they really want to know is where my passion lies and why I still love running my business after all of these years.
Do you and your wife have a burning passion for wedding linen? Do you go on forums for brides and talk all about thread count and such?
What would you recommend is the cut-off line between “according to my metrics, this should sell well and generate good profit” , and ” I freaking LOVE this product”.
Do you really need to follow your passion in order to run a successful online store?
The Many Facets Of Passion
First off, I fully admit that I’m not terribly passionate about wedding linens. Decorative pieces of fabric don’t really make me excited and to be honest, I’m not in love with what we sell.
But don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in our products and the value we provide to the end customer but none of that stuff sends tingles up my spine. When my wife and I first started our business, it was all about the numbers and whether the business could make enough money so my wife could quit her job.
At the time, it didn’t really matter what we sold as long as we fulfilled our end goal. In fact, selling wedding linens online wasn’t even our first choice. We explored many other options including opening a Kumons franchise, selling pearl milk tea as well as wheeling and dealing surplus electronics online.
So for me at least, the answer was no. You don’t need to have a burning passion for the products you want to sell. But you do have to have direction and a clear goal in mind.
Finding A Goal
In most cases, making money for the sake of making money is not a really good reason to start a business. You have to have an end game in mind. After all if making lots of money is your primary focus, then it’s very easy to get carried away and have your business consume your entire life.
In fact, you pretty much have to decide from the start what you want out of your business venture. For my wife and I, it was about financial freedom and allowing us to spend more time with our children.
We figured that $100,000 a year would be good enough so we channeled all of our energies towards starting a business that would allow us to work as little as possible and make only as much as we needed (though it ended up being a lot more lucrative).
Starting out, I was willing to do whatever it took for my wife to quit even if it meant selling something that I didn’t really care for.
Do You Have To Follow Your Passion?
But a funny thing started happening once my wife and I got the first few sales under our belts. I found myself getting really excited whenever a customer entered our store. I would stalk their every move. I would obsess over and analyze all of their clicks.
I found myself spending countless hours staring at the online tracking numbers for our business. Why did a customer leave our store on this page? Why did the customer abandon their shopping cart? Why isn’t this product selling at all?
In short, I became fascinated by the business analytics and the metrics involved in evaluating our sales performance as opposed to our products. Everyday, I was amazed by how many people from all across the country were able to find our tiny little website among millions of other shops.
And so I started studying customer behavior and why certain products were more appealing than others. As a byproduct of improving our sales, I learned a great deal about the wedding and textile industry.
Not only did I become an expert with our own products but I also analyzed our competitors and kept up to date with various trends in the wedding world. I even developed a persona and became a regular on the wedding and sewing forums.
The funny thing is that it didn’t really matter what we sold, I became interested in our products simply because it brought us closer to our end goal. It also helped that the money started rolling in and I could see the results of our labor.
Google Analytics became a fixture on my desktop 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Customer Psychology Is Fascinating
But what truly excites me about our business is the customer psychology behind selling online. By making very subtle tweaks in the pricing of your products, you can have a profound effect on sales.
By changing small graphical elements on your website, you can control and funnel customers to different parts of your website. By simply altering the colors and layout of your site, you can provide a drastically different mindset for your customers.
For example did you know that by pricing a product a certain way compared to other similar products that you can drastically alter the human perception of cost?
Did you know that customers are more likely to add additional items to their shopping cart once they are ready to checkout?
It’s these little psychological mind games that really make me wake up every morning excited to run my online store. In fact, running a business is just like having your own scientific laboratory with your customers as guinea pigs.
You can make a different set of tweaks to your website and observe how your customers react. Making changes that positively impacts sales is extremely satisfying and I must say that I’ve learned a tremendous amount about human behavior just from manipulating some HTML.
Creating A Website Is Gratifying
The other thing that I love to do is design websites. As an engineer that develops hardware for a living, I often have to wait months or years to witness the fruits of my labor. But when it comes to creating a website, I get instant gratification.
I must say that I’ve had a blast managing the website design for my online store. And designing the mobile optimized version of my website made me giddy for weeks.
So whenever someone asks me how I can possibly be passionate about wedding linens, I always reply that it’s not about the product, it’s about the business. If you can find some aspect of your business that really excites you, then that is good enough.
Just make sure that whatever you decide to pursue is inline with your end game. I’ll sell anything (well almost) as long as I get to spend more time with family.
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.