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Learning the Hard Way: A Few Steps That Will Prevent You From doing The Same

By Guest Author On August 3, 2011 Under Improve Your Life, Law of Attraction, Self Improvement, Setting Goals, Success Secrets

Starting a small e- commerce business is a perilous endeavor yet holds the potential for tremendous reward.   In here lies the heart of the mental turmoil that comes with a new business launch.  Is there anything one can do to make this process a bit less agonizing so most of one’s mental energy can be focused on the upside rather than the possible pitfalls?  The answer is yes.  Having first learned by making costly errors  , the advantage of completing a few practical steps before diving in is an absolute must.

When I launched my business in the very competitive internet world of selling discount office supplies, I had a number of years of experience in the industry and had a good idea of where specifically my niche would be and to what type of client I would target.  However, what I did not do cost me almost two years of my time.  I did not conduct enough research on how my website should be constructed.  Consequently I lost valuable time and a considerable amount of capital. 

Step 1: Do your homework.  No one likes homework, but in this case it is beyond imprtant.   You’re revved up and eager to proceed and research may only reveal problems with your concept.  Who wants that?  You wanted get started yesterday and you don’t want to believe you could be wrong.     Well, had I completed a more thorough study, some very basic needs would have been met from day one instead of day 550.  In my case, we had a really great looking website.  The problem?  The site was not conducive to e-commerce and as a result, the organic search engine results we desperately needed did not come our way.  The results improved dramatically.  Granted it only cost me a few thousand dollars and almost two years.     The information I needed was always readily available.   My own stubbornness and emotional attachment kept me from promoting my office supplies properly. 

Step 2:  Write a business plan.  Once again, I mistakenly thought that the normal rules of a business launch didn’t apply to me.  My idea, my opinion, and my plan was safely stored in my head and as far as I was concerned, they didn’t need to make their way to paper.  How foolish was I?   Once I realized my folly,I finally sat down and penned a rather detailed plan of action complete with tangible goals and real numbers.   I outlined my objective, my methodologies, my demographics, my expectations, and organized the plan into a nice presentation binder for ready access.  This proved to be a wise decision as later; I was able to review my plan with wholesalers, advertisers, and bankers.  Besides referring to the plan repeatedly for personal assurances, having a business plan allowed me to professionally demonstrate that my judgment was sound.  Do not discount this critical step.

Step 3: Mental strength & faith.  This step could just as easily be step 1.  Your attitude has significant influence over your success.   Countless business books and self-help gurus constantly preach this message and with good cause.   I can say that during difficult moments, and there will probably be many, only a positive attitude based on faith will win the day.  Your mental toughness might be stretched to its limit and if you’re not prepared for this, don’t launch a business!  Others may try to discourage you…often times they will be your “friends.”  Stay the course and stay in faith.   Here is the intangible.   Successful business owners often cite their refusal to fail as the catalyst for success.   Adopt this mind-set now and practice it until it is a natural part of you.  Moments of doubt are inevitable but can be squelched quickly if you’ve worked to create a strong positive mental awareness.

Step 4: Guns blasting.  Business is nothing more than a legal battle zone.   Take no prisoners!  Pull out all the stops to creatively and effectively market your business to would be customers.  Don’t mimic the tactics of your competitors.  Instead, disassociate yourself from their message and work to achieve a clear level of differentiation.  Provided you don’t the rights to an exclusive productbut are playing in a highly competitive environment, don’t be a “me to” company.  Give your prospects a clear reason to select you over your competitor.   This is easier said than done but the exercise in creativity is vital to your success.  Try everything!

Step 5: Get the word out.  Today’s small businesses have the advantage of conveying their message using multiple mediums that didn’t exist only a few short years ago.  Using a nice mix of traditional advertising and new social media vehicles is preferable.  But, if your resources are too strained to allow for this, learn and apply a social media campaign to drive traffic to your site.  Besides having the ability to reach out to so many, it is also very cost effective.  However, no matter where your marketing dollars are spent, you must have real data from which you can analyze the effectiveness of your efforts.  Take it from someone who made this mistake, advertising without data is akin to shouting in the wind.  I would suggest you reserve a considerable amount of your startup capital to employee a professional agency to help you properly market your product or service.  For marketing to truly work, it should never be something you do and then check off a list, it must be something that is consistently done.

Step 6: Follow Up!  This crucial step is often neglected to the detriment of the business owner.  Even the most appealing website with the most competitive pricing won’t turn many visitors into buyers.  However, if you encourage these window shoppers to enter their valuable contact information and thus allow you to build a solid database of potential customers, you now have something of value.  An ever increasing database of prospects allows you to focus your marketing efforts effectively by scheduling regular marketing messages around them.   A common mistake is to allow window shoppers to leave without ever enticing them to comeback. 

Step 7:  Slow down.  Big dreams are what this all about.    But protecting your capital is extremely important.  I made the mistake of allowing my dreams to trump my reality.  In effect, I purchased too many services and too many elaborate additions before they were needed.  Rather than allowing sales to dictate expansion, I wanted my wish list now.  I literally paid the price.  Slow down and build as it comes.  Sounds basic right? It should be.  The version of your website today will not be the version you ultimately end up with.  That’s how it should be and that’s okay. 

I don’t profess to be an expert.   Undoubtedly the list could be expanded to 100 steps or more.  I only know that my personal experience taught me the value of implementing the steps listed above.  With regard to an e-commerce site, proper SEO and SEM is a given and should be applied to the fullest extent.  This article is concerned more with the habits and practices of the individual. I hope that an aspiring entrepreneur will heed these steps. 

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