First in a series on listening to your business.
What do you do when your business isn’t going according to plan? When we started Engraving Amore, we wrote up a business plan. Some say, “Why? I never had one and I’m doing well!” That approach may work for some, but we wanted to think things through and put it down on paper. I do recommend putting together a business plan when starting a business. It helps you assess your industry, the need for your product, focus on your target market, and has many other benefits. A great resource for working on your business plan is www.bplans.com. But as we all know, things don’t always go according to plan.
The cornerstone of our business plan, and our business, really, was to be the company shopping cart website. Every company needs an online presence, and our goal was to have a great online store that would allow our customers to browse our wares and order in real time. We assessed the industry leading providers and settled on Volusion, a great company that I highly recommend. Volusion has a long list of customizable features, a well-built user interface and a great support system in place. They really do have a top of the line product, which has given them a well-deserved place as an industry leading online business hosting website.
So, if Volusion is so great, why would you need to change?
Honestly, it’s a matter of dollars and sense. You can have the best built website in the world, but if no one goes to it, it’s not doing anyone any good. Driving customers to your online store is expensive and time consuming. A strong Facebook ad or Google Adword campaign can easily run in the thousands. Researching keywords and a good marketing strategy is a full time job if you want to do it properly. Volusion’s prices are reasonable in and of themselves, but the price of the site needs to be offset by the amount of profit the site brings in. Not the sales, but the profit. So, if your Volusion site is costing you $100 a month (our cost for their “Plus” plan coupled with credit card processing fees), and your profit on products is 50%, then you need to sell $200 per month in products on the site to make the cost worthwhile. That doesn’t even consider the cost of advertising and marketing. For a new business, owners need to keep expenses as low as possible. While I loved the Volusion site we had, it was just more than we needed so early on in our business. The $1,200 plus we were spending per year could be used in many other ways, whether to help grow our business or, frankly, support our family of six!
What did we do?
Fortunately, I work in the IT field and have some knowledge of web development. Using various web resources and the great video training from Lynda.com, I learned WordPress. If you don’t know what WordPress is, it’s estimated as the platform that runs over 1/3 of all Internet websites. Sites like CNN.com, ebay.com and BBC America use WordPress to build their pages. So, I learned the technology, which is very scalable and modular, a great and easy-to-use platform, and we moved to a new site. (This blog is a WordPress site and building it was part of my learning process.) Our new hosting company, Siteground.com, is another industry leader, but since I’m doing more of the web design work myself (as opposed to Volusion) and we’re not processing credit cards on the site anymore, our cost is now down to about $10 per month. Yes, you read that correctly. Going to a WordPress site reduced our cost by about 90% per year.
What about the online sales?
I’m glad you asked! We are also in the process of moving our online sales piece to the king of online shopping, Amazon.com! We’ve got a few products on there so far, with many more to come. It is a time consuming process to edit pictures, create the product entries, etc., but definitely worth it. The primary advantage of Amazon over Volusion is the pricing model. Amazon
charges a percentage of sales, while Volusion is a flat rate per month. That means we’re not paying anything unless we sell something! A much better pricing model for our small business! And, for those in-person sales at town fairs or custom orders, we still have our old friend Square (another site built with WordPress), which is also a pay-as-you-go service.
Summing It Up
Businesses always have to pay attention to what’s going on, whether in the industry, in culture or in the business itself, and be willing to adapt. Small businesses need to keep expenses as low as possible so any capital can be reinvested and help grow the business. When you’re starting out, be sure to keep close tabs on the decisions you make, and don’t be afraid to adjust, whether it’s a minor change or a major one. Don’t look at it as a poor decision, but a learning experience. Whether you use it in your current business or a future one, you will add all of these little learning experiences together and become one heck of a business person.
And please feel free to stop by our new site and let us know what you think! Thanks for reading.