Finding your passion

So, let’s talk about passion.  If you are starting a new e-commerce business (or a business in general I guess); you should consider doing a project that has you passionate about it.  Or at the very least, excited

You can obviously buy and sell any product you want (within reason, liquor, drugs, etc can require more start-up / legal requirements) but the simple truth is, for the first few months if not years you’ll be earning no money from this business.  In light of that, you want a business that you’re interested in, even excited about.

If you launch a business you aren’t interested in, it’ll go nowhere.  Trust me – I know.  I’ve launched a dozen side projects which I never got off the ground, partly because I didn’t have the time or funds to do it properly and partly because I just didn’t have the desire to push it through.

Quick wins happen, but mostly you are looking at the long grind.

So find a business or type of business you are interested in and launch that.  Don’t launch something just because it might make you money – it’s not good enough.  Not if you’re going to dedicate years of your life into it.


The Dead Baby Joke

The Dead Baby Joke Logo

As part of running an e-commerce business, one of the most important aspects is Search Engine Optimisation.  With Google constantly pushing out new code changes, it’s important to keep ahead of the curve.  Part of keeping ahead of the curve means testing out new concepts, design changes and just general ideas.  One of the first tests I did was for a social joke site called The Dead Baby Joke.  It’s now defunct if you are looking for it by the way – I had to shut it down for a number of reasons.

The Idea

The idea came about 2 years ago at party, after a series of drinks and bad jokes.  I was introduced to the most horrible jokes in the world – dead baby jokes.  If you haven’t heard of them, just look them up yourself.  It’s pretty bad…

Anyway, the thought was – why not make a site based on the concept of voting for the worst / best dead baby jokes? It should be simple enough in cost, and it’d allow me to test some social media concepts.

The Work

Creating the Dead Baby Joke site (DBJ) was simple enough – I hit up looking for firstly a designer for the logo.  That was easy and quite fun actually – for a minimal amount, we got the above logo.

Next in line was the actual website.  I wanted a website where you could vote on the actual jokes and have people submit it, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an off-the-shelf blog.  I ended up with a modified WordPress blog, with a number of design changes and plug-in’s which worked quite well to start.

Next step was launching the site and getting some backlinks.  That was pretty easy – there are a ton of directory sites out there for jokes and once a few were submitted we started ranking quite fast for the longtail keywords.  In fact, we were no.2 within a few months with minimal cost.

The Problem

Unfortunately, we grew too fast and really didn’t have a good set-up on the backend.  In about 5 months, we got hacked.  A bunch of malicious code was added to the site where malware was dropped onto visitors.  To fix it, I wiped the site and relaunched it – within a few weeks, we were hacked again.

The hacking saw our rankings drop off the chart with Google and we never did recover our rankings.  From generating a few dollars a day on Adsense, we stopped even ranking for the most basic keywords – we started receiving less than a 100 visitors a month.

Eventually, I just let it die rather than fight the uphill battle to rank again.  Our base code was bad obviously and this was after all an experiment.

The Lessons

Firstly, we learnt a lot about basic website links / linking information.  I played around with some spammy link building tactics and noticed what worked, didn’t work when it was going well.   Directories back then worked well; general forum work not so much.

Secondly, make sure you have good code.  Backing up the data was good, but having code that wasn’t too easy to hack would have been better.  That’s the problem with WordPress – it’s so popular, hackers all work hard to figure out what the most common holes are.  And then hit you with it – so you need to keep the entire site up to date.

Thirdly; if you do get hit with bad rankings, its viable to creep up (we did get a few rankings back before we got hacked a 2nd time) but it requires a lot of work. You are better off making sure you  never get hacked in the first place.

Lastly; with a small budget you can definitely create sites that are cool and fun and generate some revenue.  It’ll take a lot more work to generate an actual business though from this.




E-Commerce – A Real Business

So. you want to run an e-commerce store eh? Well, if you do you should start thinking about the various parts of the business you will have and how you wish to handle them.  Specifically:

  • Web Development / IT
  • Hosting
  • Administration
  • Accounting & Bookeeping
  • Legal
  • Human Resources
  • Stock
  • Shipping
  • Customer Service & Sales
  • Marketing
  • Purchasing

We’ll talk about each of these factors one by one, but you’ll want to think about how you want to handle each of these areas if you have an e-commerce business.

Perfect Audience Magento Integration Code

<script type=”text/javascript”>
(function() {
window._pa = window._pa || {};

indexOf(‘checkout/onepage/success’) != -1) {
$_tmp_amount = 0.00;
$lastOrderId = Mage::getSingleton(‘checkout/session’)
if($lastOrderId) {
$_tmp_amount = Mage::getModel(‘sales/order’)
?>_pa.orderId = “<?php echo $lastOrderId; ?>”;
_pa.revenue = “<?php echo $_tmp_amount; ?>”;
var pa = document.createElement(‘script’); pa.type = ‘text/javascript’; pa.async = true;
pa.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https:’ : ‘http:’) + “//“;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(pa, s);


Note – replace the tag with yours.

Designing Advertising – A Primer

So, you’re a small business and are looking to create your first advertisement.  Perhaps you are doing it in-house, perhaps you are hiring someone.  Either way, you should know the basics – otherwise, how do you evaluate what is provided to you is good?

The Medium is the Message

You probably have heard this before, and it’s worth remembering.  How you reach an audience (the medium) will dictate not just the design of your advertisement but its focus.  A print advertisement does not always translate well to internet advertising; nor does a TV advertisement translate to radio.

Decide on the medium used, then work on the advertisement.

The Design

A visually dominated advertisement

When working on the advertisement, decide which will dominate:

  • the copy
  • the visual

You can create an advertisement that has one or the other that dominates, but if both the visual and the copy dominate the advertisement, you war with your own design and nothing sticks.

Oh, I know the Oglivy often has both the copy and visual the same size, but it’s worth noting how few of those advertisements you see these days.  They just aren’t as popular because they aren’t as effective anymore.

The Appeal

A copy driven advertisement

Great.  You have a good design concept – now what? Well, now you need to decide on the appeal.

What appeal you use is really dependent on your audience and your medium.   If you don’t understand your audience (and where in their buying cycle you are targeting in that audience); you won’t understand what appeal will work.  Getting the appeal right is important.

The Follow Up

Great.  You have a design and an appeal, what else do you need? Well, a way for your customer to get more information is generally a good idea (the follow up).  Whether it’s as simple as your logo (doable if you have a LOT of brand recognition like Nike) or more detailed website and telephone numbers, you have to make sure your customer knows who created the advertisement and how to get more information.

This is when you start thinking as well as follow-through on other advertisements – do you have a design that flows from banner to website to print advertisement? You should have something linking it all together so that a customer seeing each separately with no context can say ‘oh, that’s X company’.  It can be as subtle as a swoosh or as detailed as specific logo colours and placement, but it needs to be there.

Lastly, start working on metrics – how to track the results of your advertisement.  If you aren’t thinking about this – then how do you know if what you did worked?


Doing what you do best

We’re an e-commerce company.  We plan the site, add new products, manage the logistics and ship our products to customers.  Our focus and our specialisation basically falls into:

  • B2C Marketing
  • Logistics

It’s what makes us good and what keeps us successful so far.  What we aren’t are:

  • a B2B company
  • a publisher or manufacturer
  • a video production company

Both require expertise in areas that we do not have.  Focusing on what we do best generally generates the most profits – pushing out to areas where we don’t have expertise in, while good in terms of diversifying risk can also leave customers (current and future) unhappy with us.

It’s often better, especially when  you are small to focus on what you are best at.

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn & Pinterest

So let’s talk about the various social media aspects out there.  Here’s my take on the above mentioned social media sites:


As a business you should have a Facebook Business Page.  That should be integrated to your main website so that customers can ‘Like’ your site immediately.

Things to note:

  • Probably the most widely used, so large audience numbers.
  • Social feeds can expand your reach quickly
  • Customers in FB are not intent on purchasing, so this is more a social awareness push – though on your page sale events and other promotions can be used
  • Recent changes in FB feeds has reduced the views of each update on your page.  Images are the highest, videos a 2nd and all others come a distant 3rd.  So to grow your FB likes, add lots of images.
  • Advertising to increase likes is a so-so option.  It increases likes fast but is costly and is not targeted.


Has been slowly growing with a more tech-oriented crowd and a higher level of interaction seen among those who use Google+.  However, not widely used so far.

Things to note:

  • Integration between Google+ Business Pages and other Google platforms can be tricky (especially if you’ve previously created separate accounts)
  • Not widely used, but much more interactive.  You need to be more active in Circles to get the most from this
  • Great for SEO – links are all dofollow and if shared a lot, can provide a good PR boost


Mostly useful for short messages and customer contacts

Things to note:

  • A must-have for customer relationships
  • Useful for disseminating blog posts, videos, etc if you build up the right followers
  • Auto-following everyone who follows you is potentially viable but can clog up your news feed too
  • Again, join conversations – don’t sit there by yourself shouting without interacting


Generally only useful for personal networking and service oriented businesses (b2b).  Not as useful if you are doing generic retail from our experience.

Things to note:

  • More professionals use this, so higher level of contacts and market
  • Great for creating warm leads in a sales environment
  • Can be useful for creating company profiles to develop additional reputation


Images driven, so if you have something image driven it’s really useful.

Things to note:

  • Pin images for your own company but also other images
  • Repin and follow people – create a social community again
  • Infographics do really well here