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.
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 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.
Creating the Dead Baby Joke site (DBJ) was simple enough – I hit up Guru.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
When working on the advertisement, decide which will dominate:
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.
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?
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:
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.