It is widely known that starting a business is a costly and tiresome process. It is not for the fainthearted and usually takes either the inherited family fortune or a savvy entrepreneur spirit to get it up and running and off the ground. Even then, the levels of persistence and need for angel funding or granting of loans will come into play very soon into the process.
However, it doesn’t always need to be a huge cost factor that you need to deal with. In this day and age, there are so many different ways of conducting business, especially online, that you don’t need to spend a small fortune to kick off your business. We chatted to the founder of a startup ecommerce company who kicked his business off with very little capital. Two years later, he has started turning over a profit, and the business is starting to thrive.
We sat down with him to find out how he turned his online pet product store into the success that it is today with very little money to kick the project off the ground.
Start a Great Website
Step one for him was to kick his website off the ground. He admitted that this was where some money came into play, but researched the various ways of forking out hundreds of thousands to get your place on the web. His answer to this was to buy an already established website and take it over with his business plan and content. He states that there are various advantages of buying a website.
Firstly, the site came with already established traffic to it. That meant that he had to spend less money and time trying to get people looking at a brand new site that emerged out of nowhere. The traffic meant that he could start converting visitors into customers by simply changing content, creating more prominent CTA’s and adding his unique products onto the site.
Not only was there already established traffic, but the site already had a significant google ranking. SEO is a huge factor in getting your site visible to potential traffic who don’t know you exist.
The third reason for him buying a site was to avoid the high costs of actually starting a site. He claims that in his previous business, where he did start a site from scratch, he spent more time and dollars trying to optimize the site into a streamlined selling machine than was necessary. Not only do you have to ensure that your pages flow and load quickly, but your keywords need to be effective and bounce rate low enough for Google to rank you higher. This is all somewhat pricey as most sites hire UX designers to optimize their site to ensure that visitors become repeat customers.
Content, Content, Content
They say that content is king and he fully agreed with this. He admits that he is not the best writer, and actually struggles with the menial day to day admin of running a business. But he had to put this aside, and start working day in and out on great content that was going to draw the traffic in.
He created a blog on the site and added social media pages to the business. In the blog, he identified what would appeal to his target audience and started creating content around topics that would perk up people’s attention. For his brand, this was interesting and somewhat easy to do. His target audience are animal lovers and caregivers to fur babies. People love their pets. They are always interested in their pet’s health, well-being and happiness. Blog posts then centered around topics around these topics. “Top Diseases to Look Out For In Your Dog”, “Strange Behaviours in Your Cat and What They Mean”.
These topics are vital and generate huge traffic to the site. He then added great CTA’s in the articles that drove the reader to view the products on the site. Many articles created can also be product guides which inadvertently act as adverts for the products on the site. “Top 5 food products to give your overweight cat.” That CTA is easy to include directly to the product that is surprisingly on sale that week.
He also naturally added some of the more “fluffy” content, as that is a huge way of creating fans of the site.
A content plan is vital in this case. You need to be able to create a calendar and mark down everything happening during the year. From the big holidays, to the brand specific observed days, you need to plan well ahead for how you can play on each event.
Getting Your Brand Out There
Marketing is the next step, and there are certainly ways and means of getting your brand out an in the public eye with little money. The blog was one of the easiest ways of getting content out and seen over various platforms.
- Social media. Each and every blog post that was uploaded was shared on all social media platforms. The better performing posts and heavy lead generators were boosted with a small budget put behind the post to further the reach.
- Mailers. He created weekly mailers to be sent out to a growing subscriber base that featured all of the weeks content, headlined by the stand-out article. The mailer also included the “fluffy pieces” that people love, product specials and eye-catching CTA’S and banners.
- Referral sites. One of the best methods of PR is by reaching out to relevant media sites with content that would perk their interest. Free PR is actually possible if you not only approach another established site with great content but if there is a mutual benefit to the sharing of the content.
The main challenge for him was to have the process setup and effectively streamlined. He therefore set up a multi-functional spreadsheet which acted as a content calendar, traffic monitor, lead count, sales capture and product list. As mentioned, admin wasn’t his forte. In order to get as much out of applications as possible, he made use of several Excel Consulting sessions, and various other application trainings to fully use each application at hand. This not only saved him time and money, but he learnt the critical skills he needed to to kick off his business.
His key learning in the whole process was to learn how to do everything himself. In that way, he could effectively monitor how much to spend in each aspect of the business, where he could cut costs, and most importantly, what actually worked. If something stopped working, he would simply go back and find a different, cost-effective way of changing the process for the business to be a success.