I graduated from college when I was 23(bachelor of business, majoring in finance and an MBA) and set about taking the male dominated world of finance by storm. I was putting in the hours, climbing the corporate ladder and doing very well for myself when I was struck by a career disaster. I fell in love with a MAN and my first love(WORK) started to take a back seat. That’s okay I said to myself – I was just inserting a degree of balance into my life going from a life of all work and no play to a life of still quite a lot of work but a fair bit of play too.
The minor career disaster soon became a major career disaster when my first daughter was born. My husband was very supportive – we job shared and co-parented right from the start but it was obvious my career was not going to steamroll on with me only working part-time. Then came my second daughter, my first son and then my second son….. and it was all over. I had neither the time nor the desire to ever head off in peak hour to an office again. I was a mom. Happily a mom. Happily not going into the office. But not happily JUST being a mom and I was not happy to be no longer making any of my own money so I looked around for an easy business to get into.
I wanted a business that was low risk, low capital requirements and one that I could run from home. I found a website that bloggers who seem to be doing well and work from home mums selling all sorts of wonderful products they had created – but I am more about the business side of things not the creation side of things to this was not going to be me. In the end I settled on setting a baby gift basket business. I started it totally from scratch.
I dont want to go into great deal of detail about my business but I do want to share some of the rules that are applied to my business that enabled me to take it from a very small to a comparatively large business.
- Work from home does not mean you should not set work hours
I wanted to work from home so I could be home before and after my children went to school. I didnt feel to spend hours in traffic and I didnt feel to put them in childcare. But whilst my children were at school and I was at home working….Home became the workplace. Washing was not done. Cleaning was not done. Social calls were not made. I was at work, I had an agenda and I stuck to it.
- Online businesses dont sell themselves.
You may well have some of the best products at some of the best prices but I can guarantee you that unless you are out there actively promoting your business people will not buy from you. You need to constantly market your business through newsletters, specials, the new mediums of Facebook and Twitter and SEO. I dont know how many times Ive considered a purchase on a website and left undecided…. But if that website has captured my e-mail address and sent me a reminder I often went back and made a purchase.
- Cut corners today and you might navigate your business right back to the start.
When I first bought my business it came with a website that was ranking well for its target term of “Baby Gifts” Things went really well for 18 months but then all of a sudden my website disappeared from Google. Apparently my (now former) SEO company had been buying links in India to market my site – a strategy that brought me success in the past but as it is a tactic banned by Google…Google caught up with me my website was severely punished. I fired my SEO company and hired a new one who took on the task of removing all these junk links and eventually things improved.
- Get a competitive advantage
If your business is relying on being the cheapest in order to succeed then you’re in trouble. Only one business can be the cheapest and in the long term the cheapest is probably not going to be you. You need to find a way to offer your clients more than just “We are the cheapest”.Having an informative website of course is crucial but some people will always wish to call customer service. I provide a competitive advantage for my business by ensuring all calls from custom during business hours are answered. None go through to the machine if I can possibly avoid it. I know my business is a work from home business but I treat it as a real business and customer service is provided.
Another of my competitive advantages is I offer same-day shipping on all orders received before 3.30pm. My customers want their products as quickly as possible I want to keep my customers and thus I kept their orders directly that I receive them.
- Get feedback and Content from Your Customers.
I offer my customers a discount on the next purchase if they send me a review on their most recent purchase. This achieves so many things for me.- I get market research from my customers about what they think of my products.
– I get content from my customers that I can add to my product pages that makes them more useful than other websites that are selling the same products.
– I create customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
– When I send a reminder to the purchaser about my discount offered to review its giving me a reason to contact them and suggest they make another purchase
- If possible dont use manufacturer descriptions for your products
if you are selling products online that many other businesses are also selling its very important that wherever possible you dont use the manufacturers descriptions. Certainly when you rewrite the descriptions you should ensure you dont describe the product manifestly differently than what the manufacturer does the should describe the product in your own words. Look at it from Googles perspective. 1000 websites are selling the same products. All these products have the same descriptions whining would Google place your pages at the top of its list when there is nothing to differentiate them from all the other webpages? Goodbye manufacturer descriptions, hello useful rewritten descriptions.I understand if you are selling 10,000 different products or more this might not be possible…. If not… you need to re-read e… very thoroughly as this now applies in spades.I have dozens more tips which I will write about in the future but the today these are my top seven. Follow these and you are sure to see an improvement in sales for your online business whether it is a work from home business like mine or something altogether more serious.Michelle is a work from home mum and the proprietor of Doodlebuckets.com