Consulting or mentoring a small business owner isn’t as easy as working with a large business. Most businesses with several employees have already assigned tasks and jobs to different people. An entrepreneur is working on one's own and you're wearing many hats.
So just I started mentoring the winner of the Pitney Bowes Small Business mentorship contest Julie Wiley owner of I Do Bridal & Gifts. It made me remember just how many points a small business owner needs to touch; I guess I have come to take them for granted. Working with her reminds me of the many tasks that need to be covered on a daily basis.
Being a soloprenuer requires an “in the trenches” education. Luckily there are lots of books (mine included) that will help you learn new and interesting business methods that may previously have been foreign to you. The learning experience is broad. For an ecommerce business, as an example, the entrepreneur wears all these hats:
- Merchandise Buyer. Being on top of industry trends and being able to find merchandise (at the right price) for web sales.
- Bookkeeper. Even if the business has a bookkeeper, the owner needs to watch financial trends and prepare the numbers for consolidation by a professional.
- Legal Assistant. Every business needs to file for appropriate licenses and permits from the state and federal governments, plus keep track of DBA and required business filings for your city.
- Website maintenance. The website is a one-man operation. Entrepreneurs have a picture of what they want and how they want it to look on the web. Reviewing and applying ongoing updates are part of the job, as well as being cognizant of SEO and Google Analytics.
- Listing items for sale. Aside from the small business commerce website, items need to be listed on e commerce platforms to increase sales, build their brand and eventually build traffic back to their own website. Descriptions need to be well written to encourage a buyer to click the buy button.
- Photographer. If you’re selling items on the web, you’re going to need good images. This takes a certain amount of equipment - and experience. Snapping off pictures quickly just doesn’t work; there is a lot to keep in mind. Click here for best practices for taking photos for online selling
- Shipping Department. Shipping is often the most daunting task for a small business (it takes up a full chapter in my books). Learning the ins and outs and updates on regulations is of utmost importance. Many small businesses dilute their bottom line here, through inaccurate and expensive shipping decisions.
- Chief Marketing Officer. Being close to your business makes the entrepreneur the ultimate expert. Armed with that knowledge, you need to apply social media and promotional best practices to improve sales online. Tread the thin line between marketing and possible spamming.
The tasks above become part of the business’ daily routine. But following a routine over months and maybe years can cause an entrepreneur to get stale. We all often fall into habits that may end up hurting our sales efforts. Here are five common pitfalls of which to be aware:
- If sales start to lag don’t blame the platforms you are selling on right away. Be sure that you are updating your titles regularly using the most popular keywords that describe your item. Better descriptor keywords (just like SEO) can help you rank higher in the site’s search.
- Signing up and selling on multiple ecommerce sites because your sales are lagging and you think expanding is a good idea. Take a look at your core listings and see what you can improve before abandoning ship for another shiny site, thereby further weakening your views.
- Money can drain slowly, even at $5 a month; subscribing to (and paying for) multiple services that you don’t need or use is a waste. Unsubscribe!
- Not checking the competition! Every time you list of relist an item online, be sure to search the platform (and other vendors on the web) to see what the going price is. If others are successfully selling an item that you are not, take a close look at their descriptions, pictures and pricing to see if you can’t be better.
- Keep your listings fresh. Add additional photos to your item listings. The more those visitors can see, the more likely they are to click “buy.”
I have been selling online since 1996, and yes, I do get complacent. Much of what I’ve learned is from the ecommerce school of hard knocks. But after almost 20 years of selling online and researching for my books, I’ve got a strong grasp on what it takes to succeed. Keep learning and stay on top of trends, your ecommerce business will bring you a full time - or a side income, your choice.
Someone complained to me on Twitter about selling on eBay, you might find exchange amusing:
@cheryljnu It is only a second job when you are successful ;)
— Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier) October 7, 2014