Archive for February, 2012

Building An eCommerce Business From A Book’s Advice, Part 2

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Yesterday’s blog post was the story of a nice guy who called for a price on a website. He got a lot more than that.

He gave me permission to publish the thank-you email he sent me in response to the phone conversation we had. I wanted to share it with you…

I’m the guy you spoke with yesterday about the cologne website.

I just want to say thanks again for opening my eyes yesterday.

It scares me to think about how much more time and money I would have had into this business if I hadn’t talked to you.

I’m officially pulling the plug. Not because I think it would be impossible for me to ever achieve any degree of success with it, but because it’s impossible with the resources I have. And I approached wrong, bass ackwards as they say in Michigan.

I don’t know how to do research to see if the business would work or what it would take to work so I just disregarded it, when viability is the most important aspect of it all. I told myself, “The only way to find out if it works is by trying it.” While that’s applicable to some things, it’s a very dangerous approach in this application.

Its like me saying, “The only way I’ll really know if I can fly is by trying it, so I’m gonna jump into the Grand Canyon and hope for the best.”

My problem is I just assumed that hard work would assure success. I can work hard and will. I’m going to be working hard at something else now. But hard work doesn’t guarantee success. It doesn’t just come automatically with hard work. Other things have to be in place.

I was ill prepared and ill resourced and destined for a colossal let down.

Debbie, you have saved me hundreds of dollars and many hours of my time. If every person was as honest and morally sound as you are, the world would be a much better place. Karma is on your side I’m sure of it.

If I wasn’t broke as a joke, I would send you money for the hour of your valuable time you gave me and how much you’ve saved me, and I think honesty and good will should be rewarded.

The truth is always the best no matter how hard it is to say or to hear, you know?

You didn’t have to do what you did for me yesterday but you did, because you are a good honest person. Thank you so much!

I wish you the best of luck in life and business!

No, I wish YOU the best of luck in life and business! I got a serious smile when he told me karma was on my side.

This is what I do, and this is why I do it. Not every rewarding moment comes when a payment clears. Plenty of rewarding moments come knowing I’ve helped people. That’s why I do it, and why I’ve been doing it here at As Was since April 1995.


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Building An eCommerce Business From A Book’s Advice

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I got a call earlier this week from a nice guy who wanted me to give him our price on customising his 3D Cart Store. Well, we are 3D Cart Platinum Partners, so sure, we can do that. But I wanted to know more about what he was selling, what was his plan to market the site, etc… I know that most online sellers have never really thought of these things, and don’t really have a plan. You need a plan!

On the surface, he thought he had a plan. He was going to sell men’s fragrances from his own website. He found a supplier (the online site most of you are probably buying yours from… evidently they also wholesale), and they were going to drop ship, so he didn’t have to buy or store anything. He started a website and bought a premium template. OK, how will you market it? He told me, “Affiliate marketing, SEO, and marketing consultants.” Well, you know me, so I asked him if he knew what affiliate marketing meant. He didn’t.

I said let’s take a good look at SEO possibilities. We went to Google and searched a popular men’s cologne. The top results were some of the biggest names in online and brick-and-mortar retail on the planet. You’d click on any one of them since they’re names you know and trust. The paid ads were also from these same big players except that Google showed a customer ranking for them. So even if the nice guy on the call with me paid for top Google placement, he’d be next to a company that Google shows as having over 3,000 positive comments. Who would you pick?

I felt like this was a serious uphill battle for him. His problem wasn’t his website design. I was concerned nobody was ever going to see it. The problem is how are people going to find his website, and why should they choose to shop there? When you can buy fragrances at many local stores… or online from Walmart, Sams Club, Fragrancenet (we did their eBay stuff :) ), Perfumania, and others… would you choose this guy’s site, especially if his prices are the same and not lower? How much time and money would he burn on SEO and marketing consultants as they tried to get him Google placement alongside Walmart and Fragrancenet!!!

I had to tell him that I thought his biz idea wasn’t very strong. It didn’t seem like it would be likely to succeed. And for the money he’d burn in getting it going… in this economy, does he have that money to lose? You can’t just assume this is going to work and make money. What if it doesn’t? And then he asked me an interesting question.

Can’t this just work a little? Can’t this work enough to bring me $1000 or $2000 per month? I just didn’t see that happening when he was up against such giants. He assumed that he would have SOME success, even just a little. I asked how much he will have to work and how much money he’d have to spend to HAVE that thousand or so per month? Will he feel like he’s working for 86 cents an hour?

It’s best to plan, do lots of math, look at competitors, and be honest about where you’re likely to end up in Google. Or how you will get the word out for people to shop with you. Can you make your time, effort, and investment worth it?

We stayed on the phone nearly an hour. He thought this was amazing. I do this all the time. :) Many people who call will never hire us… or sometimes shouldn’t hire us. I wanted to see him keep his money in his pocket until he had done lots of planning and math, and KNEW his idea was truly going to fly.

Tomorrow’s blog post is the email he sent me the day after we talked. He gave me permission to publish it. :)


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As Was Doesn’t Compete With ChannelAdvisor

Monday, February 13th, 2012

With so few of our clients using ChannelAdvisor, they’re not a company I’m normally thinking about. But they got my attention recently. First, a number of my non-CA customers contacted me to tell me that CA was aggressively cold calling and emailing them. Then, I got an email from CA trying to sell to someone who isn’t me. The email was addressed to one of our former clients (from MANY years ago) with like 10 people CC’ed. I think aggressive tactics like that tend to look desperate.

Maybe this is why CA is being more aggressive about trying to find more customers:

Or this from Alexa.com:

This was the email I and like 10 other people received (click to enlarge). Many of the other people did not receive it as it was sent to a dot com that is no longer registered by anybody. No website there. Certainly no email boxes at a dot com not owned by anybody. But nobody at CA noticed, and the email went out…

But what really caught my attention was when a client who got cold called told me that ChannelAdvisor told him we are competitors. As Was does not compete with ChannelAdvisor in any way. We do not offer software at all. They offer software. They fired their designers years ago, and have a web page on their site where they recommend “design partners.” We used to be on that page back when I was doing everything I could possibly do to support and recommend CA. Once I was hearing from so many unhappy CA clients, I could no longer recommend them, so they took us off their page. But we don’t compete. You can work with both of us as we supply different services and products.

We have supported CA customers since we first saw the system in 2001. We can install our fantastic eBay listing templates. We can do CA basic stores, though you’d never really want one. :) We can do CA Premium Stores, should you think you want one. If you are considering Channel Advisor, we suggest looking at Solid Commerce. We make no money from these recommendations. As consultants who live on our reputation, it’s important for us to make impartial and unpaid recommendations to match sellers with the right system for them. Most people looking at ChannelAdvisor would probably be happier with Solid Commerce, or so I’ve found. But then again, we had some clients leave ChannelAdvisor for Blackthorne and Auctiva! I have a British client trying StoreFeeder.com instead of CA. No idea if StoreFeeder is any good, but it sounds like they’re an option.

I also think Magento is a fantastic choice. It’s a GREAT eCommerce system that we’ve been designing for for years. You can list to eBay, Amazon, etc… It’s a real multi-channel system with a lot of flexibility. Magento was great before eBay bought them, and now, eBay appears to be putting nearly all their eggs in the Magento basket. This means we are (still) not recommending ProStores.

I can’t really make much sense out of ChannelAdvisor. I never understood why they told people they competed with us when they don’t. I never understood why they told people in 2008 that eBay was going to outlaw As Was templates. Wasn’t true then and certainly isn’t true now, but was really surreal. Any company that has to say these types of things to try to make themselves look like a better choice… well, I guess they feel like that’s the best way to try to compete. CA and As Was can happily co-exist.

It also never made sense to me that ChannelAdvisor had $75 million in venture capital funding, but had its first profitable quarter at the end of 2008. To get that profit, they had to cut 19% of staff. Plus it shouldn’t be missed that the profit came in Q4, which is holiday selling time, and CA takes a percentage of their users’ sales. It was interesting that they announced at that time that they’d stop innovating around eBay. I had always felt that they had stopped that around 2002. :) But their profit in late 2008 was on $10 million in revenue for that quarter. This means that investors gave them $75 million, and they used that to bring in $10 million of business in their best quarter to date. I think that’s a bad sign. Give me $75 million, and I promise to turn it at LEAST into $75.1 million. :) And I’ve noticed that CA has stopped publicly talking about their revenue or number of customers.

So in closing, we don’t compete with CA. We don’t recommend them. We think other options will work better and cost less for most sellers. Some sellers will still need CA, and we support them. We can design for CA’s stores and eBay features. If you sign with CA, my main suggestion is typically to mark in your calendar the day you need to tell CA whether or not you are continuing with them another year. The word on the street is that if you let that day come and go, your contract renews for a full year, and there’s no way to break the contract. Mark your calendars just in case you want to terminate with CA as you’ll need to play by the letter of the contract.


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