Driving business is a unique challenge for an online e-commerce store | Gallery Drinkware (Formerly Water Gallery)

Gallery Drinkware (Formerly Water Gallery)

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When trying to build an online shop, driving business is a unique challenge

While attempting to build a business, particularly one which is primarily online, there are ebbs and flows that you can't predict. Some days, when business is slow and seems stagnant, you sit and stare at your computer, almost paralyzed while trying to figure out what to do next to spur growth. And there are other days where you inexplicably get a flood of orders, a wave of thrilling social media responses from customers and fans, and contacts from people wanting to review or promote your product. It's bewildering-- why are some weeks so "on" and other weeks so "off?" And when things are "off," what are the next steps? How do you get press? How do you get people with strong internet presence to give you a product review, which for an online business is a major source of publicity? How do you get the word out about your product to people who have similar interests? How do you inspire people to check out your product and, better yet, make purchases from your online store? And on what channels do you expend time, energy, and money? If you spend too much time and money in one area, will other, possibly more important, areas suffer? These are complex and at-times aggravating questions that can keep you up at night!

One of the most valuable nuggets of advice we've ever gotten as a young and growing business is "it's not what you DO do in the early months and years of your emerging business, but what you DON'T do." In other words, if you push too hard, too fast; if you overspend on marketing; if you "blow your load" on wholesale deals just to get your product out into the marketplace without thinking through the value of who's receiving your product; if you invest a ton of capital that you don't initially have to give on seductive deals from firms who offer to spin magic in the form of public relations, you could find yourself high and dry after only a year of trying to make it. The hardest thing to do is to hold yourself back from wanting to DO too much, too soon. Opportunities come at you from all directions. People come out of the proverbial woodwork-- "If you sign up for our app, for a mere $500 a month, we can guarantee you 1,000 orders a week!" Things like that are very tantalizing...but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most new businesses don't have an extra $500 a month to throw at a pure gamble. Think through your goals and your business plan-- where do you see yourself in a year and how can you help YOURSELF to get there in a way that's both productive but also economical?

Although it's frustrating at times, discouraging in moments, and you will even likely want to give up at certain junctures, the joy is in the PROCESS. The slow growth. The meaningful choices that don't necessarily provide instant gratification, but rather help to methodically build your business over time. More and more we are learning the value of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, which is the pure definition of extended gratification. Nothing is immediate with SEO. It's about slowly, rhythmically building your internet presence through blog posts, meta descriptions, keyword tags, alt-image tags...all concepts and phrases that sound like a different language before you start to learn their value. And their value, to an online e-commerce business, is EVERYTHING. But it's slow, and you have to just accept that fact.

One of Water Gallery's favorite business-related quotes is from Chris Cuvelier, the founder and CEO of Zola Fruits, a successful brand of acai and coconut waters, in response to people who would exclaim things like, "Wow, you've been a true overnight success!" He always comes back with, "Yes, you're right-- Zola is the 12-year overnight instant success." This quote captures the behind-the-scenes struggles and work of a small business perfectly-- people don't see what's going on inside the "walls" of the business (which, in the case of Zola, was an 8-by-10 bedroom which posed as Cuvelier's first headquarters). For years, Cuvelier struggled with things like packaging, semantics, taglines, product descriptions, ingredients, bottle images...until finally becoming profitable, many years later.

The bottom line is that it takes time to maximize a brand's potential and in the years it takes to build a business, there's no one it's harder for than its founders. There are going to be many moments when you want to give up. But the most important thing to remember is that you don't have to take over the universe today. Success takes time, perseverance, patience, and belief in your product's potential. Try to enjoy the journey-- it's a slow burn and, while at times discouraging, is always immensely rewarding.

2 comments

Aug 08, 2015 • Posted by Vicki H

My husband owns a forklift repair business, right now he’s the only employee and sometimes he’ll have 4 customers a day and other times only 4 a week!

Aug 08, 2015 • Posted by Sherry Carter

Everything worth doing takes time and work!

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