My First Online Sale

I set up a drop-shipping business. My first store was TERRIBLE; poorly designed, poorly branded, poorly validated, and the possible profit margins were low because I was following a “Free + Shipping” business model with no knowledge of how to convert first-time buyers into relationships that would come back to buy again and again. It’s tough! So much to build. My goal was to get some success as quickly as possible so that I proved it could work to myself.

Once I got my god-awful website up I proceeded to buy advertising on Facebook, and MAN were my first ads terrible.  I didn’t even write copy on them; I just put up a product carousel with pictures of the items being sold as well as their prices. I ran 10 ad sets at $3 per day.

Within a few hours, I actually made a sale. I profited about $4 or $5 net of ad sales… At the time.

It’s not actually THAT easy. I allowed my ads to run for a day, quickly sinking my profit from the initial sale. I was getting NO clicks. Like one or two; horrible Click Through Rate (CTR) by all measures, especially for a “Free + Shipping” product. I put out a “better” ad that increased my CTR substantially but did not convert. My first sale was a total fluke!

I’m currently working on a better strategy. I’m getting higher-quality products with larger profit margins. I’m writing copy for my ads and website – and specifically targeting (and offering a solution) to a common problem people have. I’m setting up my website in a way that should promote multiple items in a shopping cart. I’m branding the website and placing logos on the products in order to add legitimacy to the site as a whole.

My first sale was a total fluke. A sham! A failure, even. But it was a great learning experience for at least 3 reasons:

  1. I proved that this can work. I got somebody to click a link, look at what I’m selling, pull out their credit card, and buy it. My first sale was not a material success at all; I lost several multiples of my gross profit. It was an emotional success; it gives me the drive to push through all of the work that a working business model requires. Which brings me to:
  2. I learned that it’s not easy. For as lazy as I made it sound like I was in getting my first sale, I actually worked at it for hours each day over 2 weeks. I was only lazy relative to what it takes to build a brand, a website, write copy, and provide customer service in a way that works. Could someone start making money quicker than the way I’m currently doing it? Absolutely. But I’m setting up a framework that should allow me to make somewhat “evergreen” sales in a scalable way.
  3. I learned that I’m passionate about this. This drives me. I wake up early to work on my business. I work on my business after work. I work weekends. I never expected to have something light me up like this, but I’ve taken it on as a challenge for myself. And I’ll always be able to grow and push the limits of what I believe to be possible.

I recommend, no matter what you want to attempt in life, go try it. Right now. Swing at it. Dive into it. Tackle it. Set yourself up to get some success as rapidly as possible. Get lucky, work like a dog, make failure impossible, whatever you gotta do. And when you get there, you’ll have learned and experienced a lot. You’ll know what to change and you’ll get this incredible rush. Then? Chase that feeling into greater future success. That’s how you make your dreams come true.

Building A Brand

What would it take to build an image from the ground up? I attended a seminar last night put on by the Western Washington Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, AAF Seattle. I happen to be launching an apparel website later  this week, and asked for the best advice the panelists could give someone so fresh and new to the game. There was a lot of great information on the latest tools and technology; temporary methodologies which are important but will be irrelevant quickly.

I also received some advice that was a bit more like a diamond. This advice has been true since the history of brands. Here are the two KEY takeaways I got when I asked about building a new brand from scratch:

  1. Do one thing REALLY well.
  2. Continuity.

And these two things work best together, as a team.

Do One Thing Well

You want to do one thing so well that people will come back for it. Maybe it’s something as simple as telling jokes, or perhaps it’s information on a topic in which many people are interested.  It could be a service people have trouble getting elsewhere. They point is that you do this thing SO well that people would want to come back for it. It’s what you’re (or your brand is) memorably good at.

Do It With Continuity

Execution is key! Do the thing you’re great at regularly. Set yourself a schedule to do it weekly, daily, monthly, depending on your ability. Do it as much as possible, and even do some of it for free! Act like it’s your favorite thing in the world, the only thing you want to do, your purpose on this planet. Let people know when to expect you and you’ll have them coming back every time. Don’t focus on selling, just focus on giving.

How They Work Together

This will make you market like a celebrity rather than like just some company. People will become excited about you! They’ll come back wondering, “hat’s next? What’s next?” And you can sell something on the side. Gary Vaynerchuk put it like this: “Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.” People will buy from you if you have them coming to you regularly for content, and you also occasionally mention your store or something that makes you money (your store, your brand).

Thank you.

A big thank you to the people who loaded me with business cards and great advice after the seminar. You all seemed like great people. Nik Amar, Forrest Sallee of, Michael Huang, Philip Bruno of M&C Saatchi Mobile, and of course AAF Seattle. You all were a blast!