Getting Started in E-Commerce


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Nick Armstrong 0:01
Hi, I’m Nick Armstrong, the lead organizer of Fort Collins Startup Week and I wanted to welcome you to getting started in e commerce one on one. We brought together an awesome panel of experts for you to hopefully answer in this crazy time, how to get your business online and selling well. We’re going to be talking about a lot of different things. Today, we’re going to be talking about tools to help you answer some frequently asked questions and get you some options for getting you’re mostly face to face or offline storefront into the web. We’re gonna be talking about marketing, advertising some different considerations as it comes to your business. And without further ado, I’d like to introduce our panel. Ben McConnell from Blue parable. We have cat Rico, the program director from the Loveland Business Development Center, and Allison profit of profit coach will be walking us through a lot of the different marketing considerations as well and some of the cool integrations that you can do with an online storefront. So without further ado, I’d like to turn it over to Ben.

Ben McConnell 0:58
Thanks, Nick. The team here wanted to get together and kind of help provide some guidance in the e commerce space. We recognize that a lot of folks are you know, they’re not used to doing business online and doing business where you don’t have the ability to you know, meet your customer face to face. So we’re gonna go through some quick tactical ways to get your products and services online. And then then how you can you can you know, really market your products and services. What I mean by that is, what can you look what value can you add? What changes can you make that really are specific to this time so that you’re serving your customers and the best we can? And then we’re going to talk about some some advertising and messaging. You know, what tools are available? And and what things should you think about when you’re communicating with your customers right now. But before we start all that I want to talk about priorities. And the reality is getting online is is one of many things that is going to help you survive this period as a business. It’s not a silver bullet, it’s not going to solve all your problems, but it will help. But before you do that there’s some other critical things as a business owner, that we recommend you take care of. So first, take care of yourself and your family. You know, their safety concerns right now, there’s health concerns, and there’s a lot of anxiety. So, the good news is there’s lots of federal resources, a lot of state resources, local resources that are coming down the pipe really soon. So you just need to kind of hold on, it’s gonna be okay, reassure your family, um, secondarily, you know, focusing on employee and customer safety. So your employees are afraid right now to like, you know, they don’t know what’s going to happen with their jobs. It’s a question in their mind, and you as the business owner, if you have employees, it’s your job to reassure them things are going to be okay. Don’t sugarcoat things, be honest and transparent. But, but you you have a responsibility to that. communicating with them is, is really important right now so that there’s no uncertainty that needs that needs to be there when there’s already so much uncertainty that we can’t get rid of safety with, with customers and employees, you know, with customer employees coming into the store are coming into your business to work, they may not feel safe doing that. And with some of the guidelines coming through the CDC and the World Health Organization, we really want to limit as much human contact as we can right now. So respect that you know, listen to those those health health experts and respect to your employees concerns and their and their worries. with customers. Make sure you’re taking precautions you know, with the things you’re doing to to ensure their safety as well. You know, things like like wiping wiping down packages and product you know, sanitizing products when you can before you deliver them or provide them to them. That kind of goes with messaging too. You know, with customer anxiety, you know, there’s a whole lot of great messaging going on, be a part of that, you know, continue that message. Don’t, don’t ignore the context of the situation, with your communications to your customers, let them know that you’re aware, you’re thinking about them, and that you’re taking action to make sure that your business won’t have any negative impact on their lives. So that’s the first thing you know, safety, first set of things safety and anxiety and have your, your customer yourself, your family, your customers, your employees, once you have addressed that really are in a place where you feel like those things are okay, to the best degree they can be and you’ve done everything you can. Next is to switch to cash flow planning. We don’t know how long this is going to last. It’s impossible to make predictions. But a good safe bet is to to have you know, six have cash to operate your business without any revenue. That’s, that’s a conservative thing to do. What’s it going to cost your business to run if things don’t come back to normal for six months. If you don’t haven’t done cash flow planning in the past, if you don’t know what that number is, what your monthly expenses are, what the variations are, from month to month, reach out and get some help. And we’re gonna we’re gonna introduce you to cat here in a moment, and she’ll provide you some resources that can help with that. Kind of along with that, as we’re working capital financing. So a lot of business owners I’ve been talking to their first thing is that they don’t know how they’re going to weather the storm. They don’t they don’t have enough money to last 30 days or, or, you know, six weeks out of business.

The good news is there’s lots of there’s lots of capital being made available. The federal government and state governments and even cities are working to help small businesses. They’re working together. Make funds available. In addition to that, a lot of the banking institutions are looking at loan deferral programs they’re looking at, you know, what can we do to help these guys bridge the gap, so that they can get back into normal business operations get revenue coming back in. So, so be comforted by the people in the right places focused on these problems. And there’s help coming financial help, you need to be in a position to get that help. What that means is you have to have your books in order. So you can ask the question, you know, how much you need, and you can ask for it and you can provide them the documentation that that you need to, you know, to allow them to give you the money. So, after you’ve done those things, after you’ve, you know, focused on your yourself and your employees and your customers, and after you’ve done some cash flow planning, and after you’ve done some Working Capital Planning, and gotten a plan for working capital over the next six months, but the next thing you’re going to want to do is get online. And that’s the order that I recommend those things happening. The reality just again, with with getting online is it’s going to be a great step. It’s a positive step forward, both now, but also in the future. This is a trend that’s been happening for a while. So I think this is a great catalyst. If you haven’t already gotten online, this will be a good reason do it now. And with that, I’d like to introduce you to Kat Rico. Kat is the program director of the Loveland Business Development Center. And she’s gonna offer you some resources to help out with all this stuff.

Kat Rico 7:39
Thanks so much. That’s a lot of great information on steps that you should be taking before you rush to put your business online. Having your cash flow situation absolutely solid and understanding exactly what you need. Setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself and your employees is extremely important on this At this time and that way, you’re not wasting resources getting online when maybe it’s not appropriate yet for your business. So in terms of who we are and what we do between the Loveland Business Development Center who I represent, and the Larimer Small Business Development Center, along with even the East Colorado SBDC if you are in you know, John’s town Greeley that area, we come together to help support business owners, good times and bad. So the primary way that we do that is through free confidential one on one consulting. It’s an extremely, extremely valuable resource to have someone who is not invested in your business but has experience with business that can give you guidance and give you tools to weather the storm or to add a new product when times are good. There’s all kinds of things that our consultants can help with, including doing some of that cash flow planning, business planning, disaster planning, marketing, Any of those kinds of things. In light of the current health situations, all of our resources are available online. So we can do phone consultations, we can do video consultations, that is still available for our clients. And we’re also doing our education, which is the second part of what we do. Low cost, high quality business education has all moved online as well. So those resources are still here, even in these times. The last thing that we do is that we keep track of local state federal programs that are helpful for our business owners. So right now, we are in full gear gearing up to help with economic injury, disaster loans that are being provided by the SBA. So as you’re examining your cash flow, as you’re looking at all of these things, and you’re wondering, you know, do I have enough money to weather the storm that’s where the SBDC can come in, and our consultants can help you Get organized and get prepared for that loan application process. So that’s another example of the resources that we offer. So the easiest ways to start engaging with any of our centers, if you go to Larimer, that will get you connected with the larmour SBDC. Loveland business calm, we’ll get you connected with the Loveland Business Development Center. And then East Colorado SBDC will also help. All you have to do is go to their websites, and all of us have a link that says consulting and when you click on that, you should see an option that says request an initial appointment. If you haven’t already be a client with us, then you can request a follow up, it’ll send information to whoever is handling the requests for that center. And we will get back to you as soon as we can so we can get to t hose additional consulting resources or whatever it might be that you need, as you’re making some of these decisions. So with that said, I’ll go we should probably start talking about what it actually looks like to get online and get that shopping cart set up.

Ben McConnell 11:12
Thank you Kat and I can’t recommend more the SBDC and Loveland Business Development Center as well as the Larimer County Small Business Development Center, great resources and every business owner should be reaching out right now, and taking advantage of those those resources. Um, so, before we talk about, you know, getting what are the nuts and bolts of getting online? I’m going to ask a really simple question. Should you even do it should you should you do customer shop online? Is your product or service? Is it even something that you can you can appropriately market online? Can you do online sales with what you have? And and this is a question about Like most products and services, you can, but not all. And so really dig into that and think about how would that look like? What would that digital experience look like? And if there’s some things that you do in person, what that’s special to your business, what can you do online to emulate that, that kind of competitive advantage or that, you know, that unique thing that you do for your customers? Um, another big question that some people don’t think about is shipping. Can you actually ship your product without going broke? Um, that’s a question for online I get an easy example like the taxidermy business. You can’t ship those things cost effectively. There’s extremely expensive things to ship. So it doesn’t it’s it’s difficult to be successful online in that particular business. Not impossible, but you just got to think about those costs before you do it. So again, think about your customer. Think about your product and ask Ask yourself the choice, you know, the question, Does it make sense to do this, you’re getting ready to dive into a new thing. And you’re gonna learn a lot. And it’s gonna be a lot of work a lot of fun. But you want to make sure it’s the right move for your business before you do it. Okay, let’s dive in. How do you open an online store in one day? Well, I’m gonna give you an extremely opinionated path. To do that. Normally, I would offer several options and offer kind of a guide of how you can make some decisions that are best for your business for this conversation in the terms when I’m going to give you kind of a procedure. And I’m going to I’m going to make two decisions. I’m gonna make the decisions based on one thing, are you a service business, or are you a product business? So this will get you online quickly. And then you’ll have the opportunity to revisit some of these decisions as you learn whether whether they worked out well or not for your business. So the The first part of the game plan on getting Email Setup. If you don’t have an email account, let’s go ahead and get an email account set up alongside this domain registration. Oh and on the email, use GoDaddy and use Office 365 through GoDaddy. The reason it’s quick, easy and cheap and having them host your email and hosting your domain as well or your your be your domain register, registrar. It’s just a quick efficient efficiency. And you can do it in a few button clicks, all at the same time. And they kind of guide you through it. You’re kind of using their funnel their sales funnel to help you get things done quickly. domain registration use GoDaddy. So pick a domain used to be the big thing. There’s there’s other sub domains. There’s different opinions about what to choose there. I wouldn’t focus on too much you can drive a lot of traffic regardless of what what domain a top level domain Your usage. Um, it is a good idea to search, do a name search, make sure you’re not doing anything that’s completely out there or that your competitors have. You don’t want to have a domain name very similar to your competitors. And you don’t want to have something that’s completely different from your brand. You want it to be easy for your customers remember, and something that you can build build a brand around. Legal, so if you’re not a legal business yet, again, prescriptive guidance. And by the way, the last two things I said whether your product business or service business, both those things applied legal, if you’re not a legal entity yet, go ahead and become a Colorado LLC. It’s it’s pretty quick process, you’re going to register your business name with the Colorado Secretary of State, you’re going to file an articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State, they have a link on their website which we can share with you guys. That gives you an example what that document looks like. It’s quick and easy. And after you get this done in this case, Have a moment of trying to get online, you can follow up with a lawyer to make sure everything’s trude up and safe. But the the Colorado’s process is pretty straightforward, and there’s not a lot of risk going that route.

After you’ve met that legal thing, and the reason I’m saying these legal things is to sign up for a lot of the online platforms, this is gonna be a requirement. And there’s some risk involved if you don’t have an LLC, or a formal business entity. The reason I say LLC is because it’s the simplest and quickest and it’s not gonna, it’s not going to require a bunch of work or you move moving forward. Next legal requirement set up a federal aim a request a federal Ei n number. When you’re setting up your tools, this is one area that you won’t get this in today. This is going to take a couple weeks and probably longer right now to get from the federal government. That’s okay. When you’re setting this stuff up, you can temporarily use your social security number as long as you put a calendar entry in your calendar to remind you to call every company that you gave that to every partner, every tool that you use your social security number, call it and switch it out for Ei, ei n number. As soon as you can, this will save you a ton of headaches around tax year or tax time. City County state sales tax licenses. So you have to you have to charge and you have to collect and remit sales tax when you’re selling online. Even if it’s if you’re doing it locally, and actually especially locally. There’s a little bit of complexity here in home city rules, or Home Home Rule municipalities. I will just say that look up home Roman disabilities as a side item, don’t worry too much about it. When we get to the actual online cart tools, they handle a lot of the complexity of sales tax for you. But what they don’t handle is registering with with the city, county and state so you You’re in Loveland, it would be you go to the city of Loveland, they actually go ahead and handle the the county for you. And I think they might do the state, I’d have to follow up with the spdc on that they’ll give you the the exact information on that. Um, okay, so that’s legal stuff. That’s the bare minimum legal stuff you want to have in place before you try to sell online. We’ll cover a couple minor topics when we get into platform setup here in a minute. Taxes. So again, I talked about sales tax collection, in remittance remittances just means. So the platform is going to automatically take money and charge sales tax at the appropriate rates for the where the people are placing orders. You it’s your responsibility to pay that back to the appropriate authorities. Most places, you can just pay that through the state of Colorado and it’s it’s all handled, and you pay it to the city. There’s a few exceptions and those Home Home Rule municipalities that I talked about.

Kat Rico 18:57

Ben McConnell 18:58
so that’s, that’s kind of the point. stuff, but it’s good necessary steps I breeze through it. Again, if there’s any uncertainty there if you’re not confident doing any of those things on your own, contact the SBDC resources either Larimer County or the level of Business Development Center. And they have folks that will guide you through that step by step. Okay, ecommerce site setup, the first decision point. If you’re a product based business use Shopify. If you’re a service based business, use Squarespace. those platforms are mature. They work great for those two business types. On each one Shopify is better for product businesses, generally, Squarespace is generally better for service based businesses. I’ve had customers successful on both of those platforms. Are there other options that are great? Absolutely. And if we have more time, or if you feel what you want to go ahead and look into those and shop around, but, but you can, you can go with those two and you’ll be you’ll be in good shape. I promise you

Okay, so diving into Shopify setup,

I’m going to walk through Shopify setup because it’s a little bit fresher in my mind right now. It’s going to be very similar and actually a little bit simpler on the Squarespace platform. So a Shopify, you’re going to set you’re going to sign up for an account, you’re going to create a my Shopify domain, and you’re going to use an email address that you created earlier to log in. That’s why I said that was a prerequisite. The you’re going to hook up your domain to Shopify, in the settings Shopify has a nice setup wizard. So So when I’m giving you these high level things, I’m going to give you the entry points and shop file kind of help guide you through what buttons to click, and if you have any questions, again, there’s there’s resources at the SBDC they can help with this specific thing. themes. Pick a free Shopify theme. You can lose yourself in design, and there’s tons of beautiful amazing auction websites. The basic Shopify themes are what I call good enough, right? They’re good enough for right now. They’re gonna look great. They’re gonna work great. They won’t differentiate you. But that’s okay. In this particular instance, we’ll work on differentiation later after we kind of get through firefighting mode, a payment processors. So after you’ve picked your theme, you gotta, you need to pick your payment processes. What does that mean? Well, online, you take credit cards, and other digital forms of payment, and you can’t take cash. This is where when I went back to having an EIN number, this is a critical piece because if you put your social settings register your social security number under those payment processors, you may end up receiving a an unwanted tax bill for your personal taxes and not your business taxes. So you want to make sure that they are using your EIN number so that when they file their 1099 information filings, they’re associating all of that revenue with your business and not with the person simile is an important characteristic. And I’ve seen it bite some people in the past what payment processors to use all of them. This is one of the reasons I like the Shopify platform is because they’ve made it really, really easy to make buying stuff making buying stuff for your customers really easy. You want to remove as many obstacles as you can from your customers clicking by if they have to wait an extra second or you register for an account of something that’s an extra step in the process, and it may deter them from completing that order. So Shopify out of the box, you can turn on Shopify, Amazon pay Apple Pay Google pay, PayPal, and I think there’s like 30 other third party ones you can use, use all the ones that you can just check a box and set up. Each of those Payment Services does require you to set up an account on the back end so that you can you know, tie a checking account to that and actually receive payment. Again, that goal there is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to make a purchase. Those ones I just mentioned are kind of the ones that we see the most traffic on. Just because people use those services pretty heavily. Um, okay, so we’re still on account, we’re still setting up our account. Next thing is legal configurations. So there are laws with online when you’re selling for what information, you have to tell your customers. So one thing privacy policy, it’s not a legal requirement everywhere. But if you sell anything in California, for example, they do have a requirement to have a policy statement that those type of rules are coming around. Shopify makes it super easy on privacy policies and other legal statements. They have a template and what you can do is you click on their their legal button, you go in and you basically look at their template and you replace the placeholders with your business’s name. And you read through and try to understand it, make any changes Long term, you’re gonna want to have this reviewed by a lawyer short term. These are good defaults. The the clauses in these are widely used. And they’re they’ve been, they’ve been accepted by Shopify as legal team. So they’re not the best protections for everything for your business. But they’re again, they’re good enough to get going today. And then what as you get later on, you can revisit this and talk to lawyers and get those really trude up and be in a best legal point, or legal position to protect yourself and any intellectual property and any trademarks or brands that you have associated with your business tax collection configurations. This is pretty simple. I think you just you just in Shopify you you’ll say what state your business is located in and they actually automatically configure the tax collection settings. I don’t think you have to go in and configure any tax liens. And actually this is this is a good thing. It’s a little bit of annoying thing actually how automatic they’ve made it because they’ll go ahead and collect taxes for municipalities that you’re not registered in and that again, Home Rule cities something to look up in the future.

Um, that’s about it when it comes to legal and tax configurations, I mean, Shopify is made it really quick and easy to get a good base thing where you’re, you’re good enough and then later on, you can follow up with your accountant and with a lawyer to really make sure you’re in a good position. Okay, now we’re to the point of actually listing your products right, this is, this is the fun part finally. So there’s kind of two main components to listing your products. The first is product photography. The second is product descriptions. So if you are a photographer, then this will be easy for you to to make to photograph and edit those photos and upload them online. If you’re not, this is still going to be easy to you. The reason is because there’s lots of great tools out that’s that are available now. Where you can do product photography yourself with no skills And it’s kind of I like the term scrappy AF. It’s maybe not politically correct. But it’s the idea is that you can do this, the tools are great, it’s gonna be good enough product photography to get you on online today, it’s free. So you don’t have to pay any money for this product. So use your phone, your cell phone, either iPhone or a android phone and get Adobe Lightroom. And you download that app, you sign up for an account. And you can go ahead and use that there might be a the app itself, there might be a small subscription, monthly subscription required. But it’s it’s very small, if any, but that’s going to enable you to take good quality photos and edit them quickly. It doesn’t you don’t have to have a ton of pre knowledge, you can just edit it and figure out what looks good for you. And then that that’ll be much, much better than if you just use a kind of traditional camera or use your phone camera without any editing. also makes it really easy to upload. Okay, so product descriptions after you’ve kind of photograph your, your products. One other things with the product photography, natural light, if you can find a place with natural light with a white wall, that’s a great starting point. product descriptions, okay, so a lot of talk about search engine optimization, if you’ve haven’t heard that term, that’s the idea of making it so your products show up on natural searches. algorithms are getting more sophisticated Google’s job Google’s goal is to connect customers Connect folks with the things they’re looking for. So the key without doing any technical search engine optimization, a way you can put yourself in a great position right out of the gate is is write great descriptions of your products. Be specific, describe the colors, describe the sizes. Use language to describe what you like about it. Use colors, you know, make sure you’re very very specific about what What variants you have? And write a paragraph or two, just describing the benefits and value of that dress or that that product? Sorry, my.

I’m always in clothing mindset, I apologize.

The but yeah, so So write your descriptions to try to accurately describe what you’re selling. And in doing so a lot of that will just end up being good, good, optimized copy that will help the search engines. That’s what they’re looking for. Later on, you can go back and optimize that. Another little small thing when you’re entering products is on images. There is meta tags. Shopify makes this really easy. So any image you have when you’re putting that image, you can put the SEO meta tag what that is, that’s how the search engine finds that image and knows what that image is. So image searches a big thing. So make sure you populate that with every product entry.

Okay? Little bit about social media,

Facebook, great platform, lots to lots of tools to build communities. And lots of things like Facebook Live in which you can really have interactive experiences with your customers take advantage of that platform. Facebook and Shopify have an integration. I think it’s available in the Shopify App Store. Either way, it’s a kind of a button, click integration in which all of your products will be sucked into your Facebook page, business page. That’s awesome. Because then you can just go ahead and showcase and, you know, mess communicate with your customers through that that channel and they can actually shop right there and it’ll connect them back to their Shopify to make the final purchase. Okay, fulfillment. Um, I was going through this with my wife this morning. And I mentioned fulfillment in our first thing as an owner of multiple online stores is where are people going to get shipping supplies Ben. Okay. And this is the answer we came up with. So there are Local shipping supply stores in town, get ahold of them they’re gonna they’re gonna have supplies or at least be able to point you to who does have these shipping supplies. This goes back to keeping it local do business with those folks and and they’ll help you out just as just as much as they can. I think in Loveland, it’s a lovely shipper supply is the name of the one my wife uses for her two stores. We use them a lot. Okay, um, shipping labels. So, shipping labels are pretty simple, you sign up for an account with through Shopify, you can actually print labels, and then you’ll have an account through the US Postal Service or ups. And you can actually write from the order screen, go ahead and print your labels out on your printer. If you don’t have a printer, you will need to get a printer. You can also do that from the Shopify mobile app. So that’s kind of a cool feature when you get orders. You don’t necessarily have to log into your computer to go ahead and print out the shipping labels. You can do it right from your phone Shipping what that looks like from a film perspective, we talked a little bit earlier on, on, you know, the cleansiness or the sanitation, do what you can to make sure that you’re not spreading the virus unnecessarily. There’s from you know, I’m not a medical expert, but I know there’s like a some sort of window like a 72 hour window of some kind. We’re kind of using that as general guidance from the CDC, of how long this thing can live on surfaces. But regardless, we want to make sure we’re cleaning off you know, any anything that’s being touched, and we’re washing our hands when you know before we we package anything and ship it um other things with fulfillment Shopify does a lot of things with notifications so that the customer knows that the items being shipped and they know when it arrives. Great little feature on Okay, so that’s Shopify, Squarespace Squarespace for service based businesses. So idea, you’re going to want to present your services in the best light. If you can do some some photography of your team of how you’re providing those services, that’s great. If it’s you and you can’t, you know, there’s lots of stock photos out there that can help represent your business and get you through. Adobe Stock is one of those that’s a tool to check out. And usually you can find cheap or free stock photos that you can use those on your on your website when you get it set up and to look great. look professional, and then you’ll personalize that later on when you have some more time. When you’re describing your services. Quick Tips. describe them from the perspective of the customer. Organize your services from the customer, the customers perspective, organized around their problems, not around your solutions. They’re going to come to you with a problem or a need. That’s what you want to start the conversation with. And then from that need, guide them to what your solutions are. That’s just a really simple information architecture that can go a long way in helping conversions. Squarespace is pretty straightforward to set up, you sign up for an account, and they have a nice wizard that will guide you through, you know, selecting a theme and putting in your content. And I would say it’s actually a little bit simpler than Shopify, for setting it up. Okay, so that was a quick rundown of how to get some basic things set up for a product and a Service website, or Service website. Those are all very opinionated statements. And normally, I would give you guys more options and decisions to make. In this instance, if you have any doubt or any concern about any of the recommendations, reach out through the SBDC I actually am a consultant there and I’ll be happy to help you out and you know, help you make a decision that’s best for your particular instance.

Okay, so with that said, I’m gonna, I’m gonna step back, and we’re gonna hand it over to Nick. And we’re going to talk a little about marketing and advertising this new online store you have in a situation where you might not have a lot of money to acquire new customers.

Nick Armstrong 34:17
So yeah, I’m going to tell you about two different things. The first is a local retailer that has opted to switch to pickup only and had started out as a face to face business, had some sort of an online storefront and also has a good customer base. And so they did the work early on to have a mailing list and the the way that that helped them was to not have to go and do the work of gathering up their customer list. They knew who was buying already. They knew what they were interested in. And now they’re working on the Advanced portions of segmentation, which is we know these customers buy this type of book. We know that these customers buy this type of book. And that will only help them. But if you’re starting from scratch, the very first thing I would tell you to do is to focus on understanding your customer groups and what their, what they care about and what type of information they want to have in their inboxes. And then start building out that email list are some really good and affordable tools that we have available to us. One is MailChimp, and other is constant contact. If you are somewhat tech savvy, you can also roll your own through mail poet or some of these other things that you can use through WordPress, or other online systems. Some of your web toolkits might also have them GoDaddy, I think has their own solution as well. So what you use mostly just has to work for you. And there are some cool integrations that Allison will tell us about as well. That can work with your e commerce store. And really, right now the idea is focus on The strategy has been said, if you can understand your customer base, know what they’re interested in know what they want to know about your products and how it can solve a problem for them. It’s going to inform a lot of your marketing strategy. If you haven’t done any of this work before now, it’s not about the platform, it’s not one of these, if you build it, they will come. They won’t know about it, because there is so much information out there right now that it is flooded. Every day we’re seeing new things come out, all the service providers are sending out more information. And so you’re gonna have to work really hard to work with partners who can help you build and establish that list. There is hope in this. And I’ll give you the second example. There was a local kombucha producer who did not have an online storefront did not have an email list did not have any of this stuff. Most of their revenue was coming through taps from restaurants, which now people can’t access. And so sales were down, folks out The taps folks closed up the restaurants or whatever else they were going to do. And then her sales had dried up. And so when that came to pass, it was really important then to connect with existing customers. And the best way to do that was all of her existing customers were already on the list. So she had a good amount of contact information. And she had a spreadsheet, which was then able to be put into her into a platform of her choice. Now, if you don’t have any of that stuff, you can also go to where the eyeballs already are. And that is if you have a tangential business partner, or somebody whose products or services pair well and nicely with yours, you can partner with them if they have an existing audience. And you can leverage some of their existing audience to help grow your own platform. You can go and partner with organizations or other places, other businesses, other groups of businesses. For instance, one thing thing that I’ve been seeing is a local farmers market come up. And that’s highlighting businesses that have food or crafty type things that we you’d normally see at an in person farmers market that now can’t be held because of the restrictions. And so those folks are,

are gathering together and consolidating a common email list that will then help serve all of those customers and all of those clients. So there is hope, even if you have no marketing established right now, no online presence, no email marketing that you’ve been doing. There is a methodology. If you are on any of the social platforms and you haven’t done the work of building the list, you can start using that as well. And know your audience because jumping into marketing with a with a random platform just because it sounds cool or it’s something to do is going to waste your time and resources. It’s not an efficient thing to do. Understanding that if your audience is on Instagram, You’re going to want to use Instagram. If you are not good at Instagram, you’re going to want to learn and be flexible, and learn how to take good product photography and learn how to do these things. There’s a lot of things that we’re going to be asked to do in the coming days. And I think that the more that you can be flexible with your time and your energy and putting into educational resources, the better be a value to your customers and not just a storefront. The bigger companies that we are seeing right now, that are that are coming out well in this are those that are providing some sort of value or connection hub or experiential thing that their customers don’t just get from their products and services. It’s going a step beyond they’re connecting people to the stories of each other or their communities. They’re advising each other, they’re helping each other. They’re sharing out the customer stories of these things. So there are a lot of different ways that businesses can serve as those hubs and we’ve seen stories of those Throughout the news, you don’t have to do a ton of crazy planning in order to make this happen. But you have to be mindful. And you have to have a good opportunity to leverage. And, again, all of this comes down to how do you add value as a business owner? How do you in your specifics of your products? How do you in your specifics of your service be extraordinary, because that’s the thing that will net you attention in places that you wouldn’t otherwise get them. So marketing advertising, when you don’t have a ton of money, go to where eyeballs already are, help create value and connections, create things that don’t exist currently, resources that don’t exist currently, find the gaps. Don’t just try to fulfill an existing need that is already being well served. find things that are missing, find angles that are missing. Understand that folks are, you know, scared or maybe they’re trying to see out what to do to keep themselves from being bored silly. One of the more innovative things I’ve seen happen as a certain, you know, service providers, how to, you know, make your video conferencing calls suck less. That’s, that’s been a really interesting thing. And so a lot of people are, you know, figuring out how to work well with their kids too. So there’s a lot of interesting problems that people are facing in addition to the problems that your products and services can solve. And nothing is isolated in and of itself. All of these considerations have to sort of be taken as a whole because there’s, you know, people are stressed people are working at home with their kids people are, you know, stuck with their spouses at home, or they’re, you know, roommates or whoever maybe they’re isolated completely by themselves. There they This is an interesting and tricky time and all of those things might be opportunities for you to add value. And, you know, as business owners, the one thing thing that we usually have to be wary of is making sure that we’re not taking, you know, advantage in in the bad sense taking advantage of things or people’s mindsets or other things like that, you know, you know, snake oil away or other things like that. We don’t necessarily have to worry about that here as long as we go in with honest intent. And you’re honestly trying to create value and connection between people. So yeah, this is an odd thing to be talking about for how to establish an online storefront, but really the marketing that you bring to it will have to be holistic, and value driven. If you have any chance of succeeding as a brand new storefront. One of the things that I’ve been hearing from my clients storefronts is that they customers are enjoying connecting with smaller businesses right now and paying into smaller businesses because they have a better selection of things that aren’t available from the larger retailers and larger service providers are not Nestle Giving as much attention to detail or attention to care. And this, this is consistent across both product and service based businesses that we’re hearing his feedback from the customers of these businesses.

So I don’t want to dive in too deep into that beyond just to say, go where the eyeballs are, have a cohesive strategy, understand that marketing must be consistent right now, you can’t just one and done anything, you have to be consistent about the story that you’re trying to tell the value that you’re trying to offer, and what value your products and services bring to this new era that we’re in. And having all of those three considerations will really help you when it comes to launching this online storefront and making sure it’s successful in the long run. This is very much a long haul project that you’re going to be undertaking so stick with it. With that I’d like to bring in Allison to talk about some of the cool integrations and some email marketing considerations that can come along with this.

Alison Proffit 43:57
That’s great. Thanks, Nick. Yeah,

Before I hop into that, I want to sort of tag on to something that both you and Ben talked about, which was really taking care of yourself. In my business, my tagline is mindset, marketing and money. So I bring that coaching aspect to the work that I do. And it is really important to be taking care of yourself and your mental health and well being. And as you’re entering into this phase where you are launching something new in your business and moving into the online space, really having your mind set and viewing this as an opportunity versus this like this heavy thing that you have to do and feeling kind of victim II about it. There’s a lot of really great opportunities that we can be really latching on to here and finding new and different ways to connect. So I think our mindset is really effective. component that we all should be paying attention to, for self individually, and then also just reaching out to our peers to the other small businesses that you have in your network. So in terms of the platform integrations that I wanted to highlight, since Ben really talks a lot about Shopify as being the recommended, quick and easiest way to get your e commerce presence set up. There are a lot of different integrations that exist. And I am a, I’m a partner with constant contact. And I really enjoy using that platform. They’ve got some quick and easy integrations that would allow you to harness some of the data and the power of the data as you begin building your store. And they have integrations with not just Shopify but some of the other e commerce platforms if you decide to go down that path. But Nick, you really hit that nail on the head in terms of going where your audience is, and sharing the information that you think would be relevant to them. And sometimes people think like, well, how often can I send out an email about my products. And it’s important that you recognize that the messaging doesn’t only have to be about your product, you could share an interesting story you can share, you know, something of value, whether it’s just part of your brand story that maybe you haven’t talked about in a while, or maybe even just sharing just where your passion for your business came from, or where a certain product or service ideated from and just sharing some of that information really helps you create that different level of engagement with your customer base. And, and that’s something that you can leave that thread through the email marketing channels through what you’re doing on social media. And I think that it’s it’s definitely that consistency is really an Important thing to pay attention to. And then involving your clients could be something you could do to getting them to be engaged in some way. When you are moving into the online space and trying to grow your email list, oftentimes people wonder, Well, if I don’t already have an email list, what’s something that kills, and I love bringing the idea of like contests into the picture. So that’s a fun thing that you can engage with on social media and getting people to join your email list and telling them that you’re gonna be doing a drawing for some free little gift. It doesn’t need to be something major, like you’re giving away a ton of product or anything like that. So just think about some new creative ways that you can build that engagement. It doesn’t have to just be about marketing the product. Of course, that’s something you’re going to want to do to drive sales, but the truth is People buy from companies they know like and trust. And so building that relationship is more than just marketing the products to think about what you enjoy as a consumer. And then you can use that as your guideposts for the different things that you can implement in your business. I know I don’t know about everybody on this call here. But I love contests. Like if I can have a chance to win something free, I’ll probably going to join your list and ending and see where you’re going to take this cool, fun idea.

And I think the theme here, as Ben had mentioned earlier, with regards to setting up your store, this doesn’t have to be perfect right away. You think about progress versus perfection. We’re all in this weird time right now together and we’re all trying different things and pulling different levers. So making sure that you have some of that grace with yourself and know that none of the things that you do are going to create instantaneous results. It’s, it is a little bit of a longer game. So just have some patience with yourself. Remember that you’re not alone, reach out to your small business community reach out to the SBDC reach out to any of us that are on this on this training call. And we’re all happy to just be resources for one another. None of us is going to get through this by ourselves. So Nick, I’ll pass it back over to you.

Nick Armstrong 49:34
This has been some really good points and that point about grace and having grace, not just with yourself, but also with others, your business partners your customers is everybody’s sort of dealing with stress in their own unique way. It’s going to be really important. I do want to put sort of a button on this and saying that there there are a lot of really unique approaches to how to solve them. problems. And so while we have a lot of different advice here, your mileage may vary. I think that the more that you can invest yourself in learning new things and being flexible, and having a scientific minded methodology of, I’m going to test a hypothesis, I’m going to go in with an idea of what I think is going to happen, I’m going to be consistent with it to check it out to see if there’s something that I’m doing that I can modify or test and really exploring the results. This is not a time to, you know, spaghetti on the wall, anything, this is a time to test out things that you think will lead to revenue. And one of the things that I consistently tell my clients is find the fastest path to revenue. And that may be in pivoting. It may be in amplifying a particular type of product or you know, minimizing the other you know less profitable sections of your business to focus on one particular thing. also understand the value of $1. So if I were to pay you $1, what is the thing that I am getting back for that dollar. So a good example of this would be the food bank. So if you donate $1, to the food bank, they turn that around into $5 worth of food. And so that is a really clear picture in folks minds. It’s an amplifier effect, essentially. And you want to be able to have your definition of what is the value of $1. If somebody pays me $1, you need to have that down and clear. And if you can do that, well, then e commerce and the transition to e commerce will be more smooth than if you are stutter, stopping trying to figure out what your value actually is to clients and customers. So at this point, I want to bring everybody back into sort of have a last say and things that they want to, you know, collaborate on, and share with the audience before we wrap up on today’s today’s call. Yeah, I

Ben McConnell 51:58
think again,

I don’t stay at home by yourself and solve these problems alone. There’s, there’s a community of folks out there that are here to help. I’m one of them, you know, reach out. I don’t want to hear in six months about businesses that I love and care about going out of business and finding out they didn’t reach out for help that was available. So please, please, please don’t try to do it on your, on your own, reach out and get some help from from the SBDC and the the other resources available in the community.

Kat Rico 52:33
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, talking about the idea that this is a long game. We’re not just trying to, you know, get you to open an e commerce store and then just leave you to dry. There are those long term resources. I mean, the the SBDC and the SBDC in out of Larimer County. They’ve been around for over 30 years. So we’re here and we’re ready to help me. We’ve got a over what, three or four dozen consultants that are ready to offer their expertise to help guide you. If you hit roadblocks, if you hit questions, if you’re just not sure, on what resources are available, that’s what that’s exactly what we’re here for. So I just want to reiterate and encourage people that, you know, there are always people like Ben, that are willing to step up and help and all of our other wonderful consultants as well. So don’t forget about reaching out for help,

Alison Proffit 53:30
you know, reaching out to how to each other and to the very end governances that are out there are so important. And one of the other things that hasn’t stopped is that there are still community organizations that are getting together and I’m going to drop a little plug here. We talked about this in our group earlier. I’m actually launching. It’s kind of funny that this happened when it happened. But in northern Colorado, I’m opening a chapter of the Women’s Entrepreneur and business owner network. And it’s an opportunity for women, small business owners and entrepreneurs to get together and we haven’t allowed this Corona virus stuff to stop are launching. So we’ve just moved everything into virtual. We’ll be doing masterminding sessions twice a month. We’ll be having our our educational sessions once a month. And I would love to invite any of the women that are tuning into this whether you are an established business or you’re newer, you’re just trying to navigate and you want some community, please check out the weebo network comm and look at the northern Colorado chapter. We’re actually going to be having a event on the 25th from five to 7pm. It was supposed to be held chair. They’re one of our strategic partners and Since we can’t have the event in person, we are doing it virtually. So I would love to see you there so that we can information about the organization and how we’re hoping to support women and, and continue to create that awesome community because now more than ever, we need to be banding together and learning from each other and supporting one another. So and please reach out if you have any questions about selling or marketing in this in this weird time that we’re all in, be happy to, to be a sounding board and to point out any resources that I have access to that might be useful to you. Tip number

Nick Armstrong 55:40
one is never use the phrase an abundance of caution ever again. We’re never edit that phrase has been retired. We’re sending it away. I think that we’ve heard some really cool advice from this. There’s a transcription as well. That’s going to be available on the Startup Week blog. Starting all of the resources that our presenters talked about today will also be recapped there as well, along with other organizations and local resources for help that we think you should be connecting with. And just to emphasize, there are so many different resources out there right now to help connecting to your local hub that is specific to your industry is going to be a really important step to make sure that you are able to find an access help that’s relevant to you. There is a cohesive resource map that’s coming into play that will be a collaboration of all the local resource partners here in Fort Collins and beyond in Loveland in northern Colorado. And we are going to be sharing that out through all of the resource partners. So while that happens, in the meantime, connect with the local resource partners the music district 11 Business Development Center, the lerma SBDC the downtown Fort Collins creative district has amazing resources for artists The downtown retailers, Association, all of these little hubs that can help keep you in the know and connected to your fellow business professionals that are doing cool and innovative things so that you can join in that with them. Please don’t isolate yourself, even though we’re socially distancing right now. Don’t isolate yourself if you help it. business community is all here together. The nonprofit community is rallying it’s a it’s a good time to be in business. So let’s remember that we’re lucky to be here and able to do that, too. So thanks for joining us on this awesome webinar today. I really want to thank Ben from Blue Kat from Loveland. Alison from Alice. Sorry, excuse me, Alison, from profit I’m Nick from WTF and also startup And a special thanks to Scott from chicco for helping us produce today’s webinar and keeping everybody looking Really good