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Not too long ago, Pinterest released Buyable Pins on its mobile app. This gives businesses an incredible opportunity to turn ordinary Pins into actual sales. I want to show you what this exciting news can mean for you.
What Exactly Are Buyable Pins?
Buyable Pins are a way for customers to buy the products that they find on Pinterest. With the new “Buy it Now” button, your customers can browse Pinterest AND purchase your products without ever leaving the app.
How Can Customers Buy From Me Using Buyable Pins?
All your customers have to do is find products with a Pin that has a blue price and they are able to purchase it. Once they click on the “Buy it Now” button, they are taken to a secure checkout where they can complete the order using Apple Pay or a credit card. It couldn’t be any simpler.
How Many Products Can I Have Buy It Now Buttons On Them?
By the end of June (2015), Pinterest planned to have more than 2 million products available with Buyable Pins. This means that as more and more businesses take advantage of this new opportunity, more and more products will be pinned.
Why Should I Sell On Pinterest?
Did you know that almost 87% of users on Pinterest have purchased a product whilst browsing (or Pinning in Pinterest jargon)? In addition, the average value of a sale made on Pinterest is $50, which is much higher than sales made on any other social media platform.
How Do I Start Using Buyable Pins?
All you need to do is add the Pinterest Sales Channel to your account and you are good to go. Just make sure that your Pinterest account is linked to a Shopify account, else there is nowhere for your products to be sourced from.
Can I Still Sell On Pinterest Without Shopify?
Unfortunately not. You are only able to sell on Pinterest if you have a Shopify account.
Is There A Difference Between Buyable Pins and Rich Pins?
The biggest difference is that Rich Pins allow the creator to update information such as product info, location and app installs, whereas Buyable Pins are designed exclusively for customers to purchase the product that they are viewing.
Can I Use Buyable Pins If I Don’t Live In The US?
Not at the moment. Currently, you can only access Buyable Pins if you live in the US and use a payment gateway in USD currency.
What Do I Do After Linking Pinterest With Shopify?
Once Pinterest has approved your products, every product that has ever been pinned from your store will receive a Buyable Pin and a “Buy it Now” button. All purchases will be automatically linked to your Shopify account, so all that is left for you to do is make sure that product information is complete and up-to-date, and get sharing.
What Happens When A Product Is Purchased Through A Buyable Pin?
Once a customer makes an order, all payment information is sent through your payment gateway, and once accepted, the customer can continue making the order as if they were doing so directly on your website. Every sale made on Pinterest will automatically synchronise with your Shopify account, making your life a whole lot easier.
What Does It Cost?
Nothing. Buyable Pins are 100% free!
Sourcing products for your business to sell is one of the easiest parts of your business to complete. Once you know what you are going to be selling, all that is left to do is locate the perfect supplier that will be able to consistently deliver and meet your demands. One of the most popular marketplaces to sourcing suppliers is Alibaba, where most suppliers are based in China. Let’s have a look at Alibaba, and how it can be used to source all of your product needs and requirements.
Advantages Of Sourcing Products From Overseas
Products manufactured in China generally cost only a fraction what they cost to have manufactured here. This is one of the most appealing reasons that business owners choose to source their products and suppliers from Alibaba. You can also take advantage of:
- Manufacturers willing to sell smaller quantities than most local suppliers.
- Huge number of potential suppliers to choose from.
- Easy to navigate and places orders with suppliers.
Disadvantages Of Sourcing Products From Overseas
Everything has both its advantages and disadvantages. What unfortunately stands out the most for Alibaba in this case, is:
- Lower manufacturing standards than local manufacturers.
- No intellectual property protection.
- Language barriers can be hard to overcome.
- Hard to verify the legitimacy of supplier.
- Takes a long time to ship (sometimes several weeks, or more).
- Different cultural practices of business.
- Customs may reject some items without warning.
- Lower payment security.
What Actually Is Alibaba?
Alibaba is considered to be the biggest e-commerce marketplace in the world, and is larger than the combination of both eBay and Amazon. It also boasts the largest directory in the world in terms of being able to connect buyer and seller from thousands of different suppliers who are mostly based in China and other parts of Asia.
How To Search For Products And Suppliers?
If you have used eBay or Amazon before, then you should have no problem using Alibaba. Simply enter in a search term or choose a category. You can also modify your results based on price, supplier rather than product, shipping costs, and so on.
What Should I Be Looking For On The Product Pages?
There are several factors which you should consider when you find the products that you have been looking for. These include:
- Unit Price – this is the cost per individual item, and is most commonly priced in US Dollars. If you see the word FOB, know that it stands for “Free On Board”, which basically means that the seller will pay the cost to have the product shipped via boat (the cheapest option when shipping from Asia) to your address. Note also, that the more that you purchase, the cheaper that the unit price will be.
- Minimum Order Quantity – also known as MOQ. This basically means that you might have to purchase a minimum of 50 products in order to be able to make a purchase. Order quantities will also affect price too. For example, the unit price might be $3 for 50-100 units, but only $2.50 for 101-300 units. Sometimes it can work out cheaper to purchase nearly double the amount for what you would have paid at the higher unit cost.
- Payment Options – Alibaba has a wide range of payment options to choose from based on the offerings of each supplier. These range from Bank Transfer to Western Union, however you should only ever pay via PayPal or Escrow. If you pay upfront, you run the risk of either not being able to get a refund, or not receiving the items at all. At least PayPal and Escrow have buyer protection.
3 Things You Should Be Aware Of (And Try To Avoid)
- Middlemen – Alibaba is home to literally thousands of manufacturers, however, sometimes you might find that some of these “manufacturers” are operating as the link between you and the manufacturer, raising costs, and profiting off of the inconvenience. Always do your research before making a purchase to ensure that you are actually dealing with the manufacturer and not a greedy salesperson.
- Scammers – middlemen will complicate your sale and cost you a little more money, but scammers will cost you all of your money. Alibaba tries very hard to remove all scammers from their page, but time to time people will still fall victim to them. Just be cautious.
- Quality – always order a sample first, because sometimes the product in the photo looks nothing like the product that you receive.
How To Protect Yourself
How are you able to protect yourself from the 3 things that you should be aware of above? Unfortunately, there is not a perfect method that works 100% of the time. What you can do in order to make your experience a whole lot easier on Alibaba, is to consider trying the follow methods that seem to work most of the time:
- Verified Suppliers – always look for this symbol when you are on suppliers pages. This means that Alibaba has verified that this supplier is indeed the real deal.
- Ask Questions – often scammers will not be able to answer the questions that a proper supplier or manufacturer would know. Also consider asking for their address and then finding their number online and actually calling them to see if they do exist. You may also consider setting up a meeting via Skype.
- Order Samples – as explained above, make sure that you order samples from a few different suppliers before you first make a large order. Just in case the quality is not up to the standard that you require, and sees you out of pocket several hundred (or thousand) dollars.
How To Contact Suppliers
Once you are aware of what you need to do to try and protect yourself online, you should be ready to start getting down to business. The first thing that you will want to do is contact the suppliers which you have found to be able to give you what you want, and then ask them specific questions to see if they actually can deliver you what you want.
For example, you should be asking them questions like minimum quantities, how long the products take to manufacture or whether they are in stock and ready to be shipped, terms of payment, quote prices, and most importantly, how much does it cost to have a sample shipped out to you. When sending them an email, you might want to consider using the following template:
My name is John and I am with XYZ Company.
I am interested in placing an order for Widget A. Before I do however, I just have several questions:
- What is your minimum order quantity?
- What is your cost per unit and at what quantity levels do you offer quantity discounts?
- What are your payment terms for new customers?
I would also like to order a sample of Widget A before placing a full order. Can you please send me the cost for the sample including shipping to:
80 Spadina Ave., Floor 4
Toronto, ON, Canada
How To Negotiate
Once the conversation with the supplier is flowing, you will now want to be focusing on negotiating both the price and the terms and conditions of payment and fulfilment. The minimum order quantities are almost always negotiable, and you may even be able to save yourself a couple of hundred dollars by knocking a few cents off each item.
Making The Decision
Now comes the hard part. You have done your research, made contact with several suppliers, and made successful negotiations with each. Now, which do you choose? Do you choose the supplier with the cheapest per unit cost? The supplier with the quickest delivery turnaround? The shortest manufacturing cost? The choice is up to you. Personally, I prefer to choose the supplier who always responds to my emails and questions the fastest. This means that if anything goes wrong, I know that it can be fixed with the supplier very quickly.
Always take your time researching and finding the right supplier based on the needs and requirements of your business. Alibaba is similar in layout and format to both eBay and Amazon, so have a bit of fun in the process.
Whether your business is large or small, I cannot stress the importance of making sure that you have an email list, because they remain one of the most effective ways to bring new customers into your business. Email is still a very powerful tool for marketing, provided that you do it right. But, why is email marketing still as important as it once was? Here are 5 strong reasons why.
Costs Next To Nothing
I should have probably rephrased that title to “Free”, since when was the last time that you paid to send an email? Okay, sending bulk emails may cost a few cents, so let’s say that it costs nearly nothing to do. What other types of advertising methods could you say cost this much?
More Flexibility Than Social Media
People are constantly checking their emails, possibly just as much as they are checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds, so why not expose them to seeing your advertisement in their inbox? Just make sure that you include only relevant information, directed at them (or at least in that target audience), to avoid being sent straight to the junk pile.
Reach Customers On The Go
Nearly every single person in the world now has a mobile phone connected to the internet. What does this mean? It means that your potential customers can access their emails directly from their mobile phones. It sounds a bit like Big Brother to say, “there is nowhere that you can hide”.
Speed Of Delivery
Unlike other forms of advertising, email marketing can be completed in a matter of minutes. You literally click a button and everybody in your campaign list is alerted that they have a new email in their inbox. This is compared to something like a newspaper advertisement, where you have to wait for the paper to be printed, delivered, and read before there is any action.
Easy To Track
What is most effective about email marketing, is that you can receive a notification every time that a person opens the email which you sent them. You can also monitor what links they have clicked on in the email, which means that you have great resources available to effectively monitor the effectiveness (at least the viewership) of your campaign, and accurately track conversion rates which can be modified and applied to future campaigns.
According to Statista, Facebook boasts more than one billion users every single month. This gives you an incredible opportunity to incorporate Facebook advertisements into your business model, and target this massive audience. To give you an example of a success story, the online retailer, Pigtails and Ponys (a hair accessories brand), boasts that around 70% of their customer base has come from people exposed to their advertisements on Facebook. Another online retailer, Jospeh Nogucci (a jewellery designer), has seen a 7 times return on their advertising investment!
Using Facebook advertisements for your business may be a completely new concept that you have been yet to consider, so let’s run through the details and how you can get started and hopefully achieve the same level of success as we just saw above!
Why Facebook Ads Should Be At The Top Of Your List
Marketing your business on Facebook allows you to be highly specific about the actual people that you target. As we know, Facebook collects so much information about peoples biographies, likes and dislikes, wants and needs, that the demographics that you can choose from can range from a broad area down to a highly specific niche. For example, you might want to target only 30 to 35 year olds who are interested in wallets (a kind of bad example, but you get the point).
In regards to the cost, the way that it works is that you bid on a price which you pay every time that a customer clicks on your advertisement, or a price based on how many people your advertisement is shown to. Statista states that in Q3 of 2014, businesses paid on average around $0.49 per click. However, you have complete control over how much you pay, how much you want to spend per day, and how much you are willing to spend in total for your advertising campaign.
You might even consider starting out with say $2 per day and see how effective your advertising campaign really is – then you can consider raising the stakes and targeting a broader audience.
Where Can I Display My Advertisement?
Displaying your advertisements on sidebars and news-feeds are the two most popular places for you to position your ads. Ads displayed on news-feeds, and viewed on a mobile device, have a much higher (up to 3 times higher) click-through rate than those viewed on desktops. This means importantly that you should ensure that your website is mobile-friendly – since when people click on your advertisement, they are going to land on your webpage. Luckily though, if you are using Shopify, you do not need to worry about the mobile experience, because it will be awesome.
What Types Of Ads Can I Choose From?
We will only look at the types of ads which make the most sense to be used in regards to our ecommerce business.
- Page Post Ads – basically your Facebook page used as an advertisement. Customers are directed here where they can discover further information.
- Multi-Product/Carousel Ads – a slideshow of several products or advertisements.
- Page Post Video Ad – you have probably seen movie trailers marketed this way, and for good reason. People love the engagement that they get from watching a video, and this means that you have a great opportunity to take advantage of this fact and reach out to your audience with a video advertisement.
For each type of advertisement that you may choose to use, there will be a different cost structure in place. For example, you may pay for likes, shares and comments received, or the number of people who have viewed the ad, how many clicks, and how many conversions (or sales) have resulted from the advertisement.
What Kind Of Audience Are You Looking To Target?
As discussed earlier, because Facebook collects so much information, we are able to target very specific audiences within our target market. For example, you can create your own target market from scratch by choosing one or more of the following demographical factors:
- Ethnic Affinity
- Life Events
There are of course a multitude more that you can choose from when creating a target market from scratch, but this list should give you a fairly good idea as to what is possible.
Creating Your First Advertisement
Facebook provides you with three options when creating your first Facebook advertisement. You can create your advertisement from your Facebook page, from the Ads Manager, or from the Power Editor.
- From your Page – you can choose to either increase the number of people exposed to your posts, or promote your page in order to increase page likes.
- Ads Manager – this is what most beginners start with, as it is a very simple and straightforward process.
- Power Editor – a little more advanced, but has a greater functionality than the Ads Manager and sits as my top recommendation.
Once you have made your first advertisement, you will see that it is put into a category of either Campaigns, Ad Sets or Ads. To explain, Campaigns are the overall groups for your advertisements; Ad Sets are groups of specific advertisements; and, Ads are the advertisements themselves.
Guidelines And Approval Process
Make sure that you read Facebook’s guidelines for posting advertisements before you click post yourself. You will want to make sure that you are not going to be breaking any rules or posting something which is illegal or offensive. You also have to consider the rule that only 20% of your advertisement can be made up of text. Luckily, Facebook has a grid tool which you can use to determine this percentage range.
After submission, your advertisement will go through an approval process, which may take from only a few minutes to a few hours. If successful, you will receive a notification that your ad is good and ready to go.
Monitoring Your Advertisements
Just like any other advertising campaign that you run, you should make sure that you monitor its effectiveness. In Ads Manager, Facebook allows you to view detailed reports on how your advertisement is currently performing. You will be able to view:
- Conversions – how many people clicked on your ad and/or made a purchase.
- Reach – how many people have seen your advertisement.
- Cost – how much you are spending to get these results.
- Frequency – how many times, on average, each user will see or has seen your ad.
- Click-through Rate – the percentage of people that have clicked on your ad.
Please know that there is no specific benchmark that you need to emulate in regards to the results that you achieve. These things will take time, so have patience. You can always pause or edit your advertisements whenever you feel like they need to be modified or updated.
Facebook Ads can certainly give your business an added boost. Just make sure that you are realistic in regards to the results that you expect, and have a clear idea of just how much money you are willing to spend on this campaign. Do it right and the rewards will be great.
Twitter has recently purchased Periscope which means that we have seen a sudden increase of business owners looking for the best possible ways to take advantage of this new platform. But what exactly is it? Periscope, available for both iOS and Android, basically allows you to live stream videos to both your followers on Twitter, and complete strangers. Viewers can comment on the video live – making it a complete interactive experience, and an awesome way to be able to connect directly with your customers, and potential customers.
What Advantage Do I Get From Live-Streaming?
Look at the sheer levels of success that people have found on YouTube. Subscribers nearing 10 million, more than 1 billion views (or 2 billion if you watched PSY’s Gangnam Style), and you start to see at what I am getting at. Although live-streaming is definitely not new, the concept of linking it with an ecommerce platform is. Many YouTuber’s are expanding their online businesses by selling products to their audience to maximise their revenue potentials, and Periscope allows you to capitalise on this concept but to a greater extent.
Imagine having an avid audience watching you as you walk into a product convention, pick up a brand-new product, and review it live on air? Customers could be asking you live questions like “how does it feel?”, “what is its weight”, and so on. In essence, the customers are also “hands-on” with the product. This level of interaction takes relationship building to a whole-new level.
What You Should Do Right Now!
Before this tool takes the world by storm, you should integrate it into your Twitter feed and business right now! I mean it. Those who take advantage of this as soon as possible, will be able to put themselves at a very strong advantage over their competitors.
6 Ways That Periscope Can Be Used To Boost Your Ecommerce Business
Before jumping straight into product reviews, you should host a Q&A Session in order to initially connect with your followers and ask them exactly what it is that they would like to see. They can also ask you questions, and the foundations of a strong relationship with your customers can be formed.
Take Your Customers Behind The Scenes
Show your customers what actually goes on behind the scenes of your business. Not only does this allow you to build upon the foundations of trust and transparency, but it also shows your customers just how dedicated you are to getting it right for them.
Product Reviews and Demonstrations
As discussed at the start of this post, live product reviews where your customer gets to see a brand-new product before it is even released to the market has stunning appeal to them. You might also want to consider showing them the new products that you are about to release in order to make them hungry enough to want to buy them.
Create a Personalised Customer Experience
Imagine the relationships that you could build with your customers by having private and exclusive 1-on-1 sessions with them. Live customer support that actually has a face instead of a phone receiver or text box! If a customer is having any problems using a product, you can give them a demonstration live and show them what they should be doing.
Sell the LifeStyle of Your Brand
As we know, a brand is more than its products – it is also the lifestyle that it can bring. For example, if your business is selling tennis racquets, take your customers with you (via Periscope) to the US Grand Slam, or, if your business is selling party hats, take them with you to a party in Las Vegas. Make them hungry for the lifestyle that your products can bring, and watch your sales figures skyrocket.
Create seminars and conferences where customers can tune in and receive the latest information from you as it is released. Consider this a sort of live blog where you may even consider rewarding your customers for their time by offering a discount code valid for only 2 hours after the seminar ends. A great way to have more people tune into your events, and have both you and your customers rewarded as a result.
Proper Etiquette To Consider
Just like any customer interaction, you should always consider using proper etiquette when greeting them. Don’t ignore their questions, don’t give answers to things that you don’t really have an answer for (honesty is a very powerful tool) – I don’t really think that I need to discuss much more, as etiquette is a pretty standard thing that you should all be quite familiar with.
One thing I will say though, is make sure that you build anticipation to your streams by advertising them a few days earlier, and perhaps use hashtags to make both your stream and your business more findable on Twitter (especially to new customers). Consider things like:
Get Out There
In closing, I really hope that this information will help you succeed dramatically in your business. As inspiration, I want you to check out these guys who have all incorporated Periscope into their accounts with great success:
Matthew Santoro, YouTube personality: https://twitter.com/matthewsantoro
Daymond John, Fashion mogul, Shark: https://twitter.com/TheSharkDaymond
Mark Kaye, SnapChat celebrity, talkshow host: https://twitter.com/markkayeshow
Tasmin Lucia-Khan, TV personality: https://twitter.com/Tasmin
Red Bull: https://twitter.com/redbull
Smashbox Cosmetics: https://twitter.com/Smashbox
There are a very large number of tools and resources of which you can use for your online business, but I have made the process of finding the best one much easier for you. Each of these recommendations has definitely earned my seal of approval, and I hope that they do the same for you.
The two largest tools at the top of my list and for good reason, are Shopify and Bigcommerce. Shopify has a create a platform with the new business owner in mind, but still has the ability to cater to seasoned veterans in the ecommerce world. Not only that, but also the fact that Shopify is the leader when it comes to the app marketplace since all developers will design their apps for the Shopify store before even designing them for the Apple Store or Google Play!
On the other hand we have Bigcommerce. It is quite similar to the Shopify interface, but Bigcommerce tends to be more focused on those merchants and businesses who have been in the game just a little longer than the Shopify audience.
There are three specialty platforms that I would like to include here. The first is Gumroad, which is used mostly to conveniently sell both physical products and digital downloads (even from your social media account). The second is Selz which is actually quite similar to Gumroad, but still worth the mention here. Lastly, we have CrateJoy which has been built specifically to sell subscription-based products. Depending on what you are trying to sell, or if you are targeting a niche market, you may require a specialty platform.
Printful is by far the only resource that I really need to mention for selling custom goods and drop shipping. They will basically design every from t-shirts to tote bags for you, and have great platform integration with Bigcommerce and Shopify. This means that you can set up a completely automated business where people order from your Shopify store, the order is sent to Printful who then sends the item to the customer. All you need to do is sit back and let the money roll in!
Resources For Social Media
I am sure that you can afford $9 per month. If so, then I highly recommend that you check out Archie, which allows you to auto-favorite and like posts on Twitter and Instagram which means that you can build up a large following nearly on auto-pilot mode. To take that further, perhaps you would like to bring people from social media on to your website. If that is the case, check out Sniply which will take care of your social media links for you.
However, despite the great abilities of both of these resources for social media, at the top of my list sits Edgar. It is the only app that allows you to build a library up from all of your updates, tweets, and social media shares, and then schedules updates for you – but its trick is that it will use your library, meaning that you do not need to consistently come up with completely new content. On the downside though, it does have a price tag of $49 per month. If you can afford this in your budget, I highly recommend that you at least give it a shot.
If you are manufacturing products in the USA and want access to a directory with more than 7,000 US manufacturers, then check out Makers Row. If however, you are sourcing products from a Chinese manufacturer from AliBaba, then you MUST check out Examine China, which offers purchasing reports to support the legitimacy and quality of the manufacturers that you are buying from. Don’t be scammed.
You can have access to a wide variety of themes for your Shopify store out there. However, there are not that many tools out there which provide you with something of decent quality and with access to support. This is why I suggest Out of The Sandbox which offers all of the above, plus more.
There are 3 creative resources that you simply cannot go past without checking out. AppSumo is a free and simple tool that only requires you to sign-up and wait for your inbox to be filled with awesome tools every month. Creative Market sits at the very top with the highest-quality resources for all graphic, design, and photography marketplaces and industries. Lastly, TailorBrands is a very nifty little tool which will actually analyse your brand (name, values and industry), and then create a logo for you based on those factors. You will be quite surprised just how accurately it is able to represent the message your brand is trying to convey.
Store Apps and Tools
The internet is filled with many different types of apps and tools that you can use for your Shopify store, however, none are up to the standard that comes from BOLD Apps. BOLD Apps is an exclusive tool to Shopify which will dramatically extend the functionality of your Shopify store. They are that good, every one of their apps has received a 5-star rating!
In regards to apps and tools for specific needs, check out the following:
- Want to make exit-intent (“are you sure you want to leave?”) advertisements for your website? Check out Picreel.
- Want to create a viral campaign for the competitions that you run? Check out Gleam which will share your competition virally through social media.
- Looking for great product photos that take your store to the next level? Check out Pixc which will turn your ordinary product photos into images with clear and crisp white backgrounds in just 24 hours.
One of the most involved management-keeping aspects of running an online business is trying to manage your email account. Research conducted by Klaviyo states that for every $1 that one of their customers spends on email, they receive an average of $75 in revenue. That is a pretty appealing business model of which you can take advantage of. Alternatively, if you are looking for a standard email marketing tool, check out MailChimp which is free for your first 2,000 email subscribers.
Finding the right keywords to link search engines to your business can be a little tough at times. Luckily, there are 2 tools which can take your business to the next level: SEMrush and SEO Review Tools. Both will help you deliver quality content and an SEO strategy that works.
Selling products is one part of the equation of the shipping and fulfilment process. Would you believe that the experience that customers have of your products is also affected by what the product is packaged in? You don’t need to go crazy and spend a fortune on fancy boxes – you can try something as simple as a sticker with your brand logo on it, like you can do with Sticker Giant. However, if you did want to go down the path of designing or choosing your own packaging boxes, check out Pakible and Uline. Together, they have thousands of designs for you to choose from, but nothing is more simple than slapping a sticker on a box! (Just my opinion).
Shipping and Fulfilment
- Apps For Shipping and Printing Labels – you don’t need to be a large company shipping more than 50,000 products per month to take advantage of exclusive shipping rates. Check out ShippingEasy which is free to use if you are shipping less than 50 products per month, and has very easy one-step label printing. Alternatively, Shippo is for those who want to be able to set up an automated process which will automatically print labels as orders are made – all you need to spend is the postage costs plus 5 cents.
- Recommended Fulfilment Warehouses – if you are looking for a tool which can directly be linked to your Shopify store, with no minimum orders, then Shipwire is a must. Alternatively, if you are looking for a strong-valued, family-orientated business with a strong track-record and history, then ThinkLogisitcs and Fulfillrite are a further 2 options to consider. Just comes down to whether or not you want to support local businesses.
- Recommended Customs Brokers – the paperwork can get a little messy when importing products from places like China. This is why you need to deal with a professional Customs Broker who will deal will all of this messy work for you, and deliver consistent results. Check out Pacific Customs Broker for more information.
When first starting out in your business, you really need to only track the money coming in, and the money coming out. After all, this is the basics of accounting – and I mean basics. But, as you will quickly learn, keeping track of the growing number of expenses can start taking up a lot of your time, and hiring a professional accountant to manage this for you can add to those pile of expenses. Luckily there are tools out there such as Shoeboxed and Quickbooks which turn accounting into a very simple process – both of which can be linked directly to your online stores in order to directly import sales and expenses the moment that they occur. However, if you are confident in your abilities, you might want to consider Bench Accounting. A little pricey at $125 per month, but this is a tiny price which will afford you a professional bookkeeper who will take nearly all of the stress out of your financial paperwork.
One of the greatest reasons that people start an online business, is that they are faced with challenges and new opportunities every day. Entrepreneurs soon learn that to stay ahead of the pack, they must constantly redevelop their skills and knowledge base. Whether this is in the realm of Photoshop or InDesign, or perhaps even Business Law, then you should check out both Skillshare and CreativeLive – both which have video courses and discussion groups led by industry-experts.
The one thing that people complain of the most when starting a business, is that they don’t have enough time to complete all of the tasks at hand. Use these apps to give you more time to focus on areas of your business which need your attention. To manage your passwords, check out Dashlane. To organise all of your ideas and notes, check out Evernote. Lastly, everyone should have heard about Dropbox by now – the leading online storage solution which has removed the headaches from thousands (and quite possibly millions) of businesses around the world. It also allows you to access your files from anywhere around the world – provided you have a computer (or phone) and an internet connection.
One of the most exciting parts of running a t-shirt business, is when you are able to display your awesome designs to the world and show them just how creative you are and unique your brand is. However, many run into the problem of being able to correctly convey those awesome designs on their websites.
Maybe you can’t find the right light setting when taking your photographs, or perhaps the designs don’t look as good in photographs as they do in real life. As we know, customer’s are only going to buy designs that are most appealing to them, so they are going to want some high-quality work on display. This is why I have wrote this blog – because I want to show you some of the best t-shirt templates and mockups that you can use to show off your designs in super high-quality. All you need to do is add your design to the template, and then upload it to your website. Simple!
Shirt Mockup (FREE)
Probably one of my favourites to use. Very simple to use and gives you the option of two different styles to use in your templates.
High-quality and many different styles for you to choose from.
Polo Mockup Shirt Design
I love this service because they are one of the only providers of mockups for polo shirts available.
Zipup Hoodie Mockup
Awesome mockups if you are designing hoodies.
This service is great because it gives you transparent backgrounds in your shirt templates – perfect if you are using layered designs from Photoshop.
Apparel Mockups from The Printful (FREE)
I love these guys because their templates are on models wearing them, which gives your designs an added boost in appeal. You also get transparent backgrounds with their templates for your layered designs.
GoMedia Clothing Templates
These guys do charge a small fee to use their service, but well worth it. Many different styles to choose from, simple to use, and their high-quality designs come with instructions so you know how to use them after download.
Mens Apparel Shirt Templates
Great lifestyles shots which can accommodate the needs for any clothing line or brand style. Option to use plain templates or those being worn by models.
Tank Top Mockup Shirt Design
These guys are good because their templates come with a layered Photoshop (.PSD) file, not to mention how easy their website is to use.
Infinity Color Shirt Mockup
Many different styles and colours to choose from across many different photographic angles. You will definitely be able to find some quality templates and mockups to use here.
Threadless Mockups (FREE)
Plenty on offer here with many different styles and templates to choose from.
Photorealistic Mockup from DealJumbo (FREE)
Extremely simple and free to use. Definitely in my top 5.
Pupppy Apparel Mockup (FREE)
If you are looking for a bit of fun, check these guys out. Their models are puppies. Great if you want to interact with a bit of a laugh with your customers – only if that is what your brand is about.
I hope this list will help you in sourcing templates and mockups for your website. I suggest that you spend some time going through the list and seeing what works best for you and your brand. Good luck!
Did you know that nearly 75% of all people who start an online business do so without any plan as to how they are going to bring customers to their business? When you ask these people what they are going to do to bring customers to their business to make sales, they refer only to things such as friends and family, paid advertising, SEO and social media.
Sure, these are awesome ways to create a customer base, but if you have never sold a product online before, how are you going to know what works and what does not work? You can visit trade shows, host a product launch event, create a database of bloggers who you can reach out to to write product reviews, and perhaps even reach out to newspapers and magazine for reviews, but without a solid plan as to how you are going to manage these strategies you can never hope to maintain a solid and ever-growing customer base.
According to research, people who start an online business and bring in at least 100 new customers in their first month, often have the potential to grow within their first 3 years of operation. However, all other business start-ups may attain only 20 to 30 new customers per month over their first 2 or so years, and they can expect to watch these numbers rapidly decline as time goes on.
What do you think separates these two different types of businesses? Obviously the business that brings in 100 customers in its first month and grows on this number on a monthly basis has a plan in place to manage customer flow and is doing something which is constantly bringing new customers in. They would be using a marketing plan.
Great, you say. All I need to do is write up a marketing plan and my business will be successful.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. As you should know, they key to building a successful business or any endeavour in our lives comes down to the planning that we put into place before we even start that business or venture. The first thing you should do in this planning process, is to look at the following three areas and answer them honestly.
- Budget. How much do you have available to spend, and how much of this money are you honestly prepared to spend on marketing your business to the world?
- Talent. What are the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and/or your team that are going to help your business grow and are going to prevent your business from growing?
- Limitations. What are area’s of your business and yourself and team that can only be taken to certain limits? For example, how much time can you realistically invest in your business per day or week? How much money do you actually have to work with? How realistic are your expectations of success?
Once we are completely honest with ourselves, we can have a more realistic idea of what is and what is not possible within our abilities and constraints. There are many businesses out there who have gone into business with guns blazing, only to find that they fail quickly. The reason? They were not completely honest with themselves as to what they can and cannot do, and what is and is not possible in regards to the potential of success. It is highly unlikely that your business is going to make a million dollars overnight (if success to you is defined financially), or be featured on the front of every magazine that matters – but what is likely is that if you put in the time to plan, you will reap the rewards of that effort you put in.
Let’s have a look at what you need to include in order to write a successful marketing plan.
Front Page: Executive Summary
Although this is the first thing that you and other potential business interests will read, it is the last thing that you should write. It is basically a summary of your business, its goals, its team, and any information which would be considered important for a potential investor.
Section 1: Goals and Objectives
Just as the title suggests, the first section is where you will list all of the goals and objectives for your business. These goals are normally focused on the next 12 months, and may include things like creating or accessing a market, stealing customers from your competitors, expanding where you will sell your products (offline to online for example), and launching new products and services.
Often a good way to write this section is to have a clear and specific goal in mind, and then create objectives which will result in your business achieving that goal. For example, say you want to increase profit by 25% per month, you would look at achieving things like increasing customers by X amount each week, increasing repeat business by X%, and so on. Don’t worry about “how” you will do these things yet – just have a clear goal in mind at this point.
Part 1: Organization Mission Statement and Value Proposition
This is a strong paragraph or several paragraphs which explains why you are in business, what markets you are in and why, what are the main benefits that you offer to customers, what do you want your brand or company to be known for, what do you want to prove to the industry (and also customers and partners), what is your philosophy of doing business, and what products and/or services does your business offer to the market?
In addition, you will want to make clear how your business came to be, the reasons as to why and how it was created, how your products have evolved, and what markets you currently or plan to serve. You should also write about what your business is good at, what separates you from your competitors, what competitive advantage do you have over your competitors, and so on.
You do not need to include all of these if you do not want to, but what is important is that you paint a strong picture as to who you are, why you are in business, and what your business can offer that is better than anyone else or what is currently on offer in the market. That will be your mission statement. On the other hand, the value proposition is where you explain what benefits or advantages your actual products give to the market, and what puts you in a better position than your competitors.
Section 2: Target Customers
This is quite self-explanatory. You want to define who it actually is that you are selling to, such as age, gender, location, income, family status, and so on. You also want to define the actual market or niche area that these customers exist in, such as books, movies, websites, magazines or television shows, so that you can have a good idea as to how these people think and what their interests are.
You can use this information in order to be able to effectively target these customers using elements of effective ad placement, selling in their local markets, and so on. The information will also allow you to “think like them” and determine how they make their buying decisions, what sources do they consult before they make these decisions, and the factors which influence their decisions.
The last step is to determine the actual size of your target market. In other words, if every single person of your target customers made a purchase, what would this number be? 10,000? 50,000? In addition, what percentage, if any, of this number has purchased from you before? How do you see this number growing exponentially over time?
Section 3: Situational Analysis
This is where you determine exactly where you are right now, and can actually take the longest time to write. You will want to look at your current:
- Products – features and benefits, pricing levels from wholesale to retail, your promotion and marketing strategies, what products and/or services you currently offer.
- Distributor Networks – how and where is your business distributed? Online and offline? Office space and warehouse? Your product sources and placement of advertisements. The network of your supply chain from product procurement to end-user (customer).
- Competition Analysis – define what it is that your competition is currently doing, with strong emphasis of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Current Financial Condition – detailed analysis and numbers for each of your business sectors (overall, products, distributors, and area’s of your sales), in regards to market share, profit/loss, total sales, and also you will need this information for your competitors (estimated if there is not clear public information)
- Profitability Analysis – what areas are in profit and what areas are at loss and need improvement? Also look at your direct and indirect expenses and how these can be more effectively managed or controlled.
- External Forces – what areas outside of your business have the potential to affect it? These may include social and cultural shifts, changes to demographics, technological, climate, political, legal and ethical considerations.
- Summary – provide a summary of the information that you presented in this section so that you have a clear understanding of exactly where your business is at at the moment and what needs to change in order to increase success and profitability.
Section 4: Pricing and Positioning Strategy
Where do you want your business to be in the market? Using the information that you have gathered and provided in your situational analysis, you may need to consider adjusting your pricing model in regards to those factors which may affect your competitive advantage in the market. Consider looking at also how these pricing changes can affect both customer sales and channel sales in your market, taking into account the changes to cost and profit that these changes will incur.
Section 5: Distribution Plan
How and where will your customers have access to your business to be able to purchase your products? Will they buy through your website or a brick and mortar shop? Do the products come from your physical stock, or do you contract a third-party warehouse or distributor to manage product fulfilment?
Section 6: Promotions Plan
What promotion channels do you currently have at the moment, and what channels do you want or see yourself using in the near future? Discuss your current positioning within these current and new channels, making sure that you analyse the time and profit/loss costs and investments required for each.
These channels might include partnerships, SEO, social media, street advertisement, radio, television, direct mail, telephone, blogs, magazines and other print media. There are plenty more of course which you can consider.
Section 7: Marketing Assets
What marketing strategies or assets do you currently have in place? This may include your website, design talent that you employ, business cards, advertisements, and product catalogs. You should also explain the success of these and what needs to be changed in order to increase that success.
Section 8: Conversion Strategy
Using your marketing assets to bring people to your business, what do you have in place to turn these people into paying customers? You may consider improving your sales copy, having customers write testimonials, and increasing the quality of your product images. This is a constant process which needs to be continually analysed and adjusted, as the needs of your customers are constantly changing.
Section 9: Joint Ventures and Partnerships
What agreements, if any, have you made with other companies or organizations to help you build your business? For example, McDonald’s helps to promote Coca-Cola. Have a think about what businesses exist out there that relate to yours and what you can do to share a larger market with them.
Section 10: Strategy For Increasing Orders
What can you include in the sales process to increase the amount of money that customers spend with you? Something as simple as including free shipping with orders over a certain amount can help, as can bundling products, offering discounts for repeat customers, and so on. Make sure that you include any research that you have done which will support your ideas that these will actually increase the amount of money spent with your business.
Section 11: Referral Strategy
What benefit do you give to your current customers to bring new customers to your business? A great rewards program can do wonders for your business, provided that you have the proper planning in place to handle this shift. You may consider offering your customers a discount on their next order for every new customer that they bring to your business.
Section 12: Financial Projections
This section is a summary of all of the costs that you have described in the previous sections, as well as the time that is required to implement each, and the profit or loss that may be incurred as result of their implementation. Of course this is not 100% accurate and just a researched estimate, but having this information is important to use as reference for your future goals and to track your failure and success as time goes by.
Phew! That was a lot of information. As you can see, a lot of effort and research is required in order to develop a solid marketing plan. They are vital because they turn your business ideas into something concrete and realistic, enabling you to see exactly what is required to be put into them to make them work, and all of the costs involved.
Money goes fast when building a business or implementing a marketing strategy, which is why it is important to do quality research before hand to make sure that that money is well invested into something that is proven to work.
If you are already in business, then rewriting or developing a new marketing plan can help you see more clearly what your business is currently doing, and any areas that need to be changed.
So you want to start a t-shirt company. You have everything prepared (the cash, the designs, the name), but there is still one thing missing – the final product! There are so many blanks out there which makes it a difficult decision to choose the best one. Is there a best one? Or are they all the same? I believe that you should choose a style and a fabric which best suits your brand and target market instead of choosing a blank for the sake of having a blank to print on. I want to show you some of the best blank t-shirts that I prefer to use, especially for someone you is just starting out in the t-shirt business.
Next Level – 3600
The 3600 by Next Level is a standard design t-shirt, which is very soft and has a great fit. Over the last few years they are starting to align themselves in strong competition against American Apparel, and to be completely honest with you, I feel like Next Level does a much better job. There are plenty of colours to choose from and the high-quality feel is worth the price tag. An added bonus is that the Next Level tees have a tearaway tag, meaning that you can insert your own customised tag.
Bella+Canvas – 3001
The 3001 by Bella+Canvas is another strong rival to American Apparel and for good reason. There are definitely more colour choices than Next Level, but actually quite similar in fit and quality. It would be hard to choose between Bella and Next Level, but I do suggest that since Bella’s sizes are slightly tighter than Next Level’s, consider them for your women line.
Anvil – 980
The Anvil line in my opinion, is not a great option for a long-term successful business, but rather more of a good choice if you are making t-shirts just as a hobby. Although they set themselves up to rival American Apparel in style, the quality is not up to the standard that it could be.
American Apparel – 2001
This is the most popular t-shirt made in America. American Apparel set the benchmark in regards to quality and design for a plethora of other lines to attempt to follow. The tees have a perfect fit, perfect feel, and a wide range of colours to choose from. Rest assured that if people see that you are using American Apparel in your collection, that will know that it is going to of the highest quality. However, don’t think that you have to use American Apparel when starting out as many people think as they may not be in everybody’s budget, and there are definitely more cost-effective options out there.
Alstyle – 1301
Most designers have the Alstyle in mind when designing “street-wear” lines and has a much heavier feel than the other lighter designs we have already discussed.
Alternative Apparel – AA1070
Probably the only brand so far that has been able to surpass American Apparel in regards to quality, and has a perfect line for those in the crossfit market. However, with the higher quality expect a higher price tag.
So there you have it. These are my top choices for t-shirt blanks when first starting out, or when you are looking to make a change in direction in regards to design and quality. My suggestion would be to order samples from each brand that you feel would appeal most to you, and then have a feel for the design and quality yourself, keeping one thing in mind – your brand will be printed on one of these shirts, so take the time to choose the best one.
Please note that this information is for US-based businesses only.
Whether or not you have just started your business, or have been in operation for the last 15 years, the one sting that we will always feel is when we reach tax-time. This simple guide is aimed to assist you in getting organized and prepared to file your tax return by looking at 8 simple steps.
Don’t Forget The Deadlines
When we reach tax-time, it is vital that you do not make the costly mistake of missing out on the deadline to file your tax return. If you are a business, your tax is due on April 15 (March 16 if you are a corporation). You may also need to submit further supporting documents to the IRS before these dates. Just to make sure, write down the following dates in your diary so you do not forget:
February 2 (1099 and W2 forms must be post-marked): these forms are due only if you paid an independent contractor or employee more than $600.
March 16 (all Corporate tax returns are due): the 1120 and 1120S forms are due by today. If you cannot meet this deadline, you must apply for a tax extension.
April 15 (all Individual and Partnership tax returns are due): the 1040 and 1065 forms are due by today. If you cannot meet this deadline, you must apply for a tax extension.
Go Digital With Your Receipts
There is nothing worse than sorting through a mountain of paper come tax-time, so one way to greatly alleviate this problem, is to turn all of your receipts digital. Come tax-time, all you will need to do is flick between digital files instead of paper, and here are a few tools which can help you achieve this:
Evernote (FREE): You can store scans or photographs of all of your receipts for free here.
ShoeBoxed (up to $100/month): If you do not have the time to individually take a photograph or scan of your receipts, you can mail them off to this company who will do all of the work for you.
Expensify (from $5 per month): A great tool which allows you to take photos with your mobile phone on the go. In addition, all electronic payments linked to this account will automatically have their receipts stored – however, you will need to input cash payments manually.
Keep Your Records Up To Date
By keeping all of your business records neat and up-to-date, you not only have a very tidy view of your business, but you also prevent yourself from making an accidental false claim to the IRS by submitting incorrect information from an untidy book. Keeping your bookkeeping records up to date also will greatly assist you should you ever be audited – you will have complete records of your business’ activities.
Submit Your 1099’s
As discussed above in the deadline information, if you paid an independent contractor or employee more than $600 in the financial year, you will need to submit your 1099 form by February 2 (to the contractor) and by February 28 to the IRS (or March 31 if submitting online).
Know Your Sales Tax Requirements
You will always want to consult with your accountant when dealing with sales tax laws, as many states have different requirements. This especially applies to businesses if they are developing a “nexus” in another state. This term basically means that if your business develops a physical connection to another state, you must collect sales tax in that state too. Most commonly, a nexus is developed from one or more of the following:
Your office space
Selling at a trade-show or convention
Where you store your inventory
You are legally obligated to collect sales tax in any state where you have developed a nexus, so always make sure that you consult with your tax accountant who will be able to advise you on your obligations and tax requirements.
Extensions On Filing Your Tax
If this is your first tax return, or you perhaps need some more time to go over your records before your file your tax, consider submitting an application to have an extension on the date that you need to file your tax by. Note though, that applying for an extension does not get you out of your tax liability. As a guide, the dates for submission must be by:
Corporations (March 16): form 7004 for automatic 6-month extension.
Partnerships (April 15): form 7004 for automatic 6-month extension.
Sole Proprietors (April 15): form 4864 for automatic 6-month extension.
Be Aware Of Your Tax Deductions
You will be surprised as to how much you can actually claim on your tax as deductions. The following deductions are all under Schedule C on Form 1040 (however, consult with your accountant if your business is new as these may fall under ‘start-up’ expenses).
In order to be eligible for the home office deduction, you must meet 3 requirements: exclusivity (working area must be solely for business), regularity (work area should be used frequently), and precedence (most of your time is spent in your home office, and most of the important business activities are conducted here). There are also 2 different ways of calculating this deduction:
Simplified method: a standardized deduction where you take $5 per square foot of your home that is used solely for business, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.
Regular method: you must calculate the percentage of your home that is used for business by dividing the area that you use for business by the total area of your home. You must use the 8829 Form for this method.
Can be deducted if the education expenses add value to your business or increase your expertise.
Phone And Internet Expenses
You may deduct the full cost of your phone plan if it is used solely for business purposes. If you share the phone with your home, then you can only claim for that percentage of use. It might be a good idea to keep your phone records so that you can determined what phone calls were made for your business. You can also deduct the expenses of using Skype and Google Voice, and your internet – however, you will need to work out the percentage of use should you share any of these with your home life.
Domain And Web Hosting
Both of these are fully deductible, as is the cost of any template or any custom Shopify theme that you purchase for your business.
If you hire an independent contractor, you can claim it as a deduction.
If you ship your products to your customers, then the costs of packaging and postage can be claimed.
Use Of Your Vehicle
Always keep a record of the mileage that you use in your car exclusively for business use because it can be claimed as a deduction.
Online Service Fees
Any costs of using Shopify, Shoeboxed, or any other app or tool which assists you in running your business can also be deducted.
Cost Of Equipment
Always work with an accountant when deducting equipment costs, as there are a few methods of working it out. You may claim the expense on depreciation or through a section 179 deduction, and your accountant may even want to claim the deduction as a standard business expense. Business equipment can include things like your business computer, camera and cell phone.
Professional Service Expenses
You can claim deductions for the expenses which you incur by contracting the work of professionals to assist your business, such as lawyers and accountants.
Find The Right Accountant Which Specializes In Your Industry
Always find an accountant who is knowledgeable about the industry of which your business is in, as each business will have their own specific needs which will need to be catered for. You should also ask them if they charge by the hour or by a flat-fee, and you should also ask them the following 3 questions:
What local tax credits are available to me?
Have I developed a nexus in any other states that I need to claim sales tax for?
Should I change my business structure?
Taxes are not something that many people enjoy, but they are a vital and necessary aspect to your business. Follow these simple steps to minimize the stress involved when it comes to tax time so that you can claim back as much as possible for your business.