A little while ago I wrote about the 10 lessons I learned from running my ecommerce business. Things that with hindsight I’d have done differently.
Today I want to share the 10 things I’m most proud of and which helped make the business a success.
A no brainer this one. But we did work hard to continually develop our range, seeking out new suppliers and keeping up to date with trends.
Test the Idea
The idea for Wedding Crafter came to me in a classic light bulb moment (walking along a beach).
Now all the business advice at the time (2004) said that you must properly research your idea before launching. But instead of compiling questionnaires and talking to lots of people I decided to test my idea on ebay. I put together a sample DIY wedding invitations kit and put it up for auction. It fetched twice what I expected. I didn’t have a website at that time but I included a printed price list with the pack and a couple of weeks later got a follow up order for £40. That convinced me the idea would work.
My first website cost £50! I did part of it myself and found a freelancer who would do a few tweaks to off-the-shelf ecommerce software. As the business grew (and I learned what I really needed) I invested more and more in the site. Could I get away with that today? Probably not, but spending too much too soon is still a key element in many business failures.
Available for Customers
In those early days of ecommerce there was a theory that the telephone would be obsolete. I never agreed with this and wanted to be sure there was someone available to answer customer queries and resolve their problems. So even when I was working from home in my back bedroom I always had a land line phone number on the website.
Provide lots of help and advice
Long before anyone had heard of Content Marketing, we were doing just that. We created monthly projects, showing people ideas for using the products with step by step guides on how to create them. We also had loads of hints and tips articles tackling tricky subjects like what types of glue to use and how to tie perfect bows!
Make it easy for customers to use the product
In those days there weren’t hundreds of wedding blogs full of DIY wedding projects. Many of our customers had never attempted any crafts before so we provided as much help as possible to give them the confidence to go down the DIY route. As well as the articles we provided sample packs so people could check colours and play around with different items. Plus we gave away free templates to help them print the inside of the invitations.
Invest in Marketing
With so much of internet marketing available at no charge (although that’s changing now) there’s been a tendency for many new ecommerce businesses to think that they don’t need a marketing budget. From day 1 I was happy to spend on marketing (ebay fees, adwords, PR) as long as I was getting a return on investment.
Try New Things
Every year I allocated a small part of our marketing budget to trying something new. Advertising in a new publication, getting a designer to create some projects for us, hiring a PR agency. Some didn’t work – our one and only wedding fair was a complete (and costly) failure – but many more did.
Keep Going through the Tough Times
In 2007 our premises were flooded during a flash storm – I walked in to find the carpets sodden and the office covered in sewage. But we picked ourselves up, salvaged what we could and camped out in temporary offices for a month (thanks to our helpful landlords) while we got back on our feet.
The seasonality of the wedding industry also gave us some hairy cashflow moments!
Just Do It
From having the idea to getting something onto ebay took about 6 weeks. I didn’t have a clue about trade accounts and buying so initially I just bought from retail stores to get something out there. It then took another couple of months to get the online shop running but I didn’t wait for it – I used ebay and a printed price list.
Waiting until everything was ready and in place would have lost me valuable time in being first to market. I’m a big fan of planning, but sometimes doing is more important.
PS: For those who don’t know my story, you can read more here.