Remember how excited you were when you put together your first Facebook advertisement and waited eagerly for your first sale? Do you remember the disappointment you felt a few days later when the first sale didn’t come? How about the feeling months later when you feel like giving up?
My name is Melissa, and I am a Mentor with Business Mentoring Australia and I personally know that feeling!
My first experience with an online business was so exciting.
I spent months coming up with the idea.
I was an expert in the area and uniquely placed to market the concept.
I was passionate about innovation and transforming the community care industry, automating it, putting it in the cloud, and removing all the politics and administration that used to fill my day.
I wanted to UBER the community care industry and let clients navigate the complex system with ease, reach those who needed it and let them speak directly with the people they need to speak to.
I was bubbling with excitement and passion but I knew NOTHING about how to build a website!
What I did know was how to expertly use Microsoft Word, so I spent MONTHS developing a word document with each page showing the outline of what I wanted the pages to look like.
I hyperlinked pages together.
- I developed avatar employees and clients.
- I tried to take my own photos (now I know you can download quality photos for free!)
I don’t regret doing this step.
I DO regret how long I spent doing it, and the effort I went into making the Word Document look professional.
I also regret how paranoid I was about revealing my secret, and how it stopped me from asking for help when I needed it.
I figured, I’m a smart cookie, I can navigate this crazy online world.
What I didn’t realize, is that decision made my world crumble around me!
I want to reiterate that I didn’t know ANYTHING about how to build a website, so when I found a friend of mine was building a website, I vaguely said I would like to build a website one day, and “Use Wordpress, it's so easy to use” was his advice.
That was my first layer of disappointment. I didn’t realize there were different versions of Wordpress, Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org
I spent weeks only to realize that Wordpress.com couldn’t do what I wanted it to do. I upgraded to Wordpress.org and realized it still didn’t do what I wanted it to do, so I tried Drupal, Joomla and various other platforms which came free to trial with the domain name and premium Siteground membership …Insert frustrated scream here!
By this stage, I was completely overwhelmed. Html this, CSS that, PHP something, it was all a brand new language. My "Beginning HTML5 & CSS3 for Dummies" book was not enough for me to build the website of my dreams. I was eventually quoted 110K to build only a small section of my website! As a newbie, my dreams were too high and my funds were too low!
After 6 months of research, late nights and buzzing ideas, I hit a wall.
To make matters worse, a few days later at work, I received a sales call from a new company who was trialling this “New Product,” a fully automated suite of client and employee profiles, with online bookings which minimized the administration.
I quickly realized the salesperson was selling my concept, I had missed my opportunity, and I couldn’t be angry because I was no closer to starting my website than I was to finish it!
I was just really disappointed!
This experience allowed me to learn my first five lessons in web development:
- Planning your business outline and what your product and service will be is important
- Don’t waste too much time on marketing research
- Don’t spend too much time making your website perfect (it will never be perfect!)
- When you build your first website, start small, learn the foundations and rapidly expand.
- Get help when you need it
I have a naturally positive “can do” attitude. I wasn’t going to let this wall break me. I had a passion to have my own business, and this online world was NOT going to get the better of me!
Little did I know, my mind was going to be blown away by how much I didn’t know!
I have a Project Management background, so templates, processes and keeping things lean and simple comes naturally. So I put my Project Management Hat on and started my own personal project!
I eagerly purchased a new binder (I love stationary!) and wrote down my SMART goal on a blank page
“I am going to have a small online business without customers which is profitable within 6 months”
It took me a month to come up with the (very generic) idea of having my own travel blog.
I knew by this stage how to use Wordpress.com so I started with that, did some online learning to develop basic coding skills, developed my website and learnt a phenomenal amount, BUT I still hadn’t reached my goal. My website was free to run, it had only cost me the Domain name registration, but it certainly wasn’t profitable!
I learnt my second lesson in web development; customers don’t stumble across your website, you need to invite them in!
I had developed a lot of content at this stage, so I started searching for places to post my blogs, including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.
I read about a successful blogger who makes a living with Google Adsense.
I discovered Wordpress.com doesn’t accept Google Ad sense.
I discovered Wordpress.com has their own advertising platform.
I found out my travel blog didn’t qualify for the Wordpress.com advertising platform because I didn’t have enough traffic!
By this stage, I had also stopped travelling and was back to the corporate 70 hour work week grind and had lost all motivation…so my travel blog hibernated for a few months.
A few months later, I went away for a long weekend, and wanted to blog about it! I came back and realized I had now qualified for Wordpress’ advertising platform, but I really wanted to work with Google Ad sense. That's when I found the Blogger.com platform.
It was free and could be monetized almost straight away. I also found you can monetize your YouTube feed, so I started putting together a photo slideshow and publishing them as short videos.
I copied ALL my blog posts across, scheduled them and posted them one after another on social media and blogging platforms.
· I started receiving traffic,
· I reached my goal of making a profit!
It was a small profit, but it WAS a profit nevertheless.
This was my first successful website, and I had not paid 1 cent on advertising!
My third lesson in website development is you don’t have to pay for advertising!
I still have the travel blog, and it ticks along in the background, however, I wasn’t excited by it anymore, I was ready to take the next step to running my own eCommerce store.
I spent some time trying to find a gap in the market, and then I remembered my lesson from the first website start small, learn the foundations and rapidly expand. (Unfortunately, I had forgotten my third lesson that I didn’t have to pay for advertising!)
I started looking at online shops for sale and found a consistent theme of stores utilising the Shopify platform.
I took advantage of the free trial and found Oblero a drop shipping app.
I researched everything I could, about drop shipping and found it quite appealing.
I developed an activewear website which promoted plus size activewear as it was a gap in the market. I was so excited about having my own shop and had grand plans for opening up a physical shop down the track.
I got sucked into an advertisement for Facebook, “Grow your 6-Figure business in 6 months with as little as $5 a day”
Looking back, I was about to learn my fourth lesson in website development; Ignore the flashing lights!
It was so quick and easy to advertise on Facebook, the advertisement was set up in no time, I used a traffic ad template because I wanted traffic right? (wrong!)
I was so excited that I had put together my first Facebook advertisement, and was literally watching the phone, waiting eagerly for my first sale! I remember opening up Google Analytics where you can literally see how many people are looking at your site, and I saw one person was, which made me jump off the couch to tell a friend of mine there was a potential buyer in my shop…. I found out after hysterical laughter, that the potential buyer was ME as I had the website open on my laptop!!!!!
It was 11 disappointing days and $55 later when I heard the magical “DING” notifying me of my first order!
My first real-life customer spent $106 worth of products and looking back on everything I have learnt so far, I don’t know what she was thinking!!!
- I was over the moon!
- I was shaking!
- I didn’t even know how to fulfil the order and I barely had enough money in my bank account to purchase the products!!!
BUT, at the time I was none the wiser. I celebrated my first customer, and in my head, I had made a profit (because at that stage, I hadn’t received a bill for Facebook!)
- My Facebook advertisement was terrible as it didn’t give the customer an incentive to click on it!
- The product descriptions were full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes!
- The sale price was greater than the actual price on one of the products!
- The website was sooooooooo slow!
- I hadn’t calculated my running costs into product costs so I was running my whole site at a major loss!
I had it in my mind that paid advertising was sooooo much more effective than free organic traffic.
My non-existing marketing budget was coming out of my own pocket while I was boosting posts here and putting an engagement post there. At one stage I was getting a customer every second day. So I tried to double the add and screwed up the Facebook advertising algorithms! The somewhat effective add became useless, and ended up costing me over $100 in trial and error attempts because I had deleted the original and didn’t know why it was successful in the first place!
My fifth lesson was an expensive one; don’t advertise without a plan, and definitely don’t ever change a Facebook ad, instead of duplicate it!
I lost 2K in a matter of months. I was getting customers in, but somehow I was running deeper, and deeper into the red and I didn’t know why.
I spent tireless nights after work redoing all my product descriptions and then realized I wasn’t making enough from each order to cover my product, website, advertising and postage costs.
I was sick of looking at the returned products and additional stock that I had purchased because at one point, I thought it was a good idea (for some reason) so I called it quits. I do not regret this decision at all!!!
My sixth lesson; If you lose your passion, quit and accept a loss.
It took a while for me to lick my wounds, but then my wounds had healed and I dialled up my motivation once more.
I decided to build a business built on passion!
I wrote down my 6 lessons, put a sticky note on my laptop and built Business Mentoring Australia from scratch.
I call myself a Mentor, not the CEO or the Business Owner, a Mentor because I am passionate about helping others. I don’t want hierarchy to cloud the relationship built with my clients.
In reality, I am the Owner, CEO, Financial Planner, Admin assistant, Payroll Officer, Mentor and Marketing Manager all in one, so why can't I pick just one to focus on to start with?
I’m here to tell you, that you don’t need to get overwhelmed or feel like you failed. I want you to be able to learn from my mistakes and ensure you don’t feel afraid to ask for help when you need it.
So... if you are thinking of building your own website, or you have a website and you are haemorrhaging funds from advertising costs. Put a stop to it!
Go back to the drawing board, and build a solid foundation of free organic web traffic.
Like every good marketing technique, you need to Start Your First Free Advertising Campaign with a SMART goal.
A free advertising marketing campaign floods the internet with your product or service and gets the word out there. It takes 6 months to develop a good internet presence and years to become a brand. It also takes a lot of patience to perfect your art, but a successful outcome is amazingly rewarding.