This post is contributed by Shabbir Nooruddin, the author of Bootstrapping Ecommerce, a blog that helps retailers learn how to bootstrap their business from the ground up and grow without investment.
Getting up and running with your own online business is easier and cheaper than ever before. Shopping cart software such as Shopify and Bigcommerce offer for less than $100 per month what used to cost thousands of dollars to get developed yourself, and within a day, you can have your own online storefront – no investment required!
You don’t even need to invest in inventory if you drop-ship – in fact, the total cost for a relatively customized store for one entire year of operation is less than $600, if you do it right.
However, since the barriers to entry are so low, the competition is that much higher. So how can we still bootstrap a business in a situation like this?
1.) Don’t spend thousands on a design
What if I told you that your design matters, but is not a make it or break it factor? Many people tend to make the mistake of outsourcing their design to a firm that may charge them a few thousand dollars just to get the site up and running. At this point, you don’t even know how well it’s going to do – so why commit yourself so much? Instead, go for a stock template and make small modifications to it – you can get this done for a few hundred dollars at the most.
2.) Sell an idea, not a product
If you are dropshipping (or even purchasing inventory in bulk), chances are someone out there is probably selling the same thing. How do we convince a potential customer to buy from us and not someone else?
Instead of selling your product, try selling your idea. Unlike your product, your idea is going to be unique to you – so if you can tie your product to an idea, it too becomes unique. For example, don’t just sell ATV parts, but sell ATV parts with comprehensive repair guides available on your website.
B&H Photo Video does this very thing. Even though they are an established business doing millions in revenue, they probably are nowhere near the numbers of Amazon and Best Buy. Yet they still manage to do so well because their website has so much valuable information about their products and uses.
Customers are drawn in because of this great information and content.
3.) Sell an info-product
The first technique was to tie your product to an idea – this one is to make your idea the product itself. If you possess a skill or talent that other people are interested in, you can turn it into a product by teaching others how to do it.
The best thing about info products is that they are the gift that keeps on giving. You just have to invest time and effort(and a little money) to get started, but once your product is complete, you can keep selling it over and over again.
4.) Plan your marketing strategy
Neil Patel once wrote a post called “Don’t forget the ‘marketing’ in content marketing.” The most overlooked part by newcomers to ecommerce is setting up their marketing strategy. Marketing is where many entrepreneurs (myself included) flushed money down the toilet. It’s very easy to spend thousands of dollars on paid ads and not see any returns for it.
Lucky for you, social media marketing is more powerful than ever before, so if you play your cards right, you can drive traffic and build awareness about your brand without having to spend too much money.
5.) Design with scalability in mind
Even though you may be bootstrapping your business at this point in time, you want to have a business model that you can scale up whenever the time comes. When you are ready, you can start spending on ads to get even more customers, buying inventory to keep up with the demand and take control of shipping, and redesigning your site to add more features.
Keep these 5 tips in mind when you start building your business. Most importantly, though, start! There has never been a better time to do it – and there never will be a better time, either.