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Niche Site Project Part 2

Day 1

Domain Name:

The first item on the agenda was what we would name the business. While in the past we would have wanted to include the primary keyword (pocket watches) in the domain name, we lean more towards branding these days. For some reason, the name “Fob & Co” came into my head. This is almost certainly because I grew up in a town called Toowoomba, and they have the “Cobb & Co” museum, which is about the history of a successful stage coach company in Australia which operated from the 1850s to the 1920s. Given that “fob watches” is one of our primary keywords (just another name for a pocket watch), the era and the feeling it engendered seemed right for the brand.

I had a chat to Tess about it, and she liked it as well, and so I went and registered the domain name fobandco.com.au. I also looked at the searches in New Zealand, and while there weren’t that many (maybe 1000 if you included the top three keywords), it’s very easy in future to duplicate our site, and change the text to create another stream of income, given that NZ is so easy for us to ship to. While we won’t do this straight away, we registered fobandco.co.nz in preparation.

Logo:

Once we had the name and domain, it was off to fiverr.com to order a logo. I did a seach for “vintage logos” and went through the examples given by many of the providers before finding one that I thought would work. I ordered the gig, with a 2 day estimated time for delivery. I wanted to get it as quickly as possible, as we wouldn’t be able to order packaging, warranty cards, or do a lot of the web design until we had that logo.

Product:

It wouldn’t be much of an ecommerce store without product to sell, so it was straight to Aliexpress to see if we could find what we wanted. Based on our competition research, I really wanted to get started with at least 100 different pocket watch designs. Fortunately, unlike some other niches we’ve started, there seemed to be a couple of particularly strong options, with great feedback, and lots of designs. I started contacting some of them to get a current stock list of what they had. While we could have ordered straight from Aliexpress, we always ask a question first to see how long it takes them to reply, and how good their English language skills are, as this can affect how a long term relationship might play out.

One in particular got back very quickly, and was particularly helpful. We found that some of their designs had other brand names on the watch face, and we didn’t want any of those (as we want to build our own brand eventually). So we asked the supplier to send through a list of all of their higher quality, metal, mechanical pocket watches that didn’t have a brand name on them.

Research:

We also started researching the product itself. Was there a difference between pocket watches and fob watches? What was a half hunter pocket watch versus a full hunter pocket watch? Could many of the searches actually be nurses looking for a nurse fob watch? What was a mechanical watch versus a quartz pocket watch? It doesn’t actually take that long to learn about any given product, and become more knowledgable than most. If you want to dominate a particular niche, you need to know more about the product than your customers – this is what makes you an expert.

Day 2

Packaging:

Never having packaged a pocket watch before, it was time to figure out how we would do it. It is kind of an awkward shaped product, but presentation is everything if you want to get that higher profit margin. We first went to a jewellery packaging supplier in Australia to see if we could get something quickly, but they didn’t have anything that would cater for this product specifically. They did have a bracelet jewellery box though that might do the trick, so we got a sample on its way.

Next stop was Aliexpress to see if there was anything there. We found a metal tin, a leatherette box, and a very cool looking leather look pocket watch case from different suppliers, and we bought one of each to get them on their way too. I would have preferred to get them express shipped, but the express shipping cost was exorbitant, so these might take a while to arrive.

Hosting/SSL/Website:

Time to get the “bones” of the website up and running. We organised hosting as well as an SSL certifcate for the site, and installed WordPress from the cpanel. We also setup email addresses for the business (we use Google Apps for Domain, so it involves changing mx records in cpanel).

Once this was done, it was time to login to WordPress and start installing plugins. Here is a list of what we installed on this day:

Woocommerce;
ithemes security;
w3 total cache;
updraftplus backup;
Yoast SEO;
ninja popups;
Favicon Generator;
404 redirect to homepage;
Stripe;
Paypal;
Contact Form 7;
Insert HTML Snippet;
Kwayy HTML Sitemap;
Mailchimp for Woocommerce;
Woochimp;
QuickieBar;
Recover Abandoned Cart;
SEO Smart Links;
SSL Insecure Content Fixer;
Woocommerce Email Customizer;
Woocommerce Infinite Scroll and Ajax Pagination;
Woocommerce Paypal Express.

There will be a few more to come later, but these were enough to get started. We also started playing around a bit with colours for the site, but until we have logos, banners and products, it’s difficult to do much more to the site.

Content:

We tend not to waste too much time generating content that people won’t ever read, but given that there is a lot of history behind this product (and that history is an integral part of the branding), we also organised someone to research and write a 1000 word article on the history of pocket watches, including sections that involve all of our primary keywords like pocket watches, fob watches, and nurse watches, as well as some other interesting topics like the origin of hunter and half-hunter pocket watches. We gave the writer a deadline of the end of the week (which would be Day 5).

Email List:

To setup the Mailchimp plugins (we use two, woochimp to automatically subscribe during checkout, and a second to sync up our popup list with customer list) we first need to setup our lists in Mailchimp. At this point, we just setup the lists, so that we can use the Mailchimp API to connect the plugins to the correct email lists.

Website:

We also started setting up some basic elements like main product categories, contact us page, About Us page, main menu, home page with some text and a title with our primary keyword in H1 header tags. We also added a footer with some basic informational text.

SEO:

In addition to the H1 tags and text on the homepage, we also added a title to our homepage (Pocket Watches, Fob Watches, Nurse Watches by Fob & Co.). We also setup SEO Smart Links, so that any time our primary keywords are mentioned thoughout the site, they link back to the relevant categories on the site. The only exception being “Pocket Watches” and “Fob Watches” which both link back to the homepage (as these are what we want the homepage to rank for).

Day 3

Abandoned Cart Sequence:

After setting up the Recover Abandoned Cart plugin yesterday, I went to work on doing our standard three day abandoned cart sequence. If someone adds an item to their cart, then goes to checkout and enters their email address, but doesn’t complete the order, here’s what will happen:

24 hours later they will get an email saying that we miss them, and also asking if their were any technical problems with completing their order. They’ll also be given a link directly to their abandoned cart to complete it.

3 days after abandoning (if they didn’t complete the order from the previous email), they’ll receive an email that offers them a smaller discount to complete the order within 24 hours of receiving this email.

7 days after abandoning (if they didn’t complete the order from either of the previous emails) they’ll receive an email that offers them a final larger discount to complete the order.

These emails will also eventually include testimonials once we have them.

Logo:

The provider asked if they could have one more day to complete the logo which we agreed to reluctantly.

Products:

We finally came up with a list of the products that we wanted, including express shipping to Australia. It came to a total of 118 products. Normally we would organise a sample first, but in this case their feedback was so good (including feedback from Australians and New Zealanders – our target markets), that we started with a larger order. The other reason we were happy to do this is that they were happy for us to make the order through Aliexpress, which keeps the payment in escrow until we receive the order and are happy with it. We’ve never lost an Aliexpress dispute, so we consider it one of the safest ways to buy product from a new supplier. They also gave us around 30% off their Aliexpress prices without even asking, which was also great. With the product chosen and paid for, we had our initial range on its way. Fingers crossed it’s as good as it looks!

Analytics:

Setup Google Analytics for the site (using Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking).

Day 4

Logo:

The logo has arrived finally, and it’s… okay. It’s maybe a little “busier” than we’d hoped, so we simplified it a bit ourselves and are happy with it – for now. We showed the provider and ordered the revised logo as a vector image. The vector image (usually a .eps or a .ai file) is a type of image that you can increase the size of without losing any quality, and is usually required for printing the logo onto packaging and other printed materials. The provider delivered this almost immediately.

Photographer:

While the initial order isn’t due for another week (even with express shipping, there is still the product handling and inspection time), we gave our photographer a heads up that they were on the way, and started the conversation about what style of product shots we want. That way as soon as the products arrive, they can be sent to the photographer and be sorted as soon as possible.

Product Descriptions Writer:

We also reached out to a writer to see if they would be available/interested in writing the product titles/descriptions. We also mention that they would need to be done quite quickly to give them a sense of urgency.

Bags:

Armed with out new logo, we also sent an email off to get a quote for 100 calico bags with drawstring (with the new logo printed on it). We’re a big fan of using calico bags as they can still give a “vintage premium” feel, and don’t get crushed in the post like paper/cardboard bags do.

Popup Email Series:

The new logo also means that we can setup our popup email series. This is where when someone comes to the site for the first time, there’s a 15 second delay before a popup comes up that asks them if they’d like $20 off their first order. If they sign up, they immediately get a coupon code via email, then get a reminder email 24 hours later.

Customise Emails:

Woocommerce’s default emails look pretty average, so we use an email customiser plugin to make them look prettier, which we can now do with the new logo.

Marketing:

Now that we’re waiting for everything else, it’s time to start thinking about a marketing strategy. We don’t like to start PPC (like Google Adwords and Facebook Ads) until we’re relatively confident that we can convert the traffic well, otherwise you just burn through money. SEO on the other hand, we can get started as soon as product is on the site. We just need to start figuring out who will give us blog posts about pocket watches…. that might be a bit more tricky.

Day 6

Put the article up “Pocket Watches – A Brief History”

By |General|0 Comments

Niche Site Project For 2017

Welcome to our niche ecommerce site project for 2017! Tess and I decided earlier this year that we’d start another ecommerce store and record day by day what steps we had taken. This will be to give you an idea of what we do to start a niche, as well as the order in which we do it.

While we already had a niche in mind, we made the decision to not start anything until the 1st of May. So no domain registration, no talking about it, no looking for product, or packaging, and no further research beyond what we had already done to determine what niche we would choose.

Speaking of this, choosing what niche to go into is still such a vital part of the process, that we need to talk about it before launching into the “blow by blow” events that began in May.

The niche we have chosen is “pocket watches”, and as we are in Australia, we are focusing purely on the Australian market initially. The search term pocket watch gets approximately 3600 searches per month in Australia, although a second primary keyword was identified, as “fob watch” (another name for a pocket watch) also gets 1900 searches. A third term “nurses watch” was also found, as it has 2900 searches, and refers to a style of pocket watch worn by nurses (“nurses fob watch” also has 720 searches).

From a profitability standpoint, other competitors in Google.com.au sell pocket watches in the $150-$1000 range, and we believe we can hit our preferred price range of $50-300 fairly easily, with a product cost of around $10-15. Until we see the quality of the products we would be getting however, this has still yet to be properly determined. It’s definitely a product that with the right branding and packaging can be given a high perceived value.

As far as the product itself, it does have a lot of moving parts, which is not ideal. On the plus side though, traditional pocket watches are fully mechanical, which means that they are hand wound, and have no electrical parts. Given we are going to brand ourselves as pocket watch “snobs”, we won’t be including any battery operated watches unless customers demand them for some reason (they may be required for the nurse watch category, but we’ll see).

We’ve also spoken to the supplier about adding gold plating to some watches (to create a premium range) and they have the ability to do this, but would require larger quantities, so we’ll wait a bit before going down this path. Gold plating is quite cost effective these days, and adds a huge amount of perceived value to any item.

As far as SEO competition is concerned, the primary two metrics we look at is the Domain Authority (DA) of our competitors and the relevance of their sites. Ebay ranks #1 and #2 for this term, which is a good sign in our opinion, as we outrank ebay in all of our other established niches. While it has a very high DA, ebay as a whole has very little relevance to pocket watches. Position #3 is a small store that just happens to be located only 45 minutes from where we live. It’s a clock shop, so has reasonably high relevance as a whole to the keyword, although they sell a wide variety of goods, not just pocket watches. It has a DA of 23, which is not particularly high, although it will take quite some time to beat. It definitely falls below 30 though, which makes it doable. Looking at the backlinks to the site, it’s pretty clear that they have done no actual dedicated SEO to achieve this position, so this also bodes well for us to reel them in over time, as we dedicate our resources to doing this.

Other competitors in the top ten include sites with DAs of 22 and 20, and even include non-Australian sites, which is also a very good sign.

The only real question for us at this stage is whether or not we should go after nurses watches as well. Clearly the product is very similar, and fits very well with our upmarket branding concept, and we’re always happy for more traffic, but the competition is very different, although still shows some good weakness (one site even has a DA of 17, and another has a DA of 15). It’s a tricky one though, but it’s also a question we can revisit down the track.

In the next post, we’ll get stuck into the blow by blow of what we did from Day #1.

By |General, Start|0 Comments

5 easy ecommerce email marketing campaigns you can create right now…

Do e-commerce email campaigns scare you? They scared me for so long. You get these perfect emails from top brands you love and always feel as though you can not create anything to match, so why bother? Because they work! If you are not creating and testing you could be losing sales and customers. Customers signed up because they want to hear from you, they want the deals you offer. Make the most of this. It’s much easier to sell to a warm/hot/interested lead than chase after cold ones.

Google how to use MailChimp or your preferred email software and get testing. Here are 5 email marketing campaigns you can create for your store right now…

1. A welcome campaign

Let your customers know you appreciate them signing up, give them a deal and send them back to your store. They just took the time to give you their email so they obviously like what you have to offer. Now it’s up to you to close the sale.

2. An abandoned cart campaign

Why did that customer leave that item in their cart? Offer free shipping to get them back to your store and checking out. Offer them a better deal. Offer them longer to use the deal you did give them. Remind them of your perks, like free shipping or Afterpay.

3. A sneak peek of something “coming soon”

Get your customers excited and aware of you again. Introduce them to new collections/designs. Ask them to stay tuned. Ask them to let you know which ones they are the most excited about by replying to this email. Tell them that if they hit reply and let you know what design excites them they most, you will offer them a discount off that exact piece. This will create interaction, loyalty and social media content for you plus give you insight on what your customers really want from you.

4. A receipt email campaign

Most customers read their receipt emails and their shipping emails, use this high open rate to offer them something else. It won’t work for every niche but if you have a product that customers are likely to keep coming back to, a loyalty discount or offer here could go a really long way.

5. A promotion campaign

Shout your promotions out. Ask your customers to spread the word. Create hype. Some common promotions could be:

End of season
New product line
Special event
End of year
End of Financial Year
Your business’ birthday
A collaboration
A featured product
A featured collection

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t tested this, or don’t do it soon – you aren’t really trying.

By |General|0 Comments

You Can’t Become A Successful Entrepreneur Without Becoming An Entrepreneur

The title of this article might be a little confusing, so please allow me to explain. When people come to us asking how to create a successful ecommerce store, what they really want to know is what are the steps. For example, they want to know how to choose a niche, how to source products, how to build a website etc. When we first wrote Retail Rebellion, this is also what we focused on giving people. Give them what they want right? The problem with this is that it feeds the school/uni/career (SUC) mentality that we all tend to bring when we first start out in business.

A SUC mentality is where you are fed everything. You might think that you did the research, that you came up with the creative, that you implemented that new system at your workplace, but in reality, it was all part of a system that told you what to go and do, and you went and did it. The great challenge of entrepreneurship is when you wake up, sit down in front of a computer screen, and have no idea what you should be doing next. That is typically when somebody might give us a call and want to meet for a coffee. The problem we’ve found is that although we are often happy to do this, and you may find it helpful for whatever your next step might be, you have to understand that at some point, you won’t be able to do this anymore. The reasons might be that we are no longer about to help for personal reasons, or simply that your specific niche starts to require ideas, thoughts and actions that ours don’t. Every product niche is different, and often serves different customers, who see value in a different way, or come into contact with your business in a different way. Some niches are Instagram plays for example, while others aren’t.

A mentor or a coach can help you speed up your journey for sure, but ultimately every one who wants to be a successful entrepreneur needs to be able to sit down in front of a computer, with no external input, and come up with new ideas and new experiments for their own business. If you are unable to ever progress to this level, you will eventually fail – guaranteed. Tess and I got into the mentoring/coaching game because we wanted to be to others what we could never find for ourselves – someone who has “been there done that”. We do realise now though, that we had the bonus of having to figure everything out for ourselves, and that has given us the benefit of self-reliance.

For many people, the idea of having to solve everything by yourself without a guide might be daunting (even after ten years it still is to us), but picture the bright side. If you can cross over to being a bonafide entrepreneur, then you will become someone who can always solve problems in the marketplace without being fed by anyone else. Jobs come and jobs go, money comes and money goes, businesses come and businesses go, but the confidence and ability to solve problems and provide value to the marketplace can never be taken from you, so long as you commit to taking responsibility for your own learning, experimenting and problem solving. So instead of watching another video or reading another article on whether or not Facebook Ads will work for your niche, go and launch a few ads and start testing for yourself, or hire someone to do it for you (with a pre-determined idea of what the tests will be and what outcomes will result in a pass/fail). Either way, get experimenting and learn for yourself what works and what doesn’t. This is the ultimate financial independence.

By |General, Grow, Start, Thrive|0 Comments

Why Your Competition Can Afford Google Adwords And You Can’t

I used to try Google Adwords at least once per year to see if I could get it to work for us, but I just couldn’t get it to be cost effective. We even hired highly rated Adwords professionals to try to get it going with a decent return on investment, and even they failed to do so. The reason I kept coming back for more every year was for one reason. Our competitors’ ads never went away. Why would they keep advertising year after year if all they were doing was losing money?

In 2015 we hired yet another company to setup and test a variety of campaigns (search, display, dynamic retargeting and shopping ads), and once again, they were unable to make them profitable, despite all of the initial promises. So we canned the company, and put all of the campaigns on pause, and once again went back to working on other areas of our businesses.

In 2016 we concentrated primarily on improving our product ranges, setting up proper email campaigns (popups, abandoned cart sequences, after sales sequences) and improving on-site conversion elements (adding product videos etc.). The combined effect of which significantly improved our conversion rate and average order value. Out of curiosity, I unpaused all of our adwords campaigns, and lo and behold, the majority of them were now profitable.

Doh.

It seems so obvious in hindsight, but we never had a cost-per-click problem, we had a sales funnel problem. From that point on, we look at PPC very differently. Now we do what it takes to get our ad to a top position in adwords, and then if it’s not profitable, instead of pausing the ad, we try to figure out how to make it profitable. Think about it. If your goal is to dominate your niche, you need to figure out how to be profitable at #1 everywhere you can be. If you sell headphones for example, and you are losing money when you bid for related keywords, instead of giving up on adwords, try to figure out why you aren’t converting enough (or making enough) to make it profitable. Are your profit margins too low? Do you have an adequately converting website or email sequence? Maybe you need to increase the lifetime value of your customers through a better post purchase email sequence? Maybe you don’t have retargeting setup properly and your adwords competitors do?

So here’s your challenge. Don’t wait for adwords to be profitable – make it profitable. Because if you don’t, your competitor will.

By |General, Grow|0 Comments

Backlinking For Ecommerce Sites

By |General, Grow|0 Comments

One Comment

  1. Sam February 25, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Nathan and Tessa, I have just finished reading your book and have started the research faze of a product. The problem is I am struggling to understand how to read Long Tail Platinum, particularly the Page Rank.
    Aren’t all your competitors going to be on page rank 5 or above when you search for a keyword. How do you know where the competition rank?

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