Results for 'create online business'

How to Create a Million-Dollar Business in 5 Easy Steps

Over the weekend, Tim Ferriss posted an extremely useful article by Noah Kagan, an entrepreneur who built two…

Over the weekend, Tim Ferriss posted an extremely useful article by Noah Kagan, an entrepreneur who built two multi-million dollar online businesses before turning 28. Noah was employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, he helped create Gambit, and most recently co-founded  AppSumo. He's really smart, and the article is spreading like wildfire across the internet.


Noah's article is a step-by-step guide on how to create a million dollar online store. It's equipped with practical advice, screenshots, and a contest that's open to all Shopify Build-A-Business competitors. Read it here.

The Prize

  • $1,000 credit from AppSumo.com
  • Roundtrip flight to Austin, Texas, to have "the most delicious tacos in the world" with Noah Kagan

Here's how to win: Whoever starts a new online business and generates the most profit (not just revenue) by October 8th, 2011 will win. If you're competing in our Build-A-Business Contest, it will be your increase in profit over the next 2 weeks vs. the prior 2 weeks. If you want to share some taco's with Noah, you'll have to prove your profit or profit increase, so please read all the contest details at the bottom of Kagan's post. 

Why Your Ecommerce Store Needs a Business Plan (and How to Write One)

If your first thought when hearing the words "business plan" is "yuck", then you're not alone. For most…

feature

If your first thought when hearing the words "business plan" is "yuck", then you're not alone.

For most people, the thought of writing a business plan brings up painful memories of past homework assignments and many online store owners view them as something only "real world" businesses and Silicon Valley startups need.

And lets face it, there's all that fun marketing stuff you could be doing like taking product photos, writing blog posts and opening social media accounts.

But the truth is, the fun stuff will only be meaningful if you build your business on a strong foundation.

And that's where writing a simple business plan comes in.

Why You Need a Business Plan

Even if you don't actually need funding for your business or need to submit a business plan to anyone, there are still some compelling reasons you should consider writing one for yourself.

For example, let's say that you're just starting out. You've created an online store, you may even be making some sales. Creating a business plan at this stage could help you see the bigger picture and chart a strategic course for future growth.

Or maybe you're five years into running your business and you're starting to feel stuck and things are beginning to plateau. Creating a business plan at this stage could help you think outside of the day-to-day grind of running of your business and discover new ways to market it or new products you could be selling to boost revenue.

On the flip side, maybe your business is trending downward. Creating a business plan in this scenario could potentially help you either change the way your business works as a whole or cut your losses before you're in deeper trouble.

The point is, if you haven't written a business plan, you should take the time to do so, no matter what point in your business's lifecycle you're in.

And the best part? It's not that hard.

Let's look at how you can do it.

Components of a Good Business Plan

Remember, if you're just doing this for yourself, there's no need to go overboard and turn this into a major project that holds you back from launching and making some initial sales. Think of it as something designed to help open up some ideas for your business and shed light on some angles that maybe you haven't thought of yet.

In the future, if you actually need to submit a formal business plan to someone, you could always use this one as a starting point and spruce it up as opposed to having to start from scratch.

The key areas of a business plan include the following. Find out how defining each can help your business.

Executive Summary - While it's the last thing you will write, it's the first part of the business plan. This part summarizes the main highlights of the rest of the sections.

Company Description - This is a high level overview of your company, products or services, types of consumers, and competitive advantages. Ultimately, think of it like what you would tell someone in an elevator ride about your business if you wanted them to invest in it. Also known as an extended elevator pitch.

Market Analysis - This is your research about your industry and target market. If you haven't formally defined your target customer, this will help you do so.

Operational Plan - This covers the day to day operations of your business, from location and hours to inventory and accounting. As you go through this, you can make sure that each of the vital processes in your business are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Organization & Management - This tells people about the main players in your business - who owns it, who manages it, etc. It will help you define all parties involved with the foundation of your business so everyone has a clear understanding of where they fit and who does what.

Products & Services - This is where you describe the products and services offered by your business. You should think about them from your customer's perspective. It will help you to better sell your products and services once you've defined them using this approach.

Marketing & Sales - This is where you layout how you will reach your target market, identify prospects, and sell your products and services. While composing this section, creative marketing and sales strategies might emerge.

Financial Projections - This is where you really dig in and figure out how much your business will make over the next five years. As an established business, you will include historical data and be able to make your predictions based off of that. Coming up with these numbers could be a huge motivation boost and keep you working towards a specific goal as opposed to just seeing what happens.

Funding Request - This is the part of the plan where you define your outside funding needs and exactly how you plan on using those funds as well as pay them back. Even if you're just investing your own money into your business, this can help you really focus your spending so it is all allocated and documented properly.

As you can see, creating a business plan can be a huge eye-opener for your business, no matter what stage you're at.

Business Plan Templates & Resources

Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources on the web that you can use to make the business plan writing easier. Best of all, many of them are free. Here are just a few.

If you want more samples, you can try this (really long) Google search for industry business plan filetype:pdf -template -sample -checklist -outline -format. Just replace industry with your own to find sample PDF business plans.

Business Plan Competitions

Did you know that there are actually business plan competitions annually?

The winners of these competitions get funding for their small business. And the ones that don't still get good publicity and recognition by the organizations they submit them to.

Here are a few examples of the latest business plan competitions for 2013 to give you an idea of the kinds that are out there.

You can also search for business plan competitions on Google to find ones that are specific to your region or your industry. If you do need funding and have an awesome business plan, this could be a good way to go about getting it.

Have you created a business plan for your business? What did you learn from it?


The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans

This free, step by step guide will show you exactly how to write a business plan and set yourself up for success.

Read the Ultimate Guide to Business Plans now.

How to Get Started with Google Places for Business

Did you know that according to Google 97% of consumers search for local businesses online? And that every month…

feature

Did you know that according to Google 97% of consumers search for local businesses online?

And that every month in the U.S. 13.7 billion searches are performed in Google and of those 20% are related to location?

If you operate a brick and mortar store in addition to your online store then these numbers should demonstrate just how important local search is for your business.

Luckily Google wants to help you take advantage of this potential traffic with Google Places, their local search product for small business owners.

In this post we'll look at how to create your free Google Places listing so your business can start getting more visitors both in-store and online.

What is Google Places for Business?

Google Places for Business allows any local business to create a listing that displays store information like contact details (including a link to your website), hours, a map, photos, videos, coupons, reviews and more.

In addition, the service also takes any real-time updates about special offers you may have and displays them across the search results pages of various Google products including Google Web Search, Google Maps, Google Mobile Search, Google Earth, Google+, and Google’s voice directory search.

Your store’s listing and information is then shown in response to relevant queries, potentially reaching tens of thousands of prospective customers if optimized correctly.

And the good news is setting up your Places page is easy. 

Getting Started with Google Places for Business

The first thing to know is that Google may already have a listing for your business. The search engine gleans information from a number of different sources to construct its millions of Places pages. If not, you can create a new business listing. In either case the process is almost identical.

Step One: Login to Google Places

You can log in to Google Places using existing Google account credentials (like your Gmail or AdWords accounts) by going here. Just make sure you're using the google account that you want associated with your business.

Once you're logged in you should see a page with any businesses currently associated with your account or, if this is your first time using the service you'll be asked to lookup your business via phone number. 

Step Two: Add or Find Your Business

If you already use Google Places for another business but want to register a new one, click the “Add new business” link. This will also open the phone number lookup page. Enter your country and your business phone number, and Google will check to see if it already has information about your business.

Keep in mind that you have to enter a real, physical address in order to have a Places page. Anything less is a violation of the Google Places for Business quality guidelines.

If Google already has information about your store, you’ll be able to edit your details to make sure they are accurate.

If Google cannot find any information about your business, you’ll have the option to click “Add new listing,” and enter the basic information about your store, its location, and how to find it online.

Whether you’re updating existing Places information or entering it for the first time, you’ll also have an opportunity to categorize your business, input hours of operation, describe payment options, add photographs of your storefront, products, or employees, include video, and more.

Try and add as much detail and multimedia as possible so your listing is more engaging to visitors and provides lots of helpful information at a glance. 

Step Three: Verify Your Listing

Google Places offers three ways to verify that you are, in fact, a person authorized to update or add business information. You can receive a verification code via automated phone call, as a text (SMS) message, or in the form of a postcard sent to the business address.

Once your listing has been verified, it may still take a little while for your Google Places for Business listing to show up in search results, but you’ll nonetheless be on your way to hopefully getting your local business in front of more searchers.

How Local Search Helps Your Business

If you run a brick and mortar operation in addition to your online store, then optimizing for local search is something you need to pay attention to. 

Google Places makes this easy and your listing could become a valuable source of both online ecommerce traffic as well as foot traffic to your physical location. 

Coming up we'll look at how to optimize your Google Places listing as well as some more advanced local search strategies. Subscribe to free email updates to get notified. 

Tim Ferriss Wants to Promote Your Business

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, is giving Shopify merchants the opportunity to extend their reach to considerable measures.…

feature

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, is giving Shopify merchants the opportunity to extend their reach to considerable measures.

Do you have a business that was inspired or deeply affected by The 4-Hour Workweek, that’s generating more than $1,000 per month? If you're willing to give specific details of lessons learned, Tim wants to potentially include you in his next big publishing project. This type of opportunity will produce major PR and huge jumps in traffic and revenue. 

More About the Opportunity

If you were inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek, or were a part of Shopify's Build-A-Business Competition and mentored by Tim Ferriss, you will have the opportunity to potentially work with Tim on a new high-visibility project.

You need to have a business that is generating more than $1,000 per month, and you need to be open to give a behind-the-scenes look at your business, including information on manufacturing (if applicable), logistics, marketing, and more. Both physical and digital goods are welcome, as are services, as long as they’re low(ish)-maintenance and income-generating.

To apply, please fill out this form no later than Saturday, August 3rd, 2013, by 5pm PST.

About Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss has been an advisor to Shopify since 2009. He helped us create all of our Build-A-Business Competitions and has been a mentor to thousands of growing Shopify online stores over the years. 

He's also been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People”, Forbes Magazine’s “Names You Need to Know,” and is the 7th “most powerful” personality on Newsweek’s Digital 100 Power Index for 2012. He is an angel investor/advisor (Facebook, Shopify, Twitter, Evernote, Uber, and 20+ more) and author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, including The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been published in 35+ languages. 

 

 

You Inc. The Benefits & Costs of Incorporating Your Business

Many new online business owners aren't sure if they should incorporate, what their business structure options are, what…

feature

Many new online business owners aren't sure if they should incorporate, what their business structure options are, what incorporation might mean for the business, or even what they need to do to form a company.

This guide is a 'company formation 101' and will explain the benefits and disadvantages of incorporating, lay out the various options you have to officially form a business in the United States, and give you a few easy first steps. 

What is Business Incorporation?

Incorporation describes the process of creating a new business structure where that business becomes a recognized entity or person under the law. Once created, this new legal entity can be treated separately from its founders or shareholders, potentially reducing liability for it's shareholders and gaining other benefits that could help the business grow and thrive long term.

In the United States, corporations must pay a fee between $25 and $1,000 depending on which state, and choose an operating name. A 'corporate name' must have a legal ending, like “Inc.,” “Corp.,” or "Ltd." which stand for “incorporated,” “corporation,” and "limited" respectively. The process of registering your company as one of the business structures that we're going to outline below is different in each state.

Benefits of Incorporation

There are plenty of benefits to incorporating your business. Here are the most important you should be aware of: 

  1. Protection of personal assets
  2. Transferable ownership
  3. Pay less taxes
  4. Increased durability
  5. Separate credit rating regardless of an owners personal score
  6. Easier to create retirement plans 
Each of the 6 primary business structures come with different benefits, and we'll outline them in more detail after going over a few of the disadvantages of incorproation.

Disadvantages of Incorporation

Of course there are disadvantages of incorporation as well - especially to small business owners. Here are a few you should consider: 

  1. Tons of paperwork!
  2. You'll have to pay fees
  3. Liability protection isn't guaranteed
Now that you know the pros and cons of incorporating your business, lets go over your options.

6 Possible Business Structures

There are six primary business models or structures that a company may choose in the United States. These include a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), a partnership, a cooperative, a corporation, or an S corporation. Here's a rundown on all of your options: 

What is Sole Proprietorship?


This is by far the most common and popular form of business in the United States - mostly because it's easy to start and manage. Simply put, a sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business where there is no legal distinction between the company and the individual who owns it and runs it. This is the business model most ecommerce merchants are using.

This business type is especially good for new ecommerce companies that have a low risk of liability. The company does not need to file taxes, startup costs are very low, and the owner has complete control over the business. Get a business license your local state or county, perhaps register a name, and the business is up and running. The sole proprietorship can evolve into another business type later, but is the fastest and easiest way to start. 

Note though, that taxes do need to be filed under the individual owning the sole proprietorship. The risk here is that because there is no difference between the individual and the company, the individual is personally liable for everything the company does. Thus, the individual's personal assets are on the line. Also, once the business grows to more than one person, it can no longer be a sole proprietorship.

What is LLC? (Limited Liability Company)


A lot of people don't know what an LLC is, or how to get an LLC. Now it's important to note that LLCs can differ from one state to another, but generally speaking they are a hybrid business structure, combining the ease of a partnership with the liability protection found in corporations. Owners, frequently called members, pay taxes on the LLCs profits directly and the LLC itself does not file taxes as a separate legal entity. 

LLCs require a lot less record keeping than corporations do, provide some protection for the member’s personal property, and are burdened with fewer profit sharing requirements than corporations. Conversely, LLC members will have to file additional forms for both federal and state taxes depending on the number of members, local laws, or even the LLC’s articles of organization. Often the members of an LLC pay payroll tax too.

Depending on the state, LLCs may also have a limited lifetime. In some jurisdictions when a member leaves the LLC, that LLC is dissolved. Starting an LLC requires significantly more effort than forming a partnership and a business will probably want to employ a lawyer or at least consult a certified public accountant.

What is a Partnership?


Partnerships are single businesses that have two or more owners. Each of these owners or partners contributes to the business either with funding, property, labor, skill, or similar. 

A general partnership assumes that the business is evenly divided or that specific percentages of ownership are documented if there is a partnership agreement. A limited partnership can limit both control and liability for specified partners.

Partnerships will require registration, but are still relatively easy to set up. Partners share responsibility and profits. Each state will have slightly different requirements for forming a partnership, but in many, if not most cases, it is a matter of filling out a form and paying a small fee. 

What is a Cooperative?

It would be somewhat unusual to find an ecommerce store merchant organized as a cooperative, but it's not impossible. Cooperatives are businesses created to service and benefit the owners. Put another way, its customers are its owners. 

One possible example would be a labor union that operated an online uniform store, so that the union members could purchase work clothing at or near wholesale.

What is a Corporation?


The corporation is a legal entity separate from any “natural” person, meaning that its owners are generally free from personal liability - which can save your butt if things go awry.

Each state has particular rules for corporations, but in general you'll need to register a company to be considered a corporation. Once you're registered, corporations will need to pay local, state, and federal taxes that are filed separately from its shareholders. It will need to acquire a particular tax ID number, and abide by all applicable rules, regulations, and laws for its industry.

The primary benefit of forming a corporation is that regarding the corporation’s assets or debts, a shareholder’s personal property is protected. 

Example: If a customer sued a retail corporation, and won, the corporation could be forced to pay, but if the corporation ran out of money, the shareholders would not have to make up the difference.

Corporations are also more easily transferred compared to other business structures, may sell shares to raise capital, and may be more attractive to employees, who can be compensated — in part — with shares in the corporation.

Corporations are relatively more difficult to form and maintain than the other options. If the corporation’s records are not properly maintained, it is possible to lose the limited liability. When attorneys sue corporations and demonstrate that the corporate records were not maintained and that the corporation was not, in fact, acting like a separate legal entity, they have “pierced the corporate veil”, and the protection for personal property is lost. 

Corporations may or may not pay lower taxes than individuals. This differs state by state, so it is a good idea to compare individual tax rates, which would apply for sole proprietorships, partnerships, or LLCs, with corporate tax rates. In many cases, the corporation will pay less.

In some cases, shareholders of small companies may get taxed twice. Specifically, the corporation will pay taxes on its profits, and then the shareholders will pay taxes on their share of the profits in the form of personal income.

What is an S Corporation?

An S corporation is formed through a special U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax election and is specifically built to avoid the double tax problem mentioned above. The owners of an S Corporation still have limited liability, although not to the same extent as with a regular corporation, but pay taxes just once.

The S corporation has the same or similar record keeping and regulatory restrictions of a corporation, which can be a burden for some small retailers.

Which Business Structure is Best for me?

Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer or formula that every new business can follow when selecting a business structure. Most online retailers start as sole proprietorships or partnerships, and only go on to incorporate when the company’s potential liability makes protecting personal assets attractive or when being able to sell shares of the business would help it grow. 

Right now, over 70% of US businesses are owned by sole proprietors and operate successfully without incorporating. Knowing that, it's safe to say that most ecommerce merchants won't need to go through the hassles of incorporation. But if you're more than a couple people strong, and you're growing in size, then you should start weighing your options now - and contacting an attorney will be the safest way to decide which business structure is best for you and your company.

How do I Incorporate my Business?

Each state has a different process to get your business incorporated. Search and apply for your state license here.


If you're not in the US, we'll be publishing a similar guide for other countries in the coming weeks. Let me know in the comments if you have anything specific you want me to address.

Announcing the 4th Shopify Build A Business Competition

Today we’re excited to announce that the Shopify Build A Business competition is back. And this time it’s…

feature

Today we’re excited to announce that the Shopify Build A Business competition is back.

And this time it’s bigger and better than ever.

We’ve teamed up with The Huffington Post and some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world to help new and emerging stores grow their business.

For this year's competition, the nine stores that sell the most in their respective categories over a two-month period will each receive $50,000 in cash and a VIP trip to New York for an exclusive meeting with their competition mentor.

If you’ve ever thought about launching your big idea, there has never been a better time than right now.

Here’s How it Works

To participate in this year’s competition, all you have to do is come up with a product to sell, open a Shopify store and pick a category (which will determine your mentor).

At the end of the competition, the nine stores that sell the most over any two month period during the competition will each win a $50,000 cash prize and a VIP trip to New York to meet with their mentor.

The competition runs from October 1st, 2013 to May 31st, 2014 and any Shopify store that was opened after June 1st, 2013 may join the competition*.

The Grand Prizes

Each of the nine competition winners will receive:

  • $50,000 USD
  • A VIP trip to New York City to meet with their mentors
  • A complete Shopify POS package, with iPad, allowing you to sell to your customers in-person.

The Categories and Mentors

We are thrilled to be partnering with some of worlds smartest and most successful entrepreneurs for this years competition. These are people who’ve all built wildly successful businesses through hard work, dedication, and savvy marketing skills.

And now they’re here to help you do the same.

Grand prize winners will get an exclusive meeting with the mentor from their category. The investment, guidance and personal network that these entrepreneurs bring to the table would bring massive value to any business.

In addition to mentoring the winners in person, all entrants will also get exclusive access to mentor advice and content through the Build A Business dashboard during the competition.

Here’s who will be helping you sell this year.

Fashion & Apparel

Daymond John | @TheSharkDaymond
Daymond created the fashion brand FUBU. His marketing savvy helped the company reach over $6 billion in sales. Daymond is a regular investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, and helps guide small businesses on the road to success.


Electronics & Gadgets

Tim Ferriss | @tferriss
Tim is the author of the New York Times bestseller The 4 Hour Workweek. Aside from being an advisor to Shopify, Tim is an active angel investor, having previously invested in StumbleUpon, Facebook, Uber and Twitter.


Photography & Art

Chase Jarvis | @chasejarvis
Chase is an award winning photographer, director, and media entrepreneur. In addition to his work creating campaigns for brands including Nike, Apple, and Starbucks, Chase is widely recognized for his picture-editing app Best Camera.


Jewellery & Crafts

Tina Eisenberg | @swissmiss
Tina is a graphic designer and businesswoman whose blog “swissmiss” is visited by millions. Tina has founded numerous startups including TeuxDeux, CreatingMornings, StudioMates and Tattly.


Sports & Recreation

Mark Cuban | @mcuban
Mark is a self educated technology entrepreneur whose early success came in the late 1990’s when he sold his company Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for a reported $6 billion. Mark is the sole-owner of the NBA franchise the Dallas Mavericks.


Food & Beverage

Gary Vaynerchuk | @garyvee
Gary turned his family liquor store from a $3 million to $45 million business by being one of the first to sell alcohol online. He created and hosted Wine Library TV and the Daily Grape, drawing millions to his weekly wine review videoblog.


Health & Beauty

Selita Ebanks | @SelitaEbanks
Selita is an internationally recognized model and social marketer. She has appeared in magazines Vogue and Glamour and is best known for her work as a Victoria's Secret Angel. Selita is the founder of the charitable organization the “Women’s Coalition for Empowerment and Opportunity”.


Music

Lil' Jon | @LilJon
Lil' Jon is a rapper, producer, and DJ whose work has had a profound effect in the evolution of the hip-hop genre of music. As a producer, he has worked with artist as diverse as Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, and Usher.


Everything Else

Arianna Huffington | @ariannahuff
Arianna is the author of thirteen books and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. Since starting Huffingtonpost.com in 2005, Arianna has twice been named on the Time 100 list and most recently, Forbes’ 2013 Most Powerful Women List.

Past Winners

If you’re wondering how this competition could change your life, look no further than our past winners.


Over the past three years, our Build A Business competition has helped create over 15,000 new businesses that have sold over $60 million in products.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business, or selling something online, this is your moment.

Sign Up for the Build A Business Competition Now


*The competition is open to residents of US (select states), UK, AUS, NZ, and Canada. Although strict gaming laws prevent us from making prizes available in every country, everyone can participate in the competition and gain access to exclusive mentor advice.

For more information on this year’s Build A Business competition, view the competition sign-up page, frequently asked questions and competition rules

How Luxyhair.com Built a Seven-Figure Ecommerce Business With YouTube Marketing

When Alex Ikonn and his wife Mimi realized how hard it was to find good hair extensions, they…

feature

When Alex Ikonn and his wife Mimi realized how hard it was to find good hair extensions, they knew they had stumbled on a business opportunity. 

They took their problem and solved it by creating Luxy Hair - an extremely successful online store selling hair extensions for women.

And the coolest part? Their business is powered almost exclusively by tutorial-style YouTube videos.  

Their YouTube channel was created in 2010 and since then has amassed 1,474,246 subscribers and 173,657,125 total video views.

In other words, Luxy Hair is the perfect example of an audience enabled business that relies on a loyal community of fans instead of other channels like SEO and paid advertising. 

I caught up with Alex to find out how they took their site from idea to million dollar business. 

Describe your business and product(s) in 1-3 sentences.

Luxy Hair is a customer-centric hair extensions ecommerce retailer.

How much revenue are you currently generating per month?

I believe a more important measure for businesses is profitability and I can confidently say we are profitable in the seven-figures (annually).

How did you come up with the idea for your business/product(s)? What kind of market research did you undertake?

My wife Mimi and I were getting married and she was looking for hair extensions for the wedding. She wasn’t able to find what she was looking for and I was lucky enough to be in the room when she was talking to her sister Leyla about her predicament. At the time, I didn’t even know what hair extensions were.

And this was all of the market research we needed, as I knew if she wasn’t able to find a solution for her dilemma, we were going to try to solve it!

How did you create, manufacture or source your product? What were some key lessons you learned during this process?

I started sourcing the same night. I went on Alibaba and probably contacted every hair extension supplier that was there and just started asking questions about how to make it happen. I asked many stupid questions, however, that made me learn more about the product and how to actually make the idea a reality.

In choosing our supplier, ultimately it came down to the quality of product. From my initial list, I narrowed down to about 10 that I had pretty good communication with and then started ordering samples. The supplier with the best quality product and communication won our business. 

To our surprise, there was no minimum order with our supplier, however, we still had to place a pretty big order as the product itself is very expensive. Our initial order was $20,000.

A key lesson I’ve learned is the communication you have with your supplier is really important. As weird as it sounds, you have to feel a connection and trust your intuition. It’s fluffy but it worked for us and we still work with the same supplier.

How did you promote your business initially and where did your first sales come from? Any major media mentions or PR wins since then?

Our business was entirely grown through our YouTube channel, the YouTube community and word-of-mouth. We only recently started experimenting with paid marketing - up until then it was all organic.

And our initial biggest win was a YouTuber with about 15,000 subscribers reviewing our product. This did way more for us than any magazines mention can do as we’ve been featured and it’s nothing compared real people on YouTube.

Your YouTube channel has over 173M views. Why is video working so well for you and what advice do you have for other businesses looking to leverage it?

YouTube works well for us because of the way we approach the YouTube community. Our approach is to try our best to give people value and a personal connection when we create our videos. We honestly don’t focus on selling and instead focus on these two factors. The sales and word-of-mouth come as people can feel we genuinely want to help people. We don’t even use our product in most of our videos.

I can also tell you that YouTube is not for every business. It works so well for us as you can see how the product looks and how it can transform your hair to help you create different hairstyles and look great! It’s a visual product.



How do you handle shipping and fulfilment and organize the back-end of your business? Key lessons/tips for doing this successfully?

The most important thing I would recommend to anyone is to work with a third-party fulfillment warehouse from day one. It will save you a lot of headache. We used Shipwire when we had a crazy idea and no sales to growing to be one of their biggest customers.

The key lesson is shipping takes a lot of time and you want to use a service that will enable you to scale quickly and not interrupt your growth.

What software, tools and resources are crucial to your business?

Definitely, Shopify and Shipwire! These are my secret weapons and they integrate so seamlessly together.

The Shopify blog is my go to ecommerce learning resource. Sometimes, too much content that I can’t even absorb it all.

Sounds like a pitch for Shopify but I honestly love the service.

What were your biggest mistakes or wastes of time and money (if any)?

Our biggest mistake was not giving into crazy customers and my lesson was that it’s better to lose a little money than to be right.

For example, we’ve had instances when the customer didn’t follow a certain refund policy and still wanted a refund. Sometimes it’s better to play nice and not follow your refund policy as angry crazy customers can make you lose a lot more money. With social media at everyone’s disposal you have to be very careful.

What other key advice can you offer to entrepreneurs looking to start a successful ecommerce businesses?

Stop thinking about yourself and your success. No one cares.

Start thinking about others and how you can bring value into their lives and help them solve their problems.


Key Takeaways:

  • When looking for product ideas, examine your own everyday life and look for pain points that you can solve. Chances are, if it's a product or service that you need, others will need it as well.
  • Don't be afraid to learn from suppliers and ask lots of questions - even if you know nothing about a product or industry. 
  • When it comes to video and content marketing, focus on creating content that has independent value and lacks a direct sales pitch. This will help you build an audience, position you as an authority and ultimately sell your products in an under-the-radar way.
  • Keeping customers happy is important and sometimes making small customers service concessions can save you time and money down the road.
  • Provide as much value as possible through your content, products and services and you'll be much more likely to find success. 

Interviewing Edward: Thoughts on Small Business and Ecommerce

Hi there! This is Edward, the Developer Advocate who runs the App Store. I’m in charge of cool-hunting…

Hi there! This is Edward, the Developer Advocate who runs the App Store. I’m in charge of cool-hunting awesome tech then mashing up API’s and business plans into Shopify apps that make merchants money and add further functionality to merchants online stores.

I recently spoke at a panel on ecommerce at Ottawa’s main public library and wanted to share some notes I took while answering questions from the audience and from the kind librarians who set up the event.

(A huge thanks goes out to librarians Jill Hawken and Amy Hoffmann for putting everything together. MARC records 4 ever!)



“If I already have a website, how do I use Shopify?”

This has got to be the question I’m asked the most often.

You can keep your existing website and copy the look over to your store. Shopify was designed to have a super flexible front-end that lets you make it look like anything. This is a good option for someone like GE Healthcare, who has a ton of infrastructure sitting at http://gehealthcare.com and can’t have the shop sit there. Instead, they created a subdomain with their registrar, copied over the look, and made http://vscanultrasound.gehealthcare.com/

However, many stores opt to move their entire web presence to Shopify’s hosting – it comes with a blog (there’s a free app for importing existing Wordpress accounts), a content management system, the cart (duh), and free content distribution network support – one of the coolest features in my opinion.

What’s a content distribution network? It’s a thing that saves versions of your site's images and files on servers all around the world, close to wherever your customers are. It means that your shoppers get served *super* quickly instead of leaving your site because it took too long to load. Did I mention that these things usually costs zillions of dollars to operate and Shopify provides it for free to its customers? Seriously – you want one of these when trying to sell things online.

“What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in running an online business?”

Without a doubt, it’s marketing. What kind of product should you create? How do you price it? How do you place it in the market? How are you going to promote it?

Polar bear warnings on hotel beds 
(This is actually great promotional material for a particular kind of crazy people like myself.)

Here’s a story about promotion: Marketing is typically really expensive and a mushy thing that’s hard to measure and predict. Having a business on the internet means it’s easier to track sales conversion funnels and effectiveness of Google Adword spends, but sometimes you’ve got to go back to traditional approaches and update them for the web.

As a business, Shopify’s strategy is to increase signups and retain customers. The first really successful promotion we made to further this goal was the Build a Business Contest in 2010. We weren’t sure about how effective it was going to be, but we were sure that it was going to cost us a whole bunch ($120k in prizes alone!) to run.

To make sure it was successful we really leaned on Twitter by being super responsive to questions (Hootsuite and other similar social media management platforms really helped) and made it super interesting for potential Shopify customers.

It also happened to be the exact sort of thing media wanted to tell people about in an economic downturn where more folks are looking to start their own business and need just a tiny kick in the pants to do it.

That tiny kick in the pants happened to be delivered by none other than Tim Ferriss who wrote the book on doing just that.

This is the second year we’ve done it and we’re giving away $500k in prizes along with personal advising from Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin. To put it lightly, this promotion has been pretty successful at increasing signups and holding on to customers.

The lesson learned here is to know what your goal is and come up with a great set of tactics (like this promotion) to make that happen.
For a quick guide to marketing, definitely check out Unbounce’s Noob Guide to Online Marketing infographic. Don’t let the name get to you – it’s a really great resource for those new to the game.

“What do you love most about your job?”

The trust in execution. Shopify’s management practices are to give or build you all the resources and tools you need to do your job and then get out of your way.

That and the other folks who work here – every person at Shopify is the kind of person you would be ok with being stuck in a car/train/ferry/tundra buggy with for 3 weeks with and not be bored. This actually just happened to me as I travelled to Churchill with Willem in the Data Team.

Screen Shot 2011-10-24 at 3.37.29 PM

“What has been the biggest surprise in running your business?”

The cool stuff customers send us! We have all these eBoy posters and pillows, Tattly tattoos, The Oatmeal everythings, and all the other beautiful, random interesting things around the office our customers have sent us as thanks for having a really kickass platform. I really didn’t expect that coming in, but they’ve all been really welcome surprises.

“What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when starting up your businesses?”

Do one thing really, really well. Say no to things that are not that one thing. I’ve watched Tobi, Cody, and Daniel do that since Shopify was just a tiny little company and it’s certainly worked out.

For more advice like this, you should really crib some notes from Fab’s 21 things they’ve learned as a business; it’s a great list.

Screen Shot 2011-10-24 at 3.40.40 PM
(Spending time looking at the small stuff in front of you means you miss the real things just outside.)

“Which social media platforms do you recommend using for marketing?”

The big names are FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube/Vimeo, and LinkedIn (InShares are surprisingly huge for industry nerds).

Use a social media management tool. Even if it’s just Tweetdeck running on a monitor on the side while you do your thing, it’s a great way to get a pulse on how your customers are doing. A personalized message that looks like it was written just for one person goes a long way.

What you might not expect:

Tumblr! Check out and ask Of A Kind! Two brilliant ladies in NYC turned a fashion blog into a booming business dealing in small-run boutique items. Not only are they sharp content writers and producers, but they’re also riding the wave of Tumblr follows and reshares which happen to be right up the alley of many of their customers.

Last thing about social stuff: don’t forget about email - start collecting emails for your list as soon as possible. Launchrock, Mailchimp, etc. are easy ways to start doing this and the sooner you can tell customers about great reasons (discounts! new cool stuff!) to come back and visit your shop, the better.

“Do I have to set up as an exporting business when I am selling goods online to customers in other countries?”

Mike Freeman of both Shopify and Dempsey Press fame had to set up a wholesale account for his business but it wasn’t a lot of paperwork and mostly just required a call to the CRA to have them give him a wholesale business number.

Again, when it comes to matters like these, ask your accountant for their professional advice – it might end up saving you money and time.

“Do you recommend PayPal? If not, what system would you recommend for payment?”

PayPal is a great option for those just starting out or for businesses who don’t want to wait for the weeks it’ll take your bank to set up a merchant account for you so you can use other payment gateways like Authorized.net or Braintree.

Either way, be sure to use tools like FeeFighters.com to help you do your homework and make comparisons. Check out the Shopify FAQ for a list of the major gateways. Definitely worth spending time researching on especially if you do any amount of volume.

“I have a website design business. How do I market to customers in other countries?”

Check out Shopify Experts! It’s the new go-to place for Shopify merchants to seek professional designers, developers, and other professionals to help them build their business.

In the meantime, build out your network for work by checking out local events like Winnipeg’s Secret Handshake or Ottawa’s Blackhole Sessions – the best and easiest way to build out your contract business is usually right in town. Be sure to trawl through Meetup.com for your own city and don’t be afraid to ask around.

“What do I do when I can’t find royalty free images for my blog?”

Go somewhere awesome for your vacation and pray that the reader can’t tell you’re just posting pictures from your trip. Here’s a picture of the sun rising over the Canadian plains taken from a moving train:

Manitoban Sunrise

4 Serious Mistakes Business Owners Make With Their Credit Card Processor

When ecommerce was first introduced as a new concept there was a common belief that it was expensive…

feature
When ecommerce was first introduced as a new concept there was a common belief that it was expensive and difficult to implement.  In truth, when ecommerce first came into existence it was often expensive and complicated to setup.  This was true from both the Visa / MasterCard card acceptance perspective, and also from the technology / shopping cart perspective.

If we fast forward to today ecommerce is common place.  Technologies like Shopify exist to make ecommerce affordable and accessible to even the smallest of new and startup businesses.  Similarly, most banks and credit card processors no longer see ecommerce as high risk.  It is much easier to get a merchant account for credit card acceptance today than it was at the advent of ecommerce. 

Unfortunately, (and perhaps as a side effect of making ecommerce so accessible) some business owners tend to enter into a merchant processing agreement without understanding what they are getting into.  This is a significant mistake.  A business owner must research and do proper due diligence before selecting their processor. 

Your credit card processor will provide you with a merchant account.  This merchant account will be used to capture funds collected from credit card sales.  You will pay fees to your credit card processor for this service, and you need to make sure you will get what you expected.  This article will help you to avoid some of the most common and damaging mistakes that business owners make when choosing their credit card processor.

Before You Read Further

In this article I will shed light upon some of the deceptive practices employed by a small number of processors in the payments business.

I want to strongly point out that this is in no way reflective of the industry as a whole.  There are a great number of honest and hard working professionals in the merchant services industry.  Most established processors have achieved their success by being able to go the extra mile and support their clients.  In short, there are many good options to choose from.

The purpose of this article is to arm you with knowledge so you can proceed with confidence when choosing your processor.  In fact, much of what is discussed is as much common sense as it is inside information.  Regardless, it’s advice that every business owner should keep in mind.

On that note I will ask the single most important question…

Did You Actually Read the T&C of the Merchant Agreement?

While researching to find your credit card processor you will speak to many different sales people and receive numerous quotes.  However, you can’t simply make your decision and start processing immediately.  In order to get a merchant account you must apply and be approved to use the service. 

Part of the application paperwork will include the terms and conditions of the merchant agreement.  The T&C will govern the usage of the service and the relationship between your business and the processor.  It is a very important document. 

It should be obvious that you should read the T&C of the merchant agreement before signing the contract and submitting your application.  Why would anyone sign a contract without reading it?  The reason is actually quite simple, and anyone who has seen a merchant agreement will know the answer:  they are long legal documents filled with complicated legalese and confusing language. 

Upon glancing at the paperwork, many people don’t bother reading.  We’ve all been on websites or installed software that included long terms of usage that must be agreed to before proceeding.  Few people (if any) actually read these documents.  Your merchant account agreement should not fall under this category.  It will have a major impact on your business and requires proper attention.  Despite the fact that it may not be a thrilling read, as a business owner you must take the time to at the very least do a solid skim through the contract.  The purpose of this is not to examine the language or try to review it like a lawyer would.  What you are looking for is red flags.  If anything comes up that causes questions or concerns you must raise them with your potential processor before proceeding.  If you don’t do this you could be setting yourself up for frustration down the road. 

The most common cause of that frustration has to do with fluctuating pricing that some processors do not properly explain during the sales process…

Watch Out For Interchange Downgrades and Rate Fluctuations (AKA Hidden Fees)

Most merchants are understandably very concerned when it comes to establishing pricing for their payment processing.  Cost is always one of the main decision making factors when it comes to choosing a processor. 

The single most common frustration that merchants experience after signing the merchant agreement is that they do not end up receiving the pricing that they were promised by the sales person.  This happens for two reasons:

  1. The merchant does not have an adequate understanding of merchant industry pricing.
  2. More importantly, the sales person may have been deceptive.  The business owner accepted a verbal or email based quotation but did not read the contract to make sure they would receive what was promised.

The merchant industry is rife with confusing terms.  In fact, merchant industry pricing is a topic worthy of an entire article on it’s own but here we will discuss it only enough to understand the basics of the issue.  The most important thing to understand is that the rate that you pay fluctuates depending on the type of card used.  This is because the “interchange” cost (the cost from Visa or MasterCard) varies depending on the type of card used.  Cards that carry a benefit to the cardholder (like an airmiles card) and corporate cards are slightly more expensive to process.  Some processors may offer flat pricing where the type of card does not influence the rate being charged, but in 2011 this is very uncommon.  Fluctuating pricing is far more common because Visa and MasterCard have built interchange to vary depending on the type of card used.

With the understanding that the cost to the processor fluctuates depending on the card type, we can now understand why the cost to the merchant often fluctuates.  Armed with this knowledge we can now discuss the worst pricing trick in the industry.  The worst trick occurs when a sales person quotes an extremely low rate (often below interchange cost to the processor), but does not explain to the merchant that the pricing can fluctuate. 

I will give an example.  A shady salesperson quotes a discount rate of 1.49% (which for the record is far below cost on an ecommerce transaction).  However, they don’t point out that this rate is only applied to swiped credit card transactions.  How often do you swipe a credit card in an ecommerce transaction?  Never.  You will never pay the quoted rate. 

How can you avoid this problem?  With a bit of common sense and a basic understanding of the interchange table.  This is a classic case where if you receive a pricing quote that sounds too good to be true then follow your common sense.  (Consider it a huge warning bell if the rate sounds low and the sales person hasn’t at all discussed premium, corporate and foreign issued cards) 

It is worth noting that when the interchange rate fluctuates the processor should pass that cost increase onto the merchant.  Visa and MasterCard have modeled the pricing this way, and there is nothing wrong it – so long as it’s always clearly explained by the salesperson.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

We now understand how misleading pricing tactics can be employed, but not the extent of the damage that it can cause.  The damage happens when a processor adds an unexpected surcharge on top of the cost increase from Visa or MasterCard when a premium or corporate card is used.  (When this is done it is most often referred to as a “non-qualified” transaction).  If a Visa infinite card is used the cost to the processor increases by 0.2% in Canada.  However, what if the processor added an additional surcharge of 1% whenever a Visa infinite card is used?  For the sake of mentioning it, there is nothing wrong with a processor adding a surcharge for different card types.  The processor has to generate some income for the service they are providing.  The practice of surcharging for premium cards is fine - so long as it was explained to the merchant upfront.  Unfortunately, some of the less scrupulous processors don’t do this, and this is why many business owners end up with pricing that is far higher than they had expected.

We can now create a simple example.  A merchant receives a quote a rate of 1.5%.  (Side note – this is a typical “too good to be true” rate, and is well below interchange cost for ecommerce transactions).  The processor has a 2% surcharge buried in the pricing table of the merchant agreement to be applied whenever premium cards are used.  Merchant processes a premium card and their 1.5% turns into 3.5% (or more). 

If the merchant had taken the time to read through the agreement and had carefully examined the pricing table they would have seen some language related to downgrades and premium cards.  They would have known to ask the sales person about it and could have avoided the problem. 

As far as recommended best practices go, if discussing pricing and the sales person hasn’t mentioned premium cards or interchange it is a major warning sign.  However, even if you ask about rates for different card types it isn’t good enough.  This is because there two types of processors in the industry.  Some processors operate a consultancy model with highly trained staff.  These staff work on a managed account basis with a smaller number of merchants managed per consultant.  This processor will (generally speaking) always be able to properly explain a quote that they are providing.

The other model is for a processor to run a volume driven business that utilizes call center staff to cold call thousands of businesses in an attempt to generate leads and interest.  Call center staff work from a script and cannot deviate far from it.  They are instructed with a clear goal of getting a merchant to submit an application.  These staff are poorly trained and most often don’t even understand what interchange is.  This type of sales person is not capable of properly educating the business owner on the pricing (even if asked about it) and is why you should always get to the bottom line by reading the merchant agreement.  As a side note, processors that operate a call center model are always easy to spot by Googling for complaints. 

If you want to put it to the test, your salesperson should be knowledgeable and transparent with all of the details of the quotation.  They should be able to tell you how much margin is built into your processing rate.  They should understand interchange.  If you understand interchange better than the person trying to sell the account to you it should be a major warning sign!

Read the agreement and focus on clauses that deal with rates, assessments and downgrades from the card associations (Visa and MasterCard).  Look for anything that might be a surcharge and make sure you understand the pricing before you sign the contract. 

Be Aware of the Contact Term and Early Cancellation Penalties

Many business owners don’t seem to realize that the processing agreement forms a contract between a merchant and their processor.  This contract has a duration called the contract term.  Every major processor in Canada and the US has a contract term.  (Paypal is the exception because they don’t actually supply a merchant account, but instead aggregate transactions through their own merchant account.)

There are many reasons why a contract must exist between the processor and the merchant.  Without going beyond the intended scope of this article, one of those reasons is cost. 

Opening a merchant account for a business involves a significant amount of work and expense to the processor.  To oversimplify a somewhat complex process, the processor must complete a KYC check (know your customer) and other due diligence to make certain that the business does not have a history of fraud and will operate a stable and honest business.  This involves costs at several points throughout the process including credit reporting, technology costs, and fees owed to the card associations and upstream providers involved in the transaction flow.  The end result is there is significant cost and effort to the processor, but with today’s competitive environment many processors will operate at a loss when boarding the merchant even if a nominal setup fee is being charged.  The merchant will have to stick around and process for a while before the processor generate positive revenue from the account.  This is one of the reasons why merchant agreements have a set contract term.  The term with almost every major processor in Canada is almost always the same: 3 years.  In the USA it’s often 3 years or 5 years.  In Europe it seems to commonly be set to 1 year.

With the understanding that every processing agreement has a contract term, there is almost always an early cancellation penalty.  Most processors have an early cancellation fee based upon the monthly fee.  For example, if you are on a standard 3 year (36 month) contract and cancel after the first year it means you have 24 months remaining on your agreement.  If your monthly fee was $50 you would multiply the monthly fee by the number of unfulfilled months remaining on the contract term.  ($50 x 24 months) = $1,200.  Keep in mind that this is just an example.

The early cancellation fee should be of particular importance to a startup business.  Despite a business owners best efforts and intentions, not every startup business becomes a runaway success.  In some cases a business owner may have to shutter the doors if the business isn’t working out.  There are few times when a person is as financially vulnerable as when an entrepreneur must shutter a business.  That is why cancellation fees should be addressed before entering the agreement.  Some processors are very good at working with startups and can be flexible with merchants who are in this situation.  If operating a startup and considering a particular processor, you should ask them about the cancellation penalty.  A good processor will understand your concerns and work with you to address them.  Different processors will provide different remedies to this situation.  It’s about finding the most workable solution to the problem.  If you operate a startup and this problem isn’t adequately addressed move on to the next processor who will better understand and listen to your concerns.

Are You Making Volume Commitments?

Some processing agreements have volume commitments that a merchant must satisfy.  In other words, a merchant must process X amount of dollars per month.  If the merchant doesn’t satisfy this volume commitment then the discount rate can be increased or other financial penalties can be applied.  This practice is almost non-existent in Canada and Europe.  It’s far more prevalent with US based credit card processors.  A clause like this is unfair for most small and mid-sized businesses, and is absolutely outrageous for a startup.  Be aware and make sure that there are no volume commitments in your processing agreement. 

As a side note to the volume commitments discussion, in some cases it is a fair fee.  For example, an established business that processes 10 million dollars in sales per month would be able to negotiate a very low rate.  The processor may roll out the red carpet and give them a fantastic deal.  But if the merchant doesn’t end up driving that high transaction volume the processor could end up taking a loss (or at least make no revenue) in which case there was no sense in boarding the account.  Again, this is something that doesn’t apply to small and mid-sized businesses.  The reason I’m mentioning it is because many of the “pricing tricks” that exist in the industry originated for very meaningful reasons.  It’s when and how a rule is applied that matters.  What you don’t want to happen is to find yourself in a situation where you signed into a merchant agreement with some type of clause that you weren’t aware of that will have an adverse impact on your business. 

Also note that the volume commitments discussed in this section are not to be confused with a monthly minimum fee, which is a standard fee to help a processor cover costs on dormant or inactive accounts.  A monthly minimum is standard and fair, so long as it’s reasonable and clearly disclosed.

Use the Competition to your Advantage

If you are shopping to negotiate an account and have an offer that sounds too good to be true you may be able to discuss what is being offered with your second-in-line choice provider.  It has often been the case that clients have come to me with quotes that were below interchange.  They had thought that it appeared to be too good to be true, and in some cases it was.  With expertise in the industry it’s far easier to spot shady pricing techniques than it is for someone without an understanding of interchange.  I have to be careful of my advice in this regard because some processors consider their application documents sensitive and you don’t want to be sharing them with other folks.  However, nothing would stop you from discussing a rate you may have been quoted verbally.  Try to leverage the expertise around you to get to the bottom line and walk away with the best arrangement and value possible.

Conclusion

This article is by no means meant to paint any particular processor in a negative light.  As I’ve mentioned above, most processors are hard working and honest.  The good guys by far and away outnumber the bad guys.  So do not be scared or intimidated when choosing your processor. 

Remember that your credit card processor will make a little bit of money every time you process a sale.  They should want you to succeed and do everything possible to support you.  Good processors do this very well.   If you follow the advice in the article it will help you to setup your account with a good and honest processor.  Watch out for the major red flags. 

If you have questions or concerns about anything related to your agreement you must discuss them.  The merchant payment business is a business in which where there are no silly questions.  Every time you raise a concern you should receive a direct and knowledgeable response.  Above all, trust your internal radar.  If you have an offer, and warning bells are going off in your mind then trust your intuition and move on until you find the solution that is right for you. 

If you are educated and informed, if you read your agreement, and if you discuss the issues herein with your chosen provider you will end up with a stable solution that can help you to build your business online for years to come. 



This article was written by David Goodale  who is the CEO at MerchantAccounts.ca. David has over 10 years of industry expertise in the international and multi-currency ecommerce payments sector.

Merchant Accounts.ca is a leader in credit card payment processing and specializes in multi-currency transaction processing and is able to help businesses implement credit card processing solutions that can transact in many different currencies such as CAD, USD, GBP, EUR, AUD and JPY.  With a client focused business model, every merchant works one on one with the same account manager for the lifetime of their account.  This managed consultancy model makes implementing ecommerce transaction processing easier to achieve for small online businesses that are new to ecommerce.  More information can be found on the Merchant Accounts.ca website.  

Facebook Pages for Business: A Guide for Newbies

If you're an ecommerce store owner and haven't heard of Facebook Pages for business, you're seriously missing out! Facebook is…

If you're an ecommerce store owner and haven't heard of Facebook Pages for business, you're seriously missing out! Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world and can be a powerful marketing tool for your online store.

The Facebook you use to chat with friends and post pictures from the bar last night is completely different than Facebook for business. The "business" offering is called Facebook Pages, and allows you to interact with your fans, get to know potential customers, and build a community. This is a beginners guide to help Facebook newbies (not to confused with "noobs") get their online store set up with a Facebook page.

Sign Up

Creating a Facebook page for your online store is easy. Step one is pretty obvious... go to www.facebook.com

Once you're at the main screen you'll be asked to either log in or sign up. Be wary of the difference between a personal page and a business page. The business page sign up is located at the bottom of the screen. Now, simply select the appropriate starting point, fill in the information boxes, and get started on your new online store page.


Choose a Category

You'll be presented with a page where you need to classify your business. The screen looks like this: 


Most online store owners should choose Brand or Product. I know it may be tempting to choose "local business or place" or even "company," but don't do it unless you have a brick and mortar shop. Brand or Product has the most functionality and will provide you with the most flexibility. Trust me. After that you'll be presented with a large dropdown menu with a whole bunch of categories. Again, you'll have to choose one... find what's most appropriate, type what you want to name your page, and agree to the terms. Now click "Get Started." 

Already have a Facebook account? At this point you can simply link your personal account to your new online store's page. If you're not on Facebook yet, you'll have to create a personal account as well. Don't worry, it'll prompt you... just follow the steps. 

Setting Up Your Page

Add awesome content. You'll want to immediately upload a display picture (your company logo), add a description, and maybe even some pictures. Spend some time playing around with the interface, and make note of everything you can do. It's easy to get overwhelmed... don't stress, it's okay to take it slow. Build a basic profile and add content gradually. 

Maintaining Your Page


If you're looking for a little inspiration, feel free to take a look at the Shopify Facebook Page

1. Posting 
Posting on your Facebook page is the primary way to communicate with your fans and customers. Whether its sharing new products, giving cool industry info, showing pictures, or even linking to interesting sites... it's all good. The post you write is displayed on your page wall and can be read by all who visit. As well, people can comment on your post and even give a “thumbs up” of approval, or as they say a "Facebook Like." They may also post on your wall themselves with comments and questions, looking to hear back from you. Always keep in mind: Give people a reason to check your page often! You want rich content, you want to interact with people, and you want to drive word of mouth advertising. 

2. Sharing
Now lets say one of your customers writes a really complimentary comment on your wall. Maybe something like: "Hey Shopify, you have the best ecommerce software in the world!" Great comment right? Well, now you can "share" the comment so its one of the first things people see on your page. 

3. Newsfeed
Your newsfeed will be the lifeline of your page. All recent and past activity will be monitored and displayed to you. These newsfeed updates will also be seen by your fans and their friends, giving your store some extra attention. 

What's Next?

Don't expect to be a Facebook pro right out of the gates. Here are some general best practices include:

  • Post updates consistently about whats going on with your store, any new deals, or information. Try to keep your fans and customers updated as much as possible.
  • Answer questions posted on your wall.
  • Acknowledge compliments and comments with a “thumbs up!” or comment of your own. Visitors will see your activity and the compliments you thumbed up, bringing positive attention to your online store.
  • Experiment! Play with other features as you go along. There's tons of tools at your disposal but not all are needed to get started, gradually familiarize yourself with them.
  • Focus on your News Feed, not your Wall. While you may stare at your wall all day, only about 10% of your followers will actually visit your Wall in a given week. Most of your fans will see your content in their News Feed, so focus on how each post looks in the feed.
  • Sometimes when people post to your Wall, it will get pushed to the "Hidden" section. Keep an eye out and move content over to your wall as appropriate. You can also move unwanted posts from your Wall to the "Hidden" section where you can still respond, but it won't appear for all to see.

Finally

The most important thing on Facebook is engagement. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine how prominent your posts will be in fans feeds. The more people are interacting with your content (shares, likes and comments) the more valuable Facebook thinks your content is. The "talking about this" number in your left sidebar will tell you how well you're doing, this metric is far more important than how many people have liked you.

Use these easy starter tips to get the ball rolling. It won't be long until you start planning events, posting questions, advertising, promoting, and generating large amounts of traffic to your online store using Facebook. 

Is your store on Facebook? We'd love it if you shared your learnings with us in the comments section.

Start your free 14 day trial!Create your store now

Create an online store in minutesTry Shopify Free