March 22nd 2007 Posted at Stories
Comments Off on Sales – It’s actually the lifeblood of any company.
When Bill and I were first starting Brave New Worlds, I was handling sales. While I am not entirely bad at this business function, I am not the greatest. Getting a handle on sales is the lifeblood of a organization and when you are web enabling brick and morter operations (OMG that sentence is SO 1997).
This story is about how we sold 1/3 of our company for $10,000 and at the same time acquired some top notch sales talent at the same time. Bill and I had started the company and acquired our first few clients. I was mostly handling sales but I wasn’t really that great with it. (See gotta know your strengths). One of my friends from college, Mark Marriott, was a VP with Wells Fargo. His speciality was effectively internal turnarounds. He would come and turnaround a branch. He had done this for a while. This meant a couple of things. Mark had a roledex full of contacts and many of them were CFOs, or the owner of the business – people who we would have to sell ecommerce too. He had also managed larger teams than either Bill or myself.
This was mid 1997 and out business was just a few months old. But what I didn’t know was that Mark had already been thinking about electronic commerce and the Internet. He was teaching himself Perl, since that’s the language you would have done any web work in 1997. He was working on an ecommerce site called Modemstore.com in his spare time. (It’s no longer up. I should ping Mark about that). Mark figured rightly figured a store selling modems (and one of the first stores to feature high speed cable modems that you could purchase) would do well.
So I went to Mark and discussed the idea of coming on board to Brave New Worlds. But I wasn’t going to allow Mark to waltz on board and take 1/3 of the company for nothing. He HAD to bring in $10,000 in new business that month. Looking back on it that seemed a pretty largish request. Mark had to change companies and then close $10,000 in new business. We had software, we just needed a way to get it to customers.
Mark is pretty resourceful. First thing he did is pay for out of his own pocket, that we complete the work on modemstore.com. So his first sale was to himself. This was a surprise to me. Mark then got busy with the phones. In the end he closed some $9900 in new business by the close of the month (Since to be fair to Mark, he didn’t start on the first of the month). We called it close enough and the shares were re-distributed accordingly.
It does highlight somethings that a great sales person can add to a team. (Mark was much more than a great sales person of course). First when he believes in the product (like Mark did as a user of the product) they bring far more knowledge and believability to the sales cycle. Additionally Mark had taken the time to become more educated technically than a typical sales person. His strong self motivation in this area (learning Perl in his spare time) was also an indicator of what he could add. Sales is essential in any organization these days (at least organizations that sell things or services). As a complete side note, after we sold the company to VA, Mark went on to found another company, Voice Genesis which is a rather unique SMS company. This time he got funding as opposed to self funding.
Sales is the life blood of any organization and nowadays, the acquisition cost of a customer is lower than ever. This post highlights the benefits of using a blog to support your ecommerce business. Blogs are clear way to get your message out and can effectively drive customers into your store. Your product blog ideally should support and strengthen your brand and if it’s good enough, you can actually count it becoming an independent revenue stream for your business.
Blogging serves as independent voice and a way to connect with your customers and potential customers directly. John Chow seems to think that product results are deprecated in Google to drive merchants into Adsense. While that might be a bridge too far, it’s certainly the case that product search results are often deprecated in Google. A blog can rank you higher in the results and more importantly it opens up another line of communication with customers.
Opening up a blog to support your online store is a natural thing to do. So what should your blog cover and what techniques should you use to generate traffic to the storefront?
Coupons Only Available on the blog
Consumers love special deals and a special deal for your blog readers gives you a couple of things. First off it gives your readers a good reason to come to the blog. By regularly offering a coupon at the site (I would recommend weekly) you can drive readership and track your readers through coupon redemption.
Customer News and Interaction
A blog provides a personal voice to customer interactions. Far from an official sounding press release, the blog is far more personal and immediate.
A blog can provide deep links into your product catalog. I would recommend that to the extent you can use your blog to highlight product categories or products deep in the catalog. While Google has deprecated product results, you can’t get Google traffic if you aren’t indexed by Google. If you have enough deep links into your catalog, you will do well for long tail keywords. If you have a large catalog like many distributors, this is a great way to get some marginal sales.
If you have an online store, you should have a blog to help support that store and drive traffic to it. It’s a great sales aid.
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