What is a Website For?

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It may seem like a ridiculous question, to ask what a website is for. Websites can serve many different purposes – from attracting readers to news articles, to selling products, to fundraising, and more.

But if I were to ask you, “what is your company’s website for”, could you answer? How much hedging would you have to do?

The problem with websites is that they often serve many masters. Marketing wants to streamline and optimize for sales. Creative wants control over the look and feel. Compliance teams want to fill it with legal disclaimers. And the CEO wants his face on the homepage.

What is your website for? The question should have an easy answer. But depending on who I ask, I might get a different answer.

If you are in marketing, you might give me a different answer than your customer service team, or your IT team. And that’s the problem.

To maximize the performance of any website, you need to know what you are maximizing for. Is it sales? Revenue? Donations? Visits? Page depth? Clicks? Calls?

When I ask, what is your website for, the answer should roll off the tongue. It should be quick and easy.

“Our website is for people to purchase books online.”

Okay, great. Now I know what we are solving for. And now I can suggest changes and run tests aimed at selling more books. Because I know that at the end of the day, success is measured by book sales.

It is sound advice for any company to agree first on what your website is for, then work to try to improve performance. Because if you are trying to improve performance before you all agree on what the goal is, you will end up in a lot of uncomfortable conversations.

How to Start a Profitable Business on Amazon – Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Mark Armstrong. Mark started off as a business consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Eventually, his heart went towards e-commerce and all the awesome things that are happening in that niche. He has a plan on creating his own website but for now, he is focused on reaching out to people with a similar mindset and getting his name out there.

The reason why FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) is such a revolutionary program is due to the fact that it made online trade (and trade in general) simpler than it ever was before. In fact, this feature is on a rapid rise in popularity and this year alone there are 1,029,528 new sellers on the platform. In the past, there was a belief that the use of a third-party marketplace is a stepping stone or a temporary move but this is no longer the case. Amazon went above and beyond to allow its users to customize and improve their presence in order to persuade them to see this marketplace as a permanent solution. Nonetheless, getting there is much easier if you have a solid start. Here are some tips that could point you in the right direction.

1. Finding the right product

As soon as you pick the niche (which is somewhat subjective), you’ll be faced with the most important task of them all – picking the right product. Here, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some factors that could make your life a lot easier. For instance, an item that’s light in weight is easier to transport, whereas an average product sale price that’s between $10 and $50 tends to be the most profitable.

Also, when inspecting other products, you need to check the number of monthly searches of their top 3 keywords. Ideally, you would see over 100,000 searches per month. One last piece of advice that a lot of people tend to forget about is the question of whether it’s a seasonal product or something that generates revenue all year round. Remember, there’s no right or wrong here but the degree to which these fit your plans may vary.

One of the things that you won’t hear that often is the fact that China is probably the fastest-growing market on Amazon. In fact, its share is about 25 percent of the Amazon marketplace and there’s a growing number of sellers from this region (especially in Hong Kong). Therefore, finding an item that sells well in China might give you a boost.

2. A frugal start

The main reason why FBA is such a popular feature is due to the fact that it allows you to launch with as little as $2,000. This means that you can enter the business world without selling assets or getting in debt. In fact, you can use this program in order to amass an initial capital, regardless if you aim to make your own e-store later on or remain on Amazon for good. Still, just because your break-even point is close, this doesn’t mean that you can afford to underestimate or ignore it. Therefore, you should make all the necessary steps to cut your operational costs even further.

The first idea you need to consider is the notion of drop shipping, which allows you to trade in items without having to purchase them first or keep them in storage. Of course, this minimizes your profit per unit but it also insulates you from the risk of overinvesting in a product that people aren’t interested in. It also allows you to keep your logistics much simpler, due to the fact that you don’t actually have to handle the issue of storage yourself. One more thing you can do to minimize the cost is to find a local manufacturer and supplier. Here, the term local refers to the proximity to your customer, especially if you’re trading in a foreign market.

3. A good return policy

Perhaps the most important reason why you need your own e-store, other than avoiding the fee, is the fact that there are so many fake items on platforms like Amazon. This somewhat ruins the reputation of the platform and causes a general audience to be less trustworthy towards those using this business model. Needless to say, the only way to avoid this is with the help of a good return policy. Nowadays, this process can be automated and facilitated with the use of an Amazon refund tool.

What you need to consider is the fact that by offering a refund for your products you A) demonstrate that you are confident in their quality and B) have respect for your customers. This way, you’re also demonstrating that you’re more interested in maintaining a good relationship with your customers than making a one-time sale. Also, a person returning the product is usually not satisfied with it and offering them a full refund might, potentially, prevent them from leaving a negative review. In this way, a good return policy also becomes a method of damage control.

4. Work on your brand

In theory, all you have to do in order to start selling on Amazon is make a registered account, however, in order to maximize your profit, you need to do substantially more. First of all, you should host a website, potentially even a blog. Nonetheless, like Amazon, there are just platforms for the promotion of your business. What you also need are brand markings like a logo, a slogan, and a company name. You need to understand that buyers tend to judge products by the title of a listing. In order to maximize your appeal, you need to include a brand name, the name of the product and list a couple of features to the title.

5. The importance of images

The downside of selling items on Amazon (and of e-commerce, in general), lies in the fact that your audience can’t personally examine the product like they would if they were to visit a brick and mortar retail place. The closest you can get to make up for this is to take quality photographs, use adequate photography methods and upload them to the product page. The method is particularly important and it depends on the type of the product. For instance, a ghost mannequin is ideal for selling clothing items, while it’s an unavailable option for other product types.

Conclusion

In the end, you need to understand that the choice of staying on Amazon or switching to a platform of your own depends only on your preference and long-term plans. As for the profit and chances of advancement, there’s really no limitation. You see, over 70 percent of all U.S. consumers have a tendency of buying from Amazon and there are those who managed to profit from this idea. In fact, the simplicity of this process is something that could potentially allow a one-person startup to earn several thousand dollars per hour. Nevertheless, it will take quite a bit of time and effort until you reach this stage.

Does Everyone on Your Team Know the Goals?

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Transparency in business leadership is critical. When leaders are transparent, they build trust and credibility. Their teams generally have a more favorable view of them, as well as the company as a whole.

Transparency encourages open communication, problem solving, and respect. These are the foundations of a strong company culture.

What Happens When We Fail to Be Transparent

Still, many companies and managers struggle with transparency. They will point out the potential pitfalls with too much transparency.

What happens when you have to make difficult or unpopular decisions? What happens when ethical or regulatory questions arise? What happens when confidential insider information gets leaked to the press or to our competitors?

While it is true that some secrecy is required at the highest levels of an organization, the more transparent we can be, the better. And that’s not just a matter of culture. It’s a matter of performance.

Study after study has shown that healthier company cultures lead to stronger company performance. And when management is open and honest with their employees, they give them the tools to succeed.

Share the Goals

In most companies, you get a kind of goal pyramid. There are overall goals at the very top – revenue growth, profitability, etc. – that are driven in turn by shorter-term goals that vary from department to department. Marketing goals, sales goals, financial goals, hiring goals, product goals, and more. They all build on each other and successfully hitting all the individual goals should lead to the company hitting those top level goals we started with.

You count on your team to help meet the goals of your department. But do you share with them what those goals are? And if you do, do you also share with them the larger goals for the company?

In the spirit of transparency, we should all strive to share all the goals the company is aiming for. Our teams deserve to know how the work that is expected of them is going to help the company achieve its goals.

This kind of openness encourages feedback, incentivizes performance, and adds meaning to each and every role throughout the organization. When your team members all know the goals, they can do their part to help reach them. Otherwise they are just checking boxes as part of some vague mission that does not involve them.

Conclusion

Be open and honest with your team and you will drive better performance.

Encourage Your Team to Be More Productive

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It’s not always possible to spend more money. And it’s not always possible to hire more people. But your boss, and your company, still expect sales to grow – month after month and year after year.

How is it possible?

As a leader, you have to do more with less. You have to become more efficient. And you have to coach your team to do the same.

Here is a blueprint that you can use to encourage your team to be more productive this year:

  1. Prioritize

  2. Cut

  3. Automate

  4. Outsource

  5. Test

  6. Start

Prioritize

What do you do that adds value to the business? Where is the cross-over between your personal strength’s and the team’s goals? Everyone should focus their energies on those tasks that add the most value, knowing there is not enough time in the day to do everything. Approach each and every day with one goal: make an impact.

Cut

The flip side of focusing only on those items that add value is the need to cut out tasks that don’t add value. These are the kind of box ticking items that fill your day but don’t move the needle.

Can they be automated? Delegated? What would happen if this simply was not done anymore?

It’s also possible to cut time spent on other things that don’t add value. Reduce meetings from an hour to thirty minutes. Turn off notifications. Only check your email at certain times of day.

Automate

Technology has advanced to the point where if you have regular, process-oriented tasks that don’t vary much from day to day, there is a high likelihood that task can be automated. Automating tasks frees you up to focus on more important projects.

Weigh the amount of time it takes to automate something against the amount of hours you spend on it over the course of a month or year. Chances are, it would be beneficial to automate.

Outsource

Most people are not paid to do busy work. Lower level tasks that can’t be automated yet are candidates for delegation. These may be delegated to other departments within your organization, more junior members of your team, interns, or outsourced completely.

Paying an hourly fee for someone else to do lower-level tasks also frees up your time to focus on more important items.

Test

Teams spend far too long analyzing and forecasting before making a decision. That time is better spent preparing and executing. To move more efficiently, we must be willing to test new things. Try them out, measure the results, and decide what to do next.

Don’t waste time debating potential outcomes when it is just as easy to try something out and see what happens. And be willing to fail. Don’t over-invest in things that don’t work.

Start

Do whatever it takes to get started. The biggest productivity killer of them all is delay. We delay for all kinds of reasons.

Block out time on your calendar for intensive projects that require your attention. Tackle the most difficult tasks first thing in the morning so you don’t push them to the bottom of your to-do list. Say no to meeting requests if you don’t have the time. Seek out help immediately if you are not sure how to proceed.

How the Product Manager Can Drive Growth

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In most successful businesses you will find the same dilemma. It occurs at a specific time in the company’s lifecycle. The story usually goes something like this:

A successful product hits the market. People love it. Initial growth attracts new investment. A brand develops on the back of the popularity of the initial product. And to improve the long term prospects of the company and capitalize on the existing customer base, the decision is made to invest in a new product or product line. The product development team does the research, commits the time, and creates something the entire company is excited about.

The new product launches, and…nothing happens. Sales are sluggish. This leads to some in-fighting and finger-pointing. Is it the fault of the product developers for creating a bad product? Is it the fault of the salespeople for their lack of enthusiasm? Is it the fault of the existing product line for hogging all the resources?

The Role of Product Managers

This is why we have product managers. Because it is inherently difficult to launch new products. And this is even more true when companies already have successful products in the marketplace.

It runs counter to what might seem like an obvious advantage. People will say that it’s easier to launch a new product within an existing brand because the brand already has credibility.

The problem is, a brand can fall victim to its own success. What worked with the first product might not work with the new. The same marketing strategy, pricing strategy, sales strategy – it might not work this time around. But companies, like people, can be set in their ways.

And so a product manager is needed to introduce a product to the company as much as they are introducing it to the marketplace.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Product managers are like individual entrepreneurs running their own small business within a larger organization. They are responsible for the success of their product.

A good product manager develops the necessary relationships in every department in order to see that his or her product is successful. They work with the marketing team to make sure that the right customers are being served the right messaging. They work with the technology team to perfect the website and conversion processes. They work with the sales team to ensure they have the right resources and the right script.

It is natural for a company to favor those products that have historically been most successful. But that tendency limits the potential for growth by putting more faith in the past than in the future.

Product managers fight for resources and ensure that new launches get their due.

Using Product Managers for Growth

One affective strategy for growth is to assign product managers to set success metrics for their products and empower them to meet those goals. Incentivize them based on their product or product line, and organize all the departments within the company to support their efforts.

In this way, your company becomes the umbrella under which all of these smaller companies can grow and thrive.

Teams and individuals will still pick favorites, because it is in our nature to do so. But the more you can align departments in support of each and every product manager, the more you can keep that bias from acting as an obstacle to growth.