Online businesses have completely disrupted the way people make passive income over the last two decades, becoming a realistic means of commerce and revenue today.
Don’t worry this isn’t a new years post about how the best investment in 2021 is in yourself. Although there may be some truth to that common answer I want to take a more objective view about where is the best place to deploy capital in 2021 for your business.
- Is it in the stock market… ARK ETFs are booming, TSLA, new SPACs?
- Is it in cryptocurrency?
- Is it in precious metals?
- What about wine, art and trading cards?
All of the above at/near all time highs in terms of their price.
What I would argue is the best place to look is in an asset class that has…
- Increased in quality in 2020
- Reduced in cost in 2020
- Is Low risk & has High probability of a return
My argument for the best investment in 2021 is people… 2021 the best investment opportunity is building your team.
Currently, we have 30 team members on the payroll and many more working as freelancers with plans for growth in 2021.
Why do I argue that the best investment opportunity is human capital?
Lets look in more detail at the dimensions that would make it a good investment… quality, cost and risk/reward.
Increased in Quality in 2020
With the increase in the unemployment rate and significant movement of employees between sectors we have seen an improvement in the quality of available applicants to job postings.
Compared to other possible investments I can think of few where their quality increased by the amount the available labor pool did. If the quality of the available candidates is correlated to the unemployment rate (obviously a massive simplification) then the quality of the available labour is up 75% compared to this time 1 year ago.
Reduced in Cost in 2020
As the unemployment rate went up AND people started looking at alternative lifestyle choices…. Working 70+ hour weeks in the city not seeing their family started to not make as much sense.
People are re-evaluating their decision between money and lifestyle… if you can meet that need with a fliexible employment offer that values them then total compensation does not need to directly compete with their previous roles.
The labour statistics also point to falling wages…
“In some countries where they are available, labour statistics point to falling wages. In Australia, nominal average wages of workers aged 50 to 59 years old declined by 3.2% between the week ending March 14, 2020 and the week ending June 13, 2020.”Source
Low Risk and has a High Probability of a Return
This one becomes a little more debatable/unique to everyones situation…if you pay wages and nothing productive gets built then its a complete loss.
Everyone needs to make this decision on their own and it is outside the scope of this short article.
My greatest investments have clearly been getting the right managers on the team.
However, getting this wrong also leads to some serious pain that isn’t just financial.
Summary and My Take Away:
As a result of this thought process we are ramping up hiring for a few roles (writers, editors and a business manager). These new team members will be tackling a couple new projects and putting some additional horsepower behind some projects that have gained great traction in Q4.
Where do you go to look for new SAAS ideas where there is clearly a need that is not being served well?
Tonight I was working on a complex automation solution to make the entire content marketing machine run much more smoothly with a single input for a couple of projects.
While digging in and then in some discussions I started to see some consistent new opportunities connecting tools in more native ways then using automation tools like Zapier, Automote.io.
My intent of sharing this is to scratch my bright shiny object syndrome but I won’t be executing on this exact idea. Feel free to run with it 🙂
10 years ago a post about companies being born out of each Craigslist category went viral.
So what is the modern SAAS version of Craiglist…
Popular Automation Tool API Connectors…
What I mean is that where automation tools have been used heavily it shows there is a need not being easily solved with a native solution to the tools being connected.
Popular Automation Tools:
By looking at the most popular use cases for these automation tools it reveals problems people have and are willing to pay to solve.
Let’s do an example…
1. Go to a Popular Automation Tool
2. Select a Popular and Paid App
I would think focusing on paid business app’s would be best since if the tool being used to solve a problem it means it is generating value.
For this example, I will select Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce as they are businesses I am familiar with.
3. Review the most popular integrations for that app
All 3 have a few common use cases which can be summarized as…
- Problem 1 – Add user to database (MailChimp, SalesForce, ActiveCampaign etc)
- Problem 2 – Email user with a personalized email from GMail
- Problem 3 – Save order information to database (Google Sheets) – related to #1
The image above shows what people most commonly use Automate.io to connect Shopify to.
4. Is there a better way with a native app to solve this problem?
Given that this reveals there is clearly a need where people are willing to pay Automate.io to connect between Shopify and their CRM / autoresponder why is it not being solved with a native Shopify app?
Automate.io makes it easy but it is not completely trivial the way an app can make it.
Some quick research on the app store revealed a few solutions with weak reviews that try and work with multiple CRM’s and then the native solution made by each CRM. The reality might be that keeping current with the integration of each solution is incredibly time-consuming but tools like Automate.io can do it because that is what they are built to do.
Might be a dead end but it looks like if it was solved well with a native app people would be interested.
5. Analyze Reviews for Similar Solutions (Positive and Negative)
Use these reviews to identify WHY people are not using the app and are going to tools like Automate.io to solve their problem.
Given that there are many native solutions for connecting CRMs/email lists and Shopify I am not clear on why people would use Automate.io… but in that answer lies the potential for a popular/profitable Shopify App.
In fact there seems to be solid solution that does exactly this for WooCommerce – https://www.crmperks.com/
I don’t know if this is a great idea or not, there are some outstanding questions I don’t understand the answer to.
However, my hope in sharing this is it shows one way of going about systematically mining for ideas leveraging autoation/API connection tools.
If there is a tool you have deep knowledge of Salesforce or similar that is commonly used then digging into how people are automating activities might reveal something you could get built or a service you could offer.
Continuing with the ECommerce Intern Case Study here is the 3rd update.
Some really strong movement on the 1 project in particular. It will be great to see the next update that wraps up the November progress where a lot of work went into the second ecommerce site getting the conversion up.
Update #1 – https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-case-study-1/
You can view her Weekly VLog here
So here is Annie’s update…
This past month has been super busy for me. We have been practicing 3-4 hours a day and then I have been working 3-4 hours a day. At times it has been kind of stressful and especially lately we have only had one day off a week; Sunday. Staying super productive while having very little down time has been a little hard to manage. I’ve had to time manage really well and prioritize this job a lot more than sleep at times.
Luckily American thanksgiving is coming up so I will be getting a nice break from volleyball and having a good solid week to rest and focus on work and school. Initially, when I decided to come down and continue this job I justified it by saying that most other people would also be spending 4 hrs or more on classes everyday. This justification is still applicable however, I underestimated the difference between attending classes and schoolwork and working.
When I’m working I am full on for 4 hrs but when attending classes or studying it can be more of a passive activity. But at the same time I am enjoying being busy and learning new things all the time. That is basically all that is new with me; COVID-19 has picked up basically everywhere but so far no new restrictions have been put in place here in Alabama. It seems as if there will be lots of developments within the next few weeks but we will just have to see.
Some volleyball photos from a recent scrimmage:
Business Updates: Here are the sales numbers from the two businesses over the past 90 days to give you guys a brief update:
As you can see Business A has had a strong improvement over the last 90 days compared to the previous 90 day period.
Business B has not been quite as successful as Business A but it has turned a corner recently in sales after a long time with no sales due to the poor landing page.
My biggest win:
The biggest high of this time period has been that the one website (Business B) has had some sales! That has been amazing and it feels great that all the hard work put into that site has finally paid off. The other high associated with that is that the website is now almost finished, it seems as if it has taken forever to get all the new photos and have it looking really nice. It finally does and sales are happening as a result of all the hard work done.
On the one site we have had a big push on sourcing new products and then drop shipping them. This has led to a big increase in sales and figuring out which products will be successful and which will not, therefore gaining more insight into the motives and desires of our customers. Unfortunately with this newer drop shipping model for this business (up until now we’ve relied primarily on one supplier) there have been a few issues. One of the most recent weeks of work I got hit with all these issues and a very poor week for sales and it was quite overwhelming.
- Products arriving damaged: I had a customer send me one of the scariest headlines: PRODUCT ARRIVED BROKEN. Luckily they sent a bunch of pictures but it was quite worrisome as a part of the product is made out of glass and it looked as if they shipped it barely wrapped up and with limited protection. Due to the customer sending images of the product I was able to file a complaint with the supplier and receive a refund from them but it seems as if the product could likely arrive broken other times due to the poor packaging for shipping.
- Products arriving with the wrong outlet: I just had another scary headline from a customer: PRODUCT ARRIVED WITH THE WRONG OUTLET. A frustrating part about ordering products from around the world and then shipping them to different places in the world is that you have to pay close attention to what outlets they come with. I thought that I had done my due diligence with all of the drop shipping products I am currently supplying but it turns out I shipped a product to a customer in the United States with the wrong outlet. Luckily, I think we only sold one of these products so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal but overall frustrating when you make a sale and then once the product is actually delivered you have to make adjustments. Another time a customer contacted me about our most popular product right now and was complaining about the wrong outlet, luckily I had paid close attention to this product and the customer just didn’t realize that the product came with a USB plug-in but they gave me a mini heart attack because we had sold about 20 of these products and I was worried I was going to have to process 20 or more refunds.
- Payment issues on AliExpress: I have been trying to fulfill an order for a customer through AliExpress and for some reason they have flagged the credit card but just with this specific customer. It is quite frustrating because in the meantime I have been able to order many other products with the exact same credit card. I even tried to use paypal to purchase this product for this specific customer and that payment also got denied. AliExpress’ only solution is that I must verify the card through AliPay, however, it seems very unnecessary to do this as the card is still working with every other purchase except this specific one.
I had a huge battle with stamps.com. My warehouse manager recommended for us to set up stamps.com on Business B because we already had it set up on Business A and it was supposedly very easy to set up and leads to a lot of savings on shipping costs. To put it simply; it did not make things more simple for me, at least at the beginning. Now that it is set up and running it is working well and saving us lots of money but it seemed as if setting it up I hit a bump in the road at every crossroads.
Originally when I made the account, I forgot to press save on the login information in our password storage application then when I phoned in and finally got a hold of them I could not remember which personal information for the account I had used so they were having a hard time giving me access to the account again. After that phone call I told them to just cancel that account, that I would just make a new one. Which I did, but then my account was locked and I could not load any funds on the account, after about a two and a half hour phone call most of which was spent on hold I finally had access to the account and was able get it fully functioning.
Throughout this whole process I was in communication with our warehouse manager and I think she must’ve thought I was quite stupid cause she was waiting on me to send a shipment out and I kept telling her I’m just having more issues. She kept emphasizing that for all her other customers it was very simple to set up, it was kind of frustrating but also kind of humorous at the same time but it just shows how trivial Ecommerce can be at times when you lose login information or have to involve a company’s customer service line.
Google Shopping Ads (again)
So naturally I had more issues with Google Shopping Ads again. Unbeknownst to me when I set it up the first time for the one business it had already been partially set up. The google shopping ads within the google account were ready to go for google shopping ads. I had skipped this step in my initial set up and was not even aware of it at all.
I do not think most guides to Google shopping Ads even mention this step but my attention was drawn to it when my products remained pending by Google for more than two weeks. After those two weeks I knew that something was wrong and that they couldn’t be just pending for that long. Luckily on the Google Application within shopify they provided some help and mentioned that if your products were sitting in the verification stage it was likely because your account had not been optimized for running Google Shopping Ads.
Luckily, this was a pretty easy fix but it just sucked because it took me almost two weeks to figure out this was the problem because I thought that the products were just taking a really long time to be approved. It really just sucked because I had so many issues with Google Shopping Advertisements the first time and going into it this time I was like “yes this will be so easy I’ve done it before, what could go wrong?” but alas I was wrong and still had issues. I am just now going to get them running, just confirming the trend that everything I want to do takes slightly longer than I think it will.
While customer service can sometimes be quite taxing and exhausting I have had a few encounters like that but for the most part customers are kind of aggressive at the beginning but then they get really nice when you are polite to them.
Lately, there have been a multitude of small customer service issues and I’ve found that if I use my name and be overly polite any customer will be really nice back. Another strong technique that works really well with disgruntled customers is that if you talk to them on the phone they will be much more understanding and appreciative. Both target demographics for my business are older (approxiamately 30-60) and appreciate and really desire to talk on the phone.
I have had a few customers that have left messages for me to call them about some questions they have about products and when I call them I’m expecting them to have a lot of questions but it always turns out they just have one or two and they just want to chat and get a better idea of where they are going to be spending their money.
Hiring expert supplier on Upwork:
A new experience that I have been tackling lately is using a supplier expert that we found on Upwork. I had been trying to tackle finding the cheapest supplier cost out there but based on my lack of expertise and zero connections I was having a hard time finding anything. We also knew that there had to be cheaper rates out there due to the fact that some of our competition are selling for much lower costs. So we had the idea to hire someone on Upwork.
The process for this was that I had to write a description of the job we wanted to fulfill and then post it on Upwork, I had never posted a job before so I kind of winged it but it went pretty well. We had a bunch of applicants respond immediately, it was pretty hard to decide who to go with but the two products we are sourcing are predominantly made in China and only one of the strong candidates was located in China so we decided to trust his expertise and go with him because of his strong local connections. Once I sent him the products we are sourcing and at what price he very quickly was able to find a lot of good alternatives. This just goes to show that in some circumstances it is a big time saver to hire or outsource a specialist rather than just trying to do everything yourself. We are still in the negotiation process and haven’t yet put in an order to any of the suppliers he has found but are very excited about the chance to have a much lower product cost.
I think that there should be a guide book written for all things Ecommerce with a step by step process but the problem is that everything changes in an instant so it’s very hard to keep up. I hope that by reading my blog posts people are able to gain a little bit of perspective into what Ecommerce can be like and also if you do Ecommerce and also have lots of issues you are not alone. No matter what when it comes to computers and a multitude of accounts there are always going to be some sort of issues but the best lesson learned is that while there will always be issues there can also always be some sort of solution it just might not be what you were originally hoping for. I hope you guys enjoyed this month’s update and stay tuned for December’s post.