Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Not Too Early To Market for the 2013 Holiday Season

Is it too early to start thinking about the 2013 holiday season? I don't think so. The holiday seasons are one of the most crucial times for an online business that wants to obtain higher sales. It's not enough to send out a post every now and then, or to tweet a few things every couple of weeks. Bringing in the holiday sales through social media means being persistent and carefully guiding traffic towards the sales page or website and not just at the end of the year.

While major retail chains are bringing in the holiday dollars both online and offline, there's still plenty of room for businesses to wrap the rest of consumers in through social media outlets.
For those that plan to actively seek customers for this coming holiday season and want to put their best sales foot forward, or for those who are not sure where to get started, here are a couple of steps that can be taken to ensure your business receives the most profit:

Engage Your Customers As anyone whose put their business out there in the online world of social media already knows, it can take some serious time and effort to gain a loyal and consistent following. Be efficient by finding an online tool that allows you to send the same message through each social media outlet, maximizing marketing capabilities and minimizing time spent doing so. Be honest with each message that's put out there, and stay away from looking like a company that just wants the customers cash. If possible, try and promote or talk about other relevant ventures or topics, to appeal to a larger audience.

Build The List Building a list of emails and names should be the first thing on your mind considering the upcoming holidays. These emails and names could easily be converted into conversions, sales and returning customers. And because customers who have already purchased from your business are valuable resources, it can be a good idea to offer them generous discounts or savings.

Website Revamp A part of being well prepared for this busy time of year means making sure the website that is associated with the social media account, contains all the necessary elements to bring in the most sales. Try to add as much new content as possible. This is a great time seek out product reviews and recommendations. Later in the year, you can try to give the website a temporary holiday cheer by adding in Christmas colors and reminding everyone that Christmas is near. Meanwhile, make sure there's a designated spot on the website for the opt-in email box, and make sure it's clear and visible for everyone to see.

Go Mobile Many webmasters continue to underestimate mobile shopping, and it's causing them to lose out big. For those trying to squeeze in every possible sale, it's vital that their content be visible through mobile devices. Be sure to measure and track the performance of sales that come through mobile devices. If things turn out better than expected, then this would be an excellent indicator that it's time to stay just as focused on mobile devices and mobile optimization. eBay and Amazon have versions on their websites that are designed to be easily viewed on mobile devices. If you have another online store, check with your provider to see if it is mobile-device-friendly.

Building a customer base and successfully marketing your business is something that cannot be achieved during the last few months before the holiday season begins. Start now. Deploy a few of these tips or all to help build your customer base for the upcoming holiday season. Over the next few months, I will share more details and other tips to help you and your business be more successful!

Let's have an incredible 2013!

Related posts:

How to Prepare for eBay Holiday Selling - Part 1

How to Prepare for eBay Holiday Selling - Part 2

How to Prepare for eBay Holiday Selling - Part 3










Saturday, January 26, 2013

How Kraft Foods Made a Mortgage Payment for me in 2012


Some Amazon sellers are skeptical that groceries are a lucrative product to sell on Amazon, and rightly so. I discovered the grocery category to be quite profitable because of the consumable nature of food items. Buyers will purchase multiples of the same item, return to restock, and I am able to build my grocery business around what my local stores offer. I much prefer a product that I can restock for an indefinite time rather than having to discover new items each time I want to sell something. I can figure out a product once, replenish it hundreds of times, and create a steady stream of income. Furthermore, there is always something new and improved, a different flavor, scent, or product offering every time I go grocery shopping. Not only can I replenish what I already know is working, but it is very easy to find new products that will work based on what I have learned about selling other items.

The first mental stumbling block is the question, "Why would anyone even buy groceries on Amazon? Why not just go to the store and get them?" I certainly can't speak for every grocery buyer, but I have paid attention to feedback comments and shipping addresses and drawn a few conclusions. I notice that many grocery items go to large cities like Manhattan, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. I believe the city dwellers enjoy the convenience (both time and physical effort) of having groceries shipped to their door. I also see larger multipacks (6-8 of an item bundled together) going to more remote locations in states like Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Alaska. I am wondering if these products that I can easily find are not so easy to find in other states. I have checked Google Maps to see where these products are being shipped, and many times it is a resort, game ranch, national forest, campground, or bed and breakfast. I am wondering if small businesses in these industries are using Amazon as their food supplier and taking advantage of the Prime shipping. Finally, about 35% of my grocery items go to APO/FPO addresses. Obviously, our military service personnel and their families enjoy their Prime accounts and like to order goodies from the USA. (Hint: Think microwaveable foods, items that won't spoil in the heat, and are portable in backpacks.) Bottom line: Don't assume everyone, everywhere has access to what you see every day in the grocery store.

I wanted to share my experience in 2012 selling a few grocery items and let you be the judge. Here are a few screen shots of some keyword searches I ran on my completed sales from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.




I sold a variety of food products made by Kraft. The average profit per item is $5.35 (average cost per item is $2.86). This screen shot shows 184 orders, but actually 228 Kraft products sold because some of those orders included more than one unit. My total profit on grocery store items made by Kraft in 2012 was $1,219.80. My mortgage payment is $1,002 - so Kraft products paid my mortgage once plus $219 left to pay my car insurance one month.


I had 87 orders for grocery items with "vanilla" in the title. Many of these orders also contained multiple units.


I had 151 orders for grocery items with "cinnamon" in the title. Many of these orders also contained multiple units. Based on this information, I can deduce that cinnamon is a popular flavor and I am always on the lookout for more cinnamon flavored items that will work.




I had 174 orders for grocery items with "cake" in the title. Many of these orders also contained multiple units. And none of the cake items were Hostess products. I did not sell any Hostess products on either eBay or Amazon. (Hint: These items are not prepared cakes!)



I had 117 orders for grocery items with "cereal" in the title. Many of these orders also contained multiple units. I sell cereal in both single units and multipacks of 3-4 boxes. Cereal comes in about a million variations and is a very popular food product, so this category always presents opportunities.



I had 109 orders for grocery items with "salt" in the title. Many of these orders also contained multiple units. You can get more basic than salt, right?

On some of the Amazon selling groups, you will see sellers complaining or criticizing the sale of groceries. First, they can't believe buyers actually buy groceries online. I have just disproved that theory. One downside to selling food products is that buyers cannot return them if they are not happy with the purchase. Amazon does not accept food returns - so the refund is given to the customer and sellers do not get the food product back. I can live with that. I have no problem selling a $3 box of cereal for $12.50 for a profit of $6 - 100 times - and have to refund 2 or 3 buyers a month. The $600 profit is totally worth the loss of a few boxes of cereal. Works for me.

Add-On status can hurt you if you are selling groceries, but there are workarounds. I have learned to make my bundles larger, and therefore more expensive, so they don't go into Add-On status. I have also learned to sit tight and wait if another seller's low price drags an item into Add-On status. They will get frustrated, drop their price lower and eventually sell out, and they usually don't return. Sometimes I am the only seller left on the listing and sales then resume at my original price point. (Learn more about Add-On status here.)

I want to encourage you to give grocery items a try on Amazon. Don't believe everything you read on networking groups - let's face it, a lot of people just go there to complain. You can get sucked in to all that negative drama, or you can follow others who make it work. I am proof that this works and you can make a good living doing it. In fact, I can't go to the grocery store anymore to pick up personal items for my family without either restocking or discovering new items to sell. It is almost too easy.

If you are interested in personal coaching to learn how to add grocery items to your Amazon inventory, contact me at eBaycoach @ yahoo.com for more information. I can teach you how to do this in just a few lessons over the phone. Once you discover how to make money selling groceries online, you won't mind running out for milk or bread anymore!

Sign up for my Amazon Grocery Class here and learn how to use the resources available in your area (grocery stores!) to make thousands of dollars on Amazon every month.

Happy selling!

Related Articles:


What a Teenager Can Sell on eBay

How to Get Money Back from Amazon for Missing Inventory

Monday, January 14, 2013

SBA Revamps Website to Help Entreprenuers

Recently the Small Business Administration or SBA has upgraded the way they do business online, with the introduction of their user friendly browsing tools specifically designed for emerging business owners. These tools will allow them to add to their customer base while expanding on their recruitment of new employees. The SBA Learning Center has simplified it's search catalog, so that anyone can use it therefore spending less time going through loads of pages to find specific instructive videos or classes that they are searching for. The SBA has become 'a one stop shop' for emerging business owners to do everything from creating their business plan to quickly finding out the exact information they need to market their business.

Business owners can enjoy SBA's affiliate partner resources which include access to e learning material for their businesses from other third party colleges and organizations. The great thing about these SBA affiliated programs is that business owners will have access to both the tools as well as friendly counselors who are their to assist with any questions that may arise. It's a win win situation for all! Being that the internet is so cost effective for start up business marketing and attracting a loyal following globally, both the SBA and their affiliate partners are committed to training business owners on the most current social media applications that are being used for business.

The site now offers:

  • Online Classes
  • Tips for Disaster Planning and Recovery
  • Step-by-step Help For Creating a Business Plan
  • Marketing Planning Tips
  • Connection to Local Counselors
  • Event Calendar for Local Events
  • If you have questions about structuring your business or what licenses and permits you need, this is a good place to start.

    Visit SBA.gov, for help.

    Related posts:

    Start a Business Journal

    Free Marketing: 101 Low and No Cost Ways to Grow Your Business Online

    Taking Your Business Into 2012

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    What a Teenager Can Sell on eBay

    Some of you may be aware that my oldest child graduated from high school in 2012. She has had some extra time to help me with my eBay and Amazon business, and is doing an internship to learn this business. One way to teach her eBay (as with all my students), was to have her sell her own unwanted and unneeded items for practice. Just for fun, I had her keep a journal of all the items she sold that were already here in our home and therefore did not have an inventory cost.

    I was really surprised to see the total profit (from April - December) was just shy of $1,000. ($912.51 to be exact.) Keep in mind that I have been selling on eBay since 2003 and Amazon since 2008. I thought I was staying on top of selling everything "sellable" in my home. I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the things she successfully sold that I had overlooked. Sometimes it takes someone with a different perspective to uncover new and interesting information. After a few successful sales, this industrious young lady was looking through every drawer, cabinet, and closet in the house with iPhone in hand looking up values on the eBay app. Here is what she found and profit from each sale:









    These totals may not seem impressive, but this is good money for a teenager. She pays her own car insurance, cell phone bill, buys her own gas, her own clothing, and pays for her own entertainment (eating out, movies, etc.). Those dollars and pennies add up over time! While some of her friends are complaining about not getting enough hours at their fast food and retail jobs, she is working as much as she can to save money and be independent.
     
    I have also been teaching her how to purchase thrift store items for resale, and am proud to say she is making several hundred dollars a month, on her own, without my assistance. She is already selling on consignment for her friends and has built her eBay account to 100 feedbacks in just a few months. She has also learned to ship internationally, which is really pretty easy, and has shipped to over 2 dozen countries already. Shipping internationally is the #1 way to increase your eBay sales without any extra work or expense. Check out my eBay International Shipping Tutorial here.)

    Selling on eBay is a skill, and I think a very valuable skill for our young people. We live in a world of abundance and our culture is all about "accumulating." What if we could teach more kids the skill of reselling? The could learn to be more self-reliant early in life and use the resources around them along with technology to be self-sufficient. Yeah, I'm pretty proud!

    Related articles:

    Thrift store items to sell on eBay

    Sell It, Trade It, Get It Free - A Young Person's Guide to Making Money Online

    Join my Facebook Group




    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    9 Year-End Tax Tips for Online Sellers


     Happy New Year and welcome to 2013! After you have taken down the decorations and finished up the left overs, it is time to get back to work on your online business. One topic on the minds of many sellers this time of year is how to improve their business for the coming year, which often includes getting more organized and getting ready for tax time. My colleague Vickie Stewart, creator of the eCommerce book keeping spreadsheet system I use, has prepared the following post to help you get on track for 2013.


    Can you believe it’s the end of another year?   You may want to be brainstorming how to generate more revenues in the New Year but you should not forget to take advantage of any tax deductions that could save you money.

    During the year, if you keep good records, organize your receipts and have a bookkeeping system in place – you can greatly reduce your stress when it comes time to prepare your taxes.

    Here are 9 basic year-end tax tips that online sellers may use to reduce taxable income and the taxes you may owe.

    1.       Stock-up on Office & Shipping Supplies
    Catch some year-end sales and stock up on supplies for the home office, shipping supplies like boxes, tape and bubble-wrap and even warehouse supplies such as a new shipping scale.  Legitimate office & warehouse expenses can help to reduce your tax bill.

    2.       Purchase New Office Equipment
    Thinking of buying a new camera, tablet or laptop in the New Year?  Go ahead and purchase before the end of the year and you may be able to depreciate it over time or consider taking the full deduction to reduce the clutter on your balance sheet & lower any taxes owed.

    3.       Retirement Account Contributions
    Have an IRA or thinking of opening one next year?  You have until April 15, 2013 to make contributions to an IRA for the year 2012.  The maximum amount that individuals can contribute to a traditional IRA is $5,000 or $6,000 for those who are age 50+.

    4.       Business Mileage
    Did you track the miles driven this year to purchase inventory to sell, buy office supplies,  run out to USPS, UPS or Fed-ex?  This year the IRS mileage rate is 55.5 cents per mile. That can be a nice deduction!  I keep a small notebook in my car, draw columns and write down beginning/ending mileage, the date and where I traveled.  Only takes a few seconds.  Then I transfer it over to my spreadsheet, which keeps a running total for the year and keeps it together with all of my other business-related material.

    5.       Inventory
    If you have any damaged inventory, you may want to write-off and discard it. Maybe you have some slow-movers and just want them out of inventory.  You could donate these to your favorite thrift store and possibly take a charitable donation deduction.  Both of these strategies will decrease your inventory year-end valuation and increase your cost of goods sold which could equal more tax-savings. 

    6.       Home Office Deduction
    If you work out of your home, you may want to consider a home office deduction.  You would want to add this to your discussion list for your accounting professional.  I have a dedicated room that is my office and I use 75% of my garage as warehouse space.  I had kept the builders spec sheet when I bought my home so I had a sketch of the lay-out & dimensions which made it easy to determine square footage etc.  With my CPA’s help, I created a template to use each year for this deduction with all the info needed.  In addition, my CPA recommended for my situation, to “invoice” my business, using the same percentage, for the mortgage, electricity, phone, internet, insurance, etc.  I just made an excel workbook with a billing invoice on 12 tabs (Jan-Dec) for my records and a totals sheet.  Again, talk with your accounting professional.

    7.       Contract Labor
    Did you pay someone to help you in your business?  You may be able to deduct those monies paid as contract labor.  I have a teenager in the neighborhood that helps me with various projects as a contract laborer and we keep it under the $600 mark to avoid the 1099.

    8.       Membership Fees
    Do you pay fees to join groups such as Online SellingCoach, My Silent Team, and others?  Those membership fees could be deductions if they relate to your business.

    9.       Legal & Professional Fees
    Don’t overlook fees you pay to an attorney for legal advice on how to structure your business and other business related reasons.  In addition, fees you pay to an accounting professional to assist you with set-up of your bookkeeping and what records to keep, etc could be deductible.  Accounting software and tax preparations fees could be deductible, as well.

    The most important thing to remember is to keep good records. For example, if the IRS audits you and you cannot provide documents showing how much you paid for an inventory item, they may claim that your cost basis is $0, which means you could pay tax on 100% of the sale price of an item instead of just paying tax on the profit.

    Take advantage of all deductions that you can legitimately claim to reduce your tax bill.  Consult your tax and/or accounting professional for advice.  

    (If you have not yet checked out Vickie's spreadsheet, developed specifically for online sellers, find more info here. Vickie has offered a 20% discount on this fantastic tool to members of my Facebook group to ring in 2013. Just visit my group here and look for the pinned post at the top about  book keeping.)

    Disclaimer:  I am not an accountant nor CPA and information within this article is not intended as professional advice.  Please consult a professional if you need advice related to accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, etc.