Monthly Archives: April 2015

Automating boring accounting tasks

Accounting sucks. It’s most boring task any entrepreneur has to do. Here’s a tip I use:

Automate the saving of invoices, statements, etc

Use a combination of Gmail filters and scripts like this one to automatically save emails in PDF formats in Google Drive in specific folders.  Use this script to save attachments.

Once you have your boring invoices in specific G drive folders in many formats, you can share them with your Virtual Assistant. He then can go thru each file and fill an excel sheet with all the data. Later you can give your accountant a neat bundle of original documents (The PDF and attachments) with all the numbers properly listed in excel files. It will be super easy for him or you to build financial statements.

 

Found a new interesting niche

Double-Roller-Blinds-Remodelista

They are also called Day and Night roller blinds

My Girlfriend wants to put new blinds on our windows. She read this article on Remodelista and decided she wants double roller blinds. She tried to find some online but could only get them from Australian websites. I searched myself this morning and I could only find it on Chinese and Australian websites.

Double-Roller-Blind-Hardware-Remodelista

This product is not high tech. I cant believe it’s new.

It seems that this product is new! It’s so simple, yet it seems no one in America or Canada has heard of this yet. I sensed opportunity. I quickly snatched up the exact domain match I could think of:

  • doublerollerblinds.com
  • doublerollershades.com
  • dualrollerblinds.com
  • dualrollershades.com

I did it at Godaddy for about $35 total.

The lazy way monetize this idea

godaddy_auction

Go list all your unused domains on GoDaddy Auctions, it’s free!

Now that I own the 4 best Exact Domain Match for this product, I can just wait for it to become popular in America. If it does happen I should be able to sell this domain bundle for a few thousands. Meanwhile I listed them on GoDaddy Auctions for $2000 USD each. I had some luck selling  domain names there in the past. Listing domains is free for the basic listing package.

The more complex way: Dropshipping!

As I said in the intro, I found Chinese manufacturers willing to sell one custom sized unit at a time dropshipped to America. They can do this for about $120 all included. I could try to quickly make a shopify store, make some content for SEO and easily snatch up all the Organic traffic as I should be only site in America with content about it, the oldest site and the exact match domain. On top of that I would do adwords.

I bet my girlfriend is not the only person wanting to buy this. It should convert well into sales as I would be the only american retailer. I would sell it for $249 USD. After payment processing fees it should give a gross margin of $120, allowing plenty of budget for PPC.

 

FYI: Google shopping is awesome

adwords-blogIf you are not using Google Shopping, you are losing money. I decided to share some adwords data from last year for a dropshipping site of mine. This site’s adwords marketing is broken down into several campaigns

  • One main campaign for generic keywords (Cost per sale: $16). However this campaign contains brand terms (Ex: my site name + product). So the real cost per sale is around $30 for these generic keywords (Ex: racing bike)
  • One campaign for long tail keywords (Cost per sale: $11). (Ex:  Campagnolo Black Rear Derailleur)
  • Display ($54 per sale!). Display ads appear on websites that show ads from Google Adsense. I never had any success with display ads. This campaign is now paused.
  • Google Shopping ( Used to be called PLA: Product Listing Ads). As you can see Shopping ads and PLA runs at about $6 per sale!

On this product I make about $40 in margin per sale. So google shopping is insanely good compared to the $30 cost per sale I get from generic terms.

Google shopping is hard

csv

CSV is a plain text file format where columns are separated by commas. Excel can handle it, but may also corrupt a perfectly good csv in some cases.

The downside is that google shopping is hard to put in place. You need to make a product feed in CSV format the pleases the Google gods. They have all kinds of rules and restrictions which are pain to implement. It took me about a week of work to get my feed right. It then took about 3 weeks for them to approve the feed. Once it went live I immediately started to get great conversion rates. I was very happy with the result.

Impulsive buyers make google shopping awesome

Google shopping gets amazing results because it shows a picture of the product in the search result. Impulsive buyer type what they want in google and then bang they see it! They are drawn like a moth to a flame. They click it and they buy straight away. Impulsive buyers are not like you and me. They do not like to read. They do not like to analyse things. They want it now and they are not going to do any research. If the image fits, they buy it.

These impulsive buyers are great, but there is a downside: returns. These not so bright people will order the wrong product at least twice as often as the other customers.  In my case it’s a not a big deal, but these customers can be annoying if you pay for return shipping, . I did change my policy on returns to make these guys pay return shipping when they are 100% at fault.

Google Shopping will sometimes mess with you

suspension

You do not want to get this email!

One day last autumn I got an email from google saying my product feed was not up to their standard. They suspended my Google Shopping campaign until it was fixed. I thought my feed was 100% clean, but it seems they have some fuzzy logic going. They decided that since some of my product pictures had the word “Rear” or “Front” on them, they violated their rule. That is not what their own rules say, but you cant argue with them.

The problem was that I have 20 000 unique products on this site. About 5% of these products have some kind of text on the image. So I had to somehow (manually?) inspect and tag 20000 pictures to be able to exclude them from my feed. That is a lot of very boring work. I had other things to do and I just let them suspend this nice flow of easy money out of laziness.

How I fixed this issue

mechanical_turk

The original Mechanical Turk was 1800s hoax automaton that played chess. In reality there was a very small person inside controlling it.

The first solution that came to me was to crowdsource this work to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The Turk is a platform to distribute large amount of small repetitive task to real human beings. One classic example is to inspect pictures for offensive content. This task is very easy for humans, very hard for computers. Companies like facebook do this for millions of pictures every month.

I began working on my dataset to work with the Turk. Then I had a sudden realization: my american competitors had the same problem and they probably already fixed it. I went to browse on my US based competitor’s website and I saw that he had a new set of product pictures without any text on them. Bingo! I scrapped the pictures and used these pictures for the Google product feed.

A business idea you should do

no_ads

No one is doing this fairly easy SaaS idea right now. No ads, nor organic results.

This incident gave me a business idea: make a product picture inspector SaaS that uses the Turk’s API to churn thru a Google Product feed to find all the problem pictures. If such a service had existed, I would have used it and I would be at least a thousand dollar richer. Instead of being suspended for 30+ days, I could have fixed this issue in a day or two. I’m a small time ecommerce store. I expect that everyday a bigger site is facing the exact same problem and is probably willing to pay a lot of money for some kind of automated solution to fix the problem quickly. This is a nice market with desperate buyers. Go do this.

 If you liked this post you might want to read my post about a powerful technique I found on Adwords. You may also read up here on the type of dropshipping sites I run.