- SumAll – Cool app to track many different metrics. I use it mostly to get a daily and weekly email report on the sales of my main service business. This business is built on plain HTML and paypal “buy button”. No shopping cart at all. This means not stats!
- Zapier – An app to link various webservices together. I use it to get email addresses from paypal payment added to my mailchimp mailing list.
- Asana – Simple yet powerful task management webapp. Very good if you have an outsourcing team. Instead of sending an email or skype message, you make a task and then assign it. The person can then comment or add files, etc. This is very useful to get more structured backup of information, to share it with other team member, and to then clone list of related task to give them to someone else. I also use trello but only for me.
- Wistia – Video hosting. A bit expensive, but it has interesting features like making “events” in Google Analytics for watching a 50% of the video, completing it, etc. This allows you to gauge the quality of traffic sources if you have a long explainer video on your sales page. Some traffic sources may not convert immediately, but will cause conversions two or three month down the line. This is hard to track. People watching the video is a proxy variable for this.
- jotforms – An app that makes creating forms very easy. I actually know very well how to do forms the hard way. However this neat app combine Visual form editing with emails notifications, email confirmations and file hosting. It’s just work.
- Mailchimp – To automate mailing list, drip emails, confirmation emails, etc.
- Olark – Web chat made super easy. I’m mostly using it as a ghetto lead gen form.
- Use Adwords to find out keywords that convert
- Look at top organic results for the most popular converting keywords
- Make superior content to the top 3 results
- Find out who links to the top 3 results using something like Majestic
- Contact these sites and bribe them to link to your better content instead of the current top 3
- Magic! You have stolen the thunder of your competitors and should be able to outrank them.
Neville Medhora wrote a very good piece on how to do consulting work: http://kopywritingkourse.com/consulting-as-a-side-job/
This guy has inspired me many times in my life. I’ve been living the easy 4 hour workweek lifestyle largely because he got me going with his down and dirty get-it-done advice. Read all his stuff on his blog nevblog.com.
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
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.
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.
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:
I did it at Godaddy for about $35 total.
The lazy way monetize this idea
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.
If 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
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
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
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
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.
I’ve been a Ringcentral customer for over 5 years for my business voip (1800 number, voicemail). The pricing was a bit high at $45 per month, but the feature set was generous at the time. Last summer, these asshats sent me an email about them being an awesome company and a bunch of bullshit, ending on the news that they were moving me to a more expensive plan. I ended up paying something like $85/month. WTF! The cost of VOIP is going down, not up. I knew I could get the same service from other companies like Grasshopper or Evoice for less than $15/month. This amounts to a difference of about $900 per year.
These greedy bastards are capitalizing on the fact that we are lazy and will not take action. I decided today (8 months later) that I was done with Ringcentral. I’m moving to eVoice. Moving a phone number is a tedious task. You have to print, fill, sign and scan forms to request the transfer. Than the company you leave will drag their feet and try to convince you to stay.
An Interesting Business Lesson
I think Ringcentral are assholes. However this little stunt of doubling their pricing on old customers was probably very profitable. Most of their business customers are too busy to deal with something as small as that. Yet they probably nearly doubled their monthly ARPU on their legacy users and they must have lost less than 5% of their user. They probably have several thousands of users with now jacked up pricing. This move quite possibly may have doubled their profit, at basically zero cost. This is very interesting if you have some kind of subscription business where the customers are businesses.
One could possibly acquire a subscription business at a X multiple of profit, jack up the pricing, and then quickly sell back the business for the same multiple of the now doubled profit…Thus doubling the initial investment. I recently bought a business and quickly sold it off for double the price paid and I must say that I liked it. Maybe there is a valid business flipping strategy here.
This post is more rambling than usual and may have been written under the influence of alcohol.
Last night I was eating fancy poutine at a bar with a buddy of mine, discussing various business ideas he could do. He was always shooting down decent and easy ideas with imaginary “what-if“s and false ideas that he needs to do X thing before being able to try to do something. If you are anything like that you need to stop right now! This is a lie that society and the media has crammed in your head.
- You do not need anything to get started.
- You do not need a good looking website.
- You do not need a major following.
- You do not need cash.
- You do not need any diploma.
All you need is to take action. Stop being a pussy and go try something! Continue reading
UPDATE: I’m in closing on escrow.com for a nice cash offer. Next time I’ll use flippa for a more orderly bidding. Some bidders wanted to outbid the winner.
I acquired 18th.me last year. It’s a cool dropshipping business that sells custom funny paintings. Now, I realize that I’m losing focus from my main business by toying with these cool little side projects. So I’m selling it to the best offer. Email me at [email protected] if you are interested.
This business is a novelty product with a strong viral potential. People like the product and share it willingly on facebook, twitter and instagram. Margins are around 60%. It only sold about $2400 worth of paintings last year. When it was launched in 2012 it got some viral marketing and sales were better. It was featured on HGTV. It was featured on some funny gift ideas lists, etc. If you feel like you got the PR chops to tackle the journalist/blogger crowd, this site is perfect for you.
The marketing ideas I had that I did not implement:
- Give paintings to influencers (Instagrammers, Twitter stars,bloggers, etc)
- Make monthly giveaway contest
- Contact journalists doing gift idea lists, etc.
Easy to run
The site runs on shopify, so no special skills required. The products are dropshipped from the supplier, so no handling is involved and no capital is required. This is a dropshipping toy size business that is perfect for someone looking to try his hand at ecommerce.
Price: Reverse auction
I’m selling this business in a reverse auction. The price begins at $4000. I’ll lower the price every week until someone close the deal. (UPDATE: Current best cash offer is $3000, got lot’s of offer from redditors, I may forget the reverse auction and just accept one of those offers in the next few days).
PS: if you are interested I suggest you read thru all my blog and also Marshall Haas’s to get the full story.
UPDATE: Q & A
Q: Who does the paintings- do you know? Are they real oil paintings for certain? Ever had an unsatisfied customer?
A: The paintings are done in asia. Yes they are real oil paintings. Everyone is satisfied with the product.
Q: how much do customers pay for shipping to Europe?
A: It’s the same price worlwide: $15 to $30 depending on size.
Q: Would you be willing to share with me your source for those custom paintings?
A: No, it’s part of the secret recipe! Only the buyer will get all this information. I do however offer business consulting to help people get dropshipping suppliers. Shoot me an email if you are interested.
Q: what’s the average selling price of one of these paintings?
Interesting offer today at Godaddy: $1.49 dot com registrations. Time to register any crazy idea you may have, it’s practically free.