When starting a business the setup and ideas phase are what we normally focus on. And that is what most gurus or courses teach. But the reality is that that is only the beginning. Getting sales and customers is going to be your main job and the hardest job. But also where you have the most freedom for creativity.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode Of The Lazy Entrepreneur Podcast:
02:12 – The allure of scale in Amazon FBAs
02:43 – Start-up and sales
06:19 – Marketing is a constant adaptation and experimentation
08:06 – Stats day: Sam’s monthly review
09:57 – How Sam and Emma plan to incorporate video content to Pipehouse Gin
10:20 – BrewDogs viral marketing approach
13:33 – The table tennis business and frontloading work
14:58 – Starting a blog in one hour
18:41 – How to know where to start with marketing
20:34 – Covering the full spectrum of table tennis business opportunities
22:10 – Looking at different marketing approaches depending on products (table tennis bats vs. gin)
23:20 – In summary
SAM: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the lazy entrepreneur. I’m your host Sam Priestly, and as normal we’re joined by my lovely co-host Emma Priestley.
SAM: Emma, today I wanted to talk about what I think is the hardest part of business, and also the most underestimated part. And that is the marketing, the sales side.
EMMA: Yeah, I definitely agree with that.
SAM: I think that people really underestimate how difficult it’s going to be, and how important is. There’s this kind of idea that if you build something good, then people will come and somehow you’ll get some sales and I think that’s especially true with online business and e-commerce. People think that an Amazon FBA business has some sort of magical box that you put a product in and suddenly people will buy it.
EMMA: And that’s not the case at all.
SAM: You wouldn’t think that if you’re starting a High Street business, would you? You assume that you would actually have to tell people about it. But for some reason people think that if you follow this recipe to create an Amazon business, you’re gonna get sales.
EMMA: And also I think when you’re looking at a High Street Business, your expectation of customers is that you may have some sort of launch event and lots of people come in on the first day but then it takes a long time to build up a regular customer base. No one ever expects just because you’ve got visibility on the High Street that everyone’s gonna come in.
SAM: Yeah when we started the coffee shop, I remember everyone kept telling us, “Oh don’t worry, no High Street businesses ever make money in the first two years.” And I was thinking what?
EMMA: That’s crazy.
SAM: And there is this idea that when it comes to these magical online businesses, that people don’t really understand.
EMMA: If anything, they have the reputation that they actually give you instant income, rather than that they’re really hard to market and sell.
SAM: Yeah, and I think part of the problem is that you get one or two successors who’ve managed to create huge businesses in six months because the potential is there.
EMMA: Yeah the scale is there.
SAM: You never hear about someone starting a coffee shop and the next year making 10 million pounds, but with the scalability of online, it is possible that you could start a business and it’d be unbelievably huge in a very short amount of time.
EMMA: It’s a bit like saying, setting up an online business, you’re gonna be as successful with Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s. It’s absolutely ludicrous.
SAM: Yeah, and some of these businesses do end up being more successful.
EMMA: But that’s not the norm.
SAM: I kind of want to do a split business in two to two sections. I’m going to call one the startup and then one the sales side of it. This is particularly true about the modern type of business that I talked about in these podcasts and on the blog posts that we discussed quite a lot, in that the set up is largely about putting together supply chains of optimization that mean that once it’s running, it isn’t actually that much work to be done.
SAM: That is the kind of dream that people see behind these Amazon FBA businesses and blogs and stuff like that.
EMMA: And by work, you mean you don’t have to put a lot in for the product to keep producing.
SAM: Exactly, you’re not sat at home packing stuff up and sending it out. You’re not carving it yourself. You find a supplier, you find a factory who can make the product to your specification, you build a supply chain which then helps get your product to wherever your distribution channels are, which could be an Amazon warehouse, or it could be another warehouse that you hire separately. And then you have optimizations that if someone buys it on your website or on Amazon or wherever, that gets automatically put through to whatever your distribution channel is and they fulfill the orders for you.
SAM: So, as they say you can make money while you sleep because you can be asleep, someone can go to your website and buy something and then the next day it arrives and you haven’t done anything for that process.
EMMA: The only thing that you have to do is make sure there’s enough stock. Place a few orders via email to make sure there’s more bottles or more labels or whatever the thing is that you need.
SAM: And really the thing that is holding you back is the number of sales you can get.
SAM: Which then brings us on to the second part, which is the sales part. And I think the real reason why it’s underestimate so much is that a lot of educational stuff is focused on this first half, this setting up a good supply chain business.
EMMA: But it is really important.
SAM: It is really important and most people mess it up because they price it wrong and end up in a position where they’re not actually scalable or miscount certain things and there’s also the side of the business that I can actually give you a recipe for how to do it.
EMMA: Yes and you have done that in blog posts.
SAM: You can read my Amazon FBA blog post, I’ve done loads, there’s loads of episodes in the podcast.
EMMA: Particularly around pricing.
SAM: Around pricing, there’s one on how to set up an international supply chain as a one-man business. There’s a few things like that, and the reason is that you don’t need creativity. You can just follow the best practices and it will work, because there isn’t competition in this area. The competition is to get your business, not for you to find a unique way to do it, which sets you apart from everyone else.
EMMA: Yes because your customers can’t see that you’ve got the best deal with that supplier, or that you can scale in this way. All they can see is the end product.
SAM: Yeah it doesn’t matter, and the more efficient that is, the better. And the way they make that efficient is by creating something that works really well and then selling it to thousands of businesses. So the fact that me and another thousand businesses are using the same supply chain is a good thing.
SAM: Whereas if me and all those other businesses were using the same sales channel, the same marketing strategy, that just wouldn’t work at all. And that’s why the sales part is really hard, because I can’t give you a recipe. I can’t say, well you should spend this much on Google Adwords and do Facebook ads, and this is exactly how you set it up, and this should be your return on investment for every sale you get, because if I told you something that worked, then as soon as everyone starts doing it, the margins will get smaller and it will stop working.
EMMA: And the point is that with the sales and marketing, you’ve always got to be trying new things. There is no recipe that will work forever. You’ve just got to constantly adapt and things like Google algorithms, the algorithms that work on Amazon FBA, the podcast algorithms, they change. And usually, it’s about getting to the top of one of those three things. Well it is for us at the moment. So you’ve got to constantly throw different tactics at it so that your customers can find you easily.
SAM: So we did a podcast early on, did I do that one with you? It was episode number five I think. How to get sales for your business and in it I broke down ten different marketing channels you could use to try and get sales.
SAM: Public relations, content marketing, community building, doing events such as optimization, business development, direct sales, affiliate or commission based marketing, paid advertising and pay-per-click and the key takeaway I took from that is you just gotta try a bit of everything. Work out how it works for you. I can’t tell you to do just one. What worked for one business won’t work for others. So something like adverts, Facebook adverts, social media adverts will work quite well for our gin but doesn’t work quite well for our table tennis bats. And there’s reasons for that, but there’s all kind of stuff that you have got to work out yourself and then constantly be experimenting, and constantly changing. Because once you set up your business, your supply chain that works and is automated and you know that now scale is your challenge, then the rest of your work is going to be on the marketing and the sales side.
EMMA: Yeah, well one of the things that we do on a regular basis for the gin is that you do it actually for all your businesses, you call it stats day. At the end of each month you review all of the stats for all of your businesses. So it includes sales but, we take it a step further with Pipehouse Gin and we look at the advertising as well. So, we look at how much we’re spending per click and then we look at how we should be editing that for the month going forward and it’s something that I think is really important for marketing themselves because you can’t set the strategy for the year and then just stick to that strategy month by month. You need to be able to adapt because things will work maybe slightly better or slightly worse than you first anticipated and you need to be able to move some advertising money around or change up the amount of time you’re spending on, say PR versus online advertising.
SAM: And you’ve got to have room for creativity and if you have an idea of one week, that there’s something completely weird and wonderful that you haven’t calculated into your marketing strategy, you should be able to go and try that because it might work.
EMMA: Well a classic idea of that would be this week I got quite into the idea of doing some videos for the gin.
SAM: Yeah we haven’t done any videos yet, but I’d been thinking about that this morning actually, and I was thinking it’s worth us doing some more events so we can get some video footage of us doing it. If we plan in say, six events over the next three months in different venues and then bring along a videographer to each one and then we can put together some amazing videos from clips from all that sort of stuff, and we can do events in bars, could do events in market stalls, we could do taste testing and stuff like that that we know would work quite well.
EMMA: We do have four events booked in for the next three months.
SAM: Yeah so I think it’d be good to get some video of that. Sometimes you’ll be chatting and you’ll come up with an idea and often the stuff that works most is stuff that goes viral is the weird and wonderful that nobody’s thought of before. Like look at Brewdogs marketing. Brewdogs is a craft beer in the UK, which is business for punks. And that’s all about their marketing strategies and their sales strategies and it’s all about doing weird and wonderful things like drinking a beer while skydiving and trying to make it go viral.
EMMA: Didn’t they airdrop beer in random places in London.
SAM: They might have. They do all sorts of things.
EMMA: Just for the exposure and I think they filmed it, didn’t they? Just crazy stuff like that. Like where does that idea come from.
SAM: Yeah the whole business strategy is coming up with ideas and then working on it. Yeah and look at cards against humanity who is buying up areas along the Mexican border to stop them putting a wall in.
EMMA: I didn’t see that.
SAM: And they did a crowdfunding so you could buy it like buying a bit of land along the border where they put the wall so they can block that.
EMMA: That’s so cool.
SAM: Just stuff that doesn’t work, doesn’t make sense. But it’s PR for them. Yeah they like bought a stadium and branded it with all their stupid slogans. They do interesting things that go viral and get media attention, so that’s obviously silly stuff but then you also got companies that will do loads of things. Not just around getting PR, because that’s kind of PR viral stuff we’re talking about. About another interesting one that we thought was quite interesting was the Fyre Festival.
EMMA: Oh yes.
SAM: Yeah there’s a documentary on Netflix about that.
EMMA: Well they made a promotional video for the festival before they sold any tickets, before they launched any information about the festival. They launched this video which was these basically supermodels on a beach on a boat having a party and they paid, was it ten million for it?
SAM: They didn’t really say but they spent a fortune on it and then they spent a fortune paying the Instagram models who were in it to promote it to their followers.
EMMA: Yes and it was it was hugely successful in the campaign in getting the sales because they sold very high-priced tickets to this festival very quickly.
EMMA: I mean the documentaries about what happened after, but from a marketing perspective they spent a lot of money, and they achieved their goals.
SAM: Yeah, and even the documentary itself is made by the marketing agency who created that video.
SAM: And so they’re leveraging all the bad stuff that happened from the Fyre Festival in order to get extra publicity for them as a business. Very clever.
EMMA: Very clever. Yeah so I mean we kind of want on a little tangent there, but that’s it is the sales, the marketing is really hard. Don’t underestimate it. With the gin, so we had a new flavor launch last week, two weeks ago, which took a lot of work to get going. But now it’s out there and there’s not much work around that new flavor. The work is getting people to buy it, getting sales for it. Same with my table tennis business. In my monthly report for the end of last month, I think I wrote about three lines on that business. That is my most profitable but it’s because it’s all kind of setup, it’s all automated and we just haven’t done that much marketing for it recently. It’s just kind of taking over all the work that we put in all that time ago and it is kind of starting to dip down a little bit as a result.
EMMA: It’s interesting actually because you had a whole day of doing marketing with your business partners in March on the bats.
SAM: Yeah I did a day on that but there wasn’t really much to report.
EMMA: Yeah that’s quite interesting isn’t it.
SAM: Yeah so we did a bunch of things, we changed the advertising, we changed some of our copy, we implemented a few extra things, so we did do quite a bit but it was all just little tweaks here and there. Not really much notable to report on, and the marketing side is the part that I do worst when it comes to the blog or to this podcast.
EMMA: Yeah because the blog and podcast are all about you and you’re terrible at promoting yourself.
SAM: Yeah I hate it. I would much rather it spread by word of mouth, but that doesn’t really work.
EMMA: it doesn’t work.
SAM: Who tells people about blogs by word of mouth? I mean that’s how I’ve got quite a lot of my readership but it’s been very slow. It could be so much bigger.
EMMA: It could be so much bigger and it just comes down to self-promotion and putting yourself out there and putting yourself up on this pedestal. All stuff that you are basically allergic to you. You’re like effectively shivering inside at the thought of all these things.
SAM: I mean to be honest starting a blog is really easy you can start one in a day I’ve got a blog post and have stopped blogging in one hour with a step-by-step guide on how to do it and it’s quite easy to monetize it as well, especially if you’re going down you know just adverts or affiliations, which are like refer a friend deals. It’s very easy to set up, but the challenge is getting people to visit your website. That’s the purest form of really what we’re talking about here. Sales is very difficult. Marketing is very difficult. And the type of business you do affects how the marketing works, and what your challenge there is, what is the fundamental challenge behind your marketing. So, for instance, we sell gin. Gin is quite an easy sale to most people.
EMMA: Mass consumers.
SAM: Most people like gin so our fundamental challenge is standing out among all the other gins on the market.
EMMA: Yes, why us.
SAM: Why us. Whereas I’ve got a friend who’s got a vodka business and his business is slightly flavored and is meant to be drunk with tap water. It’s meant to be lowering calories, it’s like a healthy option. It’s a unique product that no one’s ever seen before. So, he doesn’t have any competition, but his fundamental challenge is telling people why he exists.
EMMA: It’s the education side.
SAM: The education side of it.
EMMA: That the customers need his products.
SAM: We don’t need to tell people why they should be drinking gin. He needs to tell people why they should be drinking his products. So even though on the surface we’re quite similar products, we’re both selling spirits. The fundamental marketing challenge is very different. And, whatever business you’re doing, that’s going to be the case. And even, even if you’re doing like an Amazon FBA business. On the surface it sounds like they’re the same. Two people, I’ve got loads of friends who have Amazon FBA businesses. I’m not gonna tell you what their real business are, but let’s say one person has a business which is a beard balm business, and another one who’s got a table tennis business, my business. We’re both Amazon FBA businesses, we’ve both had that first set which is very similar in finding suppliers, creating unique products, creating supply chain, getting onto Amazon, but then the actual sales side is completely different because it’s different audiences. And me telling you how to market your Amazon FBA business, how to get sales for your Amazon FBA business isn’t particularly helpful when businesses are so separate. And yes there are some crossovers, like the algorithms work the same, you know you want to become high on the best-selling list on Amazon. You want to appear in the search results on Amazon, you want to use Amazon adverts and gets some sales on that side.
EMMA: And also google as well.Your website needs to appear highly on Google, you want some some positive PR on Google’s searches, so whether that’s blog posts about your product or about you, you want to make your business and your product look effectively bigger than it is and also professional.
SAM: And how you do that, there isn’t really that much crossover between a table tennis business and a beard oil business.
EMMA: What about talking about some of the success stories of product businesses, particularly Amazon FBA businesses that you know of.
SAM: Yeah I think the first step of this, this shouldn’t put you off, it just means you should focus a lot on the marketing side of it. And I mean the first step is to listen to the podcasts and go listen to episode number five or read the blog post that corresponds to it where I go into those ten different types and give examples of each and then use your creativity to work out how to add your own unique spin on it and how to experiment with it.
EMMA: And where to start because you can’t do all 10 or however many there are in one go. It’s just not physically possible, budget and timewise. You’ve got to focus and then adapt.
SAM: Yeah you know an answer to your question, what worked for us with our table tennis business, the main thing that seems to work for us is having a few blog posts that run quite well that then lead to traffic onto Amazon. That worked quite well but again blog posts are getting less popular nowadays, so that seems to be diminishing a little bit. Also what worked for the coffee shop, which is a physical location business, which is very different, that was a bit of PR appearing in some of the best of London, winning an award for best new coffee shop London. And a few other things that worked quite well there for the gin, events have worked really well for us, so doing market stalls, getting in front of people has worked quite well. Getting a bit of publicity from local bloggers and local newspapers has worked quite well.
EMMA: Yes but we have yet to crack online.
SAM: Online we’re doing okay but we need to put more effort into that and one thing I think will work quite well for that is going to be social media marketing. What other businesses are there?
EMMA: The other thing I was going to say around table tennis is your concept around the sales net.
SAM: Yeah, yes I got this idea that with table tennis, me and my business partner between us, we cover a lot of different aspects of table tennis. So we have, the most profitable is a business selling table tennis equipment, but my business partner also has a blog that earns decent money.
EMMA: And has a lot of traffic
SAM: And has a lot of traffic. There’s also an online series of courses to attend university which you pay for video education on it. We’ve also written a book, Expert in a year: the ultimate table tennis challenge. We’ve also got youtube video that went viral and it’s got 10 million views. We’ve got all these kind of things that earn money in their own right but also then lead to the other stuff, so on that video we’ll have links to the blog, we’ll have links to our products, we’ll have links to the book. In the book, we’ll have links to the products, we’ll have links to the blog, we’ll add links to the Table Tennis University education and these are all channels that do well on different places. So, if you search for Table Tennis on YouTube, you might well come up with our video. If you search for Table Tennis on Amazon you’ll come up with our book and our table tennis bats. If you search for Table Tennis on Google, you’ll probably come up with the blog. There are all different ways that we use that each individually make money, but they also help funnel traffic around between all the other businesses. And so that is a business where we don’t actually do much paid advertising, we don’t do much traditional forms of advertising. Instead, we build little businesses at different corners of the market that then hopefully tie in all together.
SAM: But that works particularly well for that type of business because it’s very niche. But if we had a stall in the middle of Tunbridge Wells where we lived, selling table tennis bats, we would get hardly any sales. Where that works really well for gin because there’s hundreds of people, thousands of people in Tunbridge Wells who like gin. But there aren’t thousands of people in Tunbridge Wells who want to buy a table tennis bat.
EMMA: And you’ve done a podcast on this, on the sales net.
SAM: Yeah so they’re quite different. And it is not worth trying to conquer every corner of the market for gin. There’s too much competition on YouTube, there’s too much competition on the blog space, there’s too much competition in books. And it might be worth trying all those and in fact we will do but as our main sales strategy, it works much better for something very niche like table tennis than it does for gin.
EMMA: I mean I was just thinking while you were talking, it would be really cool to do a cocktail cookbook with our gin and each recipe could be created by one of the bars and restaurants, like lots of different bars and restaurants in Tunbridge Wells. That would be so good and that would sell really well locally.
SAM: It would sell really well locally, and then all those bars and restaurants would have it for sale in their place, and then they’d all have to stock our gin because it’s about the book.
EMMA: Yeah and that’s just a marketing idea.
SAM: It’s my idea that could make money, but also help settle the gin as well and give everyone local a reason to hear about us and a reason to push it.
EMMA: Yeah and we would do self publishing through Amazon which people could buy online as well.
SAM: Yeah yeah potentially. There’s loads of ways we could do it. Again, it’s quite a bit of work but it’s something that could be really good. Alright, well let’s sum up again, we keep going on tangents but that’s alright Sorry, so splitting business into two sections, we’ve got the setup phase which in modern business is a lot about the optimization.
EMMA: And supply chain, price.
SAM: Making sure that everything is scalable, doing all your pricing. Making sure that you have a solid business that once you get sales will make money and will be profitable.
EMMA: And can be scalable.
SAM: And scalable, yeah. If you get a thousand sales in a month.
EMMA: You can fulfill those orders and have stock next month.
SAM: And don’t get me wrong now that is a challenge and for instance with the table tennis business, one of the reasons that we haven’t done that much recently is because our factories aren’t able to produce as many bats as we can sell.
EMMA: Yeah which is a very good place to be.
SAM: Which is a very good problem to have.
EMMA: But it is a problem.
SAM: But it is a problem and that’s because we sell thousands and thousands of those bats but that’s not a problem you got to worry about right now. For most people, the main problem is going to be the sales side. To get to that point you need to focus on the business side and then the other side, the side that’s going to take most of your time once the business is up and running that’s going to be the hardest part and needs much creativity is the sales and marketing side. Awesome, well thanks for listening. Please don’t take this as a putting you off from starting your business. I just want to prepare you that that is the
EMMA: It’s a realist perspective of it.
SAM: It’s realist. But it should also give you confidence that one side is quite straightforward and you can follow courses or guys to do, and that setting up a scalable business is very doable and there’s loads of companies out there that will help you set that up quite easily and there aren’t really many secrets in that space. But then there’s the creative side, the marketing side which is all down to you, and if you can come up with a way to get sales that nobody else has thought of then that is it, your business will do great.
EMMA: And it is really fun.
SAM: Because we all like being creative, we all like having ideas. And on that note, bye.