It’s inevitable… a customer is selling your product on Amazon (or elsewhere) at a discount price. How dare they?! Don’t they know that drives the value down for your product? What do you do about it? In these scenarios, it’s good to have a MAP policy in place.Continue reading “Making a MAP Policy”
Are Trade Shows Worthwhile?
I took a break from blogging but now I’m back. How funny that my last post featured a photo from Interbike, the now-defunct bike industry trade show. There’s a lot of explanations swirling around about why Interbike is no more (or, at least, taking a break), but I think a big reason is because it didn’t represent a scene that a lot of people wanted to be a part of. I know that’s largely why I stopped attending.
Bonus content: Listen to me talking about building a women’s focused bike brand with Arleigh Greenwald on the Shift Up Podcast
The lapse of Interbike brings me to a question I get asked a lot – do I do trade shows, and do I think they’re worthwhile? I’ve decided that they’re not the best use of Po Campo’s money, so we’re not doing any this year, but depending on your product and industry, they might be right for you.Continue reading “Are Trade Shows Worthwhile?”
Is cutting out the middleman a good idea?
I often hear small brands boast being able to offer better quality products at lower prices by “cutting out the middleman”. The middleman they’re referring to is retailers, and they often follow up this statement with comparing themselves to brands like Warby Parker and Everlane who have had great success doing just that. But do we really want to run retailers out of business?Continue reading “Is cutting out the middleman a good idea?”
What’s so bad about selling to rich people?
I grew up in a middle class family, but we were very frugal. Creatively reusing things and figuring out how to save money was our way of life. Discovering that you overpaid for something was shameful, as was buying something you didn’t need. We would scoff at the idea of buying name-brand things. “Don’t they know that such-and-such is the same exact thing for half the price?” we’d say, shaking our heads at the thought of such foolishness.
Continue reading “What’s so bad about selling to rich people?”
How to Use Quickbooks to Keep Track of Pre-Orders and Backorders
If you’re looking for a way to manage your pre-orders and backorders, I just figured out how to do it with Quickbooks Premier. It’s super easy!
Continue reading “How to Use Quickbooks to Keep Track of Pre-Orders and Backorders”
How to Find Independent Sales Reps
If you have a product that you want to sell to retailers, you’re soon going to need help with sales. Following up with current and potential accounts takes a surprising amount of effort, especially as your list grows to 100+ leads, which it probably will after a single trade show. That’s a lot for one person to handle, especially if that one person is doing everything else in the business. The logical next step is to find sales reps.
In my industry, brands rely almost exclusively on commission-only independent sales reps rather than in-house reps that earn a mix of salary and commission. The reps operate as business owners themselves, picking up lines of products that go together, showing them to stores that they have relationships with, and writing orders on your behalf. They will be the primary point of contact with your customer (which, by the way, they consider as their customer).
Being a sales rep is hard work. You are knocking on a lot of doors and showing the line to a lot of people before you get any bites. Bites large enough to pay the bills with a commission check, anyway. For that reason, I recommend going with an experienced rep who has a lot of relationships in place instead of someone who is just getting started or just really likes your product and wants to help you out.
At Po Campo, we have gone through a lot of reps and, in doing so, I have developed a couple ways to find reps. Below are my methods from most successful (as in, bringing in the most and best quality orders) to the least successful.
- Ask the buyer which reps he or she likes working with. A good rep solves problems, is organized and brings new opportunities to them, which makes the buyer more willing to purchase product from her. This is easier to do for smaller shops than bigger chains, but I say something like, “I am looking for a rep that sells to stores like yours, do you have any recommendations?”.
- Ask other brands which reps they use and have had success with. Don’t ask direct competitors, but simpatico brands. For example, I look at what other accessory brands (hats, socks, etc) that my retailers stock and reach out to them for their recommendations. Most people are happy to share their good reps and can tell you which ones to stay away from too.
- Ask reps for their suggestions. If you find a good rep, you can ask her for her suggestions. She might know of someone who is looking to pick up a line like yours, or someone that she knows did a good job with a line in a different territory. I put this as my third suggestion because although reps offer suggestions very readily, I feel like they judge effectiveness differently than buyers or brands do.
- Industry rep organizations. For example, I was looking for a rep in the upper midwest and posted an ad on the MWSRA site and found someone.
- Trade shows are a common place for reps to pick up and trade lines with other reps. There’s often a message board where you can post something. Many reps have booths with their lines, so you can find one with an assortment that would work for you.
How I Increased our Holiday Sales by 87%
My post “How I Plan to Maximize Holiday Sales” from 11/18/14 outlined my strategy for cashing in on the holiday shopping season. Are you curious about how my plans worked out? Now that the dust has settled, I checked to see how well we did.
I pulled these reports with Quickbooks and Google Analytics. Details on how to do so are in each metric.
Overall Goal: Double sales over 2013
Result: Overall sales increased by 87.2%. So not quite double, but pretty close.
Analysis: Of course it always burns a bit to not quite hit your goal, but overall I am happy with how the season turned out.
How I know this: In Quickbooks, I ran a Profit & Loss Statement (P&L) for the holiday time period and compared 2014 against 2013.
Goal: Double retail event sales by doing many more events
Result: Event sales increase by 98.7%. Hurray! Again, not quite the goal, but pretty darn close.
Analysis: We did a whopping 8 events (as opposed to just one in 2013), and that strategy obviously worked. That said, we were all pretty exhausted by the end of the month. Next year we’ll skip some of the slower shows and enlist more volunteers so we aren’t working seven days a week.
How I know this: In the same P&L statement from above, I filtered it for our “Retail Events” customer. We didn’t set-up a Retail Events customer until midway through 2014, but since we use Square for credit card transactions at events, I was able to figure out the 2013 sales with a Square sales report.
Goal: Maintain the momentum of increased traffic to our website by 56% over 2013
Result: Traffic increased by 62.3%.
Analysis: I attribute the extra bump in traffic to just more people being online and shopping.
How I know this: In the Google Analytics Acquisition Overview report, I compared 2014 against 2013. I refer to “Sessions” to represent inbound traffic.
Goal: Increase referral traffic by roughly 50% by being in more gift guides
Result: Referral traffic increased by 41.2%.
Analysis: Despite not hitting our goal, I am very pleased with how this strategy played out. Our e-commerce conversion rate from referral increased to an impressive 9.73% (compared to 0.41% in 2013), and of course that is a better metric than just traffic. We will push harder for gift guides next year, and get started on them earlier.
How I know this: In the same Google Analytics Overview report, then just clicking on the “Referral” line to dive into that report.
Goal: Invest in social media advertising to increase conversions.
Result: Our traffic from social increased an impressive 435.7% and our e-commerce conversion rate increased 214%. The vast majority of both traffic and conversions came from Pinterest.
Analysis: Obviously the Pinterest increase is a huge win, and interesting because we didn’t put any marketing dollars there. We did advertise on both Facebook and Google, and hardly saw a bump from those advertising efforts. Next year we will double down on Pinterest and try advertising there instead.
How I know this: In the same Google Analytics Overview report, then just clicking on the “Social” line to dive into that report.
Goal: Keep drop ship account momentum going, which had increased 74.1% over 2013.
Result: During the holidays, our drop ship orders increased by 132.1%!
Analysis: We offered our drop ship accounts limited-time discounts on certain SKUs so that they would have styles to promote during the big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We also changed to shipping every day (rather than just Monday, Wednesday and Friday) so that they can offer more shipping days.
How I know this: In Quickbooks, I ran a report under “Manufacturing & Wholesale Reports” called “Sales by Customer Type” and filtered it for the “Drop Ship” type. Note: You have to be using the Quickbooks Premier: Manufacturing & Wholesale Edition to have access to this report. Another method would be to just compare sales from these accounts from one year to the other.
Overall I am very pleased with how the holiday sales turned out. It’s great to end the year on a high note and to sell through a lot of inventory. For 2016, I want to reduce the craziness by getting a headstart on some of these initiatives, especially pitching the gift guides and our social media campaigns earlier on.
If you had particular success with any of your holiday marketing strategies, please share in the comments below.
Dealing with Entrepreneur’s Anxiety
I started blogging about my experience of building Po Campo three years ago but I only began regularly posting this past summer. I usually base the topic on something that I’m presently focused on, whether that be grandiose big picture things or nuts-and-bolts executional things. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all fair game and all part of the entrepreneur’s life.
Well, this weekend I drew a blank on what to write because I spent the last week doing little other than being overwrought about how much we would sell between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I wish I could tell you how I managed to overpower the anxiety in the end, but I can’t, because I haven’t. However, I am going to hold true to the promise I made to myself to post every week, which means that while anxiety about Christmas sales is not the most interesting topic, I suppose I will just have to write about that, because it’s all I can seem to think about.
The core of my anxiety is that our December sales need to be good to end the year with a profit, a goal that has eluded me for the last five years. In addition to just making me feel like I am doing a good job at running my business, being profitable would increase my likelihood of getting a bank loan, or some other kind of financing, so I could start to improve my balance sheet. There’s nothing I’d like more than being able to pay back some of those early friend and family loans that make me feel guilty and some of that high interest credit card debt that just makes me feel like a loser.
I put together a solid holiday marketing strategy to hit our sales goals, but that has apparently done little to assuage my anxiety. When I’m in a state like this, I feel paralyzed by my inability to control the outcome of a situation, and so I sit around watching movies until an idea strikes me (Change up the card abandonment email! Reactivate the Google remarketing ads! Think of another clever facebook post – and boost it!), in which case I jump up and do that post haste. I don’t feel like there is time to do the things that normally help me feel balanced, like yoga or cooking or socializing, because I feel too busy, when in reality I’m just waiting…for something.
December 13 Update
Holiday sales are going splendidly, thank you very much. Our last shipping day is Dec 19, which means by this time next week, I’ll be ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the holiday season!
How I Plan to Maximize Holiday Sales
One of my favorite things about being in business for a few years is that you have a sales history that you can refer to when you are doing your planning. It sounds horribly geeky but having to guess about when, where and how you’re going to get sales is the absolute worst. Case in point: how much money can I hope to make this holiday season?
Like most consumer good companies, I hope Po Campo will cash in on all the holiday shopping activity. Below are our sales trends over the last two years. After a spring/early summer spike, you can see that the holidays are our second highest sales season. Our retail (i.e. B2C) sales have roughly doubled this year over last, and I’m banking on that trend continuing through December. Rather than just hoping for the best, I checked our data from last year to see what worked the best so that we can focus our efforts on activities with a high ROI.
First I look at our Quickbooks file to see where last year’s holiday sales came from and discovered that 78% came from retail sales, with the remainder being wholesale drop ship accounts.
Step One: How to Maximize Retail Sales
Focusing on the retail sales, about 30% of those came from doing holiday shopping events. We are doing several more shopping events this year, so I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to roughly double that amount.
The rest of our sales came from our online store. To learn more about those sales, I looked at our Google Analytics acquisitions report for last year’s holiday shopping season to see where the highest converting traffic came from.
70% of our conversions came from people looking specifically for Po Campo, either typing pocampo.com into the URL bar or searching for Po Campo, or a variation of our name, in Google. My first thought is that these are people come to us already knowing what they want, so can I expect this number of visitors to double this holiday season?
To make an educated guess, I run a report comparing this year to last year. Our traffic is up by 56%, but our conversion rate is down by 19%. Therefore, if those trends continue through the holidays, I expect our organic and direct traffic to increase somewhat, but probably not double.
Next, 19% of our conversions came from referral traffic, mostly blogs that had included a Po Campo bag in some sort of gift guide. I know we are going to be included in some of the same gift guides this year, and it’s a little too late to make any more pitches. However, we have started some strategic partnerships with various groups, affiliate networks and analogous brands that should increase the amount of referral traffic we get.
Lastly, 7% of our sales came from social, almost entirely from facebook and Pinterest. Both of these platforms have greatly improved their targeting and reporting tools over the last year, so while I’m not able to glean much information about was successful last year, I think there is an opportunity to run some promoted posts to increase conversions this year.
Most of these tactics for pocampo.com are underway, with the exception of the facebook and Pinterest optimization. Researching that is now on my to-do list for next week.
Step Two: Drop Ship Accounts
Secondly, I ponder the drop ship accounts. Generally we just let them run on auto-pilot and focus most of our attention on our own online store. However, these drop ships have grown into a decent size business for us this year and I’d like to support them as they push for holiday sales as well. I brainstormed some promotion ideas with my team, including:
- Developing content that they can just plug into their networks. Our expertise is in inventive and inspired products for modern city living, in particular integrating the bicycle into your life, and this is something we’d be happy to share with them.
- Using our reflector pins as a gift with purchase (commonly called GWP) during certain periods.
- Offering longer return periods
- Offering special promotions
Knowing that time was of the essence, we sent these ideas to our contacts to get their input. As I feared, we were too late to be able to do much, especially with the larger sites. Not to let this lesson go to waste, I added a reminder to our 2015 calendar to look into this with our drop ship accounts in late September/early October instead.
Maximizing Holiday Sales Strategy
Here is what we still have time to do this year:
- Promote the heck out of the holiday events we have planned this year
- Activate our Google Adwords that target the common misspellings of our name (like Pro Campo or pocampo) and turn on our remarketing ads to make sure we stay top of mind to people who visit our site.
- Increase traffic from facebook and Pinterest
- Promote the gift guide exposure
- Identify partner marketing opportunities with our simpatico brands
- Continue to talk with drop ships about highlighting Po Campo
I look forward to sharing how successful we were in January! What are you planning for your last minute marketing push?
Running “Quickbooks Reports”
Po Campo uses the Wholesale and Manufacturing version of Quickbooks Premier. We set up our different revenue sources as Customer Types and these include: Retail, Drop Ship, Wholesale, Distributor and Discount. Running the “Sales by Customer Type” report (Reports > Wholesale & Manufacturing Reports > Sales by Customer Type) displays how your different revenues streams perform against each other over a period of time.
I didn’t discover this report until this year and now it is one of the ones I look at most often!
Cultivating your email newsletter list
Of all the types of marketing that we do at Po Campo, email marketing is probably the most successful in terms of ROI. Our e-commerce conversion rate for newsletters is 1.49%, the highest of all our marketing efforts. Our newsletter subscribers may only account for about 4% of our website traffic, but over 8% of our conversions, so they’re active and engaged visitors too.
Building Your Newsletter List
We get about $17 in sales from each newsletter for every hundred people on our list. Naturally, the more people on our list, the more sales we can expect. That’s why growing the list is always a priority. Focus on growing your list organically rather than purchasing or trading lists so that it remains high quality, resulting in higher sale conversion rates.
The two most successful ways we build our newsletter list involve, unsurprisingly, giving things away for free.
1) Offering something irresistible. Try a couple offers (called a “lead magnet”) before figuring out what your customers like. Before offering a $50 gift card to one lucky new subscriber each month, we tried free content about tips for city biking and a free $5 on your first purchase. The bigger sweepstakes of a free $50 worked best for us. We get an average of 65 new sign-ups each month once we started this practice. Read more on lead magnets here.
2) We offer a free reflector pin (value of $5) in exchange for an email address at all of our events. Few people can resist the pin, plus they don it almost immediately and then other people ask where they got it from and are directed our way. We can get upwards of 200 emails a day at busy events.
Maintaining Your List
The obvious goal is to send people emails that they enjoy receiving so as not to unsubscribe. You’d think that sales/promotion emails are the best, but while those probably generate the most immediate sales, we have found general lifestyle topics, company updates, tips and how-tos to have the lowest unsubscribe rate.
Po Campo sends an email about every other week on Thursdays. Creating an email marketing calendar ahead of time reduces the “So what do we write about this week???” syndrome, which almost always results in boring emails. By creating a calendar, you can make sure that your sales are spread out throughout the year and that you are maximizing the content that you are creating elsewhere (e.g. for your blog or for Facebook). Our average open rate is 30.1% and click through rate is 6.9%, which are both above average (17.35% and 3.0% respectively, according to MailChimp benchmarks).
About .6% of our newsletter list unsubscribes with each email. That’s not super high but of course I wish it were zero. Recently I did two things to curb the unsubscriber activity, or at least to not lose touch with them altogether.
1) An option to receiver fewer emails. I know sometimes I open my inbox and go on a major unsubscribe binge, removing myself from pretty much every newsletter just because I’m sick of receiving them and having to devote energy to them. Of course many of our subscribers unsubscribe because of a similar feeling, not that they don’t ever want to hear from us ever again but because we were just one more email that day.
Hoping that we could keep people subscribed if we gave them an option to receive fewer emails, I created a group in MailChimp called “Newsletter Types”with three sub-groups:
- “All, including tips and how-to’s, event announcements, sales, and new product debuts”
- “Just Sales/Promotions (about 6 times per year)”
- “New Product Announcements (about 4 times per year)”
Now, when people go to unsubscribe, we allow them to update their profile and change their newsletter frequency preference.
2) Ask to connect another way. I think most of us have email fatigue and prefer interacting with brands on different mediums, like facebook or Instagram. On our unsubscribe confirmation page, we ask one last time if they would consider connecting with us on one of our social networks, so as not to lose touch with them completely.
I hope this inspires you to build and maintain a healthy newsletter list. Do you have strategies beyond what we’re doing to do so? Please share in the comments!