In one of the recent episodes I had Bill Sphon on the podcast, Bill is the President and CEO of trutechtools.com which is a leading e-commerce distributor of HVAC tools, Bill has been running his e-commerce business successfully for the past 13 years & shared his experience in the episode
How to build a successful e-commerce business?
Bill – I think you need to understand your products, which I did because I had sold them before, So I really understood how the products work, I could very clearly choose the ones I wanted to sell and very clearly promote them and sometimes unique ways because the manufacturer has a linear way of thinking. But I’ve seen multiple manufacturers, so I may have a different way of thinking and presenting something unique. So know your product, know-how e-commerce functions and know your costs, and put effort into studying how e-commerce works, because it’s just a whole subject area that you have to fit into and look at things like, do you want to do pay per click advertising? Do you want to go with SEO? Do you want to write a blog that directs people back to your site? Do you want to be on social media, There are just so many tools
The other thing is, it’s an old saying, but it’s, fails faster. Try something, but don’t try it like you’re planning. You’re going to use it in a year. You may not use this feature or function in a year, but evaluate as you go along, be ready to invest in something, and be ready to abandon it and take a different path. We’ve done that on different occasions. The other thing is when you recognize you’re moving out of your area of competency, look at hiring consultants, partners, services to assist you. In some ways. There’s a lot of e-commerce systems out there, like Shopify and BigCommerce, and WooCommerce derivatives that will assist you in getting started, but understand how it scales. Understand how the cost scales, and at some point, you may need to make a shift to more of a build yourself system rather than a package system.
The build yourself system will give you the flexibility to deliver the way you want to and it may come at a lower cost, whereas the package system that has really high marketing costs needs to fill those high marketing costs by charging a lot for the services. We don’t fit with a package system anymore. We’ve got a semi-custom system. So we started with a small provider, and we’ve continued to grow and clone and plug things into them. But we get a lot of compliments and effects. A lot of people come to us and just say, hey, we want to offer you this new payment system. We want to offer you this new marketing system and we entertain them and then sometimes experiment. But again, just be ready to turn it on, evaluate, turn it off, keep doing it, negotiate that kind of thing. So you always have to be experimenting, trying new things to succeed in e-commerce, but understand where you start from. Look at your projected costs and see if you can sustain that.
How to approch branding in e-commerce?
Bill -That’s interesting because I just had a conversation yesterday morning with somebody. The question was, is trutechtools.com a brand? When do you know if you’re a brand or not? And I guess the way the conversation went it’s when you have sort of brand attributes that are unique from the products you sell. That was an insight that I gained there, and I think we did not have a plan laid out to build a brand, but we built a brand because we had again gone back to this focus on customer service, on clarity of communication, on understanding our value and where we fit in the matrix of things,
I talked to our team about competitors. Everyone has competitors, but nobody does it the way we do it. And we don’t do it to be different. But we do it because we think that’s the way and we do have to look at the competition. Hopefully, they’re in the rearview mirror or they’re on the side and they’re not in front of us. But we should clear that all away. And we should put the customer in front of us, serving the customer, listening to the customer feedback, taking care of them, because ultimately to me, it’s not about the competition. It’s about the customer.