Mike O’Donnell Reaches The 30 Day Milestone For Selling Physical Products With Cave Tools

Posted on June 30th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Goal Setting, Sales | No Comments »

Wow! I can’t believe I have finally reached my 30 day mark for selling physical products online. I remember back in March when I was winding things down with Wayne and trying to regroup so I could focus on Hyacinth Marketing again. I was thinking of importing some cell phone batteries and selling them on the side so I could learn the ropes of physical products and working with China. Then my idea transformed into making Fat Head style wall stickers and selling them because the unit price was so low and I could form a white label relationship with a domestic printer. One thing led to another and I spent about 2 months learning and building up the infrastructure for Cave Tools to get ready for the big launch on May 28, 2013.

Before I get to the results for the first 30 days, I’d like to talk a little bit about what’s going on behind the scenes. Everything in this business revolves around driving qualified traffic to the product page. Right now my product page is converting at around 10-11%, which is really good considering that ecommerce conversions are typically around the 3-5% range. My goal is to be making 15 sales per day on average by the end of month 5 because that would put me on track for 100K per year revenue with just this one product. Based on my math, that means I need to get about 150 people to the product page every single day. This assumes people only purchase 1 at a time, which in my case I’m selling 1.14 brushes per purchase. I’m working on a couple strategies to increase that number so people start buying multiple brushes and giving them away as gifts.

In one of my updates a couple posts ago, I talked about the excel dashboard I was creating to manage the entire marketing of the business. I didn’t really know what I was building when I first started on it, but every time I go into it I upgrade it. This dashboard is ridiculously awesome and is allowing me to track and manage literally every aspect of my marketing strategy. Right now I’m executing 15 different marketing strategies to drive traffic and build SEO value of my various websites. In SEO terms, I’m using a nice mix of White hat on the front end, a little bit of Grey hat to boost them up, and then a couple sneaky Black hat strategies to promote my promotions.

Without going into the details for each strategy, this is what we are doing for promotion right now: Press Releases, Blogs, Squidoo Lenses, Videos, Social Media, Reviews promotions, Amazon ads, Facebook Ads, Coupons Code Websites, Article directories, Wikis, Pdf Directories, RSS syndication, Commenting, and Autoresponders. Getting all of these strategies up and running was difficult because they all needed to be interconnected and congruent across the board. Without my dashboard, it would all fall apart. Lately, I’ve been focusing on going back to each individual strategy and making them more efficient and powerful. I still have a few more strategies I need to add to my list. Building an Email List is at the top of the priority list right now because it opens the doors for so much more customer contact.

I’ve also mentioned about hiring people and “Silo-ing” the business. I haven’t really been doing much of that yet. My assistant Caecilia has 9 jobs she is doing for me on a weekly basis right now. This is a huge help because it frees up tons of my time to focus on strategy and managing the business. I also just hired a new person a few days ago named Anj. It’s taking a little longer than expected to get her up to speed, but once she gets rolling I’m planning on giving her close to 25-30 hours per week worth of work. I’m super excited to get her to that point because that will kick all of my SEO and traffic efforts into overdrive.

Pretty soon, I will also be selling in the Sears marketplace. My application is still under review right now, but I am expecting to hear back by tomorrow afternoon. Once I get approved, I will be sending a small batch of 150 brushes over to the Sears fulfillment centers and then the rest will go out to my Amazon warehouses. I was able to get my inventory limit raised by 30% this week, which is cool because it gives me more flexibility. The Unlimit3d website is set to begin within the week, so I’m planning on taking some of the profit from the first milestone payment and placing another order for grill brushes. Since I need to project out at least a month in advance, I think I’m actually behind schedule for my next order. The worst thing that can happen right now is to stock out of inventory, so if I need to I’ll just have to put them on a plane again instead of a boat.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research trying to figure out what my next product is going to be. Right now, I’m thinking it will be a 3 piece grill set with a Spatula, Tongs, and Grill Fork. My only concern is that right now I want to spend as much money as possible getting the grill brushes into a top position. If I start splitting my resources between the 2 products I will spread myself too thin. By the time the set releases it will also be winter time so I won’t be selling as much volume in the northern states. Definitely still have a lot of thinking to do before going down this road.

Now for the first month’s results…In the first 30 days, we sold 192 grill brushes for total revenue of $2,847.69. I’m happy with these numbers for the first month, but they are definitely not where I would like them to be. I’m still well in the hole for my investment and it might take another 2 months before the business goes positive. My next mini goal is to do 5K in revenue in one month. Everything I’m doing is building on itself, so I’m hoping to be able to reach this goal by the end of month 3 at the latest!

Mike O’Donnell Learns How to Utilize Outsourcing and Delegation to Build a Business Machine

Posted on July 23rd, 2012 in Business Development, Canada, Management, Outsourcing | No Comments »

One of the things I often hear success coaches and business mentors say is that you need to put yourself in the mindset and act like someone who makes the amount of money you desire to make. For instance, someone who makes a couple hundred thousand dollars a year does not spend their time doing $10 or even $30 an hour tasks. Their time is much more valuable and much better spent doing other more strategic things in their business. As someone who has yet to ever have considerable spending money, I have developed the personality traits of always trying to do things myself. Although this method saves me money and gives me the opportunity to learn many new things, lately I have been realizing just how powerful outsourcing and delegation can really be. It is good for me to learn and understand these new things, but when it comes to implementation I have been reminding myself of this valuable quote, “A Jack of all trades is a master of none.” My biggest strengths are in Marketing strategy and business management/development and that is where I need to focus the majority of my time.

Now that I have explained my current mindset, I would like to dedicate the rest of this post to the discussion of outsourcing and how it plays a vital role in the creation of a business machine. You see, I have actually known how to outsource for a few years now, but it wasn’t until I started working with Ben that I was really able to start shifting my mindset from relying on myself to utilizing other people’s expertise. Before coming to Canada, I actually did my own SEO and manually built citations every day because that way I didn’t have to pay anybody to do what I already knew how to do. Now, we have a team in India that we have trained to provide SEO the way we want them to and I can spend my time on other more strategic projects. The key lesson here is that if you want to make your business scalable, you need to remove yourself from the equation. You need to train people and build bulletproof systems so the business can run without you.

As far as the SEO team in India is concerned, that was in place before I got to Montreal. My personal experience with outsourcing has been from developing our system for posting reviews for businesses throughout Canada. Ben had developed a system before I got here, but as our reputation management client base has grown, I have been in charge of modifying the system and hiring, firing, and managing our outsourced work force.  So let me give you an overview of what this “system” really is.

We have almost 300 businesses throughout Canada that have the ability to send us anywhere from 12 to 120 reviews per year. These are real reviews from their customers and we are in charge of making sure they get distributed across the internet in a natural pattern over a certain period of time. We receive these written reviews either by pdf in an email or through a fax number which gets forwarded to an email. Some weeks we receive only a handful of submissions and other weeks we can receive over 100 review submissions. With only a few hours per week of management, our system allows us to have every review transcribed into a spreadsheet, posted on various business review sites, and double checked that the review goes live. At any point in time I can tell you both the macro and micro metrics of the system. For instance, how many reviews a certain business has submitted, how many have been posted, where each review has been posted, how many have been verified as live, and the percentage of plan usage that business has utilized so far.

To make this system work, I have been utilizing a Filipino work force. Before Montreal I never actually implemented outsourcing, so this alone has been a tremendous learning experience for me. Like most learning experiences I’ve had to make a couple of mistakes before I really got the hang of things. Originally we relied on 1 person to do the review transcriptions, a girl named Emmalyn. She was the first person I had the opportunity to manage and I learned a lot from her. The first lesson was how important communication really is even for a data entry position. When I was managing Emmalyn, I didn’t have any form of regular communication with her and I just accepted her work as is. I mean, how bad could she mess us data entry, right? Big mistake. One day, I noticed our queue starting to back up and when I checked in on Emmalyn I learned that she hadn’t worked in 2 weeks. She claimed a bad storm had been disrupting the internet for 2 weeks, but when the internet was available, she never notified me of the situation and that she wasn’t working. From then forward, I learned that I needed to have a standard daily communication from all of my workers and that I needed to encourage communication so I could plan ahead. I also learned that we needed to have redundancy in the system. Emmalyn not working became a single point of failure and the queue backed up. We needed to have multiple people trained to do this job so when something broke down we could react quickly.

My next big outsourcing lesson was a hiring mistake. Interviewing for a data entry position is tough because it is hard to distinguish between good and bad candidates. It took the hiring of a lady named Dennise to teach me how important my job was to frame the importance of her position and motivate her to want to work. I hired Dennise through a simple sms chat on Skype instead of speaking with her live on audio. This was a big mistake because I just took her word that she understood everything I had been saying. Dennise ended up not being a right fit for the job because of her lack of attention to detail and I eventually had to fire her. It was my fault that things had to end the way they did because I made a poor hiring decision. On all future hires, I have made it a point to really get to know the person before deciding to hire so that I know they will be a good fit.

Taking the lessons that I learned, my system now consists of two people who are both cross trained to do 2 separate jobs. They work on Mondays and Wednesdays and alternate jobs so 1 person is doing job A on Monday and the other is doing job B and vice versa for Wednesdays. At the end of every day, I get a detailed report from each of them letting me know exactly what they did so I can spot check for quality and also letting me know any questions or comments they have. All questions get added to an FAQ document which is available for all future hires for the position so I can speed up the learning curve. By having them work strictly on Mondays and Wednesdays, I can quality check on Tuesdays and Thursdays and also make modifications to the spreadsheets as needed. My current employees, Jonnel and Caecilia, are highly motivated and really enjoy working for me because of the open communication and level of respect that I give each of them.

When I say this system only takes a couple of hours per week to manage, that’s because I am still involved in the quality control process. While this is good because I have a certain level of comfortablity, the next phase is to remove myself all together and bring in another person to do quality control. For me this is a big step because I need to relinquish more control, but it will allow me to spend my time more wisely and help shift my activities away from operational and towards managerial.

When I talk about how we are focusing on building business systems, this is an example of just one system. Both Ben and I are spending the majority of our time building systems like this into the business so we can quite literally build a business machine that generates profit without our daily interaction in the operations.

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