From “The ESCAPE Plan – 6 Steps to Leaving the Job You Hate by Creating a Business You Love“, by Meredith Eisenberg & Jasper Blake
ahhh….. the good old days.
Opening a business was as simple as setting up a folding table in your local park. You had a shoebox to collect money and sold the lemonade that your Mom helped you make. If you were particularly on the ball (or had parents who worked in local government) you might have spent $10 for a permit to sell lemonade in the park. Otherwise, the mechanics of running a lemonade stand are pretty basic.
Fast forward to 2020, you now run (or are starting) a virtual business with clients from all over the world. Just like a lemonade stand, you need basic infrastructure—but the mechanics are slightly different when your business is primarily online.
Of course, you can do anything more easily if you have the right tools for the job. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck in a sort of analysis paralysis when it comes to choosing the right tools for their business. Don’t let that happen to you. Read this post and get the answers you need to choose a system that will work for you.
What Do I Really Need?
Of course, it is really impossible to answer this question without knowing specifics about your business. But, generally, you need:
The other reason you need an email service is that the email services have agreements with the major Internet Service Providers to let their emails into your inbox. If you try to send emails directly from your email box, not only are you going to have to manage the unsubscribe process manually, there is a big chance that your message will end up in your client’s (or potential client’s) spam folder.
What Do I Look for in an Email or Autoresponder Service?
There are two types of email services—stand-alone or connected to a shopping cart or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of an all-in-one system v.s. a standalone system later.
First, let’s focus on the features you want to make sure you have in any email service you choose.
Now, that we know a little about the email communication side of things; let’s look at the e-commerce or shopping cart side.
How Do I Collect Money Online?
(What does a shopping cart actually do?)
From a customer perspective, buying online is a pretty straight forward venture. You go to a site, fill out a form, give your credit card number, once your credit card is accepted, you get a receipt and you can download your order (or your order is mailed to your home). The buying process actually is a three part process involving your shopping cart program (i.e. Infusionsoft or ThriveCart), a payment gateway (i.e. authorize.net), and your merchant account.
How Do You Choose Which Services to Use For Your
This depends on what you are selling and where you are in your business. There are four different types of e-commerce solutions. In this book, we’ll cover three of them. The fourth is a shopping cart for a company that has hundreds of products.
A complete back-end system includes an email component, an e-commerce component and a customer relationship manager component.
Here’s how this looks in the different stages of your business:
1. The Virtual Lemonade Stand
When you are first starting out, it is likely that you’ll start with an email service that is free for the first few hundred (or even few thousand) subscribers, and paired with a simple payment app like PayPal or Stripe.
Using PayPal on your website is very easy. You create a ‘buy now’ button in PayPal. After filling in information on the name of the product, the price, whether or not taxes are included, PayPal gives you the code to paste into the html section of your website.
PayPal also talks to a number of autoresponder services (including AWeber, MailChimp, Active Campaign). Go to the help menu of your autoresponder service and look up ‘PayPal integration’ to see if yours is one of them. If it is, your buyers will automatically be added to your email list when they purchase.
OK, you are probably saying, that sounds dead easy, why would I want to use anything BUT PayPal? Here are the disadvantages:
AWeber and MailChimp both have integrations with PayPal so that buyers end up in your email database. If your email doesn’t integrate with PayPal you can create an opt-in form for your thank you page so customers can add themselves to the list of purchasers.
Also, LeadPages (which I’ll talk about later) has paypal and email integration and could be a nice option if you are just starting out.
2. Moving Up to a Co-working Space
Eventually, if your lemonade stand is successful, you’ll want to move into a space with more amenities. Maybe you’ll go join a co-working space or rent a cubicle in a shared office space.
It is time for your own shopping cart. Our favorite shopping cart is ThriveCart. For a small lifetime fee (and no ongoing fees) ThriveCart provides a good balance of cost vs. features.
(If you buy ThriveCart through our affiliate link, we will gift you with a free “get unstuck” session to help you get your first product set up.
3. It’s Time For Your Own Office Building
Congratulations! Your business has grown and now you are on your way. You have more work than you can handle and you need a system that can help you take care of your customers so that nothing (or no-one) falls through the cracks.
At the top of the scale, are all-in-one programs that include a CRM (customer relationship management) function as well as email and e-commerce.
Until recently, powerful CRMs were only available to large companies. Now, more and more e-commerce/email systems are including a CRM component in their systems.
The advantage is that you can track, manage and automate because *everything* is in one place. Historically, the big disadvantage of the complete all-in-one system has been the price. Although, if you add the cost of all the components of a ‘cobbled together’ system, you may find that it is less expensive to move to something that includes everything you need.
We live in an age of customization. Providing highly personalized service and communication helps your clients know, like and trust you. They read your emails and feel like you are reading their mind.
This magic is possible through constantly collecting data about your customers and using it to tailor every communication your customer gets from you based on their needs. You can use your CRM to determine which customers are engaging with you so that you can offer them special deals.
Infusionsoft, Ontrapor. Kajabi, Clickfunnels and Kartra are true all-in-one systems that track your customer’s purchase clicks, social media engagement, web page visits and more — and then automatically tailor your marketing to match their actions.
Now That I Know the Basics, How Do I Choose?
We’ve covered the basics of email, shopping carts, and customer relationship management systems … now on to the good part— how do you choose the right system for you?
One of the reasons people get stuck is that they think that they are ‘marrying’ their choice of systems, rather than choosing a system to use for now (while it makes the most sense for their business). In fact, you’ll likely migrate through two or three different systems if your business is successful.
Just like moving to a new office space, there are costs involved, (lost time, lost customers, set up time). Moving when you need more features or more automation is always the right thing to do.
You should choose the system that will work for where you want to be in six months to a year. You should have some room to grow into the system, but it doesn’t make sense to invest hundreds of dollars a month on an ‘all-in-one’ system when you don’t have your first client yet. There will be plenty of time to do that later. One thing to remember though, you will lose customers in the move. Many list providers require everyone to confirm that they still want to be on your list. It can be disheartening to lose a third of your list when you change, but this is completely normal.
Plus, it has the added bonus of helping you get rid of people who no longer really still want to be on your mailing list. Think of it as pre-moving house cleaning.
Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way… here are five steps to choosing your ideal back end system.
Five Steps to Choosing Your Back End System
Know your current business systems. By spending time thinking about what your current processes are you’ll get a better idea of what you need the system to do. I guarantee you DO have processes and systems (even if they’re not written down).
And… that’s it! Now, that you have your shiny new system in place—go out there and make some money.
Tips and Inspiration:
Andrew Gunn – Keep It Simple
“The internet can be very overwhelming at first—and I have gone through this myself several times over the last 12 months. You can get a day here or a day there where you can get completely overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the thing that the internet is. It can be quite scary, because for a lot of people it can be quite technical, especially if you don’t know how to use a computer—how do I set up an opt-in page—how do you set up an autoresponder? When I was reading about all these things I did panic.
I thought that there is so much that you think that you need to know. But essentially, when it gets right down to it, there is a really really simple basic model—and if you keep reminding yourself of that simple basic model of:
Sound too daunting to do this alone? Join our Solo Biz Hacker Collective or similar type mastermind group and get some good beginning support at a reasonable price. Lean on the club to get the basics and spend the money later on for coaching when you are ready for the more advanced strategies and tactics of your business.
My name is Meredith Eisenberg - the solo biz hacker - I love to scour the internet for new strategies and ideas - and then experiment to see which ideas really work. For the past 10 years, I have been helping entrepreneurs tame the tech overwhelm and create businesses that work for them. From coming up with basic strategy to untangling and simplifying your funnels, we’ve been there and done that. I am passionate about helping seasoned entrepreneurs with a passion create businesses to help them end up on the “right side” of the economy so they can develop the skills to always earn money without depending on employment.
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