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Thread: Hello from a new entrepeneur in Virginia!

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    Default Hello from a new entrepeneur in Virginia!

    I launched an online pet supply shop this year (Feb 2016) and it's been a fun learning experience. I have a full time corporate day job, which is good and bad. It's good because I don't have as much pressure to succeed (or rather, succeed asap) with the shop. Bad because I'm already finding that I'd rather spend more time working on my shop than on the day job. I'm mid-50's, so already in the area where companies are disinclined to hire me (agism is real), and married to a lovely man who also has a full time well-paying career. Which makes the online shop a bit of a hobby at this point, but I'm taking it seriously enough to be learning as much as possible. My ultimate goal is to grow the shop enough to replace my day job salary and then I can quit the day job.

    My corporate career was a blessing in that it exposed me to many different aspects of business: IT, accounting, customer service, manufacturing and distribution, retail, food service, and local government. That exposure has really helped me with the business tasks required to launch the shop. I am seeing that my weakness is in the areas of marketing and merchandising, so those are my educational focus at the moment.

    Hi everyone! I plan to be asking lots of questions here over time.

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    Welcome to the forum SumpinSpecial. I know you've been here a little while, but it's always nice to be able to offer official welcome. Sounds like you're ready to ditch the corporate job in favor of the online shop. There are plenty of us with similar stories to start. I remember when I last had a job and how I enjoyed working on side projects more. When the opportunity presented itself I switched to working the side project full time and it became my business.

    I look forward to getting to know you and thanks for joining the community.
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    Thanks!

    I've made a few observations in my first year. Might be interesting to share and see if anyone else has seen similar things.

    While I'm 100% online, I do have a personal network in the dog rescue area, so decided to do a few in-person vending days at fundraising and social events in the local area. It became really clear to me that what they say about if your shopper walks away you've lost the sale. I'm not going to do hard sells, but it's a data point to help me improve my presentation. But it's totally true. Whatever excuse they give you, "left my wallet in the car", "let me get my husband", "going to browse and come back", doesn't matter. The odds that they will come back are close to none. I'm sure that in many cases it's simply that they meant to come back but forgot. But the net result is the same - no sale.

    I did a giveaway promotion with a prominant pet product blogger with a huge following. As part of the giveaway I tested a new product idea. Described the product and asked readers to say if they would buy it or not in the comments section on the blogger's site. The product was simply bundling three dog toys from my shop into a package. The customer can pick which toys they want or they can opt to be surprised. Hundreds and hundreds of people saying they love the idea. Tons of people saying things like "I would buy the red dragon", picking out a specific toy that caught their eye. I enjoyed reading the comments and when I saw the ones commenting how they loved a specific toy I couldn't help thinking "so buy it, then!" LOL! None of them actually took the extra step of buying the toy. In fact, I got zero sales from the promotion, despite all the positive feedback.

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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array David Hunter's Avatar
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    Welcome! What's the link to your online pet store??
    David Hunter | Duke of Marketing | Retired Real Estate Agent
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    Ah! Sorry, it would help if I filled out my profile. Here, I added a signature line with my link to start with.
    Sharon, Owner/Operator
    Something Special Pet Supplies

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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array David Hunter's Avatar
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    Hi Sharon!

    Very interesting... What sets you apart from every other part shop out there? Why should someone buy from you than all the other options available to them or buy nothing at all?

    Reading your above comment, yeah... people will always say, "I love this! I love that! blah blah blah" but like you said... Just buy something!!! That's the hard part.

    Do you have a list of pet owners you're marketing to? How about your own in-house list of past and present customers?
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    Hi David,
    The market niche I've identified is pet owners who feel that their pets are family members. These are people who are willing to pay a little bit more for things like interactive toys rather than just dumping the pet in the yard, willing/able to pay for needed vet care, and have a variety of pets. I've volunteered at a leadership level with a couple of dog rescues for just under a decade, and I've noticed that affluent people tend to take better care of their pets. Less educated, less affluent people just let their animals fend for themselves. If you've read Freakonomics, you know that cultural change tends to happen starting with affluent/educated circles and works it's way through to the rest of the population. So while my goal is of course to make a profit, I also hope to help facilitate this cultural change of improving the lives of pets. This is the trend that I want to follow and work in.

    I do have some major improvements to make to my marketing so that my vision and strategy are more clear. I'm working on those now and will continue to make improvements over the coming year.

    I've been able to market to my network in the rescue/adoption communities and hope to expand beyond that. When doing competitive research I found that a majority of online pet supply shops are either species specific or breed specific (small dogs). There is a gap - nobody else is doing multiple species at the high end/boutique level online only. They're all brick and mortar, catering to local communities.
    Sharon, Owner/Operator
    Something Special Pet Supplies

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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array David Hunter's Avatar
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    Hi Sharon,

    Good to see you've find your niche. If you haven't already, I recommend reading No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent by Dan Kennedy. Great book about marketing to.. well, the affluent!

    Do you have a list of your ideal prospects now, or are you just building your list with people who buy from you?
    David Hunter | Duke of Marketing | Retired Real Estate Agent
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    www.TheSaviorsMinistry.org

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    David, thanks for the book recommendation, I'll check it out. I'm building my list with people who buy from me so far, which really comes from my social network in dog rescue. I've had a fair first year and am planning to focus my work efforts next year on marketing. So the book you mention will definitely come in handy. It's time to reach out to people who don't know me as well as building a client base of repeat customers.
    Sharon, Owner/Operator
    Something Special Pet Supplies

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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array David Hunter's Avatar
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    You're welcome!

    When you start reaching out to people who don't know you, you can check out lists here---> https://lists.nextmark.com/market Search whatever you like... pet owners, affluent pet owners, dogs, cats, etc. It'll get you familiar with different lists out there and how you can contact these people.
    David Hunter | Duke of Marketing | Retired Real Estate Agent
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