Master Class: How To Build A $70k Per Month eCommerce Business From Scratch

This article was written about the most effective marketing approaches that I learned in my first eCommerce business called Science of Skill, LLC, an online store for martial arts and fitness videos, training guides, and video curricula. 

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This article might be one of the most in-depth looks you’ll find anywhere about how to go about building your “machine.” By machine, I mean, simply a consistent, almost self-sustaining, growth-device that you can “plug up” to any business, large or small, and see tremendous results. I’ve built and used this “machine” several times, two of which included starting from zero, and there is arguably no better or more guaranteed way of growing any business than what you’ll read about today. There are three areas of emphasis that we focused on for email marketing and marketing automation, and we’ll cover each of them in this walk-through article:
  • CAPTURE
  • CONVERSION
  • RETAIN & RE-SELL
In this piece I’ll break down our approach and hard lessons learned in each area, with the goal of showing you exactly how to replicate them in your own business.

Why Most Marketing Fails

We’re going to dive right into “brass tacts” here in a minute. In fact, I’m going to uncover bits and pieces of a strategy for you, today, that have previously remained hidden behind lock & key, only accessible to my coaching program clients (who’ve paid a considerable amount of money for access). But, first, this simply must be addressed: The Reason So Many Fail In Marketing & Growing Business, Is They Do Not Understand Reciprocity There are really only two things people do anything:
  1. It’s in their best interest (either long term or short term) to do so… or…
  2. The feel compelled by the natural laws of “tribe” and “reciprocity” to do so…
Let me explain… Have you ever been coerced into doing something? Chances are, even though you felt coerced, you still did what you felt was in your best interest to do what you did. Even “negative” motivations, like blackmail, manipulation, and coercion, all trigger the same “self preservation” emotion – which is a form of self-interest. Likewise, when you make a decision to purchase a training product, wake up early and go to the gym, put gas in your car, buy your spouse or partner a gift, or even to eat food, you are doing so out of an inclination that it is in your best interest to do so… All (successful) marketing revolves around this principle. Simply put: the most effective way to build your business or brand is to align it with the best interests of your desired clients and customers. It’s in this light, and from this perspective, that I’ll be teaching you today! Ready? Let’s dive in. We’ll start with the first phase: Capture.

Infiltrating The Radars Of “Giants”

First rule in all of this is to not try and do it all yourself. You don’t want to start at zero, even if you’re, technically, “starting at zero.” When I first sat down and starting doing my most recent gig (the $70k/mo eCommerce biz), I looked for points of leverage that would outperform anything I could do by myself. What you’re really looking for bakes out to these two things, and we’ll talk about them in detail.

Where Are My “Perfect” Customers?

I know, I know… everybody has heard this one time or another. But this is different, I promise you. I’m not just looking for where my perfect customers hang out so I can “find them” and market to them. I’m looking, rather, for the guy on top of the mountain, that is successfully capturing the attention of my perfect customers. This, quite frankly, can be the simplest part of the process. First, you need to know your “avatar.” Who would likely be into whatever it is you’re selling? There are a million and one “strategies” for figuring this out and I’ll assume you already have this lined up… Remember, though, we’re looking for the guy (or gal) on top of the mountain. And, then, we’re going to figure out…

1) Traffic – What Do They Want That They Don’t Have Enough Of?

Not the customer… the person who’s got their attention. See, this is a bit backwards from what everybody else is doing. While all of your competition is out trying to render up marketing material that steals their customer’s attention away from the “giants” in the market… …You, my friend, are going to go woo the giant. What is it that they could use more of? What do they not know how to get? What do they not have access to that you could get for them. In my case, I began to identify rather large names in the same industry (although not direct competitors) who were writing to large lists of email subscribers. The thing that I kept coming back to was that these people always needed access to fresh visitors and subscribers. “What could I give them that they needed more of?” I could create create articles and content that would link back to and build these guys’ subscribers. And that’s exactly what I did. Notice the contrast here: I was not “asking” for favors yet. I was offering something they wanted and using it to create a relationship Eventually, I was able to offer them so much value that they actually sent me the attention of their customers. It was work. I had to build relationships with media sites, the article publishers and online journals and others who would push out my content. Once I did, though, I had the ability to offer extreme value in exchange for them promoting my business to their giant list. This sent hundreds and hundreds of customers right into my business… which brings up another interesting point about this strategy, and why it works so well.

Leveraging Existing Trust vs. Buying New Trust

A young entrepreneur asked me several weeks ago to give my opinion on paid traffic. Truth be told, I’m a fan of all traffic. However, there is something to be said about this particular strategy above and the quality of traffic it will bring into your business. Essentially, with paid traffic, you are “buying” up brand new eyeballs and then charged to create trust with them. This can be difficult to do. It’s not impossible, and once you do “crack the code,” your income potential has no limits. However, what I did was simply leverage the existing trust between my target audience and the businesses they already knew and liked. This resulted in a supreme quality of traffic. Even today, in another business I own, we “fill up” our funnels largely through Podcasts. This type of traffic is incredibly valuable, because they are being sent to me via a already trusted party. Of course, once you get the traffic, you’ll want to make sure your site is set up to capture as many visitors as possible. Next, let’s talk about how to get visitors and subscribers to dig into their wallets and give you their money… Onward…

2) Marketing Automation – A Case For Running Upstream

This is where most businesses miss the boat. Once you get someone to subscribe to your email list, you’ve won half the battle. This is no time to get lazy. However, that’s exactly what most marketers do… Next time you’re at Starbucks, try paying with “email subscribers.” Let me know how it goes for you… the point of collecting opt ins is not to have a big email list. It’s to add profit to your business. That’s why this is only the very beginning… and what follows the opt in is equally – if not more – important than everything before. You want to do this different. Most eCommerce businesses will use one of the following strategies:
  1. Bombard the new opt in with sales messages. When or if they do not buy, they stop communication.
  2. Never send a sales message, defaulting to rather bland and boring messages that simply keep subscribers abreast of news and give away free educational material.
Of course, the first strategy yields more upfront money, at the expense of long-term growth (not to mention reputation). The second produces a good reputation as being helpful and educational in the market, but profits suffer. That’s why we went with an approach that involved persistent education and varied sales efforts to convert more front-end leads into buyers.

Our Winning Strategy For Converting Leads Into Sales

Remember the two reasons people do things? In the “CAPTURE” strategy above, we utilized both (the self-interest & reciprocation). Here, we are going to dive deeply into positioning your product or services as being in the absolute best interest of your prospect. Simply bombarding new opt ins with sales messages cuts out the entire “self interest” principle we have discussed. However, never giving them an opportunity to buy cuts you off from cash flow. And, if your product is good and helpful, it’s not in your prospect’s best interest to keep it from them, either. This is why you want to have a healthy mix and match of “sales” messaging, “educational” content, and what I like to call “reinforcement” monitors. We went into detail about this, specifically in regards to email marketing in this previous article on the Steamfeed blog, but we’ll touch it here briefly as well. Reinforcement Monitors: Simply put, they are ways to affirm to your prospects that you and your company are irrefutably the best logical choice to do business with. Not in a salesly way, because you don’t want to try and “prove” anything here. They’ll just take it as a sales turnoff. So how do you do this without proving anything or bashing anybody? You simply bake it into your messaging. Imagine getting this email: “Dear So-And-So, just wanted to say congratulations. You’ve made such a good decision and I promise you’ll be getting nothing but the industry’s finest and most rigorously tested training… your report should hit your mailbox any day now. Let me know when you get it. Until then, check out this brand new video I made for you… people are raving about it. Talk soon, Dan.” I’ve said nothing about how you should buy my stuff. I didn’t bash any of my competition. I simply acted like I was the best and congratulated you for joining the party. I reaffirmed what a smart decision it was for you to opt in for the report, and gave you some helpful content to boot. You don’t need a lot of these… they are powerful and effective and in a 30-email sequence you can get away with just 2 or three mixed in throughout the entire thing. Educational Content: The goal of your educational content is to add enough value that they feel compelled to trust you… but not so much they feel like they don’t need to buy your product. If you’re selling info-products, you can do this rather easily simply by keeping your information to “What, Not How.” If you’re selling physical products, supplements, or other shippable items, you can offer $1 trials, bonuses, monthly subscriptions, or a plethora of other models. The important thing about education is this: If people point back to you as the person they learned something from, they see you as the “owner” and “inventor” of it. This cements you with the trust you need to be able to make an offer without coming off as a distasteful salesperson. Another goal of educational content is to deal with the objections your market might have that will prevent them from doing business with you. Everybody has objections… it’s too expensive. They don’t have “time” to follow through. They don’t think it’ll work. They’ve been burned before. Etcetera… Your educational content should be “reverse-engineered” to deal with these objections in advance. For instance, in my business, a common objection that comes up is people feeling they can’t win matches because they’re not big enough. Our educational content revolves around this idea of “beating bigger opponents.” We’re dealing with an objection that might otherwise prevent someone from buying the training. If you’re in a market, say, selling weight loss supplements, I guarantee you a giant objection is that they’ve tried before and it hasn’t worked. Your educational content could deal with this by saying, “Hey, look… did you know that even if you have the best weight loss supplement in the world – it doesn’t matter because everybody’s body is completely different… this ingredient here actually READS your body and ‘changes’ how it interacts with your fat burning cells according to what your body actually needs. We call it the ‘self-tuning’ weight control formula.” The educational “power” lies in showing them something they never knew before… AND, simultaneously dealing with an objection they might have had about buying the product. Lastly: Sales Messaging: This is where the rubber meets the road. Assuming you’ve met all of their objections, and reaffirmed that you are the most trustworthy company they could possibly do business with, they are going to buy. If they’re not buying, that’s okay… it just means there are perhaps more objections and a bit more reassuring that needs to take place. This is why our email sequences and automation is so long. A certain percentage of people come through and buy in the first few days. Most, though, aren’t so sure about us. They have objections… people have lied to them or burned them in the past. They don’t trust companies who sell stuff online. Whatever, there will always be something. In our sequences, you come in and you are educated, reassured, and given opportunities to buy until you either give us money or unsubscribe. But, because it’s mixed up in the ways I’ve explained to you, people don’t feel like they’re constantly being sold to. They feel like they’re learning, getting over things and moving forward. Then, when there is an opportunity to go even further, they take it.

3) Product – Make Something People Want

I learned the hard way in this online education business that if you create a product that you want yourself, it won’t necessarily be something that others resonate with or care about. The buying demographic for our martial arts and fitness products for this eCommerce business turned out to be much older than we originally guessed (we learned this by actually calling them and talking to them), and when we created courses about advanced techniques requiring too much flexibility or athleticism, they completely flopped, and sales plummeted. For that reason, we decided early on to constantly poll and communicate with our own audience to determine the kinds of courses and programs that they genuinely wanted / would be willing to pay for – and we primarily used these methods:
  • We called buyers on the phone after purchase and asked them about their buying process, their desired outcomes, and what might have held them back (in addition to what other programs we could create that they might also enjoy)
  • We sent them open-ended questionnaires to explain to us what they were struggling most with in their martial arts and fitness training, and what they most wanted to learn
  • We surveyed a huge percentage of our prospects through a core front-end survey to determine their goals, weight class, interests, age, and more (I actually shared one of my real surveys on a previous business-building interview with Yaro Starak, which you can find here)
In doing this, we began to get a much clearer aggregate picture as to what our audience genuinely wanted to learn / buy, and so we set about only creating products that either (a) were explicitly asked for by many of our subscribers / fans, or (b) were created from variations of already winning product ideas that clearly resonated with our audience. Using this approach of dialing in our product-market fit, we were able to create a variety of bundles and offers to go along with our online membership programs. While many online retailers in our industries had one or two core offerings (one-size fits all), we created a variety of offers appealing to different underserved desires and interests in our market. In doing so, we were able to convert a much higher percentage of our existing subscriber-base to paying customers.

Closing

The steps I’ve outlined aren’t anything magic, but they are the hard lessons learned that took our little underdog eCommerce business and got it to break over $70,000.00 in recurring monthly revenues in a bit over two years. The emphasis of our strategies – in case you hadn’t noticed – is on automation, segmentation, and product-market fit (IE: creating something that the market will love). Those same three factors represent what I believe to be an important part of the future of marketing – creating a winning experience for each individual prospect or customer, automating that perfect experience for future customers, and presenting different types of people with product offerings that match their own interests. When we executed these steps properly, it amounted to more than the use of effective marketing “tactics” – it turned out to be a better and more personalized experience for all of our subscribers and customers, and a much more profitable business model for us. That was a win-win worth writing about – and I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.  
– Daniel Faggella
CLVboost Founder
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