This is more of an entrepreneurial blog post more than anything, but I wanted to give some insight into what we at Craft & Oak have learned in our first 100 sales that could perhaps help other entrepreneurs out there. First off, if you don’t know what Craft & Oak is - we’re a website where you can get a custom map poster of anywhere in the world. You can zoom in, zoom out, and drag the map around to exactly how you want it and then personalize it with different captions and color schemes.
We crossed our first 100 sales in less than a month of being launched. I would say the majority of our orders came through in a couple-week period and now-a-days we have a steady stream of orders coming in daily. We’re doing everything we can to market our product, as getting it in front of more eyeballs will hopefully(!) mean more orders for our product.
Here are some of my takeaways of what I’ve personally learned from our first 100 sales:
Getting the first sale is TOUGH:
We had launched for a week and had already started to get some traffic to the website, but days passed and no one was ordering a map. What’s worse, we thought we had a funnel issue as many of our visitors weren’t even getting to the checkout phase of the site according to Google analytics. I think we had over 1000 sessions on our website and not a single order had been placed. We thought something was wrong. Lots of doubt will inevitably start to fill your mind at this stage, and it was here where frustration set in and a lot of “what-ifs” come into mind. When I say getting the first sale is tough, I’m mostly trying to say that is mentally tough to stay sane during this time. I thought for a couple of days that maybe no one wanted a custom map poster. I’m glad I was wrong about that.
Roadblocks are everywhere BUT you can work through some:
There’s always going to be something. From production and fulfillment issues, to website crashes, to unforeseen circumstances, no amount of reading ahead of time could have prepared me for it. I had always read about the unexpectedness of being an entrepreneur on sites like reddit.com/r/entrepreneur, in books, and on some blogs, but until you experience first-hand - you’re not sure how you’re going to react in those situations. Roadblocks have really taught me more about what kind of person I am from a risk tolerance standpoint. I would say I personally need to work on being “OK” with a roadblock happening to one facet of the business, so long as it’s not blocking another piece of business. Being able to manage a couple different problems at a time seems to be an important skill that I need to work on and essential for any entrepreneur.
You need some traction early, and luck can play a role:
Getting sales requires marketing (duh), after doing a bunch of research online, one of the ways I discovered to gain traction to my website was to work on some SEO strategies. One in particular, was to message editors at popular websites, show them our product, and see if they would want to write about it for their readership. I was lucky enough to reach out to a couple people that ended up featuring us - and for free! I’ll put the links at the end of this post. This referral traffic really helped raise the awareness for our brand and ultimately led to some orders of our product. I was really thankful and appreciative of the people who helped make it happen by promoting us on their respective websites.
We also had the fortune of knowing some Instagram influencers, which helped get our brand out to their followers and led to the conversion of sales. While that traffic is a lot harder to track, we think this may be slightly more efficient than just marketing online via FB or Google Adwords for how much we’re paying. We’re going to continue to experiment with this medium of marketing.
Structuring your time can be difficult:
With so many things to work on, it’s difficult to figure out how to structure your time best to ensure you are making ROI positive decisions for the business. There are many things that will require your attention, but how you decide what to do with that time is up to you. I still am unsure if I am allocating the right amount of time to certain parts of the business - so this will be surely a learning process moving forward.
Moving Fast is Key:
When we discover something about our business that we think can improve it, it’s important to move fast and to figure out how much of an impact that change can make. It can be as simple as seeing something in the metrics of Google Analytics and making a change to your funnel by changing the color of a button, or a change to your website to better explain your product. Overall, improving the customer experience is always valuable - and anytime you can do that I think it will be good for your business. The important thing is to figure out what works and what doesn’t - FAST.
I hope this helps the community gain some insight on what it's like to start and run a small business :D
Craft & Oak