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Jill Carpenter

Time to give up?

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I met a new neighbor this last week who is having some sales issues.

 

She's got a mixed kind of gift store that sells personalized items - and she confessed to me she had a couple of years where she was bringing in a mill a year, but now is lucky to get a sale in a day. A sale might make her between 10 and 50 profit, depending on the item.

 

I was offered a chance to go in and discuss with her (as a neighbor who just wanted to poke under the hood), and at first she had a specific date when the sales dropped - but that got narrowed down I believe by realizing her web crew at the time did something on the site which caused a lot of the site to become uncrawlable.

 

Anyway, what I did notice was well over 200k spent on google ads in the past.

 

She currently does not have the budget for ads - or much of anything else at this time.

 

I spent some time hashing through her site and to be honest the site itself needs some massive work. Not sure how she got as many sales as she did in the past. It's built on some outdated magento which she doesn't have the funds for the direct support now - and even if she did she admits she's had so many tweeks done that they'd likely not be able to help her. The letters in the slider are over riding each other, the menu bar is not well organized - and I was having issues navigating on it due to placement of second line down (om my computer). The theme looks outdated and horrendous color scheme.

 

She admitted Panda was the first big hit she took - but that web file thing her developers did really does look like a nail in the coffin.

 

She shows a whopping 15 backlinks with www and another whopping 15 backlinks w/o the www.

 

I can only figure the majority of sales/traffic was coming from the paid ads.

 

She had about 15 domains of her own pointing to the money site - a few of them with sites on them but she has ripped all those down as she thought she was competing with herself? Not sure where this reasoning came from.

 

She has the old domains up for auction because of their ages in an effort to get some cash right now.

 

There is a blog on the money site, but it's not really a blog in my definition. A post will have 2 sentences on it with a pic of one of her products.

 

Her social media is comprised of a facebook page, but appears there is no interaction or other social accounts like pinterest - which I told her could be huge for her.

 

Years ago she used to have her own warehouses, but due to life choices she got rid of a lot and now orders from a source that sends to her artist directly and the artist ships out for her.

 

This would be all fine and dandy, but her cost is through the roof - and when we went to look at a competitor she was miffed at how they were able to sell an item that costs her 45 bucks - they are selling for 50 bucks with free shipping. She was in belief that they were ordering from the same place she was. I was quick to point out Alibaba and find the same item for $3 (if you order 500). She'd never heard of Alibaba before. She has hundreds of items and wanting to add more. I'm thinking this might not be the best move at the moment - but to focus on the 2 best categories she has.

 

She's only got about a 2 week window right now to really turn all this around and get some sales generating. I want to help her, but not even sure what kind of offer to make to make it worth my time. Part of me doesn't even want to send any traffic to the site until it's cleaned up - which does not look like it's going to happen right away.

 

It's like looking at a vintage car that could be worth a lot of money but it has so many issues that it needs a lot of refurbishing. 

 

I didn't bring up to her the thought of maybe taking out a business loan, nor do I have a clue how long that would take or if she's even in a position to do so.

 

She's facing some medical issues too right now which really adds some spice to the pot.

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 

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Sounds like it's time for a reboot. Especially if the site is "ugly", think about the target audience and what they're expecting. Also think about the competition.

 

I recommend:

 

Shopify.com (no reason to over complicate this)

 

https://apps.shopify.com/magento-importer (might want to test this before you move the domain over. Setup the shopify account but do not point DNS at that IP, then do the hosts file trick I discussed elsewhere after you've exported the data from magneto. This way your personal computer will direct your browser to the shopify store, but not for anybody else, and it won't hurt the magneto store.)

 

I am starting new ecommerce sites and I have the projects worked out at $500 + domain + shopify bill

 

So that's $300 for the design and $200 for the logo (99designs.com)

 

Fresh design, new logo. Make the site look awesome, put some time into it.

 

Also, Alibaba is typically terrible. I was on there earlier today thinking that I was pretty much wasting my time. It's either insane quantities, or the prices are bad. But, you definitely need to get the sourcing problem worked out. Call the manufacturer and get a list of suppliers/wholesalers.

 

I mean basic math here. Say they spent $1500 on the product from Alibaba, and they only sell 100 units at 45$. They're still doing better then her right? And I'm sure, they can just dump lots of 100 on Ebay to salvage some money out of the unneeded inventory. So they dump 2x lots of 100 at $200 BIN (cheaper then Alibaba and it's sourced locally...) so they effectively spent $1100 for 300 units which might make a lot more sense. Or they might just sit on the units and not care... Who knows, maybe 5 years from now they'll finally run out...

 

Also, PPC model I was originally taught: Conversation rate better be > 1% (or fix whatever it is you're doing wrong), ideally like 2.5%, take the profit per sale, and set the bid at 1% per click but subtract 15-20%, then optimize from there.

 

Say it's a $45 product, you pay $3 per and there's $2 in misc costs. So I would start at 34 cents a click, get the conversion rate up with some testing, both the ad copy (to get CTR up without killing the conversions) then optimize the copy to get the conversion rate up, then increase the bid if desired (which I think you should. If you started at $.34 and the CR is 2.5%, if you're not in the top position, it's probably a better use of your time, to earn a little less but get more sales, but you need to test it. It might not be if you think about opportunity cost/value of time.)

 

I didn't include shipping costs or anything, that was just an example.

 

But you're right, get what she already has moving before you add anything else. Stick to whats there.

 

Also, if the domain is penalized, has so few links, revolved around PPC, it might time a new domain as well. I would definitely check the search console and check if there's a penalty. If there is, you need to figure out if it's worth getting out of it.

 

If I owned the site I will send you in a PM, that would be my exact plan. Just fix it.

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I was offered a chance to go in and discuss with her (as a neighbor who just wanted to poke under the hood), and at first she had a specific date when the sales dropped - but that got narrowed down I believe by realizing her web crew at the time did something on the site which caused a lot of the site to become uncrawlable.

 

 

 

 

Do a Google search and see If the site has any pages indexed, there's your proof If Google is ok with the site or not.

 

Example: site:ebay.com

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She's only got about a 2 week window right now to really turn all this around and get some sales generating. I want to help her, but not even sure what kind of offer to make to make it worth my time. Part of me doesn't even want to send any traffic to the site until it's cleaned up - which does not look like it's going to happen right away.

 

 

Morning Jill,

 

From what I read and understood of your post, I suspect your instincts are telling you it's not worth it and I think you should walk away from it. I only say this, because from what you've described, this person has exercised some inordinately poor judgement over time to take her business from $1M a year to a sale a day, if that. Additionally, there's no possible way you're going to turn this around for her in that two week window either.

 

Chances are, you're going to get dragged into a situation where all of her problems become your problems and I don't see that ending well. 

 

Sorry for sounding so negative about this, but sometimes it's better to walk away.

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Do a Google search and see If the site has any pages indexed, there's your proof If Google is ok with the site or not.

 

Example: site:ebay.com

Yes, did that before. It's only been recently that the pages have re indexed.

 

BIG Mike, had another conversation with her last night. Loans are out of the picture but she does have some very well off friends she could ask for help from. She is hesitant on that as she's had to do that in the past. Personally I see the cash infusion as the best solution so there are funds to get the clean up done.

 

She has worked on wall street and has a marketing degree. She's owned the online business for 20 years. She told me last night she's been selling online since before the shopping carts were around - and orders had to be faxed into her.

 

I see what needs to be done as a challenge, but I also see that time restraint as a bigger issue. Her medical issues have escalated as well. I think the best thing for me to do for now is be supportive and should a miracle cross through my brain then share it with her.

 

I believe we've crossed paths for a reason - just haven't determined what that reason is just yet.

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Don't borrow money, especially from family or friends. That's the quickest way to get new enemies.

 

A loan is the last thing this person needs. They're not expanding a business, they're trying to keep their head above water, two totally different things.

 

Doing nothing is better than going in debt for a train wreck of a business (no offense).

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Jill showed me the site and I don't think a loan (maybe a credit card) is needed to get it turned around, there are some relatively easy to fix problems that should really help. I obviously don't know how tight the money is but I don't personally think more then $1,000 is required to fix the problems if it's spent wisely.

 

Either way, adding more problems to the problems, is definitely not the solution. It's not going to work without fixing the problems first.

 

Since the site doesn't appear have a manual action on it, it's also going a better use of time, to continue to use that domain, since it's aged and has some aged links, granted not many but...

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If the majority of traffic was coming in from paid ads, I don't see how her "web crew" could have done anything to kill traffic. Certainly not to take it from a $1 million business to 1 sale per day.

 

I'm guessing that there was a lot of buying traffic coming in from search. Paid ads don't just dry up. Now they can become less effective. People get ad blindness, markets change, new competitors emerge, etc. It doesn't drop like that overnight though.

 

What scares me about this is that it sounds like she was running a $1 million business, but did not even really understand where her traffic or sales were coming from. That is a bit frightening.

 

No matter what, two weeks is too short of a period to turn something like this around.

 

If you are going to work with her, I know someone who has taken on similar projects. The pricing agreement he generally comes up with them is a flat monthly fee plus a percentage of the growth.

 

I know of one business he helped grow from about $1000 per month to over $50,000 per month and he is getting about half of that growth right now. Worked out pretty well for him.

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Jill - This sounds like a perfect storm....she doesn't seem to understand what happened or where she went wrong.  She hasn't kept up with changes online AND has escalating health problems, too.

I tend to back away when people tell me how much they USED to earn - or how important their business was in the past.   In my experience, there's almost always more to it....

 

It's easy to blame people who worked for her or worked on the site - but it's HER business and with her credentials she should be in control.  

 

 

she does have some very well off friends she could ask for help from. She is hesitant on that as she's had to do that in the past. Personally I see the cash infusion as the best solution so there are funds to get the clean up done.

So - she's had problems financially in the past?  Did she pay back previous loans?  I would not advise this as a logical way to proceed.

 

What about a clean site with only top selling products - going smaller - basically taking what SELLS, buying for the best prices and going from there?

I think you see this as a challenge - but it sounds more like  a sinking ship to me.  If you take it on by all means follow Mike's advice above and get a percentage.

 

I think the previous financial problems say a lot about how she has run this business and it may be it can't be saved - or may not be worth saving.  Try to step back and look at it critically if you can. 

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Before you make any decisions - ask this one.  Did she buy a business that was operating at a high level or did she build this business herself?  I knew a woman out here whose business was tanking after being profitable for decades..........come to find out.....she didn't build it.  She bought a profitable business and hasn't one damned clue of how to run it.  

 

Just because she calls herself a "marketer" doesn't mean a thing.  Look at some of the people that claim to be marketers online. People can claim to be anything they want to. 

 

If this woman bought a profitable business, get the heck away from it - pronto.  If she actually built this business from scratch - fix her website and let her take it from there.  If she's a marketer, she should be able to handle that one.  

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Jill - This sounds like a perfect storm....she doesn't seem to understand what happened or where she went wrong.  She hasn't kept up with changes online AND has escalating health problems, too.

I tend to back away when people tell me how much they USED to earn - or how important their business was in the past.   In my experience, there's almost always more to it....

 

It's easy to blame people who worked for her or worked on the site - but it's HER business and with her credentials she should be in control.  

 

So - she's had problems financially in the past?  Did she pay back previous loans?  I would not advice this as a logical way to proceed.

 

What about a clean site with only top selling products - going smaller - basically taking what SELLS, buying for the best prices and going from there?

I think you see this as a challenge - but it sounds more like  a sinking ship to me.  If you take it on by all means follow Mike's advice above and get a percentage.

 

I think the previous financial problems say a lot about how she has run this business and it may be it can't be saved - or may not be worth saving.  Try to step back and look at it critically if you can. 

 

I've backed away.

 

It's just a bit uncanny how many paths we've crossed in the past.

 

I did give her I believe my best advice based on what she needs to do.

 

Financially she is really hurting at this point. I told her to go sell off the waterford crystal in the cupboard, lol. She has some really unique art and lots of it too. She could scrape together what she needs for the site to get some fixes done so it's up to her at this point. If I had to guess I'd put her in her late 60's.

 

It's funny how you hear all the time how you can pay everyone to take care of the technical stuff on your sites - but I learned how to get my own up and I'd not hand that back for anything now after seeing what is happening to her.

 

She blamed Obama for some of her troubles, and then the Panda update - and explained her lifestyle change so she could spend more time with the grand kids.

 

She did pay back one friends loan.

 

One of the two main categories should be on it's own site all together IMO. It "kinda" fits in on the main site but it really would suit a completely different audience.

 

I think I helped her clarify why the competition is able to charge so much less for many of their items and isn't even feeling the pinch. The competition is out ranking her now (both of them are on front page) and they do run ads now as well.

 

But it's that second item which the competition does not sell that I think needs it's own site. It's a category that can appeal to kids and the parents. Everything else on the main site is mostly for grownups and corporate.

 

Anyway, I believe my time has been well spent as I learned some things and I think she did too. I hate to see what is happening to her but it's a good lesson to keep in mind.

 

Did she buy a business that was operating at a high level or did she build this business herself? 

She started selling offline, and fell into a kid who approached her and offered to put up her first website for her years back. She said she did 9k the first year without even trying. But if you think to back 20 years online, there was NO competition. And I can tell you I had no idea how to get my own site up until 2007. Of course, it wasn't the only thing on my plate at the time and I didn't have funds to go pay someone to do it for me back then.

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For what it is worth, I think you made the right choice. Reading this thread, it sounded like a no-win proposition. Without an influx of cash to spend on ads, I do not see any possible way that a business like this turns around in just a few weeks. That is asking the impossible. Even if you did help her some, it wouldn't be enough if she really is that close to shuttering the business.

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