As if school isn’t a burden enough, you’ve now decided to pursue your passion of selling signed and vintage baseball cards online or selling homemade custom candles to fellow locals. Whatever your desire is, making sure you fine-tune that enthusiasm, making your business as lucrative as possible is of utmost importance.
Here are 5 tips for making the transition from student to entrepreneur:
1. Snag an Internship
Alright, alright, alright. You’re wondering why I am saying to work for someone else first when the goal is to work for yourself right? Well there are actually many benefits to working for your dream company first.
Suppose you want to sell your mint condition baseball cards full time for example. Finding a local card shop that already kills the market is crucial because you will learn things such as card valuations, the best databases for searching cards, how to advertise your inventory, how to talk to customers, what locals are looking for, how to track inventory, recording sales tax, etc. etc.
The list is endless and you’ll learn so much more from an industry specific mentor than shooting blindly for any summer internship.
2. Do a SWOT Analysis
Didn’t think that Intro to Marketing class would ever pay off, did you? Well, if you’ve listened to at least one lecture in that class then you’ve heard of a SWOT Analysis and this step is vital in growing your business.
You need to assess your internal strengths such as your ability to get more autographed cards from a particular team than any other baseball card vendor or maybe you’re better at following certain trends and knowing what minor league players will be future stars such as Aaron Judge. Additionally, you also need to assess your internal weaknesses. Maybe you are great at getting minor league cards but not as great at reaching major league players. Knowing your limits can help siphon your marketing plan later.
Next, you will need to analyze your external opportunities such as if you live in an area where the baseball cards market is completely untapped or maybe nobody is able to get the teams you are getting. This is your businesses leverage and competitive advantage. Lastly, you will also need to analyze your external threats and competitors.
Knowing your business environment can help weed out wasteful products and services and help you focus only those most profitable.
3. Create a Killer Website
When selling something as lucrative as baseball cards or custom candles, you will inevitably peak the interest of customers outside of your regional area. Creating a killer website that showcases your brand story, your inventory and isn’t the same old dry layout as your competitors is key to differentiating yourself from your competitors.
Also, working on your SEO is highly important. Ranking higher on Google, Bing, YouTube, and other search engines will help your future customers find your products and bring in more revenue. There are tons of free resources online that help with SEO building such as Google Analytics and Coursera that walk you through building your SEO yourself.
Having a professional but approachable presence online is a must have when building your business.
4. Advertise, Advertise, and Advertise Some More
Communicating the value of your product or service is a key aspect of marketing. Refer back to the SWOT Analysis you just did. Maybe you realized your major local competitor is better at getting Tampa Bay Rays autographs but you’re better at getting Tampa Bay Lightning Autographs. Marketing niche and specific products or services is invaluable to finding your clientele. Marketing your entire inventory at once without a general plan is a waste of time and money.
Be strategic about how you market yourself and your brand. There are tons of low cost channels such as Facebook and Instagram Ads that give you the ability to target audiences based on geography, specific interests, and even gender. Using these tools will help you find your market and grow in your industry.
Be intentional about finding your ideal customer base.
5. Nail Customer Service
Going the extra mile is essential when building your eCommerce or brick and mortar brand. Treat every customer on a personal basis. No customers’ needs are like the rest and you should respect that from day one, continuing as you grow. Having a personalized experience is what keeps your customers choosing you as their vendor. Your startup only exists to serve your customers.
Offering discounts or rewards programs to show your customers you care about their business is important because relationships are what build a business. Being friendly in every encounter and being open to refunds, exchanges and returns is valuable to a customer’s experience.
As you grow your business, you grow your network and keeping relationships tight with buyers and fellow suppliers is vital to your future endeavors.
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