After the emotional ups and downs of day eighteen, it was great to get back to doing actual work on The Lactivist project. I was still finding some great incoming links as moms started spreading the word about my shirts and I had some great news come in regarding my press releases, my analytics program and my ongoing frustration with integrating my CafePress content into the Lactivist web site.
(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)
Search Engine Guide Readers Give Me a Boost
Apparently my heart-on-my-sleeve article for day eighteen got some Search Engine Guide readers a little concerned about me because on day nineteen my inbox was overflowing with messages of encouragement from readers. Unfortunately, I was quickly finding myself with so much email that it was getting difficult to respond to them all. As I'd noted in my earlier articles, my belief in online reputation management has always led me to live by the mantra that every email deserves a response, even if it takes a few days, but I was finding it hard to live by those words.
That said, getting notes that said things like "Your series and efforts are the best I've seen for educating small businesses and some computer techies on what it is all about in starting a business and working to use the web in doing so. It takes guts and effort, but have fun" and "I just wanted to let you know – I have been following the articles about Jennifer’s site and I think it is great. I passed it around to a lot of people I know" were enough to give me yet another boost of energy. It would take time, but one way or another I'd find a way to get an email back to each of those readers.
That's an essential point to remember...your customers are contacting you for a reason. Whether it's to pay a compliment or to take you to task, you need to make sure that someone is responding to them. If you're overwhelmed with feedback then you are either doing something very wrong and need to correct it, or you are doing something very right and it's time to hire some help.
Targeted Incoming Links are Great!
I was stilling seeing plenty of new sites showing up in my referrer logs and was exciting to see that many were still starting to pile up from sites outside of the industry. I saw several visitors come in from the Making it up blog after a reader noted that I'd spotted her post on a feminist forum. I was also glad to see traffic coming in from a bit of Lactivist love on the birth boards over at PregnancyWeekly. As a regular visitor to parenting sites I knew how much potential there was for traffic from a good mention on a birth board. In fact, that type of link was the exact kind that I was hoping for when I started pushing for viral marketing.
Reviewing Press Releases
On day nineteen I had an email come in from Karon Thackston that had the first drafts of the press releases that we were going to be distributing online via some of the wire services. Karon was working on helping me craft optimized press releases that would not only get our message across, but that would also rank well for some of my most important keyword phrases. We'd been waiting on some quotes to come in from the director of the Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio and from the email I'd sent to Dr. Sears so that we could finish the releases off.
Unfortunately I'd never heard back from Dr. Sears, so we decided that we needed to move forward with what we did have to work with. I spent some time reading through the releases and making some notes about wording and the message so that I could make some edits and send them back to Karon for her review. I'd also found out that in return for using The Lactivist as a case study at the Pimp My Site panel at Search Engine Strategies Chicago, PRWeb was going to be donating their services to send our releases out across their wire. This would take care of online press release tracking, but I still needed to come up with a plan of action for my offline push.
That's when an email arrived from Amy Hooker, the PR genius behind maven communications. Those outside of the industry might not be familiar with Amy's skills as public relations guru, but those within the industry recognize her from the work she's done to get ClickTracks front and center in the minds of industry writers. (We're talking about someone that got ClickTracks 4 in front of 2 million potential buyers without spending a cent on print advertising.) Amy, a work at home mom herself, offered to help me put together a pitch of The Lactivist project to pregnancy and parenting sites. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and thanked my lucky stars that there are people out there that believe in this project and wanted to help.
Earlier in the project I'd listed "Eat at Mom's" on eBay with the hopes that I might discover a new outlet for sales. My auction closed on day nineteen and though I was initially thrilled to find that I'd received three bids, the math quickly showed that my experiment was a failure. While I'd calculated the cost of a listing fee and the percentage of sale on my item into the margins, I'd failed to figure out what PayPal would charge me to handle the transaction. Thus, when I added up the $2.15 spend on my eBay listing and the $1.02 charged by PayPal for accepting payment, I realized that I'd spent $3.17 to make a $3.00 profit on my shirt. That left me in the hole by seventeen cents.
I realized that I could try selling a product that had a higher margin, or increasing my starting price, but the reality was that when I factored in listing fees and PayPal fees, I would end up having to charge as much, or more, as I did on my actual store to turn a profit. It was unlikely that someone would pay more for the shirt on eBay than they would at my store, so I chalked it up to a lesson learned and discontinued plans to become an eBay power seller.
A Solution Presents Itself
One of the problems that I was quickly running into was the management of links, referrers and analytics for three separate domains. While setting up my blog and store on existing domains was proving to be beneficial when it came to quick search rankings and traffic, it was a bit of a nightmare to manage. I knew that at some point, I was going to have to figure out a solution that would bring everything in under one umbrella domain, but I hadn't figured out how to do this yet.
I was also realizing that as incoming links got built to the sites, I was missing opportunities to have those links pointing to thelactivist.com because the blog content and store content simply couldn't be found there. I knew how to integrate my Blogger content, though I hadn't had time to do it, but integrating my CafePress content had been an ongoing brain bender for me.
Until Dan Mowry stepped up to the plate. Dan had emailed me earlier in the project to offer up his services as a graphic designer but due to time constraints on both sides we really hadn't had much chance to come up with a plan of action yet. In the meantime, I'd visited Dan's site, TheTShirtZone to look at his designs and noticed that I could shop his store from his domain name. I dropped him an email and asked if he had any input on how he got that setup.
His response was that there is a third-party solution called cpshop that allows you to fully integrate CafePress content into your own domain. This was news to me. What made it even better news was the fact that it cost just $19.77! The perfect price for a shoe-string entrepreneur like myself. The developer of cpshop also does some work for the CafePress site itself and puts out updates to cpshop whenever there's a chance in the CafePress system that it needs to accommodate.
The program simply required a server that had both Perl and CGI capabilities and would run on Linux/Unix/Windows or even MacOS servers. Installation was available for another $13.00 if I couldn't figure it out myself, so I figured it was probably a pretty fail safe investment. Thus, day nineteen saw me making my biggest investment in the business to date. I filled out the form to purchase online and sat back to await the email that would give me the address that I could download it from. Unfortunately, I made the purchase after-hours and the email never did show up that day.
Coming up on day twenty, I receive the code that lets me get started with cpshop integration, I get inundated with blog comments and the good folks over at ClickTracks offer up a solution to my analytics problems.
Jump to Day twenty.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
December 12, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jenniferâ€™s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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