Nine years ago, me and some friends decided to launch an ecommerce company. We called it Bourbon & Boots, we sold (mostly) handmade products from the southeastern part of the US. Think handmade pocket knives and hand-stamped jewelry.
When we launched, we built a very simple process:
Facebook ad to acquire email address->
Put one great product on the site everyday ->
Send email everyday with the newest product release ->
We designed our process this way out of necessity. There were only 5 of us working on this in our spare time. We all had full time consulting gigs that paid our bills. We wanted to make sure that we had a process we could handle in 10 hours a week.
None of us realized it at the time, but by creating such a simple process we had set ourselves up for success.
When we sent our first email we had around 500 email addresses and had 3 purchases that day. The second day we sent our email we had 502 email addresses and had 1 purchase. The third day we sent our email we had 501 email addresses and had 1 purchase. The 45th day we sent out our email we had 3,349 email addresses and had 11 purchases. The 78th day we sent out our email we had 5,602 email addresses and had 9 purchases.
We followed the process. We were making headway and we were marginally profitable. But we were getting slightly burned out. Not the rocket ship story we had told ourselves.
The process for sourcing products and getting them photographed and listed on the site was tedious. Getting vendors on the phone was hard, getting them to send us product samples was hard, getting them to agree to our terms was even harder.
I was tired and getting distracted by other shiny things and so were my partners. All of our consulting work was suffering. We began to lose faith and began to talk about how and when to wind the project down. We all felt like this was a project that was fun and we learned a lot but time to cut bait. (We also had bad margins, but that's a story for another day)
Our expectations were really high. We thought this project would spin off enough money for us all to get enough to be meaningful and some point be able to transition us into full time on it. We thought it would happen faster. We were quitters- we wanted the easy way.
Then IT happened.
On a Monday morning we sent out the usual email to our roughly 5,500-6,000 email list, and then we had a flurry of sales- 10 in the first 30 minutes- that was good. Then it kept happening, another flurry of 10 sales, then 20, then 50. That was on the first day. We thought it wouldn't last, then we sold 45 the next day. By the end of the week we had sales of $10,000 and then $50,000 at the end of the month.
The feeling of this success was incredible. At the time it seemed like magic, and all the memories of hard work just melted away.
By the end of that year we had built a PROFITABLE business that did $489,000 in sales.
The process worked, we just wanted a shortcut. What we didn't realize was that our process WAS the shortcut we needed.
Finding a group of people who were aligned with our message and then building trust with them over time by giving them high quality content on a consistent basis we had built the best process to create a high value ecommerce store.
It took me another four years (and countless amounts of money) to learn this lesson.