Why should you give a damn about the internet

When I talk to people about the Internet – the first reaction is always : “Yes! Today you have no choice”.

Then when I dig a little deeper – you hear the real stories.

The “Yes… but…”
– not in our industry
– people are not buying online really
– the market is not ready
– it is still early

So first, who is connected?

Look, in case you haven’t noticed but everyone is.
You want numbers? Here they are:


Age 20 to 64 : 95%

Which is virtually everyone.

And the tendency is not going to go reverse any time soon:

The young generation is connected younger, and connected people in their late 50s and 60s today will not be less connected when they will be in their 70’s and and 80’s

And, what do you think they do when they are connected?

What would 95% of the population do?

Well… pretty normal things :

  • they search for informations about stuff they need – be it a product or a service. Actually over 89% (and probably more) are using a search engine before making a purchase decision.
  • Some buy things online – more and more actually – in 2007 it was around 25% average in Europe and today it’s more than 50%. If you look in details, you’ll see that places like the UK are already at 80% of its population buying online. Even France which is late on every trend is now at 55% of people buying online. The one who are dragging the stats down are countries of eastern Europe (Bulgaria was 2% in 2007 and is just 12% now or Romania who was also 2% and is just 8% now) – but they are improving and they’ll catch up.
  • When they don’t buy online, they check prices while they are in your shop, using their phone. (Google is reporting it’s around 82% of shoppers – which is an enormous proportion – but even if it’s just 50% that’d be already impressive).
  • They make money – with a growing amount of ecommerce businesses or even just people buy and selling on platforms like ebay / Airbnb / etc.
  • They save time – buy using google map, waze, and every other apps they can to get the information they need in no time (which include travelling information, buy plane tickets, etc.)
  • They have fun – watch-time of video and audio online is skyrocketing – TV is dead already for a while – (the only reason TV is not buried yet is because we are waiting for when advertisers will realise no one is watching and they’ll move their dollar somewhere else).

In short, Internet is a part of every aspect of our society, and for now it seems it’s not going anywhere. So you’d think more seriously about how you plan to build your internet presence and take care of what you do online because it is only going to get more and more critical.

Just my 2 cents…

The cloud is dead — long live the cloud!

Or why there is a massive opportunity for people in the hosting business.

Back in the (not-so-distant) days, if you wanted to have some online software — to manage your invoices or your customers — or any kind of business management solution — you had to have your own servers for your company and install-and-configure the hell out of it.

But then, SaaS came along (cloud solutions of all kinds) which started out of a general observation that people like instant-one-click-software things and if we could simplify it for them and break down the cost of the licence to a simple monthly subscription, shit would sell better.

That’s basically the concept behind every SaaS software out there : get your software running hands-on with no hassle, just pay us 49.99 a month on a 1 years contract locked in (ok, it’s not always that bad, but we’re going to crunch some numbers in a minute and you’ll see it is not sooo cheap either in the end.)

That’s how Basecamp, Asana, Trello, Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Salesforce, Dropbox, Insightly, Hubspot, Slack and countless others are rolling.

TL;DR : it used to be hard. The cloud came along and made it easy. amen

Easy is not cheap

For B2C solution, it makes tons of sense to have a subscription based, pay-as-you-go software — because you have many one of two, and they are pretty cheap (Netflix, Dropbox maybe Spotify… and you’re done, right?)
From a B2B standpoint however, I have more and more issues swallowing that blue p(b)ill.

Let’s run the following scenario:

if you are a 5 people business (so not that big) and you run some project management software, let’s say Assana, Google Business for your emails, an online quote solution, let’s take QuoteRoller, and you have a shared Dropbox solution for your team, and obviously you have a website.

That’s a simple set up for cloud collaboration:

  • Email/Online documents — Google For Business — $5 per user per month — so that’s $25 / Month
  • QuoteRoller — for invoicing / proposals / etc. that’s 19$ per user per month / so that’s an other 100$ per month for all your team.
  • Dropbox — one shared hard drive for the team — accessible on your phone, and everyone’s laptop — $10 per user per month — $50 every month
  • The accounting software, just one user will need to access it, so let’s roll with $20 per month.
  • And our project management solution, we said Asana, so let’s go with $10 per user per month — that’s *just* $50
  • And finally, the web hosting, a cheap solution starting at $8 a month (just made that one up but that would be a cheap shot — even if you can obviously find cheaper)
  • A total of a whopping $253 of cheap-ass licence for a basic software to operate a small 5-people business.

That is *not* cheap!

When you look at the cost to simply have your own dedicated server — which for 5 people business and simple website for local customers would be fine at $20 a month.

Now, where will you go to take the software… because that’s what you buy when you go SaaS.

The alternative : OSS FTW!

In the past 10 years, a considerable amount of work was done to develop and grow open source cloud solutions.

WordPress — the open source CMS to manage your website — is the most commonly known.

WordPress was one of the first really usable Open Source software, but today you have a larger choice of software available.

 

 

And just like WordPress is available today with a one-click install, there are no reasons why all this great software (which we’ll cover in a sec) cannot be installed also with one-click install.

Introducing the OSS Business Suite

So, which great software are we talking about?
Let’s do a quick review of a bunch of options you have available, mostly for businesses (as this the focus of this article).

InvoiceNinja

InvoiceNinja give me the feel they want to be the WordPress of invoicing software. They have a .com site where you can get a free setup and a paid one, and a .org site where you can get the open source self-hosted version (https://www.invoiceninja.org/)

Feel very kinda similar to WordPress.com and WordPress.org set up (where you get a free — premium — site hosted at wordpress.com but you can get the source code and install it at WordPress.org).

The software itself is very smooth, very nice UI/UX, not the usual crappy stuff and much better than many closed-source software out there in terms of interface but also in terms of functionality.
You should check their demo.

Your CRM needs with SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM is an evolution of SugarCRM, an open source CRM solution that was quite popular a few years ago but that was very quickly left out by the mothership of SugarCRM and therefore wasn’t was attractive anymore.

SuiteCRM has picked up the challenge to rebuilt SugarCRM to its ancient glory and has made significant work to make it more usable.

They live of training and consulting so they don’t have much doc available, but there is a great community and SugarCRM itself has a lot of documentation.

And honestly, it is really not that hard to use.

Now, if you want an enterprise level CRM with single-sign-in — you can easily add functionalities that still would be cheaper than a SaaS version of SugarCRM.

If it is on your server, it’s yours, you own it. You manage it, and you add to it whatever you want.

Mautic — Marketing Automation

So you know Hubspot if you are in the Marketing industry. Well Mautic is a bit like HubSpot but open source and free. or, well… quite the same… ok the comparison is more for the sake of illustration.

What’s certain is that Mautic is a flexible open source marketing automation software including interesting data collection tools and segmentation based on engagements and point of contacts.

  • It does has a few nice features
  • A/B Tests
  • Automated Drip Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • CRM Integration
  • Event Management
  • Landing Page & Form Creator
  • Contact Analysis
  • Contact Management
  • Contact Scoring
  • List Management
  • Smart Contact Capture Forms
  • Social Media Integration
  • Web Activity Monitoring
  • CMS Integration
  • Multiple Email Service Providers
  • eCommerce Integration

Very smart.

Worth checking.

Project Management — Open Project

 

OpenProject is like Asana but open source (and yes, if you are more into trello-like, you can go and check RestyaBoard)

Open Project has pretty much everything any organisation that need project management would need.

 

So have a look, really worth it.

 

Now, imagine a hosting provider who would give you in just one click — your website with WordPress but also your project management system and your CRM and your invoicing solution, all this for a fixed price.
Not bad, uhm..

 

Slack alternatives — Mattermost & RocketChat

Mattermost and Rocketchat are two alternatives to the very popular internal chat software who’s main promised was to make email obsolete.

While we can debate if Slack is reaching its purpose or not, one thing is sure : people like to chat internally and Slack is nice.

Why go self-hosted instead of using slack… well why not? If you have this in a few clicks just like Slack to the difference that you own the whole thing, versus sharing your internal company conversation with Slack…

You decide…

I am just putting all the options on the table.

Mastodon

If you are not into chatting but still want to build a community, just to let you know, we have a twitter alternative out there, it’s called Mastodon.

I can totally understand that would not be your first move, but while we are considering/discussing open source software-quick-installs, I am somewhere deep inside pretty sure that if we would unleash a usable twitter-like solution to the business world, it would work.

Organisation would totally make an internal twitter for their own needs, and I can imagine totally a large number of organisation adopting it.

Especially because Slack (and slack alternative) are attention suckers and can get really annoying to the point it’s becoming a nuisance to your productivity.

So a twitter-like interface but with all the privacy and control that goes along with hosting it yourself, would be very handy in many cases.

Especially with the growth of remote-workers…

Anyway, I’ll probably write a separate article on this matter.

So just that you know — it exists, it’s pretty awesome and you could use it for your company.

Helpy.io

Last for today but not least — helpy.io is a great open source customer-service solution.


Tickets-system and customer-care are hot right now, and for a good reason — because people want you to be reactive to their demand, else they’ll take their dollar somewhere else or will simply curse you if they can’t go anywhere.

But good help-desk software can be expensive.

Zendesk and Freshdesk have the upper hand on the market but with a pricing-per-seat, it can get really expensive.

If you think of NGOs for instance, who could make some great use of their volunteer time for customer-care, but are on a tight budget… Zendesk is totally out of their budget.

Helpy.io is an open source solution (written in ruby for those who care about these kind of details) and honestly it’s awesome, the interface is super cool and it just make you feel like answering people’s request all day is the most interesting thing to do (think about it, at the age of remote workers — you might not want to invest in hype internal design for the office, but in the design of your internal company software, where most of your workers will spend time).

What else…

Probably more…

Actually more, but this article is getting longer than I thought so we’ll stop here — and what matter is the general logic behind all this :

OSS + self-hosting = cheaper and better than SaaS in many cases.

You can get the same for less and, on the top of that, you get the privacy control and the real ownership of the data, which you don’t have when it’s in a cloud that belong to somebody else.

Here come the TL;DR section:

  • SaaS software is getting expensive as hell
  • Having your own server is a fixed price and very affordable
  • Open Source Online software can be use for most of daily operation in a business
  • Hosting company who lost some market share because of SaaS have all the interest in the world to set up quick one-click-install and regain what they’ve lost by providing not just hosting but actual business solution
,

So you want to sell stuff online

Selling online has the highest profit margin.

It’s also one of the cheapest way to sell direct to consumer at scale.

That’s also why it is growing rapidly over the past 5 years, and it will keep growing as the world is going increasingly digital.

So, if you want to make the jump to ecommerce and sell online, let’s have a look at what you want to consider before you build anything.

 

ecom-00

Product

First what do you sell? How many products are we talking about? One, a dozen, a few thousands?

The quantity of products type will impact the choice of your system. The more products, the more complex the design, and the more robust the system you will need.

Then how about your inventory? How much inventory do you need to manage? Do you need to integrate inventory management into the ecommerce system, or you will deal with it manually?

Then shipping, who pays for it? The customer or yourself? Do you need to calculate the price of shipping in real time or is it a fixed price?

Or maybe, you just don’t have inventory at all, and you sell informational products? Maybe online courses? Or ebooks?

Putting this together will help you to get a better picture of what you need.

Anything can be sold online, some people even sell hugs in a box 🙂 you just have to package it properly and build the right system behind it.

Price

Once you have wrapped your head around products, and delivery, it is time to have a look at your how the pricing is working? :

  • How do you handle discounts?
  • Do you sell world-wide?
  • How about currency? Do you sell in one or in multiple currency?
  • Have you a different price policy depending on the country in which you sell (geo-pricing)?
  • Do you collect VAT ?

ecommerce-prices

Customers

Do you have customers? Well, you better have some at some point!

So how do you plan to manage your customer relationships ? Do you have a CRM? Do you plan to use one? Do you want to integrate it automatically with your ecommerce website? Do you want to offer a signup process and maybe a membership area for returning customers?

All your customers speaks the same language or do you need a multi-lingual site?

How do plan to handle transactional emails (confirmation emails, welcome emails, etc.)? Do you want your brand in there? What system do you use today to email your customers? Can you integrate it with your ecom platform?

Marketing

ecommerce-marketing

You don’t have customers? Or you want more? Get your digital communication in order: set up a landing page, make a marketing map, launch a paid campaign on social media, analyse your conversion, there is plenty of things to do to get your marketing together.

Set up the marketing campaign is not a requirement when you work on your ecommerce platform, yet it is quite important and might have an impact on how you build your ecommerce site, so think about it now, even if you don’t execute on it yet.

 

 

Choose a platform

ecom-platforms

Use a marketplace

Not even a shop yet, but a place where you can put your products up to sell and find customers. It’s not optimal but it is an option you might want to consider in some cases.

We are talking here about Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/) or Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or Amazon.

It provides a solution for you to sell your product, but it is very transactional, not much place for building up the perceived value of the product. Also, you sit next to the competition.

So, it is cost effective but you don’t get much in terms of features and options.

Might not be the best solution, but if you want to bootstrap with zero overhead, it can be a good way to get started.

Hosted solutions

These solutions do not require to have your own server, or to care about payment solutions, they deliver you a site working out of the box. The main benefit is speed and simplicity, good for small projects and can provide a good temporary solution until you build the cash you need to upgrade your site.

Big Cartel 

Website: https://www.bigcartel.com/

bigcartel

Built for makers, around for a while now, affordable, especially for small sellers, free up to 5 products, and can a be a good starting environment if you are just starting out.

Wix Ecommerce

Website: http://wix.com

wix

Already well known for its tool to build your own website in a few minutes, Wix has an ecommerce version which starts at 17 euro a month, not to bad has a great range of option for small stores.

Shopify

Website: shopify.com

shopify

A really good platform, if you are ready to give up some control on the platform hosting. Relatively quick setup, start at $29 and features includes unlimited products, 24/7 support and a website and a blog.

The design is really slick and we can do a bunch of customisations, but indeed you don’t get full control on the beast, it’s all into Shopify infrastructure which can become pretty limiting depending on what you want to do.

Self-hosted Solutions

When you want to get serious with your ecommerce solution, or that you want to get more control over you growth or your development, then it is time to get to a self hosted solution, which you totally own.

Woocommerce

Website: https://woocommerce.com/

woocommerce

WooCommerce is a free, open source ecommerce extension for WordPress. WooCommerce runs around 35% of all eCommerce sites, so it is quite a popular solution. It works well on small and large size stores (easy to set up for 1 product but will work with up to 25 000 products as well). It’s a pretty mature and very well supported solution by a large community.

By far one of the best solutions available, giving you all the flexibility of WordPress, a massive community of developers and designers and bunch of plugins to do nearly anything you want – and for the remaining things that would not come out of the box, you can add them to your system, since it is entirely customisable.

 

Other self-hosted solutions

The world of ecommerce has a large amount of solutions, so while Woocommerce is everyone’s favourite, you have other alternatives :

Magento – Enterprise ecommerce solution

A powerhouse for ecommerce, probably the leading products for major ecommerce projects, works well for major projects and large budgets.

Website: https://magento.com/

PrestaShop

PrestaShop is just an other open source solution on the market, with a relatively small community, but it is well and alive.

Website: https://www.prestashop.com/

Budget

Once you have a clearer view about what you want from your site, and somehow, you have given some thoughts about the platform you want to start on, then it is time to give a go at budgeting.

You get what you pay for. But you can pay with time, and do things yourself, if you feel you can or you can get someone to do it for you. (Side note: yes, I am potentially interested in your project, but that doesn’t mean I am not trying to give you my best advice here. I have no interest in you making bad decisions).

The D.I.Y approach

If you want to do it yourself, then you should probably use a marketplace or a hosted solution.

The Zero overhead Solution – go for marketplace

If you are really trying to save money and don’t have a penny to spend, then ebay can be a good fit, or amazon. But you do not get much space there to show case your products, so really the next best thing you can do, to get some exposure online to explain about your product is to get a free Wix website, and make the sales happen on Amazon. Keep in mind that having a website with no custom domain but a wix subdomain (like I-sell-donnuts-on-amazon.wix.com) is likely to affect perceived customer value and therefore lower your conversion rate, but hey, you need start somewhere, so it will do! When you make some money, try the hosted solution, and as soon as you can go and get the help of a professional.

The hosted solution – Shopify is your friend

So, in the case you don’t need much, you can probably learn how to use Shopify yourself and get started there or on Wix, use a template and make it happen on your own. Then time is the only asset you will need.

Your costs will be limited to buying a domain, paying for the package you take on the ecommerce platform, and the time you will have to invest.

A more professional approach

The DIY mentality is great when you start, but if you are a profitable business you need to take care of your growth and that will not work very long if you keep hacking your way around your online shop but never nail the job.

Worse even: you might think you have nailed the job, but you are doing a terrible job and you do not see what you are doing wrong.

I met not long a ago someone who owns a Chinese antiquities business, which he sells in store and online. The store is a perfect polish antiquities shop, very well designed and attractive, but it is empty 95% of the time. The online shop is thriving, actually bringing money but is run on a non-mobile friendly, old design done using tools that do not exist anymore (some old version of Microsoft FrontPage – a piece of software you can hardly find anymore) – his business could easily double in volume if he were able to see what is wrong with his site.

And he is not alone, the amount of ecommerce websites with bad design is incredible. As if people do not understand design is not just scrapping-some-pretty-photos-on-a-page-and-call-it-a-day, design is to reverse-engineer what your customer think, so you can build something that will help them make the decision to buy.

Anyway, if you are still reading, you probably want to know how much you will have to spend on professional services.

It depends where you come from, if you were in the previous scenario and you run a hosted website on Shopify, Wix or any other hosted platform, you might want to

  • stay there but improve the design.
  • Upgrade to self-hosted

Improve the design

A design project on Shopify usually starts around $1000 but count more in the $2000 minimum and for a good project, and it is totally okay if it runs into the $10 000. Of course these prices I am giving you are just a

Going self hosted

For a Woocommerce website, you will not find anything decent under $3000, unless your project is a really a no-brainer and you have all the text, images, and design ready and you just want it set up, then it’s just a technical job, but from experience, it is rarely the case.

So be aware that while making more preparation before your project will help you get a better price, and save you some bucks, trying to make the project looks simpler than it really is can lead to a bad evaluation of a project at the beginning, kill the project with you losing some money and some time.

Take the time required to be clear about what you think, and have a conversation with the person that will work together with you, so you can both align mutual visions on the project and make sure everything is understood.

How much should you spend?

This is more a business question, but I think it needs to be addressed in here as well. Ecommerce is here to make you money but you have to invest in the infrastructure.

How should you invest is really a question of how mature is your online business.I would advice to put around 10% of your annual gross margin into the  project, not much more, unless you are planning a strategic shift.

But that’s something to see in details, either in a separate article or in a chat.

Wrapping up

That’s it. I hope it helped. We have covered most of the aspects you need to think about when you plan your online store, in terms of products, prices, and customers. We have covered different platforms, and discussed budget. Next, I’ll make a guide for ecommerce project planning. Sign up to the newsletter to get an update when it is done.

, ,

The Resistance

The resistance is some phenomenon well known of creative people, entrepreneurs and anybody trying to make something different and/or new happen – to some extent it is like a force of nature that manifest itself against our will to improve, our desire to advance.

The resistance is the dark side of the force, here to maintain our free choice in the grand scheme of thing.

 

But mostly, resistance is a little bitch.

Many authors have talked about this phenomenon.

The best I have ever read so far is Steven Pressfield, who dedicated a number of books to it, and his words are so accurate that it is a must read for everyone in the business of making shit happen.

 

Here it is.

 

From The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

  • The pursuit of any calling
  • The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
  • Any diet or health regimen
  • Any program of spiritual advancement.
  • Education of every kind.
  • The undertaking of any enterprise whose aim is to help others.
  • Any act that entails commitment of the heart (the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship, etc.)
  • The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.

In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long-term growth, health, or integrity

Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.

Any of these acts will elicit resistance.

Now, what are the characteristics of Resistance?

Resistance Is Invisible

Resistance cannot be seen, heard, touched, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential.

Resistance is a repelling force.

It’s negative.

Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

Resistance Is Insidious

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.

It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.

Resistance is protean.

It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.

Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a 9-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.

Resistance has no conscience.

It will pledge anything to get a deal.

Then  it will double-cross you as soon as your back is turned.

 

If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.

Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

Resistance Is Impersonal

Resistance is not out to get you personally.

It doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care.

Resistance is a force of nature. It acts objectively.

Though it feels malevolent, Resistance in fact operates with the indifference of rain and transits the heavens by the same laws as stars.

When we marshal our forces to combat Resistance, we must remember this.

 

Resistance Is Infallible

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—
meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this.

We can use it as a compass.

We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or purpose that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution,
the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

 

Resistance Is Universal

We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with Resistance.

Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.

Resistance Never Sleeps

Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance,

even when he was seventy-five.

In other words, fear doesn’t go away.

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity:

The battle must be fought anew every day.

Resistance Plays for Keeps

Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable.

Resistance makes no prisoners.

Resistance aims to kill.

Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, our uniqueness.

Resistance aim to take the priceless gift we were put on this earth to give and that no one else has but us.

Resistance means business.

When we fight it, we are in a war to the death

— About The Resistance – by  Steven Pressfield

 

Now you know.

Start paying attention.

Procrastination, self-doubt, over-confidence, anything that result in delaying the creation of anything of value – is the resistance at work.

Fighting the resistance is like a sport.

You start slow and easy.

As you get better, so does the resistance.

It is like Newton third law, for every force exerted, you have a a second force in direct opposition and equal in magnitude  resisting the force of progress.

The org. chart of a dying organisation

Org chart

If this look like the org. chart of the place you work at, you might want to consider thinking to go somewhere else.

 

No organisation ever started to end up like this, but it usually happen when you do not ingrain a culture of learning into your people and your organisation.

This happen when you put people who are just about the how, without understanding the why.

The moment people stop caring where the company is going, and just care about their “job” you know things will turn bad.

And when you as a leader stop learning and stop building a legacy, you start building the end of your own organisation turning it into a pillar of salt, of people looking at their past with nostalgia, when the world was a different place, when the industry was different and maybe they are right, maybe it was better back then…

But you sure cannot improve today if you ignore its existence…