Building A Timeline For Your E-Commerce Venture

In previous posts, patience in e-commerce was covered as necessary. However one also must recognize whether or not their e-commerce venture is headed in the right direction. It is important to set up certain goals along the path of your e-commerce journey, so you can analyze whether or not this is a venture worth continuing. Building an e-commerce business needs to follow a timeline.To build this timeline you need to state what the ultimate goal for your business venture is. This can certainly change over time. Perhaps you started out creating and selling a product, because you enjoyed the process of creating it, a hobby that can give you some pocket money. If that is your goal, you should be able to achieve it fairly quickly using eBay, and perhaps creating a promotional website for free. Or maybe your goal is to make a thousand dollars a month working just a few hours a week. Or perhaps you want your e-commerce venture to replace your full time job. The specific goal is entirely up to you, and it can evolve.Once your ultimate goal is set you should set a timeline for achieving it. On your timeline will be smaller goals along the way. These might include goals of number of unique visitors to your website, or when you will break even on your business. Goals of gross sales or number of orders you receive. Theses sub-goals could be anything, but they must be quantifiable, and realistic. It does no good to make outlandish unreasonable goals that are unlikely to be achieved.As you progress down your timeline you get a sense of how things are going. Somewhere along the way you might even decide to ditch this e-commerce venture and try something else. But that decision should not come for at least one year. I firmly believe the difference between success and failure, is in the entrepreneur’s mind. Success stories are often borne out of not quitting, more than anything else. To succeed at not quitting begins with a good business plan, and a realistic timeline that can track incremental improvements in your business even if the bottom line isn’t showing it right away. You must be able to show some reward for effort, even if it is just getting fifty unique visitors more than last month.Being on now my fourth e-commerce venture I can say I have followed basically the same timeline on all them. The first business I stopped after three years, and began a new one just two months later. That business now supports me, and it is a direct result of what I learned in the first business. The third business, I began shortly after quitting my corporate job, and that lasted just three months, as I lost interest, and was spending my time still building my second and most profitable business. I did not give it the year I stated above. Now I am on my fourth which is just two months old, too early to draw any conclusions. But again the fourth business is a direct result of stopping the third business. For all four businesses the timelines are basically the same.E-Commerce Timeline ExampleZero months to six months, build and learn business. There should already be significant time put in learning about the new business that should happen before the business is launched. Learning never stops however, and from zero to six months it should continue in depth. In this stage attracting traffic to your website is ultimate; see previous posts for the eBay way to do this, and also building trust and a name for your business.Six to twelve months, should be about building income. You are getting the traffic, now build the income. Learn why people visit your site, why they buy, what else you could do for them etc. New products are introduced, perhaps a company blog, your logo should start being recognized.It is at the one year mark, where you can first really know if this business has a chance at meeting your ultimate goals. Overnight successes do not happen online very often and they are becoming rarer all the time. But you should now have an idea if there is indeed success to be had. Things should be heading in one direction, sales should be measurably going up, and website traffic should be also. You might choose to alter your ultimate goal, perhaps this venture isn’t likely to reach it, but nevertheless is worth continuing. Or perhaps you have achieved your ultimate goal, and need to reset it.Twelve to eighteen months, should make some profit. Things you need to spend money on to get going can take up to a year to work their way through the business. Inventory takes time to build up as do supplies, advertising is often most expensive per sale in the early going, equipment often needs to be purchased, logos designed, etc. All these things can eat up first year revenues and beyond. But going into the second year profits should be up. In fact the second year will probably show the highest percentage gain of profits over any other year the company will have. If they aren’t why not? Are sales still increasing? Orders increasing? If they are then your overhead is likely too high, or your prices are too low. Find ways to lower the first and/or increase the latter.From the eighteen month point you really have committed yourself to your e-commerce business that in itself is cause for celebration. 85% of all start-ups end before the eighteen month point. It is from here where you plan the next eighteen months. Re-define your goals, and continue onward. If your ultimate plan is to have the e-commerce site support you and you are not there yet, plan how you will get there. Time could be the only factor left, these things just take time. Continue on the course and your goal will arrive. Perhaps you are already there and now want employees to run your business, plot that on your next timeline. Or perhaps you want to double your income, or shrink your work but maintain your profit. All of these are doable, it just takes realistic planning, and here is that word again, patience.

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