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94. Is THIS Holding You Back from Growing Your eCommerce Business?

94. Is THIS Holding You Back from Growing Your eCommerce Business?

Feel stuck when it comes to getting to that next level in your eCommerce business? Maybe you’ve hit a plateau, or you’re just feeling overwhelmed with the new year ahead and you’re not really sure how to set yourself up for success. If you’re feeling stressed or like you’re spinning your wheels, this episode is probably for you. 

I’m sharing the top 5 things that hold people back from reaching their goals in their eCommerce business and what you can do instead.

Last week, we chatted about all the ways you can grow your business in 2022 and how to identify which KPIs you can leverage in your business to hit the heights you’re trying to reach. 

Today’s episode is sort of a companion to that, but it’s coming at you in my classic tough love style because we’re going to be focusing on how you might get in your own way in your business growth. I share these things not to make you feel like shit, to feel defeated, to say you’re not a good business owner, or anything like that. 

It’s to remind you how important it is that you, as a business owner, evolve with the business landscape as it changes around you. That this world owes us nothing, that having a successful business is a privilege, not a right, and that we truly hold the cards and the power to build up to the success that we want to achieve. 

Now, that is certainly not to say some of us are up against bigger hurdles than others. Minority-owned companies, whether based on skin color, sexual orientation, or even gender, can definitely be harder to grow because we don’t all get the same opportunities as our majority counterparts… BUT there is a lot of proof out there that it can be done. The thing that truly sets apart the successful from the not-so-successful is the practice of taking full ownership over our success. 

Today I wanted to share some of the most common things I hear and see from small business owners that are likely getting in the way of them finding the success they want in their businesses. 

Before I dive into those, I just wanted to share what prompted me to create this episode to set the stage. 

Just last week, I launched my brand new membership for eCommerce entrepreneurs, The Lounge. For that launch, I taught a 3-day workshop called Confused to Conversion where we covered business planning, email marketing, and Facebook Ads. 

We held the entire workshop inside a private Facebook group and one of the entry questions was, What do you think is the #1 thing holding you back from reaching your goals? I had a few options people could pick from…

  1. I need to level up my skill set in things like email marketing, Facebook ads, etc. [38%]
  2. Accountability to get things done [7%]
  3. Building my team. I can’t do it all! [6%]
  4. People to bounce ideas off of. I’m always in my head [11%]
  5. The damn algorithm, I can’t get my content in front of enough people [17%]

Before I go into the results, know that this isn’t a perfect science as some people put in their own answers vs. choosing from the list. Of course, I understand that when presented with an idea we’re more likely to choose it, but the answers were pretty telling.  

Disclaimer, I’m not knocking anyone here. We’re all human and need to throw ourselves a pity party once in a while, but it’s important that we have these conversations and get real with ourselves so we can get out of our own damn way and hit those big ass goals we’re trying to hit. 

The good news is that 38% of respondents said they need to level up their skill set in things like email marketing, Facebook ads, etc. I was really pleased to see that because it shows me they’re taking responsibility for their success and are ready to put in the work to get to the next level in their business. 

What I was a bit disappointed to see was that 17% of respondents blamed their lack of success on the damn algorithm and that they couldn’t get their content in front of enough people. 

While I certainly understand where they’re coming from because I too have cursed the damn algorithm, the truth is—if we just sit back and blame outside forces for being responsible for our lack of success we’ll NEVER be able to reach the goals we’re trying to reach. 

I mean, when you think about Blockbuster and how quickly they went downhill after the introduction of online streaming, what do you think to yourself? 

Do you say: 

Poor Blockbuster, Netflix put them out of business or

Well Blockbuster, you should have jumped on the streaming bandwagon and maybe you’d still have a viable business. 

Of course, their demise is not as simple as that, but it was definitely a contributing factor. That and a lot of bad management decisions. 

There are ALWAYS going to be things outside of our control in your business. Our industries are going to evolve, consumer behavior and tastes are going to change, new competitors and copycats are going to emerge, but none of those reasons alone are enough to take us out. 

It’s up to us to stay one step ahead, to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice, to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening around us, and to ultimately take ownership over the success and failures in our businesses. 

While talking to eCommerce biz owners, reading what they share on social media, listening to their struggles, and why they think they’re not hitting their goals, I see a lot of the same complaints that I really want you to just remove from your thought process and realize that you have more control than you feel you do. 

So here we go, the 5 things that are holding you back from reaching your goals.

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1. Expecting what worked 5 years ago, a year ago, or even just a few months ago to continue working today. 

We’ve already talked about how quickly things change, but it’s so important for us to remember, especially with reach on social media. 

When Instagram first started, it was easy to get a lot of organic reach with a few simple hashtags. 

There was even a time when you could buy a sponsored post on a meme page or an interest page and get a bunch of new eyeballs on your business. But that’s not really a thing anymore.

When Reels first started it was easy to go viral and now, while they still get more organic reach than a static post, it’s not quite the silver bullet that it once was. 

The same was true for Facebook pages back in the day. If you start a page today, it’s rare that you can get visibility there without paying to play. 

At the height of the pandemic, Clubhouse was the new shiny object and, as a service provider and educator, it was a great place for me to connect with and reach new eCommerce business owners. It was all about getting the best out of the platform while I could and then moving on. 

This is true even outside of social media, no matter the medium. The way you execute it may have to change. Your expectations on what you’re going to get out of that platform might need to change. What used to lead directly to sales may be more of a branding exercise now. And of course, you never have to do ALL THE THINGS and I don’t recommend that you do… but whatever you end up continuing with, just understand that the outcome might be different today than it was a few years ago. 

2. Feeling entitled to more reach on social media. 

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram honestly owe you nothing. 

Think back to marketing before social media and even the Internet. There was no FREE way to get your business in front of your perfect customers. Companies did things like direct mail, TV and radio ads, print ads in magazines and newspapers. 

Then came the internet, email marketing, and social media. A place where you could reach the masses for very little to no money. I mean… this is a freaking privilege to have these platforms. If you were to start a social media platform today… What would you do to make money? Would you charge your users, or would you charge the people who wanted to reach them? 

Real talk here, anyone who is mad at Facebook for charging people to get reach on their platform is just kidding themselves. I’m not saying Facebook doesn’t have their issues and shouldn’t be held responsible for some of the shit they pull. Yes, there is definitely some corporate greed going on. But they’re a business just like the rest of us. They need funds to keep their platforms up, to keep innovating, to create more tools to help you reach all their users, and to keep those users on their platforms longer so that you can reach them. 

You get to vote with your dollars. You don’t have to pay to play with them if you don’t want to. A decision you’re entitled to make… but to sit around being annoyed that you can’t get any organic reach is just a waste of your energy. Energy that you could use elsewhere in your business. 

Good quality content is key

While you’re unlikely to get the organic reach of yesteryear, there is still an opportunity to get organic reach. It’s usually our content that is the culprit. The algorithm works based on feedback from its users. If they engage with something, the platform shows it to more people and if it doesn’t, they don’t. I had a post a couple of weeks ago that actually got more reach to non-followers than it did to my followers because it was a good post with a good hook. The leading image in the carousel said Facebook Ads don’t work anymore. 

The post went on to debunk that myth, but it caught people’s attention. Did that post revolutionize my business overnight? No. Did it get me in front of some people who had never heard of me before? Yes. Did it get more listeners of the podcast episode I was promoting? Yes. 

It had a specific job to do, and it did it. 

If we can manage our expectations and see what all the activities in our business offer, how they can contribute to our business and utilize them to our advantage without expecting them to do all the work for us, it’s going to give us much better results and a lot less stress when it comes to meeting our goals. 

That entitlement is not limited to social media. 

3. Being mad about the commission fees, other platforms charge you to sell on them

Let me preface this by saying… Yes, these platforms have their issues and they certainly aren’t saints, but to feel you’re getting “robbed” by platforms that charge you 5%, 10%, or 15% to sell on their platforms… you’re just looking at it the wrong way. 

If you were to open a brick-and-mortar store, would you expect to not pay rent? When you open a store in a shopping mall, a shopping center, or strip mall, part of what you are paying for is the foot traffic and visibility that being in that area will give you. 

When you buy any sort of media, whether it’s a radio ad, a billboard, a podcast ad, or a print ad, you’re paying for the number of potential eyeballs that are going to see it. 

When you put your product in a grocery store, you pay for shelf space. When you see a product featured in a show or a movie, those brands paid for that placement. 

The fees that you pay to these platforms are for the opportunity to get in front of the large shopping base that these platforms built up. Unlike all those other paid placements, most of what it costs you is only charged once you actually sell something. 

It’s essentially like having a fully commissioned salesperson. Yet, so many of us get annoyed that they take their cut. If that’s you, then you frankly have two options: 

  1. Change your mindset or 
  2. Not sell on those platforms 

Just like with many other things in life, you get to vote with your dollars. If you don’t want to give that platform your money because you don’t like what happens in the end, you don’t have to. But to expect them to give you that space for free on their platform isn’t very fair on your part either. 

Of course, I never recommend that you build your entire business on rented land (that’s a conversation for another day) but I also don’t think you should expect to get that land for free. 

4. Not focusing enough on email marketing

When you join my FREE eCommerce Badassery Facebook, one question I ask is: “What email marketing platform are you using?” And sooooo many people who join said they don’t have an email platform or that they don’t do email marketing. 

I will not go into all the things about email marketing here, but friend… email is truly where it’s freakin’ at for eCommerce. 

It might not be that way forever. Yes, there are other mediums like SMS that have grown exponentially over the last two years, but email is not dead, and until it is, I’m going to keep encouraging you to take advantage of it. 

Not only do you get better reach on email than you do on social, but it also converts better. 

Even more important than that is the fact that it’s the only marketing medium (aside from SMS) that you truly own. Your email list goes with you everywhere. If your email marketing platform goes away, you can take it to another one. If Instagram shuts down, you’ve lost those people and you have to start from scratch somewhere else. 

5. You forgot why you started this business in the first place

When you’re going through this journey of eCommerce entrepreneurship, and things get tough, you feel like the algorithm hates you; you feel like you already used every trick in the book but your business still isn’t growing; you feel like the novelty of your product has worn off… It’s your brand and the reason why you started your business in the first place that will be your saving grace. 

I was talking to someone a few weeks ago who had hit a plateau in her business. I’ve been a long-time customer of hers and while we hadn’t talked much one-on-one, I was pretty familiar with her brand and her journey. 

After talking to her for a bit and giving her some of my thoughts and ideas at the end of the conversation, I said:

“Now that we’ve been talking for a while, I think I’ll bring the real talk to you. You are so much in your head about this and totally spinning your wheels. You need to take a step back, get that high-level view of your business, and lean back into why you started this brand in the first place. What it represents for you and the people who buy your shit. Get back to being that unapologetic you who shouts your shit from the rooftops. Get people excited about your brand and how they feel when they buy and wear your stuff.” 

When you build a brand, when you have a message and something that you stand for, it becomes the North Star of your business. When you start to feel overwhelmed, like you’re getting off track, like you don’t know where to go next, you find that North Star and you just keep moving in that direction. You follow the yellow brick road and it will take you back home. 

When you’ve got that sort of clarity in front of you, all the other things, the platforms you’re on, the social media content you create, the partnerships you explore… they all serve that North Star, that mission, that message. And it reignites the passion. 

Business is fucking hard sometimes and we can lose the drive we once had when we run into all these obstacles and we feel like we’re losing control. But when you have that thing to hold on to, that mission to achieve, the passion you had when you first started your business, that energy becomes infused into everything you do, which ultimately brings you more of the results that you are looking for. 

Yes, you still have to work for it, you still have to change with the times, you still have to pay to play sometimes, but your passion will shine through all of that, making it more successful than if you approached it as a necessary evil in your business. 

Wow, today was a big one and honestly, it got a little more real than I expected it to. But you know what… that’s who I am, and that’s what you come to me for, right? To just tell you like it is. Sometimes we all need that little kick in the pants to get our shit right. What better time than the start of the new year! 

I know, it might have been hard to hear—I get it. I’ve got some of my own shit I need to get real with myself about in my business, too. But this is how we grow. This is how we do better. If we only surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear, we have no shot in hell to truly build the type of businesses we want to build. 

I hope you got a shit ton of value from today’s episode and if you’re one of those people who sometimes needs a good kick in the ass, remember to come back to this one when you need it. 

Listen to the Episode

Episodes Mentioned 

Email Marketing:

2. How to Make Money with Email Marketing for eCommerce

3. Make Money on Autopilot With These Must-Have Email Automations

Business Development:

7. The #1 Reason You Can't Afford to Pay Yourself

20. The Power of the Pre-Launch + Thriving in a Crowded Market With Jessica Principe of All Girl Shave Club

26. 3 Things Entrepreneurs Should Do Everyday To Maximize Sales

27. Top 10 Mistakes and Misconceptions About eCommerce

39. 5 Things to Start Doing in 2021 to Step Into Your Role as CEO

48. Are You Focused on the WRONG things in your eCommerce Business?

Links Mentioned

eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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