February 24, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 4 Comments
Does Nobody Want My Money?!
Time for an off topic post!
Well, it’s actually not that “off topic” as it’s still all about selling online, customer service and in general, the proper way of running a business.
So here’s the story:
I’m buying some new machinery (I will do a separate post on that in a few weeks’ time) and it needs a decent air compressor to run it. So I started looking around at online shops in the UK (due to weight/size/warranty I didn’t want to import it) selling air compressors.
As with any such new equipment that I’m not familiar with, I started my research by reading reviews on Amazon. I know that the compressor I have in my home is super loud and not something I would want to use in our office so my search was narrowed down to ultra-quiet air compressors that run below 45 dB rating (that’s roughly the sound level of a quiet conversation).
Amazon’s prices on what I needed were actually very steep so I started looking for online shops that were selling these compressors. And thankfully the prices from many of these shops were a lot more competitive.
Now, the fun part started when I contacted these companies, many of which are fairly large, multi-million pound businesses.
I whitelisted 5 companies that looked best to me – by the range of compressors they had, their prices, and the overall look of their website (how professional they looked and whether they specialise in such tools or just sell them on the side).
Now from the 5 companies that I chose and contacted, I’ll let you guess how many replied to me…
YES! I’m a customer looking to buy a £1000 air compressor and only 2 of 5 companies managed to find the time to get back to me. This was last week, and I still haven’t heard from the other 3.
And it’s not like my message to them was annoying or anything like that – I just asked what dB rating a particular model had and how much the compressor weighs. That’s it – a quick, polite and to the point request.
From the two companies that did answer, one replied within an hour or so (excellent) and the second one was a lot slower, answering after roughly 30 hours. (more…)
January 27, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments
My Product Showcase: eCommerce Magnates
Last week I published the first post in a new series on this blog where I cover my own courses in detail, something that has been requested from me many times.
We started with my first and most popular course, Easy Auction Business, which as the name suggests is all about creating a successful eBay business.
But where do you go after that? I mean, after all, don’t I always talk about diversifying your selling channels to spread risk and ensure you’re not reliant on a single third party?
Well that’s where Easy Auction Business’ “sister course” comes in to play – so today I want to introduce you to eCommerce Magnates!
How It All Started
An eCommerce store is the logical next step of expansion for anyone who has created a successful eBay business and really an online store should be the ultimate goal for anyone who wants to create a real online business (more on why later!).
After the huge success of my first ever product, Easy Auction Business, many of my customers started to ask for a course dedicated entirely to building, managing, and running an online shop.
Well you asked, and I answered!
Having created multiple successful online shops myself, I was perfectly placed to share my vast experiences on the best way to create an eCommerce store and by doing so save my customers all the mistakes, trials, and tribulations that I had to go through in order to “crack the code”. (more…)
December 9, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 9 Comments
Common Pitfalls When Registering a Trademark!
Let’s talk about trademarks.
I have previously covered Trademark Scams on my blog but I haven’t really talked much about actually registering a trademark, the correct way of doing it and the common pitfalls you should try to avoid.
I actually stayed away from this topic for a good reason – trademarking is a very complex and legal subject – something that I’m simply not qualified to give advice on! People go to expensive law schools to learn this stuff so there’s no way I could give you even a basic overview of the proper steps in registering a trademark.
Luckily for us – and I’m super excited to share this with you – I have arranged a professional trademark attorney, Dr Frazer Bye, to share some inside tips & advice on the trademark registration process.
So without further ado – let’s get to it!
By Dr. Frazer Bye
What is a trademark?
A trademark is any sign that is capable of being graphically represented which can distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking (for example a business) from those of other undertakings (i.e. other businesses).
A registered trademark provides a monopoly to exclude a third party from using a similar or identical mark for similar or identical goods or services where it can be shown that there is a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public.
Trademarks can be registered for any means of differentiating your business from any other so long as the mark can be represented graphically. Hence, trademarks are not limited to words and names, but can include figures (such as cartoon characters), colours (e.g. the colour orange for mobile telephones), music (e.g. mobile phone ring tones), product shape (e.g. certain Swiss triangular chocolate bars), and packaging. You can in theory register a smell as a trademark, although no one has yet succeeded.
A trademark can be exploited like any form of physical property. Trademarks can be bought, sold, mortgaged or licensed. A trademark can distil brand value into a tradeable commodity and trademarks themselves can be valuable assets. (more…)
October 19, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 119 Comments
EAN Barcodes Explained!
Last week I received an email from a blog reader with some questions about EAN codes, and instead of answering her and including the question in our weekly Q&A post, I instead decided to create a full-detail blog post for it.
Here is the email that Nicki sent to me:
I just wondered whether you could provide me with a bit of guidance on EAN codes please?
I am looking to import a product (with different sizes) from China to sell on eBay and to sell to small retailers in my local area.
Would I need an EAN code to do this? If so, where is the best place to purchase these codes or would the manufacturer already have these unique bar codes to put on the products at my request?
Please could you advise what the costs implications are for buying EAN codes and any pros and cons for having/not having the codes on the imported products?
I have not yet decided whether I am going to brand the products. If I do, am I more likely to require an EAN code for each product?
Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.
So let’s now cover Nicki’s questions (and more!).
First of all – what are EAN codes and how do they work?
A simple explanation is that EANs are unique identifiers (barcodes) used to identify new, branded products sold at retail.
The EAN, which originally stood for European Article Number but is now referred to as International Article Number, is a 13 digit number found below the barcode:
This is the standard product identifier used in Europe and is recognised by nearly all retailers (after all, the whole point of the system is lost if it’s not adopted by all sellers). Pretty much any company or marketplace that you can think of will use these barcodes. (more…)
April 20, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 4 Comments
Don’t WASTE your time making an Online Shop!
On a regular basis I receive emails from my blog readers that go something along these lines:
Can you take a look at my online shop? I created it a few months ago but get just a few visitors a day and maybe a random sale once or twice a month. Can you check it out and see where I’m going wrong?”
And in many cases the shop itself actually looks very good, clearly they’ve spent some money on getting a decent design made and from the outside, everything looks just fine.
But the question remains – why are these shops making such little money?
Because in most cases people don’t market them, at all.
Most of the time, people build a shop and think that’s it. After that they expect thousands upon thousands of visitors and purchases, just like magic!
I’m sorry to burst the bubble but that is NOT how it works!
Building your eCommerce Shop and getting it right visually is very important of course BUT that’s only the first step, not the most important one. What matters more is WHAT you do after that!
Yes, I’m talking about promoting your shop, advertising it, publishing content, building high quality links, distributing content, doing social marketing and all those other things that build a solid SEO foundation which will result in natural traffic from search engines as well as direct traffic from your marketing campaigns.
And this is SO IMPORTANT to understand!
If you don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to do all of the above, then you shouldn’t even bother getting started. All you will do is waste your money. (more…)
March 24, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments
BEST Payment Processor for an ONLINE Shop?
Though I nearly always recommend starting out on eBay and then progressing to Amazon, the last piece of the online business puzzle is starting your own eCommerce store!
I’m not going to go into too much detail now as I’ve written about this in a separate blog post (eBay, Amazon or an Online Shop?) but to put it simply – eCommerce is the holy grail and the potential is MUCH larger than if selling solely on other 3rd party platforms, like eBay and Amazon.
But of course with bigger potential comes more complications and decisions and one of the first questions that people face when creating their own ecommerce store is what payment processor to use? After all, you can’t leave it to Amazon to handle that or simply take PayPal and be done with it.
So that’s what today’s article is all about – a guide on which payment processor to use for your online eCommerce store.
Let’s get to it!
When choosing a payment processor, there are a few important things you have to bear in mind and they are:
This really goes without saying, but the payment processor you choose has to be compatible with the shopping cart that your eCommerce store is built on.
The shopping cart is the more integral part of your store that will affect everything else so I’d always suggest choosing that first and then finding a payment processor option that fits, not the other way around!
As with everything, the cost is a big consideration, both in terms of any up-front charges and then ongoing costs – which can include a monthly “subscription” fee as well as a per transaction charge (similar to the 3.4% PayPal charge on eBay).
Quality of Service
Again, this goes without saying, but nowhere is the standard and quality of service provided more important than here. After all, this is your customers’ money and entire business livelihood at stake!
Plus another aspect that I always place a lot of importance on is the quality and speed of customer support. It’s no use at all having a terrific service at an amazing price if when something goes wrong (as it invariably will) there is no way to get any help.
Speaking of problems occuring, another hugely important factor when comparing different providers is how they protect you from and prevent:
For some high-risk niches this is actually the single most important aspect to consider and you need to choose a payment processor that has systems in place to protect you from fraudulent chargebacks. As I said, this should be a consideration for everyone but in some niches it’s even more important (such as when selling game codes, gift cards and other such digital goods). (more…)
February 23, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 18 Comments
How to Import & Sell BATTERIES on eBay!
As many of you will already know, in 2013 new regulations were introduced to control international air shipments of batteries and as of January 2015, these regulations were tightened by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and some further rules were brought into place under the Dangerous Goods Regulations.
And these rules aren’t just applicable to stand-alone batteries, but also to the lithium ion batteries commonly used in mobile phones, cameras, computers and other such electronics.
So if you deal with these products or have any plans to deal with these products, you need to be aware of all the rules and regulations in regards to shipping these batteries, both internationally and domestically.
Why Are These Regulations Even Being Introduced?
Firstly I want to very quickly go over why these rules are being brought into place at all and the reason for it is actually very simple – though most people are unaware of the fact, lithium ion batteries are actually very dangerous and are prone to shorting, overheating and catching fire.
Therefore, it is incredibly important that they are sealed and transported in the correct way.
I won’t go into all the explanations and reasoning behind this, as it’s not really necessary for us to understand/know about that, but of course if you are interested in reading more about this, there are countless news stories that you can find online that delve into it further.
But for our purposes, let’s see how these rules and regulations affect the import of batteries.
Importing Batteries Into the UK
Importing batteries from China to the UK is very difficult (and expensive) with all the new regulations in place. Depending on who you’re using for the shipment (courier vs air freight vs sea freight) and the specifics of what you’re importing, you may even have to agree a specific contract if your shipment is classified as containing “dangerous goods”.
As I said, this depends a lot on the specifics of exactly what you’re importing and if the batteries are already contained in equipment (this is considered safer and the rules are slightly more lenient). (more…)
February 4, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 3 Comments
How to Monitor your Online Shop 24/7!
I recently wrote an article about protecting your website from hackers and I’ve received a lot of interest and questions from you about this and about website downtime and monitoring in general.
And that’s not a surprise to me – a lot of people simply don’t even consider this as a possibility until it affects them, and by then it’s too late as the damage has been done. So well done for trying to protect your sites and your business – after all, prevention is the best cure of all.
One specific aspect of safeguarding against hackers and other causes of downtime that I spoke about is monitoring. Time is of critical importance with these hacker attacks and the longer it is before you notice something is wrong, the worse it’s going to be.
And that’s why today I want to share a service/company with you that can monitor your website or an online shop (self hosted) for any outages, as well as any issues with performance.
The company is called Pingdom and they have a range of plans available, starting from £9.95 a month all the way up to £329 a month (that plan offers a lot more than simple up-time monitoring).
And they also have a completely free plan so if you only need to monitor one website or server and can’t quite afford the monthly options, this is a great alternative to still ensure that your site is monitored. I personally use free account too and just purchase extra credits to receive SMS notifications.
For a full comparison table between the different plans, head here: https://www.pingdom.com/pricing/ but in essence it just depends on how many sites you have and how popular they are (monthly pageviews etc.) so for a small blog or site the Starter plan should be more than sufficient and possibly even the free one!
One thing I like about Pingdom’s service is that as well as the usual up-time monitoring, their plans also include Real User Monitoring. (more…)
January 8, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 14 Comments
Where to Buy Cheap Integrated Labels?
There’s something that I mention very often on this blog (for a good reason) and that is – AUTOMATING as many tasks and processes as possible in your business.
I’m sure one of the main reasons you started your own business was to get out of the rat race and to give yourself more freedom and time in your life. You won’t achieve this unless you automate and outsource as much as possible; otherwise you’ll simply trade in that 9-5 for an at home 9-5!
I won’t get into that all again now (as I said, it’s something I’ve mentioned many times in the past) as today I want to talk about something specific, something that ties in with all this automation and something that you should be using in your own business – Integrated Labels.
Order processing is one of the most time consuming jobs for any business and while initially it may be okay to copy and paste delivery addresses into Excel or Word; print them; cut them out and then tape them to your packages, as soon as you get even a small amount of orders each day, you’ll see that this is an unworkable system and not how you should be doing it.
Really there are only two good options here – Thermal Label Printers or Integrated Labels.
Label Printers vs Integrated Labels
I get a lot of emails from people asking me which is better, thermal label printers or integrated labels and honestly, there isn’t one right answer.
It depends on your personal preference and overall set-up but to quickly run through the main difference between the two:
Thermal label printers are specific printers that you use solely for printing labels.
So you need to buy a label printer (Dymo are the brand I always recommend) and the labels for the printer but no ink is needed due to the thermal printing used.
Integrated labels on the other hand work with your normal home/office printer.
How it works is that when you print out an invoice/dispatch note on an A4 piece of paper, there will be a peelable label on that same sheet that you can simply remove and place on the package.
It’s also a very simple system and has the advantage of keeping the invoice and shipping label together, which will help reduce order processing errors.
December 11, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 21 Comments
How to Secure your Websites Against Hackers!
Three weeks ago I faced a server attack.
A serious attack that affected most of my websites and for a while I actually thought I would lose a large portion of my business because of this. Thankfully I managed to fix it and that’s why you’re now reading this post.
So let’s go into detail about what happened and most importantly – how to secure your online business and websites so that you never face a situation like this.
Even though I have dealt with various sorts of hacker attacks previously, this time it was much more serious. What happened was, by using some vulnerabilities within the software I was running on my server, hackers “infected” many of my websites with malware (software/scripts that can be controlled by hackers).
I luckily noticed it very quickly as when I was checking my server status (which I do almost every day) as I saw that there was more than 40 000 scheduled emails in my mail queue. Spam emails of course. That instantly raised alarm bells for me and I knew that something dodgy was going on.
This is what hackers usually do – they get inside your web hosting account or server (if you have one) and install malware to send out thousands of spam emails to email addresses scrapped over the net. This way they use your resources, your email addresses and hosting account to send out spam emails.
If you’re not careful and do not spot this in time, hackers can use your website for days or even weeks to send out tens of thousands of spam emails.
And this results in your domain name and email address being black-listed by mail service providers (such as Gmail, Yahoo) and even search engines!
I’m sure I don’t have to explain the severity of this as if you have established websites and online shops with a good Google rank; this can completely destroy years of hard work.
First Things First
If something like this happens to you, the first thing you want to do is contact your hosting company and ask them to DISABLE the mail sending function for your account. This effectively stops ANY emails coming out of your account and is the best temporary solution to put in place while you deal with the core problem – the actual malware.
If you have your own dedicated or virtual server running WHM & CPanel, you can do this on your own – by switching off the Mail Exim service. Either way, the idea here is to stop those spam emails being sent out while you clean up your websites. (more…)