IncomeShops stores can be used for a variety of monetization purposes.  Individuals and entrepreneurs can leverage the technology to create their own stores for business, nonprofits, schools, community organizations, houses of worship can use it for fund raising, and small businesses, bloggers, and people with their existing social or other websites can use IncomeShops stores for supplemental revenue through monetization of existing traffic.  In this article, we’re going to focus on how individuals can use IncomeShops to supplement their income; in other posts, we’ll discuss how different kinds of organizations can leverage IncomeShops for revenue or fund-raising purposes. More than you realise. Building a successful affiliate store requires some key ingredients that are common to ALL businesses, not just an online affiliate store; these include: 

Have a Game Plan.  Running any kind of business without a plan is a mistake.  Plans do not have to be extensive, drawn out encyclopedic dossiers.  They can be drafted at a high-level to allow the business owner flexibility.  There are at least four essential elements to a game plan:
 
Objectives – set clear goals for your business.  These should focus on things that you are  specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART); for example, “I want to get a minimum 100 visitors a day within 3 months generating at least $50 per week in commissions”.  This is a lot better than a goal such as “I want to make a profit”.

Initiatives – initiatives are the action items that you’ll need to accomplish to meet your objectives.  For example, what are the activities needed to get 100 visitors to your store per day?  Does that mean tweeting daily?  If so, what are you going to tweet?  Who are you going to tweet to?  The point is that identifying the activities you need to do consistently need to be specific.

Time – All your initiatives should be wrapped in realistic timelines and timeframes.  It is a good idea to have a monthly marketing calendar (See “Marketing Calendar” inset) that shows all the activities you plan to do in that month in as much detail as you can.  

Budget – Although IncomeShops stores are relatively inexpensive, setting a budget is important.  As with any business, being aware of your numbers is important.  Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor your store’s traffic and pay attention to what people are interested in. 

Start a store in a niche where you have experience or knowledge.  It is important that you realize that affiliate stores do best when they can be differentiated from other online sources.  Your experience in a particular niche (e.g. sports, music, apparel, sewing, fashion etc.) should be an important element of your marketing strategy.  You should avoid starting stores with products that you don’t know much about.  Have you ever gone into a store and tried to get information about a product, only to have the sales agent say “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”, “I’ve never sold this before” etc.?  It’s not very inspiring is it?  The best sales people are consultative – they try to understand the customer need, and then match that with a product or service.  Knowing your niche will allow you to write unique content, and deliver better service to your customers. 

Commit to the Process (and be Patient).  Let’s pretend you were going to start an apparel store.  And further, let’s pretend that that store was going to be off line – in a mall.  How long do you think it would take you from signing the lease to receiving your first customer? Days?  We beg to differ.  After build outs, hiring employees, getting stock, payment registers etc. it would be weeks at best, but most likely – MONTHS.  An online business is faster, but requires a different kind of patience.  The key is to realise that it takes time to build a following.  Your number one priority should be to promote your store to as many people as possible. 

Promote Unapologetically.  You should take every opportunity to promote your store – both online and offline.  Make up flyers, business cards, post cards, and other giveaways.  Most of the printed materials can be produced fairly inexpensively at a reprographics store.  Distribute them responsibly.

Have a Newsletter. A newsletter is not difficult to put together because you do not have to write all the content.  Find articles written by news outlets and summarize them with a link to the original.  But make sure you are building your own lists.

Blog regularly and consistently.  You should be writing at least 1 blog post a month – and that’s the minimum.  Every time you blog, tweet the link to your followers and update your Facebook page. Be sure to blog about matters that are relevant to your customers and prospects.  Review products, give advice, discuss upcoming events etc.
 
Know the System.  IncomeShops stores are delivered with a lot of training videos.  You should take the time to watch these and know how the stores work  This includes understanding how to integrate with email systems like MailChimp so that you can manage your own email lists and do your own promotions.  Many times we get questions that show that some customers haven’t watched the videos.  If you find this aspect of opening and running an IncomeShops business tedious or laborious we you’re only going to end up getting frustrated in the long run and will probably will give up prematurely.  This would be a shame.  

Monitor Your Website Traffic.  You should take the time to understand and know what promotions work for your store.  Google analytics is a great place to start and it’s free.  IncomeShops store owners also have a monitoring system that allows them to track patterns and other traffic metrics.  The more you know about your site’s “behavior” the better.  Now, remember the goal you set regarding numbers of visitors and monetary conversions?  This is how you measure it.  Monitor your traffic and compare to conversions.  Over the next few months, we’ll be giving you more tools to monitor traffic more effectively, but Google Analytics is a great place to start. 

Build an Email List.  Email marketing is effective.  However, there are laws surrounding who you can (or cannot) contact via email marketing.  To stay in line with these laws, it is best that you get a system like MailChimp.  MailChimp is integrated with IncomeShops, so you can collect email addresses from visitors to your store and easily keep in touch with them.  Remember, retailers will constantly send you promotions once you register, by having a contact management system like MailChimp, you’ll be able to promote these offers and collect commissions on any that convert to sales via your website.

Keep your store fresh.  This is a big deal.  Imagine if every time you went into your favorite retailer, you saw the same products over and over again.  It wouldn’t keep you very interested would it?  And when you do enter a store, isn’t it always great to see new products that are easy to understand; where the retailer has a clear value proposition as to the merits of the product.  Your online store is no different.  Make sure you keep it updated and stocked with products that your customers are going to want to buy and like.

Get your own domain.  Many times we get customers who buy a store but don’t get their own domain name.  This is a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE idea!  We can’t count how many things are horrible about it, but nevertheless, there is no brand identity in using someone else’s domain name (e.g. ours), neither does it do you any favors with search engines.  Domain names can be attained fairly inexpensively from vendors like Godaddy at godaddy.com.

Buy from yourself!  Imagine if you had a brick and mortar retail store selling shoes.  Wouldn’t that be the first place you’d go to get shoes?  You’d be surprised how many people don’t buy from their own stores.  With an IncomeShops store, you have access to millions of products, all at a discount.  Take advantage of it, and make sure everyone in your immediate family and circle of friends commit to buying from you first.  

These tips taken together will go a long way to putting your business on the map.  By taking advantage of the unique platform we’ve built with IncomeShops, you’ll be in a much better position to be successful than you might think.  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  IncomeShops is NOT a “get rich quick” scheme.  It is a real business opportunity for people who are willing to work diligently, smartly and with a bit of creativity.  Good luck, and remember, we’re here to help!  Here's an Example of an Abbreviated Marketing Calendar:

 
The Bread Shop Marketing Calendar
  Jan Feb Mar
Blog Entries
     
Java Flour - Wow! 15-Jan    
Product Review - TBD   12-Feb  
Product Review - TBD     15-Mar
etc.      
       
Articles
     
How to Make French Bread  7-Jan    
Gluten Free Banana Bread - Yum!! 7-Feb  
The Edible Easter Bunny  21-Jan    
Stroodle! Stroodle! Stroodle! 21-Feb  
Tea-time in Spring     7-Mar
       
Press Releases
     
The Bread Shop Launch 3-Jan    
The Bread Shop to Host a Weekly Bake Webinar 1-Mar
       
Newsletter Update
3-Jan 1-Feb 1-Mar
       
Social Media
     
Facebook Update With each of the above
Tweets With each of the above
List of weekly tweets - these should be meaningful     
       
Email Blasts
     
List Email Blasts - these can be tied to Articles, Blog Posts and Press Releases