Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @shopseen. Adeel Ahmad is the founder and CEO of Shopseen, a platform that simplifies running a small retail business. On Shopseen you can manage all products on all online stores, all social and email, and even shipping. Also a retail store owner, a vintage clothing shop in San Francisco, Adeel is familiar with the gamut of experiences a small business owner faces. For more info, visit shopseen.com
SmallBizLady: What are some misconceptions of starting a new retail business?
Adeel Ahmad: One of the business world’s most enduring myths is: If you build it, they will come. People give up when all the upfront work they put in is met with a whimper. But don’t be disillusioned! Get organized, use the right tools, and get working!
SmallBizLady: How many different accounts does it take to run a retail business?
Adeel Ahmad:We often see sellers with a main website, one marketplace, social, and possibly offline. The main website lets you control your brand and tell your story. Marketplaces are niche search engines that help people discover you. Social is becoming an increasingly comfortable place for people to buy.
SmallBizLady: Do I need to have a custom online store to sell my products?
Adeel Ahmad:The biggest reason for people to create a custom store is to control their brand. Marketplaces often distract buyers by recommending other sellers, a double-edged sword. Some people are running businesses with just Instagram and a Square reader!
SmallBizLady: I’m a new seller, how do I get noticed?
Adeel Ahmad:Try a marketplace like Etsy, eBay, Storenvy, Square Market, where you will be found. Name, describe, tag, and categorize your products carefully to appear in search. Be regular when promoting your products on social channels.
SmallBizLady: With social, I don’t want to spam followers. What can I do?
Adeel Ahmad:Many people don’t do social because they are afraid of pissing off followers. You can schedule messages with Buffer and product listings with Shopseen to your social accounts.
SmallBizLady: How are people selling on Instagram today?
Adeel Ahmad:Instagram is a great way to present your brand’s aesthetic and personality. Sellers are finding that their followers often want to buy right then and there. Conversations happen in the comments to try and close the sale.
SmallBizLady: Can I compete against Amazon?
Adeel Ahmad:There’s a great post by the Bonobos CEO, @dunn, about surviving ecommerce. The key is having some mix of proprietary pricing, selection, experience, merchandise.
SmallBizLady: What are your favorite ways to decompress?
Adeel Ahmad:Nothing like a good nap! Also, it’s free and easy to go for a walk. Especially on hills like here in San Francisco, the views can really inspire. Creativity and problem-solving benefit when your blood’s pumping.
SmallBizLady: What should be my top priority when running the business?
Adeel Ahmad:Best thing you can do for your business is deliver awesome customer service. No matter what your business is, this is how you can rise above the noise. People remember great customer service and are willing to forgive and come back.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the biggest challenges in running the business?
Adeel Ahmad:Photography comes up a lot as a challenge for merchants. It’s not easy to find, schedule and pay for a photographer that you are happy with. Shipping takes more time and money than you think. You can buy labels in Shopseen but we now also love @shyp – it’s like Uber for your packages.
SmallBizLady: How can you keep everything synced?
Adeel Ahmad:The fear of all keeping track of all these apps is a big reason why people don’t try new channels. There are tools that let you list in more places, promote them and keep things in sync, so that fear is going away with modern tools.
SmallBizLady: What are some other tips to get more sales?
Adeel Ahmad:Often the best way to new sales is through old sales. Reach out to your past customers via and give them a heads up or a special deal. If you have money to spend on paid ads, take a look at retargeting (those ads that seem to follow you across the internet). They let you target people who have visited your site but did not buy.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.