Q1. Please introduce yourself and your business/brand/product.
My name is Estelle Bardon. I am a mother entrepreneur based in San Jose, California. During the day, I am a Project Manager and at night, I work on my personalized children’s books to help children learn how to read in a fun and engaging way.
– an easy-to-read, short, and fun book that places the reader as the hero
– US company printing locally (in Fresno, CA and not in China) on recycled paper
– a woman-owned company that donates 1% of its revenue to Reading Partners, an NGO located in San Francisco.
Q2. Who is the ideal customer for your product?
My ideal customer is a mum who has 4 to 6-year-old children who are learning how to read. She wants her children to be successful and looks for educational at-home opportunities to spend quality time with her children while helping them grow.
Q3. What are your primary sales channels? Please separately highlight the ones that have proven to be most successful and most cost effective.
I use my own website: mylibook.com, Etsy, and Amazon.
90% of my sales come from my own website. I focus all my marketing efforts toward my website (content marketing, social media, Google ads…). I have free printables complementary to my books and a blog with tips on my website that help me build a community and a mailing list. I have control over the customization inputs, the layout, and the content.
My website is the most cost-effective channel. I pay 4% for Credit Card Payment (Stripe) and $299 for WooCommerce, Elementor, SiteGround, AcoWebs annual subscriptions.
Etsy creates awareness around my books to established Etsy users that might not be on social media. I see mums buying my books on Etsy as well as grandmothers or aunts who want to offer a personalized gift. I have been using Etsy ads with good results: with $17 of ads, I get $34 of revenues. I have tried to increase my daily ads budget unfortunately, this did not result in the increase of sales as you pay per click and my books touch a narrow niche.
In addition to ads, Etsy charges 8% on each sale, which is less than Amazon but more than my website.
Amazon is a must for books but it is a very crowded space and Amazon is not built to help small companies. They are built to make money. For a self-funded start-up, I did not see the return on investment. For instance, I tried their ads services for several weeks and took their training but it still cost me a lot of money. Amazon offered me a free ad expert for several weeks. He called me once. I followed his advice. No sale after 2 weeks. He didn’t join our 2nd call and did not answer my email to reschedule.
The other reason why Amazon is not cost-effective for me is its margin. Depending on the category you are in, their margins vary but to me, it is too high. In addition, Amazon is demanding vendors to ship in 2 days, which is really tight for personalized products and does not work with on-demand products as my printing price decreases with volume. Last but not least, I can’t get the email address of my customers, so I can’t send them freebies or bring them to my own website.
Q4. Have you tried using cold outreach to get more clients for your business? If yes, what’s been your success rate?
I have not. I did it in the past for another start-up and it takes a lot of time, perseverance, and courage to be successful.
Q5. What was your biggest challenge in sales and how did you overcome it?
The awareness phase in the sales process is my biggest challenge. As a self-funded start-up, how can I compete with giants that can spend several thousand dollars in sales campaigns?
I don’t think that I overcame my biggest challenge but I am working on it in multiple ways:
- Word of Mouth is my number one sales origin, so I am building campaigns to encourage my customers to come back and spread the word.
- Social media: sharing entertaining, educational, and free content, interacting with other accounts, and reaching out to influencers
- Write blog posts and promote them on Facebook groups
- Paying ads (Google, Etsy, and Amazon)
- Working with Perks at Work. Perks at Work offers exclusive employee discounts to companies like Google, Tesla, Bank of America… A friend referred me and I was allowed to create my special offer for one company of my choice for free. I chose Google and only the US but didn’t see the impact initially. A few weeks later, I was selected as a small business to open my offer for free to all companies in their network. They have 30,000 companies who offer this program to their employees and my sales started to increase especially around black Friday. This was an amazing opportunity for me!
Q6. Over time, some users may stop using your product or they may cancel their subscription. Have you implemented any strategies to win back such customers?
The only strategy I used was to launch a new product and inform my customers using my newsletter. I used that technique when I launched my second set. I understand that I could also use my customer base and feed the Facebook ads algorithm to win them back. I am not a big fan of this technique. I actually changed my strategy in 2022. I want to grow my company organically.
Q7. Imaging you are speaking to a younger version of yourself who is just starting out. They have $1000 to spend in sales and marketing. How would you advise them to spend it?
I would use the $1000 to launch a crowdfunding campaign. It could help me better assess sales projections, learn marketing tricks, and fund at least partially the launch of my product.