Running a business and growing a business are two very different things.
It’s easy — once you have a good thing going — to get comfortable and start to slack off.
However, if you really want to grow an asset in the form of a business, don’t settle once you’re profitable.
Profitability is only stage two! (Stage one being starting the business.)
Stage three is scaling your store — meaning more sales with less time invested. Scaling doesn’t necessarily mean more work…
...it simply means becoming more efficient so you can make more with less effort.
According to Jason Albanese, co-founder and CEO of Centric Digital:
“Scalable growth is all about pairing exponential revenue growth with incrementally increasing cost.”
Without further ado, let’s look into the tactics for scaling a dropshipping store!
Hiring a Virtual Assistant
One of the easiest and most effective ways to scale a dropshipping store is by hiring a virtual assistant (VA).
VAs can take over the monotonous tasks that must be done but take up a lot of your time, such as fulfilling orders, providing customer service, or updating product listings.
They free you up to focus on the tasks that really matter to your business's growth strategy, including marketing and negotiating with suppliers.
Of course, not all VAs are worthwhile. So how can you avoid the bad eggs and hire a kickass VA?
Step 1: Create a List of Tasks You Can Outsource.
Before you even start looking for a virtual helper, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you can take off your plate, and what you can’t.
A potential list might look like this:
- Customer service
- Social media management
- Processing and sending invoices
- Updating inventory levels
- Creating blog posts and newsletters
- Website maintenance
- SEO work
- Graphic design
Once you have the list, start by creating a video or document outlining the process for each. This will be something you can hand to the VA to help your new hire understand each step of each task (more on that later.)
Step 2: Advertise the Role.
There are a lot of platforms out there to find freelancers and VAs. Here are a few of the more popular ones you can look to:
- Freelancer: Post your job and get bids from freelancers.
- Zirtual: Find strictly US-based freelancers.
- Upwork: Post a job and browse profiles of tons of freelancers around the world, with wide skillsets.
Before you post your job, however, you need a job description! This is where the documents or videos you created come in handy.
When it comes to a job description, be sure to include:
- A detailed list of tasks to be completed.
- A list of the software and tools they’ll be using, such as Google Drive, email marketing software, social media management tools or any live chat software you use on your site.
- How many hours expected per week as well as specific times you need them to work (if you need customer service during business hours, for example).
Here’s a template you can swipe for your ad:
We’re looking for a proactive virtual assistant to help run and manage [insert what you need help with here] at [insert store name here].
Your weekly tasks will include:
- [task one]
- [task two]
- [task three]
You should have knowledge of [enter skills here], be comfortable using software such as [insert tools here] and be fluent in English (verbal and written).
In the first line of your application, please tell us what your favorite hobby is. If you don’t respond to this request, we’ll assume that you haven’t read the job description and won’t consider you.
Looking forward to hearing from you! :)”
Now, pick a platform and post your first job listing!
Step 3: Review the Applicants.
You want to pay special attention to candidates with excellent written communication skills. It should be easy to spot the bad ones — they’ll have horrible grammar and spelling.
First of all, look for their response to your request: in this case, a mention of their hobby. If they don’t answer that request, chances are they didn’t read the job description and you shouldn’t bother with them. Just delete all the ones who skip this vital step.
When reviewing applicants, be sure to only interview those you can see yourself working with for a long time.
You’re going to be investing a lot of time and money with this person, so you want to make sure it’s not a waste of either. After all, you've got to train them and trust them to help you run your business..
Try to narrow down the list to 2-4 people. Once you have that list, move on to the next step:
Step 4: Interview Your Candidates.
My personal belief is never to hire anyone without first speaking to them. It just takes 15 minutes and can be done using Google Hangouts or Skype.
This helps in several ways:
- You weed out candidates who don’t truly have fluency in English.
- You discover a bit about their punctuality, which says a lot about their character.
- You learn a bit more about the person and get a better feel for if they’re a good fit.
When conducting an interview, here are some important questions to ask:
Have you done [insert skill you’re hiring for] for an eCommerce store before?
Don’t rule someone out just because they lack experience. This question is just to get a feel for how much training they’ll require. It’s more important to hire for attitude than experience, and many people are quick learners.
What are your career goals?
This is an excellent question for two reasons:
- You get to learn what their key motivators are and if you can provide them, which helps you find a long-term fit.
- You show them you’re serious about this role with them and that there’s room to grow in the position.
Plus, it shows you’re interested in them as a person and not just a worker bee.
What do you do in your free time?
Similar to asking for their hobby in their application, this question helps you learn more about the person and their interests.
You’ll likely find that people who are entrepreneurial and looking for extra cash tend to be more proactive and autonomous than those just looking for an easy job.
What are your strengths?
This is a great question to weed out the bad candidates. Knowing their strengths also shows they have self-awareness, and gives you a better idea of what they’re good at.
Just because you interviewed someone for a particular position, doesn’t mean that area would be their best fit. If you find you really like the person attitude-wise and believe they’d be a good cultural fit, you may find better use for them in another area of your business.
Step 5: Give the Top Candidate a Test Run.
Before fully committing to a virtual assistant, it’s a good idea to give them a few trial tasks to see how they work.
Remember, you want to make a long-term commitment here for best results, so hire slowly. Don’t rush into picking a person just to cross it off your list. Take time to get to know your future VA, their aspirations, and their work ethic.
Be sure to communicate that you’re hiring your VA on a trial basis. You don’t want them thinking they got the job only to have a hear “sorry, I don’t think this is going to work,” if they're not the right fit.
Give them a task (or set of tasks) to complete by a certain due date. Samples of trial tasks could be:
- Write a blog post.
- Answer a customer complaint email (be sure to review the answer before sending it!)
- Schedule this week’s social media posts.
When reviewing their work, the most important things to look for are thoroughness, a willingness to learn (and go the extra mile) and handing things in on time or before the deadline.
Over-communicating is better than under-communicating, especially in the beginning stages. Be sure they know exactly what is expected of them, and let them know you’ll answer any questions they have.
If they fail to meet the deadlines or don’t provide good work, go back and review more candidates.
Step 6: Train Your Virtual Assistant.
Once you've chosen for the job and they've passed your test, it’s time to bring them up to speed. Training your new hire is a win-win: They enhance their knowledge of your field, and you get better results.
The easiest way to train a VA is through videos. You can create screen capture videos for free using a tool like Camtasia or CamStudio and Screencast. These videos make it easy for them to learn the material, plus gives them something to refer back to if they forget a step.
Once they’re trained and working like a well-oiled machine, keep the relationship strong by continually helping them grow, providing feedback and complimenting them on work well done.
Even little comments like, “Wow, you did a great job on that email newsletter. It looks awesome!” make a world of difference in how hard they’ll work for you and how satisfied they’ll be with the job.
Now that you understand virtual work, let’s move on.
Going Multi-Channel (and Building a Website)
Selling on multiple marketplaces is another way to scale your dropshipping store.
By selling across multiple channels, such as eBay, Amazon, Jet and your own website, you have access to a larger audience and potential for more sales.
The biggest problem with selling across multiple channels is handling your inventory. You may get an order on two sites when your supplier only has one product left in inventory — forcing you to cancel an order or make the customer wait until it’s back in stock.
It can also be difficult and time-consuming to list your products across every site, especially if you have a lot of products.
I’m not telling you these things to stop you from doing it, I just want to set the expectation. While expanding to a multi-channel business has potential to highly increase your sales, it also brings a lot of extra work if you aren't strategic about it.
However, there are two things you can do to make this process easier.
- Hire a virtual assistant to assist you in the process (as shown above).
- Use inventory management software such as ChannelApe to automate the process of updating listings, adding them to multiple channels, and tracking inventory.
Now, on to the most important piece of scaling and your growth strategy...
Building Your Online Store
Having your own store is key to your growth strategy and scalability.
Building traffic and an engaged email list will give you an asset you can eventually sell. It will also bring you more profits, with fewer fees and infinitely more control over the user experience.
Of course, building an online webstore is more involved than just uploading your products to a marketplace. However, with tools like SaleHoo’s Online Store Builder or Shopify, building a store can be as easy as choosing a template and adding your products.
Adding Complementary Products
Adding complementary products to your offering can increase your average order value (AOV) by offering you an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell your customers.
The best part is that you usually don’t need to do much work to add these products. Often times, your suppliers already carry products that go well with the items you already sell — just ask them or check their catalogs!
If they don’t offer anything, you can easily find complementary products using SaleHoo’s Market Research Lab. Just type in your product, click the link to be sent to its sales data page, and look at the related products.
When you browse items on Amazon, check out the “Customers who bought this item also bought” section — there are loads of great ideas there!
Other ways you can find complementary products include:
- Looking at a competitor’s product lineups.
- Checking eBay’s “People who viewed this item also viewed” section.
- Brainstorm what might work well with your products. It might not always be something as obvious as paper and pencil sets — you could pair a coffee mug with a custom coaster (which would also make a great free extra gift with a purchase), or a hanging kit with a frame.
Related: Check out this article on finding the best products for your coffee dropshipping store!
You can also upsell through your email receipts using an app such as Receiptful.
Tips to Sell More Complementary Products
When it comes to getting more upsells and a higher average order value, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Offer a discount on the upsell product — but only if they buy it now. This uses the scarcity tactic to push them to buy something now that they might have bought later, like the camera battery in the example above.
- Make the value clear. Look at the copy used for the camera batteries: “Don’t forget batteries!!” The value is clear: You probably need them, which means you're probably going to have to buy them, so why not get them now while it's convenient?
- If they take the first offer, make another offer. Often times if they say “yes” to one complimentary product, it increases the chance they’ll say “yes” to another. After all, they’re already spending $500 on a camera. What’s another $50 for a case and $25 for a battery?
And here's one more tip: Try new product ideas and new ways of representing them. Test different sales copy and different calls to action to see what converts best.
Maximizing Your Email List
Your email list is one of the most important assets you have. Over time, it is likely to become the single largest driver of revenue to your store.
Imagine this: You’re strapped for money this week. You have bills to pay. Your store is pretty slow right now.
But, you have an email list of 50,000 highly targeted and engaged people. You send out one email with a coupon, and boom! Overnight, you have hundreds of orders pour in — and lots of money pouring into your bank account.
Sound too good to be true? It can happen, if you put the work into building a good list.
This is one of the reasons I highly encourage you to build an online store, rather than solely selling on Amazon or eBay. These marketplaces keep customer emails from you. But if you have your own store, you keep them.
Building an Email List
Before you worry about what to send to your list, you need to actually have a list.
While there are a million and one ways to build an email list, I’ll give you some of the most effective (and send you off to a guide if you want more).
Here are my favorite tactics for building an email list:
- Offer a content upgrade or lead magnet on your site.
- Offer a newsletter with free tips and exclusive discounts.
- Offer a discount code in exchange for an email.
- Hold a contest or giveaway on social media.
Of course, this barely scratches the surface of building a list. For more info, check out Shopify’s full guide to building an email list.
Nurturing Your List
You can’t just expect someone to give you their email address then open every email and buy every offer you send their way.
It doesn’t work like that. You have to build a relationship with your subscribers first. Send them a welcome email that lets them know exactly what they should expect from you. It should answer the questions:
- What kind of emails will you send?
- How often will you send them?
- Can they reply to your email address to ask questions?
That’s not the only message you should send, however. Check out SumoMe’s list of 15 emails you need to send.
Now, onto our final tip for scaling and your growth strategy for your store...
Increasing Your Marketing Spend
When it comes to scaling a business and your growth strategy, this is probably the first thing you thought of. However, I put it last for a reason…
Spending more money on advertising isn’t always a good strategy.
It can be a huge money sink if you don’t do it right. To avoid that, here are a few tips:
Buying Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads
PPC ads like Google AdWords and Facebook ads (just to name a few) have long been a great way to drive traffic to a website.
However, they are not the easiest platforms to learn. You can spend a lot of money on PPC buying the wrong traffic, which doesn’t convert.
If you’re serious about getting into growth strategy and scaling your dropshipping store via PPC, I recommend you either hire a PPC manager or follow a guide.
Here are guides for each of the major PPC platforms:
Finally, if you’re really savvy, you can find individual website owners with content related to your niche, and pay them to display your products. If that tickles your fancy, try this:
- Brainstorm a few websites to advertise on. If you have competitors, type their websites into SimilarWeb to see where they’re advertising.
- Contact the website owners to inquire about advertising. Some may be used to advertising, others may have never done it before.
- Create a banner design using a tool like Canva.
- Link the banner to your product landing page. Keep track of which traffic came from which ad using Google UTM parameters.
Voilà! You now have website ads.
You’ve come a long way if you’re been following this whole guide! You learned how to find a product and a supplier, how to open and run your store, and now how to scale it so you make more money with less effort.
Scaling a store and having a sound growth strategy is all about finding ways to be more efficient: Spending money more efficiently, using your time more efficiently, our improving your store’s processes.
I hope you've learned a lot and feel prepared to go out and start your dropshipping business! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.
Good luck on your journey!