What does extreme networking look like?



At last week’s ASD trade show in Las Vegas, our partner Vendio hosted a night of ‘extreme networking’ in the IMA’s hospitality suite. Even without the fine selection of gourmet cheeses and generous supply of wine, this night would qualify as a major success for anyone in e-commerce. Over 100 people came through our hospitality suite doors that evening armed with business cards and a willingness to mingle.

One of the most popular questions that was asked was ‘So where do you sell online?” and usually followed up with “What do you sell?” When the ecommerce merchants weren’t chatting with their fellow sellers, they were seeking out the advice of service providers like Alibaba, Vendio, SingleFeed, M-Shopper and TextBroker.

Do you want to be a part of our next networking event in Las Vegas? Head over to the IMA website and click on ‘Join Us’. It’s FREE to join the IMA as an ecommerce seller! Be sure to also check out our newly launched Facebook Group where there is a ton of great information shared every day. And get ready to join us in Las Vegas during the next ASD show when we will again be getting together with our members and business partners for another extreme networking event.

Vendio to host a night of ‘Extreme Networking’ at ASD

Internet Merchants Association Hospitality Suite

Join us for an evening of wine, cheese and extreme networking at Bally’s in Las Vegas (suite number to be announced at the IMA educational seminars to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, South Hall Rm #S225) on Monday, March 18th, 2013 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm.

What is ‘Extreme Networking’? IMA members love to attend the ASD show so they can do just that – network with other ecommerce sellers and service providers. Some IMA members will tell you that the knowledge they receive from networking at our hospitality suite is worth the trip out to Las Vegas every year! Better yet – we suggest you come up and ask them yourself!

This year, our Monday night hospitality suite is sponsored by Vendio, a long-time partner of the IMA. Vendio would love to welcome you to the hospitality suite on Monday, March 18th. Stop by the educational seminars hosted by the IMA at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the day on Monday (South Hall, Room S225) to find out the suite number. We hope to see you there!

Vendio

IMA Announces Educational Sessions at ASD for March, 2013

IMA has lined up some great speakers for attendees of the ASD trade show for March 18-19, 2013. As always, our speakers will be providing educational classes for both ecommmerce newbies and advanced sellers. If you are an ecommerce seller, this is a great trade show to source new product and learn about the latest in ecommerce! Here’s the current lineup:

Monday, March 18, 2013
9:00 – 10:00
Mike Effle, CEO Vendio

Online Triple Threat: Selling on Amazon, eBay and Your Web Site

Selling to customers online can be compared to having multiple store locations in the offline world. If you are selling on one online venue, it’s probably time you considered diversifying. Just as with brick and mortar businesses, your online business can grow exponentially the more locations you have. Mike Effle, CEO at Vendio, will help you discover the most effective ways to use eBay, Amazon and your own web site to boost your online sales.

Join Mike, a long time industry veteran as he guides you in developing a strong online marketing strategy that will make your online presence known and your sales soar.

Monday, March 18, 2013
10:30 – 11:30
Liam Supple, Product Marketing, SingleFeed

Google Shopping – Get the 800 Pound Gorilla On Your Side

Using Google Shopping may be the best way to get your products noticed. With so many changes to the comparison shopping search landscape, Liam Supple of SingleFeed will show you some expert techniques for getting your products indexed into Google Shopping for the maximum impact.

Getting your products found on the internet is tough! If you are ready to submit your product listings to Google Shopping, then you owe it to yourself to attend this session with Liam Supple of SingleFeed.

Monday, March 18, 2013
12:00 – 1:00
Harry Hirschman, VP of Marketing and Business Development, Vendio

Mobile Commerce and “Showrooming”: Win Business From The Big Box Stores

The reality of competing against Big Box Stores is that there are some things you will never beat them on but there are just as many strategies that you can implement where you can have the upper hand!

Join Harry Hirschman, Vice-President of Marketing and Business Development for Vendio as he discusses the ‘Showrooming’ phenomena and how you can win business from the Big Box stores. Harry will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Big Box Retailers and what you can do as a small to medium sized business to up your game.

Monday, March 18, 2013
1:30 – 2:30
Marc Gorlin, Co-founder & Chairman, Kabbage

Funding Your Expanding Ecommerce Business – Case Studies

Raising funds is something most businesses don’t like to do. Sometimes it’s because the lending landscape has changed and it appears difficult – if not impossible – to raise capital and sometimes the reason is that small businesses don’t believe they should be raising funds at all.

Marc Gorlin, the co-founder and Chairman of Kabbage will present some case studies of growing businesses and how and why they raised the capital to fund the expansion of their businesses.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
9:00 – 10:00
Rick Wilson, President/COO, Miva Merchant

Devour Your Competition: Building the Best Web Site

Building a web site is easy; building a GREAT web site that has all the features that customers like takes some skill and knowledge. Even if you think your web site already has it all, Rick Wilson, President of Miva Merchant has some ideas and suggestions for creating the kind of web site that customers have to come to expect in ecommerce shopping – and the kind of web site that will help you devour your competition.

We love knowing that customers are visiting our ecommerce site, but how do we turn a browser into a buyer? For most ecommerce web sites, less than 4% of all visitors actually make a purchase. So how can you increase your sales conversion rate when the odds are against you? With over 13 years in ecommerce, Rick has the expertise to help guide you – and your buyers – in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
10:30 – 11:30
Liam Supple, Product Marketing, SingleFeed

Comparison Shopping Engines 101: Getting Your Products Found

Maybe you’ve heard about comparison shopping engines and want to learn more. Perhaps you’ve never even considered them for your ecommerce web site. In either case, this is the session for you to attend to learn the basics of comparison shopping engines.

In this beginner to intermediate level class, SingleFeeds’ Liam Supple will give you the knowledge you need, teach you the ins and outs of comparison shopping engines and show you some expert techniques to getting your product indexed on the comparison shopping engines.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
12:00 – 1:00
Rick Wilson, President/COO, Miva Merchant

The Rise of Tablets – How Responsive Web Design Is In Your Future

Your web site needs to be accessible and usable for everyone even as the number of devices, platforms and browsers that are used to access it continue to expand every day. Incorporating a responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how web sites are built now – and into the future.

Join Rick Wilson, President of Miva Merchant as he discusses the explosive growth in tablets and how you need to be making changes to your site now along with things you need to consider as you redesign your ecommerce web site in the future.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
1:30 – 2:30
Marc Gorlin, Co-founder & Chairman, Kabbage

Personal Credit vs Business Credit – What’s the right type to grow my business?

Many small businesses rely on their own credit to fund their business. But when is it prudent to consider a business loan? And what are the differences between business credit and personal credit? Most businesses find that it’s important to maintain a business credit profile that is distinctly separate from your personal credit profile.
Building separation between the two can help your business develop the credibility that matters to banks, suppliers, and other creditors.

Join Marc Gorlin, co-founder of Kabbage as he discusses the differences between the two so you can decide which one is right for you.

Product Sourcing Ideas – Distributors

Every product market has their own unique distribution channels. The key to effective sourcing is to know who to contact when you are sourcing a new product.

Here are some examples of different sources in a distribution network:

Manufacturer
In many cases, if you are going to source a new product, you might want to start at the top of the food chain – the manufacturer. Sometimes contacting the manufacturer will net you a positive response including a list of their recommended distributors. Depending on the size of the company, they may also be looking to sell directly to retailers. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Distributors

If they provide you with a list of their distributors, choose one and send them a quick email introducing yourself and asking for some basic information. What you are looking for is:
Minimum order quantities (also referred to frequently as MOQ)
Pricing

No response? Don’t despair. Move down the list until you find another distributor who responds in a timely manner.

Another way to search for distributors is through Google or another search engine. Look for “Product name or brand name distributor”. Look for a wholesale or distributor link on their home page or ‘contact us’ page. Contact them as recommended above.

Next up: Trade Shows

Product Sourcing Ideas – Dropshipping

When you are beginning your ecommerce business, one of the first hurdles is deciding on what you will sell.

There are a variety of places and means to source product – you need to decide which one will work best for you and your business. Today’s blog post will address a low cost way to enter the market: dropshipping

Sometimes this is the easiest and lowest risk way of getting into an ecommerce business. Simply put, drop shipping is the process of listing merchandise for sale that is owned and warehoused by a third party. Once you sell the merchandise, you notify the drop-shipper who will ship out the product to your customer for you. Sounds easy, right? The secret here is finding a RELIABLE and TRUSTWORTHY source with a product line that is IN DEMAND.

Most legitimate drop shippers will not require a minimum purchase or charge a monthly fee, but there are exceptions to even that rule. Do your homework – research potential drop shippers by entering the dropshipper’s name into a search engine and add the words “complaints” “sucks” “reviews”. Also research what the fees are and figure out if there is a market for their products and what the going rate is. Take a look at private web sites, ebay and Amazon to start. Figure out if it is worth it to sell their products after you factor in the fees that each marketplace charges, the fees from the dropshipper and the cost of the merchandise.

Next up: distributors

An ecommerce home based reality check

So you want to sell on the internet and you want it to be a home based business. What do you do first?

We will be beginning a series of blog posts on starting a home based ecommerce business just to provide some information to newbie ecommerce sellers that need some basic information and guidance.

As always, you are welcome to join the Internet Merchants Association where you can network with others that have been in your shoes.

In our first blog post, we will be addressing product sourcing. Do you have any requests for things you’d like to see us cover in a future blog post? Leave a comment below and we’ll see if we can accommodate your request.

ASD Educational Sessions Now Available

submitted by: Pat – West Florida Components

The Internet Merchants Association and its sponsors recently presented eight educational sessions to the ASD trade show attendees. The bi-annual sourcing show was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center with over 30.000 visitors in attendance.

Platinum and Diamond level sponsors including Vendio, Alibaba and MIVA Merchant were among the featured speakers on topics ranging from integrating social media to building effective web sites and search engine optimization.

Most of the speakers have provided their slide decks so that session attendees can review them and download them. The slide presentations are available at slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/imamerchants

The Internet Merchants Association is now accepting applications for the March, 2011 educational sessions. Speaking preference is given to all IMA Platinum and Diamond level sponsors. Interested parties can learn more about the speaking and membership opportunities by contacting Pat Pepe. She can be reached by email at pat@imamerchants.org.

IMA Bronze Membership Now Free

E-commerce moves so swiftly. Seems like just the other day we were talking about Google Checkout, and now we’ve got to figure out whether or not we’re going to use Facebook’s social plugins. And the list goes on, doesn’t it?

Because we at IMA are serious about the benefits we provide to ecommerce practitioners, we’re now offering etailers a unique opportunity to join the association and reap the full benefits of being a member—including access to the IMA’s private member forum, where you can engage with and learn from other members, gaining insight into e-commerce best practices you won’t find anywhere else.

Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond members can also avail additional amenities depending on their membership level, including a dedicated company platform within IMA’s member-only forum, speaking opportunities, and discounted rates to the IMA’s annual conference held every March in conjunction with the annual ASD/AMD trade show.

Effective immediately etailers can join the IMA at the Bronze level (a US $99 value) for one year. Just select the “Bronze Plan” on our registration page here, and you’ll be in.

Go ahead, do it. Join now.

Reflections on the 2010 IMA Conference

I budget a lot of money on seminars every year, I feel my education is important to me and my business. Although IMA is fairly a new trade association, I continue to be impressed with the conferences that is put on. This year’s conference, which I’m still thinking about, was no exception.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go to all of the ASD & IMA seminars (this photo by IMA president Fred Neff is of just one of the well-attended seminars).

Because I’m familiar with videos and blogging, the rest of the social media venues and networks intrigue me most. So I found this video extremely powerful, and I hope you’ll take the time to watch it.

I keep remembering what Rick Wilson of Miva Merchant (an IMA diamond member) said: social media is a “circle of life.” It’s about the three C’s: connections, then conversation, and then conversations. So if we can build a community of supporters for our businesses and give them good content, they can help us tremendously with our marketing.

Here are some free tools I learned about at the conference:

  • Backtype.com, which is a real-time tool for you to keep tabs of what people are saying about your business
  • Alterian has a freemium version of its monitoring service for you to monitor your social media venues
  • Here is a free tool that helps you with documents, www.docstoc.com
  • And another for PowerPoint presentations, www.slideshare.net

What did you enjoy most about the conference? Please share your learnings.

3 Steps To Creating Your Social Media Strategy

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, who will be speaking at the 2010 IMA Conference next month. If you haven’t already, sign up here.

Whether it is jungle drums or smoke signals, humans have always improvised methods of communications and connections to each other. Village gatherings formed early social circles and networks. Communications have always been evolving – messengers carrying messages on horseback to the pony express to railroads to today’s USPS, UPS and Fed Ex all satisfy the need of communications.

Have you noticed some of these communications means have survived?  Even though we do not use the telegraph, we use the Internet to communicate with short messages today called microblogging.

For a business it is both a challenge and a necessity to find new ways to increase the efficiency of your business.

In the past businesses could make the changes and expect the customers to adapt. In the new millennium, media is now more often in the hands of the users and businesses are beginning to adapt. The Internet, websites and social networks are now replacing village gatherings and spanning users across the globe communing together to discuss common interests, discuss products and companies.

The speed at which conversation spreads has changed the pattern of how movie reviews worked. In an August 2009 article Michael Sragow wrote in the Washington Post, “Although word of mouth could always make or break a movie, it usually took days to affect the box office. But the rise of social networking tools such as Twitter might be narrowing that time frame to hours. And that has Hollywood on edge.”

As a business owner wouldn’t you like to know what your customers are talking about when it comes to your products and your business? These new media tools also give business the same power to learn feedback almost instantaneously.

The 3-step process you could use to shape your strategy is:
1. Listen
2. Engage
3. Create

Listen

Think of the listening phase as an extension of your existing communication and feedback mechanism. The main difference is that feedback through email, phone calls, web forms and maybe even snail mail is mainly directly to you – social networks offer an opportunity to listen in on to public conversations about you. Here’s what you do:
1. Set up Google Alerts
2. Search for your brand /product or your company or your geographical area on http://search.twitter.com
3. Use a tool like Backtype to monitor comment conversations on blog posts.

Engage

In the listening phase, you have identified where the conversations relating to your business are taking place. Now, you can participate by showcasing your knowledge and thought leadership or even asking for feedback:
1. Setup profiles in at least 3 social networks which you have identified as helpful for your business (Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter could be the three)
2. Identify 3 blogs on your particular field or industry to follow. Comment when you have a opinion. In case you are mentioned in any blog post head over the blog and thank the author
3. Look at the questions on networks like Linkedin to add your expertise

Create

This is the phase where you will have learned enough about the conversations about your business and your products to be able to begin creating valuable content that is not about you but your customers and the community:
1. Make sure you have a website. You can get one for free at Network Solutions
2. Start a Facebook Page and encourage your customers to become fans of your page. Create special offers for your Facebook Fans
3. Reinforce your web presence with a blog. Make the blog personal along with writing useful tips for your customers. It does not always have to be about your products., Invite your customers to tell their stories.

You should measure the success of your efforts in terms of increased brand mentions, foot traffic or online traffic, increase in customer satisfaction or higher product awareness leading to higher customer uptake.

Remember all these tools are making human connections so you should show the personality behind your business. And make sure you remember your goals for engaging in social media for your business, since these tools can also be distracting if not used diligently.

When I speak at conferences the best reward is the communication or Twitter messages I get from the audience, sometimes even after a year, with some good news about using social tools for great success. I am hoping the same thing will happen when I speak more on the topic at the IMA conference in March. If there are some topics you would like to hear about specifically please let me know.

Recommended reading:

  • Israel, Shel, Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods. Portfolio Hardcover (September 3, 2009)
  • Scott, David Meerman, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly. WILEY, (June 4, 2007)
  • Campbell, Anita Online publication for small business owners,entrepreneurs: http://smallbiztrends.com
  • Small Business Success Index: http://www.growsmartbusiness.com
  • Women Grow Business: http://www.womengrowbusiness.com
  • Social Media news and Web tips: http://mashable.com/
  • Shashi Bellamkonda is Director – Social Media & Social Media Swami of Network Solutions, a company that works together to help small business succeed online with web hosting, do-it-yourself website builder software, online marketing tools and domain names. Visit his blog here. Shashi is a regular contributor to the DC Examiner and Tech Cocktail. This article contains the opinions and observations of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Network Solutions or its clients or partners. Connect with Shashi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or BizSugar.

    Image: Terry Hart, Creative Commons