Marketing an Ecommerce Website

Categories // Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

Marketing an ecommerce website shares many of the same best practices as a typical site, including:

- Understanding the user
- Simplifying and refining things to their basic components
- Creating unique content
- Showing how your business is unique vs the competition and not a commodity

However, there are several specific and unique ways to market an ecommerce site.

A major advantage of ecommerece websites vs a standard site is that you don't have to guess at its effectiveness. The effects of marketing is directly tied to a product with a dollar value. This allows you to test what is really working, based on empirical evidence (sales!) vs assumptions.

I will be presenting an overview and the specifics of marketing ecommerce sites during my upcoming segment of Marketing Made Lean.  I look forward to sharing some tips with everyone!

Brandon Wentland is the president and creative director of 
Optimal Digital Marketing   Optimal fulfills their purpose when brands trust them to responsibly steward their resources and they help them thrive.


Celebrate Success

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

Recognize and celebrate success when you manifest it. Reach out during the journey and certainly when you realize your definition of success and extend gratitude to all those who helped you along the way. Taking the time to acknowledge your team's contributions is an important and final step. Rarely is success realized because of our individual efforts. More often than not, behind a successful person, project or business is usually a team of talent who combine their ideas, know-how, skill and hard work to achieve success. 

Turns out the secret to success isn’t a secret at all. Like most things, adhering to simple fundamentals is the key. Who helped your team reach success? How do your acknowledge your team's contributions?


Tactical Enthusiasm

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners, News & Announcements

Tactical Enthusiasm can also be called the “let’s do some marketing quick” syndrome. This usually occurs when you see your competitors actively marketing themselves and you realize you have been ignoring your marketing efforts, or worse yet, you don’t have a marketing plan at all. So you panic and start spending money on marketing tactics without having a goal and plan. Throwing money at tactical solutions without a solid marketing plan often leads to another malady, the “why didn’t this work” condition.

All good marketing starts with a focused marketing plan that identifies your audience, your core messages and the optimal means to reach the target. A marketing plan answers the questions who, what, why, where and how. Once you have these questions answered, then the tactical implementation can begin.


If you follow a strategy first, tactics second approach, you will inevitably end up in a “why haven’t I done it this way before” state.

Submitted by Marketing Made Lean Guest Speaker Mark Van Pay, Convergent Marketing


Identify Your Value Proposition

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, News & Announcements

Value propositions are the bundles of services that you provide that create value for your customers segments. The customer segments are the people and organizations for which you create value. What do you bring to the table that would make customers come to you as opposed to seeking out your competition? How can you bring value? Once you’ve figured that out are you sure you are aligned with your customer segment? These are questions every business should ask themselves to be sure all efforts are on target.

Submitted by Marketing Made Lean Guest Speaker Lisa Piikkila, Coalesce Marketing & Design


Develop a Plan

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

Successful American composer, conductor and author, Leonard Bernstein said “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” I couldn’t agree more; Bernstein encapsulates this component of success. In the end, it’s not the plan that determines success, rather it is the process you go through to develop your plan that will enable your success. When you develop a plan you are forced to look at the big picture, consider key questions, allocate resources and identify metrics. The plan becomes a tool for communication and a guidepost to benchmark progress.What key questions did you have when you developed your plan? What resources did you find useful when developing your plan? 


Articulate Your Vision

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

A fundamental of success is to create and articulate the vision you have for your project, strategy and business. As you know, the pathway to success is often times more grind, than glamour. The vision you hold in your mind’s eye and communicate with others that is a source of strength and encouragement to buoy your spirits and boost your confidence when the pathway is challenging. While keeping your vision in mind it will also keep you grounded and focused when the pathway is smooth. Like the sail on a sailboat that pulls it forward, your vision will pull you forward. What are some sources of success you've have? How have you boosted your confidence during a difficult pathway?


Define Success

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

Search the web for the literal definition of success and you will find a familiar definition: “achievement of intention: the achievement of something planned or attempted.” Determining your own success is a huge first step, which may even require some soul searching. Don't be afraid to rely on insight from those who have been there. This is an elegant aspect of success, the opportunity to define what it personally means o you. Think about a specific project, strategy or business you are working on. What are you and your teams intentions? How have you defined success?


What is Marketing?

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Small Business Owners

“The purpose of business is innovation and marketing,” said Peter Druker, corporate guru and wildly successful executive. Drucker wrote several best-selling business books and is famous for a lot of quotes. He is one of the best and displays the essence of business. Recognizing an opportunity and acting upon it with innovation is key but being able to raise awareness and purchase of the innovation is critical. And that, is marketing.

Marketing Made Lean incorporates the best practices from decades of professionals working with start-up entrepreneurs and established small business owners to develop effective marketing strategies and tactics. Lean in business, means most simply, to operate the business as efficiently as possible. When applied to marketing a micro or small business the concept of lean makes a lot of sense and there are some great tools used in lean processes that are easily applied and effective in micro and small businesses.

What are some key things you need to be an effective marketer? Are you selling as much of your product/service as you can? Do you need to develop and effective marketing plan?

Discover more about Marketing Made Lean and apply for grant opportunities today at


FVTC E-Seed entrepreneurship program gains national attention

Categories // Business Plans, Entrepreneurship, News & Announcements, Success Stories

Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center has taken a bit of its own advice when it comes to helping entrepreneurs get started.

The Venture Center’s E-Seed course has helped entrepreneurs like Josh Beck get the business training and support they needed to turn their ideas into viable, growing enterprises.

Beck, who founded his 3-D printing business Beck Prototypes in May, said E-Seed’s 12-week entrepreneurship course has already helped him plan for slow, measured growth and careful planning as he gets started.

“I’m starting nice and slow, I’m getting some customers now and I’m going through the motions. Now, it’s about time to start some marketing and start trying to generate more revenue,” Beck said. “I wouldn’t have done this without E-Seed. E-Seed gives you the tools and shows you the door, but you have to learn from what they show you and walk through those doors when the opportunity arises.”

In the 13-plus years since it was founded, the Venture Center’s entrepreneur-education programs like E-Seed and, its bigger sister, the Pro-Seed business-model development program for established businesses, have helped entrepreneurs start 320 businesses that presently employ between 1,500 and 2,000 people throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

The success of courses like E-Seed and Pro-Seed have also earned the Venture Center one of seven $20,000 grants from Sam’s Club and the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship to help small, Main Street businesses reach the next level of sales.

Now, E-Seed itself has become the brand with an opportunity to grow and the Venture Center is the entrepreneur.

Amy Pietsch, the center’s director, said it has started to license the E-Seed curriculum and program to other community colleges, technical colleges and economic development agencies around the country as a way to foster more entrepreneurship and generate revenue for the center, which does not receive taxpayer dollars from FVTC.

Organizations can buy a license to offer the 12-week course to local business owners and entrepreneurs, but Pietsch said those groups are encouraged to share anuy improvements and innovations they make so as to improve the product.

“The one thing we knew about the entrepreneurship environment was we would be the little player in a big space. We had to be open to a lot of people coming back to us with ideas to make it better,” Pietsch said. “We do apply what we learn and teach here. We’re not making it up.”

The early response has been good. To date, FVTC spokesman Chris Jossart said, three community colleges in the Midwest and one entrepreneurial hub have already bought licenses to use E-Seed.

“It’s developed into such a proven product that’s simple yet personal,” Jossart said. “It’s always fresh, it’s always real and it makes very complex issues very simple.”

In addition, FVTC has reduced the cost of E-Seed by almost 50 percent, to $750, to make it more affordable for entrepreneurs to enroll.

Tina Schuelke said E-Seed has remained a key component in her small-business support network since she founded Change Management Communications Center last year. The training she got through E-Seed and the support of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Small Business Development Center recently helped her win a $5,000 prize in the Northeast Wisconsin Business Plan Competition.

“Once I got started with E-Seed, I realized all my attempts at business plans — and I thought I had a good one going into it — were weak. This gave me a really strong start,” Schuelke said. “This is my first business launch. Now that I have those courses as a foundation, I’m already thinking about other businesses I want to start or become a part of.”


The Best Tools for Entrepreneurs

Categories // Entrepreneurship, Small Business Owners

As an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for tools that will make you more efficient, and more effective. You know, the saying, “work smarter, not harder.” Whether it be a digital tool, or a non-digital tool, entrepreneurs seem to be the early adopters for many of the tools that become essential to our daily toolbox. 

Here is a breakdown of some the best tools for entrepreneurs, compiled by entrepreneurs.

1. Evernote. Where would entrepreneurs store all their crazy ideas, notes, and thoughts if they didn’t have Evernote? Evernote is the 21st century digital brain. Evernote allows you to create notes for whatever pops into your mind. You can use their digital products, or their non-digital products. My personal favorite is pairing both their digital product line, with their traditional Moleskine notebook. It’s the best way to keep all my thoughts in one place. 

2. IdeaPaint. If you love whiteboards, then you will love IdeaPaint. IdeaPaint allows you to transform a wall, a table top, a window into your own personal brainstorming space. IdeaPaint can be easily painted onto most walls, and will allow you to sketch out your thoughts, ideas, diagrams, or graphs. 

3. Expensify. Expensify is the best way to keep all your receipts together, and boy is it simple. You can use Expensify for business, or for personal use. It’s a free tool, which can be used on your mobile device, your tablet, or your laptop computer. 

4. Posted notes. You can never go wrong with the use of posted notes to compile your thoughts, your to-do list, or anything else that needs to be written down for your day. Posted notes are still a favorite amongst entrepreneurs. 

5. Buffer app. Entrepreneurs are busy people, and social media is now more important than ever. But to find time to establish a strong tribe of loyal followers on many different social networks takes time, energy, and great content. Let Buffer help you out. Buffer app allows you to schedule and post specific updates, at specific times. Need to post something to Facebook at 12:00am, but you are already sleeping, no problem. Buffer app allows you to schedule updates, tweets, posts, pictures, articles, whenever you would like. It’s a free software, but they do offer a paid version as well. 

6. Wunderlist. If you want a great task management application. This is the one. Wunderlist is simple, easy to use, and packs a lot of great features into a free platform. I use Wunderlist to track my to-do list, reminders, and anything else I need to get done each day. 

7. Basecamp. If you work with a team, and need to be in the know with everything that’s going on, basecamp is the best collaborative tool on the internet. Basecamp helps you manage specific projects and breaks down each task, or to-do in a very simple, easy to understand way. Pricing starts at $20.00 a month, but you can receive a free 60-day trial. 

8. Headphones. Chances are that you spend a few hours each week working in a coffee shop, a library, or in a co-working space, all of which are somewhat nosey. One of the best investments you can make as an entrepreneur is to get a pair of noise-canceling headphones. I recommend Bose, but there are many other great headphones that cancel out the noise of the world. 

9. Chair. Most working professionals spend 5-6 hours a day with their butt’s in a chair. Many of which are uncomfortable, don’t fit to their body, and are plain bad for their health. Do yourself a favor, and spend a little money investing in a comfortable chair. I recently switched chairs from a cheap IKEA chair (nothing against IKEA), to a very comfortable executive leather chair. 

10. Rescue Time. Do you know where you’re spending your time on your computer? Rescue Time is an app that helps display where your time is going, whether it be productive, or non-productive, Rescue Time tracks it all and sends you a weekly report, detailing where you spent your time, as well as your productivity percentage for the week. It’s a great way to track how you’re spending your time, what you’re doing online, and ways to get more productive. 

I hope you enjoyed this list of tools that can help you become more efficient, and effective. If you have a tool that you love, but didn’t see it on this list, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. us.  


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