Marketing isn’t just about how you promote your business. It’s a culture. It defines the way you think about your business and your customers. It lays out the future for your business. Marketing rings the cash register. It brings in the sales. It keeps your business running.
Marketing is everything.
Nothing moves off the shelf if there’s no marketing strategy in place. Marketing is everything for a business. It’s always about how the product is positioned, how it’s priced, and how it’s promoted that makes all the difference to your bottom line. It’s been that way for ages and it continues to be that way now.
Ecommerce lives on the Internet and went mobile. But only the medium changed, not trade. The principles of business still remain the same. For your ecommerce store to work, it’s not enough to make sure that your site looks great and that you now have a line of vendors or suppliers for you to source your products from. It’s not enough to list your products for sale. Well, it won’t do even if you had a few customers already.
Your customers still need to hear from you. They ought to like what you have to offer, accept the offer, and complete the transaction. There’s a circus called customer acquisition process at play here and it takes forever for a business to get the act right. Now this, right here, has to grow in numbers over time. That’s how you scale.
To get the act right, you’ll need a planned marketing strategy. Here’s how it ought to be:
The plan, the positioning, and the mindset
If you watched The Profit on CNBC, you’ll meet Marcus Lemonis, entrepreneur and host of the show. You’ll see that he goes by the principle that business depends on exactly three things: product, process, and people. He calls it the 3 Ps of business.
What he doesn’t tell you (or it’s not so obvious) is that he almost always starts with product positioning and thinks about a marketing strategy. He completes the deal with a shake of the hand and instantly goes about revising the business plan from scratch (in his head).
Position your product as “just another one” and you’ll have to live with “just another price tag.” You don’t make profits that way. Positioning and then pricing is all about marketing from the core. You have to solve a particular problem, and then position your offering as the best way to solve this problem. Your business plan has to account for this positioning. You then have to get into a mindset of working with numbers, pour life into your company’s mission statement, and follow through.
While you are thinking of your marketing plan, you’ll need to think about where your customers will come from. Ecommerce sites will inevitably take to the net as a first choice (it just makes sense). It’s not, however, the only reason why digital marketing is the first choice.
Digital marketing works for ecommerce stores because the target audience funneled through online marketing is already savvy. This audience already understands ecommerce and is willing to whip out the wallet. Plus, online marketing is relatively cheaper, helps you to account for expenses well, and gives you insights – almost real-time – on the performance of your marketing campaigns.
Within online marketing, you’ll need to build the right channels for your marketing.
Apart from the regular options of blogging, social media, SEO, and paid online advertising, would you be launching an affiliate marketing program? Would you be investing in an all-out inbound marketing strategy, email marketing, and mobile marketing? Would you be doing business with selected partners? Will you use traditional advertising in addition to digital marketing?
While we are at it, remember that digital marketing isn’t exactly easy. It’s not even straightforward. There’s a lot that goes into it and so it helps if you are prepared for the long haul. But then, the pay-offs are great.
Marketing was, is, and will always be the engine of trade, and this is all the more true for ecommerce. Rohan Ayyar listed out some valuable tips to market your online store over on Socialnomics.
Think. Execute. Profit.
Expending your limited resources
You have products, a store, and a plan in place. You get support from your channels and the sales will begin to come through. You need more and you can’t depend on any one source for your ecommerce sales. So, what do you do?
The answer: scale up.
You’d need the right team and the right technology to aid you in your scaling efforts. You can have multiple teams dedicated to customer support, marketing, logistics/shipping, sourcing, vendor management, customer management, etc. But then, your resources will be limited and it’s time to revisit the principles of effective management.
Use the right technology
While the point on technology came in here last, you’d be flirting with it even before you start. It begins with the right platform to create your store, going all the way to daily management, marketing, processes, inventory management, and much more.
Using the right tools makes all the difference to how you manage your ecommerce business. Tap into the emergence of SaaS and the various web-based tools available for everything from product displays to time management, from content management to hiring. Shipstation, Shipworks, Sellbrite, ChannelAdvisor.com, Stitchlabs, Ordoro, and SellerExpress.com are a few online tools that come to mind.
Your marketing plan is the answer – and the blueprint for execution – to what you need from your ecommerce business. Starting and setting up the business is one thing, marketing it and running it well is completely something else.
How do you plan to market your business? With a proper (realistically executable) marketing plan, do you think it’s possible to succeed with your ecommerce store? Tell us what’s on your mind!
When something becomes popular, myths will invariably mushroom around it. Social media has now led the way for companies and organizations to create a new sense of purpose – to build trust, to engage with customers better, and to potentially bring in business through the act of thought leadership or influence. So, social media now has hot emerging trends such as social recruiting, social selling, and social intelligence. There are trends, there’s potential, and add to it the fact that social media also happens to be completely free (unless you factor in time, money spent on tools, or payments made to staff or contractors who help you manage your networks and accounts).
As is common for anything this popular, there are some stupid things the world will make you believe about social media – especially eloquent will be the ones who’ve never been on social media, never gained a thing from it, lost half their mind due to it, the naysayers and disbelievers.
They’ll reiterate and repeat it to the point that you’ll start to believe. It doesn’t have to be so. Here are some of those stupid things that you can lend a deaf ear to:
Social media is for teens, kids, and losers
There are social networks for teens. Almost any social media network will have its own share of losers. Kids are usually not a part of the overall buying market (it’s the parents who buy stuff for kids). Social media might have teens and youngsters as a large portion of their collective database but that is the market at which most businesses, online or offline aim for. What’s new about that?
Most B2C businesses will find Facebook to be a social network they can’t afford not to be on. According to an infographic created by Jess3 and shared by Zoe Fox of Mashable, Facebook has long proven itself to be the most engaged of all the other networks.
It’s just not teens and youngsters who are on Facebook too. Since 2009, the average age of Facebook users has steadily been increasing. What’s more, it is now claimed that “oldies” have chased kids and teens off to other social networks!
Ignoring the losers, the 1.2 + billion people with more than 50% of them logging in everyday is a huge database. All businesses, take note.
Social media makes no sense
Social media might look like chaos. Nothing might make sense for the unprepared and the uninitiated. Conversations take on random topics, everything seems to be trending, the world seems to have gotten used to breaking news on Twitter, connecting with friends or family on Facebook, blogging on Tumblr, and networking on LinkedIn. There is, however, method to the madness, sense in every interaction, like, follow, comment, and retort for every user who makes it on any social media network.
It’s up to businesses to find the threads of connections between users who are on social media and make out what they want and what they can get out of it.
Social media is for fun
It’s fun to interact with complete strangers on social media, on a global scale. You can barge into conversations on a seemingly happening or trending hashtag. You could mention any company, celebrity, author, sportsperson, model or business magnate, and probably even elicit a response from them. It’s fun to see your name, brand, or business mentioned. It’s a good feeling to amass followers and fans.
Yet, there’s a calculated effort going into social media. Brands leverage social media and small business owners make connections that last for a long time. Authors get their publishers, salespeople complete deals worth millions of dollars, and random users consume more information through social media than ever.
It’s fun. But it’s the kind of fun that pays.
Social Media has no ROI
This is where I’m going to do most of the talking.
Just google social selling success stories and you’ll realize the extent to which the world discounts the potential of social media for ROI – in the strictest sense of cash, deals, and business. I did this and it made me rather sad. Social selling is here to stay. Add social recruiting to it, and you can actually measure how much a business can save each year by not over-relying on job boards or headhunters. Actual business deals are being made on LinkedIn as we speak. Twitter and Facebook lead to business as well – sometimes directly, but mostly indirectly.
Consider this: Following a random tweet (with a link to a post), a user gets to a website which offers for download a report put out by your company. She reads the report and lets the content marinate in her head. Ten days later, she checks your site and buys your product, because it has been developed incorporating all the desirable traits described in the report.
Not only do social networks work indirectly, but seemingly different websites also work indirectly as social networks. Read that again.
Allow me to elaborate. If you’re looking at hotel reviews, the rants and raves on TripAdvisor could lay bare the difference between truth and marketing. If you’re planning to launch a website, a simple comparison of hosting providers on WhoIsHostingThis will help you decide one that you’d prefer, based on existing customer ratings. And any company that doesn’t care about its customers better be wary of what’s being said about it on RipoffReport. You get the idea – any place where your business is the subject of discussion is social media. Where there is no ROI, there is sentiment.
When millions of people start talking, with friends, family, associates and many others, and when company names, brands, places, and people’s references are thrown about in the open, how can there be no value for beneficiaries involved?
Social media does have ROI. It’s just that it’s slower – and more indirect — than most businesses are used to.
Social media is a time suck
If you spend all day tweeting, updating your status, commenting on others’ posts, and engaging in small talk or random conversations, it’s certainly a time suck. You, however, are a business owner (or a full-fledged, well-staffed company). Most businesses have an organized effort for social media.
Social media can be boxed into a set timeframe. With all updates bulk-loaded into the right tools, all your sharing can happen in a controlled manner. Businesses are strapped for time during the day to respond, retweet, comment, and show other niceties on social media, but the Social Media Hat has some good ways to leverage your time on social media.
Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks.com has a great post on Social Media Today, which points you to the right apps that help you avoid being sucked into the vortex. Social media doesn’t have to be a time-suck when you learn how to manage your time, leverage the many tools available, and strictly ration your time.
If it’s all about time management, why should engagement get a bad rap?