From the September 2008 issue of eBiz Insider magazine. Download the complete issue as a PDF by clicking here.
When the going gets tough, the tough get creative.
There is no better time than the present to embrace that phrase and live by it. Let’s face it, the economy is taking its toll on everyone right now and the ones who creatively market their products and services will be the ones to come out on top.
So what is an online merchant to do? Make sure that you (and your e-business) are seen as experts in the field and position yourself as a credible source of information and products!
Blog, Blog, Blog!
Blogs have come a long way in the past year. What used to be second and third tier media have now made it into the mainstream and should be part of every e-business plan. If you’re selling trains, you should be writing about the new special edition from Lionel or some new must-have accessories for your platform. Blogs get indexed very well in the search engines, so use keywords in your paragraphs that people will be searching for and that wil give links back to your store when mentioning the specific product that you sell.
Market to existing customers.
Every customer who places an order on your site can be a repeat customer. If you’re not doing anything to bring that person back, you’re leaving money on the table. E-mail marketing is one of the best ways to market to your existing customers. For a reasonable investment, you’re keeping them informed and up-to-date on new products, special offers and what’s going on in your store. On average, you should be touching your customer with an e-mail campaign two times per month. But be compelling! E-mailing them to say “hello” doesn’t cut it. E-mailing them a coupon for 15% off their next order is a win. E-mail Marketing to current customers has higher returns than any other online marketing method.
Spread the virus.
Viral marketing is hotter than ever and is perhaps the most creative thing you can do to spread the word about your company. Have a funny, captivating flash application created that’s funny enough that it’s going to be forwarded to everyone in your customer’s address book. Create a video and put it on YouTube that features your products being used in an entertaining way that will get people watching and sharing. Create pages for your business on MySpace and Facebook and keep them updated. These are especially effective when your target market is the under 30 crowd. Become an expert on LinkedIn using their ‘Answers’ and generate traffic to your site through effective tell-a-friend campaigns.
There’s no such thing as a free… oh wait, yes there is!
When we sold our pet supply division, we wanted to stay e-commerce owners, so we opened a lawn and garden site (neeps.com). To start us off, the only form of advertising we used was listing our products in the comparison shopping engines (CSEs). We used FeedPerfect to manage the items and watch profitability. We were astonished with the sales we generated without any other form of advertising. More than a year later, the majority of our ad spend is still directed to the CSEs. Feed Perfect is available with a special 45-day free trial, just use the promo code “ebizsept” at FeedPerfect.com. Invest a bit of time into setting it up and give it a try. You’ve got a free ride for 45 days, so take advantage of the revenue opportunity!
You know your products better than anyone. Remember that you are the expert in your field, so flaunt it a bit! Here is an example of how this can pay off. When we still operated our pet supply businesses, we weren’t doing any business locally. We had a 20,000 square foot warehouse and a $5 million dollar inventory, but no local sales. Looking to capture some of the local business, I teamed up with our local talk-radio station and bought two hours of time on a Saturday afternoon. I did a call-in talk show about pets, sponsored by none other than our company! You might not have the time or resources to do the same, but you could create “expert” videos using a webcam and YouTube!
“The Pet Guy” Show ran for five years on two different stations, generated a buzz in the community, boosted our local sales and gave me more recognition as “The Pet Guy” than the owner of a high-tech company in coal-town.
I’ve been off the air for three years now, but my reputation still carries. I was recently approached by The Luzerne Foundation, a local non-profit agency, to “star” in a commercial promoting a benefit Texas Hold-Em tournament they’re having, but not as Scott from Solid Cactus – as Scott, The Pet Guy. The video features me and five dogs sitting around playing poker. It’s viral, It’s on YouTube, I blogged about it, I was the expert and it’s creative marketing. Who can ask for anything more?