Get your marketing wrong and nobody will know or care about how wonderful your product is, or how well designed your website might be. Get it right however, and your site could turn into a cash-minting machine, which in a simple formula earns more net than it costs to attract and convert new customers. The good news is that this isn’t rocket science, and with some simple common sense, a solid understanding of your customers, and a lot of testing, can be worked into a strong strategy for profit.
Digital Marketing 101: The Basics of Online Marketing
Broadly speaking, digital marketing includes all of the activities, resources and processes used to attract prospective customers to your website. Marketing is not just advertising; you may for example build a community of followers through a blog or social media and use this channel to drive awareness and traffic to your site. Let’s discuss some of the basic methods of marketing your website and building your traffic numbers online.
Attracting the right traffic
It might be relatively cheap and easy to attract just anyone to your site, but if these visitors aren’t interested and are poor quality, you will get poor results as these visitors leave just as quickly as they came. Building strategies to attract large volumes of pre-qualified traffic is what you want to focus on in order to achieve a high sales conversion rate and a decent return on your time and investment in digital marketing.
Organic traffic through SEO
“Build it and they will come” is definitely not the mantra of many successful ecommerce business owners, and indeed getting your digital marketing right is probably more important than having the leading product or the best designed website. Having said that, building your site well and obeying the basic rules of good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will help your odds in getting found on the major search engines, and thus attracting some of the browsing public to click on and enter your site.
SEO is basically the art and science of gaining the highest possible page rankings for your website and it’s individual pages, based on your relevant and targeted keywords. Research shows that most people do not bother to look beyond page one of search engine results, so if your page isn’t showing up on the first page for your primary keywords it’s not likely to get much organic traffic.
It’s wise to be realistic about which keywords you expect to get to page one on. Competing for high traffic “short tail” keywords like “fashion” for example is going to be a near impossible task for a startup; consider all of the major online fashion retailers who are fighting to get to top positions in that keyword. As an alternative, choosing niche “long tail” keywords like “korean fashion dress” or “men’s fashion basics” might mean you can compete and over time build great organic traffic results for these keywords.
Keep in mind that SEO takes time; the search engines need to crawl your site and rank it, and also take into account the amount of traffic received and time spent by users on each page. For the search engines, this work is all about finding the most relevant sites to that keyword and then ranking these sites accordingly. Backlinks (where other sites link to your site’s pages) also help strengthen your site’s authority on these keywords, and legitimate backlinks take time to develop as you build your site and get noticed online.
Be wary of any companies that try to sell you large amounts of backlinks or promise too-good-to-be-true sounding SEO results; Google and Yahoo have clever algorithms, which may penalise you for cutting corners and using black-hat techniques.
Building an email subscriber list and using automated emails
One of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers and encourage them to come back regularly is to build an email subscriber list. Try to collect emails at every possible opportunity, as these people already know about your site and products, and perhaps just need some more encouragement and confidence to become your next repeat customer.
Keep in mind the requirements of your country in regard to data privacy and opt-in or opt-out laws as you build your subscriber list. Professional email marketing services such as www.Mailchimp.com and www.aweber.com can help you send campaigns and should be used to ensure deliverability and better results; don’t try to send your newsletters from your Gmail account or you’ll quickly get labeled as a spammer – not good!
Automated emails or auto responders are also great tools to help close sales and recover abandoned shopping carts. These emails are triggered when a customer or prospective customer completes (or fails to complete) a certain activity on your website. For example, let’s say a prospective customer places a product in their shopping cart, enters their name, email, and shipping information, and then leaves without completing their purchase. This could be a lost sale, however a well worded automated email to them could help encourage them to return and finish their shopping. It could be as simple as, “Dear (customer name), We noticed that you didn’t get to complete your order today at (your website). Is there anything we can help you with? Otherwise, please feel free to return to secure your purchase at this link (direct link back to their shopping cart).
The result is an automated, yet “personalized” reminder to the customer, and a higher conversion rate for your business. Software such as www.mandrill.com can be set up for this and other automated or triggered email functions, and help to considerably boost your conversion rates.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
If you can’t achieve a first page SEO listing with your targeted keywords (or at least not right away), you can pay to be there through Google AdWords and Bing Ads (owned by Yahoo!). As it sounds, pay-per-click advertising is where you only pay if a customer actually clicks on your ad and comes through to your website. How much you pay is determined by the competitiveness of the market for that specific keyword, and if you’re using Google, how your landing page’s Quality Score compares to the competition.
Effective PPC advertising results in highly targeted and qualified traffic clicking on your ads and entering your website. If a person has just entered a Google search enquiry for “buy men’s fashion watches” and clicks on your PPC ad to your page selling fashion watches for men, there is a high chance that this person is interested in, and intending to purchase, what you are selling. This sales prospect has a much greater chance of conversion than any random Internet user turning up at your watches page.
Digital Marketing: A Constantly Changing Landscape
Not much stands still in online business, as new startups launch daily seeking to disrupt the way we do everything from taking a taxi to shopping and dating. Marketing channels are also ever evolving which makes the field both interesting and full of new opportunities. As a small business you will have the flexibility to respond to changes in technology and capitalise on marketing opportunities before the big guys catch on. This is where you can win by being nimble and willing to try new ways of attracting customers at low cost.
Low cost is the key concept here: there are plenty of expensive ways to attract customers, but it is your challenge as a small business entrepreneur to get creative and be nimble with your marketing techniques. When you find a low cost method of attracting customers, exploit it as quickly and heavily as you can before the competition finds out and your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) rise.