I feel like everything I have been writing lately has been “doom and gloom,” but I don’t think SEO, or SEM in general, is all negative. It doesn’t have to be this way.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, my fellow startups and small businesses in the eCommerce space. Here is why:
Everyone Started Somewhere
One of the first things you have to realize in this field is that everyone started somewhere. We all know that eCommerce is ridiculously hard and competitive. Just because you are small doesn’t mean every other business you see started as this behemoth that they are now.
Many of the large and older players that you see in the market have their fair share of battle scars and learning lessons. Unfortunately for you, you are most likely going to have to learn the same way they did as you come up through the ranks as a small business.
Or, you could try to learn from them and sidestep some of those mistakes. I highly recommend taking a good, hard look at your competitors and trying to learn from what they did. There is usually some content floating around the internet that you can use to see how they grew, lessons they learned, and more.
You can also attend conferences or conventions. A lot of the conferences that I have attended have had executives from large companies come speak — many of whom give up some of the big secrets or learning lessons. This information can be invaluable to startups or small businesses trying to grow in the eCommerce space.
The Grass Isn’t Greener
While we are on the topic of conferences … I recently attended one where the CEO of a 100+ million a year retailer spoke and said that if they raised their prices .05 percent they would bankrupt the company. They run so fine of margins that the smallest mistake could make a 100 million a year retailer go under.
How frightening is that?
Sometimes, we get into the mindset that the grass is always greener on the other side when it fact it isn’t. Don’t think that everything is perfect in your competitor’s world. Most of the time, they are facing problems as well.
In fact, things might be going awfully awry for them, but you wouldn’t know that. The best thing to do when you get the “grass is greener” mindset is just remember it most likely is not.
Marketing Takes Time
In my professional experience, the biggest reason that startups or small business owners get frustrated is due to marketing. Actually, customer acquisition, to be more specific.
Truth be told, it’s hard to get customers, and it takes time. Don’t get discouraged when you see some Facebook ad saying how one guy gets $750,000 per month, easily.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, those are false. They are just trying to play with your emotions so you will pay them money.
Marketing is tough, and it’s a constant learning process to acquire new customers. If you are getting discouraged with your marketing efforts, then maybe it’s time to try these three tactics below. In my experience, I have found that they are the best for acquiring customers in eCommerce.
If you want to get more customers, you need to update your SEO. I’m not talking about changing your meta titles and then calling it a day. You need to be working tirelessly to figure out exactly what your customers are searching for and create real valuable content for them, whether that is in a blog, video, infographic or something else. If you can create valuable content for searchers, you can be very successful in acquiring new customers.
If you have tried PPC in the past, and you wrote it off as “it doesn’t work for me,” I urge to not skip over this section. Does PPC really not work for your business, or are you just not very good with AdWords? Trust me, PPC is hard, but it can be very beneficial. There are so many optimization tactics that you can be utilizing to be very specific to the searcher. Instead of buying short-tailed phrases, you could purchase long-tailed phrases and send them to specific landing pages for those searches. If you have time to experiment, PPC can be a perfect way to acquire customers.
In the same regards as PPC, social media isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just keep doing the same old thing and expect to see a different result. However, if you create compelling content, and content with your potential customers to create one-on-one connections, social media can be a very powerful strategy and customer-acquisition channel for eCommerce.
Build Up Customer Base
As I said above, acquiring customers is difficult. Therefore, wouldn’t you think it would be better to somehow use your current customer base? Why yes, it would! One way you can do so is to get your current customers to market to their friends and connections, which are most likely also your target market.
This is why CRM, email marketing, retargeting, etc., are so important in eCommerce. Buying customers who are in the “top of the funnel” using SEO and PPC can be very expensive and competitive. However, buying customers using your customer base can be much cheaper, and buying customers down the funnel is much cheaper.
Here are some good strategies if you are lost in getting the mid-funnel customers, repeat customers, or friends of customers.
If you have repeat orders, this is a great idea. Offer loyalty points for monetary discounts or other products. It is always cheaper to get a current customer to buy again than to get a new customer through the funnel.
If you use platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, etc., it is easy to find plugins to apply discounts for repeat buys and email market to them with discounts.
Email marketing is a great way to get your current customers to promote your content. You can send them an email blast and offer them a discount, such as “Refer a friend for $50 off your next order.” The great thing about friend-to-friend marketing is that if they are a current customer of yours, then their friends most likely fall in your target market. Marketing to these consumers is perfect.
As a search marketing expert, I will tell you that email marketing is absolutely one of the most powerful forms of marketing for eCommerce.
In the same regard as email marketing, you can really create top- and middle-funnel customers using social media. In particular, you can use social media advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. These three platforms allow you to advertise to your current customer base and retarget customers and friends of a friend on Facebook, which enables you to market to your customer’s friends. Taking your current customer list and targeting them with social media ads is a great way to acquire new customers and move them through the funnel.
Finally, retargeting is ultra-important for eCommerce. I’m not talking about a one-size-fits-all plan, either. You can use content marketing to retarget them, landing pages with offers, and other enticing marketing initiatives. Also, please run dynamic retargeting, so when someone doesn’t convert on their first visit you have a chance to convert them later.
Smaller Can Be Better
Another thing that we tend to forget is that being bigger is not always better. There are more processes, more complications, and it can slow down aspects of an eCommerce business, like marketing. Smaller merchants are nimbler and can execute strategies much quicker. I see this as a big advantage for smaller retailers. As I said earlier, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Overall, it is hard to compete as a smaller merchant. However, a lot of the time, it is due to us getting discouraged — but we have to remember: It isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon!
Ecommerce Photo via Shutterstock