Time to Spread the Word
So, you’ve got a brilliant product, a wonderful website design and an inventory stocked to sell. Now it’s time to spread the word. Where do you start? Advertising online can be overwhelming at first, but not if you have a basic understanding of the options and follow the tried-and-true process that’s outlined below.
Just like in the offline world, knowing where and when to promote your products can make all the difference in your bottom line. This post will help you gain exposure and generate traffic without breaking the bank.
Before You Begin
Even if you have a strong vision for future success, don’t make another move without writing down measurable objectives. Ask yourself questions like, “What are my sales goals for each quarter?” and “How many unique visitors should I expect each month?” This will help you hone your advertising strategy down the line.
Define your budget
Your budget will build the framework for your marketing plan. It should be incorporated into your start up costs and should also be included in your operating costs as you begin to make sales.
Enlist the services of an expert
This is an option that many successful retailers take at the start of business. Depending on your budget, you could pay an advertising consultant for a few hours of advice or go so far as to hire an advertising agency to write up a marketing plan and do the work for you.
Invest in tracking capabilities
Tracking is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing plan. Online companies such as Adobe Digital Marketing Suite and Webtrends.com offer services and software to help you track where your customers are coming from. These services have become quite robust over the past few years and are worth looking into. Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications. You can also track your customers by associating coupon codes with specific promotions to determine the success of each.
Build your Site to Maximize Exposure
Before you consider spending one dime on online advertising, there are a number of things you can do at the ground floor level to gain exposure. It’s much easier to integrate the following strategies as you build your site than going back and making these changes later.
Effective naming/Multiple names
Choosing the perfect name(s) is your first requirement to success on the web. Without it, your customers may not find your site, or not remember it for future purchases. See the eBook on choosing an effective name for everything you need to know to do this right.
Optimize your site for search engines
To increase the chances that you will be noticed, be sure to maximize search engine optimization (SEO) by taking the following actions. Look for the eBook on search engine friendliness for details.
- Write content, page titles and metadata that is rich in key words
- Include an outbound “links” page
- Ensure that other sites are linking to you (“inbound” links)
- Integrate hyperlinks at every opportunity
Register with search engines and directories
Large search engines like www.Google.com, www.Bing.com or www.Yahoo.com often have a “Submit” link where you can register your site. This is like raising your hand and saying, “Here I am!” in hopes that you will catch their attention.
Keep a database of current customers
Be sure to keep a detailed list of all customers so that you can communicate with them in the future. Add the ability to sign up for an e-newsletter on your home page so that you’re capturing the information of potential customers as well. Look for the eBooks on marketing to current customers for more information.
Assess the Landscape
Too often, e-commerce retailers get caught in their own small website bubble and fail to look at the big picture. Taking your audience and competitors into consideration is key to gaining new perspective and making educated decisions. A little research can go a long way as you embark on a potentially expensive online campaign.
Take some time to evaluate the people who are buying your product. Think about their demographics (income, age, etc.) to help you determine where they might be looking for your product. This will help you save money by targeting your advertising efforts to those specific groups of people.
For example, if you’re selling wedding favors, you can assume that your primary customer will be a woman in her twenties. She will likely be looking for ideas at large-scale wedding information sites like www.theknot.com and also at various websites targeted to women such as www.ivillage.com.
Competitive Marketing Evaluation
Researching your competitor’s marketing initiatives will not only help you decide how to price and position your promotions to be more attractive to your customers, it will also help you figure out where you need to be listed to draw customers away from their stores and over to yours. It’s a good idea to start this process as you decide what products to sell. For tips on how to do this, be sure to read the eBook on evaluating the competition.
Create Your Plan
Building a marketing plan is a serious undertaking that should be planned, monitored and evolved on a regular basis. Ideally, you should create a plan that’s a strategic combination of the tactics listed below. Start small, using a few of the following approaches, and build up your plan as your customer base and budget grows.
Here is a list of some popular methods that e-commerce entrepreneurs use to break through the online clutter and help potential customers find their stores.
One of the most inexpensive ways to advertise is to have your customers do the work for you! Viral marketing is the new term used for “word-of-mouth” advertising. Incentivise your customers to send friends and family to your site by offering them product discounts or other rewards. You can also include a “Send to a Friend” link on each product-listing site to encourage this action. Don’t forget about “spreading the word” on the widely used social websites like Facebook and Twitter.
Blogging and Article Creation
Are you an expert in your field? Do you have valuable information to share with your customers? It may be time for you to start blogging. Probably the fastest growing trend in online marketing, blogging has made its mark. It gives you the opportunity to share information that potential customers are looking for on the internet. An excellent example is the fact that you are reading this blog. The blog of choice by millions is WordPress. Internet Marketing Press offers custom WordPress website development. Contact us for more information.
Submitting article on the internet has also become a very popular way to increase links to your website. There are numerous free and paid directories for article submission. With a list of over 1000 article directories, http://www.freearticlesubmission.org/ is a good tool to submit your articles to the top article directories on the internet.
Pay Per Click
This is the easiest, most immediate and measurable way to drive traffic to your site. It can also be the most expensive if you don’t take the right approach. Using this technique, you’ll go to a known search engine such as Google AdWords (https://adwords.google.com/select/) or Yahoo Search Marketing (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/) and bid on keywords. The higher you bid, the higher you rank when a potential customer searches for words related to your product. When someone arrives at your site through these search engines, you will be charged a fee, regardless of whether a sale is made. Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Ads) has a similar program with highly definable demographic features to reach your specific target customer.
Think of online directories as the Yellow Pages of today. You should list with as many general and industry-specific directories as possible. Many times, the cost is free or quite affordable. Plus, because directory listings are crawled by search engines, so the more directories you’re listed with, the higher your chances of increasing your exposure in search results.
With this popular method of promotion, you’ll reward an “affiliate” site for sending customers your way. Think of it as a modern-day variation of paying finder’s fees to someone for referring them to your store. Oftentimes, this is a very attractive arrangement because you pay for performance. Payment structures vary from cost-per-lead to a percentage or dollar value of a sale.
Large e-commerce sites hire advertising agencies to spend hundreds of expensive hours creating and purchasing banner advertising. But you can accomplish the same task on a smaller scale by researching product-related sites that may sell advertising. Look for “Advertise with Us” links at the bottom of these related websites and make contact to explore this option. Banner advertising rates are always negotiable, so be sure to get the best price based on impressions or per-click-thru.
One of the greatest ways to gain exposure and acquire new customers is to sell your products on established websites such as Amazon & eBay. This can be especially successful if you include a catalog or sell sheet of your products in the packaging with purchase. This way, once a customer buys from you on the larger site, you can drive them to your website to buy direct from you in the future.
www.Shopping.com and other shopping portals
Many of your customers may be searching shopping portals like Shopping.com to compare like products and get ideas. If you’re selling a commodity product with a number of competitive advantages (cost, value, benefits, etc.), listing on these sites is a must. The cost ranges from a flat rate fee to a per-click charge.
Google Product Search
Listing in Google Product Search (http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/products/submit.html) is a free way to extend your reach to millions of new prospects through Google’s search engine. You simply register with Google Product Search and, upon merchant approval, upload text file containing the URLs of your catalog files and images. While it may not drive thousands of customers to your site, it’s free and well worth the time to become listed.
Each of the above subjects is so extensive, it deserves a post all its own! Stay turned for more information in the future.
Collect Data & Evaluate the Results
Now that you’ve set your marketing plan in motion, it’s time to analyze the results to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Once you’ve seen at least 1,000 visitors come to your site, collect all data that has been tracked from measurable sources and review for effectiveness.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How close am I to meeting my objectives?
- Where are some different places my target audience may be searching for my product?
- What is my cost per lead? Cost per sale?
- Am I generating quality traffic – customers who are truly interested in my product – or are most of my visitors “window shoppers?”
Evolve as Necessary
There should be a direct correlation between the amount of effort put into your marketing efforts and an increase in sales. But remember, some of the tactics you employ may be as immediate as others. For instance, pay-per-click advertising can be measured right away, but your SEO techniques may take some time to bear fruit.
Based on the data you’ve collected and evaluated above, you can now make informed decisions on how to best update your plan. But if you find you’re not getting the results you were seeking, make minor modifications rather than drastic measures. Experiment with a mix of marketing techniques to reach current customers and draw new ones.
No business can afford to waste money on ineffective advertising. Research all your options, and target your ads to a specific audience whenever possible. Keep a close eye on measurable methods like pay-per-click advertising and modify your approach as often as necessary. And don’t forget that effective advertising isn’t just about fueling short-term sales. It’s also about building long-term awareness and familiarity with your brand to retain a strong customer base in the future.
IMPress Action Checklist
Below is a list of the steps necessary to create an online advertising plan. Be sure to check off each task as you complete it to ensure that you’ve got your bases covered from start to finish.
- Before you Begin
- Set Goals
- Define a Budget
- Ask an Expert
- Invest in Tracking
- Build to Maximize Exposure
- Name effectively
- Register with search engines and directories
- Employ SEO techniques
- Keep a database of current customers
- Assess the Landscape
- Customer profiles
- Competitive marketing evaluation
- Create Your Plan
- Collect Data
- Evaluate Results
- Evolve Your Plan