Five Ways Customers Can Find You

Building your brand online and offline

When we are an ecommerce business, we tend to think of being found online only. Fortunately for us, there are other ways that customers might find out about our business and help us grow! See how your business rates on each – and which ones you can improve on.

ONLINE

Well of course this is probably the number one way that customers might find us. How does your ecommerce business rate for each of these:

  • SEO – Also known as search engine optimization – it’s the process of getting your web site found by the search engines. Take a few of your business keywords and plug them into the search engine. Are you on page 1 or page 21? If  you are not on page 1, chances are you are not being found by most people.
  • PAID SEARCH – On Google, the ads you see on the very top and on the right of the results page are paid advertisements. Most small businesses find they burn through a ton of cash before they figure out what makes sense for their business. Many businesses (with a strong web site and strong SEO efforts) may even find they don’t need to advertise on the search engines. Find out what works for your business.
  • LOCAL RESULTS – All of the major search engines place a lot of emphasis on providing relevant local results. Even if you don’t have a storefront, you may find that it is very valuable to get your business address into the search engines. This is particularly true for niche markets where there is not as much competition.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA – Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can help people find your business. The secret is finding out which one works the best for your particular niche and brand. It’s smart to try a few and figure out which sites give you the best ROI. Not every business is going to do well on Facebook!

COMMUNITY

Are you active in your local community? Do you sponsor any local club or events? Do you belong to any local organizations such as your town’s Chamber of Commerce? These are all ways to help promote your business and get the word out about you. Consider sponsoring a little league team or high school football band. They are all looking for sponsors and often will have print programs and/or banners that will get your business name some exposure.

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING

Offline advertising can be very effective even for online only businesses. Consider traditional media such as yellow pages, directories, radio and TV. Does your product line lend itself to a catalog format? Building a mailing list for catalogs can be another means of promotion and sales. Of course with a web site, you should have an email marketing campaign for little or no cost but supplementing it with a traditional mail campaign might work for your business as well.

PHYSICAL LOCATION

Maybe you also have a storefront – so of course you have another means to promote your online business. But those ecommerce business that have a warehouse can also use outdoor signage to be visible to those that pass by your location. How about company vehicles? Use bumper stickers or vehicle wraps to promote your products and web site.

BRAND

Last, but definitely not least is your brand. Do you have your own packaging with your logo and tagline? Do you mark the outside of your packages with your website and logo? Consider all the ways you can build brand awareness with your packages, signage, banners and more. Don’t forget to include business cards with your logo and contact information – they help build your brand for very little effort and money! QR codes that lead visitors to your web site (or even a special page with a discount) can be very effective for building brand recognition and sales.

So how did your e-commerce business rank?

What does extreme networking look like?



At last week’s ASD trade show in Las Vegas, our partner Vendio hosted a night of ‘extreme networking’ in the IMA’s hospitality suite. Even without the fine selection of gourmet cheeses and generous supply of wine, this night would qualify as a major success for anyone in e-commerce. Over 100 people came through our hospitality suite doors that evening armed with business cards and a willingness to mingle.

One of the most popular questions that was asked was ‘So where do you sell online?” and usually followed up with “What do you sell?” When the ecommerce merchants weren’t chatting with their fellow sellers, they were seeking out the advice of service providers like Alibaba, Vendio, SingleFeed, M-Shopper and TextBroker.

Do you want to be a part of our next networking event in Las Vegas? Head over to the IMA website and click on ‘Join Us’. It’s FREE to join the IMA as an ecommerce seller! Be sure to also check out our newly launched Facebook Group where there is a ton of great information shared every day. And get ready to join us in Las Vegas during the next ASD show when we will again be getting together with our members and business partners for another extreme networking event.

Product Sourcing Ideas – Dropshipping

When you are beginning your ecommerce business, one of the first hurdles is deciding on what you will sell.

There are a variety of places and means to source product – you need to decide which one will work best for you and your business. Today’s blog post will address a low cost way to enter the market: dropshipping

Sometimes this is the easiest and lowest risk way of getting into an ecommerce business. Simply put, drop shipping is the process of listing merchandise for sale that is owned and warehoused by a third party. Once you sell the merchandise, you notify the drop-shipper who will ship out the product to your customer for you. Sounds easy, right? The secret here is finding a RELIABLE and TRUSTWORTHY source with a product line that is IN DEMAND.

Most legitimate drop shippers will not require a minimum purchase or charge a monthly fee, but there are exceptions to even that rule. Do your homework – research potential drop shippers by entering the dropshipper’s name into a search engine and add the words “complaints” “sucks” “reviews”. Also research what the fees are and figure out if there is a market for their products and what the going rate is. Take a look at private web sites, ebay and Amazon to start. Figure out if it is worth it to sell their products after you factor in the fees that each marketplace charges, the fees from the dropshipper and the cost of the merchandise.

Next up: distributors

One feature that nearly every web site should have

Do you own an ecommerce website? Great! Next question: do you have a mailing list?

If the answer is ‘no’, you are probably leaving a lot of money on the table.

Keeping in touch with your potential customers, past customers and general web site visitors is one of the easiest and most cost effective methods of increasing your website sales. You simply must have the ability to collect the email addresses of both buyers and browsers alike. Most current web sites should have this functionality built in or it could be added by the use of widgets from some of the larger email marketing companies that will do everything from collecting email addresses for you to running your email marketing campaigns.

Collecting buyers email addresses is really a ‘no-brainer’ for most web businesses. The main thing to remember is that visitors have to opt-in to get on your mailing list. Just because they made a purchase from you – that does not give you permission to add them to your future email campaigns.

Once you get the email addresses – then what? Follow some of the suggestions and ideas from the larger email marketing companies like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp and you will have some great basic email marketing ideas to start.

Timing is everything when it comes to email marketing

Written by Pat

So you’ve spent a day or two putting together a slick email that you are sure is a winner; you’ve edited the subject line until you were bleary-eyed and now comes the big question: What is the best time to send out a marketing email to your opt-in email list?

Sending out your customer emails at the right time is not as difficult as you would think. The trick is to know when people are most apt to read them. If you send it out at the wrong time, there will certainly be an effect on your marketing campaign. Emails sent out overnight, for example, are the ones that are most likely to be deleted without even being opened.

To get the best results, take a look at the graphic from Pure360emailmarketing.co.uk and see what time slots you should avoid for your future email marketing campaigns.

(you can click on the graphic to view it full sized)

Keeping Your Marketing Strategy Fresh

Keep your marketing strategy fresh!

Written by Pat – West Florida Components

The economy and consumer buying habits have significantly shifted in the last few years. In today’s competitive environment, it’s important to take a look at your marketing strategy on a regular basis. Evaluate what you are doing and take a hard look at what your competition is doing, too. If you’re still banking on last year’s PPC campaign to drive your business, you’re probably missing out on some valuable opportunities to acquire new customers and increase your sales.

Here are some questions and suggestions to help you evaluate your marketing strategy:

Lead Generation:

Review your email marketing efforts. Do you offer a place to sign up for your newsletters on every page of your website? How about in your physical store? Do you use social media platforms as a way to capture emails and leads?

Analyze the results of your last few emails blasts and newsletters. What is the open percentage? What is the most clicked on article? What product converted the best from your email campaigns? What is the product or article that drew the most attention in your tweets or Facebook page?

General Promotions:

Discounts and coupons – whether they are used in person or on a web site, can drive tremendous amounts of new business and encourage repeat customers. What is the coupon with the highest number of conversions? Where was it distributed?

Evaluate any rewards programs for repeat customers. Take a close look at the percentage of repeat customers before a rewards program is instituted. What is the increase after a rewards program is put into place? What is more effective: percentage off discounts or flat dollar discounts? For your web sales, use analytics software to help you find the answers.

Search Marketing:

Many businesses use Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to generate customers and sales. When is the last time you looked at your keywords? What is the highest performing keyword? Which ones can you cut?

Review where you are spending your PPC money. Should you invest in a retargeting campaign? Would your products do well with a targeted Facebook PPC ad?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaigns need to be evaluated on a very regular basis. Where are you ranking for your major keywords? What new keywords need to be targeted? What changes need to made due to algorithm changes in the search engines?

This is just the tip of the marketing iceberg. All businesses, large and small need to ask themselves these questions frequently.  Remember – if you’re not measuring the success (or failure) of your marketing efforts, you’re losing time and money. You need to know what works so you can devote your resources to those efforts and cut your losses on what doesn’t work.  Keep it fresh!

3 Ways To Use Your Email Signature to Market Yourself

Remember how, in the “old” days, folks would “call on” others and, if they weren’t at home, they’d leave their calling card behind? I haven’t been able to find an academic reference to it, but it makes sense that the modern-day practice of exchanging business cards stems from there. And even in this highly electronic day and age, there’s still room for business cards, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

But are you maximizing the use of your most basic calling card? And that’s nothing more than your email signature.

We all suffer from email overload – I’ve long since stopped counting how many emails I get in a day. Even when I’m not working or on vacation, I use my BlackBerry to delete unnecessary emails from my inbox, in an effort to keep on top of the traffic (sigh, it never stops!).

But I also know that when I send an email out, it’s a unique way to remind others of what I do, particular affiliations I have and things that are important to me.

Here are three tips to maximize your email signature as a marketing tool:

1. Proclaim yourself.

You normally include your contact information in your e-signature, right? Why not include hyperlinks to all the relevant data you think people should have access to? For example, these could be your website, blog or Twitter handle. How about your Etsy site or another storefront? If it’s in your signature, it’s right there for the recipients to click through to, yet you’re not hitting them over the head with it.

2. Add a visual touch.

Go one step further and add some visual pizazz to your e-signature; and a terrific way of doing this is by using a program such as WiseStamp. What’s cool about this is that you can actually embed the hyperlinks rather than simply include them, and you can also include select social profiles such as Twitter, SlideShare, etc. at the bottom of your signature. Here’s a screenshot from their site:


3. Put a shortening service to work for you.

Working on a special promotion? Use a URL-shortening service such as tr.im, bit.ly, ow.ly (or several others) to draw attention to it just above your signature block. For example, I used this as a way to raise funds around my birthday: “Why I’d like you to know how old I am: http://tr.im/K6Yi.”

Granted, it’s not often that a woman is proclaiming her age for all and sundry to hear, but if you use short but sweet copy and a dedicated URL, it’s an easy way to add to your marketing mix with almost no effort.

What other ways do you use your e-signature “real estate” to market yourself? Please share by leaving a comment below.

Image: Rich Bowen, Creative Commons

Tips for Increasing Traffic to Your eBay Listings

By Dan Caplan

The eBay message boards are filled with posts by sellers about how eBay’s new Best Match has taken  seller’s items and made them nearly invisible to buyers. The result, of course, is a decrease in sales.

Trying to adapt to Best Match is a challenge for sellers and although time and energy should be put into maximizing Best Match results another essential course of action for eBay sellers is to rely less on eBay driving buyers to your listings and figuring out ways to drive buyers to your listings yourself.

I have compiled a list of ways to drive buyers to your listings to supplement Best Match.  If any readers have any additional methods, please add them to the list.

Google Base Store Connector
Use Google Base Store Connector to get your listings indexed in Google Search results.  Here is a link to the free program that will send your eBay listing info to Google.

[Read more…]

Social Networking – What Every Business Needs to Know

Written by Pat

Social networking in an online setting is dramatically different than in-person networking.

Traditional networking involves swapping business cards at monthly meetings and having occasional lunches with a few new acquaintances.

In an online setting, social networking is about forming a vast community of people with common interests, and meeting on a platform where you can interact frequently with the use of online resources and tools. Through the platform and tools available from the social networking sites, users can submit content such as blogs, videos, and photo albums that help bring large numbers of like-minded people together quickly.

The more open nature of social networking sites is in contrast to the anonymous forums and bulletin boards that were very popular earlier in the decade. Those sites are rapidly losing users to more social outlets like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

Since MySpace first came on the scene, social networking has exploded. All businesses, particularly online businesses, should be watching and reaching out to their customers through social networking sites.

So, the question is: Why should a business be represented on social networking sites?

It’s about reputation management.

In the past, consumers had limited avenues to publicly discuss a company or its products. Their outlet was to complain to the company and maybe a few friends. Now everyone with an email account can be their own publisher and write a post on their blog about their experience. In fact, many people think nothing of jumping on twitter or myspace and complaining about the meal they had last night at Chili’s. They have an instant audience. Now what if Chili’s has a corporate rep that scans the major social networking sites to find opportunities like this. A smart business would use this information to:

  • reach out to the consumer
  • make changes to improve their business
  • If handled correctly, the positive effects would become amplified many times over by the viral nature of online networking.

    It’s about trust.

    Think about it. When you were going to buy a new digital camera, where did you look for information and guidance? Chances are you looked online at product reviews. You are not alone. In 2008, according to a study by PowerReviews and Forrester Research, 68% of online shoppers read at least four reviews before making a purchase. That’s a lot of people putting faith in the user-generated content of social networking.

    Here’s the hard truth: The consumers are making decisions without your influence. The consumer no longer has to rely on your marketing messages when they are shopping. They have their ‘friends’ and their ‘network’ to turn to. A savvy business will become a part of this process. If there’s a ‘tweet’ on Twitter about you or your product, reach out to the consumer. You now have a chance to dialogue with your customer and maybe an opportunity to gain some new customers while making changes to improve your business.

    It’s about change.

    My kids have never known a world without the internet. There’s never been a time in their lives when they couldn’t go online to research a product, find an answer or contact a company for support. They play games on Xbox Live, sometimes with people they’ve never met in real life. They are used to reaching out and having new people become myspace ‘friends’. They don’t understand why some people hide behind anonymous user IDs on bulletin boards while their own real name and pictures are on their facebook pages.

    This generation expects more when it comes to interactions with people online, but businesses haven’t embraced Web 2.0 practices like videos and blogs and they are struggling to keep up with the growth in social networking environments. The fact is they need to pay attention because interactive marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing efforts. Once businesses understand the shift, they can be more innovative with their efforts, taking the conversations online with their customer base.

    So I’m ready to get into social networking. Where do I start? What are some social networking sites?

    You’d be surprised how many different places you can network and interact with people on the internet. There are as many social networking sites as there are interests. Are you into music? Become a DJ of your own station at www.blip.fm and chat with people with similar music tastes while serving up some tunes. Want to join an art related networking site? Try www.deviantart.com where artists and those that appreciate art interact. Need a site where you can network with folks from your local geographic area? Try www.meetup.com. There’s bound to be a meetup group with a focus area that you are interested in.

    Want to know the best social networking sites for businesses? Here are three of the most well known social networking sites that businesses should have a presence on:

    www.myspace.com – Still the largest online space in terms of visitor traffic; this is the site that began the trend. Here you set up a page for your brand or store, upload pictures that might include your logo and product shots, and write blog posts. Once you’ve set up, you start searching for ‘friends’ to add to your network. These friends might be people you already know or those who you want to reach out to like potential customers. You can even use your MySpace page to display some of your products. You have the potential to attract new customers by becoming ‘friends’ with many people and growing your network. MySpace is geared to the younger crowd; however, the latest demographics show MySpace gaining traction with the over-30 set. More than 75% of their users are under 35. MySpace is a great outlet to have a presence if your products are suited to that demographic or especially if you are in a music-related niche. Warning: busy myspace backgrounds may trigger migraines.

    www.facebook.com – This site appeals to a slightly older crowd; almost half (48%) of the users are in the 18-34 range. Facebook shares a very similar user base with Twitter, however, Facebook has substantially more visitors (51.6M for Facebook vs. 2.4M for Twitter). Originally started by a Harvard student, Facebook was first open only to students at Harvard and then to a limited number of other college campuses before becoming a mainstream site. Now anyone over the age of 16 can join Facebook. On Facebook, you connect by joining networks of users organized by city, workplace or school. Unlike the totally customizable MySpace page, your Facebook page uses only plain text. The emphasis here is on the connections, not the fancy page layouts. Your ‘friends’ can post messages to you on the ‘wall’ – a space that every facebook user has. One of the most cherished features on facebook is the photo album where you can upload an unlimited number of pictures to share with your friends. Bonus: Facebook is easy to set up and user friendly.

    www.twitter.com – Twitter is another site where you can directly connect with customers. In my opinion, Twitter offers the best opportunity for businesses and consumers to interact. The premise of Twitter is that you are answering the question, “what are you doing,” and you have only 140 characters of text to make your comment (also known as a ‘tweet’). You connect to other users by ‘following’ them. Those people who are interested in you or your business will ‘follow’ you back. You can also do searches on Twitter by keyword to find people that may have interests similar to you or your business. Follow them! And, don’t forget to put a badge on your web site with your Twitter user ID so that customers and potential customers will know you can be found on Twitter. There are many large corporations already set up with accounts. They use Twitter to post bulletins about service issues and respond to ‘tweets’ sent to them by their followers. Some businesses use Twitter to run contests and offer discounts to those that follow them. Starbucks uses Twitter to tweet about the changes coming to their menu – smart thinking for them; they can grab all the feedback from their followers. It’s like a free focus group. A word of warning: twitter is very addictive.

    Social networking is here and it’s time you joined the party. So if you’re new to social networking sites, and are ready to dive in, I have only two words for you: HAVE FUN!