Welcome! This is the FINAL post in a five part series about how to start an eCommerce business: Answering the Five Fundamental Questions of a Business. This is Digital Marketing 101.
But today is the big one. The Grand Finale. The Meat and Potatoes. Choose your metaphor: this is the skill that will make or break your business. Get good at this, and you can succeed even if you don’t have the best product, suppliers, or fulfillment channels. What am I referring to? Digital Marketing 101: How to convince your ideal customers to become repeat buyers and tell their friends and family about your business.
One final time, here are the Five Fundamental Questions:
- What product should I sell?
- How will I produce my product?
- How will I deliver my product to my customers?
- Who is my ideal customer, anyways?
- How do I convince my ideal customer to become a repeat buyer and brand evangelist?
Let’s break down the Fundamental Question into its component steps with…
The 3 Tasks of Digital Marketing
The final fundamental question packs a punch. In reality, there are three main activities. Let’s call them the “Three Tasks of Digital Marketing”:
- Get someone to buy once. This involves finding your ideal prospects, capturing their attention, and converting them into paying customers.
- Get them to buy again (and again, and again). This involves maximizing customer retention
- Get them to tell their friends: This involves optimizing word-of-mouth/referral marketing
Task #1 is the most important. Without that, you can never get to Tasks 2 or 3. In this post, I will go over, at a high level, the strategies and best practices to accomplish all 3 of the Tasks of Digital Marketing. But know that we will dive into each topic in greater detail in a separate section of the eComm Boardroom website.
First, let’s go over how in the world to find your ideal customer online. ‘Cause if you can’t find ‘em, you can’t convert ‘em.
Finding Your Target Customers
There is much ado online about “traffic”. Well, today, I have good news for you. As pointed out by Russel Brunson in his book, TRAFFIC SECRETS, you don’t have to CREATE online traffic. It already exists. You just need to…stand in the middle of the road, so to speak.
Where Are Your Customers Congregating?
The internet has advanced to such a stage that online communities exist for just about every interest, hobby, and business market. Once you’ve defined your target customer, it becomes a simple matter to locate their existing online communities.
Do this: Conduct a series of Google searches and create a spreadsheet listing the Facebook Groups, Blogs, Forums, Podcasts, YouTube Channels, and Instagram Influencers that are relevant to your target customer.
For example, if you were selling minivans, and wanted to target middle-aged Moms, search: ”Blog for Soccer Moms,” “Podcast for Families”, “Youtube channels for…” I think you get the picture.
You will discover that there are online communities where thousands (if not millions) of your ideal customers are already congregating. The traffic is there. You just have to tap into it.
One last area I haven’t touched on when it comes to traffic is Keywords. Keywords are not explicitly congregations of ideal customers, but they are effectively similar. Thousands or millions of people are searching Google for the keywords relevant to your niche.
What keywords might your ideal customer be searching online? You can leverage those keywords in your blog and paid search advertising strategies (more on those in a moment).
OK, you might be thinking, great, I know where my ideal customer is congregating en masse online. Now what?
It’s time to capture their attention and convert them into customers. The following section will cover how to do just that.
Convert Your Ideal Prospects Into Customers
Finding your ideal customers is Step 1a of the First of Three Tasks of Digital Marketing. Stay with me.
Once you know where they are congregating you must develop a comprehensive scheme for capturing their attention and convincing them to buy. Anything short of that is a half-measure.
In order to give yourself the best chance of success, you must plan and execute a “Systematic Marketing Strategy.”
The three components of a Systematic Marketing Strategy are:
- Outbound Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Subscriber Marketing
Let’s briefly review each one.
What is it?
Outbound Marketing is any proactive tactic used by a company that is designed to interrupt a potential customer, capture their attention, and present them with an offer.
The key word in the above definition is interrupt. Outbound marketing involves you taking the initiative. You seek out your ideal customer and trying to convince them to give you a moment of their attention, their email address, and ultimately their money.
There are 2 primary Outbound tactics that are used by eCommerce companies
- Cold Outreach (Cold Email & Cold Calling): Despite this being wildly unpopular among modern marketers, the reality is that Cold Outreach has been an effective means for acquiring customers for centuries. Cold Outreach is particularly effective for high-priced products, services, and B2B (Business to Business) sales.
- Paid Advertising: Running ads is by far the most popular marketing technique used by eCommerce Entrepreneurs, because it yields the most immediate results and has the greatest potential to scale your business quickly. Let’s talk a bit more about ads in the next section.
Advertising: Best Practices
When getting started, most eCommerce Advertisers should be utilizing what are known as DIRECT RESPONSE Ads. This type of advertisement requests the user to take action immediately upon viewing the ad. For our purposes, there are only 2 actions we want them to take:
- Make a purchase, or
- Provide their email address in exchange for some free piece of valuable content
Creating a customer (Action 1) is typically the primary goal for many eCommerce Entrepreneurs. But other businesses might have a longer sales cycle, and thus be more interested in creating a lead (Action 2).
Most advertising platforms out there will allow you to TARGET segments of users. Meaning, you can choose to have your ad only shown to certain demographics. You should use the definition of your target customer in order to define the audiences that you want to target.
Finally, a mixture of prospecting and retargeting ads should be used. Prospecting simply refers to the first time an ad is shown to a user. Retargeting refers to showing your ad to users who have previously clicked on the ad and/or engaged with it in some way (e.g. watched your Video Ad). Retargeting Ads have a much higher conversion rate than prospecting ads. (The Conversion Rate is the percentage of the time that an ad viewer makes a purchase or provides an email address.)
I won’t spend time going into the various Ad Platforms that are available to you. There are simply too many options! We will devote separate articles to the various Ad Types and Platforms.
A popular metaphor for marketing is that of “fishing” for customers. Outbound Marketing has been likened to targeting and throwing a “spear” at your ideal prospects. In keeping with that metaphor:
Inbound Marketing can be thought of as the creation of “nets” that you encourage your customers to swim into.
With Inbound, we build websites, social media posts, blogs, profile pages, and landing pages that contain an offer (or a link to an offer). We define, on every piece of content, our product, service, or value proposition in terms of the customer’s problems and desires (go back to StoryBranding). We target the relevant search keywords, hashtags, groups, and influencers.
And when we “raise our nets” into the boat at the end of the day, they are filled with nice, big, juicy fish.
Build Your Nets! (Create Your Digital Headquarters)
Think of your websites, landing pages, and social media profiles as your “Digital Headquarters”. When a prospect walks through the front door to check you out, you want them to be able to easily tell what problems you solve for your customers. You also want to make it easy for them to make a purchase or leave us their contact info if they are interested in learning more.
So, be sure to design your web pages and social media pages with simplicity and clarity of message in mind. Make sure the customer knows how you can serve them. Provide a singular call to action (CTA) letting them know how they can become a customer or subscriber (provide their email address).
Not sure how to build a website? Fortunately, eCommerce website builders like Shopify make this insanely easy, even if you have no background in web development or coding.
Steer the Fish Into the Nets (Content Marketing)
Once you’ve created your nets, you should develop a strategy for driving your ideal customers to your websites, landing pages, and social media pages. That’s called Content Marketing.
Content Marketing is a subset of Inbound Marketing in which you create…well, content…that is curated according to the interests, problems, and preferred media of your ideal customer.
The best thing you can do is to target the keywords, influencers, and groups where your ideal customer congregates. The most popular forms of Content Marketing for eCommerce entrepreneurs are Blogging (for Search Engine Optimization) and posting on Social Media.
We will review the best practices for both of these Content Marketing tactics in a later article. For now, suffice it to say that the goal is to take advantage of the content that your ideal customer already likes to view online, becoming an authority figure in that corner of the internet. Once you’ve done that, it is an easy task to convince them to navigate to your website or social media page to become a Subscriber or Customer.
Up to this point, we have discussed both Inbound and Outbound Marketing strategies. In either case, our primary goal has been to convince our ideal prospects to become customers. Short of that, our secondary goal is for them to become a Subscriber (so that we can convince them to become a customer later).
Subscriber Marketing encompasses every message you send to someone once that second goal has been met. The ultimate goals of subscriber marketing are to convert subscribers into customers and to convert customers into repeat customers.
Your subscribers include all of your social media followers and your Email List. Your Email List is the more valuable of the two. You are more likely to convert an Email Subscriber to a customer than a Social Media follower. Our inbox is a very intimate place. The value of being able to surface your brand in your ideal prospects’ inbox “at will” cannot be understated!
Grow Your Email List
As such, growing your Email List should be one of your primary goals as a business. You should deploy what are known as “Lead Magnets” in order to grow your email list.
A Lead Magnet is the exchange of a free but valuable piece of content for a prospect’s email address.
Examples of good lead magnets include:
- Free eBook
- Discount Code on First Purchase
- Free Report or “How-To” Guide
- Product Catalogue / Price Sheet (for B2B and high-ticket)
- Free Shipping Deal
- Exclusive Promotions
- Free Templates / Tools (For Information Products & Coaching Businesses)
You’ll have to think critically about your market and products in order to identify the best lead magnets for your business. Drive people to your lead magnets through your ads (Outbound Marketing) and your Blogs & Social Media (Inbound Marketing).
See how all 3 (Outbound, Inbound, and Subscriber) components of the Systematic Marketing Strategy work together to grow your company?
Customer Retention and Word of Mouth Growth
To this point, we have discussed the strategies to accomplish 1 (the most important one) of the 3 Tasks of Digital Marketing: finding an ideal prospect and convincing them to buy one time.
The final tasks are to get them to buy again (and again), and to tell their friends about you.
One metric you will want to keep an eye on as you start your eCommerce career is your Average CLV, the Customer Lifetime Value. This is simply the average of the total amount that each customer will spend with you across all purchases they will ever make. To maximize your CLV, consider these popular strategies:
- Upsells / Cross-Sells: This is where you sell complimentary products at the time that your customer makes their first purchase with you. For example, if you are selling Garlic Presses, offer a Recipe Book to your customers before they checkout.
- Sales Funnels: Championed by Russel Brunson, a sales funnel is a multi-step marketing strategy designed to turn cold prospects into long term, repeat customers. A sales funnel involves creating a “value ladder”, or a series of products with escalating price points, that you can offer to your subscribers at different points in their customer journey.
- Subscription Models: Think about companies like The Dollar Shave Club, Ipsy, and Birchbox. They’ve been able to create predictable recurring revenue by offering monthly shipments of products that are not traditionally sold as a subscription. How can you implement a subscription model into your business?
Word of Mouth Growth / Referral Marketing
One of the cheapest, most effective, and most important ways to grow your company is through Word-of-Mouth marketing. Simply put, this is the process whereby your customers tell their friends, families, and business associates about your brand.
Common incentives to encourage word of mouth marketing include:
- Referral Programs: Here’s an innovative idea. PAY your customers to tell their friends about you. This tactic created viral growth for big companies such like PayPal.
- Affiliate Programs: Similar to a referral program, but where you pay professional marketers to promote your brand in exchange for a share of the profits.
- Customer Experience: This includes Customer Support and Customer Success. They are important, so I will go over these two in greater detail in separate articles.
Wrap It Up, Chuck
Like I said, that last Fundamental Question is the meat and potatoes. Digital Marketing is a VAST topic. I’ve tried to distill it down to a 4-Step Diagram. Read the light blue steps first, then refresh your memory with the details in dark blue.
Easy as 1-2-3-4…right? Thanks so much for reading the series on the 5 fundamental questions of an eCommerce Business! If you enjoyed this, please consider checking out our eBook, How to Start and Grow an eCommerce Business, which dives into all of these topics in greater detail! Cheers!