Friday, 28 September 2012

Marketing tools for the big, the small and the just getting started

eBay are looking to expand the number of customers and eBay stores within the martetplace through the release of a television advert within the UK. The advert is used to not only promote the eBay brand as a whole, but identifies the ability for customers to make purchases on their tablets and mobile devices. While eBay are spending a substantial amount of money to have an advert appear on UK prime time television, what can you do to help promote your business through various marketing channels?

Obviously, what marketing avenues you can use are going to depend on the amount of money you have within your marketing budget and how much you are currently making through online sales.

If you don't have much money to put towards an advertising budget, there are a number of different free marketing tools you can take advantage of:

  • Social Media - Create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. This then allows you to not only build up your brand, but generate a larger customer base who you can then advertise your store and products. This will increase the traffic and sales you store will generate, while helping you increase your social media presence, creating a positive public image.
  • Forums - Similar in the sense to social media as it allows you to build up your own public brand image. However, rather than using the platform to essentially sell yourself, you should look to engage with other users by answering questions they ask in threads or just engaging with other users in an informal manner.
  • Blogs - A great tool for not only promotion your store and engaging with your customers, but also allows you to build up a regular readership and also improve your SEO standing. What you choose to write about is entirely up to you. It could be an informal diary discussing the problems you have faced in your store and how you overcome them or they could be on the latest news and information about the particular product types that you sell in your store. When deciding what to write about, you should look to include keywords that users will search for in search engines. 
  • Word of Mouth - One of the most traditional and effective way of growing your business. When a customer makes a purchase, if they are happy with the overall product and service, they will recommend your store to their friends. While you can't control whether a user decides to share your store with their friends, you can encourage them to share it with their friends by placing social sharing buttons and your site such as Facebook and emails.
  • Emails - Email marketing is one of the most important parts of any business, however, in order for them to be free you must send them out yourself, rather than employing a email service to send them out on your behalf. What this means is that there can't be too many emails for you to send out to your customers as sending out thousands of emails will literally take you hours to do. Your emails should vary in content ranging from the latest news regarding your business to any new products or offers you are currently running. All of these emails should contain the relevant links to draw customers back to your store.
  • Local Trade Shows and Meetings - This might for be for every business, but if you run a store that specialises in selling goods or services to other businesses, this is something you should definitely be looking to take advantage of. Throughout the year there will be a number of breakfast meetings and trade shows that you can attend to interact with other business owners and form professional relationships. This initial meeting allows them to become aware of your business and could possibly lead to future  transactions.
If you have some money to play around with to help market your business, there are a few other channels you can look to take advantage of. However, even if you do have a larger budget, you should still look to take advantage of the free marketing techniques I mentioned above as they will all help increase your brand awareness and sales:

  • Forum Sponsorship - One of the cheapest types of sponsorship you can do and allows your business brand to be seen by literally thousands of people. Most forums will allow you to sponsor one of their sections for around £50 a month, allowing you to have your link placed on the site, any banners you would like to add and some even allow you to create a thread advertising the products you have for sale.
  • Prizes - This is one of the best ways to drastically increase not only your total sales, but your social media follows and what's more, it won't cost you much at all. You could decide to run a promotion where one person who follows you on your social media page will win a specific item from you store. This encourages a number of people to then follow you on your social media pages in order to have a chance of winning the prize. Whether they win or not, many of these people will then visit your store to see what products you have for sale and some of them will make a purchase.
  • Banners - Banners are a great tool to provide a visually enticing promotion for users to see. Where you decide to place the banners is up to you. You can place them on forums, blogs and other websites.
  • Retargeting - When a customer visits your website, the data regarding the products they viewed is then stored within cookies within the browser. Retargeting then places adverts for your business and those particular products on to various websites that the user visits. This allows the user to be constantly exposed to your business and may result in them returning to your store to make a purchase.
If you run an ecommerce store with an established brand image and you have maximised all of the marketing channels previously mentioned, you may decide it's time to take advantage of some of the biggest marketing platforms you can use, similar to what eBay have recently done with their television advert:

  • Television Advert - Should only be attempted if you are a large successful business with a number of customers and sales as this is a very expensive avenue to go down. However, if you find that your business has achieved great local success, you may decide to create an advert that only appears on local television.
  • Radio Advert - A local platform that allows you to create an audio advert for your business. However, before deciding to embark on a radio advert you should remember that a radio advert is quite a generalised form of promotion and rather than aiming it at a specific demographic. This form of blanket marketing may result in you not seeing the results you would have liked as the message was just too generic.
  • Editorial Pieces - Unlike a radio advert, an editorial piece is a great way to market your business to people who have a specific interest in what your business provides. You would pay a publication related to your business a fee to have an editorial about your business appear within their magazine and on their website for that particular month. This is a great way to have your brand reach the type of demographic you want to reach, however, it can be quite expensive with some publications charging in excess of £1,500 for the service.

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