Monday, 10 September 2012

The complete small business guide to marketing

So you've took the big plunge and have decided to give online selling a go. You have selected what it is you want to sell, who your target customers are and have completely set up your online store. Now that everything is set up and ready to go, the next step is to actually make customers aware of your store's existence. This is where marketing comes in to play.

In today's ecommerce world, the number of different marketing strategies you can look to undertake are substantial. While some are more effective than others, each should be carried out to ensure you bring as many customers as you possibly can to your ecommerce store.

Email Marketing

Really this is the bread and butter of marketing. No matter what your online business is and what services or products you provide, this is something you should be looking to do on a regular basis. When sending out an email marketing campaign, you should be aware that not everyone of those recipients will even open the email, let alone click on the link to access your store. A successful email campaign will have around a 15% open rate and a 1% to 1.5% click through rate. This will mean that around 10% of all the people who are opening the email are actually clicking through to your store. Although this doesn't seem like much, if you are sending out the email to around 15,000 customers for example, it means you are going to get 2,250 people open the email and around 150-225 people click on a link and visit your online store.

What you don't want to do is simply send out the same email time and time again to various customers. The key to a successful email marketing campaign is to develop and refine each email based on the previous campaign to ensure you achieve the best possible success. For example, if your last email campaign had a low click through rate, on your next email you may look to include more links to your store within the email or change the message to one that may be more appealing to your audience.

Social Media Marketing

Has become probably the most popular form of marketing due to the number of potential customers you can reach. While many people use this platform to develop social commerce for their business, creating your own business fan page can be just as effective. As you gain followers to your social media page, you then share content with your followers giving them information about the products you have on sale as well as any sales or offers you are running, providing them with constant direct links to your site.

When a customer finds a product on your website that they like the look of, they can then share this product on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. This then allows a whole new audience who hasn't even visited your online store to see some of the products you have for sale. This is a great way to develop not only your customer base, but your brand, allowing a substantial audience to become aware of your store in a short space of time. While email marketing may be the first subject I have touched upon in this article, social media should be your first port of call for any new business. You will then be able to send out an email campaign, providing links in the email not only to your web store, but also to your various social media platforms.

Forums Interaction

No matter what it is your online store provides, there will be numerous forums out there specifically dedicated to that specific category. When setting up your online store, you should then visit these forums and begin engaging with the community. It's no good just going on and creating a thread about your business as most forums frown against self promotion and your post will be quickly deleted. What you need to do is interact with the community by offering advice and suggestions to other users posts. When doing this there is no harm is telling a user about your online store if it is something that will help them make a more informed decision. For example, if a user has created a post asking people to recommend them a good store to buy clothing products from, if your store sells clothes, you call tell them about your store as well as providing links for users to access. This way you are not only advertising your store to the person who created the thread, but also to all of the people who then view the thread.

Another way to advertise yourself on forums is to include all the links to your business both on your profile and in your forum signature. That way, even if you post on a thread that has nothing to do with your business, people will be able to see information and links to your store through your signature.

Telephone Marketing

This is something that may not be achievable, it all depends on the size of your business. Clearly, if it is just you running your own online business then you are going to be unable to have the time to carry out telephone marketing. If your ecommerce business is big enough that you are able to employ someone to carry out telesales then it could be a good marketing avenue depending on the skills of the salesman. What this means essentially is ringing up various people to inform them about the products and services you offer and how they can get involved. What you need to remember is that the conversion rate for this form of marketing is extremely low. Some days you may ring hundreds of people and only find a small handful that are interested in what you are selling. 

Mobile Marketing

With the increasing popularity of mobile commerce, the power of mobile marketing has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years. Although creating a mobile version of your ecommerce store is incredibly important in taking advantage of this selling platform, you should also look at how you can increase your sales with mobile marketing. The main form of mobile marketing comes as SMS marketing. This is rather similar to email marketing but rather than sending the message to a users email address, you are sending it to their phone as a text message. However, with SMS marketing you cannot use HTML or images, only basic text. Also, the space you have for your message is much less meaning your message needs to be sharp and concise. Depsite these negatives when compared to email marketing, its greatest strength comes in the awareness it creates. Unlike an email, as soon as the person receives the SMS, they are instantly exposed to the message it contains. While many people instantly delete emails they think are spam, very few people will delete any text message they receive on their phone without first opening it up to look at it. What this means is that even if the person decides to delete your message within seconds after opening up, your message and brand is still gaining much more exposure than you would have originally done has the message been via email. 

To run an SMS marketing campaign you must employ the services of an SMS marketing company. You will then provide them with the message you would like to send out to readers and they will then distribute the message to various mobile phones on your behalf. The amount it will cost you depends on how many people you want the message to be sent to. Many companies charge around 5p per message that is sent out.


While this isn't a conventional marketing channel, it is a great way to not only increase your websites standing in search engines, but also make your brand aware to a large audience. The articles which you produce for your blog should be ones that are to do with subjects that are related to your business (just like this one), they shouldn't just simply be sales pitches. However, there is nothing wrong with providing links at the end of the article giving users information about products and services which may be related to the content of the article. For example, if you run an electronics store, you may write an article on the difference between LCD, LED and plasma televisions. At the end of the article you may then provide a link to the section of your online store which will allow users to view the latest sales and offers you have on those TVs.

Offline Marketing

While your store sells exclusively online, you shouldn't only be marketing your business online. Offline marketing has a number of different tools which can help increase sales and drastically improve your brand awareness. However, you will generally find that most successful forms of offline marketing cost substantially more than their online counterparts. There are a number of different offline marketing methods such as:

  • Radio Advertising - One of the most expensive forms of marketing as your message will be sent to literally hundreds of thousands of people. As this has a broad audience, it will depend on what you sell as to how successful this platform will be for your business. If the service or products you offer are only aimed at a specific niche group, then you may find that radio advertising might not be too successful.
  • Magazine Advertising - A better platform for those businesses who may offer niche services and products as you will be able to advertise your business in a magazine that is specifically to do with your business. For example, if you sell fishing equipment, you will be able to advertise your products and services in various fishing magazines, meaning that you ensure that people who read those magazines will be interested in what you have to sell.
  • Posters - A very basic form of marketing, but one which doesn't cost much to do. This involves creating a poster and then visiting local establishments to ask if it would be okay for you to put your advert up in their window. The poster should contain concise information about what it is your store offers and contact details as to how they can access your store online to make a purchase.
  • Networking Events - These are both local and national events where you can attend in order to take part is various seminars or network with other business owners. When attending these events it may be a good idea to have some business cards created with your name, store name, contact information and store URL on them. That way, when you introduce yourself to other people, you will be able to give them your business card, allowing you to make a more lasting impression. If you are business to business store then attending these events is of vital importance to ensure that you are increasing your brand and also making the initial relationships needed to help your store grow.
  • Television Advertising -Probably the most expensive form of marketing that you can have. The price you will pay is dependant on which television channel you want the advert to appear on as certains will have larger audiences. Television also allows you to create a more indepth advert than other methods, allowing you to provide more information as well as making it more entertaining. This is the best way to create your own brand identity but it is something that should only be undertaken once you have built up a good customer base. Essentially this is a marketing tool you should only use once you have achieved success in all other areas. 

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