Common Mistakes in E-Commerce – Part 3 of 3 – Promotion & Marketing

The classic saying, “If you build it, they will come,” unfortunately does not apply to e-commerce sites. Millions of e-commerce sites are accessible on the internet, but unless you’ve directly contacted prospective customers and informed them of your site, they probably won’t ever know it exists. Therefore, e-commerce sites need well-developed marketing plans and carefully targeted investments that are aimed at increasing site traffic. A strong search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy to attract customers to your site is also a necessity. In this final part of our three-part series, we explore the common mistakes that new e-commerce sites make in creating and implementing their promotion and marketing plans.

Mistake #1: Inadequate Planning
How will customers know that your site exists? How will they know when it is functional? And unless you offer something truly unique, why will customers opt to visit your site versus that of your competitors? If your business does not have a plan in place to answer these questions, then your site may never have a chance at success.

All e-commerce sites should have a plan for attracting website visitors, whether that includes advertising, direct mail, promotions or marketing through industry associations. Identify complementary sites on which your companies advertisements would generate interest in your products. Evaluate whether a banner-ad, product placement, or pop-up ad would be most effective. Also, locate industry association sites where you can post press releases, make announcements, or place links to drive customers to your site. Also, consider conducting a promotion within your first few months of business that rewards buyers with a future discount if they refer friends and family members to your site.

Mistake #2: Little Focus on Market Targeting
Unless you have the capital to become the next Amazon.com, focus your time and energy on a particular market niche or segment. Your entire marketing plan, site design and investment should be directed toward this target audience. The product mix that your site offers should reflect the tastes and desires of this audience, and your promotional messaging and site design should be based created for this audience.

Without a specific target, your e-commerce site will be vague, unfocused, and ultimately unsuccessful.

Mistake #3: Low Marketing Investment
Without a doubt, the upfront investment needed to create and operate an e-commerce site is less than that needed to open a brick-and-mortar store. But don’t underestimate the initial investment required to develop a successful online business.

Most e-commerce sites allocate the majority of their funds to the technical side of the business and ignore other aspects of their company, like marketing and staffing. As we discussed in part two, it is critical to have an adequately sized customer service staff to respond to customer inquiries and orders. It is just as important to allocate funds to marketing, enhance link building, implement a thorough advertising plan and budget, and ensure that customers are driven to your site.

Mistake #4: Poor Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Strategy
Many new e-commerce sites decide that an SEO strategy isn’t important, or think that they can put it off for a while. However, a well-developed SEO strategy should be a large focus of your business plan. Failure to implement an SEO strategy means that customers will not find your site, will not browse your products, and will not purchase what you are selling.

Identify keywords that potential customers will search for when trying to find your product. Research and study the keywords and phrases that your target market is using to search for your items, and integrate them throughout your site. Do not assume that the words you use to describe your products are the same words that your potential customers are using. Your SEO strategy should be developed early on in the site-planning process, so that keywords can be incorporated accordingly into your website content.

In this three-part series, we have explored the common mistakes that e-commerce sites make, from poor planning to confusing navigation and inadequate order fulfilment. The internet gives customers millions of options for online shopping, but common mistakes such as these ultimately determine where customers spend their dollars and which online business will succeed. Develop a strong business plan, follow this guide, and you’ll be on your way to running a successful e-commerce site.

Have a Good Time With Your Own Direct Sales Business

Trying to find a new way to earn a little extra money? If you are, or even if you are out of work and you are ready to try something new, a direct sales business can become a huge success and earn you a good living. Stop worrying about the bills not being paid and stressing over financial issues day in and day out.

Go into business for yourself-become the boss and see what you have been missing out on. The internet brings the world to your door, literally and figuratively. Take advantage of the fact that people still need to buy things, no matter how poorly the economy has been performing. What is a direct sales business?

Direct sales businesses are those that are marketed and run outside of a retail or commercial location. For example, selling person to person, any product or service is direct selling. There are many perks to creating wealth in this manner. Lets look at the benefits of running a direct sales business.

First, you are the boss. You create your own timetable and you do not have to punch the clock for someone else anymore. You can work either full time or part time and still earn great money with this type of job. You make your own hours-you have complete flexibility to be with your family and friends whenever you want and work when you want.

Many times, these businesses are run in part through catalog sales-an independent distributor may send out catalogs or emails with the link to online catalogs for products in your line. You can have your customers call you or email you with their orders or you can also run your business through home parties.

With this sort of event, you will send out invitations via standard mail or email and invite friends and family to come to your home for a party. If you want a really good turnout, make sure that everyone you invite brings another friend who was not on the original guest list. You can serve drinks and snacks or even a full course meal if you are so inclined. Many people look forward to these events as a chance to get out of the house and have some fun with their friends.

Once the attendees have gathered at your home, you can thank them for coming and then give them a presentation of the new product line that you are selling and distributing. Of course, it is wise to have several pieces from each collection so that everyone can see the high quality of your goods. At the end of your brief presentation, you can hand out pens and tell everyone that you will be happy to place their orders at the end of the party.

You can also have friends host parties and both you and your friend will get free products from the company that you distribute for. This is a great way to get the items that you really want but cannot splurge on at the moment. The more parties you have, the more you make.

Having your own direct sales business can be a fun and rewarding way to earn a living. You will make new friends and be providing the people you care about with high quality values on items they need for their homes or personal upkeep.

Direct Mail or Social Media: Which Marketing Channel Is Right For Your Small Business?

Imagine this scenario.

One of your salesmen comes into your office to give you his weekly sales update.

“It was a great week” he said. “I had conversations with 138 prospects.”

“Sounds good” you say. “How many of those prospects actually became customers?”

The salesman smiles nervously. “Well… none of them, but if they ever need our services, I’m sure they’ll choose us.”

As unlikely as that scenario sounds, it’s essentially what’s happening with many small businesses when they choose to discontinue their direct mail campaigns in favor of social media marketing.

However, it’s really not the small business owner’s fault.

Some self-proclaimed social media experts have led them to believe that they have to “put all their eggs” in this marketing basket or they’ll be eclipsed by their technologically advanced, media-savvy competitors.

And it’s just not true.

In 2007 many of these same experts predicted the decline of “interrupt marketing” which included broadcast commercials, print ads and direct mail.

They pointed to a growing number of consumers who were either purchasing products on line or seeking useful internet content to aid in their purchasing decisions.

We were told that these new consumers avoided all forms of interrupt marketing in favor of having “conversations” with their favorite companies and brands via social media.

In that same year direct mail accounted for over $58 billion in sales. So you would think that after almost eight years of social media, content marketing and the proliferation of smart phones that direct mail would be almost dead.

If that’s what you think then these facts may surprise you:

• 2013 annual sales in traditional off-line marketing, which includes direct mail, were $93 billion, while online marketing accounted for $62 billion. (Source: Experian)

• Direct mail is still the preferred channel for prospects who receive marketing from local businesses. (Source: Direct Marketing Association)

• The top three actions for people who received a direct mail piece included, 44% visiting the company’s website, 34% searching online and 26% who keep the direct mail piece for future reference. (Source: Direct Marketing Association)

Direct mail is different than social media marketing because most postcards or sales letters contain a specific call to action.

With direct mail you can ask them to buy something or at very least, visit your website, opt in to your newsletter or call to ask about your products and services.

Direct mail marketing also has the advantage of being measurable.

With the right metrics in place you’ll always know how many marketing pieces were sent, how many prospects responded and how many become customers.

Your company may see some return on their social media investment with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but since social media is more of a communication platform than a sales tool, it takes time.

By “time” I mean that it takes time for social media to work and it also takes time for the staff member you’ve chosen to complete the on-going task to update content and engage with prospects.

When it comes to social media many small businesses also start with a big disadvantage, because most of their prospects simply have no interest in following them on any social media platforms.

Which is why many of their “fans” are actually family, friends and fake followers. (And you wondered why more of your followers weren’t becoming customers ;>)

To engage on social media you also have to provide compelling content for your prospective customers. If you don’t have anyone on your staff with the skills to write content that people actually want to read, your followers will quickly tune you out.

If you have the time, energy and the skills necessary to create content for social media marketing, I would encourage your small business to do so.

However, if you want to do more than just communicate with your prospects in the hope that they’ll buy from you when they’re ready, don’t forget that old-fashioned marketing channel that can still make your cash register ring…

Direct mail marketing.