I get a kick out of all the ecommerce software companies telling people to just set up an online store (using their software of course) and you’ll get rich. The result of such thinking is usually a store that goes broke or shuts down in months, not years.
It is true that an online store’s general overhead is low in that you don’t have a large rental expense, and your operating staff is generally less for similar sales at a brick and mortar store. Both of these factors should mean you will have a larger potential profit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Because you have no walk in traffic, who will see your catchy window display, you must market your store more aggressively. If some “marketing” expert tells you that all you have to do is rely on search engine and social media visits run, don’t walk, as fast as you can. Instead get ready to aggressively market your store with every traditional and online tool you can afford. Eventually and depending on your product, you might be able to depend on word of mouth a little, but that will take a long time. So be prepared to work hard and spend a lot on marketing.
Here’s a list of factors that will affect the success of your online store:
1- Desire or Need: Do you have a product or service that people desire or better yet need? The more a potential needs or desires your offering the easier it will be to successfully market the store.
2- Uniqueness: If you are selling the same thing everyone else is it, will be harder to get market share. If, however, you have a unique solution to a problem or an item that is desirable and not available in other stores, your marketing costs could be much lower. Also, the more unique your offering the higher the potential sale price.
3- Quality: If you ship inferior products your return rate will be high. Returns not only cut into your profits, they make it a lot harder to market. If you cannot reply on repeat sales your marketing cost will increase because you are constantly looking for new customers.
If all three of the above are in line with your plans then you have operations to worry about:
1- Store front must be easy to use.
2- Delivery must be rapid so you must have stock and personnel to ship quickly.
3- Like any other retailer you must merchandise your ecommerce site. New products and promotions are essential.
4- Comprehensive marketing and advertising plan.
Are people making money with online store? Yes they are. If you want to then you have to work hard for it, just like everything in life that is worthwhile.
I have been an advocate of social media every since our modern iteration started in the early 2000s. It’s my belief that most companies will benefit from a well run social media program, but social media marketing is not the “elixir for marketing” many practitioners would have you believe. Frankly, I shake my head in dismay when I read, statements made by so called experts, that social media is free and that it will increase your sales immediately. These are, clearly, people that have not seriously put together and operated a social media marketing program. I put them in the same class as SEO “experts who claim they will get you the top position on Google search.
Marketing for any size company is so much more than just social media. There is a mix of marketing communication tools that work in the short term and others that are long term. You need both. You cannot just harvest all the time without planting seeds. And you have to know the difference between what “seeds” are and what “Crops” are.
Social media is a seed and here is why:
1- Social media takes a long time to build momentum. First you have to attract an audience. In many ways, it’s similar to generating a permission based email list. Once you have an audience you have to provide information that is interesting to your Fans (sorry, I hate using Like to mean Fan) and that propels your product or service through the sales funnel. This takes time and money.
2- Like email, not every message you create will be read by your fans. When I say read I really mean impressions. Just because your message is on a page does not mean it is viewed by the fan. It’s the same with emails. Read rates really mean impressions. It takes lots of messages to get to a larger audience and that takes time. Seed.
3- “Experts” like to say that you can create a dialogue with your customer and get lots of good information to help market better. That might be true if you have millions of fans (Likes) or have a product or service that is so unique and awesome that people love taking about it. If, however, you are a small to medium size company it is unlikely that you will get the interaction these “Experts” say you will. The truth is most people are passive on sites such as Facebook pages, meaning they are lookers not posters. Again you are planting seeds to be harvested at a much later date.
4- Social media does help you with search engine optimization. The more you post and the more social media sites you participate in, the more your company shows up search results. If you’re smart you will be sure that all your posts have one or more of your company’s most important keywords or phrases in the copy. Again these are seeds. SEO, like social media is a seed.
5- The good news is sites such as Facebook and Linkedin have very solid programs that allow you to advertise. Advertising is more of a crop harvesting tool and can generate sales or leads pretty quickly. Facebook allows you to not only advertise but also promote your own posts. For ads you pay per click or impressions and for posts you pay for impressions. The issue is that these ads are passive in nature. Like a magazine, they are presented on a page and ignored or acted on based on the message. People on social media are not necessarily seeking a solution, but rather are pursuing social media (flipping the pages) for pleasure.
This is entirely different than search engine advertising where people are seeking a solution (product, service, idea) and that allows you to jump the line, so to speak, and get your message at the top of the search results. That is if you are willing to pay for it.
It is important for you to plant your social media seeds, but keep in mind that the results are long term and understand where the social media marketing tool fits in the mix.
You may have heard about how the digital age is rapidly changing the book publishing world. Authors of both fiction and non- fiction works now have an array of opportunities to self-publish their creative efforts. This eliminates having your work filtered by a few traditional publishers, and it gives readers choices they would never have seen before. Books can be created in e-book form or printed in the traditional form by using new technology that allows books to be printed on demand.
While authors benefit most by this trend, as a business owner or manager, you may be able to use this technology to improve your public image and increase sales at the same time. You have probably heard this new phrase going around, “Content is King,” meaning that providing valuable information to prospects and customers increases your intellectual capital, your search engine optimization, and in the end, your overall sales. Some so-called experts claim this is new marketing tool. That is—please excuse this term—BS. Marketers have been using informational content as a marketing tool for ages.
In the 1980s, my company provided content that was used by AT&T in executive seminars that educated C-level managers of very large companies about the importance of data transmission. Data transmission seems like a simple idea now, but in the 80s it was a very new technology. In a two-year period, the company was able to track over $250 million in sales from these seminars. In my forty-year career as a marketing service professional, I have created countless tools for disseminating content.
The difference now is that,you don’t have to be a multibillion or multimillion dollar company to implement an effective customer education program. It can be accomplished through blogs, your web site, simple videos, webinars, and a host of other means. And you can use the power of low-cost self publishing to establish you or your company as an expert in your field, use books as a promotional tool to increase business, and even sell your book. Here are a few examples of how small and medium-sized companies can use self-publishing to grow their business. (All persons and companies are fictional and created only to serve as examples.)
In order to help attract more customers to his restaurant, Dolce Cipolla created and self-published a recipe book. He included little-known recipes from his mother’s kitchen, and a few of his restaurant’s most popular dishes. His book was made available on Amazon in print format and he promoted the book on his restaurant’s social media profiles, on his website, and through some write-ups in the local newspaper.
Dolce always gives signed copies of his book to his special customers and has held several promotional events where each customer can get a free, signed copy. Although he hasn’t made much money selling the book through Amazon, he has seen a definite increase in business.
Jason El Vapaa provides consulting services for techical companies. Over the years, he has created a number of white papers and made them available on his web site and social media. He felt, however, that the white papers were not being downloaded as often as he would have liked. He began looking for a new method to disseminate information. He decided to turn his white papers into a self published book.
He used the book as a marketing tool to get appointments, and also made it available after his speeches at conferences. In some cases, he even sells the book. He has found that a tactile object such as a well printed book is more valued than most electronic files. But to accomodate those who would rather read on their tabet, he also made an e-book version available.
These are just two examples of how self-publishing could help businesses. With just a little imagination, you can see how self publishing a book could help your business too.