The best part about starting an online store, or a business online is that your costs are greatly reduced. No physical space to pay for and fewer employees to hire. Although things are good in the cost front your options of marketing are so vast and intimidating you may be wondering where to start or if you are already running an online store you may be looking for fresh ideas to increase sales. You can’t exactly hand out flyers on the street, attract people to your grand opening or feature your store on the radio.
And let's face it these tactics are not measurable and usually less effective anyway.
The concern I often hear when people tell me they’re thinking of starting an online store is “How do I get my store known when there are thousands of online stores like mine out there. Where do I start?”
Well, there are a lot of ways you can market your online store and it’s best if you build yourself a marketing strategy including a timeline and trajectory of where you want to go. Usually, a bad plan is better than no plan and with the number of resources available to you, it is easy to form a basic idea of where to start and how you are going to get there.
Click here to find out how we went from 0 to 20,000 page-views and drove an ROI of 788.13% in eight months.
For this blog post, I’m going to be going over what I think should be your first 5 marketing tactics. If you’re a newly launching online brand, or business, or looking to increase your lagging sales use the following 5 tactics to make the biggest splash online. If you have had your business for awhile, but haven’t engaged in some of these strategies, it’s never too late to start.
First things first, like any opening business, you should have a grand opening date but run one or more "soft launches" to iron out any of the kinks. Generate buzz through Facebook groups and other niche channels for the main even when your store goes live. This means you should put up your store before you announce it to the world and ask for lots of feedback. Once you tweak the site based on the feedback you get, then you should announce it to the world.
Stores often have what they call a “soft launch” the day they’re open for business, but not celebrated as a big event. Generally, a “soft launch” serves a specific purpose – to be a preview release to a small number of people or a specific audience in order to gauge reaction, and to find any flaws or gaps that can be adjusted before your “Grand Opening.”
This Methodology can also be applied to feature or product launches as well.
Your soft launch and your grand opening should both be hyped up. Your grand opening is the most important event to market. However, before any of this even happens, you should already be building your online presence. We talk a lot about building your online presence but if you are not an avid reader of our blog here's what you need to know.
Write or Publish Content
Once you know your business is a go ahead, and you’re just tailoring your website, and the last bits and pieces of your products/services, you should be thinking about building your online presence. This is probably the most important thing you can do for your business. If people don't know you exist online you will get a grand total of zero sales.
Do some research, and pick the social media platforms that best represent your targeted audience. I always say to start with the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Start curating content – whether or not that is from your product pictures, product descriptions, or even your business journey. People love to read behind the scenes, and the more personable and interesting you can make your business sound, the more engaged people will be.
We published a blog outlining the founding story of Ghostit and it is one of the most read blog posts to this day. You can read it below.
"From Starbucks Hopping to Downtown Office - Ghostit Founders Talk Startup Journey"
Don’t be disheartened if you receive little to no engagement in the beginning. What you want is to have content available for people to look at for when they do engage with your profile. Start researching similar brands and businesses and see what they’re doing. Use hashtags that are popular in your targeted audience’s community.
Once you’ve got your social presence down, you can begin working on blogs. Prepare a welcome blog introducing yourself, your business, and your products. As a business, you now have an authority in that particular industry. Use this new authority to your advantage by becoming a source of news and information. Create interesting content that your targeted audience would like to read.
Start with featuring what you can do with the items you’re selling – and include pictures, videos, tutorials etc. It’s best if you have a content strategy, but if you don’t while starting out that’s okay. The most important thing is to have something there (whether it’s one or two blogs to start) before your grand opening.
Team Up With Influencers
Now that you have somewhat of an online presence because you are creating your own content you can start to reach out to influences. Influencers can be anybody. They can be your friends, your family or complete strangers on the internet. Influencers can be famous, well-known people, or regular people with a large social network.
The point is you want as many people to endorse your product or service as possible before your grand opening. People are more likely to build a sense of trust and buy from a new business if they know someone has ventured into the unknown before them.
There are a couple of ways to do this. First off, start by getting your friends and family to comment, like or share your social media content. Do some digging – find out if any of your friends and family are secretly social media superstars and ask if they could use their online presence to promote your business or content. Go a step further and give them samples or even your products to model and tryout. Ask for honest testimonials, ask if you can use these testimonials for your website.
Come up with a measure of yourself i.e. is it worth providing a $20 product for free to someone who has less than 1k followers online. Use that as a guideline for reaching influencers online. Search keywords relating to your product or service on Instagram to see who is using it as a hashtag. Check out their profile, specifically the kinds of people who are engaging in their posts.
Is the engagement coming from people who fit your targeted audience? Is the engagement high? How many followers does this person have? Once you find a potential influencer, strike up a conversation. Keep your pitch short, simple and appealing. Rise and repeat.
If you don't know where to start here's an example. Say for Ghostit I need a tech influencer who is up to date in the space. I would go to Twitter and search "SaaS/Tech entrepreneurship or whichever keywords I think my customers would respond to. When I sort by people I can see a list of potential influencers that I can reach out to co-promote my item I am trying to get coverage. Try to find people above 10,000 followers. Typically they won't turn you down because they are not super famous but also have enough of a social following that it will make an impact on your online store or business.
Sponsor An Event In Person
As your online presence begins to grow, use your numbers to attract bigger influencers. Offer to sponsor them – for example, if you are selling gym wear, sponsor an upcoming fitness model by providing all their gear free of charge in exchange for promoting your brand.
Similarly, you can search for local or international events, and sponsor them by providing supplies. You can even sponsor someone to attend an event.
In order to make sure it’s not a waste of time and or resources, you have to do your research. Look for upcoming events, and ensure that the attendees fall into your targeted audience. These people should be interested in your business. Once you have a list, arrange them by cost. Begin planning out how invested you want to be in the event, will you sponsor an item for all the attendees to have, or will you just have a table present? If it’s later, be creative, put some thought into what you’ll be showing.
Finally, make sure you have all social media covering the fact that you are sponsoring this event. Make sure the event is providing you with shout-outs online and take a lot of photos for content. Just because your store is online doesn't mean an in-person event will be useless. In fact, an in-person event does two things:
- Allows you to get awesome content for your online store in a natural environment
- Put a face behind a name (your store). People love buying what they are familiar with and are much more likely to buy from you if they know you care about what you are selling and who you are selling to.
Provide a small sample of your product to a limited number of people. Exchange a sample for an honest testimonial. You can even make an event out of it by saying the first 100 e-mail sign-ups receive a product for free.
If you are selling gym clothing online reviews are super powerful. Just look how many results are from the term "gym clothing review". 841,000. And the top four results alone have a combined 684,000 views. Imagine if your clothing got a positive review from one of these Youtubers or influencers.
Pull A PR Stunt
Whether or not this is in real life or online, creating an out their event or stunt can bring a lot of traffic to your website if done right.
Plan out a PR stunt in real life and have it videoed. Feature your product, and have it short, straight to the point. For example, you can create one of those popular “challenges” that can be filmed and shared.
Other PR stunts can be simpler. Here are a couple of examples:
- Run an ad introducing a new product and marketing it as FREE, just pay for shipping.
- First 50 sign ups get this trinket free with a $5 purchase.
- Buy one get one free event.
This is not by any means an extensive list, but a great way to start your marketing strategy. Running an online store can be difficult and there are so many different options for getting traffic to the website so the best thing you can do is pick one of these five tactics and stick with it until you see measurable progress. Once you have data to make a decision try a new one and compare it with the old sample and repeat!