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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
The Sales Approach Your eCommerce Store Is Probably Missing (Using social marketing to overcome the most common cause of eCommerce failure)
By Rudy DeFelice, CEO, Bizinate.com

Over 20,000 ecommerce stores are opened every week in the U.S. Most of them will fail. And most of those will have one thing in common - they neglect to tap their best audience. It is not what they are selling, but who they are selling to, that matters most.

Finding your best audience

It has long been understood that social phenomena - fashion, a new band, a viral video - spread through social relationships. Malcolm Gladwell talked about "influencers" in the seminal book The Tipping Point. Influencers spot and adopt trends and through their adoption influence others in their social sphere to do the same. Geoffrey Moore articulated the spread of ideas through early adopters - those that are inclined to try new things early - in his masterpiece Crossing The Chasm. The common thread between these teachings is that ideas are cultivated by planting a few seeds in the right fields, and that only certain fields are receptive to those seeds. As those seeds sprout, they spread seeds more broadly. But you can't just scatter those to the wind - they rarely take.

So what does that mean for the 20,000 ecommerce stores that open each week? Their first, most important market is their own social circles. These are the fields in which they should plant their seeds first. People that know you - that trust your judgment, that care about your success - are your "early adopters". These may be friends and family or your broader personal network, or they may be professional acquaintances, depending upon your eCommerce business. But you should have a strategy devoted to tapping this market and enabling them to spread your message.

Why is your social network so critical?

Today it is so easy to buy almost anything. Do a search for your product or service and you're likely to find millions of results. How do you cut through the clutter?

A primary differentiator in a purchase decision is the customer's feelings towards the merchant or brand. When you can buy anything anywhere, the relationship with the merchant matters. Major brands spend millions of dollars to try to simulate that a relationship with consumers. But with your own social and business networks, you already have an authentic relationship. It's an important asset. So taking advantage of that authentic relationship is the most powerful first step to success in your own ecommerce business.

Of course, you can open your store and hope that people find you. That's what everyone else does. And that's the problem - you'll be lost in the great mass of options available. (Try searching for your products in Google - you'll likely find millions of search results competing with you.).
So you should have an affirmative market strategy, where you're reaching out to a core group of people that know you, and trying to set a viral chain in motion. If you make those people happy, they'll spread the word to their networks and you'll be on your way.

How to reach your best market?

Knowing whom to reach is one thing. How to reach them is another. Fortunately, it's never been easier. As the wide variety of choices has made connection between a buyer and seller increasingly more important, various social media tools and social behavior have made it much easier to reach people and tap that connection. Consequently, a few simple steps can get you in touch with this important market and should be part of your strategy:

• Get personal with social media tools: There have been few areas in marketing that have created more confusion than how to use social media tools. There are certainly benefits to blogging and accumulating Facebook fans, but those are very hard to trace and if they lead to transactions at all, it is usually over a long period of time.

Still, social media tools are quite valuable for reaching large numbers of people you know easily. They make the mechanics of contacting people easier. In a few strokes you can reach a whole network. The average Facebook user has 256 ‘friends'. That means your message can be in front of 256 people, and depending upon their response, their friends, almost instantly.

• Have something new to say: It is said that in retail, the product stays the same so the audience must change, or the audience stays the same so the product must change. In tapping your social network, a relatively constant audience, you'll need to continually change the product. That can be an actual change of the product - let's say you grew your inventory by adding new products or added some products that complement your services business (an IT service company that is now selling electronics, perhaps). Alternatively, perhaps there is something new to say about existing products - an upcoming holiday or change of seasons makes an existing product relevant in new ways. The important thing is that when you're tapping a constant audience over time that you say something new and of value and interest to that audience.

• Increase your online presence: Whether you are considering building an eCommerce site or have one already, you should consider existing platforms as possible forums. If you don't have a commerce site, these platforms can get you up quickly. If you do have an eCommerce site, third party platforms can create an additional online home and give you access to additional tools.

Three you can check out are

a) Shopify.com ($29 - $179/mo.). Sophisticated inventory tracking and many plug-ins to manage customers. Imposes limits on products and storage at various price points.
b) Volusion.com ($19-$149/mo.). Offers eCommerce sites as well as web design and marketing services for an additional fee.
c) Bizinate.com (Free). Simple set up in 3 minutes or less. Offer services or products. Includes an inventory of products and ongoing daily deals you can add to your items.

All of these providers will give a professional looking site that offers additional marketing presence and access to social media tools easily.

Your goal is to build awareness first from people who know you, trust you, and have an interest in your success. People have a relatively short memory for new things, so you need to keep a consistent, ongoing effort. When someone has a need for your services or products, or someone they know does, you need to be top of mind. By leveraging your broader social network you are tapping your best source of customers. If you live up to your promise with this group, they will help you spread your message. Don't be one of the 20,000 stores that fail each week.

About the Author:
Bizinate.com is on a mission to help launch a million new businesses. It provides the easiest place to launch your eCommerce company, providing a high quality web site, payment processing, marketing tools and business cards for free. You can be up and running in 3 minutes or less on Bizinate, selling products or services. Bizinate provides an inventory of products and promotional deals that you can sell along with your own products. Bizinate has been featured on CNN, ABC, Fox Business News, WSJ.com, Entrepreneur.com and other major media outlets. Bizinate is based in Los Angeles, California.



 

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