So you’ve launched your brand-new, all-singing, all-dancing online shop, but you are wondering how to promote it? We tell all in our practical, step-by-step guide.
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is the process of producing blog articles, videos, photos, infographics, or any other form of ‘content’ that appeals to your target audience, with the aim of attracting visitors to your website.
How it works
Imagine you sell handbags. It’s coming up to the holiday season, so you write a blog post titled ‘The perfect outfit for the office Christmas party’.
In the article you list a dress, jacket, shoes and, crucially, one of your own handbags. You include good photos of all the products you mention and ensure you link to the product page where readers can buy your handbag.
So how does this attract traffic? This is your ideal scenario: a fashion-conscious woman is looking for inspiration on what to wear to her office party. She turns to Google and searches for ‘christmas party outfit’ - and up pops your article.
She clicks on the article and likes what she sees, so she clicks through to your handbag product page and then starts browsing your shop. Bingo!
A content strategy
Having a strategy for your content is essential. It should be something you set aside time for each week.
The most important aspect of your strategy is understanding your target audience. What are their interests? How old are they? What content will be useful to them?
Once you know who you’re targeting, the next step is to plan your posts. Coming up with valuable and relevant content can be hard. Keep a list of potential headlines that you add to whenever you have an idea.
As well as a list of content ideas, add important dates to your calendar with reminders to publish relevant articles. So, a month before Valentine’s Day you might post an article like ’10 fool-proof Valentine’s gifts for the woman in your life’.
You should also think about how the content will be structured. Types of posts that work well are:
- Lists: Quick reads that can be packed with products. e.g. ’10 great handbags to go with that little black dress’
- Informative/‘how to’ posts: Articles with tips or advice. e.g. ‘What to wear for that all-important job interview’
- Topical/relevant: Making your post topical is a great way to get people reading it. e.g. ‘The best and worst handbags at the Oscars’
- Amusing posts: Difficult to achieve but very likely to be shared on social media if they hit the mark. e.g ‘5 hilarious things we’ve woken up with in our handbags’
Make sure you measure
Once you’ve got your strategy sorted and you’re regularly producing content, the next thing to do is measure how well it’s working.
Each month you should look at what articles generated the most traffic to your site, and which of those led to the most sales.
Use a tool like Google Analytics for this.
No financial cost here - the main cost to content marketing is that it takes a lot of time. To build an effective library of content, you'll need to put a lot of effort into both strategy and production.
2. Mailing List
Email marketing is the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. If you’re not using it effectively, you’re missing out on sales.
Building your mailing list
If you have a visitor on your website and they don’t buy from you, the next best thing is to capture their email address.
One of the best ways to do that is to use a box with a sign-up form, ideally offering something in exchange for the visitor's email address. e.g. ‘Sign up and get 10% off your next order’
Another good technique is to incorporate a sign-up field at the end of your blog posts. The idea is that, if they enjoyed reading one of your posts, they’ll likely enjoy the other content you might send them.
You should also offer customers the chance to join your mailing list as part of the checkout process.
Using your mailing list
Once you’ve built your list, it’s time to start using it.
Just like your content marketing strategy, it’s important to have a plan for email marketing. In fact, it should simply be an extension of your content strategy.
Create a list of ideas for marketing emails, and update it frequently. You should be aiming for one email a week, so you’ll need plenty of ideas! Here are a few:
- Promote new or upcoming products
- Offer discounts or promote sales
- Send out relevant articles from your blog
- Mix up product and non-product content so it doesn’t feel too salesy
Take inspiration from other brands' mailing lists - particularly those you subscribe to and read. What makes their content interesting and relevant to you?
MailChimp offers a free service to send 12,000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers, with monthly fees of $10-$150 for more than 2,000 subscribers and/or unlimited emails.
3. Social Media
If you do it right, social media can have a big impact on your sales figures. The aim of the game is getting your customers to be your brand advocates - promoting your company for you.
Where to start
The first thing to do is think about which platforms you’re going to use. Typically the visual ones, like Instagram and Pinterest, work best for online shops. But Twitter and Facebook are also very important. A Shoppable Instagram, as in the Skinnydip example above, can be a great way of generating revenue for visual industries, such as fashion or homeware.
It can sometimes be useful to focus on one platform, particularly if you are limited with the amount of time you can spend.
What should you be posting?
Just like your mailing list, your social media strategy will be closely tied into your content marketing strategy.
Our advice would be to split your posts so that only 20% is promotional. The rest being interesting content that appeals to your audience. Followers won't appreciate a constant stream of promotional messages only. They want to be informed and entertained, rather than just sold to.
Join in the conversation
As well as posting out content to your followers, it’s important to get involved with conversations.
A good way to do this is to see what’s trending and comment on it - particularly if it’s something that your target audience might be interested in. It will sometimes seem off-topic to talk about current events, but it all helps give your brand personality.
Reward your followers
A great way to engage people is to give something away. Typically in exchange for them posting, sharing or ‘liking’ something.
This might be simply sending a personal message when they buy something, or an exclusive discount code, or a competition.
Going back to our handbag company, an idea might be to get people to post photos of themselves wearing your bags, tagging your company in the post. The great thing about this is that their network of followers will all see these posts, creating a viral effect that spreads the message of your brand.
This is also known as UGC (User-Generated Content), which is great as it introduces variety in your stream without you having to invest time in creating it.
Whether you do this yourself will depend a little on your budget. If instead you decide to outsource your social media marketing to an agency, you'd be expected to pay £1300-£2600/month for Twitter and £1600-£3200/month for Facebook.
Getting good PR is all about having a story. Magazines, newspapers and blogs are always looking for article ideas, so the key is to make your story relevant to their audience.
Know your audience
The first thing you need to do is make a list of publications that your target market is likely to read. Find out contact details including a contact name for each one.
Once you have your list, you then need to segment it into different focuses. A national newspaper will have a very different focus to a blog, so your pitch to them will need to be different.
Work out your angle
Still using the handbag company example, if you were pitching to a blogger that focussed on sustainable fashion, you might centre your story around your locally-sourced materials and the process for developing the bags.
If you were pitching to a more style-focussed blogger, your story might rather revolve around a unique design element or a tie-in to a new trend.
Make it easy for them
Journalists are busy people, they receive a constant stream of promotional messages from brands trying to get featured. Make sure your pitch is clear, concise, and it has something to stand out from the crowd.
Include a phone number in your email so they can easily call you for more information.
Give something away
This is only applicable to certain businesses, but if you can, it’s worth giving your product away to the journalist you're pitching to.
Firstly, they’re getting a nice freebie, so they’ll immediately be in a good mood. And secondly, they're able to get a much better sense of the product.
This works particularly well in the fashion industry. Many style bloggers will 'review' (read: wear and photograph) your product, but they'll expect to keep it as a gift in return.
Like content marketing, there's no cost here other than the time it takes you to do it. For small businesses and start-ups, it's often something you'll do yourself - particularly as founding your business will likely be a key element of your story. However, if you're short on time or not versed in writing press releases, it is advisable to outsource your PR to a specialised agency - you will be charged a minimum of £500/month upwards.
5. Pay-per click advertising / Google AdWords
Paid advertising is not always the first option for new businesses as it requires cash (rather than good old-fashioned hard work). But, if you have the funds, it can be a great way to generate sales.
How it works
Pay-per-click (PPC) adverts are audience-targeted ads, typically shown in search listings and on social media websites.
If someone clicks on your ad, they get taken to your website and you get charged a fee.
The great thing about PPC is that once it’s all set up correctly, and you’re generating a return on your investment, you can simply ramp up your ad spend to increase your revenue.
Managing your ad campaigns
Running pay-per-click marketing is a time-consuming and complicated process. Google AdWords is renowned for being difficult to use.
If you plan on running your own campaigns it would be advisable to spend plenty of time researching best practice and familiarising yourself with the keyword bidding process. It’s very easy to lose money if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The alternative is to hire an agency to run your campaigns for you. They’ll have the expertise and experience to make it a success.
Google AdWords lets you choose how much you think your advert is worth, 10p for example, and you only ever pay that when someone clicks on it. As a guiding figure, AdWords campaigns normally start at around £400/month if you're looking for effective results.
6. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you let other people market your products in return for a percentage of sales that you generate as a result of their efforts.
How it works
Affiliate marketing relies on being able to track the source of a particular sale. You typically provide a unique URL that affiliate marketers can use to advertise your products.
A blogger, for example, would then post this URL on their website with an accompanying article about your company.
When a customer clicks on that URL, they’ll be taken to your website and, if they make a purchase, the affiliate tracking software will attribute that sale to the blogger.
An affiliate network is a ready-made network of marketers that are looking for affiliate schemes like yours. They take the pain out of finding affiliates, so are the easiest option for getting up and running.
Some example networks include Rakuten LinkShare, Commission Junction and ShareASale.
DIY affiliate marketing
The alternative to using an affiliate network is to promote your affiliate scheme yourself. This involves contacting potential affiliate marketers and selling them your scheme. Whilst this approach requires more effort, it is also much cheaper.
If you want to take this route, you’ll need to invest in affiliate tracking software, such as Lead Dyno, Wigify or Refersion.
The affiliate will take a percentage as a commission. This can vary greatly, with some taking 6% and others up to 50%, largely depending on the type of product you are marketing. If you use an affiliate network, they will also take a fee in return for you accessing their contacts.
A long read, but hopefully worthy of your time. With all basics covered, you're now ready to give your online store's marketing a boost!