To be successful, a business needs to have products, a market and customers in order to make sales. You can find out more in this previous blog post about the Foundation of a Successful Business. It's fundamental to the long-term success of the business. Cash-flow and revenue are the blood and blood pressure that keeps the business alive. Yet, we often hear about these digital businesses that get started and then fail very quickly because they make no sales or revenue. There are new business start-ups that have no plan for marketing or for finding customers and they will not last out the first year.
Just having a pretty website that looks great (but doesn't sell anything) is not going to develop into a long-term profitable business.
Many businesses owners believe that if you build and launch a website it will be instantly flooded by visitors. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Search engines drive traffic and customers to your website and Google is the elephant in the room of search engines. Google controls over 80% of the search engine traffic. At the same time Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) firms have become the SPAM masters. I am sure that you have all received the emails:
Pay us a $1,000 a month and be number one on Google....
Some business owners believe that some magical short cut exists that will make the new online store an instant success and revenue generator. But there is no magic bullet and throwing away $1,000's in dodgy SEO practices will not make you one sale.
Good SEO practices are important to the success of your online store but you need to have your website / online store ready to get the best results. That means that you need to build good quality content and conform to the recommendation of Google and other search engines in order to rank well and have your website and products found online. Google provides lots of great information and advice about SEO Best Practice with their SEO Starter Guide and doing some homework is worthwhile. But there are also many features built into your ecommerce platform to help you make the most of the digital marketing opportunities.
These features are often overlooked but are easy to setup (examples in the eCorner Platform).
NOTE: There is helpful information in each section in the eCorner eCommerce platform so look for the Tips & Tricks, and notes.
Google provides free tools to help you understand what is happening to your website content and tools to improve your search engine optimisation. Highly recommended is that you sign up for a free Google Search Console account and add your website. Google will give you lots of tips and great ideas. There is a useful forum to help you uderstand some of the search engine mysteries.
To sign up just search on Google Search Console in the Google search engine and follow the instructions to get started.
NOTE: You need to add a Meta Tag to your website to connect to Google Search Console. Its easy to do so just ask firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
For any business to be successful, apart from viable products and good customer service, you need to market. Marketing in the digital age has changed in the way it is delivered but you still need to do it. So an online store without a marketing plan basically has little hope of succeeding.
The Sales Funnel is just as important online as it is in any traditional, or bricks and mortar business, in fact maybe more important. Online the sales funnel starts with traffic to your website but not just any type of traffic. It needs to be made up primarily of people who are interested in what you do.
It is the core job of good marketing to get a pool of people or companies interested in your products and services into the funnel. The sales job, in the digital world the website, is to convert the pool into prospects and then into customers by taking them on a journey. That journey ends up in a sale and a long term satisfied customer. Marketing helps map that journey and provide the content to guide your potential customers.
A new website will not succeed without marketing. There are many tools available to help you market and there is a connection between the website content and marketing.
Remember the golden rule - CONTENT IS KING.
When you launch a new website the work is not over it is just beginning. So you need a plan to manage the marketing process and to track updates and changes. An important aspect of understanding what you need to do is capturing the 'big data' the analytics about what people are doing on your website. Without that information you cannot have an effective marketing plan. If you are an eCorner customer we provide you with a great tool called Wagtail Analytics and Reporting but you might use Google Analytics or one of the many reporting tools available.
On average according to Gartner businesses spend over 10% of their revenue on marketing, and including 2.5% - 5% on digital marketing. While some primarily digital businesses might spend a much higher percentage on digital marketing channels.
There are specific targets that you need to identify and then determine the best way to hit them.
But remember that the one true fact that you can rely on is change. Nothing really stays still in the digital world so you need to be on a constant review and improvement path. There are new tools that can be effectively used that become available so testing new marketing tactics can lead to quick results.
Digital spend has often been centered on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) with the main player being Google Adwords. If the campaign is built well then it can be an effective way to drive qualified opportunities into the sales funnel. SEM is not cheap and you cannot run a successful Adwords campaign on a dollar a day. Other search engines offer similar services such as Bing Ads.
The Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter now also offer paid advertisement that can deliver good results often at a lower cost. But social media pages can be effective marketing. The channel itself maybe free but there is effort involved in running successful social media channels.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns using one of the shopping portals can also help drive qualified opportunities to your business.
Google Merchant Centre allows you to deliver a product feed directly from your website that will deliver product ad tiles during search.
The benefit of these portals is that they have a higher than average digital marketing spend and often a higher search engine ranking so they can get exposure that you might not be able to get.
If you are a small business looking for local customers then take advantage of Google Local a free service. Local search is becoming increasingly more important for small business.
Once your website is live and you start to get visitors then you can also start to market to your visitors. There are lots of ways to do this both from your website and fron search engine marketing systems like Google Ads Remarketing. You need to be aware of the legal issues like the anti-spam requirements but in general there is nothing wrong or illegal about marketing to past visitors.
Sending you visitors a newsletter with information about special offers and promotions is a great way to reconnect and get return customers. Offering a coupon for a gift card or discount can also help tempt return visitors to buy from your online store. If you own a bricks and mortar store then why not accept those coupons in store as well. Coupons can be used for a variety of reasons and also work to attract customers via social media channels.
TIP: You can print coupon codes and pack them into orders that you are shipping to a customer as an incentive to shop again.
You will find that visitors to your website will start a new shopping basket and add some products, then proceed to checkout but never finish. This is called Basket Abandonment and can often count for 80% or more of the shopping baskets that are started.
There are now a number of systems available that allow you to capture the email address of a potential customer who starts a basket and then email them reminders with information about their incompleted basket. You can add marketing information like cross-sell products and also offers like a discount coupon that they can use to reduce the cost in the basket. If you use eCorner then Wagtail can provide information about uncompleted shopping baskets or you can also get similar information from other systems like Google Analytics.
eCorner now offer a shopping cart recovery service, Wagtail Cart Recovery, as part of some of our packages or it can be added to any package for a small monthly fee.
80% of the failed online businesses failed as a direct result of not doing any marketing. If you want your new digital business to succeed then develop a marketing plan, think a little outside of the square and expect change. If you want to generate a million dollars in sales a year then expect to spend $50,000 - $100,000 a year on marketing.
When you first sit down and decide to start your new online business remember that you need to develop a budget and a plan. Your business plan needs to have a marketing component that will establish your online store and brand in your chosen market sector.
Marketing is a continuous process so allocate some time every day to look at areas to improve.
If you take advantage of Search Engine Margeting it can often be wise to consult with an expert. But make sure that you set a budget you can afford and work with in it. Never just setup an online marketing campaign and leave it as you need constant monitoring to achive the best results.