Let’s get right into it.
- You don’t have the luxury of a massive marketing campaign.
- You can’t afford to hire talent.
- You don’t have the time to get started on your marketing degree, either.
You’ll simply have to make do with what you have. And you don’t have a lot of room for failure. What do you do?
1: Improve your personal understanding of marketing by analyzing the marketing that’s worked on you.
This is the force multiplier, which makes it the most important thing of all. You can’t hope to control what you don’t understand.
Understanding marketing well requires:
- Exposure to marketing as it is done in the real world (everybody has this; everybody is marketed to)
- Critical analysis of marketing as it is done in the real world (this is where you gain an advantage over others)
- Actual marketing practice in the real world, with actionable feedback
You won’t become a seasoned professional overnight, but you can make the most of your situation by analysing your own personal experiences more thoroughly.
Ask yourself: What marketing has worked on you?
List out all the brands and products that you love.
- What was your first encounter with them like?
- How did you fall in love with them?
- What was it about the experiences that inspired your personal loyalty? If you’re working as part of a team, ask your peers about this, too.
The common denominator seems to be this: Good marketing is the fulfillment of a promise. It could be a promise of quality, of responsiveness, of design. The challenge for marketers is to make a good promise, and then overdeliver.
2: Optimize the basic things that you can immediately effect.
Your site should not-suck.
Your site is the main point of contact for your ecommerce business, so it has to really shine.
We highly recommend you drop by GoodUI.org for some quick, actionable advice on optimizing your landing page.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to give you their money.
Don’t leave anything to chance.
Upon landing on your site, your customers should immediately be able to tell what you’re selling, and why they ought to buy it.
Make it easy for them.
Get your analytics in order.
Google Analytics is a must for any sort of online enterprise. It’s fairly easy to learn, and there are lots of resources online to help you along the way.
You need to have a clear sense of the kind of hits you’re getting, and what sources they’re from.
Without this data, you’re operating blind, and you won’t be able to carefully calibrate and fine-tune your marketing efforts in response to feedback.
3: Define your conditions for medium-term success.
In a perfect world with unlimited resources, you want to do all of the following:
- You want to get as many people “in the door” as possible (leads)
- You want as large a proportion of them as possible to buy something (conversion rate)
- You want to maximize (1) & (2) such that you make enough revenue to sustain and grow your business.
Since you’ve got limited resources, you’re won’t be able to defeat MegaBrands in a head-on battle. You’ll just get stomped on.
What you want to do is to identify a specific group of people, and speak directly to them and their unique needs. Even Facebook started out as a service for college students before it grew into what it is today.
You have a few options at this stage:
- You could try paying for ads (paid search ads, or social media ads).
- You could try investing in social media engagement.
- You could put together a content strategy that gets you organic search hits.
Of all of the above, a content strategy is the most “durable”.
Good content pieces are assets that keep generating leads for you indefinitely. Each new piece of content accelerates your lead generation. I’d recommend focusing the bulk of your marketing effort on content generation, supplemented with some day-to-day social media management.
Use your social media channels to build and maintain relationships with people in your market, as well as to distribute your content. Always be friendly, helpful and respectful to those who give you the gift of their attetion.
4: Make sure you keep learning as you go.
You need to get to know the people who are operating in the space that you’re planning to ultimately dominate. You need to understand the rules of engagement in the community or niche that you’re going to be a part of.
Ideally, you’ve already been a native for many years before you even thought of starting this business.
- Who are your customers? Find out who the important people are, and see where they hang out.
- What exactly is the problem that you’re helping them solve? If you’re selling hardware tools, for instance, you’ll definitely want to make a few “How-To” videos on YouTube, because that’s what your potential customers will be searching for.
- How is your solution better than whatever’s already available? It doesn’t need to be “completely superior” (there’s hardly ever such a thing), it just needs to be different in a way that a significant group of people would find it interesting enough to spend money on it.
Let’s explore a fictional case study: Suppose you’re selling candy.
We’ll assume you love candy to begin with and have some expertise in the subject, which is why you’re selling it.
- Identify all the candy enthusiasts you can possibly find online. Who’s making it? Who’s eating it? Who’s doing YouTube reviews of it? Who’s blogging about it?
- Saturate your personal newsfeed with all the candy news you can get. Start reading all the candy blogs. Follow all the candy enthusiasts, join all the candy forums.Do this until you’re absolutely certain that you know more about candy than anybody else. You should at least be in the top 20% of people who know candy better than the bottom 80%. Otherwise why are you even in the business? If it’s more than you can take in, scale back and focus on absorbing a few channels that matter the most. Always be on the lookout for a better source of information (but don’t let that allow you to be complacent in your interactions with others!)
- Tell the world who you are, and be as specific as possible. What’s so special or interesting about your candy? Is it sweeter? Richer? More fun, more entertaining, more varied? Cheaper? Healthier?
- Develop and execute a rudimentary content strategy.
- About your candy: How is your candy made? Who makes it? How is it packaged? How many different kinds of candy are there? Use lots of pictures, and communicate lots of passion and attention to detail. A compelling enough story can drive people to make purchases they otherwise wouldn’t consider.
- Uses for your candy: What can people do with your candy? What are the uses of candy? What sort of desserts could be made with candy? What sort of occasions might someone buy your candy as a gift?
- Other candy-related goodness: What’s the history of candy? What did you think about Christina Aguilera’s Candyman? What about the 1992 horror film Candyman? Candy (2006)? Hard Candy (2005)?
- Identify every single possible thing that people might search for.
- Types of candy: Peppermint? Gumdrops? Gummy bears? Marshmellows? Taffies? Candy floss? Cotton candy? What are the different sorts of candy available around the world? What are the health benefits of candy?
- History of candy: What interesting ways could candy be packaged in? How did candycanes become a Christmas tradition? What about Easter Eggs? What about trick-or-treating at Halloween?
Once you’ve listed out all these questions, figure out which are the ones you’d love to have the answer to, and which ones you’d be able to answer almost immediately. Ask your newfound friends in your candy communities about what they’d like to know more about, what they’d like to read. Grill yourself with questions, then get somebody to grill you too.
Writing all of these posts will take time, of course.
But they’re gifts that keep on giving. You’ll never be completely sure in advance which posts will be your superstars, so churn them out as quickly as you can.
- Take some time to learn the basics of SEO, but don’t get overly obsessed about it at the expense of content creation.
- Try to keep your social media profiles fairly up-to-date. Don’t allow people to think that nobody’s home. Avoid spammy, robotic, repetitive tweets. If you’re a small business, feel free to update the world on how the business is doing- what challenges are you facing? What are you working on? Serendipity might smile on you. Make sure to communicate a positive attitude, though: nobody grows to love a business that runs on complaints and grievances.
- Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated: Identify the value that your product creates for your customers, and then communicate that value to them as effectively as you can.
- ConversionXL.com/blog – for useful ideas on improving your conversion rates
- Seth Godin – The Bootstrapper’s Bible – for a general guide to the chaotic bliss of the limited-resource life
PS: It’s been rather challenging to try and squeeze everythin into a single post; let us know if there’s anything you’d like to know about!