You've launched your ecommerce site. Now what?
You've picked a niche, found suppliers, set up a website, and celebrated the opening of your new online store. Your hopes are high, and your excitement is through the roof. You are now officially an ecommerce entrepreneur!
But as you stare at your computer screen, waiting for orders to come rolling in, a question floats to the surface of your mind: How can I make my first sale? And my second? And how can I continue building my business into a thriving shop? What's next?
A recent article on the Shopify blog lists 50 ways to make your first sale. You can click on any item in the list for a detailed explanation of how to implement each strategy, so I highly recommend checking it out
However, this list of 50 strategies and explanations for each one is essentially a book, and a to-do list of this size can be overwhelming and intimidating.
I recently got the following email from a reader, Mitesh:
Hey Leighton, Just to let you know that I have finally launched my eCommerce site at http://traditionalshavingshop.co.uk. Please feel free to give me any advice suggestions on the website, also as to how I can get customers and drive sales initially. Would you be kind enough to create a tutorial on this?
My goal in this post is to give some practical advice to any of you who are in the same boat as Mitesh. Of course, every niche is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula that will guarantee your store's success. However, there are some general principles I'm going to discuss that will hopefully give you a better idea of practical steps you can take after launching your ecommerce business.
1. Create fabulous content
Photo by LucasTheExperience
Or, as Corbett Barr says, "Write epic shit." Seriously, read that article--it's good.
The basic principle is this: consistently produce high-quality content, and people will share it with others and come back to you for more.
This is the strategy that I talked about with Pat Flynn in a recent podcast episode. Pat is building his new FoodTruckr brand by creating blog posts and podcast episodes that are much, much more than just SEO-optimized, keyword-stuffed strings of English words. He's producing content that people in his niche actually appreciate and share. He's not worrying about things like spinning articles and building backlinks--he's just creating stuff that real people find interesting.
How it benefits you
It's pretty straightforward: when you publish interesting, informative stuff, you'll drive traffic to your website and people will become aware of your brand.
Content marketing has huge potential. Think of it this way: You could spend $1000 driving 5000 visitors to your website. Or, you could spend 5 hours creating an epic blog post that gets shared and tweeted hundreds or thousands of times. There is a time and place for both tactics, but some people focus on the former and forget the latter.
How to do it
First, create a content schedule. It's important to be consistent, so figure out your strategy and then stick to it. Here's an example content creation schedule:
- A podcast with new episodes every other week
- A blog with new articles every week
- A YouTube video about one of your products twice a month
Pretty simple, isn't it? Again, the important thing is to be consistent, but also to make sure that the content you publish is high quality. It takes serious time and mental energy to write well, or to record/edit/publish a podcast, but this investment is vital for an effective content marketing plan.
Now, this doesn't mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on professional video production or on recording equipment for your podcast. It's more important that the content of your articles/podcasts/videos/infographics is high quality, even if the production quality isn't perfect.
For example, I record my podcast on an Audio-Technica ATR2100 Microphone (affiliate link). It cost me about $50, and that's all I use to record my podcasts. Some podcasters spend hundreds or more on equipment, but that's not necessary to get started.
These days you can record HD video with an iPhone. You can take product photos with your smartphone, as long as you have good lighting. My point is that when I say you need to produce fabulous content, I'm not talking about spending tons of money on equipment. However, it's extremely important to do your research and make sure that you know what you're talking about and do a good job of communicating that knowledge.
2. Build an engaged social following
Photo by Sean MacEntee
Social media marketing goes hand in hand with the previous point, content marketing.
How it benefits you
First, create fabulous content, then get your tremendously engaged social media followers to talk about it and spread the word! If you have even a few Facebook fans or Twitter followers who are passionate about your brand, then they are going to be the spark that ignites a wildfire of traffic when they start talking about the amazing content you created in step 1.
Having engaged social followers is extremely powerful because of the potential for exponential growth. For example, let's say you have 1000 Facebook fans who truly care about your brand or product. Let's also say that each of those fans has an average of 500 Facebook friends. If you publish a piece of amazing content, and mention it on Facebook, and 10% of your fans share your post on their own walls, then you've just reached (1000 fans x 10% x 500 friends) = 50,000 people. If 1% of those 50,000 people share your post, then you've just reached (50,000 x 1% x 500 friends) = 250,000 people.
This is how things go viral. My numbers above are probably unrealistic for most posts, since most things don't go viral in such a powerful way. But the power of exponents still applies, even if the percentages are smaller. This is a source of traffic and buzz that you simply can't ignore.
Even if your posts don't go viral, however, having a tribe of people who care about your brand enough to follow you on social media platforms is a great opportunity. This connection allows you to stay in touch with your fans, let them know about new content or products, and draw repeat business.
How to do it
Of course, you have to get your first 100 followers somehow. And then you have to get to 500, and then 1000, and so on. And you also have to make sure that they are engaged with your brand--not just passive followers.
Post regularly - Just like with your content schedule in #1, it's important to be consistent. Post daily or multiple times per week.
Don't just post your own stuff - No one likes it when all you do is promote yourself. A good rule of thumb is that for every time you post about your own articles or products, you should be posting to other people's content 3-4 times.
Have real conversations - Sometimes we forget that our "likes" and "followers" are real people with real lives, real interests, real needs. By reaching out to people, offering to help, responding to questions, and showing appreciation, you can start building real relationships.
Make friends with other leaders - This leads into #3 below, but it's important to mention in the context of social media specifically. Find out who else in your niche has a large, engaged following (i.e., people who like, retweet, pin, and comment), and follow them. Start reaching out to them and building relationships with them.
3. Network with powerful leaders in your space
Photo by aclintonb
Making friends in high places within your niche can only help your business.
How it benefits you
Take 10 seconds and make a mental list of the top 3 influencers in your niche. Who are the most well-known and highly respected people in your niche? Now imagine what would happen if those 3 people knew your name and knew about your business, and if they started talking about you to their audiences. What kind of impact would that have on your business?
Depending on how big and competitive your niche is, it may be impractical to become best buds with the top 3 people. No matter what niche you're in, though, you can build relationships with influential people.
How to do it
I'll start by sharing an example of what not to do. I get a lot of emails from people asking to publish a guest post on Ecommerce Pulse, or asking me to try and review their product or service, or to share an article or infographic that they just published. It's pretty obvious that these people have not really read this blog or listened to the podcast, and their first email is asking me to do them a favor of some kind.
If I have no relationship with someone who emails me like this, it's not very likely that I'm going to put a ton of effort to go out of my way and help them promote their business. I'm dedicated to helping anyone who emails me with a question about ecommerce, but I'm not quite so eager to help someone promote themselves.
However, if someone has been reading/listening to Ecommerce Pulse for awhile, and commented on articles, or emailed me with questions, then there's a good chance I know their name and know a little about who they are. There's some level of a relationship there. I've even become friends with some of you who I've interacted with a lot, and I love that. These are real relationships that I have with some of you now!
If one of these people with whom I have a relationship emails me asking me for a favor of some kind, I'm definitely going to at least give it my full attention and honest consideration because I care about this person.
Here's the basic principle: Don't start a relationship by asking for a favor to promote yourself. If you want to network with an influencer, start by giving. For example, leave meaningful, well-written comments on their blog posts. Write them an email thanking them for their work and complimenting them on something specific that you appreciate. If you notice something on their website like a broken link, missing image, or missing favicon, shoot them an email letting them know and, if you are able, offering to fix it for them.
Over time, the influencer will likely get to know you by name and appreciate your involvement in what they are doing. After all, they became an influencer by being passionate about their area of expertise. When you show an interest in that area, and show appreciation for their expertise, it's natural for them to grow to appreciate you. This is your foot in the door to a deeper relationship.
I should clarify that I'm not talking about "fake" friendships or using people. This type of relationship is built on genuinely caring about someone and appreciating them, and by actually helping them and contributing to their cause when you can. With the friends I've made through Ecommerce Pulse, there is a give and take for sure--the relationship is mutually beneficial--but that does not cheapen the fact that those initial interactions led to a real friendship.
Pulling it all together
You may have noticed that there's a lot of overlap between these 3 steps. The content you create in Step 1 is shared with your social media followers in Step 2. You likely connect with the influencers in Step 3 through your social media profiles in Step 2. The influencers in Step 3 will hopefully share the content you create in Step 1 with their social media followers.
It all works together as part of a cohesive marketing plan. We haven't even touched on advertising, but that's another pillar that you may build into your marketing plan. The 3 steps above don't cost you anything but time and mental energy, and that investment has the potential to give you a huge ROI.
What do you think about these strategies? What else would add to the list? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.