How to Cost Effectively Launch an Ecommerce Startup

Image Credit: Mediasation

Ecommerce has become a way of life for many brands. But, launching an ecommerce startup requires a blend of art, science and technology. Our take on some absolute steps for launching a successful Ecommerce Startup.

  1. Build your web site on WordPress! Advantages are built in CMS, wealth of developer support, 10K & growing plugins that extend functionality, great for SEO and its a robust stable platform that is being improved everyday via developers all over the world.
  2. Analyze and understand your target market and demographics. Where do your customers “live” on the social web and how do they interact with each other? Once you answer this question develop a social media marketing campaign that will reach, engage with and motivate customers to buy from you and recommend your products to friends via social web.
  3. Create a Blog on your site and blog at least 3-5 times a week - make sure you invite comments from readers/visitors and interact with them. Your blog should have content topics that integrate with your Keyword strategy mapped out in SEO best practices below. Leverage your blog by connecting it to your LinkedIn profile and share blog posts via Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Ensure you have sociables (links to social media profiles) on your site for

    Image Credit: Netlogical

    Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and give people the ability to Tweet out and “like” your site via plugins. These promote and foster interaction with your community and should be two-way connections.

  5. Do some competitive analysis (there are always competitors) and identify 3-5 top tier competitors and follow their digital footprint. Also, set up Google Alerts that are keyword targeted (“my brand”) for your company, products, brand and competitors.
  6. Test  PPC advertising via Facebook and Google’s Display Ad Network (not Adwords initially) - both of these offer pretty good targeting. For Google’s Display Network, either hire an agency or consultant to set this up for you, unless your very knowledgeable about your target market and online advertising. Test, test and retest - split variable testing is a great idea - test your message, offers, landing page, days of week, etc.
  7. Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your site and closely watch entry/exit pages, time on site, bounce rates, where visitors are coming from, etc.
  8. Build a coupon offer right on your Facebook fan page that is integrated with a “Like” component - driving deals and perceived value of your brand.
  9. Built landing pages that are second to none - this is an art and a science and can determine the success or failure of your ecommerce site.
  10. Deploy a Viral Marketing Campaign

    Image Credit: Parallel Interactive Media

    - offer member’s of your community rewards for referring friends to your site for deals. You can leverage these via Twitter and Facebook.

  11. Video usage driven by bandwidth and smartphones is ramping up very fast. Create a YouTube channel with lots of 1-2 min optimized videos. Leverage the channel by throwing up a YouTube contest for your visitors. Use TubeMogul to accelerate syndication and digital reach of your videos.
  12. Make sure SEO best practices is in place for your site. Meaning, good content strategy that incorporates a list of top twenty targeted keywords, UI/Menus are easy to navigate (this touches on user experience and SEO), using the right WordPress plugin like All In One SEO (plus, the developer is a retired Marine), good Privacy doc, connected with Google account, Google Places is done, have developed (legitimately) good quality backlinks and Google XML Sitemap is installed/working.

There’s more to a successful ecommerce startup than what’s been conveyed in this blog post. But, we’ve covered most of the basics for you. If you have questions or thoughts please ping us back via comments below.

Promoting Your Brand on Facebook & Twitter

We get asked all the time what is the formula for promoting a brand on Facebook or Twitter. The simple answer is it’s a complex blend of art and science. If you follow these fifteen steps you will ultimately be successful on both of these social media communities.

  1. Source quality content, curate and share it in a meaningful way - good content builds credibility and followers.
  2. Be authentic - these communities see through a poser’s persona very quickly and are quick to sense whether or not you are contributing to the social dialogue in a meaningful way.
  3. Pay it forward - virtual intros, references, “contact spreading” goes a long way to build relationships.
  4. Don’t promote until your brand is well established and then no more than 10% of your content streams/conversations. Many newbies jump on Facebook and Twitter and start trying to generate sales from day one, which can be a big mistake, unless you have a well established brand.
  5. Engage, engage and engage - broadcasting (even quality content) makes your social stream nothing more than a one way street.
  6. Patience is required - won’t happen immediately, it takes time to generate traction, followers and marketing ROI.
  7. Communicate during your targeted market’s business hours.
  8. Curate your Followers a bit - this is au contraire to other who say connect with the world.
  9. Leverage your core content (Blog, Video, Articles, Images) by sharing on both platforms. To generate good content ROI use a 3-5X multiplier.
  10. Twitter is rapidly becoming its own social graph - it’s digital glue, so spread it around along with your Facebook stream. Connect your Twitter account to any and all profiles that you are using.
  11. Checkins, lunch dates may work for the digerati; but, I find them boring, as do many others. Quality content generates quality relationships. Where your eating lunch and with whom may be cool if your Steve Jobs. But, if your not, forget about it.
  12. Both communities have social mores - learn and live by them. As an example, by using #FF (Follow Friday) via Twitter your “telling others” that you want to give back to the community and want to share and recommend valuable contacts you are connected with.
  13. Think about value of real time search (Twitter certainly) and use keywords, integrate back links and use hashtags. This content’s search rankings should improve over time.
  14. Follow competitors - these platforms are transparent, expect the same from them.
  15. Go the other direction and make sure your web site is social enabled; i.e. web site visitors can click into your social media profiles and follow and engage.

Jump into to our digital conversation stream below and please comment below if you have thoughts or questions.

Creating Social Media Authenticity

We talk to clients every day, from entrepreneurs to corporate entities, who are attempting to get their arms around social media marketing. We tell them it’s about building social media credibility and authenticity, understanding content development and curation,  leveraging new tools and platforms and much more……

Be authentic - meaning, imbibe your brand’s social media presence with attributes that underscore what your business, products and services are all about, with some personality. Social authenticity is like cooking a great bouillabaisse, requiring a complex blend of ingredients that some times aren’t readily apparent. Authenticity happens over time and is shaped somewhat by trial and error - critical to try new things and listen to feedback from your community to gauge what’s resonating and what isn’t.

Be a Content Spreader second to none - we all fall in love with the promise of social media via the next shiny bright new kid coming down the block with a sexy brand wrapped in venture capital bucks. But, in the end, much of the success of social media can be attributed to plain old hard work in a digital sense.  A blog is still the most wonderful way to establish a viable social media presence. And, it needs to be spread, amplified and enhanced to be heard. 30K Foot Exec Summary:

  • Set up Blog via WordPress
  • Connect it to you your LinkedIn profile
  • Every Blog  post should be amplified via Twitter
  • Use Posterous or Tumblr Platforms (be aware of duplicate content issues)
  • Reference your Blog in online and offline marketing
  • Set up Feedburner Account and Newsletter sign up for your Blog

Break some rules - we are connected with and Following tons of other social media marketing agencies around the world. In a classic competitive marketing scenario we would not echo their digital content via our social media accounts, or even mention them. But, in this new world order we are all building, the order of the day is coopetete right? I help them and they help me, even though in some cases we may be competing for the same customers. Break some rules of your own and forge a new path……

Identify your tribe - who are you connected to socially and or who makes up your tribe. A tribe in this context is anyone and everyone loosely connected in your market or sphere of influence. It’s an organic beast that is constantly being shaped and defined by market forces. Once you identify your tribe you will then need to understand where they congregate. Are they using Twitter, Facebook or Linked in to communicate and adopt to these social platforms mores? Once your brand understands these attributes you can then engage your content with the community.

Embrace patience as part of your mantra - unfortunately, much of the essence around social media is in its promise. Your challenge is to invest in it patiently early on while adding back end measurement tools that help you get a handle on how effective social media marketing is. The big picture measurements can include the following:

  • Creating  Buzz and Brand Awareness
  • Get Targeted Customers Talking About Products & Services
  • Establish and Grow Presence in Social Communities
  • Track Brand Engagement
  • Monitor Competitors
  • Test Product Marketing, Functionality, Features & Pricing
  • Raise and Drive Barriers to Entry
  • Improves Market Focus of Organization by Forcing them to Adopt new Platforms, Processes and Procedures
  • Positive or Negative Social Sentiment Analysis

Once you have a handle on 30K Foot Measurements you can move to these more refined metrics:

  • Revenue
  • Customer Acquisition
  • Generate Keyword Rankings and Related Search Traffic
  • Drive “real time search” traffic via Keywords in Social Streams
  • Cross Promote and Curate Content to Drive Search Rankings & Visibility
  • Utilize Social CRM to Engage with and Solve Customer Problems (Support)
  • Identify Customer Influencers & Market Directly to Them
  • Move Ecommerce Initiatives into Social Stream to Minimize COG
  • Utilize Social Stream/Communities to Measure KPI
  • Drives Blog & Newsletter Subscribers
  • Leverages Content Development Costs

In summary, as we tell clients all the time. Effective social media marketing and authenticity are truly a blend of art and science. There are no fixed formulas for success - your building a brand and we hope this blog post gives you some critical takeaways that will enhance your social media marketing. Please sign up for our Newsletter or comment below if you have questions or thoughts.

Google Business Listing

Image Credit: Boomerang

Google is clearly starting to favor local business listings, especially those with quality content. Google’s recent delisting of content farms certainly underscores the shift in strategy from emphasizing the value of high quality content versus funky dreck.

It’s incumbent for any business, from corporate behemoth to small business, to leverage any/all shifts occurring in Google’s strategy. Many/many businesses don’t understand how to do a Google Business Listing! Not to mention, those that try, but fail miserably at the attempt. Our take:

  • Log into your Google Account and select My Account to begin (or create a new account if you don’t have a Google Account)
  • Choose Local Business Center from the list of options
  • Enter baseline info about your business
  • Verify the listing

Claim Your Google Business Listing

  • Do a search via Google Maps for your Business
  • Select more info
  • Select link for business owner
  • Click add new listing
  • Enter info reflected in the listing and click next
  • Select the listing shown by Google that matches your business
  • Verify via email that you are the owner

Now for the creative part. After completing the set up and claiming process, you’ve successfully established a presence and now need to add quality brand elements to make your listing stand out from the digital herd.

  1. Add your corp logo and lots of photos - these help to personalize your Google Business Listing.
  2. Solicit reviews from your customers (just like recommendations on LinkedIn) - do not hire a marketing firm or consultant to write a bunch of reviews and upload them. These stand out like a sore thumb, ruin your credibility and are dishonest to say the least.
  3. Sick of giving 50% off to Groupon or Living Social? Then add a coupon - these can be printed right from the site. Pretty cool - drive a sense of urgency. Make sure you have some way of keeping track of the coupons.
  4. Its a Google property right (rhetorical question)? Upload your YouTube videos as well and make sure you feature videos that are interesting. Should be under two minutes - people online have the attention span of gnats, especially Twitterholics.
  5. Add a link from your home page to drive visitors to your Google Business Listing and solicit a review from them. Sprinkle these requests into your social stream via Twitter or Facebook on some regular basis. Keyword is “occasionally,”  don’t beat people over the head. Less is more……

Why is a Google Business Listing so critical? It can deliver a large number of visitors ranging from hundreds to thousands of visitors every month, depending on your location and how well your Google Business Listing is optimized. It’s well worth your time. Even if your brand is national in scope in terms of customer focus, still a good thing to set up a Google Business Listing.

Social Media ROI

I provided a short answer to what drives Social Media ROI on Quora earlier today which generated an immediate response. I’m going to flesh out my answer, as I think many brands and businesses are struggling with identifying social media ROI. Before you even think about social media marketing ROI you have to create and launch a campaign and should be aware of these barriers to entry.

  • Remember the old saw: “time takes time” - well this is true of social media marketing. It requires an investment of time, which is increasing every day, as more and more jump into the market. It’s a marathon with the characteristics of a 100 yard dash!
  • Effective high impact social media marketing campaigns require a knowledge of specialized marketing processes and platforms (YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yelp, Flickr).
  • You should have a good understanding of content development and curation, coupled with a good web site structure that inculcates good SEO fundamentals.
  • Social media marketing is starting to draw a crowd - the low barriers to entry are disappearing. Meaning, your brand messaging has to stand out above the digital hubbub.

Now that I’ve hopefully give you a sanity check about the big picture challenges lets dive deeper into social media marketing ROI metrics. Big picture capabilities:

  1. Creates Buzz and Brand Awareness if outbound marketing is done creatively.
  2. Gets Targeted Customers talking about your Product and Services via Social Communities.
  3. Enables you to Build a Social Presence within these Communities, driving competitive barriers to entry.
  4. Track brand engagement (note my recommendations for platforms and services below).
  5. Monitor Competitors - remember they are doing the same on their end.
  6. Use Social Communities as a product feedback loop that’s second to none.
  7. Will push your organization to embrace new and challenging Marketing Methodologies, which in turn improves the DNA of your brand/organization.
  8. Give you the ability to measure positive Social Sentiment (or negative).

Tangible ROI Measurements for Social Media Marketing:

  • Revenue
  • Customer Acquisition
  • Generate Keyword Rankings and Related Search Traffic
  • Drive “real time search” traffic via Keywords in Social Streams
  • Cross Promote and Curate Content to Drive Search Rankings & Visibility
  • Utilize Social CRM to Engage with and Solve Customer Problems (Support)
  • Identify Customer Influencers & Market Directly to them
  • Move Ecommerce Initiatives into Social Stream to Minimize COG
  • Utilize Social Stream/Communities to Measure KPI
  • Drives Blog & Newsletter Subscribers
  • Leverages Content Development Costs

Market Leaders  involved in Social Media Marketing ROI