For a merchant just starting out, building an awareness with potential customers that your products even exist can be a daunting task. But there are many tools — and some strategies — that can help give a smaller merchant a louder voice to compete with already established brands.
Setting up a booth at a local design or retail show can be a great way to get your brand exposed to the right customers. Annual trade shows like Unique LA in downtown Los Angeles, for example, provide a large space for hundreds of merchants to set up a so-called “pop-up shop” to sell their wares.
Find out the local design expos that occur in your city and spend the money and time to be a part of them. If you have a variety of options, focus on design expos that cater to your products, brand or image. For example, if you are a hand crafted boutique-clothing retailer, try to find other local and national trade shows that cater to other brands like yours. You’ll sell some products, meet other merchants like yourself and grow your brand.
You may also meet other similar brands that co-exist with yours in a complementary way. You can create deals — or marketing campaigns —together and share some of that burden while cross-promoting each other’s goods or services.
Social tools like Facebook and Twitter are a must for any ecommerce merchant. But when you are just starting out they are arguably even more important. They level the playing field and give your company a chance to speak directly to Internet users about your products and your brand.
Set up a company page on Facebook and set up a company Twitter feed, as well. Feature products, posts from your blog, helpful tips and more. Take advantage of the social network by really using it as an actual network. “Like” similar brand’s pages, post on their pages about how much you Like their products and try to extend your own reach in the social world.
Once you start to grow your own followers and friends on Facebook and Twitter, “Like” high-traffic Facebook fan pages, find an organic reason to make a comment or post a message and a link on their page about your products or business. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive and take advantage of the high amounts of traffic some pages receive.
If you have the budget for it, group shopping sites like Groupon and Living Social can be a powerful way to connect with potential customers. But, when you are just starting out, budgets can be tight. So, instead of paying to use a group shopping service and severely marking down the price of your products, organize your own deal of the day on your own social media sites. It may not reach the volume of potential customers that these group-shopping services can, but it will help galvanize and build loyalty in your own customer base. They just might spread the word about your deal — for free.
Take the time to visit local boutiques in your area that sell the kinds of merchandise that you make and ask if they would be interested in carrying your products in their store. It’s a great way to set up trust if you can get your goods into a brick-and-mortar boutique. It gives your goods online a place to be seen in the tangible world.
Selling some products in local boutiques is a great way to network and spread your brand’s message around your local community, as well. It may not lead to a lot of profits — oftentimes merchants must mark the prices down on good sold in boutiques — but it will lead to sales and more shoppers knowing about your products, which is always a good thing.
Give Products to Celebrities
Spend some time researching a celebrity or two online. If the celebrities have websites, find their agents’ names and reach out to them. Tell the agents you are a fan, and would like to send a gift of some of your products. There’s always a chance the celebrities will never see that product. But it’s great marketing if they receive it — and they often do often, in my experience — and they happen to wear it or use it while they are getting photographed and that picture winds up in a celebrity magazine. And it costs you just a couple items and the cost of shipping.