Business > Merchant Voice

How to promote your ecommerce business

During a recent discussion in a New Jersey wedding professionals networking group, a new member asked, “If you could promote your business through only one form of advertising, what would it be?”

There were many answers: search engines (paid and organic), social media, trade shows, print ads, and online wedding directories.

You may think that the best way to promote your business is through a diversified marketing plan — and it should be. But just how many avenues should you concentrate on? There are so many options. Not all of them, however, will generate leads that convert to sales. The key is to narrow down where your prospects are and focus on those areas. It will vary based on your industry and market.

Ecommerce entrepreneurs should focus on where their traffic comes from, what social media outlets their target customers use, and other sites their customers tend to visit. A B2B ecommerce site may find LinkedIn to be a good source; a jewelry site may find Wanelo generates the most leads; furniture retailers may find that Houzz generates the most traffic; and a wedding business could find Pinterest as a top source.

For my business, Google (via organic listings) generates the most leads and conversions. Pinterest is second. In our discussion group, a photographer mentioned that Wedding Wire (a wedding directory) brought her the most traffic and a disc jockey stated that going to wedding expos (trade shows for brides) generated the most leads for him. But even though I belong to the same wedding directory and have attended expos, I did not get the most sales or leads from them.

So how do you determine where to advertise and what methods work? To begin, make a list of all the options to test — from the cheapest to the most expensive. Here are 10 areas that may be worth testing, for your ecommerce site.

  • Social media sites. Social media marketing can take a lot of time. It also needs to be done consistently to reap the most rewards. The best part is that it’s free, unless you use paid ads. However, don’t spread yourself thin and market across all platforms. Market only where your prospects are. That may mean only one or two social media sites. I find for my wedding business that Pinterest works best. As an author, Twitter and Goodreads are my top platforms. Not every platform will work for you. Don’t spend time on networks that don’t generate leads.
  • Public relations; word of mouth. Excellent customer service and compelling products or services can generate many leads over the long term. How you respond to customer service issues online is a good way to enhance your image. Mentions in media outlets can cost nothing if you pitch to the right editors, look for a service such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out, which is free) to generate links and quotes in the media.
  • Organic search results. I’ve previously addressed my method for do-it-yourself search optimization. It’s relatively inexpensive to develop a site with current architecture that is up to date on search engine optimization. I run a few WordPress sites that rank well in search engines that cost only the annual hosting fee. You don’t need to buy expensive SEO services to rank organically. There are many resources (blogs, books) where you can learn the basics.
  • Blogging; Blog advertising. Some industries are conducive to blogging. I know crafters, do-it-yourselfers, mom-bloggers, photographers, and foodies that do well with blogging. If blogging isn’t for you, consider advertising on blogs; it can run from inexpensive to thousands of dollars. However, it may not be a bad investment. One blog where we purchased a sponsored post (in 2009) consistently brings us leads and sales.
  • Strategic partnerships. Creating partnerships can be free and can benefit both companies greatly. Identify which companies can help you achieve your goals. Reach out to those firms. Over time, you may grow it to an exclusive partnership, to gain an edge over the market. For example, I’ve partnered with catering halls, corporations, and Vegas hotels to be a preferred vendor.
  • Email marketing. Collect email addresses and make sure to send out regular newsletters to keep your name in your recipients’ minds. While there is typically a monthly fee involved, it can (it should) result in repeat customers. Think of all the emails you get on a daily basis. If email marketing didn’t work, the big companies wouldn’t be doing it.
  • Directories. While directories may be in the gray area for SEO, they aren’t bad as long as you do not oversaturate your business in every directory you find. Pick one or two top performers in your industry and see if they generate traffic for you. I advertise in one general wedding directory (Wedding Wire) and a niche LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) directory as that segment is growing.
  • Retargeting. Many consumers likely visit your site and leave without purchasing. How do you get them back? This is where retargeting comes in. Retargeting will place a cookie on their computers and when they visit another website that shows advertisements from the retargeting network, your ad will be shown. This can get quite costly and the return on investment may or may not be worth it — but it’s good to test. AdRoll is a popular retargeting company.
  • Trade shows; expos; events. For a fixed cost, you rent a booth or table and advertise to your target audience directly. This is helpful because the people who attend are coming for a specific reason and will be interested in what you have to offer.
  • Direct mail; print ads. This is one of the more expensive marketing tactics we tried, without much success. We tested with a coupon code specific to the ad, but the ROI was not worth the expense. However, direct mail and email marketing can work well in conjunction with the leads from a trade show or expo.

These are just some of the avenues I have tried. Some were more successful than others. For your business it will likely take trial and error to determine what works best. Is there an advertising method you have tried that well?

Erica Tevis
Erica Tevis
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