Posted by Marcel Sim in Online Business
Article Contributed by Lori Wagoner
At any given time, there are thousands of small business entrepreneurs looking to create a meaningful presence on the web. As you read this, some traditional businesses are finding a new home online, some “purely online” ecommerce businesses are taking birth, and the mad rush for every website out there to go mobile is only intensifying.
If you are an entrepreneur just starting out, you’ll eventually face what is called “information paralysis” – the sheer weight of information that threatens to freeze you. You aren’t responsible for this information overload, but your best bet is to absorb what matters to you and stay committed to make your ecommerce business work.
Pulling out your new ecommerce site from the hidden corners of the web and taking to stupendous popularity (and profits) is sweat-inducing, scary hard work. Slap focus together with assiduousness and your ecommerce business will see new light.
The hidden lure of conversions
There was a time when you could boast about the traffic your website has been getting over the past few months or ears and everyone would lend an ear. Today, things are different. Conversions are the new order of the day and what you do to get traffic has nothing to do with what you need to convert visitors.
If getting traffic is like meeting random strangers for fun, conversion marketing is like marriage (a lot more work goes into it). Stoney G deGeyter revealed on Pole Position Marketing that relationships are the dirty secret of sales and profits, and this applies to you even if you are an ecommerce business with only a purely online presence.
To convert, you need awareness, continual engagement, and insights about your target customers. Unlike traffic which you can pretty much “buy” with money, conversions are born out of love and engagement. You can never buy your way into your potential customers’ hearts; you can only earn it.
On being social
You know what happens to people when they are obsessed with themselves don’t you? We all realize that narcissism is a major turnoff for people in general, Yet that’s exactly some people – and most companies – end up displaying over and over again. The more you dwell on your company, products, brands, and services, the farther your customers get away from you.
As Trish Forant explains on Exact Target, there are some social media best practices that aren’t too hard to implement. Follow others, stay in the loop, be social, keep your messages succinct, be transparent, and get proactive.
You could sell the world’s best services or products but none of that is going to matter if you focus on “your” business. Instead, focus on building relationships (both online and offline). Social media is great for quick conversations and effective engagement.
A lot of businesses have a social presence. But presence isn’t enough. Seek to meet people within your network. Like, share, contribute to conversations, and then arrange to draw your audience out to a real place to meet in person.
Focus on people instead of automation
Automation or even semi-automation is awesome for your business. It helps your operations smoother and more effective with the help of technology. Yet, when you do too much of it, you are deviating from what your business should be doing in the first place: serving customers.
By all means, automate what the transactional parts of your business. For instance, if you’re an internet retailer, Shopify gives you a web-based point of sale system to ease the process of accepting payments, syncing product catalogs, and sending receipts. But stay away from automating processes that demand your personal inputs or interaction which eventually add a lot to customers’ perceived value of your business. Resist the urge to schedule too many social media updates with apps such as HootSuite or Buffer, useful though they are.
Automating critical parts of your business such as personal interactions with customers and customer service is like the owner of a retail establishment who spends most of the time inside their air conditioned office instead of being out on the floor greeting and helping out customers.
The act of showing up
The tables have turned for businesses all over the world. Today, it’s all about showing up and making contributions even before you seek that first $1. It’s all about giving rather than getting. It’s about helping before asking for help. It’s about solving problems and providing intellectual expertise rather than “pushing to sell.”
From personal branding to corporate branding, it’s about the digital hustle. Where and how do you show up?
You squeeze content out of your business, that’s how. Start with your blog, create workflows for blogging, answer questions on Quora, tweet out quick tips, and contribute with your insights on LinkedIn groups. Of course, you still have comments and forums to show up at.
Campaigns with a purpose
The lack of purpose – for companies and individuals – is an online epidemic. It’s hard to narrow down to a singular purpose, of course. Yet, it’s the common ground that most successful products, services, and brands are built.
Marketing campaigns cost you money. Get them wrong and you’d better not have spent anything at all. It could be easier if you identify the characteristics of a good marketing campaign from the outset.
Every piece of content, social media update, forum conversation, and guest blog should have a purpose. That also applies to sponsorship and advertising (ad words, social ads, or mobile ads). All that content you create, for instance, has the possibility to fall into one of the eight types of content as noted by Emily Wisely of Evolve Digital Labs.
Don’t start campaigns without a purpose. Once you determine a purpose, there’s a system in place for it. If you want to build your newsletter opt-in list, this qualifies as your purpose. The campaign would have a source (the target audience), a gateway such as landing page, and a database to store your inventory (of emails).
Your ecommerce business could very well be a miracle on servers. How wiling are you to take this up?
About the Author
Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, The Social Media Hat and many other business and tech blogs. You can reach her @LoriDWagoner on Twitter.