Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Online store, online market space – part 6 and marketing your new online store

Posted in startups, strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on June 12, 2010

Effective marketing can make all the difference between a failed startup and a successful one, and certainly for online stores. You can have the best products and services, and the best, most user-friendly web site to present them through and still fail if no one sees this. And I will add that success is not just about being seen per se but rather about being seen by the right people who would be interested in what you have to offer. Good targeted marketing can compellingly bring you to the right audience and help you close the sale.

That much of this story is obvious, and I will add that every marketing service you will ever find will tell you that if given even just half a chance. But there is one other piece to the puzzle of effectively marketing for success. You need to make sure that your marketing connects into and supports your overall business planning and your strategy too, and according to your priorities. That is what I will be focusing on in this posting, that you get the right marketing for you and your business, and for your target demographics that would constitute your marketplace. And I start with the tripod of your products and services, your targeted marketplace with its specific demographics, and your financial analysis. You should start with that if you are going to effectively add in marketing. You can find the first five postings to this series at Startups and Early Stage Businesses (see postings 20 through 24.)

• You need to really know your products and services, and how to convincingly describe them and what they offer as a value proposition to your potential customers. You should be able to express this in a few brief sentences, and without having to resort to buzz words or jargon – exactly as you would format a good elevator pitch. (See Part 2 – Bringing Your Products and Services into Focus.)
• You should have a clear idea as to who your highest priority, early success market demographics are. (See Part 1 of this series.)
• You need to have a clear idea of your financials, and of the budget constraints you have to work within. (See Part 3 – Adding Financials to the Mix.)
• And your marketing, and your web site and ecommerce solutions that constitute your storefront need to work smoothly together too. (See Part 4 and Part 5 to this series with Going Live and Online parts 1 and 2 for discussion of web site and ecommerce solutions.)

When online marketing services approach prospective clients, they always focus on their area of expertise and on the marketing tools they offer as being the most important ones for any business to focus on. This is certainly true for services that focus on pay per click though I have seen and heard lopsided presentations from other types of marketers too. The first point to cover here is the simple fact that the people you wish to reach as customers have a great many options for where they can and do focus their attention, and these all constitute potential places you might be able to market to them through.

I am going to cover search engine marketing as a separate posting, and will start by focusing on other online and on non-internet marketing here in this posting.

• Know your audience – your intended customer base and where they go for information and entertainment, and both online and off. You want to market to people where they go and where they would be receptive to your message while there.
• What options are available through these venues for marketing your business? If you would target a professional audience, to cite one possible example, advertising in their professional publications or through their organization web site may be effective.
• You want to put up the right message for the audience you are directing it to, and with an effective frequency of repetition to help spur sales.
• What would this cost and for what type and size of marketing message, and with what frequency of display? It is important that your efforts be cost effective.

There are a great many venues, both online and off that you could select from. Starting with online options as a focus:

• Should you market through email distributions?
• Would list servers and their e-newsletters work for you and are there list servers already out there that you could contribute to, perhaps with informative content that also highlighted your products or services?
• Should you set up and use Twitter feeds, or blog marketing?
• Are there online groups that you could market from that already have a following and that you could write effective non-spam content to?
• Should you set up your own groups or emailing lists? A lot of businesses do that to share announcements for specials and seasonal offerings as they become available.

This brings me to three basic, core principles that you really need to follow:

• If you market online and definitely if you send marketing messages out to recipients, taking a push approach, it is important that you follow an opt-in approach where you only send to people who have agreed to receive. You also have to have and display an opt-out option for people who change their mind and who no longer wish to receive messages from you.
• You have to write your copy and include images with your audience in mind, and for language and dialect, clarity of message, and connection to audience interests.
• For email messages and similar, you need to format with an awareness of how Internet Service Providers (ISP) identify spam with ratings numbers where they look for features that have been found to be associated with spamming practices. As a simple example, use of multiple fonts and font sizes in an email message body can add to your spam score and so can a variety of subject line mistakes and if your score hits and surpasses their spam ID threshold value you can get blacklisted as a spam distributor.
• So as part of your due diligence make sure that any marketers that you consider have an up to date understanding of how to avoid having their marketing products identified as spam.

Think and plan strategically and plan on offering a range of connected, mutually supportive marketing messages. Feedback is important here. For online marketing that can mean adding different and unique URL’s into each marketing message and tracking what page visits come from what URL’s. In this, it is easy to have multiple URL’s point to the same web page so your site visitors and customers will simply see your ads and your web pages and ecommerce options, and with a focus on meeting their information gathering and purchasing needs.

• Your online marketing should connect to your web analytics tools so you can track what online traffic comes in from what sources, and you do need to include a web analytics tool into the back end of your web site and ecommerce solutions so you can monitor and improve upon performance.
• Your web site and ecommerce solution should support and include capability for setting up multiple URL’s that would be uniquely associated with specific marketing campaigns.

Marketing can definitely include arranging for reciprocal links between your site and those of other businesses in your supply and value chains, and any business partners.

As a final thought, you may be setting up an online business and an online store but there still may be value in advertising and marketing in print and other non-internet media. Keep one eye on your target markets and where they go for information. And be creative in what you do, looking for approaches that your competition uses – and options and opportunities they overlook.

The next posting in this series will continue the discussion of marketing with a focus on search engine marketing. As a preview comment for that I will point out that effective search engine marketing should connect into and support all of the various parts to setting up an online store that have been covered so far in these first six series installments.

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