I’m sure you’ve seen about half a million of these posts. Personally, they annoy the living heck out of me. I get angry when I see titles like these.
Because I don’t need another 150 tools to grow my e-commerce business! Do you? I need 6-10 that actually save me time, do things I need, and drive my business forward.
How about you? Are you with me?
Awesome! Check out some of the top tools I use and recommend:
1. Your Mind – Good or Bad for Everything, Depending on How You Use It
Okay, so a bit of a hit-ya-in-the-face on this one. Why do I say it? Because, no tool’s going to save your business or run it for you. It’s only as good as the person using it – you.
So to make any of these tools really save you time or increase your effectiveness, your mind needs to be sharp at all times. Take care of it, and you’ll run an awesome e-commerce business.
2. Buffer – Social Media Scheduling Automation
Social media’s a major timesuck. It’s hard to get real value out of it in limited time. Buffer’s cheap (starting at just $10 per month), and you can automate all sorts of posts to your social media profiles with it.
It’s a huge time- saver. You get some basic analytics too. So for what you pay, a solid value.
2. Zapier – Complex Workflow Automation
For a long time, I had no clue what in the heck Zapier was or what it did. Now that my own service-based business is getting more complex, I see the value. Zapier helps you manage all the tools you have and automates processes that you frequently use.
In fact, it even suggests automation processes to use based on the apps you connect and things you do. It’s a nice time-saver because digital marketing quickly becomes a massive time-drain if you don’t keep it under wraps.
3. Buzzsumo Chrome Extension
As you research content and your competitors, you may not know the number of social shares a particular piece gets. Buzzsumo’s Chrome extension tells you.
With a reasonableÂ cost of “free,” it comes at the right price.
4. Visual Website Optimizer – A/B Testing Software
Got lots of traffic, but not making the sales you want? Visual website optimizer’s your solution. Eventually, you need to A/B test the living heck out of everything on your website to learn more about your customers and how they act.
VWO comes with a free 30-day trial. And currently, their software starts at $49 per month.
5. Moz – Organic SEO Tracking
Is any digital marketing post complete without Moz? Â Mark my words: SEO will never, ever go away. Ever. Moz does a great job of keeping up with it and actually focusing on what users want, not search engines. So make sure you have Moz in your arsenal.
So, those are my top 5 recommendations. Which caught your attention most? Do you have any recommendations on tools you like?
You know what they say about service, right? “The customer’s always right.”
Well, not always, but most of the time they are. But, one of your top jobs, at least if you want to stay in business for any length of time, is to keep your customers happy. Make ’em angry, and they’re guaranteed to leave sooner or later. And they might take a number of their friends and family members with them.
Ouch! That’s a big dent in the business of any small e-commerce company. Fortunately, you don’t have to experience nearly any unhappy customers if you don’t want to.
Watch out for these common customer service mistakes, and consider the alternate suggestion to them instead:
1. Avoid Justifying or Minimizing Your Behavior
Whatever you did that the customer’s not happy with, don’t respond with, “Well, that happened because…” As soon as you go down that road, you’re justifying or minimizing your own actions. Your customer’s anger will only increase.
Instead, start with acknowledging your customer’s issue, even if it isn’t valid. Say, “I’m sorry this happened. That sounds frustrating.”
That builds bridges and keeps the peace. It sets the foundation for a successful resolution that makes you and the customer happy.
2. In General, Resolve the Issue for the Customer If You’re a Small Company
What if you’re the e-commerce company with just a small handful of customers? Can you afford to keep giving refunds and occasional free merchandise?
The simple solution: keep a log of all your interactions with customers. When you identify the ones that are abusing you, set a boundary and tell them, “I’m sorry. We did this for you once already. That’s all we can do.”
Because, abusive customers, once they think they can keep getting their way, may continue that pattern. And no business has 100% happy customers all the time.
3. Not Offering All Methods of Contact
Yeah, it’s easy to ignore the phones because a lot of people don’t like to use them anymore. Millenials are starting to become adults. Pretty soon, they’ll be middle-age and have great power as both consumers and business decision makers. For the most part, they don’t like to pick up the phone.
But many people still do. And honestly, because the phone is a more powerful form of interpersonal contact than e-mail, it can be an awesome way of building long-term relationships with customers.
So, make sure your customers can call you, at least during certain hours of the day. Post those hours. And return calls as fast as you can to make an even better impression.
Basic, but most businesses don’t do it. So it can be a huge competitive advantage for you.
And the same goes for most of these customer service mistakes. They aren’t overly hard to do. But most businesses ignore the damage they cause to themselves and their customers. So, implement them at your company today…and watch the word about your customer service spread far and wide.
While it’s much easier to open an e-commerce store than it is to open a physical one, running a successful e-commerce store is not easy at all.
One of the hardest parts is getting the right kind of traffic to your website. Getting just any old traffic is not super-hard, and it’s fairly possible to do almost immediately.
But, you don’t want just any old hit you can get to your website. Remember, people are behind all those numbers you see in your analytics. So, you want to make sure that if you sell women’s sports bras, you get women to your website interested in staying active.
Let’s take a hypothetical audience: young and middle-age tech nerds. How would you attract them to your website and keep them there?
Here’s an example of some ideas:
1. Getting Active on Reddit
Reddit’s often called “The Gateway to the Internet.” For many audiences, but especially for males 25-40 interested in technology, it’s a great place to be active. I’d find questions they were asking related to my products and services, and would give insightful answers to those.
Never, under any circumstance, make an overt sales pitch. Simply include a useful link to your website in your answer.
2. Answer Questions on Hardware Tech Support Forums
The Internet’s loaded with these. Again, I’d follow the same strategy as I would with Reddit. Forum traffic is high-quality and makes for good long-term customers because people that join forums are highly interested in the topic.
Internet newbies and casual people don’t use forums as much.
3. Create an E-mail List
Nothing sells better than e-mail lists. So, do whatever you can to build yours. In fact, the ROI over the long-term is something like 3800%, or $38 for every $1 spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
Wow! That’s incredible. Personally, it’s my opinion that no matter who you are or what business you have, you must use an e-mail list in digital marketing in 2016 and beyond.
4. Add Retargeting to Your Marketing Mix
RetargetingÂ ads are 70% more likely to convert, according to statistics from TrueShip. And the same source says 46% of surveyed marketers believe retargeting gets underused.
So, not only are you going where your competitors aren’t, but you’re getting a pretty darn good ROI out of it too.
If you look at that strategy, you have a nice way to drive short-term traffic by being an expert and helpful resource in forums. And, you have a long-term method to keep your customers coming back withÂ your e-mail list and retargeting ads.
It’s a nice little marketing system that can reap big rewards if you stay consistent at it.
Let’s say you want to start an e-commerce business, but you don’t have any money. Loans aren’t an option for you. And you don’t want to approach friends or family for money (Hey! I don’t blame you.)
One huge edge on the internet involves the words you use to describe the products you sell. Ever read the product descriptions at a website, and feel like you’re reading absolutely the same thing you’ve read at about a dozen other websites?
That indicates a huge problem with the copy. Change it to highlight more value about your product, and you can earn more sales because you’ve shapedÂ people’s perceptions.
Here’s how you can do it, even if you don’t fancy yourself the next Bill Shakespeare:
1. First, Find Products That Can Be Sold on Quality
Don’t be mistaken, writing potent marketing copy is not about finding a chintzy product and showing how it’s going to solve all your problems. Today’s consumer is smart and educated, and for the most part, they’ll see right through it when you’re feeding them baloney.
So, don’t feel like you need to do that.
Instead, find products that truly are a step higher above others in terms of quality.
2. Find a Product You Believe in and You Yourself Would Buy
Again, this is another way in which you avoid feeding your ideal customer marketing hype. You’re going to do much better marketing when you actually believe in the ability of your product to solve your target consumer’s problem better than any other.
3. Focus on Emotions, But Remember Consumers Aren’t Stupid
A lot of business do think consumers are idiots. That’s part of the reason why you see such dumb commercials on TV. Businesses think using silly jingles get people to remember them and buy.
That works on some people.
But, the power of that is diminishing because of the internet, education, and comparison shopping. That said, consumers do buy on emotion.
So remember to tell them how they’re going to feel happy, excited, relieved, or have fun with your product (whatever’s appropriate). That’s what they really want, and they hope your product can do that for them.
4. Sell the Benefits and Experience, Not the Facts about the Product
The benefits are what consumers get when they buy your product. The facts, or “features,” are what it has or does.
For example, here’s what you could talk about with a leather chair that vibrates and heats:
â€˘ Vibrating massage helps you feel comfortable and relax
â€˘ Heating takes the tension and stress out of your muscles, putting you completely at ease
Where many company websites simply say:
In both cases, you get the same thing. But one tells you that you do, where one does not. Which chair would you rather have?
Don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the first one.
So those are some marketing copy basics. Remember, you don’t need to manipulate, exaggerate, or deceive to sell. You can be honest and straightforward, and reap lots of sales without selling your own soul.
Need money to grow your business?
In 2016, it’s easier to get and more abundant in supply than ever before. And more options are coming available because of the web.
So what can you do in 2016? Here’s some options:
1. Hit Up Family Members
There’s a lot of risk in this decision. Your family members have to understand you could lose all their money and not have the ability to pay it back fast.
You could also have relationships irreparably ruined. If you have no other options, the riskÂ may be one worth taking.
2. Traditional Bank Loan
For many new e-commerce businesses, bank loans are out of reach. Banks want to be relatively confident they’ll get all their money back. And they want businesses likely to grow andÂ have more capital needs.
However, their requirements are often so strict that actually getting money is very difficult for businesses without a track record of success.
3. Short-Term Capital Financing
Because of the difficulty of accessing bank financing, a new niche that serves short-term capital needs is arising. The pro of this is that they make getting the capital you need easier. They won’t ask for collateral. Your credit history will be considered, but won’t be a huge deal. And you can usually use the money however you want.
However, as you can guess, it does come at a cost. You’ll pay a higher interest rate. Since they don’t investigate you as much as banks, your idea may not be as bulletproof as you think it is.
But all in all, it’s not a bad source of capital.
You know about this niche. The pro is that you only pay some fees on the money you raise, and that’s it. You don’t have to pay it back.
However, the hard part is getting your idea funded. It seems easy at first, but just a small percentage of ideas actually get the funding they want. And you can’t get as large of amounts of money.
5. Equity Crowdfunding
This one’s been sprouting up in the past several months. Basically, your small business works similar to a stock. You sell shares of your company to small-time investors.
The biggest con is you’re losing ownership and control of your company. And you also may have to work harder to manage investor expectations, which may not be as sophisticated as those of VCs. There’s also lots of legal issues raised in the whole process, which could cost you time and money.
However, you don’t have to please venture capitalists, which is a pitfall if you would raise larger amounts of money on Wall Street. And you can get the money fairly quickly.
6. Sweat Equity
Finally, if you don’t like the cons all those sources offer, you can always put in your own hard work. You have fewer people to please and greater control. But, you will make more mistakes on your own and it will take you longer to hit that “sweet spot” where success comes with ease.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what route to go. But now, at least you have information that helps you make the best decision for your situation.
When most people hear the word “entrepreneur,” they think of someone rich and famous, who seems nearly flawless in their ability to make decisions. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Mark Cuban, and even Oprah Winfrey may come to mind.
But, you don’t have to live up to their extreme levels of success to be considered a “successful” entrepreneur. What you really have to do is come up with your own definition, and live up to that.
Here’s some different kinds of entrepreneur you might choose to be:
You want your business just to be you. You might have a few contractors or VAs offering you support to relieve you of boring, menial tasks or others outside your knowledge. But for the most part, you want to work by yourself.
You don’t like dealing with all the stress of managing employees. You don’t need lots of money to be happy. You just like to do your own thing and be helpful to others. And that’s it.
You have a certain lifestyle you want to support. This could be pretty simple, or you might want to be more ostentatious. Maybe you want to be able to go on vacation for a month twice a year.
Or, maybe you just want to own a home and work 20 hours per week, while making the equivalent of two full-time incomes so your spouse doesn’t have to work.
Absolutely nothing wrong with being a lifestyle entrepreneur. It’s up to you how you want to do it.
You just don’t like the conventional. It’s important to you to be in the limelight. You want to be the person or company who took on a huge challenge and won.
As a result, consumers want different things, or businesses in your industry now look at things in a different way.
Something really irks you. Maybe you don’t like how much a service costs. Or, maybe the big guys in your industry are ruthless and offer poor-quality products and service.
Or, maybe consumers are just irritated because they know they should be able to do something without so much hassle.
You love to provide a solution that helps people or businesses, or both.
Here we’re talking about the big names. You want to be the Gary Vaynerchuk, the one who always has the light shining on them. You want big money, and all the big cool things it buys.
You’ll have to judge which style is right for you, and the ethics behind each. For now, those are some types of entrepreneur you can be, and what each might be like.
Consumers buy from businesses they know, like, and trust. But they also do business with companies that do things in a “new” and “different” way.
This is a proven fact. Any marketer worth their salt will tell you this.
For example, would you rather go to a grocery store and get a “doughnut,” or would you rather pay a little more for one of these from Voodoo Doughnuts:
Mmmmmm…can’t you just taste one of them now? Even if you can’t, aren’t they just cool to look at, and maybe a little more worth a try than the same old thing?
By the way, the company’s located in Portland, Oregon. So if you live in the area and love your sweets like I do, it’s definitely worth your time and money.
That’s a prime example of disruptive marketing at its finest. It may be an offline example, but the same concept certainly works online.
And while you don’t have to be “disruptive” to succeed, it certainly makes your success a lot easier and certain. And it could drive your sales through the roof too.
Examples of Disruptive Product-Driven Businesses
Voodoo Doughnuts is a great, but far from the only, example of a disruptive small business. Take a look at a few others, and what makes them so different, to inspire your thinking:
1. Bumble Bee Linens
The products this company makes are achievable. They sell high-quality wedding linens, and now for other occasions too (like the birth of your child).
The linens can be customized with a message to your loved one.
Highly disruptive in that industry.
2. The Eggxer
This interesting product scrambles an egg inside its shell into a golden egg in just 15 seconds. The inventor’s child didn’t like egg yolks. So he got them to eat the eggs, along with the yolk, using this simple invention.
Talk about a creative, and possibly disruptive, idea!
3. Damn Heels
Ladies – don’t like wearing high-heels? Or, tired of wearing them all day long and need to slip into something more comfortable?
These shoes have the beautiful appearance of heels, without putting all the stress on your foot and ankle.
Do you, or do one or more of your family members run around like a maniac all day long? Sometimes, they might notice their smartphone suddenly has almost no charge.
That’s where the nPowerPEG comes in. It harnesses the kinetic energy your body creates by moving around all day. Then, it places that energy on a battery. And, you can use that battery to charge up devices that don’t require a lot of energy charge – smartphones, for example. You won’t be charging your car though!
So, those are examples of disruptive products. Think about your skills and interests. Then, consider how you can use those to build a product that solves a problem in a unique way.
At it’s simplest, that’s all business is.
Do you know what a “case study” is?
If you sell B2B products and services, you might. If you sell B2C, you might not because they don’t get used as often.
However, “case studies” can be your most powerful marketing tool. They tell a story that your customers can relate to…a story that shows how you helped a customer just like them get the result they want.
And these stories slip right by their resistance to buying. Instead of saying,”Why should I buy from you?” they say,”How do I buy from you?”
How Do You Make Case Studies Work for You?
The biggest mistake made with any case study is they focus too much on the company providing the product or service. The goal is to put all the focus on your customer…mentioning your company at the very end.
Don’t worry, customers will read that far if you write a compelling case study.
How Do You Write a Case Study That Drives More Sales?
It’s not that hard. You don’t have to be a super-expert writer either. Just follow these steps, and the brief instructions that follow:
1-Who is the customer? Give as much detail as you can about the customer. The goal is to make that clear so other customers can say,”Oh, hey. That sounds just like me.”
2-What problem did they have? Again, the same goal here. Show their problem in excruciating detail.
3-What solutions did they look at and ultimately reject? This helps to show why other solutions weren’t credible. You’re discrediting your competitors in a more subtle, believable way.
4-Why did they choose our product as the solution? Again, straightforward here.
5-How did they install our product or implement our solution? Again, the more detail, the better. You’ll probably have more detail with a B2B product or service.
6-How is the customer using our product now? Pretty straightforward.
7-What results have they attained with it? Critical. You must be specific here. Too many case studies get vague and say things like the customer was “happier.” Quantify that.
The result attained should also be the title of your case study. Include a few quotes from your customer to further the credibility of your case study.
Close with a call-to-action, such as sending customers to your product page and asking for the sale.
Then, Promote The Heck Out of Your Case Study!
Don’t just bury it on your website somewhere. Send it to your e-mail list. Put it on your social media profiles from time to time. You could it even advertise it on the front page of your website.
And you? You’ll get more sales with greater speed. Guaranteed.
FYI, if you’re doing this process right, it should take around 10-15 hours to write 800 – 1000 words. But, it’s more than worth it over the long run.
With more people in the US using their smartphones for research and purchasing than ever before, you have a huge opportunity in mobile marketing. But a lot of companies still struggle to capitalize on this.
What works today? What doesn’t?
Find out some of the latest ideas and insights so you can formulate your own mobile marketing strategy:
1. TextingÂ Works
We’ve talked about e-mail marketing on this blog before. It’s your highest-ROI marketing channel by far. Nothing else even comes close.
That holds true when you use e-mail marketing over mobile devices too.
The Oracle blog quotes Visual.ly as saying e-mail open rates in general are 4.2%. But for texting, they shoot up to 19%.
With texts, remember that they’re intended to be very personal. When you get customers to subscribe to text alerts, make sure you get their first name too so you can insert it into texts.
And above all, make sure the text alerts are useful and relevant to your market.
2. Consider a Seasonal Texting Program
Starbucks, for example, offers special SMS programs around Christmas and New Year’s. What holiday at your business is most relevant to your audience?
Identify and create a texting campaign around it.
3. People Love to Express and Share Themselves Through Mobile
Have you ever gone clothes shopping with your wife or daughter? What does one or both do when they try on new outfits? They send a picture text to their closest friends to get feedback on how they look.
You can also think of Coke, which did the Share-a-Coke Selfie campaign.
How could you make your product quickly and easily shared through mobile in a similar way?
4. Let Customers Customize Their Products
If you want to charge high margins, this is a great route to go. In China, Nike let customers take a picture of colors they wanted on a shoe. Then, they got a shoe in those colors.
Not too many things excite customers more than their own unique products. All you’d have to do is ask them to share their experience via mobile with their friends and family as soon as they get the shoe.
Nearly guaranteed great engagement there.
5. Make Sure Everything Works for Thumb Navigation
You may need separate websites for mobile and desktop users. Yes, the experience is that different. It’s something to strongly consider doing anyway.
To check to see if any part of your site isn’t useful for mobile users, simply use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.
Does mobile marketing work? Absolutely. However, marketers are still getting a grasp on exactly what works. And that means it’s your opportunity to grab some market share.
Let’s face the facts:
Some business owners do whatever it takes to make more money. You can probably think of a couple examples.
But, you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to compromise who you are just to make a buck. While you might get some money from it, the guilt and shame you’d experience afterwards would far outweigh the material benefit.
Sometimes, in America, we’re bombarded with so many messages showing how good material wealth is. Sometimes, it seems to be the only thing you should live for. There’s nothing else.
That’s one way you can do things. And many businesses do it.
But since you’re reading this post, you’re already considering doing things the other way. You’d rather stick to who you are.
But you’re a little afraid. That’s because you think “sticking to your values” will cost you in the long run. You’ll miss out. At worst, you could fail.
Strong Evidence Supports Sticking to Your Values Works
Well, I’m here to tell you that, while things may seem to work that way, plenty of evidence supports sticking to your values works in business. In fact, it’s an essential part of success.
And even better, you don’t have to choose the “right” ones. In fact, all that matters is you stick to them, no matter what they are.
The two greatest business books of all time, in my opinion, are Built to Last and Good to Great. Jim Collins and his team studied dozens of publicly traded companies to find why some endured over time, and why others fell by the wayside. Those two books were the result of that research.
He concluded his research by noting he believes the process discovered works for organizations of all sizes and types.
One of the big factors in theÂ success of the studied companies was “sticking to their core values.” You should have around 4-6 core values you do not sway from. Ever. For any reason.
Some of the companies that succeeded massively were:
â€˘ Procter & Gamble
â€˘ Abbott Laboratories
â€˘ Kimberly Clark
â€˘ Phillip Morris
What, a tobacco company made the list? Yes. That’s why Collins and his team concluded the core values don’t matter. Only sticking to them does.
By the way, you may feel some of these companies are bad examples of how to do business. They’ve changed a lot over the years. At the time of the study, they were definitely good examples.
So, you don’t, and in fact you shouldn’t, compromise your own values in business. Decide what they are. Write them down. Never bend. Customers and business contacts alike appreciate that.
And you’ll do just fine.