L
O
G
I
N

Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

How to Get Free Press Coverage Online

How can the bootstrapping startup possibly contend with a highly competitive online marketplace?

Well, fortunately, there’s a ton of things you can do. And today, we’re going to show you how to get some good press coverage, even if you don’t have any budget to do it.

But you gotta be clever about it because journalists get pitches all the time.

Here are some ways to do it:

1. Hit Up Leading Online Influencers

They can send a drove of traffic to your website. Check the number of social shares they get on their average blog posts. You can try for the A-listers – the clear leaders in your niche.

But, you might have an easier time getting publicity with blogs that aren’t the leaders in your niche, but maybe just a step or two away. Let the influencer have a free sample of your product to review. Once you’ve established a reputation at that level, then you’ll have an easier time hitting up the A-list blogs

Most of all, make sure the blog and its audience would benefit from your product. Influencers’ number one complaint is they get completely irrelevant pitches.

2. Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

Now you won’t get to pitch your products directly to any of these journalists. However, you can get on some pretty high-profile websites (like Forbes or Huffington Post) with these.

They send you a daily e-mail digest you can customize, and then you respond to the appropriate story ideas. You can get featured as a knowledgeable expert, and then earn some sales as a result.

3. Check Your Competitor’s Link Profile

This is simple – just use Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer.org. This doesn’t give you a complete link profile, but no online tool does. The rest is simple: check out all the places your competitors get links online and see if you can create a compelling pitch to get featured on the same sites.

4. Focus on Providing Value, Not the Number of Pitches

“Sales is a numbers game” – isn’t it?

Or is it?

It is, because you’re going to have to reach out to some extent. But your focus when pitching shouldn’t be to “get it done” and move on to the next one. You’ll have an astronomically low success rate and will end up wasting most of your time going that route.

Custom-construct the pitch for each website’s owner and audience. Show why your product or company benefits them better than any other out there.

Remember, when you show them you understand and want to form a relationship with them (not just wanting to get money), you’ll experience much more success.

5. Write a Press Release

Okay, so this one isn’t technically free. But it is very low cost. You can write and distribute a press release at sites like PR Web for just $160. That’s not a huge cost, and you can get a fairly significant amount of benefit in return.

If you have  a great product and focus on what it does for your market as you promote it, you’re going to sell more of it using these methods.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Counteract Showrooming

If you have a physical store, have you ever felt that you are “showrooming” to your customers? Do all indicators look good, and then suddenly, when it’s time to buy, they decide to walk away and go somewhere else?

Best Buy was struggling with the “showrooming” effect in late Fall and early Winter of 2012. Its stock price bottomed out at around $11.00 back then, and now it’s made a nice comeback, as it sits around $35.50.

It tried an ad campaign that actually encouraged people to use it for showrooming. But what really worked was a guarantee to match any prices consumers found on Amazon.

But can you match the low prices found on that website? For small and micro businesses, price-matching is generally a total nightmare bound to drive you out of business at one time or another. Amazon also uses a system that allows it to successfully sell some items below cost because turnover is so quick!

That’s not something you want to match…

If you think showrooming hurts your bottom line, here’s what to do about it:

1. Price Match Yourself

If you have thousands of items on sale both in and outside of your store, sometimes your own pricing may be inconsistent. If customers point this out to you, be willing to sell the in-store item for the lower online price.

2. Build a Successful Loyalty Program

Give your customers points for shopping with you. But, loyalty programs aren’t that simple. You’ll have to figure out what kinds of perks and rewards your customers enjoy most. It’ll almost be like building a new micro-business from the ground up.

3. Have Extensive Reviews & Product Details Available

If your customers can get all the information they need about your product from your online store, they don’t have the need to go anywhere else. Make your product detail the most attractive and in-depth available.

4. Make Your Store Experience Awesome

What’s the feeling you get when you walk into one of Apple’s stores? Now you may not be able to mimic that experience in yours.

But you can definitely make it more appealing than other small competitors. Think of what your customers want and like and give them an awesome in-store experience.

5. Follow That up with Legendary Customer Service

If you have to get in your car and drive halfway across the nation to deliver a product in time, do it! Most companies give mediocre customer service at best.

Make sure your customer service people have the power to make a decision that leaves your customers ecstatic. Word will spread far and wide you truly do care about your customers.

So anyway, if you do those things, you can do a lot to overcome showrooming. It’s impossible to eliminate entirely, but you can minimize its effects.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

15 Amazingly Inspiring Customer Service Quotes

To consumers, the words “customer service” often take on a negative bent. That brings up thoughts of waiting forever on hold, not getting a good answer, and leaving the situation even more frustrated than before.

Customer service can be stressful, draining work. But if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be a bad thing.

So if you’re having a hard time getting through it, here are some inspiring quotes to pick you back up:

1. The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.

- Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart

2. In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.

– Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com

3. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

- Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft

4. Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.

- Ross Perot

5. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.

- Donald Porter, British Airways

6. There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

- Sam Walton (It was such a great quote that Sam Walton gets 2!)

7. I don’t know what your destiny will be. But one thing I know: the ones among you who will be really happy are those have sought and found how to serve.

- Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian

8. You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.

- Jerry Fritz, Professional Business Speaker

9. “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

10. “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

– Richard Branson, Investor & Founder of Virgin Group

11. He profits most who serves best.

- Arthur F. Sheldon, Teacher & Philosopher

12. Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.  

- Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

13. One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.

- Lewis Carroll, English Writer

14. When people talk about successful retailers and those that are not so successful, the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason.

- Jerry Harvey, American Sound Engineer & Founder of JH Audio

15. If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.

- Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald’s

So if you’ve been struggling with customer service, those quotes should set you on the right track and take your customer service from so-so to legendary.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

Did You Know Reddit Can Help You Sell?

Fortune3-Sell-ImageYou may or may not be familiar with Reddit. It’s certainly well-known among some circles, and it has more than 5 billion monthly pageviews.

But it’s not on the radar of the mainstream American like, say, Facebook.

If you’re not familiar, it’s basically one gigantic internet forum.

And of course they’ve got to make some profit to keep business going, so they let you pay to run ads.

These ads are great for the bootstrapping startup because they don’t cost a heck of a lot, and you can get a pretty nice ROI.

Here are some tips for making Reddit your next profit center:

1. Know the Demographics

KISSmetrics notes Reddit’s typical user is a 25-34 year-old male with an income of $25,000 – $50,000 per year. Most are in the US, while some are in Canada. They typically have some college education, but many have bachelor’s degrees.

Finally, a good portion of the user base comes from Seattle and San Francisco. So, you’re going to be talking to people with generally more liberal attitudes.

2. Don’t Use Shortlinks

They typically redirect to websites with junk or malware. Your links won’t get clicked if you shorten them.

3. Who Does Reddit Work For? 

If you go to Reddit and post your link and content all over the place, you’ll quickly get flagged for spam and booted off the site. So you have to be wise about the way you approach the community.

KISSmetrics continues on to state that this is generally what works well on Reddit:

  • Photography
  • Art
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Videogames
  • Technology
  • Science
  • Music
  • Comics
  • Food
  • Fitness

4. Skip the Hard Work and Just Use Reddit Ads

You can target your ad to the entire Reddit community, or you can drill it down to more targeted sub-Reddits. You can also target based on interest group and location. Reddit has a wiki that discusses in more detail what you can do with its ads.

5. Finally…

Just because we’re saying to use Reddit doesn’t mean you should. First, you should make sure your company is a good fit for this site to the best of your ability. For example, Gabriel Weinberg, who created DuckDuckGo, experienced phenomenal success using Reddit for marketing purposes.

And when you think about it, that is a good fit for Reddit’s user base because only highly technologically adept people, and geeks, know and appreciate DuckDuckGo for what it is (a direct competitor to Google).

Are You Going to Test This Channel? 

If you don’t have enough already, or if you’re running out of ideas, Reddit is an option.

If you think it fits, go for it!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

What are Alibaba’s Secret to Success?

fortune3-alibaba-secrets-imageYou’ve heard about Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and how it raised $25 billion in its IPO, right?

That made it the biggest IPO in history.

And it’s responsible for much of Yahoo’s success because Yahoo owns around 23% of Alibaba.

So what does Alibaba know that no one else does?

We can’t say for sure, but these are some things they do that maybe not all e-commerce companies do themselves:

1. They Combine Many Major Services Into One Company

Alibaba is really like eBay, Amazon, Paypal, and WhatsApp (multi-platform mobile messaging that doesn’t use SMS) all rolled into one. It’s really shocking what this single company does all itself.

Lesson for You: Are there multiple services your customers use that they have to get from several different businesses? Could you offer all of those at your company?

2. Awesomely Good Timing

Did Jack Ma know the explosion in cell phone ownership would happen in nice coordination with the founding of his company? It certainly happened that way.

Lesson for You: Are there overwhelming market forces out there  you can piggyback on?

3. They Solve a Unique Market Problem

One of the main challenges in China is trust. How can you trust other people? They don’t have a well-organized credit system like we do here in America.

Alibaba solves that. They use their own transaction data to build credit profiles for all users.

And if that’s not enough, Alibaba’s attempting to reform the financial system for the average Chinese citizen. It’s able to give customers twice the interest of the average bank in the country.

Lesson for You: Wow, this one’s very individual. But think about the various problems that your customers have, and consider how you could solve those in a way never seen before.

4. It Responds to Market Needs Better than Any Other Company

The average Chinese citizen is highly concerned with being able to negotiate and bargain on prices. One of Alibaba’s platforms, Taobao, allows that.

There’s also an optional escrow system that lets buyers only pay for goods after they’ve gotten them and confirmed they are in good condition.

Lesson for You: How well do you truly understand your market? Keep working at it every day!

5. Preserving Culture While Also Scaling 

You hear the talk about “culture” so much, and it always sounds so cliche. But, when it’s executed to perfection in reality, it makes a huge difference in the growth of a company.

With Alibaba, one aspect of their culture they’ve preserved quite well is growing companies from their startup phase to national or global scale.

They also enforce values of “embracing change” and “teaching and learning.”

Lesson for You: Find 4-6 core values for your company (even if it’s just you), and stick with them. They’ll take you far.

You can do a lot of good things with your e-commerce company. And hopefully these 5 secrets of Alibaba’s success get your mind turning so you take your business to bigger and better places.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips

6 PPC Hacks for New E-Commerce Startups

fortune3-ppc-hacks-imageYou’ve got to get business, and you have to get it now. Wait a minute, doesn’t SEO take 12-18 months before you even see beginning results?

Do you really have that long to wait before you can even begin to see profits? How many business owners have that much money sitting inside their bank accounts?

1. Target Keywords with Model Numbers, UPC Codes, Part Names, And So On…

Why on earth would you ever do this? Well, people who type these things into Google know what the heck they’re looking for.

Not only will you get a good conversion rate, but the ads are cheaper to create in the first place because there’s so much less competition for them (no one knows about them).

This keeps your cost per acquisition to a minimum too.

2. Think about Putting Your Pricing in Your Ads

It’s a great way to qualify leads so you only get the very best customers willing to spend what you want them to pay. You spend a whole heck of a lot less on people who are more likely to buy and be happy to pay your price.

3. Do You Use “Dayparting?” 

You probably haven’t even heard of this. But, what it means is that you bid higher for clicks at certain times of the day. For example, if you have B2B clients, you’d want to pay more for ads at the beginning and end of the work day.

That’s when B2B clients search for your keywords. It makes no sense to bid on keywords from 9 PM to 6 AM when they won’t look for your products and services.

4. For Mobile Users, Let them Click-to-Call

Somewhere around 50% of all internet searches are done on mobile devices (maybe the real number is slightly less than that). Just make sure that, since mobile users can most easily see the top 3 ads, you get your ad in that position for them to easily notice.

5. Aim for a “Unicorn Ad”

This type of ad is  in the top 1% of all ads on the web. It has a 6 times higher CTR than Google’s expectation. Your ads must be highly emotional with powerful words in them to crack this elite status.

Keep testing until you hit this magic plateau!

6. Don’t Listen to What Google Says about Quality Score

Believe it or not, Quality Score has a significant impact on CPC. Why would Google say this is not the case? Well, if you don’t try to optimize your Quality Score, they make more money (That’s a bit of a conflict of interest, isn’t it?)

Ignore what Google says, and do everything you can to maximize it!

If you follow these tips, you’ll race ahead of the competition before they even realize what’s happening.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies, Pay-Per-Click

How to Keep Yourself Fresh for Work

You’ve all been there – working long hours, sometimes much longer hours than you want. But now that you run your own business, you have some choice over when you work those hours.

Sometimes you’ll be in a rush that never seems to end. Others, you can’t wait for the crickets to stop chirping.

The most important thing for any small business owner is that you keep yourself mentally fresh. When you are, you do your best work and deliver your highest quality of service to your customers.

That keeps them happy – and your bottom line healthy.

But how do you do it on a consistent basis when you can’t predict your business flows?

Here are some tips:

1. Take a Break Instead of Forcing Things

If your mind and body say, “Sorry, this is all we have in us today,” respect that. If you force it, you get frustrated, angry, depressed, and eventually you burn out. And if you burn out, you risk making a number of serious errors that could cause incredible damage to  your business.

2. Eat Fruits, Vegetables, & Non-Processed Foods

Their nutrients help you stay more sharp and focused than if you eat potato chips and Ho-Hos. The latter are definitely easier to eat, but once you see the payoff of eating healthier, you won’t want to go back to eating unhealthy.

3. Exercise 

This is easier if you work from home. But, you can make it happen if you have an office too. You don’t have to be super-intense about it – like running 3-5 miles.

Just go for a 20-30 minute walk to clear that fog out of your head. You could also play basketball for a few minutes. Try P90X for 10 minutes.

Whatever it is that you do, just make sure you enjoy it (because you want to look forward to it, not make it another to-do on your work list).

4. Stay Hydrated

Stock your fridge with sparkling water – and even bottled water (or at least some cold tap water). For one thing,  you’re not constantly drinking those unhealthy carbonated drinks.

It also quenches your thirst for all of those unhealthy things you really want to drink later on – like alcohol.

5. Identify Your Low-Productivity Times of Day 

For many of us, that’s in the early-to-mid-afternoon.Plan your exercise breaks for those times. Or find another way of taking a break.

Why spend that time being unproductive when you could instead just take a break and be more productive later on?

6. Set Deadlines

You hear about those superentrepreneurs that work 65-80 hours per week, don’t you? Do you really think they’re actually working productive hours that entire time?

If you don’t have a deadline, it’s easy to sit around and waste hours on end until you complete your goal.

But what if you do set a deadline? You’ll force yourself to find faster, more efficient ways of doing things.

And you won’t be so stressed, tired, and anxious about work either!

So if you follow those tips, you’ll have a better, healthier you – and what’s more – an even stronger, more profitable e-commerce business.

Enjoy!

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

How to Identify a Google Penalty

fortune3-google-penalty-man-angry-at-computer-imageThe release of Penguin 3.0 was confirmed on 10/17/14.

Now, you know it’s easy to identify in Google Webmaster Tools if you have a penalty. You just go to Search Traffic –> Manual Actions.

And right there, Google tells you about any manual penalties.

But how do you know if you got whacked by an algorithmic update like Penguin 3.0?

It’s not as hard as you think.

Using Google Analytics to Determine a Google Penalty

It’s actually amazingly easy to do in Google Analytics. All you do is sort your number of visits by month. If you haven’t gotten hit by a penalty, you should notice negative fluctuations no greater than 10%.

Usually, when you get nailed by Google, you notice a dramatic decrease of 30% or more in monthly web traffic.

Compare the drops in traffic to the dates of various Google algorithm changes. If you notice a huge drop right after an update, you were definitely hit by one.

That’s all there really is to identifying a Google penalty.

The tough part is figuring out what to do about it.

How to Check Your Backlinks 

This process is simple, but it is time-consuming. Again, you have to go to Google Webmaster Tools. Then:

1. Go to “search traffic”

2. “Links to your site”

3. Click “more” in the middle of your screen

4. At the top of the page, click the “Download this Table Button”

This gives you an entire table of all the links Google recognizes that point to your website. Now, the hard part is figuring out which links are hurting you, and then getting them removed.

Links that Hurt Your Website

The vast majority of Google penalties happen because of bad links to your website. So if you know you have a penalty, they’re the first thing to check.

Remember, the number one attribute for any link is how relevant the linking site is to yours in topic. If it’s completely the opposite and has nothing to do with your website’s topic, you don’t want that link.

You also don’t want:

1. Links from websites that offer a poor user experience (If they seem poorly put together or strange on first impression, get your link removed)

2. Exact-match anchor text pointing from other sites to yours

3. A large number of links from guest blog posts

4. Forum links/comment links – A certain number of comment links are fine, but they can’t make up the brunt of  your link profile.

5. Article directories/social bookmarking sites – These sites have thin, low-quality content and Google doesn’t want you having any links from them.

So those are the types of links not to have. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to get rid of them.

Posted in SEO for eCommerce

Do You Put Your Customers First?

How many times have you heard other businesses say, “Your satisfaction is our priority.” “We put our customers first.” “We’re never happy unless you’re satisfied.”

But do most businesses actually do that? Or do they just say it because that’s what you’re supposed to say to look good?

What about you? Do you put your customers first?

How do you know you are doing that?

Here are a few signs that you might (or might not) be putting your customers first:

Signs You Do Put Your Customers First

1. You don’t have a rigid policy - If you do have a tight policy, it means you’re trying to control how customer service works. Some basic structure is necessary. But if you have an incredible amount of detail, you’re trying to get money out of your customers. With a flexible policy, your reps (or you) have the ability to get solutions that make customers happy.

2. You actively solicit customer feedback - This means you care what your customers think of you. You can never do enough surveys to constantly stay up-to-date with customer concerns as they change.

3. You proactively communicate - If your customers constantly have to chase you down to get an answer, that’s no good. By being the first to communicate, you provide great service that’s hard to find anywhere else.

4. You consistently deliver on your promise - Remember the old adage “underpromise and overdeliver?” If you have a lot of angry customers, it’s time to look closely at your promise. It may be time to reduce what you promise so you make your customers happy. You may have to improve service quality too. Let the facts of your situation tell you what to do.

Signs You Don’t Put Your Customers First

1. You let the little things slide - Remember how you used to return every customer email the same day? Now, sometimes you rationalize it’s okay to let it go until tomorrow or the next.

2.You always let the customer be right - You can tell them they’re wrong, but only when you believe that acts in their best interests.

3. If it’s not broke, you don’t fix it - One of capitalism’s greatest market forces is innovation. If your customers are happy, that’s great. But you need to ask them what would make them even happier so your competition doesn’t find out before you.

4. You’re not 100% honest - Big lies should never happen. But you should avoid even the “small” ones too. If you have a late delivery, take responsibility for that and don’t “spin it” to make yourself look better. Complete honesty in business is rare and customers respect the golden truth.

When you truly do everything you can to keep your customers happy, business is a cinch – even during difficult economic times.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

Chip Cards Are Coming – Are You Ready?

fortune3-cyber-security-chip-cards-imageYou know how debit and credit cards have used magnetic strips for years, right?

Well, most likely that’s all going to go away very soon.

In fact, “chip cards,” as they are called, are in widespread use overseas – especially in Europe.

What Are “Chip Cards?”

Instead of the magnetic strips you know now, credit and debit cards all have chips inside. A unique code is created for each transaction. Data breaches aren’t necessarily any easier to stop, but security experts say this will stop criminals from using your stolen information.

Customers at physical stores won’t be swiping them, but they will be dipping them into a reader. Chip cards sit in the reader for a few seconds, until the transaction gets approved. They actually sit inside the card reader itself – and customers often forget them.

You can actually get these cards now if you request them. Currently, they come with magnetic strips on them in many cases because it won’t be until the end of 2015 or so that they get widely adopted.

What’s This Mean for E-Commerce Store Owners Like You?

Unfortunately, the preliminary news looks like it makes things more complicated for e-commerce store owners. In fact, security analysts anticipate there may be an increase in online crime with these cards. More than likely, criminals will work hard to find new ways to steal  your customer’s data.

So somehow, you have to adjust. The article suggests you do something like sending a unique code to your customer’s phone to verify it is actually them making the purchase.

From the sounds of it, you’ll be forced to adopt this because there’s nothing really stopping big businesses from using it.

MasterCard also has a start on this with their Chip Authentication Program (CAP). If you want the full story on CAP, just know that it gets dense – fast.

But here’s basically what it does to protect your customers when they pay online:

1. CAP has 3 modes, and Mode 1 is the one used for normal monetary transactions

2. The CAP reader asks your EMV card for a data packet that confirms the cancellation of a fictitious EMV payment (it also includes your customer’s unique information)

3. You successfully enter your pin

4. CAP sends a binary code as an Authorization Request Cryptogram (ARQC) transaction

5. SmartCard gives a response and CAP cancels this fake transaction

6. CAP uses an IAI mask to drop bits which correspond to a 0 from the binary code

7. The final, and real transaction is revealed

Now, that’s just a simplification of what really happens, but it’s one way chip cards will be protected when used for online purchases.

Stay tuned…between that and Apple Pay, a lot of changes are coming for payment processing!

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips