Have you been on Facebook for any length of time?
If you have, you know they’re making it more and more likely that your audience won’t see your posts. That is, of course, unless you pay them some money.
Guess that’s why Facebook is worth $350 billion (plus) right now, isn’t it?
And many other social networks have followed through on that too. Twitter’s been doing it. LinkedIn has paid advertising options.
They’re not as aggressive at forcing you to use those. But, it’s there.
So with organic reach falling on social media sites, what can you do? How do you reach your audience without having to fork over a small fortune for it?
Here’s some ideas:
1. Spend More Time Actively Promoting
With organic reach becoming less of an option, you can spend more time promoting your content on social media and building partnerships. For example, you could reach out to other Facebook page owners and offer to share their content if they share yours.
You can also like and comment on other pages, contributing value.
2. Spend More Time Creating Content
Several years ago, you could create almost any kind of content and get some attention for it. Now, you don’t get nearly as much attention if you do the same level of work.
So, you can get around that by creating more useful content. Find out what’s in your niche, and top it. Then, promote like crazy.
3. Work on Building Your List
Your email list gives you a lot of control you don’t get other places online. You can’t control Google’s algorithm and how it ranks you. You can’t control what Facebook does. But, you can control what you do once you have people on your email list.
You have their undivided attention.
4. Look at Less Costly Options
Reddit, Pinterest, Product Hunt, and many other similar websites offer low-cost advertising. Remember, the biggest name will always cost the most and have the most competition.
If you know what you’re doing on Facebook, that’s fine. But if you don’t, try somewhere else less costly first.
If you like to talk with others and network, a podcast could be a great idea for marketing. After years of existence, podcasts areÂ finally gaining widespread use.
Remember, Facebook’s only going to do what’s possible to continue growing their revenue. So, if you don’t like their costs, you’ll have to get creative and find ways to keep your audience’s attention.
Ever wonder how Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nike do it? Why are they some of the top brands, while others like Fila, Faygo, and Dr. Pepper try to keep up?
Think of each brand individually. Which one do you feel most positive about? I don’t know about you, but I get better feelings when I think about Coke, Pepsi, and Nike versus Fila, Faygo, and Dr. Pepper.
Of course, not everyone will agree with me on that. However, by and large, more people will than won’t.
It’s due in large part because of branding. Coke, Pepsi, and Nike have spent hundreds of millions, and maybe billions, on making sure their brands get seen in a more positive light than any other.
What do they focus on that makes them so much more powerful than any other company in their market?
Here’s some lessons to learn:
1. They Reflect What Their Target Market Likes Best about Themselves
Think about Nike especially: “Just Do It.” Athletes like to think of themselves as tenacious and competitive. That slogan definitely reflects that attitude. Plus, all the commercials you see feature athletes competing intensely or working out hard.
Coke sells happiness. Who can argue with that? Pepsi has a sweeter flavor and focuses on the younger crowd that likes to think of itself as cool.
When you think of the advertising all these brands do, they perfectly reflect what their markets like best about themselves.
How can your company do that?
2. They Focus on Feelings
We talked about Coke. They sell happiness. When you see a red can, you feel happy and positive. Puts you in a buying mood, doesn’t it?
Pepsi consumers feel young, energetic, and cool. Nike customers feel tough, confident, determined, and unstoppable.
What feelings do your customers want? If you sell furniture, do they like to feel frugal, like they got a good deal? Or, do they like to feel luxurious? Comfortable? Warm and happy with family?
Find out what feelings your customers want and show them how your products and services make them feel that way.
3. Consistently Reinforce Your Brand Everywhere
Your website, your banner ads, your employees, and even you personally, need to emphasize the core values of your brand at all times. Nothing works better in marketing and branding than consistency. When your customers consistently hear what they want to hear, they slowly begin to believe it over time. And that’s what keeps them coming back to you again and again.
If you follow these core principles of branding, you will succeed over the long-term. You’ll have a business that survives, thrives, and dominates the competition.
Say you start a brand new e-commerce business. You’re about to write your first blog post.
Can you make it one of those “smash hit” type posts that attracts crazy amounts of customers?
I’m not going to promise you those results. Some luck is involved when content succeeds. For example, your post gets shared by a key influencer, and then a few other influencers happen to notice yourÂ content and share it themselves too.
But, you can absolutely create a stellar blog post that attracts many more customers on your first try.
The key lies in knowing what elements make content persuasive.
Here’s a few:
1. Targeting Your Customer’s Pain Points
Nothing sells better than a solution to your customer’s primary pain. That’s what your business is all about, isn’t it? Your customers have a problem. And so they’re coming to you for a solution to it. If you have, in their eyes, the best solution, they’ll buy from you.
So, your content must fill a need.
2. Your Content Should Give Your Customers a Reason to Change What They’re Doing Now
What solution do your customers currently have for their pain? Do they slap together their own hand-rigged solution? Do they rely on another competitor of yours that really only offers a cheap solution?
Your content must build the case as to why what they do now isn’t the best solution.
3. Focus on Feelings and Experiences, Not Your Product or Services
When all’s said and done, nearly every person buys because of the feelings and experiences they get from using your products and services. Let’s say you’re selling a wall mount for a flat-panel TV.
What’s the pain there? It’s going to take time. The TV could get broken by kids or pets if it stays where it is now. The instructions could be complex. And what if the wall mount isn’t strong enough to hold the TV?
So, your content could focus on how easy and simple it is to install the TV mount. Or, how it could even be fun. That’s selling the experience. And then you can talk about the feelings of safety and security your customers get because they know their expensive flat-panel TV won’t get broken. It’s nice and safe and secure on the wall up there.
4. Make it New and Different From What’s Already Available
You know how you can easily find like 10-15 content pieces on any content topic. Some refer to that as “content saturation.” So, it’s important to know what your competitors do and say on the same topic. Then, yours must be new and different.
I can practically guarantee you a healthy amount of attention online if you follow those steps with your content. Make sure you follow them if you want to get serious about earning customers from content marketing.
Have you heard of, or do you use “chatbots?” Have you ever interacted with one?
It’s another way of automating interactions with customers. A simple messenger app responds to users and questions, taking care of them so you don’t have to.
While convenient for your business, should you use them or not?
Take a look at some of the considerations:
1. One of Your Key Competitive Advantages Versus Big Online Retailers Is…
Your ability to deliver personal customer service. All kinds of machines exist these days. Call your cable TV or satellite company, and you get a computer voice.
Call a company that doesn’t rely on personalized service, and you’ll get a voicemail.
What if you could call and talk to someone who can make a yes-or-no judgment on your question right then and there. You don’t have to wait 15-20 minutes to get through to the right person.
You don’t have to talk to a computer who misunderstands.
This is the first reason I don’t think chat bots are a good idea for small e-commerce companies.
2. Limited Understanding
I don’t know the exact comprehension level of chat bots. But I do know this: they can’t understand what a human does.
Your customers aren’t going to like being dropped or kicked by the wayside because a computer can’t get what they’re saying.
A human can ask clarifying questions and get understanding without causing much inconvenience.
3. Chat Bots Don’t Answer Personal Questions
Let’s say you have a big customer that really wants to get to know you. Instead of you talking, it’s your chat bot.
They ask your chat bot a personal question. They get a bizarre answer, or none at all.
One of the primary benefits of internet marketing is to deliver a personalized experience. Chat bots suck the life out of that.
I’m not sure it’s a good idea to use anything that makes your customers feel less like people and more like…just customers.
4. Where Chat Bots Might Work Well…
All this said, I don’t think chat bots are completely useless. The one area where they might work well is during off-peak hours where you can’t be available.
For example, during the night at 3 AM.
You could hire your own US-based reps to cover that time. It’s also an area where foreign labor, like hiring people with good English from the Philippines could be an option.
It’s more your judgment call here.
So…that’s my opinion on chat bots. What impact do you think they would make on yourÂ business?
Working 50, 60 hours per week, or even more?
Are you enjoying it?
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to work a more balanced workweek? Like, say maybe 40 hours per week or so?
Or, what if you could be like one of those dream stories you hear and put in a 15-20 hour week, while still making an income that more than exceeds your lifestyle’s needs?
It’s up to you as to how much work to put in on your e-commerce business. Some owners like the high demands of 70+ hour work weeks.
But others don’t see it that way.
If you want to work less hours, consider using outsourcing like this:
1. Only Do What You’re Really the Best At
Do you know your business skills? Have you ever made a list of everything you do in a day, and compared that to what you’re really the best at?
Do all of those tasks require you to be there? Could someone else, with just a little bit of training, do them just as well as you, or nearly so?
If you haven’t prioritized the tasks you need to take on, consider doing that. You’ll often find opportunities where you could hand simple or menial tasks off to someone else.
2. Don’tÂ Outsource What Really Differentiates Your Business
Is customer service one of the top reasons people come to Â your company, and not others? While helpful, outsourced services and vendors are never as committed to your company and your philosophy as you are.
If customer service is your major point of differentiation, for example, do it yourself or hire employees.
3. Outsource Services Where You Need the Expertise
What do you know about website design and conversion rate optimization? If you’re already an expert, great. No need to outsource that.
But let’s say your expertise is traffic generation. Don’t spend your time trying to design your website. Instead, find a company that charges fairly high prices for that service and leave it to them.
You can also learn their expertise, but that takes years of trial and error.
4. Outsource Your Marketing, If You’re Not a NaturalÂ Marketer
Marketing has two major aspects:
1) Positioning/branding (how your customers think of your company, compared to others)
2) Visibility to your market (most often represented as “SEO”)
For one thing, SEO’s getting too time-consuming to do on your own. And for another, most e-commerce companies don’t focus on branding or positioning (which also eat up a lot of time). But, when you find the right position in your market, sales come so much easier.
It’s really something that gets overlooked often. And it’s one area where it makes sense to use someone else’s outside expertise.
That’s the gist of outsourcing here in 2016 and beyond. Think of outsourcing at your business as a puzzle. You have to identify the pieces and assemble them in a way that makes sense for your business.
Have you ever looked at the average on-page time for your blog posts? Does it leave something to be desired?
Simply go to âBehavior Ă Site Content Ă All Pagesâ in Google analytics. You should get at least 1 â 2 minutes in your blog posts. If you donât get that, youâre not doing enough to be useful or original.
That means you lose out on more sales.
Itâs getting harder to write blog posts that stand out. As you know, the internetâs getting bloated with information. And much of it is the same old thing.
So what do you do to write a blog post that stands out, gets read and shared, and generates you all kinds of back links?
1. Focus on âNew and Differentâ
âNew and differentâ gets attention. It works in every facet of business for every kind of customer.
Itâs tough to write ânew and differentâ information. You may have to create dozens of blog posts that end up being the same as everything else out there first.
Thatâs okay. Itâs part of the process of getting to a successful place.
And to make that happen, you have to do the actions in #2âŚ
2. Research What Works
With content, you have to know your surroundings. You have to learn what your competitors are up to.
Fortunately, Buzzsumo makes that easy. With their free search, you can see the top 10 most shared content types on the keyword you enter. And that ranges anywhere from the past 24 hours to the past year.
See what those posts talk about. Take an original slant on what they say. Or, expand on something they mention.
3. Put A Good Half Hour Into Your Headline
You should write multiple variations of your headline until you get one that really blows readersâ minds.
Fortunately, there are two tools that make this process easier so you know the headline you come up with will be effective:
â˘ CoScheduleâs Headline Analyzer
â˘ The Advanced Marketing Instituteâs Emotional Marketing Value Analyzer
I aim for a score of 70+ with CoSchedule because theyâve based their tool on research of digital headlines that work. For the EMV analyzer, I want a score of 50% ideally, but Iâll leave with 35% or more if I have a 70 or greater with CoSchedule.
Thereâs no such thing as a âperfectâ blog post. Basically, all you do is make something ânew and different,â and then make your post far more useful than any other like it. Do that, and youâll be fine.
Considering different blog post types?
Awesome for you! Youâre starting to advance in content marketing sophistication much more than any of your competitors.
Very few, if any e-commerce SMBs, consider writing different types of blog posts. They just want to get as much information out there as possible. Or, at least thatâs the way most people think when they start content marketing.
What are the different types of posts you should have? Hereâs an overview:
1. Oldies but Goodies: How-To
âHow-toâ type content was the go-to even before content marketing erupted on the internet. Magazines and newspapers would use this type of content and rock it with results.
Your blog today is the same: it should have how-to posts to succeed.
2. Thought Leadership
Personally, I hate this term. Thatâs because thereâs no research shows âexpert contentâ results in more sales. However, I do use this term because thatâs how most businesses refer to it.
âThought leadershipâ content is okay. But I advocate for a different definition of what it is: new and different info that canât be found anywhere else. Thatâs because anything ânew and differentâ attracts more customers. Itâs just the way business and marketing works.
3. List Posts
Another standard for any content marketerâs repertoire, list posts get shared a lot. For added value, do a towering list post of 50-100 tips or resources. Thatâll shoot your shares up even further.
This one Iâve made up. The basic point is to take some form of conventional or accepted thinking out there, and then challenge it with your own opinion.
Thatâs going to attract attention because again, it taps into the idea of ânew and different.â
Donât challenge just for the sake of it. Only do it when you really believe you have a better way of thinking or doing things. Your audience will easily be able to tell the difference between these approaches.
5. Expert Roundup
Youâve seen these before: they collect the opinions of 100+ experts on a simple question. Theyâre huge because they build a lot of connections for you. Plus, they attract a ton of traffic. Naturally, you get lots of links and social shares too. Plus, your audience loves them.
A lot of work. But oh so many benefits!
6. Company Updates
Yes, you can talk about your company on your blog. Just make sure you do it on 10% of your posts or less. Get as personal as you can. Do an employee spotlight, or a department spotlight.
People want to get to know you personally online. Itâs a huge way to build strong relationships with your customers.
Those are six types of blog posts to have on your blog! Get âem on there to keep things fresh and interestingâŚand watch the interest and sales roll in.
Think of some of the leading brands in the US marketplace, like Nike and Apple.
Why do they engage consumers so much better than other companies? WhyÂ is Nike worth more than $93 billion? Why does Apple have more cash than Google and Microsoft combined, and several times more cash than the US Treasury?
The discussion could go on for hours. But for now, one Â reason is both company’s ability to tell compelling stories.
One says “Just Do It,” and the other “Think Different.” Both are highly successful in consistently charging prices well above the market average for their products.
They simply have engaging stories that captivate the consumer’s mind more than almost every other company.
Let’s take a look at both and why they work in detail:
1. “Just Do It”
For pro athletes, and even just the common person, this brand slogan resonates so well. Because, in part, it speaks to their market’s mentality: competitiveness and taking action.
And you know the commercials: famous pro athletes are always sweating, striving, and working out intensely. What an engaging story.
2. “Think Different”
No company has done a better job of positioning the quality of its products in consumer’s minds than Apple. Over time, even though it often hasn’t been the inventor of many products it’s known for, Apple has taken ownership of many products because they’re “different.”
The Macintosh is known as a quality, high-end personal computer. It has a simple design. But Macs have traditionally been used for high-end work, and especially graphic design. They’re thought of, including by Windows users, as “top-of-the-line.”
The same goes for smartphones. Though IBM released the “Ericsson” in 2000, Apple first popularized the smartphone.
When you think of smartphones today, do you first think of Androids or iPhones?
Yes indeed, Apple does successfully position its products as “different” and “better” than most.
Why Come Up with Engaging Brand Stories Like These Anyway?
When it comes to marketing, most e-commerce companies focus on “SEO.” That’s a tactic, not a strategy. And while it’s definitely something you need to do, you need a high-level brand story that really drives your marketing strategy (but only if you want explosive growth).
Because, when you have that, word about your business, products, and services spreads far and wide. Then, you get “free SEO” because people are happy to link to and talk about your company.
Psychologically speaking, stories are the most powerful way to engage consumers. Think of them as your “secret weapon” for slipping by your consumer’s resistance to buying.
Yes, it’s hard to find a story that resonates with your consumer and works to an extreme degree like “Just Do It” or “Think Different.” But, it’s well worth it. And it could make growing your business almost effortless.
So what story could resonate with your ideal customers?
SEO? It’s so tough these days it’s nearly impossible to do without the help of an agency. You can do a fair amount of it on your own.
But, it’s really hard to do it all yourself. And boring. Not all SEO tasksÂ are fun. And many favor introverted personalities that like numbers, words, and software.
How complexÂ does SEO really have to be? The truth is it does not have to be too difficult. In comparison to other knowledge-based professions, you don’t need to make it overly challenging to do decently.
That doesn’t mean it’s not time-consuming though. And it doesn’t mean you won’t run into snags and baffling problems from time-to-time.
But it doesn’t need to be complex. SEO can be simple. Here’s what to do to make sure you stay on track and don’t anger Google:
1. On-Page Optimization
This is easy. Pick 1-3 focus keywords for your page. Mention your most desired one in the title. Make sure the others appear at least once on your page.
Include synonyms and variations of the terms you want to rank for. But above all, make sure you write naturally.
A good way to do this is to write your page first. Then, go back and add the keywords. Include your most desired keyword in your URL too.
2. Regular Content
This needs to be your focus, as you know. To get attention and traction, you must write new and different content, or stuff that’s much more useful than anything like it.
And you have to promote. Content’s so bloated these days that it’s hard to find the really good stuff.
3. On-and-Off Page Links
Off-page links are still the strongest ranking factor for your content. This may diminish in importance in the future. But for now and the foreseeable future, they’ll carry a lot of power in how you rank.
Your on-site links carry a lot of weight too. Link to the most useful content on your blog. And link to other pages you want to rank highly (in nonchalant ways).
4. Be the Most Useful Source in Solving Your Market’s Problem
Your market has a problem that keeps them up at night. And they have other problems you can solve too.
To earn and keep their attention, make sure you solve their problem better than anyone else. Or, solve their problem in a unique way.
However you do that, you must compare yourself to other websites and businesses that solve the same problem you do. Watch them every day. And you must solve the problem even better than they do.
…Or, you’ll lost market share. The best solution gets the most word-of-mouth online.
When you get right down to it, today’s SEO really is this simple. But it ain’t easy. Focus on those things, though, and you’ll do just fine.
You have two ways you can do business online:
1. Put up barriers so it’s hard for customers to get what they want and you get more money now
2. Make customer service easy so you get more long-term sales by building relationships with your customers
Most businesses do the first thing. That’s been my experience, anyway. Most of them aren’t don’t offer what I’d call “bad” customer service. But it’s nothing special. And it’s clear you’re just another purchase to them.
For example, I recently decided to switch from my cable company to a satellite TV company. The cable company sent a digital box to my house, took away 2/3 of the channels, and then claimed our neighbor fraudulently spliced into our cables and that we should never have been getting those channels for the past couple years!
Now it’s a rare business that does things that bad. But most don’t go out of their way to provide an unforgettable experience.
1. What Can You Do to Stand Out?
At a jewelry brick-and-mortar, my wife, who just had surgery to repair her ACL, had two employees who opened the doors for her. That’s the only business where we’ve experienced that.
Online…what’s the standard experience? Go to a website. Maybe get a live chat operator hassling you with questions nearly immediately.
How could you personalize the experience? Maybe use a cookie so your users see the items they recently looked at, and related ones, right away?
What about a website that loads super-fast?
2. How Customer-Friendly is Your Return Policy?
Now, if you’re really all about customer service, take back your returns always, only asking why so you can understand what’s not good about the product.
Consider Nordstrom, for example. At their location in Fairbanks, Alaska, a customer slammed down two snow tires they wanted a refund for. They were valued at a total of $145. So, that’s a decent-size return. Except, the problem was that Nordstrom sells upscale clothing, and has never sold auto parts ever.
Well, the associate there decided to accept the return!
You can’t do that with every customer. But doing amazing things like that on occasion makes customers feel secure that you’re on their side. And they like to shop at stores like that.
3. Forget about What’s in it For You
Yes, you need to make money. But, today’s customer has so many options. And they can quickly and easily compare any product.
So now, you can be of best service to them by helping them find what they want at the price they want. Be okay with telling them,”Oh yeah, we don’t sell that product at that price. You can go to [other company’s website] to get products in that range.” However, our products [and then describe the benefits of your products that customers can get only at your store].
Then, let them make up their mind. Not only will you get more of the customers you want, but your no-pressure approach will attract many more customers used to getting hassled for their money at other stores.
Customer service? It’s the one thing most companies don’t get and that you can always beat them on. And it works in every type of market – both up and down.
Never forget it!