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?
Entrepreneurship gets so dreamy and idealized sometimes.
Think of a popular, and successful, entrepreneur like Mark Cuban. He seems to have it all. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. He shoots the breeze with big-name celebrities. He’s worth $3 billion. And he talks about being a vice president for either Clinton or Trump.
To get there, he worked 70 hours a week and never took a single vacation for 7 years.
Could you do that?
I know I couldn’t. The damage to my emotions, psyche, and even soul would be too great for me to bear. I’d literally implode. It wouldn’t be pretty.
As an online business owner, you have a unique challenge: working in isolation.
Let’s say you’re not Mark Cuban. You work a normal 40-50 hour work week or so. If you work from home, that’s still an awful lot of time where you don’t come into contact with other people.
How do you cope with it?
Here’s some ideas:
1. Give Yourself Downtime withÂ People who Re-Energize You
For most of us, this would be family. Hopefully, you can go to your own family for positive support. And if you can’t, hopefully you have some social circles and groups where you can.
If you don’t have positive relationships with your family, then it’s time to start working on improving those. And regardless of who you spend time with, they must support you and your goals.
It’s tough being an entrepreneur. The last thing you need is more challenges with your primary social relationships.
2. Get Out of Your Home
Yes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the grind and doing the same old thing over and over. It’s fast and simpleÂ to get working in the morning, so that’s exactly what you do.
If the weather’s decent out, take your laptop outside. There’s something about being outside that’s refreshing. Personally, for me, I don’t mind being outside in humid weather. In fact, I love it.
You could also rent “co-working” space, which is affordable. Some people suggest co-renting studio space with other entrepreneurs. I’m skeptical of that because you never know if the other person will pay. And you don’t know what they’re like to be with 40 hours per week or so.
It’s up to you. I’ll present that idea as simply another option.
3. Keep Regular Office Hours with Healthy Boundaries
It’s easy to let the the line between personal and work life get blurred when you work from home.Â If you have trouble shutting down for the day, give yourself standard office hours.
Then, share those with a friend or spouse who can help you stay accountable and actually stop when you say. Hard to do, but it’ll help you keep your sanity.
When all’s said and done, you have to create a plan that works for you. Everyone’s different. Remember, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness. Working a sane lifestyle that doesn’t isolate you from others 24/7 gives you so much more than $1 million ever could.
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!
Ever heard the term “content saturation?” I’m not sure if he coined the phrase or not, but Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion was who I first heard it from.
As you might have noticed, when you Google almost any topic, there’s more sources on it than you could ever read. And that’s where the term “content saturation” comes in.
It means just like you think: on any subject, you can get more content than you ever would need on it.
And if you’re using content marketing to promote your blog, it means that it’s now more difficult than ever to write content that stands out and attracts attention.
While it is challenging, it’s not nearly as hard as you think. And it’s far from impossible. Here’s what you can do in 2016 and beyond to make yours stand out:
1. Write Something “New” and “Different”
This one takes some time because you have to know what’s available on your subject in your niche. You have to know what’s really knocking it out of the park. And you have to know what most businesses do.
Fortunately, a tool like Buzzsumo speeds up this process. They have a free search, which scours the entire web for the posts with the most social shares on the keyword you search on. You can also use their free demo to get their full search options.
Those posts you find are your top competition. Now, it’s up to you to top those. If you want a lot of attention, you’ll have to get posted on a guest blog. It’s incredibly difficult to publish only on your own blog and grow it.
2. Do The Same Thing As Your Competition, ButÂ Make Your Content Much More Useful
If you’re not an original thinker, or you’re afraid of risk, you don’t have to write new and different ideas for your niche.
Instead, you can simply do what your competition does…except go much farther into depth. Did they write a 3,000-word blog post?
Great, go 4,000 words, create your own graphics, and a video or two. It could take 20-40 hours to write your guest blog post.
But don’t worry because the revenue and traffic you generate over the long-term will be well worth it.
3. Keep An Editorial Calendar
As you research content ideas, you will think of ones that simply knock it out of the park. Write them all down in a spreadsheet. You don’t want to lose any.
You may not even use most of them. But eventually, you will find a few that stand far and above the rest.Â Your editorial calendar is a “secret weapon” that helps you create unique content ideas that get attention.
Is it easy to create content that stands out? No. Is it simple? Yes. With enough dedication, you can do it.
Some e-commerce sites hit nearly instantaneous success. That’s rare. For most, that doesn’t happen. In the vast majority of cases, you spend years before you really hit your stride and sales start coming almost with no effort.
The strange thing about being successful is it drives your emotions all over the place. You’d think it would be great. And it certainly can be.
But it is a new experience (in most cases anyway). And that means it’s going to take some time for your mind to get used to it.
So if you can see success coming your way, or if you’re already in the middle of it, keep these things in mind:
1. You Might React By Feeling Like You Don’t Deserve It
For many, and especially for online business owners, it’s a common reaction to go emotionally way too low. You feel guilty and ashamed for succeeding. You feel like people are paying you too much money for what you do.
It’s common. Just talk to other e-commerce owners and you’ll hear many say the same thing. Just let it go. You’ve been working hard for a long time. And now, view it as your customers rewarding you for giving them exactly what they want.
2. You Might Start to Think You’re The Center of the Universe
This is the opposite of going way too low. Instead, you go way too high mentally. You start to think you know it all. You think you know how to do everything…including things outside of your business you’ve never done before. You think you “have it all.”
It’s another common reaction to let go of. You’ll become blind to future business pitfalls, traps, and snares. And one of those could trip you up.
3. The Solution: Gratitude
Being humble doesn’t mean you keep all your accomplishments to yourself and downplay them like they were “nothing.” Instead, humility means discussing the accomplishments you’ve made with gratitude, and giving your thanks to those who’ve helped you get there. That includes your customers.
4. Prepare to Say “No” A Lot
Success brings with it a new set of challenges, ones you haven’t deal with before. Long-lost “friends” and family members may crawl out of the woodwork and expect you to do something for them since you’ve become so successful.
Since random people may now know your name, your e-mail inbox may get flooded with “offers” and “opportunities.” You’re going to need a network of people you can trust to fall back on.
At this point, “emotional intelligence” and people skills become more important to you than ever. Some will have your best interests in mind. Most will not. Learning to distinguish who’s who will be key to your continued success.
Material success is nice to have. You just have to remember that it comes with a new set of challenges that require you to develop new skills to manage.
Most of all, be grateful and enjoy it!
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.