Social Media Marketing in 2018

Social media platforms (namely, Facebook) have become all-in-one tools for users. They can stay up to date on their favorite shows and celebrities, chat with friends, play games, keep in touch with family members, research products or services, learn about businesses, locate businesses, and write customer reviews about their experiences.

Need a social media marketing plan? Check out this post on how to create one.

SMO (Social Media Optimization)

Google may be the most trusted platform for obtaining users, but Facebook is more versatile and, with its multiple facets, may even be more convenient at times. This doesn’t mean that search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t important in 2018. It most certainly is. However, social media optimization is just as important. Social media optimization involves tactics to ensure that your business stands out, gets found, and generates leads on social media.

Here are some SMO musts for 2018:

  • Use a link to a landing page (not a homepage) in your bios.
  • Add your location to Facebook and Instagram for location-based marketing.
  • Get reviews on Facebook
  • Use social media advertising. The targeting is superb.

Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral content comes into play for 2018 because now more than ever, consumers are expecting authenticity, transparency, and immediacy from businesses. Stories aren’t for putting forth your highest quality content, but that’s okay, it gets wiped off the record anyway! Stories give your audience immediate and raw access to your business, helping to build trust and consistent engagement. They also are a form of video, which is huge for 2018.

Posts to help you with producing ephemeral content:

10 Reasons to Use Instagram Stories

Ideas for Using Instagram Stories

Tips for Marketing Your Business with Instagram Stories

There are many more important trends that exist in these and other marketing channels that are important to know for 2018. You’re not going to be able to adopt every new tool or change all of your existing strategies for the latest ones, but that’s okay. It’s most important to focus on optimizing your current channels, and leaving enough room to try a few new things.

Best Ways to Market Your Business in 2018

As this year ends and another year approaches, you should be looking back on what was successful this past year as well as looking ahead at what to expect for the new year. There is already a plethora of information out there with the cutting-edge trends to be ready for in 2018. However, let’s not forget that for the most part, what will work best in 2018 is utilizing the channels you already have in place. Here are some tips and trends to help you identify the best ways to market in 2018 using channels with which you are already familiar.

2018 Business Website Tips

It started out with whether to have a website or if a Facebook business page could do the trick. Then as websites became a must, it became which kind of website (“brochureware” or a more interactive site?). Now that it’s 2018, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a high-quality, dynamic website for your business.

In 2018, your website should:

  • Provide visitors with the information they need to call or visit you.
  • Be optimized for search engines
  • Have a lead-generating contact form to initiate email communication (not just “email us at info@yourbusiness.com”)
  • Inform visitors of your hours, products, services, and prices
  • Have a blog that brings in organic visits through valuable information
  • Most importantly, your website should be responsive. Mobile-friendly will prevent you from losing potential and current customers, but responsive is what will get your website to be a lead generator and customer converter.

Email Marketing in 2018

Before getting into the details of email marketing for 2018, let’s first quickly review why email marketing is still such a strong marketing channel.

Email Gives Your Audience Control

Aside from its numerous benefits, email marketing has an advantage over social media because users have a bit more control over things. With social media, users sign on and open themselves up to a barrage of content. They’ve got businesses’ sponsored and regular posts as well as suggested follows showing up amongst the posts of their friends and family.

Your email inbox is similar, but it is your decision whether to open the content. You don’t have to go through every opened email to get to the one you want to see. Also, for the most part, you’ve signed up to receive marketing emails and can easily unsubscribe with the click of a button.

Email Offers Consistency

With social media, you’ve got to spend time learning feed preferences for each channel and what specific settings to enable or disable—which change frequently.This type of specificity, as well as the news-feed style of information consumption, has its own benefits, but there are times when predictable email is preferred. Email stays pretty consistent for the most part. You can almost always rely on scrolling to the bottom of the email to click unsubscribe.

 

The 10 Best Ways to Promote an Event Online

Armed with this, your online promotion efforts are going to help drive meaningful engagement and, ideally, increase attendance.

Create content that promotes your event

No matter what kind of event you’re promoting online, letting it exist in a vacuum is never a good idea.

What I mean by that is your content marketing efforts should overlap with the event you’re promoting.

Let’s say that your brand or business has a weekly podcast. It’s crucial that you take time during that podcast to plug your event.

In general, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to promote an event of yours on a platform you control, particularly when you’re dealing with a targeted audience.

TechCrunch has a fantastic CTA on their site that leads you to their event.

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But, beyond that, it’s important to recognize the practicality of this approach.

To put it frankly, even the most dedicated audiences get busy.

They may have wanted to keep up with all your content, but simply missed your official announcement of the event.

That’s why TechCrunch created content that promotes their events.

Their content offers tangible value, but it never feels purely self-promotional.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you want, you can create blog posts that discuss information relevant to the event.

You can go one step beyond that and create unique videos for the event like Inbound has.

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Whether it’s a collage of previous attendees at old events or a video of past speakers, what matters is that your content is making people aware of your event.

If you want to keep people interested and make sure they actually show up, you’ll need to create compelling promotional content.

Add your event to your email signature

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.

“Neil, this is corny/excessive/unnecessary.”

These complaints usually come from people who have been on the receiving end of lame email signatures.

Trust me, I get it.

And make no mistake, email signature event promotions can look downright cringeworthy when done poorly.

But if done tastefully, an email signature can pique your audience’s interest and compel them to click through to your site.

Something as simple as this Bizzabo signature can encourage a reader to click to learn more about your event.

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The go-to rule here is to avoid an email signature that’s too long or tedious.

An email signature can be a simple yet professional way to promote your event every time you send an email.

Use email lists to your advantage

I’m a huge believer in the power of leverage.

One of the main reasons that I encourage businesses and brands to offer value is that it helps you gain an interested audience.

Let’s say that you’ve taken a page out of my book and created content so valuable that your competitors would have made people pay for it.

Here’s an example of a signup form for a webinar where I teach how to skyrocket your traffic through SEO:

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If you gave that away for free, with the only expectation being that they sign up for your newsletter, you’ll grow a strong email list.

Not only will you get plenty of email signups, but the vast majority are probably going to be active emails as opposed to dead links.

Why?

Simple. When you offer major value, people take notice.

If your content is valuable, people will care. And when people are receiving value, they’re more likely to keep following your newsletter.

Of course, all this is great, but it doesn’t answer why email lists are so important to your marketing strategy.

Let’s face facts. Having your own list of targeted leads can be a pretty powerful marketing tool.

And promoting your event via that email list is the perfect chance to offer your followers even more meaningful value.

Promoting your event via email is actually pretty straightforward.

2-3 months before your event, you can send out your official invitation to your email list.

An effective invitation has three major components.

  • It covers the major event details (important speakers, location, etc.).
  • It shows what the attendees will gain from going to your event.
  • It is brief, personal, and to the point.

From there, you should periodically remind people about the event, but don’t overdo it. A clear reminder in your weekly newsletter should get the job done.

When you provide people with valuable information by letting them know you have a relevant event coming up, you’ll only reinforce the validity of your email list.

Create a unique event page

Make no mistake. Having a unique event page on your website is a massively important step. It helps people take you seriously, and it becomes a hub for event information.

Just take a look at what TechCrunch did with their Disrupt event.

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There’s no need to make it something incredibly fancy. What matters is that it clearly lists all the relevant information about your event.

That means you’re providing visitors with an FAQ section to address any issues they might be wondering about.

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You should also have a list of any important guests and speakers that’ll be presenting during your event.

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My favorite aspect of creating a unique page for an event is that you can create trackable URLs for your website and landing pages.

Why does this matter?

Simple. With trackable URLs, you can collect data on which methods of promotion are working the best, and you’ll be able to determine which method has the highest ROI.

Share on Facebook

You can’t talk about online promotion without addressing the importance of your social media accounts.

If you’re looking for a place to get started, Facebook is likely going to be your best bet.

And it’s no surprise why. With 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook is by far the platform with the biggest overall reach available.

But how do you actually go about promoting an event with it?

Well, first you’ll want to create an event page on Facebook.

Take a look at the Inbound 2017 event page.

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Whether you’re a fan of the Facebook event page system or not, there’s no getting around the fact that you get plenty of useful tools to use when you create a page.

My favorite aspect of the event page on Facebook is that it helps you build a unique space for your community to stay updated on your event.

Plus, there’s a variety of other things you can do with an event page on Facebook.

  • You can add images and videos.
  • You can update event details.
  • You can keep a list of who’s attending.
  • You can remind users about the event as it gets closer.

Share on LinkedIn

Promotion on LinkedIn might not seem particularly important, but your LinkedIn community can end up.

LinkedIn is all about creating and leveraging professional connections.

While the average person might think of LinkedIn only as a tool for finding a new job or filling in a position, this platform also has plenty of potential for things like event promotion.

There are a few different ways that you can do this, but they all revolve around the proper creation of a LinkedIn profile.

Even if you’re a small business, there’s no reason you shouldn’t create a LinkedIn page for your company.

Not only do you get to post updates for your followers, but you’ll also get to participate in the Group feature on LinkedIn, which will be an invaluable tool in your promotion campaign.

Groups on LinkedIn revolve around a specific interest, which means that you’ll need to connect with fellow users over some common objective.

Maybe like going to an awesome event that you’re hosting.

Creating a group is actually pretty easy to do.

First, you’ll want to click on the “Work” tab in the top right corner and scroll down until you find the “Groups” tab.

groups1.1

Click on that and you’ll end up on the Groups page.

groups1.2

From there, you’ll want to find the “My Groups” tab on the top left and click it.

groups1.3

Stay with me now.

Now you’ll want to click on the “Create group” button on the left-hand side of the screen.

groups1.4

Last step. Fill in all the information below and you’ll be good to go.

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See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?

I typically recommend that businesses start adding to their Groups via their current network on LinkedIn, to cast as wide a net as possible.

And it’s about more than just connecting with your followers.

On LinkedIn, it’s just as important to reach out to other speakers, sponsors, and media partners.

Basically, anyone who could have a positive impact on your event promotion efforts.

Your Groups shouldn’t be arbitrary here, by the way.

Make sure to explain to users exactly what your event is and why they should go.

Keep in mind that nothing in social media exists in a vacuum. To get the most out of any social media platform, you’ll want to make sure you’re not ignoring things like content creation.

Content creation on LinkedIn, in particular, can help promote your event indirectly.

Instead of focusing on creating content exclusively for the event, you should aim to create content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience.

What does that look like?

Well, you can create articles on industry topics, which can easily raise awareness for both your event and your overall brand as an online authority.

You can then share that content in your Group, in order to ensure that the Group isn’t just a glorified notification page.

Whether or not you make the Group open depends entirely on your goals with this page.

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If you’re posting general information that you wouldn’t mind the average person knowing about, there’s an argument to be made about keeping the Group open.

But if you’re posting information that’s sensitive or something that you only want VIP members to have access to, you’ll want to keep the Group private.

Share on Instagram

Every social media platform has something unique to offer when it comes to online event promotion.

On the surface, Instagram might just look like the place you go to post a fun selfie or a short video.

But the reality of this platform is that you have an impressive potential for event promotion.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with just taking a cool picture for the entertainment value, like this one where Steph Curry was on stage last year.

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But here’s an interesting scenario.

Let’s say that you’re orchestrating an event in 6 months. Your company has been putting this event on for years, which means your loyal fans know all about it.

Instead of surprising people with a location a few months before the event, why not get them in on the fun?

You can identify three or four different venues, post photos of each of them, and then encourage followers to like the venue where they’d prefer to see the event held.

You can go one step further and post a short video of the venue, along with a brief description of what makes it worth considering.

The key here is to incorporate a visual component into the event promotion, while also giving users the opportunity to engage with you in a truly meaningful way.

Speaking of meaningful engagement, I’m a huge fan of user-generated content (UGC), and there’s no better place for it than Instagram.

Even the simplest pictures help promote your event in a unique way, like this picture taken at last year’s Disrupt SF with Instagram user iammikechiang.

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Any type of campaign has the potential to create hype for your event, but UGC brings something special to the table.

What do I mean by that?

The effectiveness of any UGC campaign relies on two things:

  • Whether or not the campaign is legitimately engaging
  • Whether or not users actually share with their social networks

Aside from allowing you to create content without actually having to do any of the creating, my favorite aspect of UGC is the potential for word-of-mouth marketing.

Having a compelling Instagram marketing campaign is great. But you know what’s even better?

A personal recommendation from one person to the next.

The average consumer is more likely to trust another consumer’s recommendation more than your company’s content. That’s because a fellow consumer doesn’t have a vested interest in making a sale.

One of Disrupt SF’s top posts last year was Instagram user ronreeser raving about a gift he received from JBL audio.

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This is where UGC really shines.

If the campaign is compelling enough, users will share it on social media or personally recommend it to their friends online.

Not only does that increase overall exposure, but it opens the door for more people to seriously consider attending your event.

Share on Snapchat

Snapchat is a unique social media platform, in the sense that it’s easy to get started, but difficult to actually master.

We’re way past the point of thinking that Snapchat is some passing fad, especially with its 166 million average daily active users.

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When it comes to event promotion, one of the most impressive aspects of this platform is its ability to reach a demographic that’s typically difficult to isolate.

Beyond that, Snapchat offers you the ability to give users a behind-the-scenes look at the process of putting an event together.

Need some ideas of what to share?

Publish a few snaps about the planning phases of your event.

You could even just publish a list of the speakers scheduled to be there.

The key here is that you’re raising awareness for your event, while also giving your followers content they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Embrace the power of the contest

Okay, I get that this might sound a bit silly, but hear me out!

Social media contests might be nothing new, but their potential for raising awareness about your event is undeniable.

The implementation of this can actually be pretty straightforward.

The contest offers tickets to the winner, with the only criteria being that they share the event on their own social media page to qualify.

Social Media Examiner used a similar approach with their Social Media Marketing World 2017 event.

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It’s easy for your audience to get involved, and the exposure alone is worth the free ticket.

But why stop there? You can combine UGC with this giveaway and get content and promotion at the same time. Two birds, one stone.

At the end of the day, the contest is just another way to offer value and encourage event promotion.

Social media ads

No matter what your stance is on social media ads, the fact remains that they’re one of the most effective ways to raise awareness and drive engagement on social media.

But why use them for event promotion?

The reality of event promotion is that, while your core audience might be ready to hear all about your next event, there are plenty of people who won’t.

Is organic traffic still plausible today on social? Yes and no, but here’s the good news.

If you’re using paid ads, you don’t have to worry about that.

You might be paying for exposure, but the benefits that you get are typically worth the price of admission.

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have some of the easiest ad systems to use, making social media ads a no-brainer when it comes to event promotion.

If you really want to get creative, create ads that encourage people to build UGC.

Heck, you can even tie in a giveaway to make the offer as irresistible as possible.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which of these options you choose. What matters is that you’re using social media ads to maximize your potential for exposure.

Conclusion

Event promotion is no easy feat online.

No matter how expansive your network is, or how experienced your business is, it can be difficult to get people excited about your event.

Fortunately, there are now a variety of tools at your disposal.

Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn offer you event-specific pages to connect with users.

Other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are powerful content creation tools that can help drive meaningful engagement.

Whether you choose to use one method or all of them, what matters is that you understand just how effective an online event promotion campaign can be when you’re using the right tools.

What has your experience been like when using social media to promote an event?

Are there any online promotion tools that you’ve experienced success with that aren’t on this list?

How Blogging Can Help Your Online Store Sell

Yes, blogging can help your online store sell much more than you think is possible. Content marketing is the biggest driving force of sales online and if you want a fighting chance to make it, then this guide should be for you.

How Blogging Can Help Your Online Store Sell

The Reason Why You Should Start Blogging For More Sales

Blogging is content, content that gets ranked into search engines, and that ends up in front of the billions of eyeballs that look to Google (and other SE) for information every day.

Now if you’re smart, you would agree that having some more exposure (which by the way comes for free from Google and social media) is beneficial to any business.

Blogging will help you do just that.

How To Promote Your Online Store (With Blogging)

I am in a position to tell you this because at the time of writing this, I do have an online store that sells jewelry and I use blogging to drive traffic directly to the store and also to individual products.

Here’s how you can do that too:

Mention & Link To Your Products

Let’s take for example you have a store that sells “smart home technology”.

With blogging, you can write an (unlimited) amount of content that is related to that niche (topic) and then link to your store from the blog post.

But why is this important?

Because (taking this example), nobody will understand why they need a “smart gadget for home” but if you take the time to explain it in a very detailed, very informative blog post, then people will understand the WHY!

I’m doing this myself with my other online business and the one thing I realized is that individual product listing are very hard to find in the search pages and if you do find them, it’s usually an Amazon product listing with a direct link to buy from them because they have that much authority and trust!

What blogging does is it takes the “selling” out of it and your only job is to provide a good reason why “product x is great” or “why product x is better than product y for situation z”

Do Product Reviews

Continuing on from the last point, I just have to share my biggest tip for making more sales with your online store and that is; product reviews.

Products reviews rank extremely well (which is already a benefit in itself) but don’t forget that the people that are looking for reviews, they typically tend to buy (or are very close to buying), in which case your rock solid review should do trick.

Nobody is researching “best smart-home technology reviews” just to kill some time. Most probably it’s a customer that has the card in their hand ready to make a purchase.

This is a perfect example of how blogging can help your online store sell more products and build it up to be a profitable venture for you.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

You’re in their house

People are inundated with interruption, pitches, and advertisements everywhere they look, and though you might think yours is special, there’s a high probability that to the reader, it looks the same as the rest. This is why it’s important to remember where you are, and use your good manners as a result.

Getting into someone’s inbox is like being invited to their home for dinner. If they ask you to take your shoes off, you respectfully do so. It’s the same with email marketing, so before we begin I’d simply like to remind you to be on your best behavior at all times and remember…you’re in their house.

Phase I: Getting Permission

Of course, no email campaign was ever built without getting permission to get started, so first we’ll need to focus on building a sizable email list.

There are many ways you can do this of course. Some prefer to give something away for free while others simply offer a newsletter or product updates.

I can’t tell you which is the right or wrong answer in this case, but I can tell you that it’s important to have a clear purpose when asking for an address. This is where a strong call to action comes into play, and copywriting is super important.

  • What do I get when I give you my email address?
  • Are you going to spam me?
  • How often will you email me?
  • Will I get discounts?
  • Will I get a first crack at your beta?
  • Will you send me relevant offers or more junk?

These are the kinds of things you’ll need to address if you want to be successful in phase 1. Simply posting “enter your email for updates” isn’t going to get anyone excited to do so. Instead, consider sharing specifics:

crutchfield newsletter form

chris email example

Note the Clear and Concise Call to Action in the Examples Above

Take a look at the examples above and you’ll see that the first tells me I’m getting a free catalogue and a series of reviews and special offers, while the 2nd tells me exactly when I’ll receive the newsletter updates. This is a far more specific, and effective, way of doing business.

A quick look at my own practices tells me that the offers I subscribe to most often are for:

  • Email Series’ (i.e. 6 Ways to Change the World)
  • Free Downloads
  • Free White Papers or eBooks
  • Update Lists (New Issue Notifications, Product Updates, New Releases)

Lastly, and Amazon does this really well, your customers make great candidates, so don’t forget to integrate some form of registration or email subscription as part of your purchasing process. Just remember to treat these addresses with special regard, which we’ll talk about in phase 2.

Get Whitelisted

While almost all reputable email service providers work very hard to make sure that your emails are not blocked by major ISP’s, they can’t control whether or not your emails hit the inbox or the spam box. Although most will help you by providing a quality score to help you determine availability, getting whitelisted is the most effective way to ensure that your emails get delivered properly.

Essentially, getting whitelisted is equivalent to being marked as a friend, and the best way to achieve this is by being added to the recipient’s address book. The best way to do this is by providing instructions to do so at the top of each email, especially on the initial thank you and first follow-up email.

Furthermore, here are instructions from some of the more popular online providers:

Phase II: Playing the Numbers Game

Manage Expectations with Follow-Up Efforts

Email marketing is all about expectations, and it’s up to you to set them. If your call to action is strong, and your follow-up is consistent, then you can count on a positive campaign. However, if you promise to send one email per week and instead send them daily, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. On the contrary, if someone is expecting daily updates or critical product updates and you don’t’ deliver, then they are likely to be just as upset in that case too.

hugh macleod email

Because I asked, I expect Hugh MacLeod to email his cartoons daily.

This is why the first follow-up email is so crucial to the success of your email marketing efforts. Almost all email service providers give you the option to create an autoresponder sequence, and it’s imperative that you take advantage of it.

The initial follow-up email should be sent immediately as a way to introduce yourself and detail what you plan on doing with your new subscriber’s email address. It’s better to be long-winded and detailed than it is to be quick and unobtrusive, but if you can pull off quick and concise then more power to you.

From here, it’s simply a matter of living up to their expectations.

When to Pitch

If you’re going to get in the habit of pitching often, try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself if your messaging is consistent with the expectations you’ve set. As I said before, Amazon does this well because they send relevant offers based on my buying habits. Those that send blind offers are far more likely to lose permission to keep doing so.

amazon recommendations

Notice how Amazon recommends products based on my prior buying habits.

Another option to consider is the value you’re providing. While Amazon can provide value in an offer, you might have to provide it with a newsletter or in linking to blog posts or other forms of media content.

Again, each business has different needs, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules as to how often you can pitch or provide content, but remember that an email list is a permission asset and it’s better to err on the side of caution than to play it loose and reckless.

What’s in a Newsletter

sprouter sign up form

The Sprouter Newsletter is a welcome addition to my inbox because they provide value through insights, updates, and new content. Each email is prefaced with an introduction, and includes a list of great posts, local events, and hot startups.

While we’re on the topic of content, let’s talk about the difference between a good newsletter and a bad newsletter.

The first sign that you’ve received a bad newsletter is that you don’t recall ever asking to receive it. Typically, this happens when a business either fails to maintain a regular email routine or uses poor form and manually adds me to their list after receiving a business card or personal email.

I find that the most compelling newsletters are those that do a great job of mixing messaging and updates. For example, while the email might contain a list of product updates and images, it’s balanced by a personal message or friendly update.

As a rule of thumb, try to use your newsletter as a way to further your relationship with the reader/customer rather than to pitch them. Save the pitch for unique updates, offers, and announcements.

Using the Autoresponder

As a marketer myself, one of the issues I run into most often is that I forget to talk to my list until I have something to sell. Obviously, this is not ideal.

This is where an autoresponder can save you, and why I recommend scheduling content to be delivered on a consistent basis over the course of several months.

For example, Copyblogger offers a newsletter titled “Internet Marketing for Smart People,” and it contains a dozen plus great pieces on how to market better as an online entrepreneur. I can’t remember when I signed up, but I do know that I’ve received an occasional email at least once per month over the past 6 months.

The benefit of that is when you do need to announce a new product or sale, you can count on the fact that you’ve already been in touch, having built a relationship over several weeks/months, and are much less likely to annoy your readers. Of course, it’s important to schedule your autoresponder sequence on specific days so that you know when you can afford to send an email. More than one per day and you’re probably mailing too much.

If you find yourself asking “will this email be one too many?” then it’s probably one too many.

Phase III: Segmentation and Analytics

Analytics

aweber stats example

Notice the detailed daily statistics for open rate on a recent AWeber campaign.

We’ve talked before about the importance of analytics in web copy, and email is no different. Every service provider I’ve ever worked with provides complimentary analytics.

Though they’re all important, the 3 most important to me are open rate, click through rate (CTR), and unsubscribes.

Your open rate will tell you how well you’ve built your relationship; if the number is low, it means that people have started to delete upon receipt, which means you need to work harder on providing value and/or managing expectations.

If your CTR is low, it means that your message is either not targeted enough, or simply not getting through. In this case, focus on improving your copy.

If your unsubscription rate is high in relation to your opt-in rate, then you’ve passed the point of building value and writing good copy…you’ve got some serious work to do. If this is you, try to examine when people are leaving and take action based on those leaks.

If they’re leaving after a certain autoresponder email, then re-work it. If they’re leaving after marketing messages, then re-work the way you present offers. If they’re leaving early on in your funnel, then you need to fix your original call to action so that it’s in harmony with what you’re sending.

Email analytics are critical in that if you’re paying attention, they’ll give you very specific clues as to what you’re doing wrong. Of course the key variable here is “paying attention.”

Segmentation

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, segmentation is the practice of splitting up your email list into more targeted groups.

For example, the following are ways to segment a larger, more unified list:

  • Customer List (in comparison to leads)
  • Product Updates (in comparison to a customer list)
  • Newsletter
  • Daily Email List (in comparison to weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc)
  • HTML (yes, some people prefer the option for text)

In dividing your list in this manner, you give yourself the ability to send more targeted communication. Some customers want both product and sales updates, while others might only want to hear about new versions. If you don’t give them the chance to choose, you risk losing them all-together. Since customers make the best buyers, it’s fairly obvious why you want to keep them subscribed to your customer email list.

With segmentation, you can send a broadcast only to those that didn’t open your last message (ask them why), or to those that showed interest (a 2nd pitch). You can also split test messaging amongst different groups in order to refine your best practices.

As you can see, segmentation isn’t rocket science, but it is work, which is why most don’t take the time to do it right. If you do, you’ll immediately separate yourself from the pack.

The Value of Your List

In the future, we’ll talk about more advanced techniques, such as measuring the cost of lead acquisition, but for now know this: your email list is one of your most valuable resources, and if you learn how to treat it right, the cost of doing so will pay for itself.

If you can imagine that each person on your list is worth a set value, say $5, then you can understand immediately how losing several hundred could be dangerous to your bottom line.

What do you think? How has email marketing served you best? What practices help you to keep your numbers growing and your readers engaged? Share in the comments.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

20 Ways to Get Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Business

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is an effective and inexpensive way to bring in business. Getting a recommendation about your business from a friend or acquaintance can be the confidence booster potential customers need. Here are 20 ways to generate great word of mouth for your small business.

Word of mouth marketing has always been an important tool for businesses. It drives sales because buyers want to be sure they are making the right choice when they make a purchase. Hearing other people say good things about a product or service helps build a buyer’s confidence that their purchase won’t be a mistake.

Small businesses often think of word of mouth marketing as free advertising. But word of mouth is so powerful that big businesses pour millions of dollars into advertising campaigns to make consumers think everyone has a great experience when they purchase their products. Think about the Burlington Coat Factory ads, for instance, where consumers brag about how much money they saved on clothes by shopping at Burlington. Then there are the DSW Shoe commercials where one woman runs up to another and asks in awe, “Where did you get those shoes? ”The answer is the company’s slogan – “DSW – It’s where you get those shoes.” The implication: DSW is the place to go for shoes that will make you a standout.

Small businesses don’t have that kind of money to spend. Nevertheless, savvy small business owners have learned to generate great word of mouth reputations on tiny budgets. How do they do it? How do they get customers to not only appreciate them, but promote them to other people as well?

Here are 20 free and low-cost tactics you can adopt to drive word of mouth marketing for your small business.

  1. Provide top-notch products and services. Customers will only extol your virtues if they are happy with what they’ve bought. What you sell and how you sell it, should live up to or exceed what your customers expect based on your ads, sales pitch, and industry standards. Remember, word of mouth works two ways. If customers are unhappy with your company, they will complain loudly and publicly about their bad experience.
  2. Provide excellent customer service. The secret here: treat your customers and prospects the way you’d like to be treated yourself. A few basics: Smile at customers when you talk to them. Be polite. Answer their questions. Don’t keep them waiting unnecessarily. Whenever possible have a real person answer the phone. If you must send callers to voice mail, have something in your voice mail announcement that lets them know how soon you will return their call. Then, return their call within the stated time frame. If you provide a service, get the customers’ projects done on time and within their budget. Keep them informed about changes, delays, or other information they’d want to know.
  3. Be friendly. If you have customers you come into your store or restaurant regularly, take a minute to smile and say “Hi” and ask how they’re doing today. If you know a customer’s name, call them by name. Friendly hellos and a few seconds of small talk make most people feel welcome and like they’re dealing with a friend. If you have customers call you, do the same thing, if possible.
  4. Answer questions that prospects have with facts, not jargon, and if you sell something technical, don’t talk down to the customer or get annoyed if they have trouble understanding what you are saying. Rephrase your answer so the customer does understand it. If there’s some industry news or product information that will be helpful to customers, pass it along to them.
  5. Thank your customers for their business. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and customers are no exception. While you may have the words printed on receipts or included in email confirmations of sales, or you or your staff may say “Thanks” in person, doing something such as sending a handwritten thank you card to new customers or a returning customer will set you apart as a business who cares about their customers and is worth recommending.
  6. Return calls as promptly after you’ve made the sale as you did before. If there’s going to be a delay in delivering a product or service, let the customer know about the delay as soon as you become aware of it, and let them know why there’s a delay and what options they have.
  7. If a customer calls with a complaint about your product or service, don’t argue with them or point fingers. Apologize (even if you think the customer may be wrong) and solve their problem or offer a refund. By handling problems quickly and efficiently, you and your employees can turn angry customers into fans and advocates.
  8. Be sure you and your employees are always polite no matter how rude or angry a customer may be. Never raise your voice, be sarcastic, or speak in a demeaning way to customers.
  9. Keep in touch with customers and prospects by email. Using email to communicate regularly with customers and prospects who have requested to be on your mailing list helps them remember you and brings repeat business. If you’re regularly providing interesting information, coupons, or other material customers want, they’ll brag to their friends who have similar interests about the benefits they’ve derived.
  10. Be personally visible to your market. Join networking groups and industry groups that your customers join and be a regular attendee at meetings and events. Talk to people at meetings to find out what they do and what’s important to them and what challenges they face. When you can, give them tips or point them to resources they need, even though it has nothing to do with your business. Your goal is to be thought of as a friend and problem-solver – not just a salesperson.
  11. Be Active in Social Media. Set up Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Linked In pages for your business. Consider Pinterest and SlideShare, too. Choose the social media channels that are most likely to reach your target customers. Then encourage your customers to like them, follow them and share what you post on them. Run contests and special promotions to encourage shares. A social media “share” spreads the word of mouth about your company to all the people who follow and like the customers who share your information. Test paid ads or promoted post options on Facebook, too.
  12. Add social share buttons to your website and email messages. The easier you make it for customers and prospects to share your information and promotions, the more likely it is they will do so.
  13. Offer to be a speaker or give seminars at conferences, industry meetings, and libraries. Be sure your talk delivers plenty of useful content. Delivering useful, factual information and problem-solving tips about issues common to the audience will set you up as an expert and the go-to person to solve the problems you talked about.
  14. When people praise you, ask if you can use their comments on your website and/or promotional material. The comments are testimonials you can use to help prospects “hear” good things about your company.
  15. Publicize any publicity you get. If a reporter quotes you, you win an award, you are a guest on a talk show, let other people know about it. You can post newspaper clips on a store bulletin board, link to them from your website, and mention the accomplishments in a newsletter. Knowing other people are talking about you, will give your customers even more incentive to tell their friends about you.
  16. Be involved in your community. Whether it’s sponsoring a little league team, or an organization event, your participation will help you and your business name be remembered.
  17. Make your business name and phone number easy to find. Have it painted in big letters on vehicles you use to service consumers or businesses so anyone who can see your vehicle knows how to reach you. Leave several business cards with customers so they can hand them out when a neighbor asks if they were happy with the job you did… and how to get in touch with you. Make your business phone number visible on every page of your website.
  18. Hone your networking skills. Join and become active in local business, community, or industry groups that attract your targeted customers. Win respect (and business) by helping others in the group achieve their goals.
  19. Refer business to noncompeting businesses. When you refer customers, patients or clients to others, those businesses are more likely to refer business to you.
  20. Thank people who refer business to you. How you thank them will depend on the nature of your business. The thanks may be in the form of a hand-written thank you card, a coupon, a cash reward, or whatever is practical, expected, and ethical for your line of business. Thanking those who help you will make them feel their efforts are appreciated, which will make them be glad to recommend you to more people.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

Promote Your New Online Store

To make the battle easier to win, below are 5 sure-fire ways to make your new online store first sale, and then some.

Word of mouth

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is an effective and inexpensive way to bring in business. Getting a recommendation about your business from a friend or acquaintance can be the confidence booster potential customers need. It drives sales because buyers want to be sure they are making the right choice when they make a purchase. Hearing other people saying good things about a product or service helps build a buyer’s confidence that their purchase won’t be a mistake. Here are 20 ways to generate great word of mouth for your small business.

Social Media

The social media revolution has made it possible for business of all sizes to reach an infinitely expanding audience. With the right integration tools, it’s simple and easy to automate your social media activities directly with an ecommerce storefront and eliminate the intimidating time commitment that can accompany the move to a social marketing program. Click here to see some great examples of how to use social media to promote your business.

E-Marketing “You’ve got mail.”

Do you remember hearing that? It’s one of those legendary pieces of Internet history formed when the road was still being paved and we were foraging our way through the wilderness of what was the original World Wide Web.

Although times have changed and AOL no longer sends CD’s in the mail, we can still thank them for introducing us to email and our addiction to it.

These days, we’ve replaced that message with Tweets, likes, and status updates, but that doesn’t mean that our affinity for email is any less. In fact, because of the noise that is social media, one could argue that the inbox has become our virtual dojo, our place of solitude amongst the chaos.

This is why, as an entrepreneur, I believe that building successful email marketing campaigns has never been more important than it is now. But there’s a problem; most people don’t know how to do it right. So in the interest of furthering best practices and helping you succeed as a business owner, let’s get back to the basics and talk about how a great email campaign is built, from the ground up. Learn more about how to create a successful emarkerting strategy with our Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

Blogging

If you have a store online that sells products of any kind (digital or physical) then I would highly suggest you start thinking about some form of content marketing (blogging) campaign to help build up your business to new heights. Here are some helpful ways that how blogging can help promote your online store

Events

How you choose to promote an event can have a direct impact on how successful that event is. That’s why I put together this guide to event promotion. Armed with this, your online promotion efforts are going to help drive meaningful engagement and, ideally, increase attendance.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

7 Tips for Improving Online Sales Using Social Media

#1: Provide Sales Support With Native Chat

Native chatting (or “conversational ecommerce”) is using the messaging services within each social network to automate, customize, and personalize your communication.

With higher retention and engagement rates, these apps have quickly become the go-to choices for customers who want to connect more directly with businesses. In other words, if you’re not using chat apps to automate confirmations (and yes, even to sell), you’re missing a huge social ecommerce opportunity.

However, approach automated chat apps (like Facebook Messenger Bots) with caution. It’s too easy to cross over from the human to the inhuman side of conversational commerce.

For instance, using native chat for blatant marketing (as if it’s the newest and coolest email list) is a huge no-no. Likewise, so is relying on it to automate front-end sales.

Don't rely on native chat to automate the sales process.

Don’t rely on native chat to automate the sales process.

But used by humans for humans, the benefits can be massive.

Take Bontact, for example. It’s a multi-channel, real-time support service that allows you to manage native chatting on any network or device. Being able to respond to questions and problems natively (meaning within the natural channels your customers already communicate on) helps you provide better customer service, increase customer retention, and build a positive brand image.

Bontact's dashboard lets you manage all user conversations from a single place. This helps you tailor assistance (and even move toward upselling and cross-selling) based on consumer history.

Bontact’s dashboard lets you manage all user conversations from a single place. This helps you tailor assistance (and even move toward upselling and cross-selling) based on consumer history.

#2: Monitor Conversations About Your Business

Social media is a goldmine for listening to and participating in customer conversations. However, the constant onslaught makes it difficult to identify the information that really matters. Brand listening is the art of deriving valuable insights by observing, compiling, and analyzing conversations about your brand, industry, and competitors.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of your online audience helps you salvage tricky situations, reward brand advocates, generate new leads, mine creative marketing techniques, identify customer pain points, track sentiments, and gauge motivations. On top of that, the keenest companies track their competition, too, ready to swoop in and help any dissatisfied customers.

All of this requires you to go beyond monitoring your official social media mentions. That’s where Talkwalker comes in. It’s a social media analytics and reporting platform that will examine both text and visual content.

The social listening functionality taps into the complete spectrum of conversations across 150 million websites, social networks, print outlets, and media broadcasts. The tool’s analytics will benchmark your performance against competitors, pinpoint conversational themes, trace viral hashtags, and identify relevant influencers.

Monitoring your explicit brand mentions on social only tells you half of the story. Talkwalker pulls in comprehensive data, even when you're not tagged.

Monitoring your explicit brand mentions on social only tells you half of the story. Talkwalker pulls in comprehensive data, even when you’re not tagged.

#3: Encourage People to Share Their Customer Journey

Success on social media depends less on how much you talk about yourself and more on how much your customers talk about you. Similar to UGC, purchase-process sharing means encouraging consumers to share their favorite items before, during, and after a purchase.

As evidence, nearly 1 in 3 Facebook users has made a purchase after “sharing, favoriting, or commenting” on the product themselves.

AddShoppers is an on-site ecommerce platform that makes word-of-mouth marketing easy via incentivized purchase-sharing techniques like social rewards and refer-a-friend campaigns. You can leverage customer satisfaction to interact with audiences you otherwise might have missed or ignored, and strike while the (ecommerce) iron is hot.

Incentivize purchase-process sharing using AddShoppers. Your customers are far better salespeople than you'll ever be.

Incentivize purchase-process sharing using AddShoppers. Your customers are far better salespeople than you’ll ever be.

#4: Make It Easy to Buy on Your Social Channels

Social-driven retail sales are growing at a faster rate than all other online channels, and buy buttons play a starring role in this growth. Buy buttons let users make seamless and secure purchases from within social networks themselves. They reduce what’s normally a multi-step process to a single click. Let’s look at two options.

Facebook Buy Button

In June 2014, Facebook unveiled their first buy button to the public. This September, they launched a buy button for Messenger. If you host a Facebook store, you can showcase your best products, hold special Facebook sales events, display exclusive merchandise, and have a dialogue with customers.

Whether on your fan page, in your Facebook store, through paid ads, or even in Messenger itself, Facebook offers a host of direct buying options.

Whether on your fan page, in your Facebook store, through paid ads, or even in Messenger itself, Facebook offers a host of direct buying options.

Pinterest Buyable Pins

Pinterest rolled out buyable pins in mid-2015 to a select group of retailers, and now the option is available to everyone. The extended shelf life of pins, the enormous reach of repins, and the appealing aesthetics positioned Pinterest as a powerhouse of social ecommerce. A mixture of “aspirational and actionable” pins will stimulate purchases, increase product reach, and maximize revenue.

Pinterest recommends creating variations of buyable pins to address each stage of the social purchase journey: just looking, maybe I could, I'm narrowing it down, and I know what I want.

Pinterest recommends creating variations of buyable pins to address each stage of the social purchase journey: “just looking, maybe I could, I’m narrowing it down, and I know what I want.”

#5: Curate and Feature User-generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is content created and shared by your fans, followers, and customers on social platforms, either spontaneously or through contests or giveaways.

Does curating UGC work for ecommerce? Absolutely. According to Business Insider, consumers who come across UGC are 97% more likely to convert than those who don’t.

User-generated images (images created by customers featuring your products) are especially powerful. In fact, when online shoppers were asked to choose between UGC (like people post to Instagram) and professional images on product description pages, the overwhelming preference was for Instagram photos: 77% to 22%.

Those kinds of findings are why Yotpo created their social curation tool for Instagram. Using authentic visuals will demonstrate social proof, drive high-intent users from Instagram to product pages, increase on-site conversions, and improve ad performance.

Yotpo lets you collect, curate, tag, and feature Instagram photos on social and your ecommerce site.

Yotpo lets you collect, curate, tag, and feature Instagram photos on social and your ecommerce site.

#6: Produce Seasonal, Topical, and Event-related Content

Nearly all ecommerce businesses operate on a seasonal calendar, and for the most part, they do a great job of creating sales, discounts, emails, and incentives. They’re also outstanding at stocking their social streams with announcements about all of those seasonal ecommerce activities.

Where most stores fall short, however, is with creating seasonal content that isn’t overtly promotional. Why is that a bad thing? Because dominating your seasonal activity with one pitch after another comes off as thoroughly disingenuous … and even antisocial.

The answer is to get organized with a social content-creation platform like PromoRepublic.

With a library of thousands of seasonal, topical, and thematic templates (including celebrations as specific as Hugh Laurie’s and other celebrities’ birthdays), PromoRepublic makes it easy to craft genuinely social posts related to the events your audience cares about. Plus, the content calendar lets you load and schedule those date-sensitive posts.

With PromoRepublic, you can create seasonal, topical, and event-related updates without being too salesy.

With PromoRepublic, you can create seasonal, topical, and event-related updates without being too salesy.

#7: Create Social-friendly Images

You’d be hard-pressed to find any kind of social content without visuals. As users get more discerning, however, they’re shunning generic stock images. A Chute Digiday study on the state of visual marketing determined that more than 70% of respondents find images at least twice as effective as text content alone.

The problem is what do you do if you’re not a designer and can’t afford to hire one? Two tools stand out.

For true-to-life photos, Buffer’s Pablo lets you select from over 600,000 royalty-free photos and/or upload your own, which is perfect for product pictures. Choose from network-specific image templates, 10 filters, 6 use-case templates, and 3 font arrangements: headline, body, and caption. No registration is required.

Add text to high-quality and royalty-free images using Pablo. Plus automatically create images sized correctly for each social network.

Add text to high-quality and royalty-free images using Pablo. Plus, automatically create images sized correctly for each social network.

For graphics and infographics, Venngage offers hundreds of templates to quickly create detailed visuals even if you have no design skills. The templates are categorized into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced to accommodate your level of expertise and experience with the product.

Design shareable social media graphics or infographics with Venngage (even if you're not a designer yourself).

Design shareable social media graphics or infographics with Venngage (even if you’re not a designer yourself).

Conclusion

Do the words “social selling” conjure up sleazy images of unsolicited and heavy-handed pitches instead of conversations, the very thing social media is supposed to be about?

Ads on social media are far from ineffective, but if they’re the only tactic you rely on, the odds of your ecommerce business coming off as decidedly antisocial are high. Instead, it’s vital to add in one or more of these seven “musts” to your ecommerce social media mix.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

12 Ways to Increase Online Sales

One of the core values at my company is “Test everything; assume nothing!” That’s because we know that after all these years on the internet, you just never know what strategy or angle is going to work best for you…until you test it. This applies even to your star-performing strategies, because there’s always room for improvement.

The bottom line is, testing is the only way to discover what works–and what doesn’t–on your website, and it’s the best way to start increasing your sales exponentially. And if you take the plunge and use just one of the following tests, you’ll learn just how true this is, especially when you start seeing a dramatic improvement to your bottom line.

Test #1: Offer just one product or service on your home page.

Do you sell a number of products or services on your website? If so, I’d strongly recommend you test whether or not this is the best strategy for you. We’ve found that offering fewer products in one place with more copy describing those products always translates into higher sales.

It’s all about focus. Instead of trying to please everyone who visits your site by offering a large range of products with minimal detail about each one, if you offer just one product–or one set of related products–you can really focus on one key set of benefits and answer all the possible questions and doubts your visitors might have about your product. And you don’t have to stop selling your other products–you can always offer them to your customers from other web pages or by using follow-up offers ( see Test #12 )

Of course, the only way to find out for sure if this will work with your target audience is to test it! Write a sales letter for your lead product, and put it on your home page. Then run the test for a week or two to see how it increases your sales.

Test #2: Reposition your opt-in offer to boost your opt-ins and build a bigger list of loyal subscribers.

Your opt-in offer is your tool for gathering your customers’ e-mail addresses and building your e-mail list, which allows you to regularly keep in touch with your subscribers, build relationships of trust and loyalty, and sell them your products or services.

But did you know that where your opt-in offer appears on your site can have a huge impact on how many subscribers you attract?

If you don’t use a long sales letter, test placing your opt-in offer in as prominent a position as possible on your home page–the top left of a page is where visitors’ eyes are often drawn first. At the very least, test placing your opt-in in the “top fold” of your home page–the area of screen first visible to a visitor before they scroll down the page.

If you have a long sales letter, you should test placing your opt-in offer within your second “page” of text–after you’ve grabbed your visitors’ attention by identifying a problem they have and established your credibility by impressing them with your credentials, experience and glowing testimonials from happy customers.

You should also test placing your opt-in offer on every page of your site so it’s always in front of your visitors, and try placing it in a “hover ad” (see below). The more sign-up opportunities you provide, the more subscribers you’re likely to get. Test it and see.

Test #3: Add impact to your promotions with hover ads.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with pop-ups: They’re the small windows containing a special offer or other information that sometimes “pop up” when you visit a website. Love ’em or hate ’em, pop-ups have been a very useful, online marketing tool for years. However, because a percentage of internet users disliked them, Google, AOL, Netscape and others developed pop-up blocking software to combat them.

Of course, internet users should be able to choose whether or not they want to view pop-ups. However, much of this software automatically blocked pop-ups, meaning visitors to a site started missing out on valuable information that could benefit them.

But that was before we discovered a very impressive technology that actually lets you use ads that behave like pop-ups but that aren’t pop-ups–so they don’t get blocked. They’re called hover ads, and they’re well worth testing on your site.

In fact, when we tested adding a hover ad to our site, sales increased by 162 percent! These ads are effective because they put important information, such as your opt-in offer or a special limited-time promotion, right in front of your targeted visitors.

You can test placing your opt-in offer in your hover ad to see if that boosts subscription numbers. When we did this, 86 percent more people subscribed to our newsletter. You can also test how many more people click through to a special offer page on your site through a hover ad vs. through a regular link on your home page.

Test #4: Feature different benefits in your headline.

Your headline has a huge impact on your sales. It’s often the first thing visitors to your site see so it must grab their attention and compel them to read your sales letter.

A successful headline should highlight a problem your target audience faces and stress the main benefit of your product or service in solving this problem. Let’s look at an example that illustrates how a headline can be changed for maximum impact.

One of our clients was using the following headline on his site: “Box4Blox–The Amazing Toy Storage Box For Lego.” The problem with this headline is that it tells you what the product is, but not what it does for you. It doesn’t give a visitor any good reason to continue reading the rest of the page.

Contrast that one with this: “Finally! Discover the Secret That’s Got More Than 50,000 LEGO-Crazy Kids Worldwide Actually LOVING Clean-Up Time!” This headline presents a major benefit of the product and a solution to a problem–in this case, how to get kids to clean up after themselves and actually enjoy it.

Test #5:

Establish a problem in your copy and show how you can solve it. In the first few paragraphs that appear on your home page, you need to go into more detail about the problem you introduced in your headline–showing your audience that you relate to them. (Only when your audience feels you understand their problem will they feel confident that you can solve it.)

Once the problem is established, you can then begin introducing your product or service as the solution to this problem. By emphasizing exactly how your product or service will solve your reader’s problem, you’re guaranteed to see a boost in sales.

Test #6: Add credibility to your copy–and enhance your visitors’ trust in you.

It’s vital that your sales copy establishes your credibility: It’s through this process that your visitors come to trust you and feel comfortable enough to buy from you. There are several ways you can do this effectively and we’ll talk about two of the quickest and easiest ones here. If you’re not already using these techniques, revamp your copy and test it against what you’re using now. You’ll be surprised by the difference.

One of the best ways to establish your credibility is to include customer testimonials in your sales letter. These should be excerpts from genuine e-mails or letters from customers expressing how your product or service helped solve the particular problem they faced. This last point is important: A customer testimonial that states how your product benefited them is much more effective than one that just says something like, “Your product is great!”

You can also enhance your credibility by adding a section to your copy that outlines your credentials, experience and any background information that makes you qualified to solve your target audience’s problem. Your aim should be to effectively convince readers that youare the best person to offer them a solution to their problem.

Test #7: Focus on your site visitors–not yourself.

The most successful sales copy focuses on the reader. Too often, business owners neglect this simple golden rule. Look carefully at your sales copy. Is it filled with references to “I,” “me” and “we”? Instead of using sentences like “I designed my time-management software with the busy homeowner in mind,” try “Your new time-management software will free up hours of time for you to spend with your family.” So try searching for “I,” “me” and “our” in your sales copy and replace them with “you” and “your.”

Test #8: Instill urgency in your copy–and convince readers they need to buy now!

It’s very important that your sales copy instill a sense of urgency in your visitors, compelling them to buy now. The best place to do this is toward the end of your sales letter, near the call to action (when you ask for the sale). Here are a few of the most effective ways to create a sense of urgency. Try testing each one against your current copy:

  • Offer a limited-time price discount where visitors must buy before a certain date in order to qualify for the discount.
  • Offer additional bonuses for free if visitors buy within a certain time frame.
  • Offer only a limited quantity of your products or services.
  • Offer a limited quantity bonus.

Test #9: Remove any references to “buying” from the top fold.

People usually go online looking for free information. If you start your sales pitch too early in your copy, you may end up losing them before you’ve had the chance to hook them. You first need to get them interested in what you have to say by relating to a problem they’re facing–as I outlined in Test #5 –and how you can solve it. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can start to sell to them.

Here’s an easy way to improve the tone of your sales letter: Try removing references to “buying,” “cost” and “sale” from the top fold, and compare the results to the copy you’re using now. Remember, don’t mention anything to do with making a purchase or spending money until after your reader is interested in your product and trusts you enough to buy from you.

Test #10: Boost your product’s desirability by adding images.

Images of your products make them seem more tangible and “real” to your visitors and are a powerful sales tool. But sometimes revealing what the product is too early in the sales process can kill the sale–you may need to highlight the product benefits and value before you reveal exactly what it is.

Test placing images near the top of the page vs. placing them near the call to action at the bottom (where you’re asking for the sale). You should also test adding images to your order page, and test the response to using no images at all. By carefully analyzing sales during each test, you’ll learn exactly where to place product images for maximum impact.

Test #11: Grab the attention of “scanners” by changing the formatting and appearance of your copy.

Very few visitors to your site will read every word of your sales copy from start to finish. Most will “scan” your copy as they scroll down the page, reading only certain words and phrases that jump out at them or catch their eye.

That’s why you need to test highlighting your key benefits to find the right combination that will grab the attention of people who scan rather than read online. These include:

  • Using bold, italics and highlighting (sparingly) to emphasize the most important benefits of your offer
  • Varying the length of your paragraphs so the page doesn’t just look like a block of uniformly formatted text
  • Adding sub-headlines that emphasize your key messages and compel your visitors to read the paragraphs that follow
  • Leaving the right-hand side of your text ragged (as that’s easier to read than “justified” text that uses the whole width of the page)
  • Centering important–but short–chunks of text or sub-headlines to further draw them out of the main body of text
  • Using bullet lists (like this one) to emphasize key points

Test #12: Fine-tune your follow-up process to maximize sales and attract more repeat business.

Following up with your customers and subscribers using autoresponders (automated e-mails) is crucial to generating more sales as it often takes several contacts before someone buys from your site.

In your follow-up e-mails to new subscribers who haven’t bought from you yet, you can restate your offer and ask for the sale again. Try sending an immediate follow-up after new subscribers sign up, giving them a reason to return to your site the same day they subscribe. You can test this against sending a follow-up three days after subscribers first visit your site to see which method works best.

Following up with existing customers is just as important. In fact, tests show that 30 percent of customers will buy again if they’re given the chance. It helps you develop profitable, long-term relationships with them and allows you to offer “backend” products relating to their original purchase. You can test sending a backend offer immediately after they make a purchase against sending one three days afterwards to see which approach generates more repeat business.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

20 Ways to Make Your First Online Sale

As an online merchant, making your first sale is as symbolic as it is necessary.

Completing the first sale sounds straightforward enough, yet the optimism and reassurance it brings can make it the biggest turning point in the life of your business.

However, don’t let the simple concept of a first sale mislead you. Obtaining that first customer can sometimes be a long, arduous battle.

To make the battle easier to win, below are 25 sure-fire ways to make your first sale, and then some.

1. Send Free Samples to Influencers

The Internet is packed with influential bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and vloggers from a wide range of industries and niches.

Many of them have large followings on social media and loyal audiences on their websites.

Sending a free sample of your product to such influencers, who are either within your industry or related to it in some way, gives you an opportunity to let them know you appreciate their work with a small gift. Also, hopefully, you will get a mention on one of their sites or platforms.

Not only will this provide you with a spike in traffic and social media followers, but you’ll also have a seal of approval from industry experts. These influencers will provide you with measurable results following a potential share or shout out, and you’ll likely raise the status of your product in the eyes of potential customers.

2. Start Blogging

If you aren’t already running a blog associated with your store or product, then you’re missing out on the limitless potential of content marketing.

By producing free, valuable content, you will create trust in your brand and keep people informed. Blogging also gives you something to share on social media and helps you rank in search engines.

A simple yet highly effective way to get started with content marketing for your business is to think of all the starting-point queries people have about your products and industry. Using your blog, you can answer these queries as individual articles.

As an example, visitors to the Shopify blog are interested in learning about e-commerce and drop shipping among many other topics. Because of this, we created content that ranks for terms like “how to sell online” and “how to drop ship.”

how to dropship

Additionally, you can use your blog to offer tips, tutorials, and resources related to your products and the lifestyle around your products.

If you can create epic content on a fairly regular basis, you’ll begin to see the power of content marketing via social media shares, search engines, and so forth. All of this is covered under KISSmetrics’s guide to content marketing.

3. Build an Email List

Building up an email list for marketing purposes is absolutely essential.

In fact, according to research by MarketingSherpa, 60% of marketers polled found that email marketing produced an ROI for their company (32% believe it will eventually produce an ROI). When asked what the estimated ROI from email marketing programs for the company were – the overall group reported 119% – a figure that’s tough for any online store owner to ignore.

Having a list of emails from previous and potential customers means you can get your information, products, and content into their personal mailboxes. In contrast, updates made to your Facebook page and Twitter handle will almost never be able to reach your entire following, due to time zone differences and other factors.

Start building your email list today by including an email subscription form somewhere noticeable on your website. Here’s a clever way to convince visitors to sign up for your list. Instead of simply saying “Join our Newsletter,” offer an incentive or some type of value for signing up. Skinny Teatox offers the chance to win a free product every week, so they showcase that offering to encourage people to join.

free 14 day teatox

4. Sponsor an Event

In some cases, sponsoring an event can work wonders. In other cases, it can be an immense waste of time and resources. To avoid the latter, you’ll need to do your research.

First, you should ensure that you select the right event to sponsor. Search for events where attendees actually will be interested in your products, and then find out how many consumers will be in attendance.

Once you get a rough idea about the different event types and sizes, you can begin sorting them by cost.

It’s also important to avoid sending just a small convoy of marketers to simply set up a table and hand out flyers. If there are potential customers attending, you’ll need to be more creative than that in order to build relationships.

Demonstrate some of your most interesting products to tell your story, get people talking, and provide on-the-spot rewards like coupons and free stickers in return for email list subscriptions and social media follows.

Here are some tips from Inc to help you maximize your return when sponsoring an event.

5. Interview Industry Influencers

Remember the importance of content marketing I mentioned earlier? Well, interviewing an industry influencer is a prime example of how to create epic content.

Interviews work because they are win-win situations. The interviewee gets more exposure, while the interviewer gets their hands on some hot content for their publication, which in this case, is your blog.

Make the most of the interview by asking relevant questions surrounding not only their lives and careers, but also the industry as a whole. This will ensure that fans of the influencer get a taste of their personality, while others will value their expert advice.

A great example of this is 500px’s interview with Elena Shumilova. As a popular name in the world of photography, her interview made perfect content for the online photo vendor.

6. Pull a PR Stunt

If you want that first sale fast, pulling a PR stunt could do the trick.

Much like viral videos, which are based on the same concept, a PR stunt has the potential to propel your brand into fame. If executed well, you’ll be swapping conventional time-consuming brand marketing with instant publicity, gaining you loyal followers and customers in the process.

Essentially, a PR stunt consists of doing something unusual, outrageous, hilarious, or remarkable enough to be worthy of media attention.

If done correctly, your store could benefit from tons of links from authority news sources, which is great for both traffic in the short term and SEO in the long term.

No company pulls a better PR stunt than Virgin. Their founder, Richard Branson, has dressed up like a wedding bride, jumped off a casino roof, posed as a zulu warrior, driven a tank down Fifth Avenue in NYC, and flown a balloon around the world, among many other newsworthy things.

To get your creative juices flowing, take a look at Entrepreneur’s list of top 10 successful marketing stunts. They’ve covered everything from outrageous tattoos to left-handed burgers. Remember, a good PR stunt doesn’t require tons of cash or a big brand to pull it off. It just requires creativity.

7. Experiment with AdWords

AdWords is Google’s hugely popular pay-per-click advertising network that allows online retailers to place advertisements on nearly every Google search results page, YouTube video, and partner website. Who wouldn’t want to rank in the top three of a search query that drives sales? Here’s what shows up when you type “Samsung TV” into Google. Note that the first result is a paid ad from Samsung.

google adwords

The beauty of AdWords lies in its speed and massive reach. In as little as a few minutes, you can set up and launch an advertising campaign which gets your text, image, or even video ads seen by browsers all over the web.

Using the AdWords campaign options, you can create targeted ads which are triggered and displayed alongside Google searches when Internet browsers search for predefined keywords. Additionally, your ads also will appear on websites and articles which contain similar keywords.

To get started with your advertising campaigns, check out The Next Web’s informative Google AdWords beginner’s guide, where you’ll learn how to build and launch a successful AdWords campaign.

8. Share the Load with Affiliate Marketing

Trying to sell your products alone can be a difficult task, so why not share the load with others?

Affiliate marketing is when you let other people market your products and send you website traffic. In return, you pay them a percentage of any sales that originate from their efforts. Their marketing efforts can be kept track of by giving them unique hyperlinks (which they can post on their website) containing an ID code at the end of the link, just for them.

For example, a website owner may post your affiliate link for a blue sweater that is for sale on your website. If one of his website visitors clicks the link and then buys the blue sweater, you’ll have made a sale, and as an affiliate, the website owner will be entitled to a percentage of that sale.

The success of affiliate marketing schemes depends greatly on the types of products you sell, as well as the commission percentage you reward your affiliate partner.

9. Sell Wholesale to Other Retailers

Selling to consumers is fine, but there’s nothing wrong with selling wholesale to other retailers, too, especially if the consumers aren’t biting as often as you’d like them to.

One of the main advantages of selling wholesale is the obvious increase in cash flow. You may be selling with a finer profit margin, but you’ll be shifting products in quantity.

Additionally, if you’re selling your own products, you’re essentially enabling other companies and resellers to market for you, spreading the word about your merchandise as they buy it themselves. In other words, selling wholesale could indirectly boost your consumer sales.

For a crash course on the basics of selling wholesale, check out Entrepreneur’s guide to starting a wholesale distribution business.

10. Publish a Press Release

Lots of new online stores push out press releases in order to attract media attention, but fail.

It goes without saying that to get ignored by every single news outlet when distributing a new press release is demoralizing and often a huge waste of resources.

The secret to getting noticed is simple. Don’t publish a lousy press release!!!

First of all, make sure your news actually is news worthy. Don’t expect a massive response unless you’re giving the public something seriously interesting to read about. Also, a press release should be presented in a way that is concise and professional, without being too monotonous.

Copyblogger has pieced together six ways to write a killer press release, explaining everything from avoiding jargon to creating a magnetic headline.

11. Pay Attention to Stats

Reviewing and acting upon website analytics is paramount. The behavior of every website visitor from entry to exit helps you understand why you are selling, and more importantly, why you aren’t.

Your website stats (or analytics) will show you what your customers are doing on your site, including which web pages they enter, the time they spend on particular pages, and the route they take to leave your site. Occasionally, some tools will display additional information, for instance how frequently a customer visits your site.

It won’t cost you a penny, either. Google Analytics is a completely free service, allowing you to measure your traffic in more ways than you can think of.

Here’s an example from Miracle Berry. You can see steady traffic up until early January when there is a huge jump. They looked at their data and saw that the jump came from StumbleUpon, which could be a good indicator that the social channel is worth pursuing further, either organically or via paid placement.

visits

After you launch your online store and while you’re fighting for your first sale, it’s extremely important to spend time analyzing your traffic in Google Analytics. You never know what you’re going to learn.

If you need a hand getting a grip on the world of analytics, Simply Business offers a comprehensive Google Analytics guide, covering everything you need to know.

12. Run a Survey

Learning about the common pain points and desires of consumers can help you make all the right moves going forward.

Consumer surveys are an ideal tool for obtaining honest feedback. Unlike your friends and family, consumers have no qualms about hurting your feelings by picking at your web design or your marketing material.

To run your very own survey, you can make use of online apps like Survey Monkeyand Qualaroo to create online surveys.

Econsultancy has picked up on some important practices to be used when conducting e-commerce consumer surveys, which can help you get the most out of your feedback.

13. Network on Forums

Online discussion forums are great places to give out industry tips and advice, answer questions, and acquire a customer or two.

Use Google to search out some active forums that may directly relate to your niche. When you post, ensure you aren’t breaking any forum rules when you promote your brand or products. Get to know the limits and restrictions of the forum, and stick to them. Using your forum avatar, signature, and profile page to promote your brand are usually well within the rules.

You may feel the temptation to post and promote wildly, but keep it professional. No forum will tolerate constant promotion or posts full of links to your website. Bedsides, acting in such a way online will damage your brand in the eyes of other forum users. So, keep it simple by posting just enough for people to notice your activity, but not enough to constitute spam.

Two popular business focused forums worth getting active on are Digital Point and Warrior Forum, both of which have thriving, helpful communities.

14. Set up a Cartel

Sometimes it’s nice to have some support. A small online cartel could be just the trick.

Find a group of complementary (but not competitive) retailers and agree to promote and support each other. It’s a brilliantly simple way to gain traction in a variety of ways.

For example, if you run an online clothing store, ideal cartel candidates might include jewelry and footwear outlets. Essentially, the stores you would partner with are similar enough to be able to cross-promote and share advice, but not similar enough to create a conflict of interest.

You can opt for a completely private setup, keeping things small and tight-knit, or you can branch out and publicize your online cartel in order to attract more members to help build a supportive community of online merchants.

Take The ecommerce Group for example. Operating via a Facebook group, they have over 2,500 members sharing advice, giving feedback, and providing a helping hand whenever possible.

15. Build the Right Relationships

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Building the right relationships, both online and offline, can act as your portal to success.

No matter what type of product you sell or which industry you work within, there always are like-minded businesses out there, and you need to befriend them.

The trick is to build relationships with others that are closely aligned to your business but not direct competitors.

For example, suppliers, blogs, and websites that focus on your industry would be ideal, as they can help provide you with consumer feedback and offer promotional deals, without stepping on your digital toes.

To learn more about how to build a positive relationship with your supplier, All Business offers a great relationship building tutorial.

16. Offer a Contest or Giveaway

Everybody loves free stuff, and if you’re looking to build up some trust while launching your sales efforts, a contest or giveaway could help you do just that.

Not only can contests and giveaways help you build valuable inbound links, they also are a great way to show potential customers that you can be trusted and that your brand means business.

It’s important to remember you don’t have to start big. Tease Tea is a new online tea store running a simple contest on their Facebook page.

tease tea

This contest costs no money to run and likely took only a few minutes to put together.

Online services like ViralSweep and Gleam allow you to run such contests and giveaways online, helping you to keep things simple and professional without all the added work.

17. Begin Tweeting on Twitter

Twitter’s beautiful simplicity is what makes it one of the most effective ways to engage with your target market. An excellent method for finding potential customers is to proactively search for people tweeting questions about your industry and reach out to them in a helpful way.

The idea is not to pitch or even mention your products – just be helpful. For example, when Gary Vaynerchuk was running Wine Library, he would search “Chardonnay” on Twitter and find people asking related questions. All he did was offer advice; he never pitched.

tweet gary vaynerchuk

As a result, people would be grateful and naturally look further into who he was, and ultimately discover his business on their own. This is just one of many Twitter strategies that can work wonders for your sales figures.

If you need some real life examples of how to nail Twitter marketing, take a look at the Twitter profile of online jewelry store Lola Rose, which could teach you a thing or two.

18. Make Connections on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the office block of the Internet. Within it, you’ll find professionals and executives of all types, boasting about their abilities and connecting with others. It’s an online resume so to speak.

After you set up your e-commerce business profile, you can begin doing the same for yourself (if you haven’t already). You may not make many direct sales through LinkedIn, but you’ll discover an array of opportunities with other companies, suppliers, related websites, and more.

LinkedIn Groups also are a stellar way to engage with other business owners in your industry. There are vast amounts of public and private groups set up for specific niches, allowing you to post questions and converse with other members.

To find some relevant Groups, check out Practical Ecommerce’s top ten LinkedIn Groups for ecommerce.

19. Go Visual with Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine

When it comes to representing personality and creativity via social media, the three big visual platforms do it best.

Pinterest, Instagram, and most recently Vine, all allow you to take a slightly different approach to engaging with consumers.

These platforms are the perfect place to present the creativity and passion that goes into your business behind the scenes. Snap pictures of your products, take videos of the manufacturing process, tell a story with images. Always aim for beauty if possible. People love beauty.

Need some visual inspiration? Melt Cosmetics is a new brand that already has over 150,000 followers on Instagram.

melt cosmetics

They are doing a great job of Instagram marketing, building up a brand image and a following with their beautiful photographs.

20. Don’t Forget Facebook

It may not be what it once was, but make no mistake, Facebook still is a social media powerhouse.

Leverage your personal Facebook profile and your business page to engage with friends, family, and acquaintances and to get people talking about your products. Get creative with status updates and interact on public groups and fan pages relevant to your niche.

It’s also important to keep Facebook Ads in mind. Much like with AdWords, you can create targeted campaigns to attract Likes, make sales, and promote your brand.

A popular blow drying salon in Toronto called Drybar has an extremely engaged Facebook community of over 80,000 who talk all things blow drying.

If you’re fresh out of ideas for your Facebook business page, check out Shopify’s ten ways ecommerce brands can increase traffic and sales with Facebook.

Just because your store began online, it doesn’t mean it has to stay online. A pop-up store could be just what you need to compliment your online presence.

Unlike traditional bricks-and-mortar premises, a pop-up store is far less of a financial burden, thanks to its temporary nature.

Like most kinds of physical stores, a pop-up store is all about location. You can open a pop-up store at farmers markets, art fairs, shopping malls, galleries, and any other place people gather. Just make sure you’re set up in an area that is clearly visible and where your target market will be wandering.

A pop-up store also can act as a great offline marketing outpost. You can use your store to hand out coupons to be used via your online store, and you can collect email subscriptions and social media followers.

For some ideas on how to get your pop-up store going, Business Insider has compiled no less than eighteen creative pop-up store ideas to get you thinking.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.