When talking with retailers they often ask for advice around marketing and developing a marketing plan. However, I find it impossible to give any advice until I listen to the retailers and get a better understanding of three important factors: time, money and desire.
The hard truth of online marketing for specialty retailers is there is no silver bullet and one-size certainly does not fit all. Over the years I’ve found people approach online marketing very differently. Some people understand a certain cost exists to “acquire” online customers, while others refuse to spend a dime on marketing. Some people are creative and love to write, while others prefer to crunch the numbers. Some people are extremely social, while others like to run their business and the back-office. Getting an understanding of how a retailer’s mind works allows me to craft a marketing plan that’s a perfect fit for that specific retailer.
Let’s face it, online marketing takes time. However, there are certain marketing initiatives that take less time than others. If a retailer has very little time for marketing, I’ll typically recommend they do paid advertising or online marketplaces. Paid advertising includes sites like Google AdWords, AdRoll and Amazon Product Ads, while online marketplaces include sites like Google Products, Commission Junction, PepperJam and selling on Amazon. While both paid advertising and marketplaces take time to setup and some on-going maintenance, they generally take less time than other initiatives.
Side Note: TheFind.com is a free marketplace and you should definitely send your catalog to them if you have an online store.
I know this is a bit of an oxymoron, but for those retailers who have extra time on their hands, we typically recommend a completely different set of activities. These activities are usually centered around search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. Explaining SEO is beyond the scope of this article but I encourage you to read my article about Search Engine Optimization for Retailers. However, suffice it to say if you like to write, you have a huge leg up when it comes to SEO. Likewise if you have the time to share and interact with people, then social media sites like Facebook, Wanelo, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. will be more to your liking.
The second factor I try to understand from my customers is how they feel about spending money on online advertising. I’ve been doing this since 1998 and I’ll tell you, I’ve run into some retailers with some very strong opinions about spending money on online marketing. I’ve encountered everything from “it will be a cold day in hell” before I spend anything on online marketing to stores with huge budgets and rather large marketing departments. However, for me it’s not how much you spend, but rather are you returning your investment?
I suspect very few of you can simply throw money at marketing and hope something sticks. Instead, your online marketing efforts can be measured and in most cases you can prove how much you’ve made on your marketing initiatives. It is a much easier “sell” when you can show people how much they made with their marketing initiatives.
For example, would you be willing to spent $100 to make $1000? For many retailers the answer is yes because to them it is like giving the consumer a 10% off coupon. This fee is what it takes to acquire this customer online or as I like to say, your acquisition cost. Getting retailers to understand this idea is admittedly difficult, but once I do, a few marketing doors open up to them including email marketing, paid advertising and marketplaces. I have even seen some retailers pay outside SEO firms, and over time, have returned favorable returns on their investment.
Shameless Promotion: Modern Retail includes email marketing and marketplace feeds at no extra charge with most of our packages and services because these activities drive traffic and sales; ultimately leading to the success of both our clients and Modern Retail.
Finally, I like to figure out a retailer’s desires when it comes to online marketing. Some people are left-brained, while others are right-brained, and I need to understand where their interests lie in order to put together a solid marketing plan. Some people have nightmares about their junior high math teacher and simply refuse to do anything that has to do with numbers. For those people something like Google AdWords may not make sense. Others love to talk and socialize, so making relationships with people through sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Wanelo is a no-brainer.
The challenge here is to understand the wants, needs and interests of everyone involved in your website project and “slot” them into the appropriate area and marketing initiative. The last thing you want to do is ask someone to do something they absolutely hate doing. Instead, it’s far better to understand the strength of your team members and what they like to do and cut them loose.
So when you’re putting together your marketing plan, look closely at how much time and money you want to spend as well as where your interest lies. Also consider the interests of your team as they will likely be able to assist in your efforts. There are a lot of options for you, so pick what works right for your business.