Birds of a feather flock together – and ecommerce merchants are no different. They congregate in niche online communities where they voraciously consume advice on how they can sell more online. Within the reliable confines of these communities, they are most open to listening, absorbing and taking action.
Before you smack your lips and begin peddling your wares, be forewarned. DON’T DO IT. There is no more certain way to earn the wrath of your potential customers than to sell yourself out of turn. Rather, you need to commit to selflessly serving these communities with the genuine intent of helping them out.
With that out of the way, let us begin.
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Strategize – Don’t Spray and Pray
Even before you build a strategy, spend some time rationalizing who your customers are. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Are they purely online merchants, or do they have an offline store?
- Do they sell in marketplaces or do they only sell on their own Shopify store?
- Are your products/services more relevant to one vertical, say fashion, than another?
- Are your products/services more relevant to merchants with large catalogs or small ones?
- Are your products/services affordable to high-revenue grossers or low ones?
- Are your products/services more relevant to one geography over another?
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Once you answer these questions, you should have a rough sketch of your customers’ profile. Then think about where you stand a higher chance of finding them. Here are some key questions to answer:
- Which social media channels do they adopt? If your customers are small merchants with less than five employees, you will probably find them on Facebook. On the other hand, if your customers are large merchants with over 100 employees, LinkedIn is probably a better bet.
- Who do they listen to? List the top 100 influencers for your target segment. If you are selling to apparel stores, then your list should have a lot of fashion experts. If healthcare stores are your primary target, health experts should dominate your list.
- What are they interested in? In order to make your presence felt, you need to make conversations that are valuable to your customers. Do they like to stay abreast of trade news? Do they appreciate daily tips on increasing their business? Would they be interested in industry trends that will help them plan inventory?
Armed with this information, you are now ready to reach out to your customers.
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Get Selflessly, Shareably Social
Social media marketing is much like baseball. While you are eager to score a home run, don’t stop running the singles. Your Facebook page and your Twitter handle are not going to get a million followers overnight unless you have the wicked brilliance of Charlie Sheen, so be prepared to build your follower base steadily. Here is how you do it.
- Make an editorial calendar and stick to it religiously. The golden rule of social media marketing is 30-60-10. According to this guideline, 30% of your content should be your own content, 60% curated content and 10% promotional content. Depending on your patience and feedback from your followers, you may choose to alter this proportion. By following this routine, you will slowly build a fan base that will appreciate your content and also share your messages, thereby spreading your brand within your target communities.
- Make friends with influencers. Mention them, retweet them, like them and favorite them. Ask them to write for your blog. Keep them updated (without being intrusive) on how you are progressing. One day they will recognize you as a valuable resource for their followers and hopefully advocate you. This could possibly be your home run!
- Don’t lose opportunities for being shared. Whether it is on your website or your blog, give your audience the opportunity to share your thoughts. Position your “like” and “share” buttons strategically, and be sweet about asking them to share. Simplify the process with tools such as ClickToTweet. Be optimized for sharing (also called social media optimization or SMO) by using appropriate tags on your website.
- Create compelling content. The more original and useful your content is, the better likelihood it has of being shared. Conduct some original research that might be useful to your merchants. Address their most aggravating pain points. Sometimes, be completely creative about it and give them a laugh.
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If there is one rule to customer awareness, it is to go where they are.
Clearly outline your target merchants, research the social channels they frequent, and interact with them regularly and selflessly. This will build you a customer base, a referral base, and an influencer network which will help your customer acquisition efforts in the long run. Invest in original content and creative perspectives. Most importantly, take your singles while you wait for that home run.