Integration partner Shopify recently published an article that debunked the myth of how ecommerce startups rise to success. No, initial stages of growth do not evolve from advertising, social media or SEO (search engine optimization). Each of these is important, and eventually a necessity – you really can’t expect your website to be successful without deliberate and well researched SEO keywords in place. However, none of these things will bring you traffic right away, or more importantly, sales.
You can get 500 of your closest Facebook friends to “like” your store, but how many of them are true leads? Out of the few that may place an order to show support, how many will be lifelong customers? PPC (pay per click advertising) and SEO are great, but Google doesn’t trust new websites, at least not initially. So don’t put all of your business eggs into that basket. Forget about paying for traffic right now. It won’t produce the growth hacking results you are looking for.
Instead, you’re going to have to do some grassroots marketing. There’s no easy way out or loophole around it. Yes, in the digital age where you can have an entire conversation exclusively using emojis, you have to reach out and connect with an actual human. It can feel intimidating, but it’s the best way to get your product in front of a real audience with a real potential to convert – not just your mom or dad on Facebook (but they rock, too). Try building your customer base and audience with one or all of these strategies.
Get Connected. Seek out bloggers, vloggers and other industry influencers in your space. Ask if you can contribute a guest post, be featured in a video, or do some sort of cross marketing partnership. If you sent samples, would they be willing to review your products? See if you can pin to an influencer or bigger brand’s Pinterest boards, rather than pinning to your own with far fewer followers. If your website is built by Shopify, check out its Pinterest. It has boards for Shopify merchant products, as well as individual boards curated by Shopify customers.
Get Involved. Don’t be afraid to start small or local. If you manufacture your own goods, see if you can get your products on the shelves at some local stores. Go to trade shows, craft fairs and farmers markets. Give out samples, and let people get acquainted with your business and brand. If you aren’t already working with a point-of-sale system to allow you to sell on the go, ecomdash integrates with both Shopify and Vend POS software.
Get Noticed. Do something different or pull a stunt that will get you some free press. Do your products support some sort of cause or social activism? Organize a rally or march. We have a customer whose products are filling the market gap for pre-teen and teen girls who need athletic wear but can’t find comfortable, age-appropriate performance wear that’s designed especially for them. MaryAnne Gucciardi of Dragonwing girlgear is now not only a successful business, she and her brand are synonymous with empowerment for women and girls because of how she supports girl-focused organizations in her community and speaks up for what she believes in. Get creative – try a flash mob, public stunt, parody, etc. One of the best marketing stunts I’ve ever seen was Coca-Cola’s 007 mission simulation to coincide with the release of Sky Fall. Push your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to look silly. If you nail it, it can go viral.
One of the best pieces of advice Shopify contributor Tommy Walker shared was the absolute necessity of any new ecommerce entrepreneur to get over their fear of reaching out and being rejected. “Watching that cursor blink as you try to think of the perfect subject line, knowing there’s a distinct possibility that the person you’re about to email might say “no” or worse, tell you your idea isn’t valuable enough, or unique enough, or just plain not good enough… That’s much harder.”
It’s hard, but being bold and doing grassroots marketing is the only way to get your ecommerce business plugging along the track to success. Eventually, once you have a foundation of customers, you can spend more time, money and effort on growing your social media presence and doing PPC advertising. For now, it’s going to take elbow grease and a lot of determination. Like Tommy says, “If you want early traction, you need to reach out and take it.” So go on, reach out and grab it. What are you waiting for?