Marketing your ecommerce store can be overwhelming.

You need to evaluate your competition, maintain a consistent & unique voice, implement a strategy that’s still nimble enough to keep up with ever-changing search algorithms, and more.

Today, we break down ecommerce marketing into extremely actionable and simple terms. We’re giving you the top 4 tips to kickstart your ecommerce marketing efforts. Here we go…

Understand the Ramp Up

Effective marketing takes time and money. Every marketing channel requires a ramp up and takes time to build on itself.

However, once the ball gets rolling you can really compound on your efforts by focusing on the right channels and utilizing them correctly.

Ultimately, what you want is sustained organic growth. Research has shown that the most valuable ecommerce customers come from organic channels:

Multiple case studies have shown that organic, word-of-mouth growth is key for establishing a core base of repeat customers who tend to drive the most long-term revenue:

So how can you achieve this? Luckily, we have some awesome tips for you today to get started with your ecommerce marketing efforts…

1. Evaluate Your “Discovery” Channels

Along with limited capital, your most precious resource is time. You don’t have the bandwidth to hire a four-person marketing team. As such, when thinking about marketing, you need to go deep, not wide.

Evaluate the marketing channels at your disposal and narrow them down to a select few. Don’t spread yourself thin. Find the channels you believe will help you make the most impact and stick with those.

When going through this decision process, something important to think about is how you want people to discover you. Would you rather someone stumble upon your products via a text ad on Google? Or through a referral from someone influential on Instagram?

It’s important to have a clear idea of who you’re trying to target and how they’d like to discover you when deciding which channels to invest in.

Here’s the basic list of ecommerce marketing channels you’re working with:

  • Email (newsletters)
  • Referrals
  • SEO
  • Blog
  • Social media (pick 2-3)
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
    • Instagram
    • Linkedin
    • Google+
    • Youtube

Evaluate these channels based on a combination of effort, impact, and cost. Remember, whatever you go with must be manageable.

2. Build Channels Not Transactions

After you’ve narrowed down which channels you want, focus on building an audience for each of them.

This is where your marketing budget comes in. Accelerate the number of eyeballs you get on these channels by spending money on creating awesome, engaging content and fueling distribution.

Initially, when no one knows anything about your company you don’t want to waste dollars on transactional online marketing, i.e. “$100 Denim Made In America – 50% off Today” Google ads.

Instead, put money towards building your brand and crafting your voice. This means invest in product & lifestyle shots, videos for product tutorials, social media features by influencers (some charge $300-$500 / referral), sponsored ads for blog posts, etc.

Hubspot puts it best. Instead of hammering your message down someone’s throat like a sledgehammer, try to attract highly qualified customers through magnetic ecommerce marketing:

3. How to Build Your Channels

Depending on which ecommerce marketing channel you tackle, you’ll need a specific set of tools and tactics to help you succeed.

Email marketing

You want to build a massive email marketing list. Segment that list by repeat customers, fans (maybe they signed up via blog but never purchased), and one time shoppers. If you haven’t launched yet, then you should be collecting waiting list email addresses.

Use tools like Mailchimp that allow you to create beautiful emails for free if you’re under a certain threshold of subscribers. Send them weekly updates & product deals.

According to a study by Custora, customers acquired through email has quadrupled to represent nearly 7% of all acquisition channels.

One of the most exciting findings is that the lifetime value of customers acquired through email is significantly higher than most other channels:

If you’re still scratching your head on how to get your first few email subscribers, check out this cool experiment by Hillary Mason on how to build an email list with Twitter ads.

Referrals

Building relationships with influencers in your space is critical to kickstarting your ecommerce marketing. You’ll be building credibility with people your buyers trust.

Use tools like oDesk, Elance, or Zirtual to find people to work with who can do quality online research to find influencers in your space and their contact information.

Mike Del Ponte, founder of Soma, has excellent tips on how to build a media list and craft outbound emails.

SEO

This is generally a product of doing everything else right – website copy, high quality back links via PR and guest blogs, excellent blog posts, shared content, etc.

Learn the basics first by figuring out what makes a Google-friendly site and best practices for page titles and H1 tags. SEOMoz has an awesome beginners’ guide to SEO that’s helpful as well.

Blog

There’s an abundance of free tools here that you can use: Tumblr (for visual heavy content), WordPress (for a mixture of text & visual heavy content), Squarespace, and more.

If SEO is also on your mind for this, then checkout Google’s Keyword Planner to determine high traffic & low competition words that would be ideal for your blog posts.

You’ll also want to create a basic content calendar. The team at Buffer does an awesome job of explaining how they keep track of a high volume of blog posts. Their calendar is kept up to date using Trello:

Social media

Social media is increasingly becoming visual. If you don’t have engaging, high quality images & videos, then you’re dead in the water.

A common misconception is that it’s expensive to produce quality images. Depending on your location, it’s usually not too hard to find an affordable professional photographer ($200-$500 / shoot = $5-$20 / photo).

If you’re building a product-based business, then it is critical to brand yourself properly with awesome, engaging product & lifestyle shots.

Hit up Craigslist, TaskRabbit, or tap into your own network to find a great photographer who can help you feature your products the way you want.

Some of the best ecommerce brands have an amazing presence on social media and content is the key to that. Few do it better than our friends at Pure Fix Cycles – checkout their Instagram and Facebook to get a look!

4. Build A Long-Lasting Brand

Some of the most successful ecommerce companies are also the most recognizable brands on the planet.

Generally these brands have a unique appearance, voice, identity. It’s never too early to start. Key word here is build. Your brand can pivot too. Experiment with what works and resonates with people.

Most of the tools we’ve mentioned in this post for social media, blogs, emails, etc. all offer up some form of analytics so you can see how much lift you’re getting from your efforts.

It’s only when you truly build a unique brand experience that you can control your own proprietary distribution channels. This is an untouchable space that you own. You’re not competing for top positions and eyeballs with other companies.

While competitors can try to replicate what you’re doing, they can’t tap into your channel – making it quite valuable.