When I talk of a plan, I am not referring to the kind that you would take to an investor. I am more interested in a plan that will help you solidify your thoughts, and formulate actionable strategies. Given below is a step-by-step approach that I have developed for the same. As a mentor to seed-stage entrepreneurs, I use this approach to ensure that they spend enough time thinking things through.
Why Should People Buy From You?
The first step to developing an ecommerce marketing plan is the identification or creation of a unique selling proposition (USP). You need to come up with a compelling reason for people to buy from you. This could be:
- You are the lowest price seller.
- You are the only one who sells what you sell.
But it could also be something out of the ordinary, such as:
- The user experience on your ecommerce website is addictively engaging.
- You are able to deliver goods at lightning speed.
You get the idea, right? Come up with the answer to why people should buy from you.
To Market Well, What Do You Have to Do?
It is nice to have the greatest ecommerce website. But that would be meaningless if no one came visiting. As a second step, come up with a list of primary challenges that you will need to overcome to succeed at ecommerce. At this stage the risk is that you will list every possible challenge. That is a waste of time.
Also, one would need to define success in terms of earnings, volumes, or other measureable targets. But this definition does not have to be set in stone yet. Otherwise you end up in unending cycles of spreadsheet gymnastics.
There are multiple dimensions to any successful ecommerce business. And over time you should cover all the bases. For now come up with three primary challenges. There is no magic in the number three, except that it has worked well for me in the past. Your mileage may vary.
Examples of three primary marketing challenges:
- How would I get people to visit my site?
- How would I convert visitors?
- How would I communicate with customers and prospects?
For Each Primary Marketing Challenge, Comprehensively List All Available Tools
It is time to get comprehensive. In the previous two steps I asked you to resist the temptation of listing more than the recommended number. Now that you have created the list of three primary challenges, it is time for thorough homework.
Come up with a list of all the tools that you are familiar with, which can help overcome your primary challenges. For instance, if one of your challenges is: "How would I get people to visit my site?" here are some options:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Offline display advertising
- Affiliate marketing programs
- Social media campaigns
- Speaking engagements
- Public relations
- Email campaigns
- Physical mail campaigns
- Referral marketing
- In-store campaigns at physical retailers
And the above list is just the beginning, you can think up of many more tools in your arsenal. Come up with a list of as many tools as you can for each of the three challenges you listed in the earlier step.
Choose a Small Number of Tools for Now
Unless you are founding your business with eight-digit funding, you cannot hope to set up effective teams for each tool that you can think of. So come up with a small list of tools, even as low as one tool, which will be effective in surmounting your challenges.
And there are no magic solutions here. You will have to evaluate the overheads (cost, attention, people, time) as well as the likelihood of returns in choosing your weapons of war.
For Each Marketing Tool Come Up With First Principles
The online world evolves fast. In addition, there is multiple terminology for pretty much the same idea. As a result, ecommerce marketers are often found shooting from the hip. To avoid this situation, it is best to write down a couple of sentences about your basic approach in using a marketing tool.
For instance if you have chosen to use PPC, here is what your first principles could look like: Establish self-learning campaigns that continuously monitor returns on various keyphrases. As long as the price per conversion is less than $25, ignore the price per click. Invest in the best PPC campaign management software, and have dedicated human resources to run it.
Test, Rinse, Repeat
Evolve a culture of testing. It is my experience that testing your ecommerce marketing is not just about evolving the right metrics and procedures. It is also about being culturally oriented towards testing every aspect of marketing. And when a tool or tactic passes the test, then you rinse and repeat.
When you get your ecommerce marketing right, it seems like a whole lot of common sense. But that common sense is not common at all.