The first time I saw consistent sales with one of my eCommerce brands, I was flooded with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I finally had proof of product-market fit, and people actually wanted to buy what I was selling—that was the excitement. The anxiety came from knowing it was time to scale.
I had never done this before and didn't really know where to start. But after many frantic Google searches, loads of research, plenty of mistakes, and over $35k in ad spend, I finally landed on a system for reliably scaling an eCommerce brand.
To help save you from riding the same rollercoaster, I want to share my story—and my strategy.
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The systematic marketing strategy for eCommerce brands
When my lifestyle and consumer products brand, Yugenite, first started gaining traction, it was a single product that put the company on the map: a uniquely fashionable and reusable (non-medical) face mask.
Sales were good, but eventually plateaued as I hit a ceiling with my ad strategy. Faced with diminishing returns, I knew my goals: drive traffic, boost conversion rates, maximize average cart value, and create repeat customers. After reading up on every digital marketing strategy I could find, I threw everything at the wall to see what would stick.
I diligently monitored each tactic, decommissioning the ones that didn't work and dialing up those that did. When the dust had settled, I could see the bigger picture: the winning strategies don't succeed in isolation, but instead work together to create leads, close sales, and drive rapid growth. And that's how I developed my systematic marketing strategy. It's made up of three parts:
Outbound marketing is any proactive tactic used to interrupt a potential customer, capture their attention, and present them with an offer.
This could include outreach strategies like cold calls and cold emails. But unless you're selling high-ticket products, services, or B2B, cold calls aren't the way to go. Instead, most eCommerce brand owners turn to paid advertising as their first—and regrettably, their only—outbound marketing strategy.
At Yugenite, we ended up using multiple platforms to develop and close leads, but it started with a lesson from digital marketer Sabri Suby: 97% of your potential market is not ready to buy. Most of them aren't even aware of the problem that your business solves. Some are aware of it, but don't know that a solution exists. And even fewer are aware of the solutions and are gathering information in preparation to make a purchase.
When I learned that, I realized why my direct-response ad campaigns had such a low success rate. Immediately, we shifted our campaign to start not by trying to make a sale, but instead by educating the customer about why our product could solve their problems better than anything else out there. Ad viewers read about the different options on the market and became better educated about why our mask offered the highest quality, comfort, and durability.
Then, when we retargeted those readers with direct response ads through a mixture of native, Facebook, and Google, our conversion rates jumped through the roof.
This outbound marketing strategy of market education, followed by direct response retargeting, is one that can be applied to any online business.
Outbound marketing has been likened to targeting and throwing a metaphorical spear at your ideal prospects. In keeping with that metaphor, inbound marketing can be thought of as the creation of nets that you encourage your customers to swim into. (That makes it sound much more sinister than it is, I promise.)
Inbound marketing is about setting up your website the right way: clean design, clear CTAs, and a value proposition that speaks to the customers' problems, questions, and desires. At Yugenite, a big part of this is through content marketing.
Part of our brand mission was to help people who were feeling anxious in the middle of the first round of COVID-19 shutdown orders. We also knew that we had a huge increase in the number of people coming to our website because we were spending so much on paid ads.
We decided to craft a brand message that encouraged a positive mindset and good mental and physical health in the midst of the pandemic. We regularly published to our blog to promote this message and encourage our audience. The increased traffic from our outbound ad strategy meant that we had thousands of readers on these messages.
In order to make the most of these eyeballs, we offered free downloads in exchange for our visitors' email addresses, and as a result, rapidly built an email list of several thousand people. And that's where the third component of systematic marketing strategy comes in.
Subscriber marketing encompasses everything that you send to the people who have volunteered to receive messages from your brand—either through following you on social media or joining your email list.
The more powerful of the two is the email subscriber. The inbox is an intimate place that's generally less casual reading than a social media feed. That's why building an email subscriber list and developing an email marketing strategy is crucial to any eCommerce business.
At Yugenite, we set up a 90-day email sequence that introduced subscribers to our brand, nurtured them with free but valuable content, and presented the occasional product offering. Importantly, our products all complemented our brand message: we exclusively sold items that we felt could help to boost the physical and mental health of our customers. We also requested via email that customers share our brand with friends and family and offered a cash referral bonus if they did so.
As you start to collect more emails, here are 4 ways to automate your email marketing for better communication.
Email marketing significantly boosted the average lifetime value of each of our customers and also cemented our strong brand identity.
A marketing system creates reliable scaling
When it comes to scaling an eCommerce business, you want to be sure your marketing strategies work together to drive growth.
Outbound strategies (like a nuanced, multi-step, educational paid ad campaign) can boost sales and quickly drive traffic to your website. Inbound strategies (like content marketing) help to take a percentage of those website visitors that don't immediately make a purchase and convert them into email subscribers. And that's when subscriber marketing takes over and helps nurture prospects, close sales, create repeat customers, and drive referrals.
Take a look at your own marketing efforts. Are you overly focused on one component? Are you ignoring one altogether? How can you design and implement your own systematic marketing strategy to boost revenue? Answering these questions might be the catalyst you need to create a more robust strategy.
This was a guest post from Charles Camisasca, the founder of the E-Commerce Boardroom, a free online resource center for aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs. Be on the lookout for the upcoming release of the free Boardroom App, designed to help you start and grow your eCommerce business. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Check out our guidelines, and get in touch.