Everyone knows you have to spend money to make money. That’s an old business axiom that will always be true.
It would be great if you could set up your ecommerce store and watch the sales roll in, but that’s not realistic. Just like any other business, you have to reach out and grab sales.
Whether you pay someone or handle it yourself, marketing requires time and money. This cuts into your profits. If you’re like most ecommerce store owners, your margins are already pretty slim. If you don’t control your marketing costs, you could overrun your margins and run yourself out of business.
Countless business owners waste their resources on ineffective marketing. They target the wrong channels, fail to use the right tools, and make basic mistakes. These errors can be costly.
With a bit of foresight, however, you can avoid losing money.
- 1. Know your keywords
- 2. Optimize your shopping ads
- 3. Retarget would-be buyers
- 4. Be attentive to your campaigns
- 5. Don’t invest too quickly
- 6. Listen to your customers
- 7. Use geographic targeting
- 8. Don’t ignore your numbers
- 9. Don’t focus too much on organic social media
- 10. Don’t neglect your landing pages
- Going forward
1. Know your keywords
Carefully selected keywords can make or break a marketing campaign. You can’t be successful if you don’t use the same words and phrases as your customers.
Longtail keywords are your best friends. These keywords involve multiple (3+) words. Fewer people search longtail keywords, but those who do are more likely to buy. They’re also less competitive than broad match terms, which makes your SEO easier and your ad placement cheaper.
For example, a user who searches for “peppermint candle” may want to learn how to make a candle. She could be looking for an image to download. Maybe she wants to buy, but isn’t sure yet. But if a user searches “Yankee Candle 12 oz Peppermint,” it’s safe to assume that she intends to buy.
(HubSpot has a great guide on selecting long tail keywords.)
Constantly test and tweak different keywords. Does adding the brand name to your product improve conversions? What about the color? Don’t be afraid to play with keywords that reduce your number of impressions (how often the ad is seen), because it’s the clicks that matter.
Furthermore, use negative keywords to exclude your ads from searches where they don’t belong. If your product isn’t free, you don’t want your ad displayed to users who are looking for a free version of that item.
2. Optimize your shopping ads
Shopping Ads are excellent sources of conversions for ecommerce sites. They are a great way to promote individual products right in Google’s search results.
Most retailers jump on board especially because of their attractive format and because they seem to be easier to set up since they require no keywords at all. However, if not properly managed, they can quickly become expensive.
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You should be constantly refining the targeting of the shopping ads by adding irrelevant or non converting search terms as negative keywords, shifting budget from low to top performing products, and optimizing your data feed.
3. Retarget would-be buyers
Just because a visitor doesn’t buy today doesn’t mean they won’t ever buy. Give them multiple opportunities to buy by creating retargeting campaigns.
In retargeting campaigns, you can place cookies on your visitors’ computers that record information such as which products they viewed or added to cart. When the visitor navigates somewhere else on the web (like Facebook or news sites), an ad for the products they viewed is displayed. It’s like saying, “Hey, remember this product you almost bought? Check it out again.”
Retargeting campaigns work because we know the person is interested in that product. They just need an extra little nudge to buy.
4. Be attentive to your campaigns
You need to know how your advertising budget is being spent at all times. Even if you have set your bids, budget and end date, you still need to monitor the campaign’s performance.
You never know what you’ll learn. One of your ads may perform substantially or better or worse than the others. You may learn something that confirms or denies your assumptions. You might want to end your campaign prematurely to make changes.
If you use an advertising agency to handle your marketing campaigns, insist on complete transparency. They should provide regular reports of your campaign’s performance.
Remember: doing well isn’t about achieving explosive results. Success comes from tweaking and optimizing over time. This is the only way you will learn how to repeat your results.
5. Don’t invest too quickly
A big mistake I see a lot of ecommerce store owners make is diving in too quickly before they know what works.
Don’t get me wrong: I strongly encourage you to invest in your marketing. Once you find something that works, you should pour every dollar you can into that channel.
The trick is to uncover the effective tactics before you invest too much money. Try new things, collect objective data, reconsider your assumptions, optimize, and try again.
We can apply the lean startup methodology to marketing. Experiment with new methods, monitor your results, and tweak your campaigns until something sticks. The faster you get through this cycle, the sooner you’ll target something that works well.
I’m partial to paid advertising because of the clarity it provides in regards to your investment’s return. Other tactics have their place, but they don’t give you an absolutely clear picture of how much money they return.
6. Listen to your customers
It’s tough, sometimes, for business owners to separate their feelings from their business. A T-shirt maker is frustrated because his customers prefer one of his lesser designs. A gourmet tea maker doesn’t understand why his customer won’t try his new flavors.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “the customer is always right.” The original meaning of this phrase related to markets. If everyone at the park wants to buy hot dogs, you should be selling hot dogs, not pizza. The customers are always right. Or, in the case of online marketing where everything is measurable, the data is always right.
If your customers prefer a particular product, don’t force them to buy something else. Keep their favorite in stock, even if you don’t like it. If you are selling clothing or shoes, make sure that you always have the most popular sizes / colors in stock. Use copy, imagery, and messaging that they like. Similarly, if a particular marketing channel is working for you, exploit it. It doesn’t matter how the sales come in, only that they do.
7. Use geographic targeting
Many ecommerce stores ignore geotargeting because they don’t think it applies to their business. “I sell products nationwide,” many say. But just because you can sell everywhere doesn’t meant you will.
Let’s say your store sold parts and accessories for saltwater fishing. Sure, everyone in the country could buy them, but you won’t sell much to people in Arizona. Don’t spend your advertising dollars where you can’t make sales.
Furthermore, look for trends you can’t explain. If the people of Boise, Idaho seem to like your soap products, experiment by increasing your ad spend in that area to see if it’s a fluke or a if it’s a geographical region worth exploiting.
8. Don’t ignore your numbers
In ecommerce, numbers are everything. You need to understand the cost of your marketing at all times. Drill down into each channel. Ask yourself, “How much does this channel cost to acquire a customer?”
Some channels are tough to predict. It’s difficult, say, to figure out how many sales your Facebook page have generated. But it’s far easier to calculate the effectiveness of your paid Facebook ads.
Next, you need to understand the lifetime value of that customer. This the average profit you collect from each customer over their lives. For instance, your paid ad cost cuts into the profit of only the first sale of that customer. From then on, those customers will return to your store and buy again without clicking another ad. As the customer buys again and again, your marketing becomes less expensive.
But this only works if you know your numbers. You have to be aware of your costs to ensure you’re making money. You can’t rely on feelings or intuition. You need cold, hard data to determine if a marketing channel is working.
Every marketing blog harps on the importance of building a social media following. There’s no doubt that social media has tremendous potential, but “going viral” is impossible to predict. There are too many variables involved. Some product lines just aren’t sexy or exciting, but they can still do well online.
If you try to create a lively social media community around cell phone cases or office furniture, you’re going to struggle. People search for these types of products (and countless others) only when they need them.
Yes, you should invest in social media, but don’t expect explosive results. Use it in conjunction with your other marketing efforts.
10. Don’t neglect your landing pages
Every marketing channel ends with the prospect on your website. The effectiveness of your marketing efforts is irrelevant if your website can’t convert sales.
Each ad or link you place online needs to send the user to a specific landing page that’s highly related to the link they clicked. In ecommerce, you’ll link your ads to the your product pages. or category Never link a paid ad to your homepage.
Your landing pages should load fast, be clear, easy to use, and optimized for mobile users. The visitor should immediately understand what you expect them to do. Use high quality product photos and videos to entice the buyer.
Put any information they need to make a decision on this page, like descriptions, specifications, reviews, trust symbols (awards and “featured in” logos), attributes (size, color, quantity, etc.), and an impossible-to-miss call to action.
There’s a difference between lost money and money spent on education. If you pay a fly-by-night marketing agency to perform vague tasks like “increase your exposure” and “improve your brand’s reach,” that money will be lost.
But if you spend a few dollars smartly testing campaigns to find the ones that work, that money isn’t gone. You’ve used it to learn. All strong marketing starts this way.
If you’re ready to invest in data-backed marketing with clear and measurable ROI, request a strategy call with us.
Author: Bogdan Chertes
Bogdan has helped dozens of ecommerce businesses grow sales and acquire more customers by using data driven PPC marketing strategies.
At Adfix, he leads a team of top class PPC and Social Media experts that help clients maximize ROI from their campaigns.