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E-Commerce Startup

E-commerce startups have the daunting task of making a name for themselves in the overcrowded marketplace that the Web is. When there are companies dime a dozen how do you carve an identity for yourself?

Marketing a startup requires massive investment, not particularly in terms of money, but in terms of planning, research, expertise, experience and patience. Social media and online marketing campaigns take a long time to grow roots and take an even longer time to bear fruits. You need to have the finance, resources and grit to stay afloat till then.

Wildly successful startups are media darlings and many of them are telling examples of how best to use social media to win over early customers. But there are very few companies that have hit the jackpot with a single YouTube video or Facebook post.

Great advertising means hours of sweat, blood and toil over getting the basics of selling the product right. What is that one single aspect of your service or product you can highlight to your early micro-market? What will coax them to use, try or adopt your product?

Here are a few tips to help you.

1. Be Sure of Your Market

Selling becomes easy when your target market has an identity. Are you trying to sell yet another networking app to college students? Are you marketing a non-steroid cream for skin allergies? Whatever be your product be sure of who you want to market it to.

You can narrow down your wide target segment to narrower micro-segments like say, social media network for STEM students and skin cream for women in their 30’s. It makes your market much more defined and far easier to market to.

Social media is used differently by different demographics. Teenagers and 20-somethings have a deeper and more expert relationship with social media marketing. But, they are desensitized to what gets shared on popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Marketing messages may end up ignored and unnoticed. If you want to market on high-use and over-exposed platforms then you may have to provide really useful and share-worthy content, maybe not directly promoting your product, but still getting the word out about you.

Once your social network platform catches the attention of STEM students they may try it out for curiosity.

Early consumers are your golden gooses, you need to nourish and pamper them. Come out with contests, set up popup stores, give away goodies and identify your biggest supporters. Every engagement- whether it be tweet, post, video, share or comment, should add value to the user. If you are not a good content creator, hire a good writer or work with a freelancer. You need to get your foot in without wasting time.

2. A Great Website Goes Without Saying

A killer website design will give you a beautiful personality. This is your identity and your website is where people from all over the world will come looking for you.

Don’t you want to look your best?

Do not skimp on designing expenses and invest in a quality website that scores high on aesthetics, usability and functionality.

If you are building your site using WordPress simple plugins like Woocommerce can convert it into an online marketplace with no extra effort.

Spend money where required and maximize the options available to get the best out of what you have. A great website will also help your marketing efforts in a major way.

A fabulous-looking website is like having George Clooney to sell your T-shirts for you!

3) Special Needs Require Specialized Channels

To sell a medicine, you need to be heard by a lot of people including doctors, patients, wellness bloggers and your customer base.

Drug industry has a high threshold entry level, and the competition is cut throat. Without proven effectiveness and long-standing trust, it will be difficult to attract endorsements by influencers.

This is where content comes to your rescue. There is not much user-friendly data, information or content available on skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and other skin disorders. You can position yourself as a source of valuable, reliable and professional information that regularly publishes content from user community.

You can also contribute to forums and communities and make positive impression on users.

All these activities are time intensive. But you need to take the road less traveled because platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram may not be suitable for your early startup-level needs.

4. Consider Other Means of Growth

With traditional marketing channels being barely noticed in real world today, you may have to look at other ways to make your marketing entry.

Startups that adopt novel, unique and interesting marketing models have more chances of building early traction.

Brands like Airbnb, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat piggybacked on other major networks to gain initial traction and users.

Snapchat and WhatsApp grew on top of mobile phones’ organic network, whereas Airbnb made use of a chink in the armor of Craigslist.

Mobile data carriers are not in a position to wean users back to SMS. They are not in a position to raise data rates and make business unprofitable to WhatsApp, so till that happens the app has access to the phonebook contacts.

Facebook grew on our email network and virtually did the same thing that WhatsApp did with the phonebook contacts. All these platforms grew on top of our regularly used network of contacts. We did not have to manually add friends; they were all there already!

Instagram piggybacked on Facebook and pulled from the networking behemoth’s social graph with its ‘find friends’ access.

So piggybacking on another network is the way to go, provided you are contextual and complementary to it. If you take far more than what you give back, then the network may cut you off.

5. Work with Social Media Influencers

Having powerful friends to support you is the best thing a startup can hope for. When an influencer blogs or tweets about you, then it becomes very easy to get your name out in the market.

So how do you make powerful friends? The answer is doing the groundwork well before you are out with your product.

Today it is much easier to reach out and make connections than it was a decade ago. Connect with, follow and like important people in your niche. Share and comment on their posts, tweet and be visible in their social feed.

All social media networks are great to build relationships, and you need not keep it limited to customers alone.

If you can get a well-known person in your industry to tweet about your new launch, it will be your biggest leg up in the early phase.

Bring bloggers on board. Ask then to review your product or post pictures of using the product on Instagram. User-generated content generates the maximum activity on social media.

Your product or platform must integrate tools of self-expression that makes it easy, simple and quick for your users to spread their ideas, interests, talent and abilities. Think of ways to incorporate this feature to your website/app/product/service. There should be something there that gives an opportunity to your users to promote and spread the news about their cause, because that in turn will bring you exposure.

Conclusion

Marketing and advertising require a holistic approach today. They are multi-channel and comprise of social media, traditional off-line channels, emails, blogging and SEO. Learn how to play them to the best of your advantage and you are good to go.

(Image Courtesy: Geograph)

January 14, 2016

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