A Free Step-by-Step Guide To Creating an eCommerce Marketing Strategy To PROFITABLY Grow ANY Online Stores’ Traffic and Sales On A TIGHT BUDGET
All eCommerce store owners and managers love traffic and sales. It’s the lifeblood of the game.
The drag is that when you start driving traffic you quickly discover that not all traffic is created or priced equally.
You soon realize that knowing how to perform various marketing tactics is only one part of the eCommerce game… you also need to know why and when to use each tactic successfully in the context of an all-inclusive, professionally designed marketing plan.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if you could roll out a strategy and KNOW that it was going to grow your store and perform right from the start.
That’s the idea behind this guide – when you have a tight marketing budget you have to put brains before budget to compete with all the noise in the marketplace.
In this guide you’ll get the step-by-by process we follow to create eCommerce marketing strategies for our clients.
All you have to do is swipe, tweak as needed, and deploy in your own store …
Then sit back and watch as your store grows predictably and profitably.
Warning: This is not a “magic bullet” that promises overnight success (in fact, those don’t exist). Instead, you’ll get a playbook recipe you can use to create an ecommerce marketing strategy that repeatedly transform people who have never heard of you before into buyers and even promoters who refer their friends and family to your store.
Ready to get started?
Successful Ecommerce Marketing Strategy Starts With The Store Owner and Manager
Everything begins with the store Owner and Manager.
Even when you hire others to design, build and execute your new customer acquisition and repeat sales campaigns, you cannot delegate your own understanding of how this works. You must understand the fundamentals in order to set effective goals and strategies to reach them.
Working through this guide have produced many startling changes in the way our clients think about marketing their stores and how they allocate their marketing resources.
Failure isn’t caused by BAD ideas. Failure happens when you try to implement too many GOOD ideas.
How To Unleash The Power of SMarketing
Traditionally, marketing and sales have acted as two opposing teams. In fact 87% of the terms that offline marketing and sales teams use to describe each other are negative.
But in reality sales and marketing are just two halves of the same team: Team Revenue.
What is SMarketing?
In lesson 10 of their Inbound Marketing course, Hubspot defines SMarketing as:
Smarketing is the process of aligning the marketing and sales teams around common goals within a business or organization, with the goal of improving revenue.
How do you unleash its power?
Fortunately, in an eCommerce store, the lines between sales and marketing are a lot more blurred than in the offline world.
At its core, SMarketing is all about shared goals. To unleash its power accept that in your online store you won’t make a single sale (conversion and monetization) without marketing (traffic acquisition).
By the same token, if you flood your store with traffic (good marketing) and you don’t have a proven conversion process (sales) you won’t get anywhere.
In practice, unleashing the power of SMarketing boils down to three steps…
- Create a SMarketing Strategy with the overall aim of getting new customers at break-even or better.
- Implementation Part 1: Roll out predictable selling systems and funnels.
- Implementation Part 2: Roll out profitable traffic systems to fuel your selling systems.
In the remainder of this ecommerce marketing strategy guide I’ll take you through the key steps needed to complete the first step above: Create your own ecommerce marketing strategy playbook.
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. – George S Patton
How To Create an eCommerce Marketing Strategy Playbook
Step 1: Focus on Your Ideal Customer
To market a product or service properly, the first thing you must do is get crystal clear on WHO your ideal customer is, where they are hanging out, what their challenges are.
This is the most difficult step for most eCommerce store owners and marketers.
It’s also the primary reason why most ecommerce stores fail to gain traction. Directly, or indirectly, we are all competing head-to-head with the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba for the attention of the same customers. Even if we don’t sell the same products.
Our natural tendency is to do what the big players do – be everything to everyone. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Modelling what works is a proven way to grow any business. The reality however is that Amazon’s monthly spend on just Google AdWords is $10.9M. (Source: Spyfu.com)
Trying to compete with that on a tiny budget is a recipe for failure…
The best way to beat the big players at their own game is to put brains before budget. And step 1 is to clearly define your ideal buyer and then to focus singlemindedly on marketing and selling to them.
When you focus your resources on a smaller segment of your market you stand a much better chance of reaching and converting them.
But there’s more advantages to this approach…
Building a buyer persona (some call it a customer avatar) will impact virtually every aspect of your SMarketing processes including…
Store Inventory – What solutions is your buyer persona searching for?
Product Descriptions and Copy Writing – How should you describe your products and offers in your email marketing, ads and social media updates in a way that compels your buyers to buy?
Content Marketing – What blog posts, videos, podcasts, lead magnets, etc. should you create to attract and convert your ideal buyer personas?
Paid Traffic Campaigns– Which ad platforms should you buy traffic from and what targeting options should you use?
… and that’s just scratching the surface. Any part of the marketing and sales process that “touches” the customer (which is pretty much EVERYTHING) will improve when you get clear on your ideal buyer personas.
After all, it’s a person that buys our products and services. It pays to get clear on the characteristics of that person, so you can find and present them with a message and products that moves them to action.
What To Include in Your Ideal Customer Persona
At the very least include the following in your persona:
- Goals and values
- Challenges and pain points
- Sources of information
- Objections and role in purchase
Here’s more resources to help you nail your persona:
What is Buyer Persona? Article on the Shopify Blog
12 Buyer Personas for Online Retail Shoppers Article on the Artifacia Blog
The Complete Actionable Guide To Marketing Personas Article on the Buffer Blog
Step 2: Map Your Customer Journey
The primary purpose (and challenge) of your SMarketing is to turn unaware prospects into happy customers.
The biggest mistake we make when building strategies to achieve that purpose is to think it is a one-step process. It’s not! In fact it’s a journey with at least 7 stages.
At Game Plan Geek we use the Customer Factory Metaphor based on the lean startup approach to map our customer journeys. The lean startup approach is a predictable, scalable, and repeatable process for building and growing any online store, offline business or nonprofit.
Watch this 4 minute video to get a quick overview of the process and how it helps you build out your 3 primary business growth engines.
Then listen to the first 20 minutes of Episode 43 of the Perpetual Traffic Podcast. You can listen to it on ITunes or on this page. This will give you an understanding of the psychology behind the customer journey map.
Then come back and use the roadmap below to map out your own customer journey.
The key journeys in the map (indicated by the arrows) are:
- Outbound Strangers to Store Visitors. Outbound meaning you go out and find them.
- Inbound Strangers to Store Visitors. Inbound meaning they found you.
- Store Visitors to email Subscribers and/or Remarketing Lists.
- Subscribers to Customers (a.k.a. first time buyers).
- Customer to Clients (a.k.a. second purchases).
- Clients to Maturing Clients (a.k.a repeat buyers).
- Customers and Clients to Referrals (a.k.a promoters and testimonials).
Step 3: Define Your Opening Game Plays
With your ideal customer and their journey mapped out you can start creating plays to move them through the journey.
One of the questions I’m asked more than anything else when it comes to implementing SMarketing campaigns to grow an ecommerce store is: Where do we start?
Sadly, most store owners and marketers start at the wrong end…
They begin by throwing most of their budget and resources at costly activities to generate store traffic in the hope of generating subscribers and first time buyers. Or they blow budget on Google AdWords. Or worse, they start by spending resources on acquiring followers or fans.
This is a bit like trying to score a goal BEFORE kickoff…
There are other priorities to focus on first. The good news is that they are easier, cheaper, more controllable and, here is the best bit… if done properly, they will produce instant dramatic results and higher profits.
Understanding the concept of the opening-, middle- and end game in client acquisition is your key to unlocking your ‘missing millions’
Yes, I mean it quite literally, the majority of online store owners are under-achieving and actually losing revenue, simply because they are not starting in the right place and not getting their priorities right.
The Best Opening Game Plays
The best opening game plays for any ecommerce store can be found in the middle of the customer journey map. More specifically they are:
- Journey 3: Store Visitors to email Subscribers and/or Remarketing Lists, and
- Journey 4: Subscribers and Remarketing Lists into First Time Buyers.
Contrary to the marketing hype about driving traffic (Journeys 1 and 2), these plays will not make your online store prosperous and profitable. Growth only happens when you take the opportunity traffic represents and convert it into business at the best possible price.
The key bit of logic why conversion – getting subscribers and first time buyers – is our opening game play is this:
What’s the point of spending time, money. creative energy and manpower on generating store visits if you don’t convert as many of them as possible into checkouts at the most profitable levels?
Let me repeat this because it is so fundamentally important…
If your traffic and SEO initiatives are successful, they will not produce business. They will merely bring you store visitors, which still have to be converted. Facilitating this conversion requires a different process and skill.
Always aim your opening plays at people you know… DON’T sell to strangers.
Your opening game plays should always be aimed at Your Acquaintances (warm traffic). These are people who you’ve introduced yourself to and they’ve shown interest in return.
They could be:
- Leads that opted-in to your email list (that you’ve uploaded to a traffic platform).
- People who have visited your website (and you pixeled them!).
- Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube channel subscribers, Pinterest followers, etc.
Goals of Conversion Plays
Opening plays are part of your Predictable Selling Playbook. Their primary goals are:
- Generate new subscribers.
- Low-dollar sales (Convert subscribers or interested people into low-dollar, entry-point offer buyers… and hopefully they’ll take the upsell, too!)
Examples of Opening Game Plays
Remember: The opening gameplay is about conversion. It’s about making sure that you don’t have a leaky ‘inquiries bucket’.
- Using a lead magnet or gated content to build a subscriber list.
- An automated email and remarketing campaign to convert subscribers into buyers.
- An automated sales / discount club funnel to build a list of sales buyers and to convert them into first time buyers.
Step 4: Define Your Middle Game Plays
The Middle Game is all about monetization – generating more business from your existing customers and clients.
Let me give you five reasons why this takes precedence over Priority 3, or the end game, which is all about traffic generation:
- You can build loyalty which leads to repeat purchases.
- Potential to sell other products, services and extras.
- It’s cheaper and less speculative.
- You can often charge higher prices.
- Positive word-of-mouth, and word-of-mouse.
Middle game plays, or monetization game plays, are aimed at your customers and clients.
A customer is someone who’ve bought from you once. They’ve already committed to starting a relationship with you.
A client is someone who’ve bought more than once.They know you really, really well.
Goals of Monetization Game Plays
Middle game plays also form part of your Predictable Selling Playbook. Their primary goals are:
- Repeat Purchases (get clients to buy another product or to buy more frequently).
- Re-Activation (remind a customer/client who hasn’t purchased in a while that you still exist… or see if they’re interested in a product that’s different from what they purchased).
Examples of Monetization Game Plays
- Automated “Abandoned Cart” email sequence to reduce cart abandonment rates.
- Automated “Re-Activation” email sequence to bring old clients back.
- A customer and client only flash sale.
- Remarketing campaigns on both Facebook and the Google Display network.
Step 5: Define Your End Game Plays
The End Game (Acquisition) is about generating New Store Visitors, Fans, and Followers.
End plays are about exploring a wide range of online and offline new business development activities. The key is to use proven combinations. And the list is almost endless.
It’s an absolute business development anomaly that most ecommerce store owners spend the biggest part of their budget and resources on the end game… generating new visitors and followers. Trying to score a goal before kickoff.
If this is you, regardless of your size or niche, it’s time to have a huge re-think. Re-prioritize, and grow forth.
End game plays or Acquisition plays are aimed at strangers.
This is the source of NEW business for your store. To grow, you have to introduce your business to total strangers.
Goals of Acquisition Game Plays
Acquisition plays are part of your Profitable Traffic Playbook. Their primary goals are:
- Introduction/Awareness/Reach (Introduce your brand and establish credibility.)
- Pixelling (So that you can run ads to these people later)
- Segmentation (If they click on a blog post about vegetable gardening, we know that they’re not JUST interested in gardening, they’re specifically interested in growing their own food…. and we can make them a more relevant offer.)
Examples of Acquisition Game Plays
- Driving Facebook or Instagram traffic to a blog post or video.
- Search engine optimization to get more organic traffic to your content.
- Google AdWords campaigns to drive buyers to specific store pages.
Summary Of The Ecommerce Marketing Strategy Process
SMarketing is a system.
This system is made up of multiple SMarketing game plays that work hand-in-hand to acquire leads and sales for your online store.
Every campaign has a specific objective… whether it’s to:
- Introduce your business to people in your market who have never heard of you before (acquisition)
- Convert a site visitor to a subscriber (conversion)
- Convert subscribers into first time buyers (conversion)
- Sell more to your best customers (monetization)
These four campaigns work together to build a relationship with prospects… to turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, customers into repeat buyers, and repeat buyers into raving fans.
When creating an ecommerce marketing strategy your priorities are:
- Conversion (subscribers and first time sales)
- Monetization (repeat sales)
- Acquisition (traffic)
In practice, to unleash the power of SMarketing you need three Playbooks…
- SMarketing Strategy Playbook with the overall aim of setting game plays for getting new customers at break-even or better.
- Predictable Selling Playbook: Roll out your predictable selling systems and funnels.
- Profitable Traffic Playbook: Roll out profitable traffic systems to fuel your selling systems.
More eCommerce SMarketing Resources
The Ecommerce Marketing Toolkit – 7 Professional Tools To Drive Store Sales and Traffic
The ecommerce marketing toolkit will help you:
- Create your own ecommerce smarketing strategy-, sales-, and traffic playbooks.
- Acquire new customers at break even or better.
- Identify opportunities to drive more store traffic and increase sales.
This guide was originally published on 6 Jun 2017. It was updated on 5 September 2017.