There are many blog posts on how to grow your online marketplace business that include great advice such as SEO optimization, how to write the best titles and descriptions, or how to grow your social media following. However, all of these topics have been well covered.
In this blog I want to cover marketing ideas that are not necessarily well covered as well as draw from my background in business and marketing, and my more recent experience in what works and what doesn't in growing my own online marketplace shop.
So let's jump straight into it. Here are my Top 10 best marketing tips for growing your online business.
Online marketplaces' photo slots are wonderful features to use for listing your product. Use them as marketing tools, attention-grabbers, for critical information, and as a means of communicating quickly and directly to browsing customers.And well worth any time you spend on creating them.
What I have learnt is that buyers do not necessarily read your listing descriptions. Some don't have time, or are just browsing. However, you can grab their attention by putting all the critical things you want them to know in your photo slots, without them having to read the whole description.
According to marketplaces' research, the more photos there are, the more information the customer will receive and the more likely the customer will feel comfortable about buying your product. They recommend you take photos from different angles, show any details that you want the customers to know about, and display any special features. But there is a lot more that you can do.
I now create additional JPEGs with my photos and short text that outline everything I want the buyer to know about my product such as sizing,unique selling points,and product features.
Plus, I also add others for general marketing, store discounts, cross promotions, and to point out any misconceptions or common misunderstandings that some buyers may have about the product. The latter has been a wonderful way to avoid possible buyer dissatisfaction further along the track.
For more information, see my blog post:
One of the easiest ways to update your branding is through color.
Color psychologically affects our brains in a myriad of ways. It produces emotional responses, influences our perceptions, affects our decision-making processes, and acts as stimulants to our brains. So it’s not surprising that due to its high impact, color psychology is widely used in marketing.
One of the most important attributes of color is its ability to change our emotions. When we understand this and learn how to use it, by applying it to the basic principles of design, we can attract and maintain an emotional connection with our target audience.
It is also important to keep in mind that each color has the ability to not only attract certain demographics, it can also repel others. So before you sit down to design your own color scheme, make sure you know exactly what audience is most interested in your products and services, and start from there.
There are other ways to increase your brand's effectiveness, but color is a great place to start.I have written several articles on this subject. To understand what colors to use, read more here:
Getting to know your buyers and what they need is critical to all successful businesses. This sounds obvious but I am constantly surprised at how many businesses simply create a product and then just put it up for sale, without much consideration for who their target customers may be.
Whenever you can, listen to your buyers. Get to know them, do some research on how many are out there, and what they are using your products for. Like I said, it all sounds obvious, but sometimes we are simply too busy or distracted, to spend a lot of time focusing on this important area.
Some of the best feedback you may get can be from disgruntled buyers, or what may seem to be unrelated buyer questions. At first, these may seem to be problem, but if you analyze what feedback you are receiving, this could turn out to be a goldmine full of important information. Ask yourself:
Some of my best breakthroughs have come from just listening to my buyers. They know what they need and what, perhaps, the current market is lacking, as well as a whole host of things you may not have thought of.
Research has found that buyers love listing videos, so if you are available to use them - then certainly do. Plus we know from how the human brain works, people respond to and remember visuals long after they have forgotten text. Potential buyers are also more likely to linger over your listing when there is a video, and the more visuals you have in your listing, the more buyer confidence you will gather in your products.
You can make your own product videos by using your phone but please ensure, in the same way that high quality photos are recommended to sell your product, that you are able to create quality videos as well. The most important thing is that you will need a lot of light when filming, otherwise your video will be full of noise and look unprofessional.
Another way to create a highly effective listing video is to use an online design platform, such as Canva or Adobe Express, that allows you to add your product photos to a template and then apply animation, such as in my example above.
The good thing is that these short 15 second animation videos can also be used to promote your products on social media, and will just keep repeating. Another attention-grabbing boost to your posts.
It is easy to get side-tracked and start creating more and more products and lose sight of what works best. Identifying your core business will help you focus on what is important, prevent you from wasting your time on unnecessary or unprofitable activity, and allow more time to what really matters.
The first thing to do is to group your products into types, and then analyze the sales of each type, and compare them to each other. More about how to do this in point 7. Analyse Your Stats, below. Immediately you can see what is profitable and what isn't.
However, just be careful that you don't throw out something that might be a potentially great seller in the future.
There is an old marketing model based on the 1970s BCG growth-share matrix that was designed to help large corporations decide how to allocate cash among their business units. It is easy to modify and use for your own small business, where you group all your products into 4 categories: Cash Cows, Stars, Developing, and Dead Wood.
Cash Cows are your regular sellers that bring in a steady stream of income. Their individual profit margins may not be very high, but their sales are reliable and frequent.
Your Star products are those that have high demand, and/or high profits, in a growing market.
Your Developing products are new additions with potential but still need more research or time to see how they will perform. Eventually, they will fall into one of the other 3 groups depending on the outcome.
Dead Wood is just that. Products that you are carrying that are just not worth your time, or are of a lower quality (plus low income) that can destroy the overall image of your shop.
If you do this on a regular basis, it will crystalize for you what products to focus on, what to make more of, and which ones to stop producing. It is as simple as that.
When I was studying marketing, I came across an old autobiographical book by Bob Ansett, an Australian entrepreneur and successful 1980s business man.
Bob Ansett is the son of Reg Ansett, the owner of Ansett Transport Industries, Diners Club Australia, Ansett Australia Airlines, and Avis (Car Rental) Australia. His parents divorced when Bob was 7 years old and he grew up in the USA. His rivalry with his father later became legendary when Bob returned penniless from America and started Budget Rent a Car, in direct opposition to his father’s car rental business.
Bob’s company ultimately became the market leader in Australia, overtaking his father's, due to his well known positive attitude and catchy slogan, ‘Can Do’. Bob trained his staff to have this can-do attitude to all of their customers' requests. By listening to these requests, it also helped him develop new services and products that were revolutionary for the industry at that time.
From 1985 to 1990 the Budget brand was amongst the top 12 recognizable brands in Australia and, more importantly, in the top 10 most admired brands.
"If there's any one message I have, it is simply to remain optimistic. Whatever we do, be it in business, sport or our personal lives, if we remain optimistic - be positive and have an expectant attitude - then things will work out. We can change things and we can overcome enormous adversity if we remain optimistic." - Bob Ansett
Developing a can-do philosophy starts with a lot of optimism and positivity. There will be times when operating a business that things can get you down. Disgruntled buyers, supply and shipping problems, low sales. But being able to bounce back and know in your heart that you can fix these things for next time is an important attribute to have. What you can do:
So your first thought may be, what do stats and numbers have to do with marketing. Well, lots!
Most online sites and marketplaces provide us with a lot of stats and my main advice is to use them!
I also set up a spreadsheet to calculate some important ratios to help me know what products to keep creating and what to stop.
In accounting there is a business process called Ratio Analysis, but everyone can use its basic principles to help their business grow. The main ratio that I use in photography is Return Per Image (or RPI). This calculates the average income that you have received per photo. We can change this for most Etsy sellers to RPP (return per product). This is a simple way to work out what products are performing better than others. To calculate, you only need two numbers: thetotal income received, divided by thetotal number of productsyou have.
However, you can then apply these ratios across different variables to get a much broader and informative picture. For example:
The important thing to know is that a single ratio is not enough, you need to compare this ratio to another one to get the full understanding of what is happening with your sales.
Successful businesses run a lot of stats and ratios to get ahead of the competition. Even if it looks a bit too time-consuming for you at first, I urge you to just make a start, and you may be surprised at how important this process is to guide all your future business decisions.
On my calendar this month is a quote by Karen Salmansohn which says, "When you learn how much you are worth, you'll stop giving people discounts".
Running lots of sales and giving discounts on everything are often signs of a novice seller, or someone who is undervaluing their work.
However, there are constructive ways to use sales and discounts. A once a year sale, such as for Black Friday sales, or end of year clearances, are usually expected by buyers who will target them at these specific times of the year. But at other times of the year, or if you are constantly running them, you will probably lose (or lose the respect of) your buyers, who could possibly think your full price is not credible.
Giving small freebies or giveaways with your products is typically a good idea, especially at the end of year to thank your buyers for their patronage. In our business consulting practice, as with many others in that industry, giving a free diary or other corporate gifts are traditional at Christmastime, so I transfered this practice to my online business by giving free printables to all my holiday product customers.
A very constructive way to offer discounts, I have found, is for multiple sales. This is then rewarding your buyer for their extra patronage, and does not get confused with any negative messages behind simple product discounting.
Overall, it is important to value your work, and to price your products accordingly. Selling items off too cheaply and regularly is sending the wrong message about the quality of your work.
Pricing your products is the other side to this coin, so research how your prices compares to others in the same market. I also use eRank, an online research tool, to price my products, as well as to find best keywords, store my keywords, analyze my listings, and for a whole host of other features. Their basic service is free.
Businesses who add value to their products typically generate more customers and buyer loyalty. But just hapazard discounting is not necessarily the way to go. Refer to point 8. Offer The Right Type of Discounts, above.
Adding value to your products means adding a little extra free service or additional product or information that your buyers may appreciate. What you are effectively saying to your customers is, 'I care about you and here is a little more that you may need, that you don't need to pay for'.
There are many ways to add value to sales and social media promotions, including:
Even though these extra services are free and therefore have some cost to you, research has shown that value-added products can attract more customers long-term, improve customer loyalty, improve customer relations, raise positivity between you and your customers, and help you stand out from your competition.
Yes, I have saved the best for last: be unique and stand out from the crowd!
This is probably the most important of all my marketing tips, and if you can get this right, it is money in your pocket. This is what will put you ahead of your competition. But of course, it is not always easy.
Sometimes you may stumble on the golden formula by accident and other times you may just need to keep experimenting until you find what works. Sometimes you can be too different and not meet your market's needs, so you need to combine this with market research, as well as find your own spin, individual style, or quirky nuance, compared to what is already out there. But the bottom line is to put more of YOU into your products, and to ask yourself, what makes me different from others? What do I love doing that others are not? Chances are that there are buyers out there who were just waiting for someone like you to come along.
For example, when I first started stock photography in 2013, about 90% of the images available on agency sites were shot on white or neutral backgrounds. So what did I do? I went out and bought or made a whole range of different colored backdrops. Pink, red, blue, green, yellow, orange and purple! Well, one has to be different, doesn’t one? What a shock to the agency system that must have been? But they were approved, and more importantly they sold. And sold and sold. Colors then became my trademark and I went on to sell over 200,000 downloads over the next 8 years.
However, when I started shooting product mockups and styled them with my colorful backgrounds, my sales were not very good. Some did OK for holiday themes but what I had to learn was that product mockups buyers need neutral backgrounds to showcase their own colorful designs. That's where I needed more market research.
Another favorite saying of mine is, 'when they zig, you zag'. In other words, when your area of the market becomes too saturated then it is time to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
Updating and changing your style on a periodic basis to the latest trends is also a great way to keep ahead of the pack. Most of your competition just follows the crowd. You need to be ahead of it. Of course, don't change what is already working for you, just those products where sales have stopped or slowed down.
Experimentation is one of the keys to success in this area. Keep trying different things until you hit the right one.
However, the bottom line is always to know your buyers and find out what they want. If that area is lacking in supply, and you can fill it, then you are well on your way to your next big success!
Get to know the unique selling points of your store and individual products. By thinking them through and writing them down, you will clarify in your own mind what it is about your products that help them stand out in a crowd.
Milleflore Images specializes in photography, graphic design, and stop motion video, with on-trend themes for designers and online marketplace sellers. We love to create imagery, such as product mockups, shop banners, listing videos and social media sets, to help your business grow.
Annie, of Milleflore Images, the author of these articles, has a Bachelor of Business, diplomas in photography and graphic design, and a background in accounting, marketing, and business consulting.