How to Sell Online

The Shopify Ecommerce Blog has over many articles about selling products online. From learning how to sell online to advanced tips and tricks, we cover everything you need to know to run a successful online business. Here are some recent posts that talk about selling online:

The Anatomy of a $122.5 Million Venture-Funded Ecommerce Website

How do you get more sales and repeat customers for your ecommerce business? That’s the number one question…

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How do you get more sales and repeat customers for your ecommerce business?

That’s the number one question most online store owners want answered. Most of the time, it comes down to making small improvements and optimizations to your site over time.

But where do you start? 

To give you some ideas and inspiration, we decided to take a look at Harry's, a 12-month old ecommerce business powered by $122.5M in venture capital funding. Harry's sells razors and grooming products for men and was founded by Jeffrey Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield. Raider was one of the cofounders behind Warby Parker, the popular ecommerce service for eyeglasses founded in 2010 and currently rumored to be valued at around $500 million.

Surely with all that money and experience they must be doing something right.

Let's find out :) 

The Homepage

The design of the Harry's website is clean and uncluttered. It's a simple but effective aesthetic that's built around excellent product photography.

Having an attractive ecommerce website with high quality photos is important because it helps to make your products appear more valuable and helps your business appear more trustworthy. Remember, people can't touch and feel your products in an online buying environment like they can in a physical retail location so you need to make sure you're showcasing your products in the best possible light – something Harry's does particularly well. 

The Harry's website is also mobile responsive and looks great on any device – something that's now mission critical for online stores. In fact, a recent survey found that 83% of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year. To make sure your website looks sharp and is optimized for all screen sizes, consider investing in a premium mobile responsive theme or hiring an ecommerce web designer

On previous visits to the Harry's site, they were using a carousel that displayed a rotating selection of hero photos which showcased a mix of products and information about the company. At the time of this writing, the carousel is no longer being used and they're instead employing a static hero image. This could be something they're A/B testing or it could just be that they no longer wish to highlight certain products and information as prominently anymore.  

In any case, large hero images are definitely "in" right now and are typically used to display lifestyle photos featuring the product in action. If you decide to use a carousel on your site, make sure you test it as they've been shown to reduce conversion rates.  

If we continue down the Harry's homepage, we can see they've chosen to display their flagship products followed by a selection of content including their online magazine, pop-up shop and manufacturing story.  Making sure you tell your story on your website and communicating what makes your business unique and remarkable is more important than ever with Amazon a click away. 

Finally, in the footer there are some important trust-boosting elements including links to email and phone support as well as social media profiles.    

The Product Page

The Harry's product page is exceptionally well done. Studies show that larger product images can increase online sales by up to 9% and Harry's takes full advantage. 

Their free shipping offer is easy to spot and their add to cart button is prominent and obvious. Offering your customers free shipping can be an effective way to improve conversions on your site – especially when you consider that shipping and handling fees have been shown to be the number one factor driving shopping cart abandonment

Harry's product descriptions are relatively brief but they bolster them by beautifully presenting more information about the product's features below the fold. In addition, they do an excellent job of communicating their "quality and craftsmanship story" by offering a look into their factory. 

Confirmation / Success / Thank You Page

Every step of the buying process is a chance to impress your customers, build customer loyalty and showcase the voice of your brand. In other words, don't neglect the transactional elements of your website like your order confirmation page.

Harry's put this page to use by including the following:

  • Customer order information
  • Delivery information
  • Customer support information
  • Brand personality
  • Social media links
  • A customer survey

This is a nice mix of elements that make their customers feel confident about their purchase while at the same time helping Harry's improve their business by gathering customer feedback.  

Other things you could consider presenting on this page include:

  • Cross selling other products
  • Newsletter sign-up
  • Resources on how to use your product
  • Request for a product review

Take a look at every page on your site that your customer is required to interact with and ask yourself how you can improve it. 

Order Confirmation Email

When most online retailers think about email marketing, they often just think about sending monthly newsletters or information about sales. However, your transactional emails are just as important as your transactional website pages.

In fact, every email you send to a potential, current, or former customer is an opportunity to provide value and have a sales conversation. 

Customer Lifetime Value Optimization

A month or so after I made my purchase with Harry's, they sent me the above email asking if I needed more blades. This is a great example of how to increase the lifetime value of your customer. If you sell a consumable, anticipate when your typical customer will run out of your product and then get in touch with them. If you don't sell a consumable, figure out other offers and products that you can build into your business. 

This is something that can be automated with email marketing software. Increasing customer lifetime value is one of the best things you can do for your business. 

What's Missing? 

There's no question Harry's is doing a lot of things right. But there's always room for improvement. Below are some opportunities and tactics Harry's are not taking advantage of that could help them boost conversion. Harry's may be aware of these opportunities and are simply choosing not to deploy them because they're not "on brand" or for other reasons.

User Generated Images

Professional product photos are great. But what they don't do is actually prove that people are buying and using your product. That's where user generated product photos come in.

A new study recently found that putting user-generated image content into the context of ecommerce is a big opportunity for brands. According to the research, brands experience a 5 to 7 percent increase in conversion rate and a 2 percent increase in average order value when they incorporate, or link to, user-generated content on product pages.

Check out how Black Milk Clothing incorporates Instagram photos from their customers on their site.

If this is something you want to test on your own site, check out the Instagration app

Reviews and Testimonials

When it comes to making buying decisions online, customer reviews and testimonials can be the deciding factor that make or break a sale. Displaying positive feedback from your customers on your website demonstrates that you have existing sales and provides social proof for potential customers who are thinking about buying from you.

In fact, word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchases, while 63 percent of online customers say they're more likely to buy on sites with positive reviews. Harry's currently doesn't display customer testimonials but it might be something for them to consider as a newer ecommerce brand. 

Abandoned Cart Emails

The most surprising thing about the Harry's shopping experience is that they don't send abandoned cart emails to shoppers who've exited the site right before buying. Considering that studies have shown as many as 67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned, this is a big missed opportunity for them.

If you’re on the Shopify Professional or Unlimited plans, you can find out how to set up abandoned checkout recovery emails here.

In addition, there are several well-reviewed apps that can give you other sorts of functionality.

If you’re not on Shopify, you still have options. These include:

Summary

All in all, Harry's is setting the ecommerce bar pretty high. Their website provides lots to draw inspiration from if you're looking to improve and optimize your own website and buying experience.

Let us know in the comments if you plan to implement any of the ideas in this post.


About the Author: Mark Macdonald is the Content Manager at Shopify. Get more from Mark on Twitter and Google+.

How a Childhood Passion Evolved Into a $1K per Week Ecommerce Business

Chris Dammacco bought his first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, at the age of 6. His…

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Chris Dammacco bought his first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, at the age of 6. His grandmother gave him $100 as a birthday present and told him to go buy an NES.

From that moment on he was a gamer.

That passion has never faded. Last year Chris started Windy Gaming, a business around vintage, or retro, video games as a side-project while working full-time. Today the childhood passion and side-project has turned into a full-time ecommerce business that yields him about $1,000 per week. What’s even more amazing is that he’s managed to accomplish all this with a basic website, a modest following on social media, and a very DIY approach to product photography.

We document that journey and draw out the lessons you might apply to turn your own passions into a successful (and profitable) full-time business.

Step 1: Tap Into Your Community

If you were a kid in the ‘80s, then these games probably bring back some after-school memories: Duck Hunt, Zelda, Contra, Super Mario Bros., StarTropics, and Donkey Kong.

Some people grew up and never lost touch with those memories.

Chris started Windy Gaming in October of 2012 while he worked full-time as a cheesebroker in Chicago. A friend shipped him a big box of video games from Japan, and he wanted to sell them online.

He tapped into retro video gaming forums online, where he was already an active participant and where potential customers were congregating. He posted about the video games he had, and people immediately started to buy them via PayPal. This happened a few more times before he realized there was enough demand to set up a Facebook page to better handle orders.

 

When orders continued to pile up, he knew that he needed to upgrade to an actual ecommerce website.

In only three months Chris reached self-sufficiency and no longer needed to keep putting in money to invest in the company. And soon afterwards, he found himself being able to pay his monthly bills with this revenue.

Here’s the lesson: If you participate actively on an online discussion board around a dedicated topic, it becomes easier to identify product opportunities based around what people need and what people lack.

Plus, adding value to the community will help you build goodwill and relationships that will come in handy when it comes time to make your first sale.

Here’s some places to help you discover where your community hangs out online:

Reddit

Reddit is the largest social media news aggregator and online community site on the internet. It describes itself as the front page of the internet and has millions of active users. Reddit has thousands of “subreddits” which are sub-sections of the site about various topics and and areas of interest.

Simply type your keyword(s) into the search area and Reddit will return a list of sub-reddits related to your niche. Chances are you’ll find an engaged community waiting for you there.

You also start to find product opportunities based on the questions and pain points they identify.

Alltop

Alltop is a news aggregator that offers a curated list of the top blogs from various categories across the web.

You can search Alltop for a list blogs related to your niche that you can use to engage with people in your community by being active in comments or even guest posting.

Finally, there are thousands of independent forums online with people discussing every topic imaginable.

To find forums related to your passion, simply search for “[keyword] + forum” and you should find a number of good places to start interacting with your target audience.

Step 2: Listen to Your Community and Improve Your Offering

It’s not just that Chris has found a deep fanbase for his products. He listens to them actively and is always figuring out new ways to adapt and please them. And that makes for good business, too.

For example, he observed that most game sellers were charging too much, delivering too little customer service, and weren’t always true fans themselves. He felt that a lot of the sellers were there to make a profit and rip up off fans. He wanted his customers to know that he's one of them.

Chris has tried hard to treat his customers very, very well. That means not being condescending when they talk about their interests and not plumbing for a sale at every opportunity he gets. He also regularly prices his games about 10% to 15% less than what you might find on eBay.

Listening to his customers and engaging with them regularly are useful not only because the people who want retro games will be more likely to buy from him, but it also means that he has a finger on the pulse of the community, which gives him a better sense of what’s in demand.

“It’s because I’m on the forums that I know that some of the early shooter games are popular now,” says Chris. “Games like Gradius and R-Type that are really big now.”

His reward? A dedicated fanbase which trusts him as a knowledgeable dealer and knows that he’ll give them what they’re looking for.

Here’s the lesson: It’s not enough to find the deep community around the product you’re selling. When you engage actively, you get instant feedback which helps you improve your product offering and your business.

Step 3: Be Creative With Product Ideas and Finding Suppliers

Chris has had to get most of his merchandise from Japan simply because that’s where most retro video games come from.

But there are a lot of cool product opportunities overseas. Far too many people stick to selling things they can source locally instead of exploring more broadly for product ideas.

Don’t be afraid to test out new markets and new ideas. There are still many underexplored areas. One of these areas include bringing over goods from overseas.

Chris started Windy Gaming by giving a few hundred dollars to a friend who was in Japan and asked him to send him some retro games back. He got a big box of games, as well as a broken PC Engine LT. He sold all the games, fixed up the PC Engine LT, and then sold that for $700. Once his sales picked up, he started contacting suppliers directly. At this point Chris has a sophisticated network of trusted intermediaries.

Not all of us have friends abroad who can help out like this.

There are some amazing opportunities from out of the country. Pura Vida Bracelets brings bracelets back from Costa Rica. SokoGlam imports beauty products from Korea. And inkkas sells handmade shoes from South America. Try to make international contacts, or just make keep an eye out for interesting products the next time you leave the country. And even if you won’t go abroad any time soon, there are lots of places to look for finding interesting products.

For example, take a look at Alibaba, a site that offers goods mainly from China and also from around the world. You won’t find most of these things in such quantities on Craigslist.

Here’s the lesson: Don’t be caught up by the idea that only the businesses on your doorstep are good suppliers. Very often you’ll find something better further away if only you’re willing to do the legwork. Take a look around.

Step 4: Show Customers That You Care – They Can Tell

Windy Gaming goods are imported in batches from Japan. They’re not sold individually and shipped from Japan every time someone makes an order. So Chris is able to be offer the newest imports at the lowest prices to his customers. But he doesn’t really identify price as a key business differentiator.

“Treating your customers really well means delivering a good experience,” he says.

Chris uses only fresh cardboard for his shipping boxes, and handwraps all of his merchandise in bubblewrap. With each shipment, Chris includes two business cards (the second one is for a friend), and most importantly, a handwritten thank-you note.

“The handwritten notes have paid off in spades,” says Chris. “I’ve had people show me the notes I’ve written them. “They seek me out at conventions and show me what I’ve written them.”

It’s not price, but these little touches that turn fans into dedicated customers. It’s all part of showing people that he cares. He may be selling more cheaply than the dealers on eBay and he may know better than anyone what the community is thinking at any moment, but showing his customers that he cares about them is his truest competitive advantage.

“I want to treat everybody like a human being. You should really get to know your customers and deliver stellar service. They’ll feel it and appreciate it.”

Here’s the lesson: Your customers know when they’re being treated well. There are lots of ways to show that you care, from handwritten notes to checking in with the product experience. These little touches further endear you to your community.

Step 5: Take It Offline

The marketing efforts of ecommerce businesses typically involve engaging on social media, content marketing, and spending money on social media advertising as well as on Adwords.

If you’re active with all four of these, great. But there are other opportunities beyond the usual online marketing tactics. Think of these as the beginning, not the end, of your marketing.

Chris knows that video gamers like to meet not only on forums and discussion boards, but also in person for conventions.

Chris goes to these conventions, not only because he’s a passionate gamer but also because he wants to meet his customers. This is just one more way he connects with fans and stays ahead of trends.

He uses these conventions as an opportunity for offline marketing. He’s started to give out “Windy swag”: t-shirts and and stickers with his logo. These have been enormously popular, which has come as a surprise even to him.

Chris has an unconventional PR strategy. Instead of going after print media or even niche blogs, he’s been talking to Youtube hosts who have shows about video games, many of whom don’t have huge followings. He’s been interviewed at some prominent gamer conventions, but more importantly, video bloggers are eager to offer testimonials for him, and to discuss what it’s like to get his games.

Finally, just as businesses sponsor athletes at sporting events, Chris sponsors gamers who display his logo at competitions.

Here’s the lesson: You shouldn’t stop your marketing efforts at writing content, putting out ads, and engaging on social media. Figure out where people gather in the industry and who the trendsetters are, and go after them to promote your products.

Conclusion

What happened in a year? Chris has turned a passion project into a profitable full-time business. He started by selling Japanese video games, has recently brought in American video games, and is about to roll out big video arcade machines later this year.

“Chase the dream,” advises Chris. “Don’t quit. As long as you’re passionate, you can make this work.”

Chris is no longer a cheesebroker. Instead, his childhood passion is now his day job. The business was self-sufficient in three months, and he went from making $1K a month to $1K a week. Soon he’ll be expanding his business and bringing even more great retro games to his fans.

Chase the dream, guys.

 


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

40 Tools and Resources For Creating Beautiful DIY Product Photography

Good product photography is important. It increases the perceived value of your products and makes your website appear…

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Good product photography is important. It increases the perceived value of your products and makes your website appear more trustworthy.

But taking your products to a professional photographer can be expensive if you're just starting out. That’s why we put together the ultimate DIY guide to beautiful product photography, so that you too can shoot some gorgeous pictures that sell.

As a follow-up, we’ve compiled 40 tools and resources to help you take your own product photos. These include resources on lighting, recommendations of experts, and things you need for your home studio.

Here they are.

For the Shoot

1. Your iPhone

At 8 megapixels, the iPhone 5s offers a great camera. Check out the apps we feature later, like Camera+, that turn your iPhone into an even more powerful machine.

An iPhone shot in action. Credit to the Cocoanetics blog.

2. olloclip

Launched as a Kickstarter project, these lenses specifically for the iPhone include features for fisheye, wide-angle, and macro lenses so that you can take more great shots.

3. Camera: Nikon D5200

For a camera at a somewhat lower price range, you might consider the Nikon D5200 at $650. Both PC Mag and CNET call this a mid-range SLR of excellent quality.

And if you're a fan of cameras from Canon, consider the Canon EOS T3. It's excellent quality at its price of $450.

4. Camera: Nikon D610

Jeff Delacruz, the expert who put together our original DIY photography guide, uses this camera because it's: “affordable but high-quality,” “second only to the Nikon D800,” and also because its file size is small at 24.3mp. At $1900, this is the Cadillac model of cameras here.

5. Tamron 90mm 1:1

Jeff recommends these lenses to go with the D610, for its depth of field, for its 1:1 focus, and because it's at a good price.

6. Ravelli APLT2 Tripod

You need a tripod for a steady image. Jeff recommends specifically that tripods needn’t be expensive. Here’s a great one for $20. It’s light and extendable.

7. Joby GorillaPod

Your iPhone needs a stand too, and you can’t go wrong with the GorillaPod. It’s a small tripod that promises to grip smartphones tightly. Its legs are flexible, which means that it can be wrapped along a surface.

8. breffo Spiderpodium

As an alternative to a tripod, you might get a stand like the Spiderpodium. It fits not only on a table, but even on a bike or in the car.

9. Camera+

Shooting on the iPhone? Camera+ is an app that enhances the capabilities of your phone camera in really powerful ways. You have the ability to change shooting modes, adjust touch exposure, and set up a grid to guide your shots.

10. Arqspin

Arqspin is a product that lets you capture 360-degree shots. If you want your customer to view a product at all angles before purchase, for example of a shoe, this is the tool to use. The basic feature is $19.95 a month; you’ll also need to purchase a spinning disk, which ranges from $99.95 to $349.95.

11. Folding Table

From Jeff: “A standard folding table works best, and a width that’s between 24 and 27 inches is ideal.” We’ve found one here at a cheap price for 24 inches.

12. Seamless Background Paper

Seamless background paper from Savage is the industry standard, and is used as a simple background for the photos of your products. Use it with a sweep, below.

13. Sweep

As an alternative to background paper, you can get a sweep. These can be propped up to be used as a support stand. Wrap it with background paper and you’ll get a smooth background without a visible corner or fold.

14. Mat Board

If you can’t get a sweep, find a thin Mat Board, which are a more easily available alternative. You should still be going for pure white here.

15. Cyclorama

You might also consider using a cyclorama to create an “infinite curve,” or a horizon line type in the photo.

16. Gray Card

A gray card is a standard middle gray reference used to produce consistent image exposure and color. Use it as a reference for lighting.

17. Light Tent

A light tent softens the light and removes reflections when shooting reflective objects.

18. Homemade Light Box

For those who are really serious about shooting their own products, we’ve included this guide to construct your own light box. With a lightbox, you’re able to better control the lighting.

Want to know how to use all of these products? Then head over to Jeff’s guide.

Photo Editing After the Shoot

Taking the photo is only the first part of producing great photography. Editing it to make it the best it can be is nearly as important. Here are some tools, some super-sophisticated and some free.

19. GIMP

The GNU Image Manipulation Program can’t quite do all that Photoshop can do… but it’s free. Download GIMP and you’ll get most of the photo editing features you need.

20. FotoFlexer

If your needs are basic and you don’t have a great volume of pictures, you can upload a photo to a site for editing. FotoFlexer offers a great deal of effects and shapes to enhance your photo.

21. Pixlr

Pixlr is another online tool, and can also be downloaded to your phone as an app. If you’re shooting people, you can use Pixlr to remove red-eye and whiten teeth.

Credit to Wesley Hancock's blog.

22. Photoshop Express

Want to edit a photo on your phone? Use Photoshop Express – it’s free.

23. TouchRetouch

TouchRetouch is an app that specifically removes unwanted objects or contents for your photos. Have an unwanted guest in a shot? Is the moon distracting from a night shot? Edit them out. It’s only 99 cents.

24. Clipping Magic

Clipping Magic is an online tool that lets you remove the background of your product. If you dislike, say, the lighting and the colors behind it, you can remove your product to create a uniform background. It can also be used to refine edges and reduce blur.

25. Photoshop Elements

You know of Photoshop. It’s the photo editing software that can do all you can ask for and then some. The more lightweight version is called Photoshop Elements 12 and costs $80. A free trial is also available.

26. Photoshop Lightroom

Lightroom is a tool for editing photos and organizing them. It’s especially useful for managing large quantities of photos. As an addition to Photoshop, it also organizes and processes large numbers of images.

Want Professional Help?

Have to turn to a professional? We have a few suggestions.

27. Products on White Photography

This is Jeff Delacruz’s studio. You can’t go wrong with the guy who wrote the original ultimate guide on DIY photography. Ship your products to Jeff in Chicago and his team will take all the photos you need.

28. Remove the Background

Remove the Background is service that strips the background of your images (like Clipping Magic, above) at a cheap price. It uses proprietary software and promises 24-hour turnaround at $1.45 per image.

29. Mister Clipping

Mister Clipping has been removing backgrounds since 2005, and provides handmade paths for clipping. Its prices range from $0.95 to $9.95 per image.

30. Shopify Photography Experts

There are of course hundreds of experts who are able to help you with not just photography, but also design. Many are experienced with helping Shopify merchants.

A Few Other Guides

We’ve suggested the tools to set up a DIY studio, but we haven’t really told you how to use them. So we’ve put together this list of resources as guides to using them.

31. DIY Photography, from A Better Lemonade Stand

We’ve been focusing heavily on Jeff’s walkthrough of DIY photography, but there are other good walkthroughs as well. Check out this one, from Richard Lazazzera. He didn’t have to spend over $50 getting his studio set up.

32. tuts+

This guide, which involves string, duct tape, clamps, and coathangers, is more complicated, but the results are beautiful.

33. Digital Photography School Guide

One last guide for you, from Darren Rowse at the Digital Photography School. It involves very basic materials, like a cardboard box, to create very good photos of products.

34. CameraShy

If you want a general photography blog, check out CameraShy. Ingrid blogs regularly and offers intro courses on basic photography.

35. Strobist

The Strobist blog is dedicated to the trickiest part of photography: Lighting. Take a look at its resources on every aspect of controlling your product photography lighting.

36. Tech Company video tutorials

Are you a video learner? Take a look at this 15-part series focusing on everything from lighting, to editing, to shooting jewelry in particular.

37. Forrest Tanaka video tutorial

For a more concise video to understand product photography, check out the 17-minute guide by Forrest Tanaka. It features a complete product workflow from planning, lighting, editing, and publishing.

 

38. Jen Carver photography workshop

Jen Carver hosts regular webinars and workshops, online and around the country. She’s especially skilled at publishing photography for children, and has been featured in eight magazines.

39. Tabletop Photography

If you’re the reading type, check out this book by Cyrill Harnischmacher. Its subheadline is: Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots.

40. The Art and Style of Product Photography

This book is our last recommendation for a resource. The author is a professional photographer whose work has been published in Rolling Stone, Elle, and US Weekly. It’s a quite comprehensive guide.

Conclusion

Product photography is important, and we want you to do it right. It can be tricky, but good photos are crucial to generating sales. That’s why we’ve provided you with tools and resources to practice getting good.

Don’t be a poorly-designed site with badly-lit photos. Get great at product photography today.

Why Every Ecommerce Business Needs a Blog (And 9 Ideas to Get You Started)

You want traffic to your site. Blogging generates traffic for your site. Everybody understands the first part, but…

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You want traffic to your site. Blogging generates traffic for your site. Everybody understands the first part, but surprisingly few businesses grasp the second part.

It’s tempting to give in to the idea that the only way to generate sales is engaging in direct sales. Handling inventory, nurturing your email list, and calling to make potential customers will only go so far past a certain point. If you’re spending all your time trying to convert customers, then you’ll soon be neglecting reasons for customers to discover your business in the first place.

Blogging is a great way to build your audience and generate more traffic and sales for your business. You shouldn’t treat it as an unnecessary luxury. Even infrequent posts can help your business.

How?

Having more blog posts drives traffic to your site because it improves SEO; it lets you tell stories that convert visitors into customers; and it increases the chances of engagement, not just on social media but also on traditional media. You might increase the chances of being covered by a news site, which are usually seen as more credible sources of opinion. And besides, all that stuff you hear about content marketing? For most businesses, that means keeping a good blog.

If you need some inspiration, this post features examples of three small businesses that run excellent blogs. Stay with us as we explain how a blog helps your business, and to see the examples of stores that get it.

How Blogging Helps You Rank In Search Engines

If your audience is small, you might feel the temptation not to blog because you feel that no one will read it anyway. Don’t give in. Not blogging is one way to ensure that your small audience stays small.

Blogging, even when you’re not breaking new ground, helps your site in terms of SEO. This is especially true if you create content that people want to link to.

Why does it help? For the following reasons.

First, blogging means more pages for your site. More pages means more internal links pointing to your homepage.

Internal links are great, but links from other sites are much better. When an article of yours gets shared on social media and gets linked to on other sites, then your page rankings really improve. It's easier to generate links from interesting content than from your product pages. And the more links you can generate back to your site because of the content you create, the higher you'll climb in the search engines.

Keeping a regular blog also signals that your site is being updated. Search engines track these changes. Each new page is a sign that your site is active. Google rewards that by ranking your site more highly.

Blogging also gives you the opportunity to rank for more key phrases because it gives you a way to create content around the keywords you’re targeting. Any product page you link to in your blog post will also benefit if someone links to your post. It isn’t just the fact that someone searching for what you write about will have a better chance of coming to your site. You’ll also give yourself the opportunity to create strong internal links with rich anchor text that link to your product pages.

Want to see what how blogging can benefit SEO? Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas wrote such a great piece of content that he ranked first on Google for a key phrase that's critical to his business. His blogging strategy was so effective that it got him interviewed by the New York Times as a success story. We'll let him explain the results himself: “Within about 24 hours of writing that article, it was No. 1 for every fiberglass-pool, cost-related phrase you could possibly type in. And because I have analytics, so far to this day, I’ve been able to track a minimum of $1.7 million in sales to that one article.”

Try it out yourself. Type in “fiberglass pool cost” and the River Pools and Spas post is in first place.

Sheridan built the River Pools and Spas blog with the simplest of tricks: answering the questions of his customers.

Nearly every time a customer called in to ask about his business, he wrote up a blog post about the question and the response.

For example, nobody in his industry wanted to disclose how much a pool would cost, even approximately. Sheridan told his visitors what they could be expecting given the features they want. It was complicated, but it’s exactly what people are looking for. Pretty soon the blog ranked #1 for every fiberglass pool search that’s related to their cost.

Through his blog, Sheridan has established himself as one of the best sources of information on fiberglass pools. It may be a small pond, but he’s a big fish there.

Blogs Are a Marketing Platform For Telling Your Story

The better reason to blog of course is so that you can build an audience of repeat buyers.

Tweets and Facebook updates only go so far when you’ve got something you want to say. Sometimes you need more than Pinterest to promote your products. And while video may be the best medium for telling a story, producing one is usually lots of work.

Just look at the anatomy of a blog. There’s a headline, to lead your readers to know what to expect. You have the space to tell a story. You can include lots of cool visuals. Whatever you tweet fits in a blog post; and you can post videos there too. It’s a very good medium for telling a story.

You want to be able to tell stories. Talking about your product’s great tech specs only get you so far; people respond emotionally to stories.

If you own a business and run a store, chances are you have an interesting story of your founding. Maybe your store started as a side gig that involved into something greater? Maybe you built your business after tapping into the needs of a community? Maybe you were inspired to build something after a trip abroad?

Besides featuring your story, you could be featuring your products. You are one of the worldwide experts on your products; you can describe how they’re made, where they’re from, and their special features. Bring out what’s interesting about them, and it’s more likely for your product to be sold.

So blog, and get bring more attention to your story and your products.

Take a look, for example, at the Helm Boots blog. It tells the stories of its brand, and also features lots of photos of its wonderful boots.

One cool thing about the Helm Boots blog is the willingness of the authors to write not only about the their own products, but the products of other people, like how much they enjoy wallets made by Barrett Alley.

And look at this post, created on Labor Day to celebrate Labor Day. Of course, in addition to good content, it’s a subtle reminder that their boots are all handmade.

Blogs Get You Noticed

When you’re writing good content that people want to read and share, you’ll rank more highly in search engines. Every link to your site, from social media, other blogs, and whatever else is a signal to Google that your site matters.

Face it: You can only promote your “About us” page so many times on Facebook, and it’s hard to craft more than a few tweets about each of your products. When you write blog posts, you’ll have more to tweet about, and more to share on Facebook. A blog post not only gives you more material for tweets, but also encourages other people to link to you as well. Someone who tweets your blog post almost certainly brings some visitors that you’ve never had before.

Blogging allows you to create content that demonstrates your expertise beyond unproven assertions. It also positions you as a more trusted authority relative to your competitors.

If you have a good piece of content, your post may attract attention from outside of your industry. These may include reporters and high-profile bloggers. Getting good press from media can be invaluable. Beardbrand is a company with over $120K in monthly sales; it really took off after coverage from the New York Times.

You never know who’s reading. Except of course, when you produce nothing for people to read. Then you know that that number is precisely 0.

For a final example of a blog that gets it, check out Pure Fix's blog.

The Pure Fix blog features photos of beautiful bikes in its Instagram feed, bike events around the world, and product descriptions of new bikes.

It’s also a source of advice about bike riding. You should always be trying to connect to your community and encourage engagement with your products.

Take a look at this post about the cool projects related to bikes that they’ve recently discovered on Kickstarter.

How to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas

You’re not a great writer, you say? You just can’t find the time to devote to blogging?

By this point you should realize that the latter is simply a mistake. Blogging is valuable. If you have the time to maintain multiple social media platforms, then you have the time to write a piece of content every week.

And don’t worry about not being a great writer. Your posts can be short. Think of blogging as the expansion of a tweet or a product description. Or you just want to link to interesting content you’ve found around the web. You can simply embed a video. None of these require a great deal of writing.

It doesn’t have to be something you do every day. Once a week is fine. Just make sure that you post regularly about interesting topics.

Here are a few suggestions for things that you can blog about:

  • The story of your founding: the history, the vision, and the growth
  • Your products: where it came from, how it’s made, and its special features
  • Tutorials for how to use your products
  • Announcements for a sale
  • Events you’re running or participating in
  • Advice on products, not just your own
  • Company updates
  • Developments in the industry
  • Something fun you found on the web. It could but doesn’t have to relate to your products.

Don’t feel limited. If you sell foodware, blog about your favorite recipes. If you sell funny t-shirts, link to jokes and cartoons you enjoyed this week. If you sell your own art, you can discuss your favorite paintings. These aren’t hard if you know your products really well.

Conclusion

So, blog. It helps get more customers and helps sell your products.

Consider that something you write will live on for posterity. Something you wrote last year could still be racking up hits. Though you may not have customers now, a post may get thousands of views over its lifetime. Who wouldn’t like to generate a sale based on something they did two years ago?

And what is our very favorite blog? We’ve saved from featuring it until the very end. Everyone at Shopify subscribes to it. And you can, too.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

Creative Ways To Improve Ecommerce Customer Experience (That Also Boost Loyalty And Sales)

In the perpetual struggle of battling the bear that is Amazon.com, small online shops find success with a)…

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This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti from Help Scout.

In the perpetual struggle of battling the bear that is Amazon.com, small online shops find success with a) a unique product, and b) a memorable customer experience.

If you've already set up your online store, you've likely checked off #1. Now, how do you improve the customer experience for an online store?

It's easy to imagine changes for a brick-and-mortar operation: I think many of us have had that fantasy of running a super hip coffee nook (or whatever else) that takes care of customers like nobodies business.

While the in-person element may be absent, there are ways to improve your customer experience online by adding that little something extra to the right channels.

Stop Thinking "Brand," Start Thinking Personality

A brand is like a reputation – it's built on what other people think of you, not what you think of you.

You influence your brand by taking care of customers and building a superior product, but you don't control your brand. You do control your personality.

This becomes important when you realize that brand loyalty is built on personality, and not on superficial metrics like engagement. Take a look at this research from the Harvard Business Review that debunks a few classic myths:

The myths:


  • Customers want to have relationships with brands. The truth: 77 percent don’t.
  • An increase in interactions is always the answer. The truth: Your customers can suffer from information overload.
  • Loyalty comes from regularly engaging with a brand. The truth: Brand loyalty is built on shared values.


All of this should start with your ideal customer. Man Crates, a company that sells crates packed with stuff guys like (surprise!), showcases a hilarious use of personality.

If you go to their "Help" section, which is supposed to have instructions on how to open your crate, you are instead greeted with this:

Better yet, they incorporate their macho personality into the actual product, by allowing you the option of shipping your "man crate" as a gift wrapped in duct tape. This makes it incredibly hard to open, which would be absurd for nearly any gift other than one made for guys that is meant to be sent to other guys!

Instead it's a friendly jab and perfectly fits with the Man Crates "brand." While their reputation will still be built on whether or not they can deliver a quality product, their personality goes a long way in winning over prospective customers.

Utilize the Customer Service Tone

There's a concept I've named the Customer Service Tone that emphasizes on casual, personable copy on pages that only your customers will see. For example your checkout success page and your transaction emails.

These are easy opportunities to apply the customer service tone. Someone just spent money with you, so this page is for customers only – you might as well add some personality to it. All you need to ensure is that customers know what just happened or what will happen, after that, feel free to add a little humor with a casual writing style.

Here's a great, personable checkout page:

I get the information I need, but I also get a candid thanks from the founder. It may be automated, but it's nice to see a real "Thanks!" instead of the robotic YOUR ORDER #4328 IS COMPLETE.

Where can you apply this friendly writing style to your store's shopping experience?

Analyze and Improve Your Emails

Automatic or transactional emails are some of the most important pieces of copy that you'll ever write – perhaps just as important as the copy on your website itself.

The reason being is that these emails scale to see many eyes. Whatever you write in them will be seen by anyone who starts the process (ie, a new sale), so they can potentially be seen by thousands and thousands of customers.

Check out how Nuts.com writes their follow-up emails after you've complete a purchase:

Brilliant, aren't they? You just want to give the team a high five, they feel so upbeat and friendly.

Tweaking your "behavioral" emails like this can have a huge impact on retention, churn, and overall goodwill to your company.

Here's how Planscope, a project management software company, uses behavioral emails to their advantage as explained by their founder Brennan Dunn:

Another behavior email you could add to the mix: reach out the first time someone “kicks ass” with your product. In Planscope’s case, when you close your first estimate or pass a certain billing amount, an automated congratulatory email (from me) goes out. My goal here is to… gently remind them that Planscope had a role in making them more money, and these emails have been *crazy* effective.

If this seems like a strategy for SaaS only, that's only because you aren't thinking creatively! :)

Instead, imagine a follow-up email for an ecommerce scenario – you schedule an email to auto-send 30 days after a customer completes a purchase of one of your products. This would be especially powerful if the product was a "beginner's kit."

A great example of a follow up email from an ecommerce company I remember getting an email just like this from a shaving company I purchased from. I forgot to save the email, but it went something like: "Hey Greg, have we totally won you over yet? I just wanted to check in to make sure you didn't make the mistake of going back to Gillette, and to see how you're enjoying the product!"

I laughed out, but most importantly it reminded me to repurchase some of their shaving cream. If you're interesting in long term customer loyalty, getting your emails right will go a long way, because this is how you'll be doing most of your communicating with customers.

Give Better Support by Stepping Back

Great customer support should always be available, even when you are not.

Surprisingly, the cost-effective approach of offering "DIY support" doesn’t seem to bother customers too much, as long as the online help content is accurate and useful. In fact, according to this 2010 study:

72% of customers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email.

For ecommerce shops, this means having a knowledge base, or a collection of "FAQ" style articles that address common issues people may have. It helps decrease the amount of tickets you receive, and increases the amount of happy customers, as they now have the option to solve small difficulties on their own.

Imagine running a menswear store that sells leather goods, and being able to avoid the dozens of "How do I take care of my leather?" questions that likely arise every week.

Whatever software you use, next you should do some quick reading on creating help content that people will actually want to ‘engage’ with.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Last but not least (since many articles won’t mention this), I highly recommend that you keep tabs on your knowledge base content, either through built in analytics like with Wistia’s service, or through an installation like KISSmetrics.

You’ll quickly find out which articles and videos people are instantly bouncing from–which will paint a very clear picture that something is wrong on your end.

"Big" Content that Educates + Motivates

Many businesses avoid content marketing because running a blog is a ton of work.

That's why for ecommerce businesses who don't have a regular content/marketing person, I instead recommend you go big.

One piece of highly visual content that solves a major problem, and motivates the customer to shop with you.

This is admittedly tough to do if you're selling something like boat motors, but if you are in a space with high social currency like men's fashion, a comprehensive and highly visual piece of "big" content can do you a whole lot of good.

We're a B2B company that sells help desk software and we only have one writer, so we pursue this strategy ourselves.

Instead of trying to crank out a bunch of shoddy customer service articles every single day, we wait, and put out massive pieces of content that attract a ton of people at once.

Our latest example is The Art of Customer Loyalty, a huge (free) guide that shows businesses how to create and increase their number of loyal customers. It shows why customer loyalty is important, and motivates people to use our support software.

Another example of big content is Shopify's Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping

I've been in the content marketing space for a long time, so trust me when I say that if you don't have a regular blogger on your team, it's far better to take your time and put out a big piece of content that will have your ideal shoppers flocking to you all at once.

Care to share your thoughts?

I love hearing from founders of ecommerce stores on any and all advice they have on improving the customer experience. What sort of little extras does your company employ to keep customer coming back?


About The Author

Gregory Ciotti is the marketing strategist at Help Scout, the email support software that's perfect for your ecommerce business. Find out why Help Scout is better than regular email for customer service by clicking here.

How to Build an Email List that Builds Your Ecommerce Business

Picture your website traffic as a big funnel. At the top of the funnel is all of the…

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This is a guest post by Leighton Taylor from Ecommerce Pulse

Picture your website traffic as a big funnel.

At the top of the funnel is all of the raw traffic that comes to your site. The next level down in the funnel is narrower, and these are only those visitors who've interacted with your brand in some way (e.g., by reading your blog, following you on social media, or giving you their email address). The bottom level of the funnel, and the smallest, includes those people who've taken the plunge from interacting with your brand to making a purchase.

Convincing someone to give you their email address is much easier than convincing them to buy something, since it doesn't cost anything except the ten seconds it takes to sign up. Once you have someone's email though, you have the opportunity to follow up with them over time and eventually move them from the middle of your funnel to the bottom where they become a customer.

But how can you get that traffic into your funnel and convince people to give you their email address? And then how can you effectively build a relationship with them until they remember you, want your product, and pull out their credit cards?

Let’s dive into some strategies to first build up an email list and then effectively market to it.

Part 1: How to Build Your Email List

1. Use ads to drive traffic to a landing page

The fastest way to start building your email list is to send quality traffic to a landing page. By quality traffic, I mean that it needs to be people who are likely to be interested in your products. Your marketing budget will be much more effective if you carefully choose who to spend it on.

For example, Facebook allows you to show ads to people who are in your target audience. You can choose what age, gender, relationship status, location, and interests you want to target with your ads.

My online shop sells survival knives, so I set up a Facebook ad targeting men ages 18-50 located in the United States who have expressed interest in survivalism and bushcraft. I was able to send traffic to a landing page for about $0.08 per click. The landing page offered a weekly newsletter containing survival articles and gear reviews, and about 15% of the visitors signed up for my newsletter. Within 4 weeks I went from less than 50 to over 1,000 email subscribers.

It’s important to note that sending traffic to your shop’s homepage is not your only option – you should also consider creating a dedicated landing page with a clearly-defined offer and extremely visible signup form. A good landing page will be free from distractions and focus on asking people to sign up in exchange for a newsletter, downloadable resource, or free course of some kind (more on that later).

Here is the landing page that I used to build my email list for my survival knife shop. You can view the actual page here.

If you’re interested in adding a landing page like this to your Shopify site, I’ve made a video tutorial showing you how.

In addition to Facebook ads, another source of qualified traffic is paid Reddit advertising. Reddit is a popular online community divided into “subreddits,” which are groups centered around different interests. For example, there are subreddits dedicated to talking about survivalism, ecommerce, gaming, woodworking, and pretty much any hobby or interest you can think of.

Reddit allows you to buy ads that show on specific subreddits, so that you’re only paying to show ads to people who are interested in your niche. Campaigns start at $5, so it’s super easy and cheap to test it out and send traffic to a signup landing page.

Fair warning: the Reddit community is unique, and you’ll want to be familiar with “reddiquette,” explore the site, and do some research on how to advertise to Reddit users before jumping in.

2. Offer a discount code in exchange for an email address

An often-used method of getting email subscribers is to have a popup window that offers a discount code in exchange for an email signup. This method is most effective for encouraging people who are already browsing your products or reading your blog to sign up to your email list. In my experience, a lot of people will sign up for the discount code but won’t make a purchase right away, which is why it’s important to nurture that relationship over time.

JustUno is an app that allows you to set this type of offer up, and they have a free plan you can start with to try it out. Simply generate a discount code, then plug that into the JustUno app, customize the text that will appear on the widget, and you’re all set.

WOD Superstore is an ecommerce site that uses JustUno to offer a discount code to their visitors in exchange for an email address. Notice the big kettlebell on the left with a “Save 3% on your order” offer. When that kettlebell is clicked, a window pops up with an email signup form, and it instantly reveals a coupon code upon signup.

3. Hold contests and giveaways on Facebook

ProClip USA, a company who sells smartphone mounts for the inside of your car, holds monthly giveaways of their products on Facebook. Visitors can be entered into the drawings by first liking ProClip’s Facebook page and entering their email, and then can enter more times for a better chance to win by sharing the giveaway with their friends.

Giving away one of your products or a gift card to someone who enters a contest on your Facebook page can be a powerful way to both build your email list and social media following. This tactic can generate buzz about your brand on Facebook and build your social following, in addition to collecting email addresses.

Make sure to use a great photo of the product you are giving away, so that it catches people's attention in their busy newsfeeds and is shareable. If you’re giving away a gift card, you could make a collage of your best-looking or most popular products to feature on the contest page.

A few tools you can choose from to create Facebook contests are WooBox and Rafflecopter.

4. Have an email signup box in your site footer or sidebar

It never hurts to have a regular, old-fashioned email signup box on your website for anyone who wants to subscribe even without being motivated by one of the above options.

This is especially effective if you have a blog with high-quality regular content, as people will be more likely to subscribe in order to be notified when you have fresh content.

Ok, so now that you’re building up a big list of subscribers, how can you nurture those leads and move them toward a purchase?

Part 2: How to Leverage Your Email List to Boost Sales

1. Publish a newsletter

A regular email newsletter is a good way to keep your email list warm without being too “salesy.” You can base the newsletter on your latest blog posts, or even curate content from other sites in your niche.

For example, I send out a weekly newsletter to my survival newsletter subscribers. The newsletter includes the first few paragraphs of my latest blog post, with a link to read the full post on my blog. I also curate several links to survival gear reviews on other websites and a few survival articles from other blogs. Finally, I include a “featured survival knife,” which has a picture of one of my products and a link to view more details (and hopefully make a purchase!).

By regularly sending this type of newsletter, you can build your reputation as an expert in your niche and nurture your relationship with subscribers. Since you're regularly providing free, quality content, you’ll get subscribers in the habit of opening and reading emails from you, rather than mentally categorizing your emails as junk mail.

Huckberry is an example of a brand with an awesome newsletter. It’s got great writing, a preview of their latest blog posts, and also contains a lot of featured products, but is so well-done that it doesn’t feel like you’re being sold to.

2. Send a drip email sequence

Another way you can interact with your email subscriber list is by setting up a drip sequence (a series of autoresponders). An autoresponder is an email that you set up to automatically be sent to new subscribers at a certain time after they initially sign up.

For example, your landing page could offer a free email course on a subject related to your niche. New subscribers would automatically receive this course broken into several emails over the course of a few days, weeks, or months after signing up.

The advantage of an autoresponder series over a newsletter is that it doesn’t require you to constantly create new content--once you write and set up the series, it’s all automated for new subscribers.

For example, rather than my weekly newsletter (or perhaps in addition to it), my email signup landing page could offer a 7-week email course teaching a variety of wilderness survival skills, with emails being sent once a week for a total of 7 emails.

You might want to set up two landing pages – one that offers a weekly newsletter, and one that offers a free course. Then, send traffic to both pages and see which one converts better. Every audience is different, so it’s always a good idea to test and see what works best for your niche.

Autoresponders like this can be easily set up using an email marketing service like MailChimp or Aweber. For an email service that’s especially focused on this type of autoresponder series, check out Drip.

3. Holiday & seasonal promotions

A more traditional form of email marketing is to notify subscribers of special offers based on upcoming holidays or the time of year. You might want to let your subscribers know about a Black Friday sale, an after-Christmas sale, or a spring clearance sale.

You can also remind people about upcoming holidays like Mother’s Day, or even send them a “happy birthday” email with a special discount code.

Here’s an example of a holiday promotional email sent before Christmas by one of my favorite brands using Shopify, Ugmonk.

4. Subscriber-only discounts

Whether you send a regular newsletter, an autoresponder series, or just send emails about special promotions, you can always include discount codes for your subscribers to boost their motivation to make a purchase.

It is possible to generate unique discount codes for each person on your mailing list, but in my experience this is more trouble than it’s worth. I’d recommend instead generating a single discount code that can be used an infinite number of times, but making sure that it is only available for a certain time period. If you do this, make sure to mention in your email copy that the discount code expires on a certain date.

This type of limited-time offer serves two purposes: first, it prevents customers from using the code multiple times at any time in the future that they want to, and second, it creates a sense of urgency that encourages subscribers to purchase something now rather than waiting until later.

5. Notify your list of social media contests & giveaways

An email list can also be leveraged to give a nice boost to your social media presence. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve invested in advertising to drive traffic to a landing page and build up your email list, but you don’t yet have as many social followers as you’d like.

To achieve your goal of increasing your social following, you can hold a giveaway as mentioned above in Part 1. Once the contest is underway, send an email to your subscribers letting them know that they can enter the drawing for a free product or gift card by liking your Facebook page or whatever social platform you're working on.

This strategy helps to engage your email subscribers in yet another interaction with your brand, which can not only help those subscribers move down the funnel closer to a purchase – it can also help your subscribers spread the word about your products to their own friends and followers. Exposing your brand to the social media networks of your email subscribers can help your brand to reach even more people and draw them into your funnel.

Are you using email marketing in your business? Let us know in the comments.


About The Author

Leighton Taylor publishes a blog and podcast, Ecommerce Pulse, where he discusses ecommerce strategy, interviews experts, and documents his own journey of building and growing an online store.

Everything You Need to Know About Twitter Cards for Ecommerce

Twitter is once again upping its game for ecommerce brands. Last year, the social network announced that it's…

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Twitter is once again upping its game for ecommerce brands.

Earlier this year they announced analytics for Twitter Cards which allow you to add images, videos and product descriptions to your tweets. This can significantly increase the amount of people who retweet your content, click your links and check out products on your website.

In fact, HubSpot A/B testing found that tweets with images received a 36% increase in clicks, a 41% increase in retweets and a 55% increase in leads. 

Let’s take a look at how to use Twitter Cards to get more retweets, clicks and sales for your online store.

What Are Twitter Cards?

Twitter Cards allow you to add rich media to your tweets making them much more appealing and engaging. Here’s an example of what you’re probably used to seeing on Twitter:

And here is what the same tweet looks like when it’s enhanced with a Twitter Product Card:

In addition to the regular tweet, you can now see an image of the T-shirt and a short description. Twitter allows up to 200 characters for product descriptions, which is a 43% increase in the amount of characters you can use in a regular tweet.

Twitter also lets you include up to two other pieces of information about your product – such as its price, availability or size. In this case, ModCloth has added the T-shirt’s customer star rating.

Ecommerce brands can get big benefits from Twitter Product Cards, as they give your followers an easy way to share your products with their followers, and allow them to view and share your latest deals and promotions without visiting your website.

5 Creative Ways Ecommerce Brands Can Use Twitter Cards

In addition to product cards, Twitter has a variety of other cards that can help you increase follower engagement. In addition to showcasing products, you can also use Twitter Cards to:

Promote Contests

Take a cue from Urban Outfitters and feature your next contest on a Twitter Card. Adding images to your tweets can help you stand out from the crowd and attract more entrants.

Introduce New Products

Next time you have a new product to announce, spend a little extra time coming up with an attractive image to accompany your tweet. Not only will it make your tweet more noticeable in timelines but it will also make it more enticing by offering your followers a sneak peek at your new stuff.

Share Resources

Lowes used a Twitter Card to direct its followers to a guide on how to design a home gym. You can also use images to encourage followers to visit your website, read one of your blog posts or check out your latest resource.

Piggyback on Current Events

This tweet got “Orange is the New Black” over 12,000 retweets. It’s timely, funny and relates perfectly to the show. Although this example is from a TV show, retailers can also use this technique to drive follower engagement.

Share Videos

Player Cards allow you to embed video and audio files in your tweets. This means your followers can view your educational videos, product demos or customer videos without leaving Twitter.

Generate Leads

Twitter now offers Lead Generation Cards, so you can collect email addresses directly from your tweets. According to Twitter, “When someone expands your Tweet, they see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, @username, and email address are already pre-filled within the Card. The user simply clicks a button to send this information directly (and securely) to you.”

Here’s an example of how Dropwines is using a Lead Generation Card to get its Twitter followers to opt-in for its content. When a follower clicks the “Find out more” button, they will be added to Dropwine’s list.

Discover How Well Your Content Is Performing With the New Twitter Card Analytics

Twitter recently announced analytics for Twitter Cards, so you can see how your Cards and multimedia content are performing. You can track things such as clicks and retweets. You can also see how your different card types are performing and find out which influencers are sharing your content.

For more information about the new marketing analytics for Twitter Cards, check out this video from Twitter:

To learn more about Twitter Cards analytics, visit analytics.twitter.com.

How Much Do Twitter Cards Cost?

Most Twitter Cards – including Product Cards – are free. However, Lead Generation Cards are part of Twitter’s advertising program and can only be used within Promoted Tweets. The cost depends on your advertising budget and how much you want to bid for each engagement. An “engagement” is an action someone takes after they view your Lead Generation Card, such as clicking a link, retweeting it or following you.

How to Get Started with Twitter Cards

To start reaping the benefits of Product Cards, you need a product web page with an image that is at least 160 x 160 pixels and preferably square (odd-sized images can be cropped). Once you have an image, visit Twitter’s Developer site and check out the Product Card documentation. The documentation page contains the meta tags that you must include on your website.

After you place the meta tags on your product page, check them against Twitter’s Card Validator tool and submit them for approval. According to Sylvain Carle, Developer Advocate at Twitter, it can take 5-10 days for Twitter to review and approve a Card if you implement it correctly. Plus, it could take another 5-10 days to get approval on a Product Card. 

If you use Shopify, you can find out how to get Twitter cards working for your store by following these instructions

For more information on Twitter Cards, visit https://dev.twitter.com/docs/cards.

How to Land Your Business in the Press: 6 Tactics and 5 Tools

Press. It's something every entrepreneur hopes to get for their business but also something many find difficult and…

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Press.

It's something every entrepreneur hopes to get for their business but also something many find difficult and elusive to achieve.

Before moving to my current in-house position as the Public Relations Manager at Shopify, I spent my entire professional career at a handful of PR and IR (investor relations) agencies in both Toronto and New York City. Having worked on numerous B2B and consumer tech accounts in various stages – from startups to Fortune 500's like IBM and Oracle – I’ve learned that for many businesses, PR is a mystery. They see competitors in the press and they can’t figure out the magic formula to make it happen for themselves.

For most small businesses and online entrepreneurs, PR is a work in progress. Unless you’re working on a big launch, which are usually not regular occurrences, it’s about building a relationship with media outlets and the appropriate reporters.

Below are six strategies that you should keep in mind when looking to get your name in the press, as well as five tools to help you make it happen.

1. Know Who You’re Pitching

I've never believed in the numbers method - that is, sending a pitch out to more than 50 reporters with the hopes that one or two are bound to bite. From what I can tell, most reporters can smell a generic, blasted out pitch by the time they reach the second sentence. It’s not realistic to assume that even five reporters cover the exact same beat and have the same writing style, much less all 50 of them.

Make sure you research each reporter you’re reaching out to. Read past coverage, go on their Twitter and see what kinds of articles they’re tweeting and retweeting, read their bio and tailor each email you send.

Going that extra mile will yield greater results, and even though your success rate may not be 100%, a targeted and tailored pitch is more likely to garner a response – even if it’s a “sorry, I’m not interested.”

2. Have the Story Already Written in Your Head

Before you pitch a journalist, you need to formulate and understand your story and be able to communicate what is newsworthy about it.

Imagine the headline and have the framework of the article laid out. Remember, you’re selling the reporter the story so you can’t expect them to come up with the idea. Reporters are busy people and the more you can spoon feed them the better.

It’s always best to be short and concise in your pitch, most reporters have stated that they don’t read past the third sentence. Efficiently communicate the: who, what and why they should care.

3. Offer an Exclusive

Reporters, like everyone else, love to have their egos stroked. If you’re looking to garner coverage in a tier one business publication like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, going the exclusive route may be the best strategy.

By offering an exclusive, that specific reporter has the first right of refusal. An exclusive also guarantees that they will break the story ahead of any other outlet. You just have to make good on this deal otherwise you’ll likely burn this bridge and any future opportunities with them.

Once the exclusive goes live, you can issue the press release across the wire and cast a wider net, reaching out to other reporters who would be interested in covering the news, which will result in more coverage.

4. Throw an Event

Everyone loves free food and drinks, and reporters are no different. Whether it’s a store opening, a launch of a new product line, or a pop-up shop, throwing an event and inviting a few local journalists to attend is a small investment that can result in big ROI.

The event doesn’t have to be a grandiose affair but should be closed off from the general public and when the reporters arrive, there needs to be a greeter who can show them around, provide introductions and literally cater to their needs.

If the reporter has a great time, they’ll be more likely to write a positive review, take meetings in the future and attend more events. Also remember, swag bags never hurt and be prepared for photo opportunities as media will often come to an event with a photographer as images help liven up a story.

And of course, if you're a launching a new product, make sure to have product samples tastefully displayed and available for people to touch and feel. 

When holding an event, it’s often helpful to create a media advisory that clearly illustrates the “Who, What, Where and Why” of the event. You can then submit the media advisory to local news desks who will often add it to their internal calendars.

5. Relationship Building

A healthy relationship works both ways. It can’t always be about you and your company and your story. Get to know the reporter and what they’re interested in and what they’re currently working on.

As the saying goes, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Putting in a little effort goes a long way. It doesn’t always have to be something big. For example, if you receive an out of office that a reporter is out on vacation, when you do reach them, ask them about it. Or, if you notice on their Twitter that they've admitted to having a weakness for a certain cookie brand, send them a box with a handwritten note.

Having said that, make sure to be tactful when using this approach as you don't want to come across as sending a "bribe" or making the relationship feel transactional.  

6. Piggyback on a Trend

Most reporters aren’t looking to a feature story on one company as it will seem too much like an advertisement. Instead, journalists are mostly looking to write larger trend pieces, so it is best to figure out how your story can fit into a larger theme or event.

See if there is a hole in the market and how your company is filling that gap. For example, Beardbrand, an ecommerce company that sells beard related products for men, was able to get themselves included in a New York Times article about the current barbershop renaissance that's going on right now. 

Tools for Getting PR

In order to pitch the right journalists, you first need to find them. Here are some tools to help you discover media that cover your industry and connect with them.

Followerwonk

Followerwonk is a tool from the folks at Moz that lets you search people's Twitter bio's (among other things).

For example, if you wanted to get covered by TechCrunch, you could search for "techcrunch" and then browse all twitter accounts that contain that keyword in the bio section, sorted by number of followers. Once you have a list, you then want to find which reporters have written about your industry or your competitors in the past, as they will be most likely to cover your story.

Muck Rack

Muck Rack is an easy way to connect with journalists. You can find the right person to pitch by searching keywords, company names, competitors, beats, outlets, media types and more. It also allows you to receive email notifications when journalists tweet or link to articles matching your search terms.

Cision

Cision is a media database that provides information on reporters including: location, email, phone numbers, social media profiles and areas of focus. You can easily generate lists based on verticals or reporter beats, helping you to find the most appropriate targets.

ProfNet

ProfNet connects journalists to sources and vice versa. When a journalist is writing a story and needs an expert source, they submit their inquiry to ProfNet and it then gets distributed to a list of subscribers. It’s a great way to stay informed on current stories that reporters are writing and to be introduced to new targets.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

HARO is a service reporters can use to request information for a story. It's similar to ProfNet but since the basic subscription service is free, many reporters get inundated with pitches based on their inquiries. Again, it’s a great way to stay current on any stories that reporters are writing but due to the volume of responses they receive, it is crucial that the pitch provides exactly what they requested.

Further reading:

Conclusion

In the end, PR isn’t a science, it’s more about relationship building and really understanding who you’re pitching and the demographic you’re trying to reach. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s selling clothes online, trying to get investors for your startup or earning media coverage for your business, providing a personal touch and catering to your audience will help you achieve your goal.


About the Author: Janet Park is the Public Relations Manager at Shopify. Get more from Janet on Twitter.

How to Build an Audience and Drive Sales With Persuasive Video Marketing

We recently shared the most effective ways to use Youtube marketing to increase sales. Today we want to feature…

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We recently shared the most effective ways to use Youtube marketing to increase sales.

Today we want to feature the stores that are doing Youtube marketing right. These are the online stores and small businesses that mastered these tactics to build a real following around their products.

They’ve built their audience in one of two ways. In this post, we feature stores with amazing channels and great videos, and also discuss their video strategies.

These are not the slick ads you saw during this year’s Super Bowl (though there’s one exception!). And these are not from the major retailers you’ve known all your life. Instead, these videos are from small businesses just like yours.

They are the stores that have created consistently great video content around their products without spending fortunes on production. You too can match the quality of most of these videos using a good camera and a steady tripod, or with a single videographer.

If you have a good video marketing strategy, it’s possible that you too can build a seven-figure business based on Youtube marketing. For the stores we feature below, a branded channel consistently filled with new content is already a given. Each of them excel in other ways.

We present them as organized along two tracks: the stores that create amazing tutorials to their products; and the stores that are outstanding at story-telling with their positioning videos.

Amazing product videos and tutorials

These stores have created the videos that people use to consult whether or not they buy these products. Need to figure out how to properly brew coffee? Watch the videos of Transcend Coffee. Need to know how to prune a fruit tree? Check out the videos of GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley.

Here are some stores with terrific instructional videos.

Mirabeau Wine

We want to start with our absolute favorite example, Mirabeau Wine.

Mirabeau Wine was founded by Stephen Cronk, who left the corporate world after 15 years to take his family from the suburbs of London into the heart of Provence in France.

Mirabeau Wine has uploaded hundreds of videos about not just about winemaking but also life in Provence. That includes things like olive harvests, cheesemaking, and truffle hunting.

Of course it’s a great resource on wine: not just the production but also on how to appreciate it. Videos include “Why Age Wine in Oak,” and “Chardonnay and Burgundy.”

It’s also full of recipes of Provencal cooking.

Mirabeau Wine’s most popular video is a 50-second clip that has gone viral with over 5-million views. You’ll never have to worry about being caught without a corkscrew again.

You can also check out this 40-second video to understand the importance of vine rubbing.

Not everyone gets to pursue the dream of starting a vineyard in France; the Cronks have generously uploaded videos so that we can all get a taste of what it’s like.

Performance Bicycle

Videos produced by bike stores typically feature one of two things: action shots of professionals doing crazy tricks; or interviews with celebrity cyclists about their experiences.

That’s not what Performance Bicycle is about. The most popular videos of this bikes and biking accessories seller are all instructional, like “How to Dress for Bike Riding in Cold Weather” and “How to Clip In and Out of Road Bike Pedals.”

They’re enormously popular because they’re filled with instructions that all cyclists can use. Its How-to guides are among the most popular of all cycling videos. And of course, once people view these How-to’s, they can conveniently view the videos of the products that Performance Bicycle sells.

Best of all, they’re all produced simply. The hundreds of thousands of views aren’t attracted by a world-famous cyclist. They come for the good advice.

Transcend Coffee

Transcend Coffee offers ethically-sourced coffee from Central America, South America, and Africa, as well as equipment including grinders and brewers.

It is a small operation run out of Edmonton, Alberta, by Poul Mark. Poul got into coffee only a few years ago, and has picked up the craft very quickly – he is one of only 16 Canadians who are certified Q-graders, an international professional accreditation that evaluates roasted and green beans.

We picked up Transcend Coffee based on the quality of its particular series of videos: “Becoming a Coffee Connoisseur.”

It answers the coffee questions we’re all afraid to ask: the importance of water in coffee, for example, and how to taste for acidity and bitterness.

Poul is a master explainer – and his videos are all shot in his kitchen with a stationary camera. These videos are only lightly edited.

Linda’s Pantry

Linda is a professional caterer in West Sussex, UK. She’s not a celebrity chef whom you’ll catch on TV. She doesn’t have a live studio audience to ooh-and-ahh at her creations, and she doesn’t have a professional staff editing her videos endlessly.

Nevertheless, her recipes have been hits. Organized into categories including “Poultry” and “Appetizers,” her videos regularly get thousands, often tens of thousands of views.

Linda is a chatty host, and explains everything she cooks in detail. The camerawork isn’t fancy: there are closeups only when it’s called for, and the view is immobile most of the time.

WEBS Yarn

WEBS Yarn is an ideal example for tutorials and product promotions.

Its channel features knitting techniques in short videos that are useful both for beginners and for advanced knitters. Our favorite: “Learn to Knit a Latvian Braid,” a 3-minute-and-30-second video.

It also features new yarns and products. The tutorials and products feed each other so that interested knitters can buy and learn all in one place.

Doucette and Wolfe

Doucette and Wolfe is made up of a pair of furniture makers based in New Hampshire. Matthew Wolfe and Moriah Doucette make handcrafted traditional American furniture of the type you’d see in the period room of an art museum.

The pair are experts at what they do, and they don’t mind filming significant parts of how they create beautiful furniture.

Their videos are a hit. Take a look at this short clip on how a craftsman turned a rectangular tube of wood into a round Windsor chair leg.

These videos are very simply made. They’re little more than a light soundtrack set amidst shots of production. If you’ve got a cool production process, you can film it too: all you need is a camera at the right angle and some video editing software.

GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply is an organic farm in Nevada City, California. It sells a variety of produce and organic garden accessories.

Pattie Boudier, who with her husband has been operating PVFGS since 1996, is a tireless advocate for the organic movement, and stars in videos that offer lessons in organic farming.

These videos are always filmed on sunny days, and feature lessons that include: “Planting Blueberries and Growing Blueberries,” “How to Prune Fruit Trees,” and “How to Make Mozzarella Cheese.”

How many of us know blueberries grow before we watched that video?

Why are they effective?

These stores aren’t always selfishly plugging their products. They’re not constantly praising the products to the skies. Instead, they’re sharing tutorials and tips that have independent value and lack an immediate sales pitch. And in the process, they’ve generated videos that people want to watch as trustworthy pieces of advice.

Think about it.

Starbucks would love it if everyone would drink more coffee; yet Poul of Transcend Coffee isn’t afraid to encourage people to appreciate it as much as he does, even if Starbucks benefits along the way.

The Cronks in Provence don’t need to share their experiences living on a vineyard in France, and can keep the secrets of fine living to themselves. But they love their experiences so much that they want the whole world to learn about wine and truffle hunting.

Doucette and Wolfe doesn’t need to show how they make handcrafted traditional American furniture. But they’re proud of their work, and eager to showcase a craft that’s becoming more rare.

We can go on and talk about all of these examples. But you understand the principle. When customers depend on your advice for trustworthy tutorials, buying from you is an easy next step.

Outstanding story-tellers

The next set of videos we feature are outstanding story tellers. Through these videos, they’ve positioned themselves as unique stores.

Beardbrand

Beardbrand was the one company we featured in our discussion of channels that are leveraging Youtube to improve sales. It is an exemplary store to learn from, in more than one way.

Beardbrand features three sets of videos: How To’s, as product tutorials as well as tips for encouraging social acceptance of beards; reviews of grooming products; and personal declarations on libertarian living.

The last part is most interesting. The owner of Beardbrand, Eric Bandholz, has strong personal views and isn’t afraid of sharing them. Take a look yourself for his approaches to attaining personal freedom. Far from alienating people who are looking to practice grooming, they’re helping Eric to connect to an audience that knows that his views are authentic.

DODOcase

When you need to feature the motivations that drive your company, there’s no one better to learn from than DODOcase.

DODOcase makes handcrafted cases for iPads and other devices. DODOcase is distinctive for its blend of technology and tradition: its cases are made of wood and crafted with traditional bookbinding techniques to look like a book or a journal. It’s a beautifully-designed product that has cultivated an enormous following.

DODOcase wants the centuries-old tradition of bookbinding not to end up like the extinct bird it’s named after. Its videos feature shots of craftsmen working with their hands as its founders talk about why they founded the company. It’s a stirring talk on what might be lost.

If you’ve got an inspiring story behind your business, don’t hesitate to share it.

Goldieblox

We said that we’d keep the Super Bowl ads to a minimum. This is the only one.

Ads from Goldieblox, a store that sells engineering toys for girls, are too good to pass up. They’re great products from a team that’s driven to put toys into the hands of children to encourage them to be future innovators.

Goldieblox features behind-the-scenes explanations of their gorgeous ads, interviews with young girls (and future innovators), and updates for their Kickstarter funders.

And this is the video that aired very recently in the 2014 Super Bowl.

Take this as an example of a store to aspire to.

Why are they effective?

Video is an incredibly powerful form for telling stories. When you’ve got fascinating history, or when you have irrepressible personalities, sending a few tweets and a Facebook post won’t do. Video creates a visually engaging story that adds emotion to your products.

We’ve written before on the power of stories. Researchers from WUSTL have found that people rarely consume stories passively; instead they live through them vicariously.

When you have a story, you got to tell it. And nothing beats video as the perfect format for delivery.

Conclusion

To be sure, all of these videos are well-produced. We’re not saying you’re going to drive sales by talking to a webcam while turning your product in your hands. If you’re serious about internet marketing, invest in a good camera and try to find a professional videographer, on a full-time or a contractual basis.

Most of these videos really are simple, though. These stores have created compelling videos without huge budgets spent on featuring celebrities and creating special effects. They’ve created their audience instead by pour their heartfelt love into their products and by sharing advice for how their products can be used, or by sharing their stories – and in the process generating a unique marketing position.

Storytelling and teaching work to build your business much more powerfully than mere marketing. That’s the lesson that these stores have mastered.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Content Specialist at Shopify. Get more from Dan on Twitter.

Warning: Are You Making These 11 Mistakes With Your Giveaways, Sweepstakes and Contests?

When exploring new opportunities, marketers tend to land on sweepstakes, giveaways, or contests as tactics to quickly help…

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This guest post is written by Giancarlo Massaro, Co-Founder of ViralSweep.

When exploring new opportunities, marketers tend to land on sweepstakes, giveaways, or contests as tactics to quickly help grow their audience. In doing so, many set their expectations too high assuming that giving something away for free will generate amazing results for their company.

This isn’t always the case though. Many businesses run sweepstakes and contests with high hopes, but their promotions end up falling short of the expected outcome. In turn, this leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth and they avoid running them again.

Here are 11 ways your marketing campaign may fail, and what you can do to increase your chances of running a successful promotion.

1) Requiring Signup

The dreaded sign up form -- something people hate to fill out, especially because they may not be familiar with your business yet and you’re already asking them to sign up for your site. This can work if done correctly and the right incentives are in place, but if you make people jump through too many hoops, they will bounce from the page.

If you’re going to require people to sign up to enter your giveaway, I suggest running an A/B test to see how it performs. Send 50% of your traffic to version A where people sign up and then are able to enter the giveaway, and send 50% of your traffic to Version B where people can enter the giveaway and then are prompted to sign up.

If you want, you can test a Version C where you just send people directly to the giveaway and they are not asked to sign up for your site at all. Compare the results from all 3 to see which variation works best for your business.

2) People Don’t Know How to Enter

A confusing entry process is one of the main reasons why your promotion may fail, and you might not even know it! Keep in mind, if you put your promotion together, then you’ll understand how to enter. However, if it isn’t a straightforward entry process, people might not understand what they have to do to participate, which will cause a drop in entries.

To avoid any confusion, send your promotion out to a few people to test it before it goes live. If everyone is able to enter without having any questions about what they need to do, then you’ve set it up correctly. If people are coming back to you asking questions about the entry process, that should be a huge red flag that needs to be addressed before the promotion goes live.

Here’s a great example of a promotion where people may be confused on what they need to do to enter. While the creative looks great, it provides 4 steps that people need to complete in order to enter. However, it doesn’t provide information such as the official rules, or even how the winners will be picked. In addition, there are several tasks to complete just to enter, but even if those tasks are completed, how are you supposed to know you’ve been entered?

A few things can be tweaked with this promotion to make it much more effective. First, they could collect entrants information by hosting this promotion off of Pinterest. For example, they could place this graphic on their site, and below it include fields to ask for a name, email address, and the Pinterest board link. On that page they would also include their official rules. These few small tweaks would help to increase the entry rate, while minimizing any confusion that people may have about how the promotion is to be conducted.

Remember, the landing page for your promotion should be as clear as possible to make it easy for the end user to complete the action that you want them to take. If there is no clear call-to-action that you want the user to take, they make get lost or frustrated and close the page.

Receiving feedback before your promotion goes live is essential. If people review your promotion and they don’t immediately understand the action that they need to take in order to enter, then you need to make adjustments.

3) The Barrier to Entry is Too High

This is one of the biggest reasons why a promotion fails to meet expectations. If the barrier to entry is too high, it means that either your entry process is too long and requires too much information or the requirements necessary to enter take too much time to complete.

For example: If you’re running a sweepstakes giving away a $100 Amazon gift card, and you ask the entrants to provide their name, address, phone number, and email address…that might be a bit much. Keep it simple. Ask for just an email address and you’ll see the number of entries skyrocket.

If you’re running a video contest, keep in mind that the number of entries will be very small compared to the number of entries you will get with a sweepstakes. A video takes time and effort to plan and shoot, but if the prize is good enough (and you have a loyal community) you can end up with some really amazing results with a video contest.

Facebook login is also another common barrier. Some people don’t use Facebook or, more likely, they don’t want to allow access to all of their information through Facebook login. If you are using Facebook login with your promotion, be sure to provide an alternative entry method.

If people will be required to enter a lot of information, try testing a few different variations to see which works best for your business. If you break up the promotion into smaller steps, it will make it less scary for the end user. Here is a great example of this being done correctly:

After entering your email address, you are asked to complete the form to enter.

The great thing about this is, if people bounce from the second page, an email address was still collected so they can contact people again and encourage them to enter. If this entire form was put in front of someone without asking for an email address up front, the conversion rate would be much lower, and the bounce rate would be higher.

A large majority of the time though, you really only need a name and email address. If you need a shipping address, you can contact the winner at the end of the promotion to get that information.

4) The Prize Isn’t Right

The prize that you give away can have a huge impact on the performance of your promotion. If the prize does not align properly with the audience that you’re targeting, your promotion will under perform. Do you think an athlete would prefer to win some new athletic shoes or a free large pizza?

When choosing a prize, ask yourself if the prize is a strong value proposition. If the prize is of extremely low value, or it is not attractive enough to your target audience, then people won’t be interested and they won’t take their time to enter.

In order to create a strong value proposition, the prize needs to relate to your business and it has to be something customers will care about. If it is too specific to your business or pandering too much to the customer’s desires, your promotion will not perform as well as you may be hoping.

Here’s a great post on how to come up with a strong value proposition.

5) Poor Marketing

Marketing your sweepstakes or contest is just as important as building it and adding all the bells and whistles. One of the main reasons why promotions fail is because the marketing was poorly planned or executed. Posting on your Facebook and Twitter page one time is not enough; you should be sending out emails, encouraging people to share, and communicating the message multiple times to your target audience.

You need to have a target market that you are trying to reach with your promotion; otherwise you can end up getting sucked into the shotgun approach—trying to get anyone and everyone to enter. This is another reason why your promotion can fail: you marketed it to the wrong audience.

The last thing you want to do is build up a list of 1,000 leads where those leads are all freebie seekers who don’t care about your business or what it is that you sell. Set up your marketing plan before your promotion goes live, so you know exactly where you’ll be promoting it when you flip the switch. It’s easier to set a goal and work backwards from that goal to determine how to market the promotion. You can learn how to set goals and market your promotion using The Advanced Guide To Sweepstakes.

6) Poor Timing

Before launching your giveaway, check the calendar. Are there any major events or holidays coming up that will conflict with your promotion?

Avoid scheduling the launch of your promotion on the days of major events (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Super Bowl weekend, etc) where people may be away from the computer or on vacation.

7) Incompatibility Across Different Platforms

The number one thing you should do before you flip the switch and start driving traffic to your promotion is TEST, TEST, TEST!

This means test the promotion on all the major web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and even Opera) and on mobile and tablet devices. Don’t just test to see if the page looks good - you need to go through the entire entry process and make sure it works. Sometimes a promotion will fail because people simply cannot enter!

Also, do not neglect your promotion when it comes to mobile. Over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices and global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic. Mobile is big, and it is only going to get bigger, so don’t ignore it!

8) Poor Follow-Up

While your actual promotion may have received many entries, it can still fail in the long-run if you do not properly follow up with the people who entered. You want to form a relationship with the people who entered your promotion, so the last thing you should do in your first email is try and go for the hard sell. Doing this can result in many un-subscribes and spam complaints.

A much better approach with your first email is to thank people for entering, announce the winners, and provide a consolation prize (like a coupon or discount) for those who didn’t win. The goal with the first email is to start building a relationship, and once that relationship is formed over time, you can slowly turn those people into customers.

9) Unrealistic Goals

While your promotion may not have failed in hindsight, it still could have been a failure in your mind if the goals you initially set for it were unrealistic.

If you run a small business, thinking that a single sweepstakes can bring you 50,000 entries and 10,000 Facebook likes is pushing the boundaries of realistic expectations. Sure, it can happen if your value proposition and marketing is on point, but it’s very unlikely. While it never hurts to aim for the stars, set goals that are realistic which you know can achieve. It’s much better to set realistic goals and surpass them, than to set unrealistic goals and become bummed out when things don’t go as planned. You can always take the experience from your first giveaway and raise expectations the second and third time around.

Here’s a great story on how Hubspot set unrealistic goals for one of their promotions and had to pull the plug.

10) Hosted On the Wrong Platform

If your goals are to get more traffic to your website and increase your email subscribers, then it isn’t a good idea to host your promotion on a platform like Facebook. If you don’t take your goals into consideration when choosing the hosting location for your promotion, it can have a negative effect on the outcome.

When you decide to run a sweepstakes or contest, choose the platform which meshes best with your goals. Usually, hosting the promotion on your website is the best choice, as you can grow all of your social channels from your own website using the right app.

11) The Duration Wasn’t Right

Choosing the right start and end dates can have a major impact on how many people enter your promotion. If you don’t run it for long enough, not enough people will get a chance to enter and if you run it for too long it can start to drag on.

The sweet spot is usually around 2-4 weeks for the length of a promotion. This is just enough time to have all of your marketing kick in, but not too long that it starts to drag on and people begin to complain. Feel free to experiment with this; we have seen some companies execute well with daily giveaways. 2-4 weeks is a solid staple to start with.


About the Author: Giancarlo Massaro is the Co-Founder of ViralSweep, the easiest way to build and run a sweepstakes right on your website. Want to learn how to build, run, promote, and make sales from a sweepstakes? Check out The Advanced Guide To Sweepstakes.

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