Marketing Strategy
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To help your ecommerce business grow, Taylor Holiday, the managing partner of Common Thread Collective, warns that “we might be misled into believing the existing situation will endure forever.” It’s too simple for “pioneers of the moment” to rely only on a successful channel to expand their business. But if that one channel were to go away, would your business still be around? Marketing Strategy.

What if you could develop a marketing strategy that fosters fortitude and makes you more resilient in the face of adversity?

This is what Taylor refers to as an “antifragile” marketing strategy: businesses based on more stable foundations will grow when rivals don’t, rather than rejecting change or becoming brittle.

You could feel disoriented when you create your own marketing strategy among a sea of recommended tactics and best practices. Our goal is to distill this complex subject into a user-friendly guide packed with advice from leading marketing professionals. Instead of giving you a list of tactics to attempt, we’ll simply provide you with the information you need.

Meet the experts 

ezra firestone headshot

Ezra Firestone, co-founder, and CEO of BOOM! and founder of Smart Marketer was introduced to us by Cindy Joseph. The courses offered by Ezra’s company, Smart Marketer, are informed by the marketing knowledge he has gained through his own tried-and-true digital marketing experience.

ben zettler headshot

Ben Zettler, Shopify Plus Partner and Expert Ben’s strategic skills have assisted more than 250 businesses in expanding and thriving.

taylor holiday headshot 1

Taylor Holiday is Common Thread Collective’s managing partner. Through his work at Common Thread Collective, Taylor pioneered the concept of antifragile ecommerce and helps ecommerce owners realize their aspirations.

Why do you need a marketing strategy?

The broad strategy a business employs to attract customers is known as a marketing strategy. Businesses will use various tactics, such as sponsored and organic marketing, across platforms, including email, social media, and SMS, as part of a marketing strategy.

Businesses risk using a variety of tactics that don’t work well together if they don’t have a marketing strategy. When you take a haphazard approach, you risk wasting a lot of time and money on activities that don’t result in more customers.

A concise, well-rounded marketing strategy explains how you’ll close the gaps, what you’ll do if something doesn’t work, and how you’ll adjust.

What’s the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel serves as a map of the customer journey. It outlines the many steps people take to convert from first-time to regular customers. It provides a visual representation of your approach and outlines the many tasks and tactics you’ll use at each stage. A marketing strategy is how people go from one step in the funnel to the next, and a marketing funnel is what people do at each stage of the purchase journey.

A marketing funnel-style customer journey map may promote more significant growth, foster stronger customer connections, and provide you with a better understanding of your customer’s buying cycles. A strong marketing approach goes hand in hand with a well-defined marketing funnel, one that encompasses your strategy for customer acquisition and awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty.

Defining the marketing funnel

  • Acquisition and awareness: The majority of the marketing funnel includes anyone who contains your goods and services. These are fresh people who are still learning about you.
  • Consideration: The individuals in this section of the funnel are really contemplating buying from you. They might ask friends, users of social media, or your website for advice while they are still gathering information.
  • Conversion: The people in this group are prepared to make or have already made a purchase.
  • Loyalty: How can you entice customers to return? Those you want to sell to again are in the loyalty section of the funnel.
marketing funnel inline graphic
Maps illustrating the path to obtaining a customer are used in marketing funnels. Contrarily, a marketing strategy describes how you move customers down the funnel step by step.

How to build a marketing strategy that works

Small business marketing may be difficult, particularly given the variety of approaches you might use.

Because of this, we’ve divided the process into two separate steps: calibrate and run. You’ll define important elements during the calibration phase, including your website, your “why,” product-market fit, your target audience, and your audience’s demands. In the run phase, you’ll begin establishing connections, winning people over, and using both free and paid channels to drive sales and grow your business.

Would you purchase on your website? You have a problem if you are unable to answer a resounding yes to that question.

Ben Zettler

Calibrate: Steps 1 – 3

The activities in the calibrate phase make sure that you’re selling your business to potential customers in a convincing manner before you ratchet up the heat.

1. Build a stellar website

Would you buy anything from my website? According to Shopify Expert Ben Zettler, “the first question I consider before even thinking about email, advertising, or social media” You have a problem if you can’t answer that question with a resounding yes.”

Finding a marketing strategy that works starts with creating a fantastic website. Everything affects how someone feels about your brand and the confidence they have in you as a company, including website quality, user experience, checkout functionality, product information, design, and product images.

If you use Shopify, we offer a wide variety of themes that may give your website a professional appearance right away. For individualized guidance, you can also talk with a Shopify expert like Ben.

2. Define your product-market fit

How well do you explain the problem that your product resolves once a visitor appears on your website? Ben advises considering the following inquiries:

  • What is the “why?” of the products you sell?
  • What problem does your product solve? Are you filling a gap in the market, making something better than your competitors, or solving a critical need that hasn’t been met?
  • Why should somebody buy from you over a competitor? What makes your products better?

Establishing a product-market fit for your business is just getting started. Making real sales is the best method to demonstrate your product-market fit, but going through the process can help you establish the message you’ll use on your website. This content will be shown prominently on your homepage, product pages, and landing pages.

You can relate to this group of people through shared experiences if you have a good understanding of who they are and what kind of experiences they have.

Ezra Firestone

Equator Coffees, for instance, discovered product-market fit by producing outstanding coffee and making wonderful contributions to the world’s coffee community. Equator became the first coffee roaster in California to get the B Corporation accreditation in 2011, making it a recognized B Corporation. From its homepage to a page devoted to effects, the website makes all of this information very evident.

Equator identified its product-market fit and provided an answer to the fundamental question, “Why should I buy coffee from you?” by producing high-quality roasts, developing a positive atmosphere at its cafés, and taking the initiative to bring about change in the coffee business.

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The inside of one of Equator’s cafés, at Proof Lab in Mill Valley, California. Equator Coffees

3. Consider your audience

Even with the finest copywriting, website design, and products, your product may not grow if you’re marketing to the incorrect demographic or, worse, to everyone.

According to marketing expert Ezra Firestone, “you can relate to them via shared experiences if you understand who this group of people is and what set of experiences they have.”

So, who is your intended market? By doing both qualitative and quantitative research, you can establish this.

DO QUALITATIVE RESEARCH TO UNCOVER YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE:
  • Do a competitive analysis. Look closely at the target market of your rivals. Which social media platforms do they use the most? Which group is most likely to connect with their brand voice? How do they describe their products?
  • Conduct research interviews. Reach out to a group of people who follow or interact with your competitor on social media and ask them to participate in an interview with you as you sort through your competitive analysis. Discuss the reasons for the purchase, if it met their needs, and suggestions for making it better.
  • Run surveys. Ask people about their interests, hobbies, where they reside, how much money they earn, and what they do for a job using a platform like Survey Monkey. Another option is to collaborate with a company like Forrester, which can carry out extensive industry research on your behalf.
  • Meet people IRL and have conversations. The finest method to get to know your audience might sometimes be at a table at your neighborhood farmers market or a booth at a street festival. This enables you to engage in informal discussions with those who come to your table and learn more about their needs, whether or not they decide to purchase from you.
DO QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH TO UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE: 
  • Use a tool like Google Analytics to grab demographic data. You may learn more about the demographics of your target audience by using Google Analytics.
  • Review purchase information. Consider the amount of money customers spend, where they shop, and what they buy after they make a few sales.
  • Conduct industry research. Examine consumer behavior and research reports from sites like Neilsen, Forrester, or Pew Research. You may also look at Google Trends, which shows reports on the popularity changes of various products since 2004.
marketing strategy fish
The analogy “fish where the fish are” applies to concentrating early marketing efforts on the communities and channels where your target audience hangs out. Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

It’s time to find out where your target audience hangs out online now that you have a better understanding of who they are.

In a pond with no fish, you wouldn’t throw a line. Similarly to this, you shouldn’t spend time and money developing a TikTok following if your target demographic is found in Facebook groups.

Without the use of paid media, Taylor says, “you need to fish where your customer already resides, and you’ve got to go make yourself a part of those groups and create connections there.” In the second phase below, we’ll go more deeply into this concept.

DEVELOP YOUR MARKETING CONTENT TO MATCH AUDIENCE NEEDS

Ezra suggests using a different strategy when you create your real marketing content pieces. Think about who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them, and what you have to say to them that will mean anything rather than just concentrating on making sales.

Your marketing materials (such as social media postings, emails, paid advertisements, blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.) should be based on a story that says who these people are, what they value, and how you’re assisting them in resolving a problem, according to Ezra.

Run: Steps 4 – 5

You’ve already started laying the groundwork. It is now time to build your acquisition (how you will attract new customers to your business) and retention (how you will encourage repeat business from customers) plans.

4. Acquire new customers with an antifragile mindset

In a thorough analysis of the subject, Taylor Holiday presented the idea of antifragile ecommerce. The idea is to construct your business in a manner that will enable it to grow stronger in the face of turbulence. If you can succeed while others struggle to build because they lack a solid foundation, you will gain a larger market share.

GROW YOUR ORGANIC TRAFFIC BEFORE SPENDING MONEY ON PAID ADS

The nature of your business will ultimately determine how much money you invest in paid advertising. However, Taylor says starting with an organic approach rather than a paid one He says that if you start with a paid approach, you’ll spend money to get unpredictable results.

“To take your precious few dollars and shake the dice and roll them into that system is potentially a very, very tough way to grow,” says Taylor.

Instead, introduce your product to as many people as you can using direct messages on social media platforms for your first few hundred purchases. Discover Facebook groups, introduce yourself, and promote your product. Friends can be sent to your loved ones.

You can’t fast-forward thrust. You can’t fast-forward authenticity.

Taylor Holiday

“Your first hundred to thousand clients’ excellent work must come from that,” Taylor says. Additionally, it will build a framework for you to employ paid media efficiently.

Similar sentiments are shared by Amy Robertson, co-founder of Friends of Friends Hat Co. “Start small and focus on expanding organically.” The key is patience, she says.

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Friends of Friends Hat Co. advocates for a slower, organic strategy, rather than overspending early on. Friends of Friends Hat Co.

This strategy really works in real life, as seen by the fact that many brands started and grew organically before starting to use paid media. Nik Sharma recently said in his weekly email newsletter that brands like Haus, Kettle, and Fire, and Poo-Pourri first shared an organic strategy before switching to paid advertising.

“Haus is a beautiful illustration.” They didn’t spend any money on paid marketing for the first year or so that the company was in operation. They concentrated all of their efforts on developing FOMO (so you want to check it out), and then they created a first-rate experience that was fueled by the product (so that you share or speak about it), which started a flywheel with a cascading impact from each customer, he wrote.

haus marketing strategy
Haus started with an organic marketing strategy to build hype and fear of missing out. Haus

Do not forget that once you begin investing in paid advertising, your organic marketing activities shouldn’t continue. According to Ben, paid and owned marketing work together like a chicken and an egg. You must use paid marketing to get visitors to your website, but once they are there, you must collect their information so that you can reconnect with them.

Paid media is incredibly powerful if it works. Understanding the tool’s purpose and when to use it is crucial, according to Taylor. Although it is a tool in your arsenal, it is never intended to take the place of the genuine relationship-building that you must carry out to expand organically. The truth cannot be accelerated. “Authenticity cannot be rushed,” he says.

💡 Key takeaway: Build an organic strategy before adding paid ads into the mix.

FIND ONLINE COMMUNITIES AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM

You could be asking what marketing platforms you ought to build your strategy around. The target audience, the products you offer, and your business strategy all factor into the answer. A fantastic, always-on medium for any business is email marketing. However, in the beginning, when you’re trying to close your first few transactions, you probably won’t have many emails.

You need to have a clear idea of the channels your target audience frequents based on the audience research you conducted during the calibration phase. Are they active on Reddit, YouTube, Slack, blogs, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, or other social media platforms?

It’s time to pick your marketing channels based on where your customers hang out and to organically build buzz about your products and customer trust in your business.

Price and a referral from a reliable source are the two factors most likely to influence a consumer’s choice, according to Taylor, who also co-founded the silicone wedding ring company QALO.

QALO marketing strategy
The QALO team built relationships with leaders in the communities where their target audience hangs out online. QALO

First, the QALO team conducted audience research by visiting people whose lifestyles made wearing silicone rings sensible. In addition to visiting Crossfit gyms, they met with firefighters and police officers. Their first collaboration resulted from a chance encounter with a lady who managed the Firefighter Spouses blog, a group site for wives of firefighters who socialized together.

She increased referral traffic to the QALO website by blogging about the business on her blog since the staff had gained her trust. You need to start early with this kind of community and connection development.

According to Taylor, “It’s your friends; it’s the people you’ve been following for a while who have a voice that you’ve seen regularly offer helpful information to you.” ” That’s the person you want to talk to. This brings us back to the firefighter’s wife. She has a network of ladies that really trust her.

💡 Key takeaway: Find niche communities, build trust, and get in on the conversation.

CREATE MARKETING CONTENT THAT ADDS VALUE

It’s time to start creating your marketing content as you have these in-person discussions. These are online resources that your potential customers may interact with, such as emails, social media postings, YouTube videos, etc.

Ben advises considering how each of these little bits of content benefits someone’s day. That may be something to amuse them, enlighten them, or make them smile.

Ben queries, “What’s the item that’s going to spark conversation?” In any social algorithm, “the thing that drives discussion is what is going to get more people to view your content.”

Although it may seem straightforward, changing the way you approach and produce content can eventually make it more engaging for your audience.

For instance, the San Francisco-based watercolor shop Case for Making uses Instagram to post updates on its watercolor lessons, new product launches, and recent watercolor masterpieces.

case for making marketing 3
Case for Making

The crew just introduced a new Instagram Live lunch club that takes place on Thursdays, when they share behind-the-scenes glimpses and process demonstrations, or just sit with people to talk and paint something new.

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Case for Making

🧠 Brainstorm: What type of web content do you enjoy? With what do you interact? What captures your interest? What do you share with your friends? Which kind of content is appropriate for your intended audience?

5. Boost retention

Keeping existing customers is substantially less expensive and simpler than finding new ones. Building long-term trust with both customers and non-customers is what will keep them coming back, in addition to fostering trust via community outreach and word-of-mouth recommendations.

CRAFT ENTICING EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

You need to build up your email list before you can build competent email campaigns and produce engaging subject lines. Ben advises providing incentives for people to sign up for your email and SMS lists, such as discounts or other offers that are really valuable to your customers. Free delivery, a percentage off, buy one, get one, early access to discounts, first access to products, or a gift with purchase are a few examples to think about.

Ben suggests creating a post-purchase email flow after you have their contact information and after they have completed their first purchase. This is your chance to ask for comments and reviews, provide a discount voucher for a future purchase, and collect user-generated content.

One company that does this is Atlas Pet Company, which emails customers a few days after a purchase is made. Get $10 off your subsequent transaction by leaving a review and uploading a picture of your dog sporting its brand-new harness, collar, or leash.

marketing atlas pet co
Atlas Pet Co

Similar to this, Bossy Cosmetics offers a promo coupon for free delivery on your next purchase. However, the company then follows up with an email urging customers to share pictures of themselves using their new cosmetics on social media. User-generated content is crucial as you work to win over new clients because it fosters trust and enables consumers to see how your products really seem in real life.

bossy beauty marketing
Bossy Cosmetics

Your follow-up email marketing will look quite different if you offer people products they may only buy once, such as a high-end leather wallet or air purifier. Rather than making an offer, Ben suggests providing additional information about the products they just purchased.

He says that providing a consistent stream of content throughout time is also beneficial. Your post-purchase emails should persuade customers to return to you for in-depth information about your products. This may be information about prolonging the usefulness of the leather wallet. Further education about the toxins in our air, their sources, and what you can do to assist may be included with the air purifier.

CREATE A LOYALTY PROGRAM

In a little surf town west of San Diego, there is a neighborhood grocery shop with a cult following. It has developed a reputation for its mouthwatering burgundy tri-tip, which residents like serving up on tacos or sliders on hot San Diego days. Since its prepared food selection matches even the largest and greatest Whole Foods, people often go there for lunch.

The store set up a loyalty program where regular customers could scan in each time they went shopping and earn money toward their groceries.

This is how it works: 

  • Spend $1–$300 a month and earn 1% of total purchases
  • Spend $301–$500 a month and earn 2% of total purchases 
  • Spend $501+ a month and earn 3% of total purchases 

As long as the amount is $10 or more, the market delivers rewards checks twice a year. Customers make purchases and get incentives; this provides an incentive to come back in addition to the delectable goods.

A similar loyalty program is used by Girlfriend Collective, an athletic wear brand that offers eco-friendly products, and it is based on customer lifetime value. A customer receives additional benefits, such as free delivery, early access to product drops, and free returns, the more they spend overall at the store.

gf collective loyalty
Girlfriend Collective

These initiatives make business more fun and provide rewards for repeat business. When a current customer makes another purchase, for example, the money you’ll lose on shipping will pay for itself several times over. Why? You saved money by not having to spend it on a new person.

🎉Pro tip: The Three Multiplier Framework by Drew Sanocki is a fantastic course for retention learning on the Shopify Learn platform. Drew takes a three-pronged approach to regaining customers, focusing on improving purchase frequency (F), average order value (AOV), and overall customer traffic (C).

Build a marketing strategy founded on resilience

Ecommerce marketing is quite challenging. The journey is not always straight, and finding the solution takes some trial and error. Go back to the beginning if you’re having trouble finding marketing that works for your business. Talk to those first people once again and ask them about their investment in your business. What do they expect from you moving forward? What first piqued their interest in your brand’s products? Their advice might assist you in restructuring your marketing initiatives so that they better serve your target audience.

It’s okay if it seems like things are going slowly. Ecommerce marketing strategies that are antifragile are designed to take a certain approach. The more time you spend laying the groundwork, the more ready your brand will be to expand and grow over time.

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