If you are starting a new online store, a simple question will come to your mind very soon: “Where will I find the customers?” Some new ecommerce entrepreneurs will be daunted by this, whilst others may simply think “Launch it and they will come!”
However when the store goes online, the real problem arises:
“No customers, no sales! What is going on my store? I have no idea at all.”
This isn’t uncommon for new stores. In fact, it’s the norm. To kick start your new business, you’ll need a boost of traffic at first before relying on your repeated customers. However, where do you find your first few customers? That’s not an easy question if you got no past record of sales.
Today I will talk about the $0 budget way to increase your site traffic. You should note that whilst this approach will save money in your pocket, it will take you more time in execution.
1. Post on Reddit or other Forums
Engaging with your potential customers can be very effective in soft selling. Reddit is among the most popular forums in the US. You can also participate in other niche forums you find interesting or that are likely to appeal to your customers. The only problem is it may backfire if you try to spam the forums with your ad messages.
One of the temptations in community marketing is trying to get your messages everywhere. One may think that if I get my store posted everywhere on a forum it will drive free traffic to my site for a long period of time. In fact, the opposite is true. If you post messages everywhere, the best case scenario is that you will get ignored by forum visitors . Or, in the worst case, you will get banned by forum administrators.
The first rule of thumb is to make interesting posts instead of mass posting.
Find related subreddits
Alright! Let’s go to the battlefield now. First of all, we need to find out related subreddits (forum topics). You should not limit yourself to a specific field. Instead you can pick a few fields relevant to your product types or your business. When I was marketing for my Shopify App – SEO Product Optimizer, I subscribed to subreddits like startup, entrepreneur, ecommerce, Shopify and even SideProject.
Occasionally I will even post topics to conduct my market research. It can be a cost effective and fun way to understand your potential customers here. For me it’s always interesting to chat with my potential customers to gauge their interest and views.
Always ask instead of selling
At the moment you should forget about selling your products to other participants. Instead, just imagine yourself as an active opinion leader to evangelise certain concepts or ask for an opinion in a humble manner.
Solve others problems with your solution
Feel free to help people out with your knowledge. Helping people by responding to their questions and providing information to them will make you highly respected in any forum. Try to be as unbiased as possible and help them as genuinely as you can. I would try to maintain an answer : my product ratio of about 80 : 20 when I answer a question.
2. Set up a Blog
Content marketing has become an inherent part of online marketing in the past few years. You may think “Why should I create a blog? I just wanna get my store set up and sell my stuff.” However, a good blog can create stickiness to your audience. A user may not visit your store regularly to check out new products. But she will probably care about certain topics that are related to her personally.
A popular blog can serve as a lead generation channel in the long run. There is nearly no incremental cost except content production.
Identify topics that concern your potential audience
A good topic may be some common questions your customers ask. When we set up the blog of SEO Product Optimizer, we wanted to address the issues of small online business owners, just like the problems we have ourselves. For example, when we were having difficulty in leveraging Facebook in our social marketing, we would come up with a blog post like 7 ways for Shopify store owners to share better posts on Facebook.
If you really can’t think of any good one, you can just steal an idea from the forum. Just find a topic that receives many comments. It may look like playing dirty to steal something out of others. However, in my experience I can say that the questioners are very happy when someone can truly address their concerns.
Make sure your blog posts are well indexed by Search Engines
After you finished writing your blog post, you would need to make sure that your blog is optimized for the search engines. You should insert your target keywords into your title, meta description and URL. Check if the blog post is indexed by the search engines after a while.
A blog is one of the crucial factors to drive SEO strategy – and ultimately bringing free traffic to your store. This is because search engines love unique content appeared in blogs.
3. Guest Posting on Related Communities
Another effective way to drive internet buzz is guest blogging on other relevant blogs. This can drive your reach outside of your existing marketing channels. The only challenge is writing up an outstanding post that can increase your brand awareness without looking like advertising.
Find Blogs that can Complement Yours
The first thing I do is to create a Google Sheet to keep track of all suitable blogs. I googled suitable blogs about SEO, Ecommerce, Social Marketing, Shopify. The list is something like this:
Start to target smaller blogs before pitching for more popular blogs. Start small and grow big like your business. Building up your credibility at early stage can definitely give you momentum and confidence for when you’re pitching for bigger sites.
Read content from various sources
Personally I will read various popular blogs from Medium, Buffer Blog and the 37 Signals (Signal vs Noise) Blog. Please notice that I am NOT going to copy the contents from them (which is evil). What I want to find out is the viral factors that lie inside their articles.
What about your secret sauce?
Your article will leave a seed that others can remember after reading it. This is the only way to make yourself stand out from tens of thousands of online writers. Find out something that’s unique to yourself or your business and start building up your personal online branding.
4. Create a Listing on Craigslist
Craigslist is a free classified site to post your ads, started by Craig Newmark in 1995. The first thing to do is selecting the nearest location to you. Craigslist is primarily about geographical location.
After that you can click “for sale” to start drafting your product ad listing.
What make a good ad?
- An interesting post title
- Attractive product descriptions
- Clear product images
- Link to Your store (the most important thing to drive traffic)
Craigslist can be a good way to test the water for your ecommerce business. You can start to hone your product price, imagery and product descriptions before uploading them to your store.
5. Demo Videos on Youtube
Youtube is another good channel to help generate traffic to your store and generally give you some serious SEO juice. You can start your own Youtube channel to post videos. Do not forget to include a link to your store. After that you can create interesting videos related to your business.
It’s not for everybody, but video marketing is free and can be very effective.
What products are suitable?
Video marketing is particular useful for products which are hard to estimate their effectiveness. I am sure most of you watched the iPhone – Will It Blend Video?
Who the hell on earth will think of blending an iPhone? The video goes viral and it achieves more than 3M views at this time. How much ad budget do you need to cover 3M views? Just be creative with your videos. You never know what might go viral.
If you are short of marketing budget, you can DIY or find a helper on Fiverr. Fiverr is a platform where you can find a helper to save your life for $5, whether by making a product video, logo design, voice over, translation or any other digital services. You can hire a helper to satisfy your temporary needs.
How did you kickstart your business when you were small?
I am always looking for marketing suggestions and would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Benny Chan is the CEO and Cofounder of SEO Product Optimizer and SillyCube Technology Ltd. In his spare time Benny loves to dive and read.