There are a ton of tips and tricks out there about eCommerce marketing. Some of them are great. Some of them are terrible. But, tips and tricks tend to overlook the fundamental core of your business: people.
It isn’t the blog posts or the Facebook ads or the Shopify theme that makes your business succeed (or fail). It’s the people who produce all of those things. It’s your marketing team. It’s the people who drive revenue.
This post will tell you the five people you need on your eCommerce marketing team to be successful with eCommerce. This content is a summary of my presentation at the South Florida eCommerce Expo, entitled The Five Marketers Your eCommerce Business Needs. The slides have been included at the end of this post.
The eCommerce Marketing Team
Your core eCommerce marketing team should be made of these five individuals:
- Inbound Marketer – Uses blogging, social media, SEO, and email marketing to draw in customers and pull them down a path toward purchase on their terms.
- Writer/Storyteller – Creates an emotional connection with your customers by telling stories.
- Content Strategist – Takes a scientific approach to organizing, optimizing, and improving the effectiveness of your eCommerce site.
- Marketing Technologist – Makes sense of the marketing technology avalanche that is burying you and every other company.
- Data Analyst – Pulls data points for disparate systems and third part data sources, and assembles them into intelligent insight.
I don’t mean to suggest that you literally need to hire five people. Think of these as skill sets or roles that you need to fill. For a small company, one person may play all of these roles. For a large enterprise, whole teams may be dedicated to each. You could even bring in outside help from agencies or consultancies for some of these.
Who you actually need to hire depends on the specifics of your business, but all five of these marketers should be on your radar. Let’s dive into each one.
The inbound marketer uses blogging, social media, SEO, and email marketing to draw customers into your brand and to a point of purchase. For your eCommerce business to thrive, you must be able to sustainably acquire customers. Inbound marketing is an excellent framework for doing so.
Many eCommerce companies stand up an eCommerce site and then try to acquire customers. They pay for paid search ads through Google and/or Bing. Or, maybe they start running targeted ads on Facebook. These strategies work, especially once you really learn how to do it, but these are expensive methods for acquiring customers.
The inbound marketer will acquire customers more organically (and inexpensively). They create content, like blog posts, that is highly targeted to your different buyer personas at the different stage’s in the buyer’s journey. This way you have content that pulls people into your brand, even far before they are ready to buy. You start building trust early, so come time to buy, you are the automatic answer.
- Inbound.org (a free online community for inbound marketers)
- Hubspot Inbound Marketing Blog
- Inbound Lead Generation: eCommerce Marketing’s Missing Link
Did you know that during the calendar year 2014, there were 555,782,547 blog posts published on WordPress.com? In one year, on one platform, there were over 500 million articles published. This doesn’t include Tumblr, Blogger, or any of the other blogging platforms. It doesn’t include any independently hosted sites that use content management systems (including WordPress).
I don’t mean to scare you away from blogging, by sharing that alarming number. I mean to encourage you. There is a lot of noise on the internet. In order to successfully draw positive attention to your brand, you must rise above that noise. To do that, you must put the time and thought into creating differentiated content experiences.
Differentiated Content Experiences
There was once an era where simply having web content was a differentiated experience. But, then everyone and their mom started a blog and/or website. This is no longer a viable strategy.
Then there was an era where you could create “what is” content. You could act as the encyclopedia of your industry or niche. Along came Wikipedia. This is also no longer a viable strategy.
Then we entered an era where you could create “how to” content, positioning you as a thought leader of your industry. While it’s still possible to make this strategy work, the window of opportunity is closing fast. (Go look at the content that is all over YouTube.)
The only thing that is left is to connect with your customer emotionally by telling a story. Storytelling is proven to be more effective at motivating action than simply giving facts or by asking for that action. And, this is backed by neuroscience.
Your eCommerce organization doesn’t just need a copywriter. You need a storyteller. You need someone who can build a story around your brand, so that you differentiate from all the people with whom you are competing for attention (and dollars). This is the difference between a company like Everlane (who tripled revenues in 2014 to $36 million) and a hobbyist who sells a few t-shirts as a side business.
eCommerce marketing teams often have questions like, “I can get people to my website, but how do I get them to buy?” Just attracting traffic to your webstore isn’t enough to make money. You need to sell products. And, there are many reasons you may not be doing that.
Here are some common reasons people leave without purchasing:
- Your content is disorganized. If your navigation elements, page structure, and URLs are not straightforward and simple, your customers can get lost. Customers that end up down a rabbit hole are almost certain to leave your site.
- Your content is broken. Do you have broken links? Missing pages? Functionality (like a checkout flow) that simply doesn’t work in all browsers? Nothing will make someone leave your site faster than an error message.
- Your content is confusing. Are you speaking the language of your customer? Are you talking to the correct buyer persona? Are you using too much jargon or burying your value proposition in marketing fluff? All of these are taking away from your sales.
The most important content on your eCommerce website is your product and category pages. This is the content that closes the deal–that makes you money. But, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s all still just web content.
A content strategist will apply their scientific discipline to your site. They can test and optimize the site for conversion. They know how to analyze your content to make sure it accomplishes its goals.
At nChannel, we call the flavor of content strategy that applies to eCommerce companies product content strategy. I cannot stress this enough. Your product pages are just content. Marketers have an entire discipline devoted to making that content work. A content strategist will help you apply that discipline.
- Content Strategy For the Web by Kristina Halvorson
We’re living through a marketing renaissance, largely driven by technology innovation. Just 30 short years ago, our ability to market to customers was extremely limited. Now, digital marketing technology has given us virtually unlimited access directly to consumers. It’s exciting, but also challenging.
The demand for this type of technology has certainly created an explosion of innovation, but that has resulted in an explosion of choices. Trying to make sense of the marketing technology landscape is an overwhelming task. Yet, you have to make intelligent decisions about which technologies to use, which ones to avoid, and why.
The ability to make this kind of assessment is uncommon. It requires a mix of marketing and information technology backgrounds. You need someone who can understand the marketing strategy these technologies enable. But, you also need someone who knows how to integrate separate technologies into a cohesive platform.
That hybrid-skilled person is the marketing technologist. This is a term you never really heard five years ago, but it’s growing in popularity…fast.
To truly make strategic decisions about your marketing technology platform, your eCommerce organization needs someone with the skills of a marketing technologist. The cost is simply to high, otherwise.
All of this marketing technology is a challenge and an opportunity. With digital marketing (and eCommerce) we can collect way more data about our customers than we ever have been able to. But, how do you manage that data? How do you use it to make intelligent business decisions.
Simply collecting data is not enough. Data is benign without someone that has the skills to assemble that data properly and make intelligent recommendations based on that data. And, that person is the data analyst.
The data analyst is the person who can pull all your systems together. They know how to use all those things in Microsoft Excel that scare the rest of us away. They can spit out evidence-based recommendations for your business. The data analyst is the reason you don’t have to run your business with your gut.
Just knowing how to log into your Google Analytics account does not make you a data analyst. Just knowing intermediate Excel functions does not make you a data analyst. This is a very specialized skill set. And, it often includes the ability to think counterintuitively, as statistics and probability often work differently than the brain naturally thinks they will.
Good data analysts are highly sought after because of their relative rarity and their value to the business. Find one, and keep them once you have them. It will pay huge dividends for your eCommerce business.
- Occam’s Razor (blog by Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik)
South Florida eCommerce Expo Presentation
On February 17th, I presented this content to the South Florida eCommerce Expo, hosted in Ft. Lauderdale by our friends at Rand Marketing. You can check out the slides here:
Stay tuned for the recording of my presentation.
What To Do Next
eCommerce marketing is hard, and there is a lot of advice out there. (Some of it is even misguided.) The most important thing you can do to be successful is build a sold eCommerce marketing team.
Remember, you don’t literally have to hire five different people to fill these roles. In small organizations, multi-faceted marketers are extremely valuable. It’s entirely feasible that you’ll find people who fill many or all of these roles.
Look for people with what are called T-shaped skill sets. They have deep expertise in one or two specific areas, but a relatively shallow expertise in a wide variety of marketing areas. This allows you to mix and match your team members more effectively. You get more bang for your buck.
Larger organizations need to decide how much of this you plan to hire and how much you plan to outsource. My main advice here is to not outsource your brand’s differentiator. If the reason you are successful is because of the contributions of your agency of record, what happens if that agency goes under? Or, if you fail to come to terms on a new contract? You are stuck.
Outsource whatever isn’t core to your business. Hire the things that make you who you are.
And, in the meantime…
Check out this white paper about product content strategy. It’ll dive into the the marketing process that drives the need for all of the marketers we just talked about. Click below for your free download.