Hey, E-Commerce Entrepreneurs! Aren't You Forgetting Someone?

Guest author Rudy DeFelice is CEO of Bizinate.com, a consulting firm that helps young firms get their social-media sea legs.

Over 20,000 e-commerce stores are opened every week in the United States. Most of them will fail. And most of those that crash will have one thing in common – they neglected to tap their best audience.

Turns out that it's not what they are selling, but to whom they are selling, that matters most.

Finding Your Best Audience

It has long been understood that social phenomena – fashion, a new band, a viral video – spread through relationships. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell talked about influencers in his seminal book, The Tipping Point. Influencers spot and adopt trends and through their adoption influence others in their social sphere to do the same. (Further schooling about the spread of ideas through early adopters can be found in Geoffrey Moore's Crossing The Chasm.)

The common thread in these teachings is that ideas are best cultivated by planting a few seeds in the right fields. Only certain fields are receptive to a given seed, with the exception of weeds, which no one wants. So you can’t just scatter seeds to the wind and expect them to take.

What does that mean for the 20,000 e-commerce stores that open each week? It means the first, most important, markets are their own social circles. These are the fields in which they should plant their first seeds.

People who know you – who trust your judgment and care about your success – are your early adopters. These may be friends, family, your broader personal network or professional acquaintances. But you should have a strategy devoted to tapping this market and enabling them to spread your message.

Why Is Your Social Network So Critical?

Today, it is so easy to buy almost anything. Search for your product or service and you’re likely to find millions of results. How do you cut through the clutter?

A primary differentiator in a purchase decision is the customer’s feelings toward the merchant or brand. When you can buy anything anywhere, the relationship with the merchant matters.

Major brands spend millions of dollars to simulate a relationship with consumers. But with your own social and business networks, you already have an authentic relationship.

It’s an important asset, so taking advantage of that authentic relationship is the most powerful first step to success in your own e-commerce business.

Of course, you can simply open your store and hope that people find you. That’s what everyone else does. And that’s the problem – you’ll be lost in the great mass of options. 

Instead, you should have an affirmative market strategy, one in which you’re reaching out to a core group of people that know you, and trying to set a viral chain in motion. If you make those people happy, they’ll spread the word to their networks and you’ll be on your way.

How To Reach Your Best Market

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to reach your best market. As the wide variety of choices has made connection between a buyer and seller increasingly more important, various social-media tools and social behavior have made it much easier to reach people and tap that connection.

Consequently, a couple simple steps can get you in touch with this important market and should be part of your strategy.

1. Get Personal With Social-Media Tools. There have been few areas in marketing that have created more confusion than how to use social-media tools. There are certainly benefits to blogging and accumulating Facebook fans, but those are very hard to trace, and if they lead to transactions at all, it is usually over a long time.

Still, the tools are quite valuable for reaching large numbers of people you know. In a few strokes you can reach a whole network. The average Facebook member has 256 friends. That means your message can be in front of 256 people, and depending upon their response, their friends, almost instantly.

2. Say Something New. It is said in retail that the product stays the same, so the audience must change. Unless the audience stays the same, in which case the product must change.

In tapping your social network, a relatively constant audience, you’ll need to continually change the product. That can be an actual change of the product – let’s say you expanded your inventory by adding new products or added some products that complement your services business (an IT-service company that is now selling electronics, perhaps).

Alternatively, perhaps there is something new to say about your existing products – an upcoming holiday or change of seasons makes an existing product relevant in new ways. The important thing is, when you’re tapping a constant audience over time, you must say something new and of value to that audience.

Your goal is to build awareness first from people who know you, trust you and have an interest in your success. Leveraging your broader social network and tap your best source of customers. If you live up to your promise with this group, they will help you spread your message to the rest of the world.

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.