Every business reaches a point where the once-explosive growth in sales from year to year slows down. While many owners see this trend as a signal that their store has reached adulthood, others see it as adolescence, and know that their store is ready for driver’s education and prom, with years of growth still yet ahead.
Hasty merchants often jump to their feet after the second year of seeing a similar plateau. Many disassemble their stores to find a source of hemorrhaging revenues, or look for ways to trim processes. While somewhat helpful for reducing costs, trimming fat will never result in growth.
For a majority of businesses facing these changes, the common source of inertia comes from reaching a ceiling within their market. Every business can have hundreds of markets, and every one can (and will) change constantly. Often, the population initially identified as the ideal target market on day one may be just a fringe few of your current regular shoppers.
Stretching and reaching for further brand awareness should be a constant effort, but unfortunately it is commonly found on the backburner of many small businesses. This occurs for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is the limited understanding of marketing channels that are available. While every store will have unique needs and shoppers, there are a set of blueprints and a toolbox for every online storeowner. We’re here to put a spotlight on some you’ll need when looking to grow.
Step 1: Explore New Marketing Channels
When you’re picking which tools to add to your new toolbox, look back at your first strategy. A majority of business plans focus on identifying how to repay any costs incurred during opening, but in those early hours it’s easy to overlook the long-term plan. Greeting your new markets will take equal dedication, and won’t come immediately; therefore, your resources need to be ready for all of the future.
Immediate return - the quick turn-around:
Comparison shopping engines (CSEs):
These are product-focused image advertisements that show in search results on most of the major search engines or shopping sites.
- Google Shopping / Product Listing Ads
- Bing Product Ads
- Amazon Marketplace
- com (Now eBayCommerceNetwork)
Pay Per Click Ads (PPC):
These are customizable, text-based ads that are triggered by your carefully-selected group of keywords and phrases. They also show on all major search engines.
Mid-range, the day-to-day:
These are networks with thousands of online merchants waiting to stock their shelves with your products. Sellers pay these networks a commission only when traffic funneled from their site generates a sale in your store.
Building an email list of thousands will take time. You’ll end up with direct access to your most engaged market: people who are opting in to be directly contacted with news and offers.
Keeping your store’s blog updated with industry news and helpful how-tos helps shoppers discover new products and buy confidently. Fresh content also makes you more relevant to a shopper’s search and more appealing to search engines.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is lightly used for organic traffic, yet it’s a growing network of paid advertising that lets you engage directly with your shoppers and really showcase your store’s stamina.
The Long Term:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO generates easy-to-read, helpful, and original content on your site’s pages, and lets you show off when a user searches for something on their engine of choice.
As your market grows, the interests of your new shoppers will differ from those of your former customer base. Creating new and unique landing pages will allow you to target new keywords in organic & paid search. Well-organized landing pages also craft relevant content and provide attractive offers for your new shoppers.
Marketing is and always will be a critical piece of your attack plan when you’re working to grow. If you’re already utilizing these strategies, keep in mind that each one is programed and targeted to work at capturing a specific audience. As such, they can be expanded to reach new users. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try new keywords, meet new affiliates and develop new content for your site. After all, no matter how much data is packed in to it, ALL marketing is an experiment to see what will work best.
Step 2 : Know Your Audience
When setting out to overcome a plateau, the most important thing to realize is that the first market you identified is only one of thousands in the world. To reach out to new shoppers, you will need to understand them as well as you understand your own business: because if all goes according to plan, new shoppers will be your business. Over time of tracking activity, an analytics tool will be bursting with information regarding traffic and sales. Any storeowner worth his or her weight in gold will be able to rattle off the profile of their average shopper. Examining their analytics, storeowners can also identify fringe markets. Whether the issue is lower traffic or users with poor engagement on their site, owners can work to build a new target profile and get over a sales plateau.
Google Analytics: This is the standard for visibility of on-site behavior and traffic sources. Google Analytics integrates seamlessly with any site, and provides detailed information regarding a shopper’s behavior, demographic information and point of origin.
Crazy Egg: Crazy Egg is a unique tool that hides itself backstage on your website and monitors every user. After a week it’s capable of producing reports showing every click on your pages, heat maps of user interaction and visibility to where browsers are scrolling on your pages.
HubSpot: A suite of analytics & marketing tools designed to give you feedback not only on traffic patterns, but on your marketing efforts and content writing. An immersive dashboard allows you to modify, review and post to your website and its content all while providing direction for improvements.
Kevin Harman is the founder and president of Autoresponder Max, a Detroit-based company that builds software to send transactional remarketing emails and relationship messages. He is also the co-founder and president of Brand Labs, a Michigan based digital consultancy that crafts rich eCommerce experiences for high-growth companies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.