marketing advice for online shops

Recently Katie C., an MML reader, asked about how to market a new online shop. Since I know there are many MML readers who are also online shop owners, I thought this is a great topic to address today.

I will say that my advice comes from my experience. In 2008 I was running Jess LC almost completely through wholesale accounts with stores via a team of sales reps. This meant that Jess LC was sold in over 100 stores across the country, and we also had a basic but functioning website. Our lack of online effort reflected in our bottom line. In fact, we only had 40 online orders in 2008 — 20 of which came in December alone.

Then in January of 2009 I started MML and dove into the world of online marketing for Jess LC. Since I was spending so much time with MML networking, writing, and blog reading, it made perfect sense to bring Jess LC to the internet as well. What I’ve done is certainly no secret, but it has radically changed my business. Today, over 80% of our business comes from online orders worldwide and we couldn’t be happier. It took years of trial (and error) and dogged determination to get it to this level. But it was worth every second and penny I spent to make this shop an online reality.

Here are the key steps that I took to make it all happen:

Though I don’t recommend blogging for all business owners, it is the biggest success factor for Jess LC. I had no idea that blogging about designing a life with intention would lead to jewelry sales and customers, but it certainly did. I think the reason that MML has been so helpful is because I am very clear about why I write here each day. It is well known my purpose in life is to help others with making under. Period. But at the same time I also run my jewelry shop to pay the bills and because I do genuinely enjoy the design and marketing process.

Though this blog takes honestly half of my time and effort, I make very little ad money compared to Jess LC. But through sharing my story and reaching out to readers, many have also become Jess LC customers which has led to more online sales and higher business revenue. This honestly shocked me when it first started to happen, but I couldn’t be more grateful.

So I only recommend blogging for business owners who are passionate about what they are writing about, do it regularly, and make a concerted effort to reach out to other bloggers. Getting a blog up and running with a consistent following is (in my opinion) the single hardest and most time consuming marketing effort. But if done successfully, blogging can be the most rewarding return on investment.

Right after I started MML I also decided to place an ad on Joanna’s lovely blog, A Cup of Jo. I then followed that ad up with a giveaway that got 458 comments and 700+ new visitors to my online shop within about three days. Given that I was averaging 20-30 visitors a day on before that giveaway, the results were astounding. The attention drew orders from all over the country – and world.

So my advice for other owners is to consider an ad and giveaway on a blog that has a robust following of potential customers. Depending on the company budget and ad prices, I’d consider advertising and doing giveaways/product posts on 3-4 blogs at first. As you get more feedback and results, you can decide whether to grow your advertising or decrease it to just a few key blogs.

I will say that I joined Twitter primarily for MML and blogging, not for Jess LC. But the easy communication with customers and fans of Jess LC is very convenient.

Facebook I tried a few years ago for Jess LC and abandoned it because we weren’t updating it regularly and sharing it in any way. However, we’ve recently re-launched our Facebook page and I’ve been very happy with the customer response and interaction.

How to Decide Which Social Networks to Join

My advice about joining any social network like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, or LinkedIn is to ask your existing customers where they are online. Do your customers have Facebook and Twitter accounts? Are they mostly on Facebook only? By finding out where your current fans and customers are online allows you to start there and keep them updated on your shop.

Then, as you continue to get more savvy selling and marketing online, consider expanding to other social media sites. I think the most important part of any social network profile however is to keep it updated multiple times a week with unique and original content.

Going to (and c0-hosting) blogger meet-ups was a great way for me to make real life connections with bloggers. And in many cases the bloggers have become good friends. Not only have these friendships deeply enriched my personal life, but by working with each other we have been able to expand our businesses and blogs.

So there you have it. These four things have been the building blocks for my online marketing. As you can tell, each of these aspects are time consuming but also rewarding personally and professionally.

If you like what you’ve read and want to share this with your friends, please forward this post, tweet it, or comment!

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  1. J'Ann

    Can always count on you for great posts like these! This was very helpful.

  2. Maddie

    I don’t run an online shop, but I still find it really interesting to read about how your business strategies change over time. For a perfectionist like me, it’s a great reminder that successful people don’t get it all right on the first try—it takes trial, error, and a willingness to step into the unknown.

  3. Jen

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Jess! I will definitely incorporate these!

  4. Jess, I read your post right away in my reader. I’ve slowly been thinking about it, so I just had to come back here to post a comment and say: THANK YOU. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post and reflection into what you’ve done and where you continue to go. So useful!

  5. Margie

    I realize this an an older post, but it so concisely breaks down my main focuses right now in starting up my creative business. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Lauren Mills

    Excellent tips for creative entrepreneurs. Thanks for giving your take on marketing and how it has specifically worked for your businesses and blog.

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