Content, social posts, and ads: these are the tools we can use to grow online sales. And the good news in 2022 is that these tools are getting smarter and smarter. - Georgiana Dearing
Whether intentionally or unknowingly, every small business aims and needs to boost its ecommerce sales. This might not be the natural first step for most small brands, but tapping into online sales will not only expand your reach and give you the opportunity to multiply your profits, but it also help establish your brand’s integrity.
Especially if you’re a niche brand, leveraging ecommerce is both a savvy and strategic approach. It helps you hone in on your audience and lets you find your tribe of loyal customers.
As I rally the three tips for your ecommerce sales strategy, I have my interview with ChipMonk Baking to thank. They’ve highlighted these proven methods to help businesses like them grow online sales.
Listen to this episode as I talk about creating good content for your website using best practices for SEO or search terms, building social campaigns using said content, and promoting the social posts as part of a paid ad strategy.
I hope you’ll have fun while learning as you listen and realize that the only thing tricky with ecommerce is how you spell it (spoiler alert: both ecommerce and e-commerce are acceptable!).
Virginia Foodie Essentials:
Leveraging e-commerce is a pretty savvy approach for a niche brand. When you're focused on a specific set of buyers that are a much smaller percentage of the population, reaching out online is the perfect way to find your tribe.
When you create content that's useful, interesting, and engaging to your target market, you'll naturally attract click-throughs and backlinks to your site.
Effective content marketing means sharing helpful information with potential customers so that they can see themselves buying from you.
Good food brands don't have to wait for writing inspiration to strike to get started with planning your social media content strategy - they naturally have lots of topics to draw from.
Key Points From This Episode:
Creating and sharing content for your target audience
Inbound vs. outbound marketing
Content from a brand’s positioning and product line
Divisible content shared through various platforms
Industry-standard for ad spend to ecommerce sales ratio
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Click Here for Full Transcript:
[00:00:00] Georgiana Dearing: Leveraging e-commerce is a pretty savvy approach for a niche brand. When you're focused on a specific set of buyers that are a much smaller percentage of the population, reaching out online is the perfect way to find your tribe. Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, “How did they do that? How do they turn that recipe into a successful business?” Then we've got some stories for you.
[00:00:43] Hello, Foodies. Thanks for joining me on another Marketing Monday. This time, I'm taking inspiration from the last episode because I want to take a closer look at some of the things small brands can do to boost their e-commerce sales. Earlier this year, in episode number 46, I spoke with Jose Hernandez and Michael Downing from ChipMonk Baking. They shared this story of how they launched their sugar-free, gluten-free, low-carb, and diabetes-friendly cookies as an e-commerce channel first. If you haven't heard that interview yet, I encourage you to go back and give it a listen. They were so generous with their time and was sharing what they learned about specialty food sales. I found it very interesting that they saw e-commerce as the first step in building a national audience before reaching out to retail buyers. And they're on the retail sales path now. But if you think about it, leveraging e-commerce is a pretty savvy approach for a niche brand. When you're focused on a specific set of buyers that are a much smaller percentage of the population, reaching out online is the perfect way to find your tribe. And you can reach the far corners of the country to find your fans. And for ChipMonk Baking, it worked.
I invited them on the show specifically to get the real story of their success because many niche food brands see e-commerce as a viable sales channel for reaching a wider audience. And I also know that, while selling packaged food directly to consumers has great potential. Websites are not a set it and forget it tool. Online sales just don't happen overnight. So when I asked about what they attribute to their online success, Michael answered, "I think there are three directions that we focus on to try to get traffic to the site. It's SEO, social media, and then just paid advertising at the bottom." And I wanted to circle back to those items because they're central to the help I provide to my content marketing strategy and coaching clients.
[00:02:46] SEO or search engine optimization refers to techniques used on websites, blogs, articles, and other platforms on the internet. Keywords and long from search terms draw traffic to sites by increasing engagement with search-engine. The search engines use these backlinks and click-throughs when they rank your site for keywords and phrases. And the more quality backlinks you have pointing to your site, the higher you'll rank for relative keywords. And this can be a very effective way to build traffic and leads over time. There is a lot more to SEO and there are some very technical aspects to optimizing your website for search. But for emerging brands who are trying to grow followers and increase web traffic as well as grow B2B sales, you can bolster all of those channels with a well-planned Content Marketing strategy.
[00:03:37] Content marketing sounds like a big undertaking, but it really only means that you're creating and sharing content for your target audience. Content marketing is also called inbound marketing because it attracts customers to your brand instead of interrupting them with advertisements, which is outbound marketing. So you can use content marketing to build brand awareness and also increase your sales. When you create content that's useful, interesting, and engaging to your target market, you'll naturally attract click-throughs and backlinks to your site. Each time someone shares a piece of your content out to their social platform, they're creating a link back to your site. Think of all those recipes being passed around on Facebook. Those are all links back to websites. They're all building organic SEO. So where does content come from? Right from your brand position and your product line. For example, if you sell hot sauce online, you could write a post about the Scoville scale, used to measure peppers' heat and spiciness. People who are trying to figure out the spiciness of a dish might search the Scoville scale. And your article could be the helpful advice they need. Every time someone searches keywords like, what is the Scoville scale and find their answer on your site, that helps build your ranking with search engines. And that makes your site show up more often without you paying for those clicks. It's all about rising to the top of that search.
[00:05:06] Remember, when you're putting together your content ideas, put yourself in your customer's shoes. Effective content marketing means sharing helpful information with potential customers so that they can see themselves buying from you. Choosing and creating content that will resonate with your audience may seem like a ton of work. But in my practice, new web content becomes the foundation for all the other marketing communications work your brand needs to cover. You may have heard the term divisible content before. It's the idea that one longer content piece like that blog post about the Scoville scale, can be broken down into smaller repeatable pieces and shared on other platforms. That's where social media campaigns come into play, which is the second tool that the ChipMonk team used to grow their e-commerce business.
[00:05:55] Shareable content is a great way to build a steady, engaged social media following. But the big pain point for many small brands is finding the time to create social posts. No one likes that blank page feeling, plus writing and taking photos eats up a lot of your day especially when there are so many other tasks calling your name. Investing in a few long-form content pieces for your website is a place to start generating ideas for your social media posts. For instance, that Scoville scale piece can be the Genesis of a whole series of posts about your range of hot sauces, the kinds of peppers you sourced. In food pairings had helped bring down the heat, pulling small excerpts from that one article can give you 6 to 12 posts with just a tweak of the language. But here's the secret though. You, food brands, you don't have to wait for writing inspiration to strike in order to get started with planning your social media content strategy. Good food brands like you naturally have lots of topics to draw from. Non-GMO or organic ingredients, the farms you sourced from, who you choose to do business with, your origin story, your manufacturing process, where you stand on sustainability, your channel partners, and the top player in food marketing, recipes, or suggested servings. Some or all of these topics should already be living on your website right now.
[00:07:24] Ideally, they're also written to include some good keywords. And if that's not the case, get some help with refreshing your website content. But you can start sharing those snippets of your brand story today. And if you've got questions about this, reach out to me and I'll get you pointed in the right direction. And now, the last thing to do is to turn those social posts into paid ads.
[00:07:48] Paid ads are a key part of the strategy for many retailers. And that includes our friends at ChipMonk. Paid ads are one way to expose your business to new customers. And a helpful metric that Michael shared was they keep their ad spend right around 10% of their total e-commerce sales. That, actually, is pretty standard for the industry. I've heard that percentage in a lot of places. And another number I hear very often is that you need to spend around $500 a month before you start to see real traction from your ads. You can start smaller than that, but the growth curve will take longer. That's because digital advertising is grounded in machine learning.
[00:08:31] You need to spend enough over enough time to allow your ads to be seen by a decent sampling of people on the internet. When creating a paid ad campaign, it's important to remember one thing. That what's effective for one retailer might not be as effective for another. And that's why at the start of an ad campaign it'll seem slow and a kind of expensive. Over time, that machine learning will kick in and the algorithm will learn your audience and begin to place your ads in the right places to catch their views. The good news in 2022 is that the tools we use are getting smarter and smarter. There are several AI writing tools that will give you prompts per effective ad copy. I say prompts because you don't want to leave that writing with the robots or your brand will sound like it was written by robots.
[00:09:23] We had some great success over the past holiday season using a combination of artificial intelligence, writing tools, and then testing and revising our ads until we found the right mix. In a small two-week window, we were able to give one small brand 20,000 ad views and almost a thousand clicks through to their site. A 5% conversion rate is a pretty high return on what was a very, very small investment. Those clicks are the reason now that paid ads come as the third of the three steps in your e-commerce sales strategy. Just like ChipMonk does, you should approach your e-comm marketing with these three steps.
[00:10:05] First, create good content for your website using best practices for SEO or search terms. Second, build some social campaigns using that great content. And third, promote those social posts as part of your paid ad strategy. Content, social posts, and ads, those are the tools you can use to grow your online sales. And that is a wrap on this Marketing Monday.
[00:10:31] If you try any of these tips, please let me know. I'd love to hear how you do. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out and ask me. I'm always happy to help. And thanks for listening.And if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My Brand at vafoodie.com. If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.