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I’ve been in the digital marketing sphere for more than 13 years — have helped build several brands that have gone on to get acquired, and started my own Ecommerce business in 2019. After meeting numerous entrepreneurs who achieved impressive ROIs in this sector, and hearing of their best practices, one thing stood out… a common thread that tied their winning strategies together.
But first, a little new-company storytelling.
Spurred on by friends with vested interests in the Ecommerce space, my team and I set up four shopify stores and an Amazon account, all within the span of three weeks. I was thrilled to be finally serving the end customer and not the merchants. Initially, we were fine losing some money — considered it part of the learning curve — but coming from the media/agency sector, we employed a strategy that we knew worked: A/B testing. We tested hundreds of ads, angles, images and copy, and while we saw some revenue and certainly learned a great deal, every time it seemed a tiny success was upon us, the momentum vanished in a morass of high ad costs, blocked accounts, negative ROI or bad customer reviews.
I was, however, passionate and driven to make this work. All I cared about was seeing these stores flourish and become profitable. So, I signed up for courses, read every book there was, watched every worthwhile video and listened to multiple podcasts. As part of this effort, I also registered in a mastermind group on building brands, and worked with mentors to understand the difference between building a brand and selling a product. For someone from the performance side of business, where focus is on generating a two-dollar profit from a one-dollar investment, this made no sense, at least until I found myself one day in the shower while on vacation. I was excited to see that this particular Airbnb sported a soap that I liked, and had only recently watched a hilarious ad for. In a second I was laughing again, and that’s all it took. That soap brand had made a real connection to me.
Not very momentous? Well, it would seem so, until you gain a deeper perspective. I realized then we were going about our business all wrong… were chasing persuasion through better ads and keywords rather than building long-term trust and familiarity between the audience and the brand — that seemingly mutual feeling of being known and seen that forges a bond. Everything else follows.
Building this relationship isn’t terribly different than how we form those in our personal lives. Do you recall your first date… the time you invested in getting to know someone — likes, dislikes, interests, pets, siblings, favorite memories and of course favorite color? You wanted that date to be memorable, so perhaps you took the time — before or during — to ferret out these details and apply some of them to the experience. We want our partners to feel understood, known, heard and valued, and when they feel they mean something to you, they invest back in you.
This is also what we desire out of the relationship we build with an audience. So why is it that for all too many, selling products or services starts with copywriting, design, pricing and content, instead of learning about the person who is supposed to buy and enjoy the product? This inversion of priorities makes the process about us rather than them, and what would you think about someone who only talks about themselves on that first date?
So first, invest towards customers’ beliefs and values. What is important to them? What’s their goal in a certain area of life, how far are they from achieving it and why haven’t they been successful? What should we speak about on our first date (i.e., your ads or content)? Which other brands do they shop for, and what do they like about them? What challenges do they have, and how can we help solve them and improve their lives?
You will have a customer for life when they feel understood — they’ll trust your brand because you’re one of them. You speak their language and more importantly, they believe your products can help them feel what they want to feel. If you just know how to persuade, yes, you will likely have a sale, but when you truly understand and resonate with a person, you will have a customer for life.
When we worked on getting to know customers by simply interviewing them — both current and potential… anyone from our target market who could benefit — everything else seemed irrelevant. Our only mission was to help them get over hurdles they face with the products we sold. When you’re in that mindset, you write ad copy like a ninja… feel like you’re writing to a friend you know, and that resonates.
So, before you build your store or even think of the products you want to sell, go out there and speak to the people who you think should buy and use them, then determine how to serve them.
On a personal note, that mindset evolution has also made my work much more enjoyable, fulfilling and exciting, as I know we’re in the business of improving lives and not just sourcing products or trying to persuade better than competitors. So, I encourage you to take that first step: have a casual conversation with one of your customers or potential customers. Get to know them for a few minutes and see just how much insight you gain.