Is your online store losing steam? While it’s normal to experience ebbs and flows in your ecommerce business, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, especially when you’re caught up in the miniature of day-to-day tasks. Between tracking inventory, managing customer orders, and shipping out your goods—on time, mind you—you probably feel like you’re running around in circles.
Let’s get you back on course.
Running an ecommerce brand isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Promoting your business and cultivating a loyal legion of fans who return to your store requires more than a wish and a dream. This means you need to have a plan—a marketing plan, specifically—that can help pull your business ahead of the starting lineup all the way to the champion podium.
Not sure where to start? Drip has you covered. We’ll explain why creating an ecommerce marketing plan is key to helping your brand break through the crowd and provide steps to help bring your brand vision to life. Let’s dive in.
What is a marketing plan? Your roadmap to success
In the words of country superstar and ultimate brand luminary, Dolly Parton: “You can’t just will your dreams to come true. You have to work hard. You have to give ‘em wings, arms, legs … whatever it takes.” The same idea applies to building an ecommerce business (thanks, Dolly!).
A marketing plan defines your long-term goals, provides a roadmap for tasks that will help achieve those goals and when those tasks will occur, and then puts them into a plan with key performance indicators (KPIs) that track your success over time.
Think of a marketing plan as a blueprint for your business, a compass, if you will—or the “wings” on which to carry your business to your dream destination.
Drip customer, Saint Jane Beauty, wanted to “increase average orders values from beauty-obsessed Millennial shoppers by implementing an automated workflow.” That is a specific goal, with a specific number of action items, that the brand could schedule into its team’s workflow, assigned a specific value increase to define its success, and lives within the timebound restraints of the marketing plan.
First, we brainstorm, then we plan
You’ll want to set aside some time to brainstorm your goals and do market research to guide future initiatives. Here are the key elements to include in your ecommerce marketing plan to produce the biggest impact:
- Company snapshot
- Target audience
- Competitor analysis
- SWOT analysis
- Budget and financial targets
- Marketing goals and tactics
We’ll jump into the nitty-gritty of each of these sections later. Now that you know what goes into a marketing plan let’s explore why we encourage ecommerce retailers to consider creating a marketing plan in the first place.
You become a laser-focused ecommerce retailer
You already have an amazing product, superb work ethic, and business operations on lock. Having a well-written marketing plan allows you to take a bird’s eye view of your brand to define your goals and quickly identify growth opportunities to skyrocket to the next level of success.
You pursue measurable goals
It’s hard to know where your business is going when you lack direction. Maybe you’re aiming for a 20% increase in sales during your slow season. Maybe you’re looking to grow your email database to convert new leads. Either way, establishing KPIs provides goalposts for your business, so you never lose sight of your targets.
You foster better customer relationships
It’s no secret that wooing customers is the key to growing your ecommerce shop. A marketing plan can help you drill down your target customer base and shine a light on new ways to connect with online shoppers, such as through tailored marketing campaigns.
You become more likely to reach your goals
People who write down their goals are nearly twice as likely to reach the bar. And consider this: one survey found goal-setting marketers were 397%(!) more likely to report success on the heels of their efforts than businesses who launched campaigns without a defined purpose. A marketing plan is essential for your online business for a variety of reasons—notwithstanding providing a powerful path for your business to seize its full potential.
Ready to create your own winning marketing plan?
Alright, time to take your ecommerce shop to the next stop. Let’s give your business the leverage to dream big, captivate customers, and drive revenue to boost your bottom line. Here are the six key elements to creating a winning marketing plan:
1. Take a company snapshot
Though marketing plans may differ depending on what types of products or services a retailer may provide, every plan should include a snapshot of the business. This includes creating a company description and defining your marketing objective, which provides an overview of the marketing goals set forth to achieve your overall business vision.
Some businesses also weave in their brand story here. In any case, your company snapshot should include the following:
- A company description with the name of your ecommerce store, headquarters, contact information, and logo;
- An introduction to your leadership team as well as each of their responsibilities; and
- A summary of initiatives to help you visualize your mission and provide a high-level view of how you plan to achieve your marketing goals.
This is also a good opportunity to draw up your Mission Statement. Succinctly sum up why your online business exists, what types of products or services you offer, and why your audience should engage with your brand.
2. Define your target audience
It’s hard to sell your products or services when you don’t know who you’re selling to. By conducting audience research, you can create buyer personas, which allow you to segment your customers into different groups—and use these “personified” traits to prioritize promotional activities in the future.
As an ecommerce business owner, you have access to a wealth of tools that can help you uncover your target audience. Simply log into your current ecommerce customer relationship management (ECRM) database, and dive into the data. You can then zero in on key details such as your customers’ location, age, activities, interests, life stage, even their buying behaviors.
Outside of your ECRM, you can tap into your store’s website or social media analytics—both can provide detailed information about shoppers interacting with your store. If you want to take your buyer persona data collection a step further, you can also leverage the fields embedded in your website’s form and popups to collect more info.
3. Determine your marketing goals and tactics
If you’re new to the ecommerce industry, you may not be sure what goals to consider. Here are a few common marketing goals for online stores:
- Increase conversion rate
- Improve customer lifetime value
- Boost customer retention
- Increase average order value (AOV)
- Net bigger profit margins
- Reduce cart abandonment
- Increase number of orders overall
- Build brand awareness and loyalty
Your marketing strategy (e.g., the tactics you employ to tackle your goals) will charge your marketing initiatives forward, but establishing your ecommerce KPIs will help keep all of your activities in check. So, whether you devote your resources to developing a content marketing strategy, bolstering your social media channels, launching an email marketing or SMS text messaging series, or investing in video, you’ll want to be sure to craft the right message, in the right place, at the right time.
Here’s the secret sauce: Not all marketing channels are for you. If your message isn’t resonating with your audience or your team and budget are spread too thin, expect wasted dollars and little to no return.
4. Get to know your competitors
Want to know why Wendy’s follows McDonald’s on Twitter? It’s not just for a round of friendly roasting—it’s for competitor research. If you want to get an edge in the ecommerce world, keeping tabs on what your competitors are up to is a must. While we don’t recommend launching full-out cyber espionage, we do recommend viewing your competitors’ social media channels, websites, and ad campaigns—and maybe even signing up for their newsletter.
Getting a lay of the land can shed insight into your competitors’ messaging and help determine your unique selling propositions (why your product or service is different or better than your competitors’) and use it to your marketing advantage. In some cases, you may not have the technical or functional USP as your fellow retailers, but you can highlight your experiential or benefit-focused traits to draw customers into the fold. It’s a surefire way to establish your brand in your respective space.
5. Conduct a SWOT analysis
Competitor research often leads ecommerce shop owners to identify gaps within their own business models or marketing strategies. Conducting a SWOT analysis can help you zero in on areas you should work on to effectively build your business. SWOT stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Let’s review a few questions in each SWOT category to gauge your business’ performance:
- What does your company do well?
- What advantages do you have over the competition?
- What is your most reliable source of financial growth?
- What areas of business need improvement?
- Have any online customer reviews been negative?
- What are your biggest financial weaknesses?
- Is your market niche growing?
- Are there areas where you can expand?
- Is there a new customer segment you haven’t reached?
- Is consumer behavior changing away from your product?
- Are there external factors (societal, political) that could sway people from your business?
- Is your business reliant upon a specific set of technologies or systems?
Doing a SWOT exercise is like using binoculars to assess your brand’s competitive position before you launch your next directive.
6. Set your budget and financial goals
Lastly, you’ll want to set your marketing budget and write out your financial goals. A budget should include your plans for marketing spending over a specific period, such as a month, quarter, or year. This coffer should include all costs associated with promoting your business, including your investments for digital marketing, hiring, ecommerce marketing tools, website maintenance, and more.
Too many online business owners lose money by betting big on one channel or by spending willy-nilly across the marketing board. A budget can help you manage your marketing allocations and set realistic benchmarks and goals, avoiding expensive distractions that could eat away at your bank account.
Before diving into any new campaigns, you will want to review and assess your sales cycles, operational costs, tech stack, and more to determine where your allocations can meet your goals.
Marketing isn’t about throwing your money away and hoping it will work. When done effectively, creating an ecommerce marketing plan will guide you toward the best marketing investment for your business, resulting in years of revenue growth and returns. That brings us to the planning portion of this lesson.
You’ve gathered a lot of information and taken a close look at your business. Now it’s time to define your goals, determine actions that will help achieve them, and give them a time frame. Let’s go!