Even Tiny Startups Can Land Big Sales, Using These 2 Automations

When you’re a small, scrappy startup, it can feel like you never have enough time, never land enough leads, and never close enough sales. But if you put the power of email automation to strategic use, you can watch your bottom line grow as if you had a whole team of sales staff working overtime.

Email marketing automation delivers relevant, personalized messaging at key times, and helps startups appear as though they’re of the same size and scale as the big brands they’re often competing with.

However, automating anything can be risky.

It can be overwhelming to know where to start, how it’s going to bring your business actual value, and how to avoid sending annoying emails that completely miss the mark. If not done right, you could waste money, do more harm than good, and lose precious subscribers.

It’s time to put those fears aside.

You’ve put the time and work into building a subscriber base, now let’s leverage that list to grow your business. Read on to learn about two powerful email automations you can set up today to increase leads, sales, and customer loyalty.

At our inbound marketing agency Roketto, we like to use HubSpot as our email automation platform, but you should be able to accomplish the following strategies with most marketing automation tools.

The High Interest Email: A Timely, Personalized Email That Moves Leads Closer to Buying

The “High Interest Email” is a middle-of-the-funnel email automation that identifies engaged subscribers and begins the dialogue for discussing next steps. Automating these emails allows you send timely, personalized messages based on user behavior, and thereby nudge them further down the process toward completing a purchase.

Let’s first consider the sales funnel, which consists of the different stages your prospects go through in becoming a paying customer. These stages are generally awareness, consideration, and decision. Middle of funnel content connects initial interest (top of funnel) and the final sale (bottom of funnel). It nurtures, educates, and helps prospects evaluate your brand and separate you from the competition.

Relevance is key in middle-of-funnel content, and marketing communications as a whole. Think about every email you received today that you were not interested in. The reason? It wasn’t relevant enough, so you deleted it, unsubscribed, or marked as spam.

Now think about the last email that excited you when you opened it. It likely had meaningful content that was perfectly inline with your interests, and seemed like it was made just for you. How did you react to it? There’s a good chance you clicked through to the website to learn more, purchased a product, or performed some other action to follow up on your interest.

The main challenge is that creating personalized, mega-relevant content can be time-sensitive. So how do we automate amazing, timely messaging, without losing out on quality? This can be achieved by creating smart lists based on visitor behavior.

Paying attention to the content a subscriber is digesting on your website provides keen insights into their areas of interest, and what type of email will resonate best with them.

For example, if we see a contact has read four or more articles about SaaS marketing strategy on our website within the same week, day, or hour, we can feel confident they have a high interest in that content category. We could consider emailing them a relevant lead magnet, or an invitation to an upcoming SaaS marketing webinar.

 email automation articles about SaaS marketing strategy

You can target behaviors like this using smart lists, creating triggers to send prospects timely, personalized emails that will boost conversions.

List Criteria

Smart lists dynamically update themselves based on the rules you set, so the first thing you need to do is consider the criteria you’ll create:

You’ll first want to target a behavior that indicates high interest, so you can be sure you’re not taking a shot in the dark. The goal here is to wow the visitor with magnificent timing and relevance. Email marketing automation is powerful, but if you don’t align it with the recipient’s interests, you can easily annoy them, resulting in lost subscribers and damage to your brand perception.

If you publish material on your website around different topics, it’s important to keep your automated emails segmented to the correct audience. I like to target visitors who have viewed four or more pages within a certain category of our blog (SaaS in this example), as that should be enough to demonstrate high interest.

 automated email emails segmented to the correct audience

Visit frequency should also be taken into account, as four visits over a six-month period doesn’t exactly scream “high interest.” I like to set this at a four-week time span, but it really depends on what the average length of the sales cycle is for your business. If your average sales cycle is two months, set the “frequency” and “number of times” accordingly, so that you’ll be able to identify visitors with high interest.

automated email campaigns Visit frequency

Once the specified criteria are met, this subscriber will also automatically become a member of this list, which we’ll call “High SaaS Interest.” You will then use this newly created list as a trigger to send automated personalized emails to your prospects. All that’s left now to accomplish this is to put a workflow into place.

ATTENTION: Do you want to learn how to explode your email list? We are launching a new list-building course taught by Stuart McKeown, co-founder of Gleam.io. Click below to get more info on the course and sign up for the FREE VIP waitlist to get notified when we launch.

Join Our FREE List-Building Course VIP Waitlist!

The Workflow

Workflows are a beautiful thing. They’re what connects the criteria we set to the action we want to happen.

All email automation platforms will look and act a bit differently, but the theory in setting up workflows should always be very similar:

  1. Set criteria for the trigger (we did this in the last section)
  2. Define the action that will occur (what email will you send when the trigger has fired)

In this simple workflow, we’ve set our “High SaaS Interest” list membership as the trigger, and “SaaS Webinar Invitation email” as the action.

trigger based email marketing enrollment triggers

Now, whenever a subscriber shows high interest in the SaaS category of our blog, this trigger-based email marketing automation will send them an invitation to our next SaaS marketing webinar, giving us an opportunity to nudge them further down the sales funnel. All without us lifting a finger!

Examples

The focus of high-interest email automation is to convert subscribers into leads, educate them, and help move them down the funnel. Types of content that work great here include:

  • Webinar invitations
  • How tos
  • Guides
  • Videos
  • Free courses
  • Tips and tricks

Roketto

In our own example below, you can see the webinar invitation that gets sent out at the end of our simple SaaS High Interest workflow. This prompts the subscriber to take action and sign up for our next SaaS marketing webinar.

email marketing automation Roketto

Lumi

In this example, Lumi highlights its step-by-step guide on future-proofing packaging systems. This is a high-quality email that is sure to receive high engagement to an audience showing interest in packaging and shipment platforms.

email automation Lumi future-proofing

Invision

I love this email from Invision (an amazing tool we use here at Roketto) that invites subscribers to take the next step and sign up for a free online course. This provides a high-value offer with the only commitment required from the recipient being their time.

automated email campaigns Invision example

The High Engagement Email: An Automated Message to Close the Deal

The “High Engagement Email” is a bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) email marketing automation that identifies leads in the decision stage of the purchasing journey and provides key content to help them recognize you as the best solution.

Until this point in the funnel, you’ve probably been softly nurturing your prospect through their journey. You’ve been educating them, helping them solve their problems, providing free resources and insights, suggesting solutions, and more.

This is all fantastic, but there comes a critical point when the focus needs to shift from being “helpful” (top and middle of the funnel) to being “the best choice” (bottom of the funnel). You don’t want to warm a lead up to a solution just so your competitor can scoop them up.

In this section, we’ll discuss how to create smart list criteria that identifies the right time to reach out with bottom-of-the-funnel messaging, and some great examples of email automations that help seal the deal.

List Criteria

So how can you tell the right time to send a sales-related email automation?

You’ll want to set rules for qualifying high-value prospects based on their engagement levels, and specific actions taken on the website. Here are some clear signs that a prospect is likely ready for a push:

Movement Along the Funnel

If the prospect has already completed top-of-funnel (TOFU) and middle-of-funnel (MOFU) actions, you’ll know they are likely prepared for the next step. These actions could include:

  • Newsletter signups
  • Engagement with tools and resources
  • Viewing guides
  • Whitepaper downloads
  • Quiz submissions
  • Webinar attendance

trigger based email marketing top-of-funnel (TOFU)

Checking Out Pricing

This is a big one.

Views on your pricing page are a strong indicator that a prospect is entering into the decision stage. If they have viewed your pricing page multiple times, or have spent long periods of time on this page, they’re likely ready to be contacted for a sale.

 email marketing automation Checking Out Pricing

Making Conversation

Has the prospect reached out in any sort of communicative way? Are they asking questions, or probing for more information? Are they engaging in the discussions on your blog? Any and all communication actions from contacts should be considered as a factor for this list segmentation, including:

  • Emails
  • Web inquiries
  • Phone calls
  • Live chat messages
  • Blog comments

Social Media Interactions

There are plenty of off-site signals that can help pick out quality prospects, and social media provides us with some great engagement data. Just remember, you’ll need this data within whichever automation tool you are using. Many marketing automation platforms have social monitoring functionality, and if yours doesn’t you can integrate a tool like Hootsuite to get the job done.

Actions to pay attention to here include the prospect:

  • Following your social profiles
  • Showing a high number of likes on your posts
  • Frequently commenting on your posts
  • Sharing and reposting your content

trigger based email marketing Social Media Interactions

Once your contact has completed actions from at least three of the categories mentioned above, they are indicating high engagement and are likely ready to receive that juicy bottom-of-funnel email.

Diving Deeper with Lead Qualifiers

Everything you can do to qualify where the prospect is at in their journey will result in stronger relevance between the email and your prospect’s needs. Bottom of funnel, salesy emails won’t resonate as well if they aren’t ready for it.

In addition to the list criteria, you can consider using specific contact properties as additional qualifiers, if applicable. However, not all marketing automation tools have these features. If yours doesn’t, don’t worry! This section is meant to improve the High Engagement email automation, but is not required in order for it to work.

Lifecycle Stage

Where is the contact at in their journey in becoming a customer? This can depend on how your organization is set up to qualify leads, but regardless, this is where you want to target sales qualified leads (SQL’s), or however you label promising opportunities.

Lead Status

You’ll want to target contacts with a lead status who are ready for that push to become a customer. This could be an attribute such as “in progress” or even a percentage attribute of how far along the sales funnel they are.

Persona Matches

Marketing personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, and are based on data and generalizations. Once you have your target audience clearly defined, you can better segment your email automation. You can even get your contacts to easily self identify which persona they are by subtly asking them to describe themselves when they sign up for your newsletter, use your contact form, or download an offer.

TIP: You don’t need to list out your actual customer persona names here (e.g. ours are called “Business Bob” and “Marketer Michelle”). Asking your contacts to describe themselves should seem natural to them, and you can tie their selections to whatever you call the persona in your marketing automation tool.

automated email campaigns Persona Matches

You’ll notice above, not all of the options are matches for marketing personas. It’s helpful to determine if a contact matches one of your marketing personas, or if they are just a happy subscriber. You’ll be able to hone in on exactly the type of content each persona likes to receive, and avoid situations like sending a sales-type email to a student who is simply interested in your content and resources for educational purposes.

The Workflow

The exact criteria will vary for each business, so it’s important to consider which details are necessary in order to determine what a qualified lead is for your company.

Before you build out your workflow, try running a filter with the criteria you’ll be using, so you can get an idea of the type of contacts that will be opted into this workflow. Do the contacts that show up seem like a perfect fit?

If you get excited at this step and it’s starting to feel a bit like magic, it’s probably time to finalize the workflow. If the contacts don’t look quite right, go back and adjust until you’re 100% happy with it. When in doubt, do more testing!

 trigger based email marketing The Workflow

In this case, if a contact is a member of our “high engagement” behaviors list, matches one of our customer personas, and is a sales qualified lead, we can feel confident that they are a good candidate for this email automation.

Next, simply set up your triggers as per the criteria you have chosen to start your workflow, with the action being an automated bottom-of-the-funnel email.

automated email emails bottom-of-the-funnel email

Examples

A bottom-of-the-funnel email is where your business finally takes the spotlight. At this point, the prospect is fully aware of their problem, has identified the solution, and is evaluating the best option to move forward with.

The main objective here is to communicate to the prospect why you are the best option, and not your competitor. It will be most effective if you have a strong understanding of key influencers in their decision making, which is also likely to be listed in your customer personas.

Great examples of bottom-of-the-funnel automated emails include:

  • Competitor pricing comparisons
  • Case studies
  • Promotional offers
  • Checklists
  • Comparison sheets
  • Product demo or tour

Below are the great example of bottom-of-the-funnel emails.

Asana

In this example, Asana features simplicity and ease of use in their task management platform as a strong value proposition. Their call-to-action is focused on getting the recipient to create their first task in their system right away.

 trigger based email marketing examples asana

Campaign Monitor

In this email example from Campaign Monitor, they highlight two key items to influence contacts to get started:

Set up email quickly – This email starts with a call-to-action to easily set up a beautiful looking email in just minutes, using Campaign Monitor’s template builder. This is a great value proposition, since those new to email marketing platforms might be intimidated, especially if they are not technically savvy.

Support – They also make a strong mention of their support team being available to help with any needs the contact might have, listing an email address and a phone number. This provides confidence and builds instant trust.

 email marketing automation Campaign Monitor

Grammarly

In this example, Grammarly advertises a huge limited time discount. This can be a great way to instill urgency in leads who are showing high interest in your products or services, and give them that final reason they need to become a customer.

automated email campaigns Grammarly

ATTENTION: Do you want to learn how to explode your email list? We are launching a new list-building course taught by Stuart McKeown, co-founder of Gleam.io. Click below to get more info on the course and sign up for the FREE VIP waitlist to get notified when we launch.

Join Our FREE List-Building Course VIP Waitlist!

Conclusion

Now that you have a full, in-depth understanding of how to create the high interest and the high engagement email marketing automations, it’s time to start driving more leads and sales. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help!

How I Got My First Sale

They say entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster. And it’s true.

A few weeks ago, my business got set back by a sudden death in the family. Completely throwing me off my game.

That said, this week I did score a couple of pretty cool wins because of Instagram, and I did land that coveted first sale.

In case this is your first time following along with my journey, I’ve set out to build an online store from scratch. The focus of this store build is to show that you can build an amazing long-term brand with dropshipping.

During week one, I broke down the step by step process for choosing a dropshipping niche. I’m selling letter boards, which is turning out to be a pretty fun product!

During week two, I set up my Shopify store, chose my domain name and picked my theme.

Week three was all about adding products to my store and ordering product samples.

And in week four, my product samples arrived and they actually looked great.

A major setback happened during week five: Someone in my family died. After hitting pause and collecting myself, I was able to take my own product photos.

Week six’s focus was on creating product descriptions and writing up my about us page copy.

For week seven, the focus was on pricing my products.

And this week, I’ll be diving into marketing. I’ll also share some of my major wins – like how my store got featured in PopSugar with only 16 Instagram followers – as well as some of my losses.

But first, I’m going to share the marketing groundwork I’ve been doing on my store.

Post Contents

My First Piece of Content

For me, content marketing has always worked well when it comes to generating ecommerce sales. Naturally, I start my marketing process by creating my first blog post. My main target audiences for letter boards are women who are expecting or have recently had a baby. So, my first article has to cater to this audience.

The focus is on creating new pictures around a baby announcement theme. I want unique photos. By having my own photos in the blog post, people will have to credit my website if they decide to use my photos. If I had just shared someone else’s photos, my website wouldn’t get any credit.

I headed to the dollar store to buy some baby props so that I could take some new photos for this blog post. Baby socks, flip flops, toy cars, bottles, bibs, and a few other accessories. In the end, I spent $32.26 for this photo shoot.

When I took product photos for the first time a few weeks ago, I noticed that the process was a bit time-consuming. This photoshoot was all about efficiency. Here are a few things I did to speed up the process:

  • I removed all letters from the plastic they came in immediately rather than as I needed them.
  • I compiled a list of quotes and slogans in advance so that I’d know exactly what I was going to write.
  • I added slogans to three letter boards at a time so that I could pump out photos as fast as possible.
  • The props for each letter board were grouped together before every photo was taken.

In the end, it took about two hours to execute the entire process, which was a lot faster than my previous run.

Here are a couple of photos from my shoot:

It's a Boy

Cuteness in Progress

I still wasn’t the world’s greatest photographer but my photos were starting to get better. Guess practice really does make perfect.

After finishing my photos, I focused on creating an SEO-optimized article that would put the emphasis on the products.

Here are some SEO tips for creating blog content:

  • If you’re doing a numbered blog post like “9 Baby Announcement Ideas,” remove the number from the URL. If you decide to do SEO freshness (which is when you update old content to help it rank better in search results), you’ll likely add more ideas to the list. By not having a number in the URL, it allows you to add more ideas to the article without having to change the url.
  • Have a few keywords you optimize your content for. If you don’t pay for Google ads, you might choose to use the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere which gives you an exact number on the monthly pageviews the keywords get. For this article, I focused on keywords like “baby announcement,” “pregnancy announcement” and “birth announcement.” I also added related baby words to ensure that search engines could see that this article will likely be relevant to the searcher.
  • I wanted the focus of the article to drive traffic back to the product pages. A simple way I did this was by mentioning how you can recreate each photo in the article. Since this is a product people tend to take pictures of and share on social media, the topic made sense for this specific article. Also, by adding internal links I give the product pages a slightly better chance of ranking higher in search over the long-term. In this case, I didn’t use any external links, but don’t be afraid to. In the future, I might link out to Instagram posts for my articles, which would count as an external link so that the SEO strategy is a bit more balanced between internal and external linking.
  • After publishing the article, I used the tool Web Counter to view the top keywords I used in the article. I looked at the non-common keywords list and the first two were the exact match keywords for my url, which was perfect. The keyword “pregnancy” was ranked in fourth place, which was also great to see. The only downside is the number of words on page: 748. My article is too short. It likely won’t rank high in search results for a while. One way to easily boost this number would be to take more pictures and expand on the post. I can update this article every four to six months to ensure that over the long-term it ranks high for its keywords.

Word Counter

So, you might be wondering what the marketing strategy behind this piece of content is. Since no one has ever heard of my brand before, I wanted to introduce them to my company through a piece of content first. I’ll direct ad traffic to my blog post to increase brand familiarity. Then, I’ll have a retargeting ad that gets shown only to those who’ve viewed my blog posts.

DLB BlogMy Biggest Regret So Far (and Some Social Marketing)

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. My biggest regret so far is not starting the social media marketing process sooner. If I had started marketing my social media accounts on the first week, I’d likely have a solid foundation in place right now. But still, I don’t give up easily so I’ll have no choice but to build my audience now.

At this point, I’ve taken quite a few pictures for my website and blog that I can turn into social media posts. It’s time to create my social media accounts.

Creating Social Media Pages

Normally, when I create a new Facebook page, I use my logo for my profile picture. An idea that I decided to pursue instead was adding one of my product photos in place of the logo. I also purchased a stock photo from ShutterStock so I could have a professional photo as my cover photo.

FB Page

I actually love how attention-grabbing the profile picture is. It definitely pops a bit better than a plain old logo would.

I decided to use these two images for all social platforms. Unfortunately, they didn’t look good on Twitter or Instagram due to the circular shape. So I zoomed in a bit to make it look cleaner.

Twitter Page

Setting Up My First Facebook Ads

To start, I created five ads: four to test different pictures to see which gets the most engagement, and one to drive traffic to my blog post.

Unfortunately, within a few seconds my blog post ad was rejected. Apparently, my content can’t mention “Are you expecting?” as it’s against Facebook’s ad terms. So, I rewrote parts of my blog content so that I could appeal the decision. Unfortunately, it was rejected again because I forgot to change the “search engine listing preview” so it didn’t show that I had removed the copy. So my appeal was denied. I changed the search engine listing preview. However, when I tried posting the article again on social media it still showed the original text. So now the plan is to wait a couple days for it to show the new copy so I can try to run the ad again. (I’m insistent on creating this ad because on average these ad costs are much lower than conversion-based ads.)

But for now, I’ll focus on the other ads.

I randomly chose four photos I liked and created social media posts. When creating my ad, I set it to “Use Existing Post” so that I didn’t have to create an ad from scratch. The targeting I experimented with varied for each pos, mostly with the arts and crafts niche. I assumed my audience was female and between 25-35. In the end, I got no sales.

However, two of my ads got a tiny bit of engagement. But nothing to brag about.

The only thing the engagement told me was that I probably chose somewhat decent photos. But truth is, the level of engagement is nowhere near high enough to know for sure. So I decided to create new ads that focused on these two photos. I noticed that my copy for these ads was pretty bad. Mostly because it wasn’t blatantly obvious that I was selling letter boards. This could be the reason why I didn’t sell anything.

New ad

Unfortunately, this ad performed worse.

At this point, I noticed a couple of big issues. First, while I was getting traffic, I wasn’t even getting abandoned carts. This raised a pretty big red flag. Either my audience wasn’t expecting to land on a letter board website and weren’t the right audience, there was something wrong with my product page, or, worse, something wrong with my product.

I need to investigate further to better understand why people aren’t buying from my store. However, the honest truth is I haven’t had much traffic to my store yet so this isn’t the time to make adjustments. This is the time to keep experimenting.

So on to the next ad.

I decided to change my approach for my next ad. I actually tried a tactic that’s worked well for me on other stores I’ve built. First, I create an engagement ad with a worldwide audience. The goal is to get a lot of engagement activity (Facebook likes) to make the ad look popular. That way it’ll be more likely that someone will click through to the website to look at the products.

Engagement Ad

While the ad got a lot of engagement on a tiny budget, it didn’t perform as well for me as it usually does in terms of click through. Facebook gave it a relevancy score of 2, which isn’t really ideal.

At this point, I’m a bit frustrated that my past tactics aren’t working well for this niche. But it just means that I need to keep experimenting.

My only win this week is that I ended up getting 182 people to like my Facebook page. Nothing spectacular, but I started from 0 only a couple of days ago. My strategy for getting people to like my page was basically to invite people who liked my posts to like my page.

Blurred Invite

Every time I got a notification for this on Facebook, I invited every person on the list. Unfortunately, after doing this a few times I actually got temporarily blocked on Facebook. I didn’t use a bot, I did it manually, but they said I did it too fast. I don’t understand why they’d send me a notification to do something and then block me from doing it. Weird.

Facebook Blocked

So I didn’t get to invite as many people as I wanted to but did make some progress in the end.

Biggest Challenge

Normally, when I choose products to sell for my own online stores, I choose a niche like yoga, dogs, or something else that’s super popular. It makes marketing pretty easy because usually people who are interested in yoga products like yoga. Since the targeting options are straightforward, and I usually get sales without any hurdles.

However, this product’s audience isn’t as simple. Letter boards are a product, not a niche. And so now I have to find the niche that’s interested in this product. Some of my assumptions so far include women who are currently pregnant or have just given birth, engaged women, and maybe photographers.

Unfortunately, I’ve run into some challenges with the maternity angle of this case study. The blog post I created for a retargeting ad got rejected. I appealed. And got rejected again. You can’t explicitly call out women who are pregnant, it’s considered a sensitive subject. So I’ve tried related angles like new moms or newlyweds. But still, it’s not the exact audience I’m trying to attract, which makes it a bit of a challenge.

In most of my other articles, I talk about experimentation… a lot. Truth is, sometimes you get your first sale within those first 24 hours after launch. And other times, it takes a bit longer to figure it out. While my first few ads have been complete busts, I can’t quit just yet. Most brands aren’t overnight successes. If this case study is going to teach you a lesson, let it teach you how to push forward after every rejection, mistake, and failed ad until you finally reach your goal.

A Glimmer of Hope

This week a lot of cool things happened because of Instagram. I decided to engage with people who used relevant hashtags. I’d follow relevant people hoping that they’d follow back. I’d like posts hoping that they’d notice mine. I tried being as active as I could in between taking social photos, creating ads, and writing this case study that you’re reading.

On June 19th, I was following 76 people but only had 8 followers. For an experienced marketer, this is actually super embarrassing. Truth is, literally everyone starts with zero followers. Even me.

But the funny thing: Even though my page wasn’t even close to popular, others still noticed it.

A well-known maternity brand with 289,000 Instagram followers randomly messaged me asking if they could repost one of my images on their page. I didn’t hesitate in responding and was super excited.

I basically checked their Instagram account every day hoping that they’d repost my picture to see what the impact would be. I imagined an endless amount of sales streaming through. But like I mentioned earlier, there’s no overnight successes in business.

Repost on instagram

Their post ended up getting over 2,100 likes and 671 comments. But no one commented about the product. Some liked the picture so much that they reposted it on their own Instagram accounts, but I didn’t get tagged in those posts.

In the end, I got about 5 pageviews back to my website from Instagram and quite a few new followers. So definitely no sales.

The biggest problem with their repost was that my photo credit was hidden in the post. A customer, browsing on their feed, needed to click “more” in order to see that I was tagged in the post. So my brand’s visibility was limited. But to be fair, this was completely free. So I shouldn’t have had any expectations on what the impact would be.

On a more positive note, I did reach out to them regarding a potential collaboration. And they were interested. So we can still work together since we’re in the same niche. The brand sells maternity clothing and I sell letter boards, so there’s nothing stopping us from working together. We’re complementary competitors.

First Publication Feature

Between the time that the maternity brand reached out and re-posted my picture, I actually had another big win.

The day before it happened I was contemplating whether or not I should post a picture on my Instagram account. The picture was of a summer baby announcement with cute flip flops and goggles. I thought the picture looked pretty ugly. But something in me said “h, just post it.” So I did just that.

The next morning, I got a message from PopSugar, one of the biggest publications around, asking if the photo was taken by me and if I’d give permission to them to share it in an upcoming article. Uh, is this really happening? Hell yeah, you can repost this in your publication!

The Instagram post was added to published blog post before the day ended.

PopSugar

PopSugar Moms

The best part? My picture was posted first in the article. And now I get to use language like “As featured in PopSugar” on my website. I can even create a “Press” page. The worst part? No sales and no measurable traffic or audience growth. And they linked out to my Instagram account instead of my website.

But once again, not going to complain. This wasn’t an outreach done on my part, this was the result of someone reaching out to me. And on this day I still only had about 16 Instagram followers, so I’m still clearly a nobody in the online world. But that hasn’t stopped brands from noticing me.

A Couple Lessons Learned

While the impact of these shout-outs and reposts has been small, it does indicate that I’m on the right track.

The biggest game-changer that I experimented with in this series has been product photography.

You might remember that a few weeks back I talked about how much I sucked at taking product photos. I had a $25 budget to take my own photos and create social graphics with. The funny thing is my cheap, camera phone photos have been getting the attention of top brands. So I guess what they say is true, we tend to be our own worst critics.

I’m not a photographer or even an artistic person for that matter. So part of me is kind of stunned that people are even reposting my pictures. But it’s clear to me that for me to increase my online visibility I need to take more custom photos.

I also see an opportunity with these photos. Since a couple of brands have reached out about reposting my content, maybe I should start reaching out to other brands, pages, and influencers to share my content as well. I mean, if it’s good enough for PopSugar, then it’s good enough for anyone.

Gary Vaynerchuk always talks about how hard work is the reason why people get lucky. And it’s true. This week I seemed kinda lucky. Two top brands reached out to me to share my content and I didn’t even have 20 followers on Instagram.

garyvee

I mean, how the heck did that happen?

But those shoutouts only happened because a few weeks ago I was working my ass off to take these photos. And I struggled with it. I was literally at a funeral a couple days before taking these photos.

The reason why I’m sharing this is because there’s going to be obstacles in your way sometimes. You’re going to have bad days. Days where you feel like a failure. Or days when you just want to give up.

I mean, I literally had zero sales at this point. I could cry about it and call it quits. Or I can acknowledge that I’ve only been marketing for a week and experiment harder. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing until I get my first sale on this store: experimenting and executing. If I have to try every marketing tactic in the world until it happens, then that’s what I’ll do.

Shout-out to Pixel Union

In week two of this case study, I purchased the Grid theme by Pixel Union. They’ve been helping out a lot with theme modifications throughout this series.

One of the challenges I had this week was that when a customer added a product to their cart, the item would be added to the cart but the cart icon was kind of hidden. I wanted to ease people into the funnel better. So I reached out to the team and asked for help. I gave them admin access on my store and they played around with the code for me… for free.

So now, when a customer adds an item to their cart, it takes them to their cart page rather than simply adding the product to their cart. This brings them one step closer to completing the checkout process on the store. This should eventually help with increasing conversions.

In case you ever have issues with your theme, always reach out to your theme developer because they can help you pretty quickly.

Zero Sales to First Sale

I had a few wins with shout-outs that helped me realize that I’m on the right path with the branding approach I’ve taken. Right now, it’s about getting that first sale.

I decided to go back to the research stage.

I browsed Alexa and a few other competition analysis websites to look at the traffic sources of my top competitors. And I instantly realized what I did wrong.

Competitor Letter Boards Alexa

Most visitors were coming from Google.

Wait a second, this is 100% a search-based product. Why have I been marketing it like an impulse buy product?

But then I realized something worse.

I’ve never sold a search-based product in my entire ecommerce career.

Everything I’ve sold has been focused on getting the impulse purchase.

The most painful truth comes to realization:

I chose the wrong product for my skill set.

Probably should’ve just chosen those beach inflatables from Oberlo Verified.

Or if I’m being more honest with myself, I should’ve validated my product by trying to get my first sale before deciding on a niche.

In the end, I decided to run a couple of Google Ads campaigns for the first time. About an hour after I turned off my Google Ads, I got my first sale.

First Sale

According to my Conversion Summary, the customer visited three times before converting on my store. So it’s good that I had a retargeting ad running in the background.

Final Thoughts

This is the eighth store I’ve ever built and it’s been my most experimental one yet.

I’ve never ordered product samples for any of the stores. So it was cool to see what the product quality was like and to experience unboxing like a customer.

I’ve also never taken my own product photos, so it was a bit surprising to see how easy it is to get reposted on Instagram. I mean, I had under 20 followers and big brands were sharing my content. Pretty cool for a no-name brand like mine.

I experienced roadblocks, difficult moments and had exciting wins. And this basically goes to show how ecommerce and entrepreneurship aren’t linear.

You can never predict what will happen or how it’ll happen.

If I were to redo this weekly series, I would probably experiment with a wider selection of products under the guise of a general store. And then create a niche store out of the top-performing products.

This wraps up our weekly series, hope you enjoyed learning a couple new tricks along the way.

Thanks for following along!

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