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Sales & Marketing

3 Posts authored by: Joel Comm

Online shopping just keeps growing. Last year, U.S. consumers spent over $513 billion on the Internet, an increase of more than 14 percent compared to 2017, according to figures released in March from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Almost one retail sale in ten now takes place online.

 

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Those changing consumer habits are a challenge for small businesses and not just because every seller has to build an ecommerce store. Do-it-yourself website building kits now make designing a retail site the work of no more than a few hours.

 

The challenge for small businesses is that, while more than half a trillion dollars may be changing hands online every year, some 40 percent of those sales take place on just one site.

 

Amazon dominates online retail. The $867 billion company is more than a store. It’s a complete retail center serving over 150 million unique visitors each month. Its own sales make up much of that retail space but through its Amazon Marketplace feature, Amazon also hosts the online outlets of around six million other sellers. They’re said to make up more than double the value of Amazon’s own sales.

 

Essentially, Amazon is the world’s biggest shopping mall.

 

The good news is that any retailer can take space in that mall. For professional sellers, there’s a monthly subscription fee of $39.99, as well as referral fees that are typically between 8 and 15 percent of the sales price (although they can reach as high as 45 percent.) Retailers can fulfill orders themselves or they can ship stock to one of Amazon’s warehouses and let the company do the fulfillment work for them. (I use Amazon to fulfil orders of my Kaching buttons.)

 

The challenge of online retail isn’t building the website. It’s finding customers and building enough trust to make them comfortable entering their credit card details.

That’s what Amazon’s fees buy. When someone searches for your goods at Amazon.com, your products will appear in their search results. They’ll appear at a place where customers are used to shopping. It’s likely that the customer won’t even notice that they’re buying from a third-party retailer instead of from Amazon itself. 

 

For online sellers, Amazon doesn’t have to be a competitor. It can also be a partner, helping you to sell your products to the massive audience that it’s already created.

But it’s not quite that simple. Amazon’s benefits come at a cost, and those costs are more than financial.

 

First, the competition is tight. You won’t be the only seller in your space pitching your goods through Amazon Marketplace. To stand out, you’ll need to keep adjusting your prices to keep them competitive. You’ll also need to pick up positive reviews, and, while you can pay for a higher spot in the search results, that expenditure comes on top of your referral fees.

 

Second, you’ll be at the whim of Amazon’s bureaucracy, including a judicial system that has been described as “Kafkaesque.” Amazon is quick to suspend sellers while its appeal process can be difficult and unresponsive. That’s made the marketplace a battleground for dirty dealers whose tricks have included buying fake reviews for competitors, setting competitors’ products alight then telling Amazon they exploded, and reclassifying rivals’ products in the wrong categories. There’s an entire industry of experts and consultants helping businesses with their appeals. Amazon Marketplace can feel more like a Wild West town ruled by a despotic sheriff than the Mall of America.

 

But above all, selling on Amazon Marketplace gives your customers fewer reasons to come to your own website where you have complete control. There are no competitors on your own site. The customer loyalty you win is entirely your own, and you don’t have to deal with Amazon’s strange appeals process.

 

Amazon Marketplace is too big to ignore. But its size and power make it unlikely to be a reliable environment for small sellers. Use it if you believe it will bring you extra sales but make sure that it’s not the only way you reach customers.

 

Read next: The Secret to Competing with Amazon by Steve Strauss

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

When small businesses add content to their social media campaigns, they’re looking to do two things:

 

1. They want to talk to the audiences they already have. They want to remind customers that they’re still there, that they still speak their language, and that those customers should buy from them again soon

 

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2. They also want to reach new audiences. They want that content to spread from their core audience to new potential customers.

 

One of the most effective ways to achieve both goals simultaneously has sprung up recently in the form of memes. Memes are easily recognizable visual gags that are customized and shared online. If you remember the Distracted Boyfriend or Grumpy Cat or the Success Kid baby pumping his fist, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The images are funny and anyone can crack their own joke by adding to the text.

 

The meme becomes the center of an international conversation, like people sitting on a giant, global sofa, getting laughs by riffing off each other’s jokes.

 

How can memes be used in marketing?

 

The power of those memes to reach millions, to stick in people’s minds, and to engage them actively is a huge opportunity for brands. A business that can put its brand at the center of the conversation around a trending meme can generate millions of dollars’ worth of free reach.

 

It’s no surprise that big brands have hired savvy social media experts to generate applicable memes. Netflix, for example, has it easy. The company has access to massive amounts of visual content that it can use to create shareable memes of its own, and it does so. But those memes are often less effective than the images created by the company’s customers which it then shares.

 

In principle, anyone who creates those memes breaches Netflix’s copyright. But Netflix certainly doesn’t care. It’s getting free publicity and an army of smart, witty people creating marketing content for nothing.

 

Few companies have a library of visual content as rich as Netflix’s but it’s also possible to create your own focus for memes. When the Philadelphia Flyers rolled out Grittyas their new mascot, they might not have intended to create a meme theme but that was the result. The orange, dumpy monster quickly appeared in a host of memes created and shared by fans, and even by people who couldn’t tell one end of a hockey stick from the other. Each time Gritty appeared in a meme, the brand image spread further across the Internet.

 

It’s not an easy model to copy. But it’s not impossible. There’s no reason that other businesses can’t have mascots, cute logos, or any other image that people might want to share.

 

The problem, of course, is that memes are never entirely in the control of the brand. Once you hand over an image to audiences, there’s no knowing how it will end up or how people will use it. Taco Bell has worked hard at using memes as part of its advertising campaign, even putting meme-style ads on billboards. But those fake memes always came across as a bit cheesy while the audience-generated memes about the “explosive” power of a Taco Bell meal were much wittier. They might have put the brand’s name in front of far more people, but sometimes it’s just not true that all publicity is good publicity.

 

How can I leverage memes for my own small business?

 

If you’re looking to create your own meme, pick a visual gag that your audience can relate to. Tie that gag to some element of your brand: its sassy attitude, for example, or its laid-back coolness. Seed your social media platforms with your content and hope that it takes off.

 

And bear in mind that if it does, whatever happens next is out of your hands.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

In the early days of advertising as we know it, if a business wanted to reach the largest possible audience, there was a number it could call. That number connected the business to the advertising sales department of a television studio. At a time when families sat together every evening in front of a twelve-inch, black-and-white television screen, running a commercial during the peak time shows could give brands an audience in the tens of millions.

 

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The rise of the Internet has changed that—and not just because families no longer watch one screen together. Companies now have access to a wide variety of digital options like banner ads, social media posts and ad units, email newsletters, content marketing, and targeted search results to promote their messages directly to their key target audiences. They’ve noticed. In 2017, digital ad spending exceeded the value of television advertising for the first time.

 

As technology and behavior have changed, marketing has changed with it. What hasn’t changed is the type of marketing that’s still most likely to convert potential customers. Businesses that hoped they could fire their scriptwriters and box up their video cameras to focus on text ads and copywriting have been disappointed.

 

Video remains the most effective advertising format.

 

Companies that place video on online landing pages have found their conversion rates increasing by more than 80 percent. Seventy-six percent of marketers say that video has helped them increase sales. Eighty-one percentof people have bought a product or service after watching a brand’s video online.

 

Those conversions have been driven by a steep rise in online video watching. Marketers expect that by 2020, the average person will spend about 84 minutes every day watching videos online.

 

We’ll be watching those videos on YouTube, of course, but also on Facebook and Twitter, and even LinkedIn. Although relatively few marketers currently place video on the professional networking platform, about 75 percent of those that do said that showing ads to the platform’s business users achieves results. Video is popping up everywhere.

But online video is very different than the kind of ads shown on television.

 

Most of the video marketing seen online is short, cheaper than fully produced television spots, and is developed to resonate specifically on the platform where it’s being placed.

After the Superbowl, viewers might pull up YouTube to re-watch long, funny, big budget commercials. But on social media, they want to watch short, digestible videos, to comment, like or share, and keep scrolling. According to Hubspot, videos that generate the most comments on Instagram average just 26 seconds. Marketers on Twitter can stretch their time to 45 seconds, while Facebook’s users have an attention span that lasts as long as a minute.

 

Viewers also tend to watch their videos with the sound off so that they don’t disturb others during activities like a morning commute—or alert their teachers that they’re not paying attention in class. That means telling a story visually and using prominent subtitles to explain what the viewer is seeing.

 

None of that is simple. It takes more effort and expense to create an effective video ad than it does to make a website banner. But video marketing doesn’t have to involve a lot of effort and expense. Some of the most effective commercial video content consists of live broadcasts in which the owner of a business sits in front of a camera, talks directly to customers, and answers questions about the product. The audience might be small—a live video might reach only a few hundred people during the broadcast itself—but it can be hugely effective at building brand loyalty. And even when you’re making a YouTube video that’s less than a minute long, you should be able to do it without breaking the bank.

 

The world has changed since the days when soap companies sponsored daytime shows. Audiences have split and screens have shrunk, but video marketing remains just as effective. It can now be highly targeted and, at a time when we all have a video camera in our pockets, it’s readily available to every business.

 

Learn how to use compelling video for your small business. Check out these other articles:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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