When starting an e-commerce business, you typically don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around. Budgets are tight, and tensions are high. Often, companies are so worried about unnecessary spending that they end up making
less-than-smart business decisions
. But to have a successful company, your product needs to sell. In order for your product to sell, there needs to be a demand for it. And what creates demand?
However, when your company is strapped for capital, how do you allocate funds so that your marketing efforts are still effective?
The Hierarchy Of E-Commerce
Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our COO created a set of needs that must be fulfilled in a very specific order for a business to realize its full potential. Needs that are lower in the hierarchy must be addressed before needs that are higher up. If not, disruptions in your business’s growth will occur.
At the base of your e-commerce pyramid is going to be your website, brand and product. Then comes mousetraps and life cycle marketing tactics like email marketing, conversational marketing and retargeting through paid media channels. Next is traffic acquisition, which includes things like earned media, paid social and paid search. Last is social proof.
While this framework doesn’t apply universally to every single online business, it’s a great frame of reference. Every business has different objectives, needs and resources. But generally speaking, if you don’t pay respect to the order of these needs, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the long run.
No matter your budget constraints, it’s important you have at least some kind of marketing activity happening. This ensures that each of your business needs is met in proper order.
How And Where To Allocate
You’re in agreement that you need marketing. But that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have a lot of money to spend. So how and where do you allocate your funds?
1. Choose your path.
First, you’ll need to decide whether your marketing will be done in-house or whether it will be outsourced. If you decide to keep your marketing in-house, make sure you focus on your strengths within the e-commerce hierarchy and allocate your time appropriately. It makes the most sense for an in-house marketer to focus their efforts and energy on the things at which they are best. It’s not the best use of time or resources for someone to be strapped and stretched thin across each part of the hierarchy. Better to do one thing really well and then move up the pyramid that way, than to do a satisfactory (or bad) job across the board.
In my opinion, especially if you don’t already have an in-house marketing team, outsourcing is going to be your easiest option when it comes to marketing on a budget. Specifically, look for an agency that offers its services on an a la carte basis and that doesn’t force you into a long-term contract. That way, you have the ability to adjust and expand or cut back on services as time progresses.
2. Identify your needs.
When you’re tight on capital, refer back to the e-commerce hierarchy of needs and identify where you need marketing help the most. Then focus your time, budget and attention on those needs. The first step here is defining your key performance metrics (KPMs) at each stage of the funnel and strategically deploying resources to address your biggest needs.
For example, let’s say you are converting really well with lower-funnel activities like email and have a high-performing website. It would then be most useful to focus your marketing on acquiring new users and using paid and earned media to drive awareness to your brand.
Also, don’t forget to diversify your marketing mix. An omnichannel marketing strategy creates a cohesive brand experience for your audience. It creates continuous interaction over the course of the customer’s journey with your brand. These days, omnichannel marketing is a must and enables brands to stay top of mind.
3. Grab the low-hanging fruit.
It’s always going to be easiest to start with low-cost initiatives and take advantage of any low-hanging fruit. For example, building a content or editorial calendar is something you can easily do on your own for free or find a freelancer to do for you at a reasonable rate.
On your own, you can create articles and blog posts that focus specifically on your consumers’ pain points. This helps drive awareness to your brand by addressing consumer needs and smoothing the purchasing journey of any hiccups. The great thing about content is that whether it’s written, visual or otherwise, it can always be republished and repurposed. It can also be amplified and syndicated later on.
Figure out what simple but useful things you can do right now to better your brand and bolster your marketing efforts. Conduct an audit of your brand, and see what you can easily harvest.
Lean And Mean
Most startup or growth-stage companies need to be strict with their budget. They don’t have the extra resources to waste on unnecessary initiatives. However, marketing is neither of those things. And done correctly, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
Once you’ve set a plan to meet your goals, it’s all about addressing your immediate needs and directing what budget you have toward those specific areas.