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Successful Online Gift Shop Marketing

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With all the great wholesale companies available, virtually anyone can throw up a WWW shingle and start a gift shop. Additionally, there are thousands of wonderful gift shops online specializing in everything from apple art to zebra prints. How do you compete with your online gift shop?

Success Promotions has spent five years building successful internet businesses and we’d like to share some valuable information with you. Not every online business can afford a full time internet marketing employee or an outsourced internet marketing service.

If you go to any search engine and search for gifts you will get thousands and thousands of returns. For example, a search run on AltaVista.com today for the search string “gifts” returned 12,332,556 results. After narrowing the search by adding “women’s” to the search string AltaVista returned 12,499,266 results. Incidentally, this search returned so many jewelry sites in the first results that if you sell women’s gifts and they aren’t jewelry you need to choose your keywords very carefully. Needless to say, the sites not in the first 20 to 30 results aren’t getting a tremendous amount of traffic from AltaVista.com.

Here are some tips for internet marketers and gift sellers alike to help build a more successful online business.

1. Specialize and Categorize

If you are selling two gifts or 3000 gifts you need to manage them in categories. Think about it. Would you be able to find anything at Walmart if they mixed the shoes with the electronics with the crafts with the hardware? You’d walk around aimlessly for hours searching for a pair of size six sandals with salmon colored strings. Don’t make your site visitors and potential customers search aimlessly around your site.

It helps to have a search option, but for this to work you must keyword each product under every imaginable search word. Shoes alone wouldn’t work for sandals. You’d need to also have it pop up under footwear, summer wear, women’s attire, etc.

Furthermore, once you begin to break your gift site down into smaller, more manageable categories, you can market EACH page to the search engines under different keywords. Its great if every single item you sell can be managed under a keyword or category from your main doorway page. But why not create a sub-category doorway page for each product category and each product line? Then you can submit all doorway/front pages to the search engines and instead of appearing as search return #1,456,825 you can be in the top ten for shoes, and footwear, and socks, and sandals, and gifts, etc.

Lynn Korff, of Korff’s Ceramic Originals, http://www.korfforiginals.com knows this works. Her products vary from ceramic piggy banks to dinner ware to candle holders. She breaks them down not only by product but also by glaze patterns. Shoppers can readily find anything and then find matching products making her site more shopper friendly and more marketable. If you don’t believe me, go to any search engine and search for “ceramic piggy banks”. Lynn is always right up there at the top.

Additionally, besides being more search engine friendly and successful, your site can also be more shopper friendly. How many times have you followed links for search engine returns that required you to go through far too many multiple pages to find the search engine return you were actually looking for? How many times did you stop searching the particular site before you got to the object of your search?

Don’t fret if this sounds like a major site re-design. The improvement in marketability and shopability is worth every second of work.

There is no limit to the amount of products you can sell. But make them easy to find and you will sell a lot more of each one.

2. Advertise

No surprise to find this one, huh? If you don’t advertise, you don’t sell anything. People don’t knock on your front door to see if you might possibly have free puppies unless there is a sign. Don’t expect web site visitors to knock on your front URL to see if you maybe have the exact gift item they are looking for just because you sell gifts.

You can advertise on other gift sites that market to similar niches without selling the same products. You can advertise in online and offline publications. You can advertise on any imaginable site that caters to the same people you are catering to. Going back to the free puppies analogy, suppose that you sell embroidered puppy collars. Wouldn’t a site run by the Humane Society also cater to people with puppies? Wouldn’t they be happy to swap links if you could help drive a few puppy shopping families to their web site?

Where all you could advertise depends entirely on what you sell and who you are attempting to sell it to. But be creative. Go to any search engine and do a search on some of your own keywords. See if there are special interest groups, clubs, or other organizations who comprise of members who are your potential customers. If you sell sportswear, start hitting little leaguers, co-ed leaguers, etc. As fast as the internet is growing, and as many new users as appear online every day, you should never, ever stop looking for new places to reach potential customers. While you are advertising, remember to keep your message simple and specialized. Don’t just create a big banner that says “gifts” in eight flashing colors. Tell potential visitors what type of gifts you offer. We all have to have traffic to sell, but the wrong traffic doesn’t create sales.

Rose Clark of the Cabot Mall, http://www.cabotmall.com, helps all her mall merchants do this. She offers free ezine advertising to each of her merchants, generating more traffic and brand name awareness for each of them. Additionally, Rose’s mall does a superb job of categorizing.

3. Market to your visitors

Think of all your advertising and marketing efforts on a Return On Investment basis. It costs far more to get a customer than it does to keep one.

You should be obtaining contact information from every one who visits your web site. Email addresses. Phone numbers. Snail mail addresses. Keep marketing to these people. Tell them about new products, sales, specials, etc. Remind them why they surfed into your site in the first place and invite them back. Contests are great ways to do this. If you can give away one $5.00 widget a month and obtain 500 new contacts for every widget given away, that is a high return on investment. Some of the people who register to win your widget will buy one if they don’t win. And they will come back monthly to re-register. Especially if you send a reminder to them to do so.

Cyndi Steinmetz of CDK Enterprises is very efficient in this department. When you shop at her site, register for her contest, or simply visit and supply your email address you enter her mailing list for life. Monthly reminders from CDK tell me about new children’s gifts. And with four children in my home, scarecely a month goes by that I’m not looking for something for them! Cyndi is always on my mind because she reminds me to think about her regularly by sending me emails. Her reminders of products keep me thinking of new ways to shop with her all the time.

This is especially useful if you sell collectibles that are released and retired on a regular basis. If you collect Beanie Babies, you want to know when each one is retiring and make sure that you have it. If you collect Longaberger Baskets, you want to be reminded when the Mother’s Day Basket is sold each year to be sure that you add it to your collection.

4. Mail, mail, and mail some more

Email specifically. Email is the cheapest form of advertising known to mankind – except for word of mouth. If you aren’t sending emails to customers, leads, contacts, etc., on a regular basis you are missing out on a very powerful form of advertising. Its fast. Its easy. And its free. Case in point. When Success Promotions has a small lull and is in search of customers, I can obtain far more with far less effort by contact past customers. They know what I do. They know it works. And they may have been planning to start marketing with me again, but just haven’t gotten around to ordering. Susie Glennan, of The Busy Woman’s Daily Planner, http:/www.thebusywoman.com, knows this works. She monthly sends reminders to people who haven’t ordered in the past 12 months. Her products are consumed, if you will, on an annual basis. She generates more sales by reminding customers to come back and re-order.

Think about the life cycle of your products and do the same. Perhaps you have a birthday product. You know one year later, the gift giver will be shopping again. Send them an email inviting them to come back and shop with you.

5. Plan ahead for seasonal sales

Of course Christmas applies here. But what about Valentines Day, Easter, Chanukah, Flag Day, Voting Day, and hundreds of others? If you have gifts that apply to all occaisions generically or to specific holidays you have to plan in advance to get your marketing message in front of consumers at the appropriate time.

It might be hard to think about Santa Claus, cold weather, reindeer, and jingle bells in July; but that is when you need to start planning. Especially if you will be running special discount campaigns. Don’t wait til the last minute this year. Right now, get out your calendar and make note of every holiday that will effect your business. Back track anywhere from two weeks to six months in your calendar and make a notation to begin planning and implementing campaigns for these holidays.

6. Campaign

Politics or not, we all must group and categorize our advertising in some manner. If you develop entire campaigns for products and occasions, then you are ready to roll each time with ad copy, brochures, sales messages, etc. Don’t short change yourself here. This is where it is at for every business. And gift shops aren’t any different. If you plan to roll out six new necklaces this year, one every two months, then you really should find some sort of campaign method to link and organize yourself. Market them in a uniform and pre-planned manner. And by all means, have a campaign for every new product. Don’t just clandestinely add it to your site and hope that someone notices. Add it with a bang, and a campaign.

7. Organize

To a great extent, we’ve been covering this all along. But it can’t be emphasized enough. Don’t make me, the shopper, search high and low on your site for a statue that perfectly matches my wizard logo. Combine the wizard, sorcery, magical, knights of the roundtable products together. Think of every way that someone like me – or any other shopper – might go looking for them. And make them easy to find by organizing.

8. Monopolize

Many merchants worry that this is a taboo form of marketing. Not at all.

Would it have been taboo to sell flags on 9/11/01? Perhaps. But every day since then they have been selling like hotcakes. And if you offer American patriotism in the form of products on your gift site, then you need to monopolize on the new American patriotism. For years merchants have monopolized on Christmas, Mother’s Day, and every other gift giving occasion. Let’s face it, Hallmark and American Greetings would go belly up if this year we all decided to boycot our moms on Mother’s Day.

So how do you do this? Jog your memory by looking at everything we’ve covered. Specialization and categorization. Organization. Preplanning. They all come into play.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what trends are coming along in consumerism. And if you see them, you need to monopolize on them if you want to run a successful gift sales business.

Look at what eToys.com, Walmart.com, BlueLight.com, etc. did this year. A rather unstable economy kept people from spending quite as freely as they have in years past. Rather than give up all together, merchants increased their specials and discounts. And didn’t we all buy at least one thing this past holiday season not because we or our gift recipient needed it, but rather because it was too inexpensive not to buy?

9. Design Your Site Carefully

This could be an entire article on its own. But let’s look at the general mechanics of a site that would rank high in the search engines.

Quality and quantity keywords and meta tags are imperative if you want the right kind of traffic. Speed of loading and ease of navigation are required to get visitors where you want them to end up – the order page. Aesthetically pleasing visuals make shoppers happy and turn them into buyers. And finally, the more payment methods you are able to accept, the more buyers you will receive.

Invite a friend, preferably an internet newbie, to shop from your site. Perhaps even offer a free gift as the incentive. See how long it takes them to find what they are looking for and order it. Do they get frustrated? Do they smile or frown? Re-think your gift site design accordingly.

10. Market Every Day

What no holidays or Sundays off? That’s right. You should always be prepared to hand out a business card or zap off an email when you see a marketing opportunity. And you can be marketing even when you aren’t marketing. Your signature text in your emails should ALWAYS contain a link to your business site. Every thing you ship should have your URL printed everywhere. When you leave a pen at the bank, it should have your business contact printed on it. If you stop at a yard sale and see that someone obviously likes Teddy Bears, you should tell them how to get to your Teddy Bear Site.

What about getting other people to market for you?

Groups like http:/www.mompack.com are all about having other people help promote your business for free. When you ship a product, always include at least THREE of your business cards, one for the recipient to keep and two to give away. Affiliate programs are a great way to get people to sell for you. Don’t overlook any option.

And when you are running a special, don’t forget to advertise on sites that compile savings information. My favorite is http://www.clearancecrazy.com. But there are tons of them.

11. Utilize Every Contact as a Potential Marketing Contact

One category of products that I sell is gourmet coffee, tea, and snacks. It has absolutely nothing to do with my primary business, http://www.SuccessPromotions.com. However, it is very successful in its own right. http://www.coffeeteaetc.com gets more hits regularly than Success Promotions. Why? Because I tell everyone about it. For example, every time I get a free cup of coffee somewhere, I leave a couple business cards and web cards. (See http://www.mothersdayout.com/ for web cards.) I participate in marketing material exchanges through the Mom Pack mentioned earlier. When I meet someone who sells any type of home party product whether it be food/kitchen oriented like TupperWare or completely different like PartyLite Candles or House of Lloyd, I tell them about my business. It is easy to recruit for and easy to promote. Almost everyone I know drinks coffee or tea. I give away samples. I invite neighbors over for gourmet coffee. Everyone I talk to is a suspected buyer or reseller until they prove themselves otherwise.

You should assume the same.

Wear the clothes that you sell or the jewelry. Drive the car that you sell. Drink the coffee that you sell. And be prepared to share them with anyone who even casually asks.

Along the same lines, encourage your own customers to do the same. I have purchased many shirts from Sirr Max, http://www.sirrmax.com. Their positive logoed apparel fits my personality and I enjoy sharing their messages of hope with anyone who takes the time to read my clothing. At least twice a day, when wearing Sirr Max apparel, someone will comment on how much they like my shirt or admire the message on my tote bag. I’m always prepared to give a business card to them. Ordering from this online giftwear site is easy. But potential customers have to get to the site to order. So I help Pamela Jordan of Sirr Max by advertising for her every time I wear her clothing.

If you sell anything besides underwear, then your customers’ friends are going to eventually see it. Make sure they are prepared to tell their friends how they can get some too.

12. Network

The dreaded “N” word. This has nothing to do with multi level marketing. It is all about who you know and what you know.

When you network, you invariably make potential business/client contacts. So do it wholeheartedly. Don’t just join a group like Digital Women http://www.digital-women.com or The Network for Women http://www.thenetworkforwomen.com, but participate in them. Join the email lists. Advertise. Donate time, products, services, etc. Make yourself visible enough within the group that your networking is accomplishing something. The contacts will be invaluable. And you neve know who you will meet who either is just now looking for gifts like you sell or knows someone who is.

It’s a new year and all of us are ready for a fresh, new start. Make an effort to utilize these suggestions in the way most appropriate for your business. Sell more gifts by working to sell more gifts.

And remember, Success Promotions, http://www.successpromotions.com is always just a quick browser surf away with tons more tips, tools, and tricks.

Shannan Hearne is the owner of SuccessPromotions.com and the co-founder of ShoppingInTheSouth.com

shannan@successpromotions.com

Successful Online Gift Shop Marketing
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