Friday, February 6, 2009

Self Promotion: How To Get Noticed For Less

Self Promotion: How To Get Noticed For Less

Unless you are financially well off and can afford to hire an advertising agency to market your ecommerce site for you, you will have to tackle this important aspect of online sales yourself. It can be a bit overwhelming, but with a little planning, some prioritizing and scheduling, it can be done with minimal frustration and hair pulling.

There are several things you can do as a small eCommerce entrepreneur, to promote your web site and products, and that is the purpose of this article. I’ve tried to break it down into easy to read sections, so you can absorb each aspect of self promotion (at least as far as this limited article goes), and implement them as best suits you.


Branding

How many of you know who Vickie Hogan, John Carter, Jenny Anastassakis or Thomas Mapother are? Probably not too many of you. That’s because these are the real names of some very famous celebrities who used “stage” names to build their stage or film identities. In other words, they branded themselves. They created an identity that their fans would be able to easily recognize. That’s what branding is all about. Creating a unique identity that your fans – your customers – will be able to recognize. By the way, these “stage” names are the real names of Anna Nicole Smith, Charlton Heston, Jennifer Aniston, and Tom Cruise.


An important aspect of your brand is your avatar. It could be as simple as a photo of yourself. Or, you could find or design one that best fits your personality, either online, off, or both. And add a little personality to your screen identity and avatar / logo. Not something that is completely foreign to your own personality, but something that complements it or enhances it.


When I started in online sales, I chose the name Whiskey Jack, because I was finding things to sell all over the place. Yard sale, thrift stores, auctions, everywhere. I would gather these treasures up, take them home, and put them up online for sale. The reason I chose the name Whiskey Jack was that it is the name of a bird that does essentially the same thing. This bird is also known as a Camp Robber, or Gray Jay. Initially I used a photo of a Whiskey Jack as my avatar, but after I found one that actually looked like a caricature of myself, I decided to use it. I’ve been using it, and the name, ever since. It is my online avatar, my business logo, and my business name. Everything I do that is related to my online business, it tied in to the name and logo of Whiskey Jack. All three of my eCommerce sites use both the name and logo, every invoice I send out, my business cards, my email address, even this blog, are distinctively Whiskey Jack. There’s no mistaking it.


The reason for this is simple. I want people to know who I am, and to recognize the name and logo, and identify them as being synonymous with honesty, trust, and respect. I go the extra mile in every customer service situation. In my book the customer is the most important things in my business that there is. It should be in your book as well. So put some thought into your online identity and avatar/logo. Make sure you’re comfortable with it, and when you get it figured out, stick with it. It’s how folks will find you and recognize you.


Blogging

Although blogging isn’t for everyone, if you are comfortable with it, then do it. But be careful with it. You don’t want your blog to be nothing more than an online infomercial for your eCommerce site or your products. Plan to write blogs that are informative and enjoyable. The goal here is not to simply promote your business, but to provide a service to your readers that will draw them in and keep them coming back. You want to develop a following with your blog. Your eCommerce business should be a side light to your blog. You can add widgets to your blog side bar that highlight your web site and/or products. Widget Box is an excellent source for creating great widgets. Of course I’m a little biased because that’s where my Bonanzle widgets came from. The ones on the right hand side bar of this blog. But what really convinced me to use widget box is not only the great looking widgets you can create there, but how easy they are to create and the very important fact that signing up for and using widget box is free!


Not only should you keep you blog entries informative, enjoyable and relevant, but you should do the same when leaving comments on other blogs. Try to make it a point to visit other blogs that are relevant to your eCommerce business and leave a comment or two that is intelligent, respectful, and relevant to the blog you are commenting on. At the end of your comment, you can then put in very brief plug for your own web site or online selling platform. Something along the lines of “…. Your comments …. Thanks, (Your screen identity name), try something new at www. your eCommerce site . com! Well, you get the idea.


Merchant Directories

Merchant directories are also a great place for some free promotion and exposure. Two of the best that I have found are Every Place I Sell, and Explorz. Both of these sites are free to use, and I highly recommend them both. Listing your eCommerce venues with online merchant directories is sort of like advertising your store in the yellow pages. Consumers go to these sites to use the sites search engines and shopping / online store categories to do more specialized online shopping. People get a little tired of just going to Yahoo or other internet search engines and typing in what they are looking for, and then being served up a couple hundred thousand web sites that may or may not have what they are looking for. Online merchant directories make it much easier for people to shop online. If at all possible, get listed with some. Of course, there are many such merchant directory sites. Click here to see a list of some great self promotion sites, including some great merchant directory sites.


Search Engines

Although I just said that people really don’t like to utilize internet search engines to do their online shopping, especially due to the overwhelming number of web sites those search engines will present them with. That being said, however, there are still a lot of people who will always use internet search engines, and you want to be there at the top of the results page when they use them. Probably one of the best ways you can utilize internet search engines to get your eCommerce site noticed is to make your website search engine friendly. You want these search engines to find you, not someone else. There are several web sites that are dedicated to helping you do this. For a fee, that is. But since I’m all about free and low cost, that is what I will talk about here. There are at least two options that fall into this category. The first is Google Base, and the second is Self Promotion.com.


Google Base is set up so that those who are signed up to use it (and its very easy, all you need is a gmail address and a little time). Once you’re signed up and signed in, simply follow the online instructions, and before you know it, Google will have your products in their search queue, and when someone goes searching for a product you have, you could very easily end up at the top of the heap. Of course this isn’t guaranteed, and I don’t want to build up false hopes in anyone. However, I can say that after I signed up with Google Base and after I had the data feeds for my Bonanzle booths set up with Google Base, most of my products did show up at the top of a Google search page, in the “shopping” results section.


The other site I mentioned, Self Promotion.com, provides a service wherein they will submit your site to several of the many search engines, and they will do it for you. Best of all they do it for free. Mostly anyway. They do ask for a donation if you are satisfied with their work. They suggest a donation of $10.00. Personally, I think this is remarkable for all that they do for those who register with them. And they don’t force you to donate. All in all, I think that a $10 donation is money well spent, and you should really consider donating more, if possible, simply because they will do so much for you. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is no. I have no affiliation with Self Promotion.com. In fact, I’m not even registered with them. I’m basing my opinion of them on the word of others that have used their service. Although, there may come a time when I do sign up with them. When I think I can donate a fair amount to them. Just my personal convictions, that’s all. But give their site a look and judge for yourself.


Forums

Engage with a community to tell others about your online store or booth. Sites such as Bonanzle, and eBay, have forum boards where members can leave their comments and comment on entries made by other members. The Selling Lounge is an online web site that provides a forum for those who sell online, and is an excellent place to learn about other online selling venues, and also to do a little self promotion of your own. As I mentioned above, however, when posting to these forums or leaving comments for the postings of others, remember to be respectful, and leave intelligent and relevant comments. Don’t just jump out there and use the comments to promote your booth. That will just turn people off. Leave your comment and add a very brief note at the end of the comment and after your name, to point people to you online store or booth.


Business Cards & Flyers

Next to your eCommerce identity (your brand – logo, avatar, etc), business cards and flyers are going to be your main source of self promotion. Every customer and potential customer should receive one or both. Make sure that you include not only your store or booth name and URL (web address), but also your avatar/logo and a tag line or motto if you have one. Also contact information such as your business or contact email address.


These can either be designed and printed up by you on your home computer (sheets of business cards can be printed up on card stock and then cut into individual cards), or there are several web sites that offer free or low cost business cards and flyers (as well as shipping labels, return labels, calendars, refrigerator magnets, and more – all great for self promotion). Four of these sites are Vista Print , Free Printable Business Cards, Prints Made Easy and Giggle Print. Each of these sites offer a limited number of free business cards (although they may ask you to pay shipping and handling charges), and can be good source for the small eCommerce business owner.


Well, I think that’s enough to chew on for awhile. There are other aspects of self promotion that I haven’t gone into, such as Email marketing and internet coupons, but I think I’ll save those for another time. This article is long enough already! I apologize for being so long winded, but there is just so much information that I’d like to put for my readers this could easily become a “blog book”! So I reckon I’ll say goodnight for now, and I hope to see y’all again here at Whiskey Jack’s blog. If you found this article informative and (hopefully) enjoyable, please feel free to leave a comment or any suggestions. They’re always welcome. If you haven’t subscribed to signed on as a follower to this blog, why not do so now? We’d love to have ya! Until next time, take care.

Adios,

Whiskey Jack


Today’s Word of Wisdom: “Reciting poetry is like a haircut. If it's good, ya feel like a million bucks. If it's bad, ya hide yer head under yer hat.”

4 comments:

EvesBooth said...

Very nice write-up and great info. I vouch for all and sport my "hat" and name without changing, unless I'm in my "ScentsYouAreHere" skin. And everyone knows its me coming :)

jammatun said...

Whiskey Jack! What a wonderful and very helpful blog. This Bonanzle newbie is going to take some of your suggestions and run with them! Am following your blog now.

Sincerely,
Jeri
http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/jammatun

Brightest Blessings said...

Lots of great information here. I love widgetbox.com. Will check out self promotion.com next week.

IT'S COMIN' said...

Hey Whiskey Jack, Thanks to you new inspiring writers who find your blog will be more than happy to follow the guide line you express here. This information you present is very informative to those seeking to find their way in the world of writing and promoting. I don't know if you know yet, but, to thoses of us who don't know, but want to know, "You are a Blessing in disguise.