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Twitter for eCommerce: How To Create Sales and Communication

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Josh Mc

Twitter can be an incredible tool for promoting your eCommerce website. Unlike Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks, Twitter is all about the conversation. Twitter users aren't there to passively check out what is happening in their timeline. They are there to engage, communicate, discuss, and share. You won't have any luck using traditional marketing tactics to sell your product on Twitter. You will need to engage customers and potential customers in a two-way conversation. Below are 6 tips for getting the wheels moving and jumpstarting your Twitter eCommerce success.

1) Use Twitter for Customer Support
Since Twitter is so conversation-oriented, customer service is one of the best roles in which to use Twitter to increase eCommerce sales. Answer questions that your customers have, seek out frustrated customers or confused potential customers, and turn your Twitter feed into a customer service channel.

2) Connect with Bloggers
Twitter is the platform of choice for bloggers in almost every industry. These are the influencers that you need to get the attention of. Create a Twitter list with the top bloggers in your niche and follow them. Whenever you have an opportunity to engage or help a blogger, or even just share their latest post, take it. Build a relationship on the social network, and it will pay dividends in the form of mentions, positive reviews, and links.

3) Build Buzz with Contest and Promotions
Twitter is a great way to get people talking about your product or service. Try running exclusive promotions or contests that are only available on Twitter. If you can incorporate a way to offer an incentive for your followers to share the details of your promotion even better. There are also number of services that can help you streamline contests and promotions on Twitter.

4) Manage Your Reputation
Whether or not you're on Twitter yet, you can be sure that your customers are. Not everything they are tweeting is positive, either. Get involved in the community and closely follow your brand mentions. Pay special attention to those that are dissatisfied. This is your chance to turn their opinion around, and an opportunity to gain positive publicity for offering exceptional customer service above and beyond what might be expected of your company.

5) Learn About Your Customers
Twitter can even be a tool for effective market research. Follow those that have mentioned you or followed you, and try to learn what you can about your customers. Who are they and what are they interested in? You'd be amazed at the valuable information you can glean just from taking a second to listen to your customers.

6) Integrate Twitter with Your eCommerce Site
This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but if you plan on getting involved in the Twitter community, integrate the platform in to your e-commerce shopping experience. Allow customers to share products and images via Twitter right on your website. Show the latest tweets from your Twitter feed. Better yet, offer an incentive for your visitors to head to Twitter and follow you. Offer your customers a social shopping experience and you can position your brand for success on Twitter.

Now it’s your turn, what are some great ways you can build your brand on Twitter? Make sure to leave them in the comments.

Three Useful Ways to Improve a Team's Workflow

Posted on August 16, 2012 by Josh Mc

Leaders, managers and team members have been an integral part of human society as far back as we can see into history, whether they were building ancient societies or fighting the first known wars. Even in these times that may seem distant to our own, there are principles that determine a team's productivity. Shifting focus to these principles is an easy way to identify the weak points of a typical workflow.

Provide the Right Tools for the Job

Imagine ten workers that have been assigned to clean the tile floor of a huge, 10-story building. Two of these workers have brooms, two have mops and six of them have a toothbrush. Anyone with a discerning eye can understand that having 6 toothbrush-wielding workers is a bad idea, and this concept translates directly to teams responsible for different tasks in virtually every field.

Whether it's a toothbrush, software, a comfortable chair, a truck or countless other tools that can improve an worker's output, providing an employee with the tools necessary for the job is instrumental in them being successful. Managing that workflow with tools such as Trello can also help to see where the employees are at and what snags may be holding up their progress. Even if a tool seems expensive, if you consider the amount of hours it saves an employee in the day, that can in turn be attributed to a different task or job, then the price quickly becomes worth it.

Supplement Communication

Communication is almost always a factor in teamwork. Dissonant attitudes between team members often leads to poor communication and is one of the underlying issues that makes personal disputes in a team such a threat to success. Communication should almost be held sacred, like something that is to never be tainted and only appreciated. Improving communication is similar to sharpening a blade, in that it isn't about turning a piece of metal into a samurai's sword in the blink of an eye, but rather, it is about making small, precise changes that shape the team into a fully functional unit. For example, if one teammate does not understand critical news that affects a project, their ability to rapidly adapt is diminished by their lack of understanding. These situations are easily alleviated with proper communication, and there are thousands of books and documentaries on the subject.

Work with Strengths

Humans have a huge propensity to have both strengths and weaknesses. Things like anxiety, insecurity, awkwardness, laziness and countless other issues can all have a huge impact on a seemingly simple project. This is something that has to be expected, but a good manager will see which people will work best on which projects and assign them accordingly, thus allowing each member to use their strength and weaknesses to achieve a common goal.

A great team is made up of complementary strengths that can work together well. If the sum of a team's strength is great enough to accomplish a task, then there should be no debate or worry of the weaknesses of the individuals of the team. If the strengths of a team are properly organized, weaknesses will never be a concern. The weakness of a team can always be assuaged with better tools, training and communication, but the strengths of a team are its foundation for success.

These are just a couple ideas on how to improve a team's workflow. If you have any additional ideas, make sure to leave them in the comments.

How to Become a Great Affiliate Manager

Posted on August 2, 2012 by Josh Mc

The relationship between a business and its affiliates is often one that is not cultivated as much as it could be in order to benefit both the business and the affiliate. There are numerous things that businesses can do to increase the number of sales that their affiliates bring in. There are also several approaches that affiliate managers can take to prevent things like fraud, and to make sure that they are working with only the highest-performing and most reputable affiliates. Here are a few tips on how you can develop yourself as an affiliate manager as well as create a good rapport with your affiliates.

Provide Strong Incentives

Affiliates only promote products if they feel that they are sufficiently rewarded for promoting the product. For this reason, businesses must make sure they provide attractive rewards to their affiliates. Affiliates have many products that they could be promoting and they will only choose those products that are likely to bring them a strong return, so make sure you are offering a good value to the affiliates so that they will want to work with your site.

Provide Clear Terms

It is crucial that affiliate managers provide a thorough and clear Terms page that includes information on what is not allowed to promote a specific program. Most affiliate managers will not want their programs to be promoted through malware or through spamming techniques, which gives the business a bad reputation. Also, many businesses do not allow affiliates to bid on the businesses name in Google Adwords. Knowing and presenting these terms upfront makes it easier for both parties to be on the same page.

Selectively Approve Affiliates

Managers should make sure that they have a functionality that allows them to approve and ban affiliates. This is crucial when dealing with affiliates that engage in malicious marketing practices and is also important for controlling who is able to become an affiliate in the first place. While managers might feel like they will get more sales if they approve as many affiliates as possible, doing so will increase the risk of some affiliates engaging in the use spammy tactics.

Communicate Frequently

Another problem with having too many affiliates is that it will make it harder to manage each individual account. Providing affiliates with careful management and close contact will help the customer find the right product and will help the affiliate by giving them a communication line to the manager, allowing them to create a better affiliate program.

Focus on High Performing Affiliates

Affiliate managers want to pay close attention to high-performing affiliates to make sure that they do not accidentally delete affiliate links or place the links on less popular areas of their websites. Many high-performing affiliates are so busy that they do not realize that they misplaced an affiliate link. Affiliate managers will also want to contact high performing affiliates when they have a new products or sales so that new products can be quickly tested on the market.

Provide Ongoing Training

Another reason to stay in close contact with affiliates is to provide them with ongoing training on your business and products, which in turn can help them generate more sales. One way to improve performance is to provide as much information as possible on the product being sold through the affiliate program so when the customer does land on their site, the purchase decision is easy.

Prevent Fraud

Affiliate managers can prevent fraud by paying attention to the earnings of affiliates to make sure that they are not earning a disproportionate number of sales. If an affiliate is earning a large number of commissions from websites that they do not have listed in their profiles, it is possible that the affiliate is using some type of system to manipulate affiliate links and convert them into a fraudster’s affiliate link, stealing commissions from legitimate affiliates. This will often cause legitimate affiliates to abandon the program, so making sure you are watching for these types of problems is a good way to maintain the strength of your channel.

These are just a few tips on how to become a great affiliate manager. The most important thing to take out of this is to manage your affiliates the way that you would want to be managed. If you assume they need some of the same things that you do, then you can hopefully cultivate a relationship that is beneficial for both partners.

If you have any additional suggestions, make sure to leave them in the comments.

Five Tips for a Successful Press Release

Posted on July 20, 2012 by Josh Mc

A press release can be one of the best ways to distribute information about an event, issue or product; however, it will only be effective if it is interesting, well written and received by the right people. To ensure a press release covers all these requirements, adhere to the following five tips.

1. Use the Correct Format

A press release needs to be easily readable and engaging; format can help with this tremendously. The press release should begin with a short title in bold letters that immediately catches the attention of the reader. This should be followed by contact information including address, phone number, contact name, telephone number and email. Before the main body, the press release needs a headline of around six or seven words to briefly detail the content. The entire press release should span no more than one page.

2. Demonstrate Why the Press Release is Newsworthy

The body of a press release should briefly answer the questions of what happened or will happen, who will be involved or was involved, when and where it took place or will take place, and why this is significant. The introduction should begin with the key information and follow with additional details. Everything should be written in third person, be free from opinion, and should include for a quote from a credible source.

3. Engage the Reader

A press release is useless if it does not grab the reader's attention. This can be achieved by ensuring there is an element of human interest in the press release. An easy to read and clear writing style is essential, and the addition of a photograph of the person quoted is highly desirable.

4. Distribution of the Press Release


If the press release does not reach the right people, the whole purpose is defeated. The press release needs to reach its audience through radio, television, newspapers or Internet. The key is to decide what reporters would be the most likely to use the information and if this would enable the information to be reached by the target audience. It is also useful to know the copy deadlines of the sources and what is there preferred method of delivery i.e. physical mail or email.

5. Timing of the Release

The time of release plays an essential role in the effectiveness of a press release. For this reason, it is important to know when the cutoff period is for the different forms of media. For example, while television cutoff time tends to be two hours prior to newscasts, a weekly newspaper may have a cutoff time two days before printing.

These are just a couple tips for writing a good press release. By far the most important thing is to make it interesting. They say you only have a couple seconds of the persons attention before they move on, so make sure your release its interesting right from the start. If you have any other tips for a good press release, make sure to leave them in the comments.

Preparing for a Holiday as an eCommerce Business

Posted on June 29, 2012 by Josh Mc

When you are running an ecommerce business, you are accustomed to the ups and downs that occur during different times of the year. Sometimes you have a lot of business and sometimes it slows to a trickle. When a holiday rolls around, for most companies, you’ll find that there is always a drop in business. This is something that even big businesses worry about, so what should your eCommerce business do to survive? The truth of the matter is that a holiday lull can be very profitable for you if you know how to work with it.

Be Aware of the Holiday
The last thing that you should be is surprised by a holiday. A month or even two months before the given holiday, start making sure that you can get all of your bills paid. If necessary, have a few sales or push out a new promotion. If you keep a careful eye out, you can see plenty of other businesses doing the same thing. They are trying to shore up their businesses for the lull ahead.

Do a Holiday Special
There are definitely people who are willing to purchase on the holidays if you make it worth their while. One way to drum up interest for your business during the slow holiday times is to do something exciting on the holiday itself. You might choose to offer a sneak peek at a new product that will be rolled out later that year, or you might choose to hold a 24 hour fire sale during the lowest point of the holiday season. This is a great way to clear out old stock, and the holiday gives you an excuse to do so.

Holiday Countdown
Plenty of eCommerce businesses realize that they can keep their customers through the holiday lull if they keep giving them something to come back for. A countdown allows you to do something special every day leading up to the holiday. Every day can be a sale or a discount on a specific item, or you may offer other types of promotions in the week leading up to the big day. Of course save the biggest sale for the day of the holiday itself so that your customers have a reason to come back.

Run a Holiday Contest
Why not give your customers something to do while the holiday is going on? While some are going to be traveling or busy, there will also be plenty who simply don’t know what to do with themselves. Hold a contest on your site or on a social network and make sure that you give out one big prize or at least plenty of small prizes. You can ask them to like a post to be entered into a drawing or you can ask them to draw a picture for a prize or even go on an online scavenger hunt. Whatever your business and imagination can think of will work, it is just all about keeping people engaged during the holiday season.

These are just a couple of the tips you can use to make sure each new holiday does not hit your business hard. While your numbers will still probably take a dip, remember that it is natural and that there are methods that you can use to prevent something disastrous if you only do some planning.

Now it’s your turn, how do you keep customers happy and coming back during the holidays? Let us know in the comments.

How Google Shopping Will Shape Internet Retailer Strategies

Posted on June 21, 2012 by Josh Mc

Recently, search engine giant Google made headlines with their decision to switch their Google product search to an all-inclusive paid service that will be known as Google Shopping. Given how deeply Google impacts every market they touch, this change to a paid service is sure to have a drastic impact on the internet economy as a whole.

The change itself will take what has been a free service for almost a decade and make it into a pay to play product, thus limiting the amount of people that can take part and use the service to only those that can afford it. Google says this change will be rolling out over the next couple of months.

Under the new model, users will be able to submit the traditional feed and pay Google a percentage of the sale that results from the click. Not the same as the pay per click model where you pay regardless of whether you make a sale, but it does cost money from every sale that Google Shopping sends.

The change is poised to make a huge difference as ecommerce companies could have been making 100 to 100,000 dollars a month on this product without paying Google anything. Now they will be paying a percentage on every piece that is sold through the service. The change figures to be good news for the larger companies though, who are often already seeing higher conversions from their Google Product Ads, the service they are combining into Google Shopping, and can easily transfer over the increased budget as they should have less competition.

While in the long term companies will be paying a lot for the service, it does have a potential benefit for small companies in the short term. With all the changes and companies moving in and out of the system there is a chance that the competition will be a lot lower in the onset of this launch, thus allowing your company to have a better chance of converting the customer. Smaller companies that are just starting out and have no organic rankings, can still take advantage of Google shopping to gain exposure by concentrating efforts on the categories in which they feel they are strongest; however, they will no longer be able to get free traffic from Google for this, so they will need to really think about what products they decide to list.

The new format for Google Shopping is designed to provide another way for retailers to strategize and increase sales and internet presence within Google itself. While the pay model appears to benefit only the largest companies at first glance, smaller retailers will still be able to receive ample placement on the site with a little research and planning.  It is easy to see the revenue benefit for Google in this but a lot harder to see how it really benefits the user. This is an important story to follow as Google has always been against this type of paid inclusion that they are now embracing, so it will be really interesting to see what happens as a result of this change.

What are your thoughts on this significant change?

Guide to Pinterest & Pinterest Marketing Strategies

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Josh Mc

Pinterest is an exploding social network whose momentum keeps on building. Millions of people have begun to discover how to use it to develop their distinctive personal brands. This website has attracted attention from the time it was first launched. Today, it may be one of the best ways to build your personal brand as well as your business.

How it Works

Currently in a beta phase, Pinterest is only allowing those who have requested an invitation, or been sent one by their friends, to join. Once your invitation is accepted, you will be offered a virtual pinboard. You will use this to create your own unique collection of images of favorite things on the Internet. It is like bookmarking with a lot more style.

Like Twitter, you will expand your reach into the world of social networking by following others. In turn, people will start following you. This process of following and being followed is initiated through content sharing. In other words, you will be following the pinboards of others and people will also be following your pinboards. In addition, you will be alerted when one of the people you're following pins something to their pinboard, and you will also get a chance to share the same content.

In essence, then, Pinterest is a place to collect and pin images that represent something associated with your unique personal brand. This process will allow you to share who you are in a way that is visually attractive. Avid users of Pinterest claim that it is even more addictive and fun than Facebook.

Essential Features on Pinterest

By looking at some of the features on this website, you will get a better understanding of how everything on it works.

A Pin

A pin is an image that you share with those following you. The image can be a photograph or a video that you created or found online. This pin will have a link which will allow you to tell people about where you collected the image.

A Pinboard

A board or pinboard is a group of pins that share a common theme. For example, it may be all about dog training, house remodels or even about marketing concepts. The whole idea is to pin objects that reflect your values and interests and that adds to your credibility as a dog trainer, remodeler or a marketer.

A Pin It Button

This is a browser button that expedites the whole process of collecting images as you surf the web. With the click of a button, you will be able to pin an image you like onto your browser. You will be invited to install the button into your browser after your invitation has been approved.

A Repin

A repin is much like a retweet on Twitter, it simply means to pin again. A repin then is similar to a Twitter retweet. When you repin, you pin an image on your pinboard that was previously on someone elses pinboard. Moreover, you can share on Facebook and Twitter your own pin or someone elses pin. As a result of all this pinning and repinning, you can attract either clients or employers by sharing your interests. Something unique even has the potentiality of stimulating viral sharing.

Summary

Of course, this is just the beginning of the many things possible on Pinterest, but this guide should get you started on this fabulous website. Check out the below infographic for more information Pinterest Marketing Strategies.


Taken from Social Media Online Classes

Yahoo Axis: A New Way To Search

Posted on May 24, 2012 by Josh Mc

When I got into the office this morning I saw lots of mentions all over the web of this new release from Yahoo called Yahoo Axis. I went and checked it out and it really has a lot of cool new features. What Yahoo Axis is essentially is a search engine that I feel puts the focus on the design aspects of sites around the web. It is in the same vein as the instant previews that Google does, but it bases the search completely on those previews. If you want to use Yahoo Axis on your computer it can be installed as an add on to many of the popular browsers. What is does is essentially live in the bottom of your screen and open whenever you need it. 

A search on Yahoo Axis quickly brings up the sites that would be returned in a normal search, only it loads them as thumbnails and allows you to select simply based on the way that they look. This is a really cool feature that puts a ton of emphasis on the way site design is constructed to bring in visitors. Another interesting thing was that when you are on a result page you can hover over the right or the left of your screen and easily click to the next result (completely different website) without having to reload the search and select again. I thought this was a really cool idea as it will be a time saver when doing research. Yahoo Axis also syncs with your iPhone and iPad for seamless browsing between the devices.

You can check out Yahoo Axis for yourself here. Make sure to let us know in the comments whether you think this is the future of search or just another passing phase.

Understanding the Panda and Penguin Google Algorithm Updates

Posted on May 22, 2012 by Josh Mc

Google recently made two changes to its search algorithm that have forever changed the way search engine optimization works. These two algorithm changes, known as Panda and Penguin, affect every website on the Internet, including eCommerce websites. While I know that search engine optimization can be a scary and confusing thing to look at, I thought it would be best to lay out some understanding on the updates and how they can best be combated in the eCommerce world. I have left resources at the end of each linking to people much smarter then me, if you feel like you have been affected by and of these updates you should check out the resources for more information. For exact dates on specific updates check out this post.

Panda Update

The first of the two updates was the Panda update. This update to Google’s search algorithm placed a greater emphasis on on-page content / SEO and was released last year (but is updated every couple of months which is why it is still relative). Websites now, more than ever, need to offer new, quality content to their visitors in order to combat the attack on low quality pages that the Panda update went after. If you were trying to promote a website with a bunch of advertisements above the fold and generic, duplicate content and other problems, these were the pages that were most affected in this update.

Adding fresh, high quality content to your site, and fixing low quality pages, is a good way to counter this Google update. If Google sees certain on-page metrics such as time on site, page views, and number of unique visitors, then these are all positive signals that the user was able to find what they wanted on your site, so dive into these in your analytics to see where you have pages that may need to be updated.

When dealing with an eCommerce website, you could also consider adding a blog or articles to your website in order to get this fresh content, or you can go through and refresh old product pages that have not gotten the updates they need. Refreshing product pages is a big one as these pages are often exact copies of what is on manufacturer pages and other competitors around the internet. If you only have a small amount of pages it is a great place to start. Always remember to provide value to the user and to focus on some of the above signals to make your site better and hopefully help you stay away from a loss in future Panda updates.

Resources

Penguin Update

The most recent Google update is the Penguin update. This search algorithm update has to do with targeting web spam, specifically targeting spam tactics like keyword stuffing, link schemes, etc. In the old days of SEO, you could simply build a large number of backlinks to your website from any other website on the Internet, and often it did not even matter where the links came from just as long as you had them. Now, this is no longer the case, as Google really only wants to see sites receive backlinks from relevant websites and not places that will sell you 200 links for $9.99. If you run an eCommerce website selling baby items, you will want the majority of your backlinks coming from websites that also discuss topics related to babies, which is a no brainer, but something that many companies lose sight of. This will help Google determine what your website is about and whether or not it should serve up your website in the search results for certain keywords related to the baby item niche.

In addition to obtaining backlinks from relevant websites, the Penguin update made it more important to diversify your anchor text (the text that makes up the link). Previously, the more backlinks you had using a specific keyword as the anchor text, the better the chance your site would be able to rank for that specific keyword. Now, in an effort to fight webspam, Google is often penalizing sites that try to manipulate anchor text. This doesn't mean that no links should have the keyword you are targeting, just that it is now more important to diversify your anchor text when building links, that way the links do not come across as spammy to Google.

The biggest thing Google is looking for in regards to a link building is a natural looking backlink profile. If all of your links are from one type of website using the exact same anchor text, this will not look very natural in the eyes of Google. Cleaning up old spammy links and making an effort to obtain links from a variety of websites related to your industry, that use simply anchor text like your company name, is becoming one of the best ways to work on improving your search engine rankings after the latest Penguin update.

Resources

All that to say, creating good content and bringing in good links is more important than ever to the prolonged success of your site in organic results. While Google recently made changes to their search engine algorithm, it is possible to still improve your site’s rankings through improving the quality of your site’s content. Adding fresh content to your site, obtaining links from relevant websites, diversifying the anchor text you use when building your links and cleaning up old spammy links are all great ways to do this. Obviously these are not guaranteed to help you recover from a penalty or shift but they are a great place to start. If you were affected by either of these updates I recommend the resources above as a good place to start. Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Which Shopping Engine is Best? This Study Compares Them

Posted on May 3, 2012 by Josh Mc

CPCStrategy put together an interesting article comparing many of the top shopping engines to see which ones preformed best for things like traffic, revenue and conversion rate. It is a great study for those that are involved with shopping engines and I recommend you check it out.

Here's a quick breakdown of some of the results:

  • The study analyzed 4,274,820 clicks
  • 82,845 orders
  • $1,158,604.41 in spend
  • $7,867,575.91 in revenue

Best Comparison Shopping Engines (overall):

  1. Google Product Search
  2. Nextag
  3. Pricegrabber

Best Paid Comparison Shopping Engine (overall):

  1. Nextag
  2. Pricegrabber
  3. Shopping.com

Best Converting CSEs:

  1. Google Product Search
  2. Nextag
  3. Pronto

Best Paid COS (spend / revenue) CSEs:

  1. Pricegrabber
  2. Nextag
  3. Shopping.com

Biggest Traffic Driving CSEs:

  1. Amazon Product Ads
  2. Google Product Search
  3. Shopping.com

You can check out the full article on comparison shopping engines to see all of the other data they put together. Make sure to leave us a comment to let us know what you think of this study.