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25 Things to try for your Holiday eCommerce Business

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Jessica

'Tis the season for shoppers to be hitting the internet hard and fast in their quest to find the must-have products at the must-have prices. And if you're a savvy business, you'll have spent months preparing for the best time of year for any merchant: Black Friday and beyond, when most businesses are able to make sure they end the year in the black by offering killer deals that just can't be passed up. With online sales on Black Friday now surpassing 1 billion dollars, and holiday shopping during the months of November and December resulting in significant profits for businesses, you want to make sure that your website, as well as your sales and marketing staff, are ready for festive business. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and make the most of the holiday shopping season:

Plan ahead. Always plan ahead by getting as early of a start as possible on your ecommerce plans for the holiday shopping season. Begin making tentative plans and product and sale listing schedules as early as June and July.

Don't panic. Even if you didn't optimally plan for the holiday shopping season, you can still make the most of things. Jump in with some festive decor for your website, renewed interest in corresponding with customers on Facebook, and the offerings of holiday sales and promotions.

Give your site a festive makeover. With as much as 41 percent of holiday spending being done during the Black Friday weekend, make sure your site is ready to go with its holiday look no later than the week of Thanksgiving. Simple touches like adding a bundle of ornaments to your logo, setting a jaunty Santa Claus hat onto the corner of the first letter in your business name, or changing link colors from blue to red or green can go a long way in showing your holiday spirit. And on the SEO end of things, you'll definitely want to incorporate such search-engine-grabbing keywords like "Black Friday Sale" and "Cyber Monday Sale". Use these in headings, links, site content, and even as the ALT descriptions for relevant images.

Set up PPC campaigns. The opportunity to earn traffic, visitors and ultimately sales from PPC campaigns is at its best during the holiday shopping season. Utilize Black Friday and Cyber Monday keywords and banners to get the most clicks.

Add a holiday countdown ticker. Create a fun yet slightly panicky sense of urgency on your site by showcasing a holiday countdown ticker. Set the ticker to show how many days there are until Christmas. Additionally, consider placing brief information about your shipping info nearby - for example, underneath a holiday ticker you could have wordage such as, "Order by 12/20 and select 2-3 day shipping to get your package by December 24th!"

Promote gift cards. There isn't a better time than the holiday season to promote your gift cards. Gift cards are a so-so buy during most of the year, but at Christmastime, when there are plenty of parents, adult siblings, and co-workers who have no idea what to get one another, gift cards are sure to be a big hit. Offer expedited shipping on gift cards or even e-mail delivery to further entice buyers.

Show off the clearance merchandise. You may be able to finally move clearance merchandise off the shelves by showcasing some of the good, gift-worthy stuff to your holiday shoppers. Dedicate a spot on your page or within a product listing grid for your clearance items. Be sure to highlight the ultra-low prices on these items, which will attract frugal shoppers.

Offer gift wrapping and Secret Santa shipping. Many holiday shoppers don't have the time or desire to wrap gifts, especially if they have to then pay to ship those wrapped gifts to their final destination. Throw in free gift wrapping on orders of a minimum price, and be sure to include Secret Santa shipping - with this option, the recipient receives a receipt with the item, but no prices are listed.

Highlight holiday shipping deadlines. The biggest question holiday shoppers have in regards to purchasing online merchandise is, "Will I get it in time for Christmas?" Put together a simple table that lists product ship dates on the left, and product delivery dates on the right. Encourage shoppers to choose shorter shipping options (though these are usually a bit costlier) or do their shopping sooner in order to avoid stalking the postal service mercilessly in the days leading up to Christmas.

Clearly state payment and shipping info. Going hand in hand with what has already been mentioned - always be clear with stating costs and times associated with preparing orders for shipment and the actual shipment of those products. If there are daytime deadlines for placing orders that will ship on that same day, make sure you are clear with this, too. And if you offer free shipping or a free product on orders that meet a certain threshold, make sure this is clearly explained, so that you don't have disappointed customers walking away from their shopping cards.

Offer free shipping. Eat some of the shipping costs your customers will have to deal with by offering to cover it yourself. Reasonable exclusions make sense, but you should be willing to offer free shipping on smaller purchases, like jewelry, makeup, clothing, and toys.

Promote your festivity on your blog and social media profiles. The Christmas season is everywhere, so even if you're less of a Santa Claus type and more of a Scrooge, it's important that you paste a smile on your face, plop a Santa hat on your head, and take to your blog and Facebook status and Twitter update with proclamations of how exciting this time of year is. Or, at the very least, showcase and highlight some of the more festive, holiday-oriented sections of your website.

Offer themed gift shopping pages. Just as many holiday shoppers will traipse up and down the aisles at department stores, trying to find that special someone just the right gift, plenty of shoppers will be aimlessly browsing your website, hoping to click upon the perfect item. By taking the time to put together gift guides for different recipients (co-workers, children, teenagers, men, women, etc.), you'll make it easier for your shoppers to find a gift, and then purchase that gift.

Show your holiday spirit by giving back. Many businesses are giving back to communities by donating proceeds of certain purchases to charity, or even by directly donating shipments of clothing, toys, or food to neighborhood programs. You too can get on board with this, and you'll definitely want to toot your own horn by mentioning your decision to give back on social media. You can promote your decision to give to those in need on your website by offering customers the chance to give to. Offer to add on $1 donations to their purchases, or let them select a charity to send an item to if they make a qualifying purchase. Holiday shoppers are quick to notice and talk about businesses who aren't just thinking about their profits during the holiday season - this is a group of businesses you definitely want to be among.

Be mobile ready. If you're not yet mobile ready, now's the time to make the necessary changes to your website so that your visitors can easily access and navigate your website, whether they're on a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. 30 percent of shoppers plan on shopping online, and more than half of the purchases they make are done on a mobile device. Don't lose out on sales because your website isn't designed to be responsive and adaptable to all mobile platforms.

Update your site regularly. Do daily check-ins to look for mis-priced merchandise, incorrect inventory, and even simple things like types or mis-aligned images that need tending to.

Check in on social media. Cross promote your site and its selection of holiday-perfect items on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and even Instagram. Use your company's name as a hashtag to make it easier for others to find and chime in on your conversations.

Hit the email marketing hard. Now's a good time to put together daily email newsletters. Each newsletter can have the latest and greatest must-have products listed, maybe a few DIY gift and baking ideas, and a handy countdown to Christmas ticker to motivate customers to click and buy.

Collect emails. While you're working on building traffic and sales, throw up a pop-up that offers new customers the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter with just one click. Many consumers will do so, even if for no other reason than to hope for coupons and exclusive discounts.

Utilize coupons. Coupon codes can be a saving grace during the holiday season, when tight budgets are stretched even tighter. Offer a simple 10 or even 15 percent coupon that has no conditions to be met, and watch how your customers will suddenly swarm your site to make purchases.

Hold a giveaway. Consider holding a giveaway for a high value item, or even a $50 or $100 gift certificate to your store. Set up the giveaway somewhere on your site or blog to draw traffic to your site, and encourage entrants to browse your site, follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, etc., to build your social media following.

Be there and be ready to chat. Set up a live chat service, and make sure that it's actually staffed by a person who can jump in to answer a customer's questions.

Prep staff. Prepare your staff for what they can expect during the holiday shopping season, and consider adding one or two more people, especially if you offer live chat and phone support.

Staff your site's back-end. Last but certainly not least, make sure that your website's server is equipped to handle the increased load from traffic and website purchases. Considering upgrading resources such as bandwidth, and even CPU and RAM, to make sure that your site will stay up and running at all times.

Are you in the eCommerce business?  What tips would you recommend following next year? 

5 Easy Ways to Increase Social Media Presence

Posted on December 19, 2013 by Jessica

During the holidays,  a variety of industries are competing for your customer's dollar. The average Internet user is bombarded with advertisements, from banner ads to YouTube commercials and Facebook ads. Creating content that will help your business stand out is key to capturing their attention and getting them to buy from your business. Using the following social media tips, you can enjoy greater sales and increased visibility for your business. 

1. Create Great Content
There is truly only one way to get the customer's attention. Great content trumps fancy ads, dancing animations or even viral videos. If a customer visits your site and finds old blog postings, poor quality images or expired offers, they will simply leave your site and go elsewhere. There are far too many competitors waiting to grab their attention. Since most customers use the Web to search for information, fill your site with credible and informative content that they can use. 

2. Image is Everything
Internet users have short attention spans. The average user spends less than 30 seconds perusing a website before deciding to read more or surf away. This is where your images come in. Hook them with vibrant photo tutorials, product images or interesting user pictures. Use sites like Pinterest to generate interest in your products and draw new customers to your site. 

3. Say it With Video But Not Just Video
When used well, video can be effective. Use videos to offer tutorials on how to use your product, show actual users or to display commercials for your company. Use video sharing sites like Vine, Vimeo and YouTube to spread your message. Using video will work well if you use it strategically. One of the biggest mistakes that sites make is annoying their readers with video. Nothing is more frustrating to a surfer than searching for a topic, reading the description and finding the content is video only. 

4. Diversify Your Social Media Presence
It is not enough to simply have a Facebook page when it comes to leveraging social media. Use a range of sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr to spread the words about your company. Update all your feeds regularly for the best possible results. 

5. Make Sharing Simple
Add sharing buttons to your site to allow your visitors to share your site with their social media friends. This will bring greater exposure to your company and grow your customer base. 

Many businesses have been able to increase sales this season by creating dynamic content that gets results. Can you think of any other ways to increase your presence on social media networks? 

Creating the Perfect Social Media Team

Posted on September 25, 2013 by Jessica

As a small business owner or start-up, funds may be limited. Thankfully, social media marketing allows you to reach out to new customers and develop relationships with them at no cost, except for your time. As the owner of a company, your plate is likely full and your time is valuable, making it necessary to delegate your business’s social media marketing tasks. Before you start assigning random tasks and run the risk of losing sincerity in the eyes of your audience, there are some ways you can successfully delegate your daily social media tasks without losing the unique authenticity responsible for your appeal.

1. Automate Your Twitter Updates and Delegate Your Facebook Updates

You can schedule and delegate the tasks of posting Facebook updates to a trusted employee, and you can use automated software to automatically post Twitter updates on your behalf. Many business owners choose to write a schedule of upcoming updates and select an employee to post the updates as scheduled while making them unique. Thanks to technology, you can develop a list of messages and schedule them to be automatically sent out to your Twitter profile. 

2. Delegate Responses to Invitations and Page Requests

Another way to free yourself from spending hours on your business’s Facebook account is to delegate the page requests and invitations you may be inundated with to your assistant or another employee. These can easily start to pile up in no time at all, and if you receive numerous requests to attend events, join groups, and “like” certain pages, you can develop guidelines and have an employee clear or respond to these messages on your behalf.

3. Delegate or Automate Follower and New Friend Requests

The more friends you have in your social media networks the better. There are automated applications that can be used for Twitter to actively seek out and find potential followers and even send them a welcome message. You can delegate the same task to an employee to grow your Facebook friends as well. This will save you a tremendous amount of time, grow your business, and allow you to focus on other important tasks.

4. Delegate the Set-Up of Promotions, Workshops, and Other Events on Facebook

Promotional events can be huge for your business, but setting up these events can easily be outsourced as well. The set-up of these important events should include event information, all of the logistical details, and the invitation of friends and fans.

5. Receive Help with the Management of Messages and Replies

Once your business is rolling along and you start develop thousands of friends and followers, hours can be spent simply managing and responding to messages. This task can be delegated to an employee who can identify spam and is well-versed in the proper way to respond to a variety of messages.

Do you think any of these tips can be applied to your business? Are there any other ways you can simplify your social media marketing? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below! 

Guest Posting: Getting Started

Posted on September 6, 2013 by Jessica

A great way to gain a lot of exposure for your own website is to write guest posts for someone else. This is going to increase your visibility for readers, and if your post happens to contain links directing the reader back to your own website, it increases your visibility to several search engines. 

 

Familiarize Yourself – Before you write a guest post on a blog, you should be pretty familiar with the specific site. Know who their readers are. Notice if their tone is professional or more casual. See what subjects the site normally addresses. A good type of guest post is supposed to add something to their content and should be enjoyed by all their readers. Ideally, the guest post will pull some new followers back to your own blog site. 

 

Do Your Homework and Research – Another way of becoming more familiar with the site is to look at other guest posts they have sponsored. If you suggest a guest post on a topic that was just addressed, it won’t go over too well. This would be nothing but a repetitive proposal, and it shows that you are not a regular reader on that site. Instead, try to spot a gap or need that has not been met yet and fill it with your own post. Oftentimes, an outsider can see something that the main author is not seeing because they are too close to it. Someone new, like you, can give a fresh insight. 

 

Networking With Others – It is always possible to simply offer to write a post for another site owner, but you might be more successful if you form a relationship with them first. Start slowly by leaving a few comments of some of their blog posts. If they are offering a subscription to a newsletter via email, reply via email now and then. You’re not trying to become their best friend, but you want them to know your name so that your own guest blog request is considered because you are not a complete stranger to them. 

 

Following Protocol – Always remember that if a site has a specific guide to follow to request a guest post, follow those guidelines instead of offering suggestions. Just like some businesses want you to mail in resumes and some want you to come in and fill out an application, each website has their specific way to do things, and the best idea is to respect that. 

 

Search For Visibility – One of the most important parts of guest blogging is the nice bump they give you on search engine results. Each guest post is linking back to your website. The more back links your website has, the better your page rank is in the search engine results. Try to include a link or two back to a relevant article on your own website to push the ratings a bit higher. Be cautious, however; no website owner respects guest post that appears to be spam advertising for the guest author’s website. 

 

If you do things right, your guest posting will benefit yourself, the readers on both sites, and the other website owner.  If you try any of these tactics when guest posting, I'd love to hear about it - please do let me know in the comments below!  

How to Write an Effective Press Release

Posted on August 30, 2013 by Jessica

Successful media attention doesn't just instantly appear soon after you've written a press release. Follow these four tips on how to write an effective press release and you'll find the media calls start to pile up:

 

  • Keep It Simple
    A lengthy press release will lose the attention of your audience in no time. Keep your press release simple; any press release longer than a page is too long to keep the reader's interest.

  • Have An Angle
    What makes the product or service your touting in your press release special? Have an angle on why your product, service or reason for writing the press release is unique. Standing out will give you an edge on the competition for media attention. Just having a new product may not be enough to get media mentions. Instead, explain what sets the object of your press release apart from similar ideas out there in the marketplace. Make sure this information is in the first couple of paragraphs of your press release.

  • Timeliness
    You should be mindful of current events when sending out your press release. If you're product or service is a natural fit against the backdrop of something going on in the world, journalists will have more of a reason to pick up your press release and give you coverage. But make sure not to overdo it. You don't want to be seen as using a media event to shamelessly promote your product or service. Either leave this out of your press release or wait for the situation to die down.

  • Use Quotes
    Interesting quotes will liven up your press release and will break up the monotony of your copy. Whether the quotes come from a CEO, client or customer, make sure they're lively. Dull quotes do little to make your press release stand out in the crowd.


Abide by these four tips and you'll have yourself an effective press release. Remember, writing a press release is no guarantee that the media will cover you. But the above four rules will give you a greater chance at that interview or write up.  We have recently used the tips above to write a press release for a charity project we are running on PlumberSurplus.com. We'd love to hear about any press releases you write with these tips; let us know in the comments below! 

The Power Of The Customer: Social Media

Posted on July 18, 2013 by Jessica

Social media use has grown significantly in the last couple of years. Now that over a billion people around the globe use a social media platform on a regular basis, there is a high chance that you will find some of your customers, or potential customers among these people. This is why it is important that your company maintains an active presence on the main social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

 

We hear a lot about how social media can be used for marketing purposes. Indeed, you can turn your social media presence into an efficient marketing vehicle that can showcase your business and its products to the world. Each social network would have unique advantages as far as marketing is concerned. Facebook is very popular and versatile. You can use your Facebook page to announce your latest products, news about your industry and even integrate an e-commerce site within your page. Twitter is great for sending short messages and updates about your company's activities. Using Google+ can help you with your SEO efforts if you are a local business.

But social media use for your business shouldn't only be about advertising your products. Remember that social networking sites aren't an advertising service. Rather, they are great two-way communications platforms. You can use your social media presence to engage your customers and ask them questions, such as how they feel about your products, or what innovations they would like to see from your business. Online shoppers will consider a business that openly communicates with its customers as more trustworthy and the fact that you actually talk to past, present and potential customers can convince them that you are a legitimate business, not a fly-by-night operation.

Another great use of social media for a business is addressing complaints and helping dissatisfied customers. If a customer complains about your business on your page, or on another page such as a social media page that discusses your industry or local businesses, you can show to everyone that you care about keeping customers happy by inviting the dissatisfied customer to get in touch with you to resolve the issue. There could also be cases where a person makes exaggerated or untruthful claims about an experience with your company. By being present on social media, you can publicly answer these claims by providing evidence to the contrary and thus limiting the damages caused.

We love social media here at PlumberSurplus.com and strive to connect with our customers and community.  How does your organization use social media?  what is your end goal - advertising or engaging your customers in conversation?  Let us know in the comments below! 

3 Ways to Get New Email List Subscribers

Posted on July 1, 2013 by Jessica

3 Ways to Get New Email List Subscribers

 

Your contacts are the lifeblood of an email marketing campaign. It is important that you build your own high quality list of contacts. Quantity is not as important, so it is better to send information to a few contacts who are actually interested in your product or service message than to send to random people who may not have any interest. There are several easy and effective ways to create an Email list including traditional online and offline methods and tactics. Details about three ways to get new Email list subscribers are below.

•Build an opt-in form on your home page. You can integrate an email opt-in form into your website’s home page. Make sure that it is strategically so visitors can see it immediately without scrolling down. Find an Email marketing service to assist you with the process and provide. The average fee for the service is $20 monthly. A general rule of thumb is the less information you require to opt in, the more sign-ups you'll receive. You can also Include a second opt-in form on your about page. Many visitors who go to this page are already interested in getting details about you and your business.

•Word of Mouth advertising is a great way to build an Email list. Offer incentives to your current subscribers who have been on your list for a long period of time. You can convert a visitor into a customer by using these incentives. Offer a discount, a free e-book or a free trial of one of your products. An incentive that is truly valued by a customer can get the relationship off to a great start. These techniques get people to talk to friends, family and associates about your business. Marketers must capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing by combining email sign-up with viral components.

•People love reading credible testimonials. You can use testimonials in your sign up area to attract new customers. The most effective testimonials show visitors what other people are saying about becoming a subscriber. It would be ideal to get an endorsement from someone respected in your industry. 
 
How are you managing the contacts in your email list?  Do you use software to keep track? How do you build the list? We love to talk old and new ways that are really working for marketing,  so let us know in the comments below! 

10 New Content Ideas for Business Blogs

Posted on May 28, 2013 by Jessica

Keeping an updated blog is one of the best way for businesses to stay active and in touch with their customers. Finding the right content for that blog, however, can be a difficult task. What will business blog customers want to read? What helps to promote the brand? Here are 10 easy and interesting content ideas for your company's blog.

  • Reference other blogs - Keep an eye out for other articles, blogs, or news stories that connect to your product or service. Quote an excerpt from it on your blog and add your own introduction and conclusion. Make sure you cite the original, of course.

  • Lists - Short lists are easy to write and easy to read. Find lists that would be interesting to your customers. For example, a bookstore could blog about 5 Great Books for Kids.

  • Interviews - Seek out people who are influential in your chosen field and ask to interview them. Include your audience by announcing who you'll be interviewing and asking them for questions.

  • Success Stories - If a customer expresses great satisfaction with the product, consider asking them to share their experience as a testimonial.

  • Share other links - Do a "best of the month" post on the first of every month, sharing links from other relevant blogs. This not only generates content for your own blog but may encourage those other blogs to share yours as well.

  • Answer Questions - Encourage your customers to ask questions in the comments. Take time in future blog posts to answer them. This helps your customers feel like they are a valuable part of the business.

  • Ask questions - A great way to generate content for several blog posts is to ask a question of your customers. As they answer, share their comments and stories in subsequent posts.

  • Hint at future plans - Got an exciting new product coming up? Give your blog readers hints. Then when the new product or service launches, make sure and write all about it on your blog to answer the questions you raised.

  • Review a related product or service - Don't review something in competition with you, but seek out other things you think your customers might be interested in. A bakery blog, for example, could review a new kitchen gadget.

  • Do a video post -  This shakes things up a little bit. Shoot a promo video, or go behind-the-scenes with a tour of the offices and interviews with various employees. Giving your brand a face can be very compelling for customers.

I hope this post has inspired you to shake things up a bit on your blog, or at least spark your creativity a bit for future posts! Please let us know if you have used any of these tactics, and how they turned out for you in the comments below! We love to hear our reader's success stories. 

5 Rules For Interacting With Customers in Social Media

Posted on May 22, 2013 by Jessica

Social media has emerged as one of the best ways to keep in touch with your customers. Yet it can be a little confusing to know how to do this in the most effective manner. Social media is, after all, supposed to be for socializing. How, then, can you best utilize it for business? Let's take a look at a few basic rules.


1. Identify Where to Focus Your Efforts
You should find out which social media networks are most likely to be used by your customers. You may want to use more than one, such as Facebook and Twitter. You don't, however, want to spread yourself too thin. It's best to find out where your customers are spending most of their time online and to follow them there.

2. Keep Mobile Users in Mind
More and more people are accessing the web via smartphone and other mobile devices. They often sign into social networks using apps. This means that you should tailor at least some of your content to mobile users. People on mobile devices are more likely to read shorter messages. They also cannot usually access flash.

3. Know Your Objectives
Do you want to use social media to extend your reach and get new customers? Do you want to use your Facebook page to help familiarize people with your products or services Or are you mainly using social media to develop better relations with your customers? These are some of the possible reasons why businesses use social media. The more focused you are on your specific goals, the better your results will be.

4. Separate Customer Service From Other Types of Interaction
You don't want your company's Facebook page, for example, to be full of technical questions or complaints. It's better to separate customer service from your general social media presence. That way, you can keep your main social pages full of positive, broader topics. You can still use social media for support (though that's not your only option), but in that case create a separate page or account for that purpose.

5. Connect Social Media to Your Website
As useful as social media sites can be, you should not neglect your company website. In fact, you can utilize social media to send traffic to your website (and vice versa). Since your social pages are mainly for informal interaction with customers, you can send people to your website for more detailed information.
 
What other rules do you follow when interacting with your customers within Social Media? Let us know in the comments below! 

3 Reasons to Choose a Responsive Design for Your Company Website

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Jessica

Businesses today must accommodate a wide variety of devices accessing website content; designing a website that caters to the biggest screen on the market just isn't a good idea anymore. Ideas of "responsive design" and how this approach to web design will ensure a page may be read on any type of device drives web design features and internet marketing projects for 2013. With smart phone sales exceeding desktop sales, the time for responsive design has come.


1. User interface setups continue to expand

The significant sales of smart phones have clearly driven the focus on responsive design for today's website designers, but it's not just tiny smart phones that are starting to serve as a person's portal to the internet. Many people run a system with multiple monitors, and this might cause problems with a website that can't accommodate more than one screen. Websites must be designed for anything from a 3 inch smart phone screen to a 70 inch HDTV screen.

2. Your website always looks terrific

About a decade ago it wasn't uncommon for website designers to tell visitors that a particular site was "best viewed" upon a specific screen size or with a particular browser. Good web design techniques have always included a design that would look good on any desktop computer, but the addition of smart phones, tablet computers, and even phablets (that's a tablet that's a little too big to be a smart phone) has forced web designers to accommodate tiny screens and greatly reduced user interfaces.

One of the only ways around the requirement of designing a site for a smart phone is the creation of an actual application designed to be used on the smart phone instead of the company's website. This technique works, but a business should usually have a responsive website and an application, instead of one or the other.

3. Google likes responsive design

When Google recommends something, internet marketers and web designers tend to listen due to the dominance that this company has over everything searchable on the internet. Google suggests that utilizing responsive web design is the best way to design a website and that creating separate websites for each type of user interface just won't cut it anymore.

The reason why Google likes responsive design is that an entire website through which its spider must crawl will have only one URL and a single library of pages instead of many separately designed pages and multiple URLs that all offer the same exact content.
 
Do you utilize responsive design for your company website? Why or why not?  Let us know in the comments below!