Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow offers her best tips on how to market your online business

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We’re back with more priceless business wisdom from the Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow. In this post, Michele tackles marketing, sharing her hard-earned knowledge on how to successfully market your e-commerce business.

Michele is one of the newest Dragons on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. At the young age of 32, she is the youngest Dragon to ever sit in the den. She has a wealth of e-commerce wisdom to share, and has been the driving force behind huge e-commerce successes like BuyTopia and Snap by Groupon.

Whether you are just starting out or well on the way, Michelle has 5 tips to create an effective marketing strategy for your e-commerce business:

Tip #1: Research your competitors

Michele’s first tip is designed to save entrepreneurs time – time that might otherwise be spent clumsily marketing their e-commerce business. Her pro tip? Learn from the competition.

You have to study your competitors. Figure out what you should mimic, and what you should improve upon.

At the end of the day, you probably won’t reinvent the wheel in your marketing strategy. By looking at what successful competitors in your space are doing, you can save yourself all the trial and error as you craft your marketing strategy, and hone in on the most effective best practices. “I still check my competitors every single night,” adds Michele. “There’s so much to learn and apply to future ventures.”

When it comes to comparing yourself to the other guys, you’ll want to look at pricing, shipping options, social media, and branding. Don’t forget to keep what makes your brand different from your competitors’ apparent. You want to maintain your edge in your marketing, and make sure your customers know why they should choose you over the other guys. Ask yourself, “What is going to drive customers towards me, and not my competitors?”

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Tip #2: Test paid advertising channels

You might be surprised to learn that a great website is only part of the equation for a successful e-commerce business. There are so many other websites out there to compete with, you really need to hustle to get the word out about your business. Michele has personally tried many tactics to spread the word about her ventures – like launching new websites at trade shows, and handing out thousands of flyers. Her pro tip for getting the most bang for your buck? Test out paid advertising channels like Facebook to see if your business can scale with them.

It boils down to this: You need to see if you can invest $10 in marketing, see if you can get maybe $100 in sales, and hopefully your cost of goods is around $50. That’s a scalable, paid marketing channel that you can keep growing, which ultimately leads to a very successful e-commerce store.

Tip #3: Get noticed

Positive word of mouth is so important in marketing. There’s almost nothing as valuable for a business as favourable customer referrals, or recommendations from influential individuals. The key is catching the attention of the right customers. “You want to reach out to established bloggers, influencers, and podcasters who cover your target audience.”

To do influencer marketing well, you will have to spend money to make money – but it’s a really good investment. You might be surprised to learn that, on average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.¹

If you’re unsure of who to approach, do your research to find out which influencers operate in your niche, and approach them. “Just ask them to do a review or offer them a giveaway,” advises Michele. By doing this you can potentially reach their hyper-relevant audience – people who might be inclined to become your customers.

Tip #4: Build your own social media following

It’s important to create your own space for your brand online. Luckily, setting up and posting to social media accounts is free!

Social media marketing is impactful – especially for women. In fact, an interesting survey revealed that 86 per cent of women turn to social media for opinions, advice and tips, while 72 per cent connect with their social media community often to help make everyday purchasing decisions.²

“This can be a very cheap way to advertise online if you’re savvy enough to manage these accounts.” Michele adds this caveat because you need to be active on social media to make your mark there. You can’t share a post and then wait 6 months before you share your next one.

If you can’t handle the responsibility of pumping out a steady stream of posts, consider hiring someone who can to assist you. This is critical because “an inactive instagram or twitter feed will do more harm than good for your brand. It’s like having a storefront that looks permanently closed.”

Tip #5: Direct Mail

“Don’t be afraid to take things offline,” advises Michele. There’s a lot of potential to tap into in a physical mailbox. Direct mail advertising offers creative opportunities that just aren’t possible with digital advertising and email. With a little ingenuity, you can make your mailing pieces sensory, experiential, and impactful.

“Research shows that direct mail can make a big impact,” says Michele. You might be surprised to learn that direct mail frequently outperforms digital. In fact, Canada Post’s neuromarketing research revealed that direct mail holds consumer attention 118 per cent longer, and stimulates 29 per cent higher brand recall, than digital advertising. And integrated direct mail and digital ad campaigns elicit 39 per cent more attention than single-media campaigns.³ Despite this, many marketers overlook the power of direct mail because it is an older form of advertising than digital marketing. That’s a shame because physical mail is a very effective way to advertise your products or your brand, and, Michele adds, “It’s an easy way to target and reach new customers.”

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