Bringing any new online business from a visitor count of zero to sustainable profitability is an incredibly difficult task – especially when you don’t have significant funding that you can burn through along the way.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; you’re going to have competition from day one, and some of your competitors are probably deeply entrenched. No online merchant is completely invincible, though; beating the competition simply requires smarter marketing.
So, how can you do a better job of marketing your online business than competitors who may have been in the business for several years longer than you? Doing that requires a bit of cleverness and a bit of inspiration. We can’t help you with the first one, but we can supply the inspiration. You can get an enormous head start on your marketing endeavors by learning what companies do to succeed in an industry that’s completely unfair – and no market is more unfair than the vaping market. These are the 5 strategies that any online business can learn from the vaping industry.
1. You don’t need to pay for your web traffic
One of the things that can make the vaping industry so unfair is the fact that neither Google AdWords nor any of the other major online ad networks accept advertisements from vaping companies. They all lump vaping in with tobacco, and tobacco ads aren’t allowed. In other industries, the ability to bid on keywords is a bit of an equalizer that helps newer companies compete with more established ones.
When you think about it, though, buying traffic via ad placements is really just a crutch that replaces the effort of creating content that generates organic traffic. The worst part about paying Google to drive traffic to your site is that the cost of acquiring a new customer never really decreases. It may even increase as new competitors enter your industry. Creating a piece of great content for your website, on the other hand, is a one-time expense that can potentially bring free traffic to your website for years. If a single article can do that, imagine what having an entire library of informative articles could do for your site’s traffic. In the vaping industry, top-notch content marketing is one of the major contributors to the success of brands like V2 E-Cigarettes UK.
2. Spend at least as much time on outreach as you do on content creation
Google isn’t particularly kind to new websites. That’s another thing that makes the vaping industry so unfair. Google doesn’t allow vaping merchants to bid on keywords, and new websites have almost no chance of appearing on Google’s first page for any search.
How, then, do those new merchants dig themselves out of the cellar?
Google’s algorithm uses around 200 different factors to determine the order in which websites appear for searches. Unless something changes fundamentally about how the Internet works, though, it’s likely that the links between websites will always be the most influential factor in determining rankings. Google considers a link from one website to another a vote of confidence. If a website has inbound links from many influential outside sites, it’s likely that the site being linked to is trustworthy and provides value to users.
So, how do you get those links? The answer is outreach. Whenever you publish a piece of content that’s genuinely unique and helpful, you should take the time to notify other websites in your industry. It’s also a good idea to set up Google search alerts for keywords relating to the content you’ve written. When an article that relates to your content is published, contact the author and explain why their piece would be even better if they added a link to your work.
3. Affiliate marketing is not dead
Affiliate marketing – offering bloggers and reviewers in your industry a cut of your sales when they drive traffic to your site – was pioneered by Amazon and is one of the classic ways of bringing attention to a new online business. It’s also one of the top ways for bloggers to make money online. After more than 20 years of doing business, Amazon’s affiliate program is still alive and well because it helps people discover the many different products that the retail giant offers. Launching an affiliate program is a great way to drive traffic to your online business and generate awareness of your brand. Gaining the recommendations of thought leaders in an industry can also go a long way toward establishing the credibility of a new company.
Affiliate marketing has been vitally important to the vaping industry because it’s one of the only ways in which vaping companies can pay to drive traffic to their sites. The most successful vaping brands – including JUUL – got to where they are largely through their affiliate programs.
One of the most important things to remember about running an affiliate program is that the best affiliates aren’t likely to come to you. They’re already busy nurturing their existing relationships with other merchants. You’ll need to reach out to the most successful affiliate marketers in your industry and pitch them on why they should endorse your brand. If you don’t have the time to do that, ask someone else in the company with managing your affiliate program. It’s worth the effort; many of your best affiliates will be ones that you recruit.
4. Don’t spend on social media if you can’t measure your ROI
Google AdWords isn’t the only ad network that won’t take your money if you’re in the vaping industry; you also can’t advertise on any of the major social networks. In online marketing, the conventional wisdom is that you have to allocate a portion of your budget to social media spending. Many companies in the vaping industry, however, have managed to become successful without spending anything on social media at all.
Does your company spend money promoting posts on social media? Can you attribute that spending to increased sales, traffic or brand awareness? If you can’t measure your ROI, stop spending on social media until you develop a better strategy. Social media marketing is not necessary for the success of most online businesses, and it can actually become a money sink that brings little in the way of tangible returns.
5. You can’t win without differentiating your brand
There isn’t much in the world of e-commerce that is completely unique. You get your goods from the same overseas suppliers that your competitors use, meaning that your products are essentially the same as theirs. Companies in the vaping industry have dealt with that issue as long as the industry has existed; virtually all of the world’s e-cigarettes are manufactured in Shenzhen factories. E-cigarette companies quickly learned that brand differentiation is the key to success. That’s true in any industry. What unique value do you provide to your customers? Why should people buy from you rather than buying from one of your competitors?
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