How to Run Successful Online Promotions

Live and learn.
That’s the nature of life, and that’s the nature of business.
And it seems that as I navigate my way further into the trenches of running an online business,
I learn a little bit more every day from each obstacle that I stumble through.
It’s hard. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s rewarding. It’s yours.

A wise friend from my past used to say, nothing easy is worth having.
And while I don’t know how true that statement is for every situation life hands us,
it certainly rings true when it comes to starting and growing an online business.
But with a little {okay, a lot} of hard work, and even more kindness–you will find success.
Just remember, success is not always defined as a dollar amount.

How to Run a Successful Promotion:
There are literally dozens and dozens of ways that you can run a promotion for your online business.  However, there is only so much time and money you have to devote to marketing, so you want to make sure that the route you choose is beneficial.  Also, keep in mind that not every promotion is designed to result in an immediate return on your investment–there are “branding” promotions, and there are promotions designed to sell product–and then there are the glorious promotions that achieve both.

Before you get started paying for promotions, be sure to set a marketing budget. How much are you willing to allot towards achieving your marketing goals.  If you are having trouble determining a number, and you don’t want to come out of pocket for this expense, then I would suggest setting aside a portion of your sales to put towards marketing.  For example, you can say that 10% of all revenue generated will go into your marketing budget.

 I am going to focus on 5 different types of promotions: banner advertising, giveaways, reviews, discounts, and daily deals.

    Banner Advertising: Often times, bloggers or website owners will allow businesses to place banner advertising on their site for a flat rate, or a pay-per-click.  This may be in the form of a sidebar ad, a leader-board ad {at the top of the site}, or at the end of every post.  I have a few specific tips when it comes to selecting which blogs to advertise on:

Choose Wisely.  You can’t advertise on every site out there.  And not every site out there is going to generate the response you are looking for. So ask yourself these questions before you make a decision: Are this sites readers a good fit with my product?  Am I getting my products in front of new eyes?  Does the content of this site match the philosophy of my business?

You usually get what you pay for.  All bloggers will have different advertising rates.  Generally, the more popular blogs will charge more–and by popular, I mean the blogs that get the most hits/viewers.  If you get a proposal back from a blogger and are blown away by the prices, feel free to ask them what kind of traffic they get, or what kind of results they have delivered for past sponsors.  You are completely entitled to know how your marketing dollars are being put to use.

Loyalty. Consider the readers of the site you are advertising on.  How much do they trust the blog author, value their opinion?  I can tell you from personal experience, that I have had greater results on a blog that receives less traffic but has a VERY loyal readership, than I have on some of the biggest blogs out there.  When it comes to advertising, you are generally paying to get your product in front of the most people possible–but sometimes, just sometimes, its not about the numbers.

Move Outside Your Comfort Zone. It’s easy to want to spend your advertising dollars on all the sites within your little circle of bloggy friends.  And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, its great to support the blogs you know and love.  But I would also encourage you to select at least one blog outside of your usual comfort zone–one blog that has a different circle of friends from yours.  Branching out equals growth.  New circles of friends equal new opportunities to grow your business.

Keep Track. Download some form of a stat counter so you can track how much traffic is being driven to your site from the websites you advertise on.  I have used google analytics and stat counter.  Etsy also has a built in stats tab that can be found in the left hand column under “my account”.

Giveaways: Sponsoring a giveaway on other blogs is a wonderful way to immediately increase traffic and readership to your shop and/or blog.  Here are some quick tips to running a successful giveaway:

Be clear on the terms of your giveaway. When you hire a blog to host a giveaway for you, be sure that you are clear on the terms of the giveaway up front (i.e. entry options, deadline, winner selection, how the giveaway will be promoted, how many pictures of your product will be included in the post, etc).  When I sponsor a giveaway on another site, I like to make sure their readers visit my shop and my blog as entries.  Bonus entries could include things like: follow on facebook or twitter.

Do your research. Be sure to read past giveaway posts by the blogger–this will tell you if you like the way they run their giveaways.  I have also noticed I LOVE sponsoring giveaways on Tatertots & Jello because she puts so much time into really making her giveaways personal, and she goes the extra mile in promoting your brand.

Be generous. Without fail, the bigger the giveaway, the greater the results. More people will enter, more people will spread the world, and more people will learn about your business.  I also like to offer readers a discount code with all giveaways I sponsor. I make the discount code specific to the promotion so that I can gauge how many sales were generated from that particular promotion.

Reviews: Sometimes a simple product review or product placement is the most effective (and the least “in your face”) way to market your brand.  This promotion involves sending a product to a blogger and then they write about it on their site.  I REALLY suggest letting the blogger pick out the item from your shop–you want to be sure they really like it.  Because the more they like the product, the better the review AND the more likely they will be to wear/use your product in an additional future post.  

For example, I reviewed a Lisa Leonard necklace a while back (read the review here), BUT because I liked it soooo much, you continue to see me feature her products in my more recent posts. If you have a fashion business, then select a blogger that is respected for their fashion sense. If you have a home decor company, select a blogger that decorates to your liking.  If you have a crafting company, pick a blogger who crafts to review your product. You catch my drift. 
NOTE: If the blogger allows it, I always suggest providing a “limited time” discount code with the product review–this further encourages the looky loos to place their order before the discount code becomes invalid.

Discounts: Offering discounts can be tricky.  It is important to calculate your discounts before you offer them.  What I mean is, are you discounting your product so much that you are no longer being profitable–because that would not be good.  Sometimes, if you buy your supplies at a quantity discount, you can have more wiggle room to offer a bigger discount.  Consider cost of material, cost of packaging, and time spent to make the product when you are determing your total cost to make a product.  Discounts can come in the form of a percentage off, free shipping, buy one get one, etc.  Discounts can be the best way to kick off a new season, celebrate a holiday, or close out a specific product.  When I offer a discount, I usually promote it via facebook and twitter, and sometimes I even blog the discount code.  If you have a newsletter, you can include exclusive discount codes in there as well.  I know some businesses who include a coupon in the orders they ship out for a percentage discount off the customers next order–this is a great way to encourage re-orders.  If you use etsy, they offer a way for you to create coupon codes for your readers that can be inputted at checkout.

Daily Deals: Participating in a daily deal can be a great way to get a rather large quantity of your product to a lot of people FAST. I have participated in a few Groop Dealz that have all proven rather successful.  There are also other daily deal sites out there like Very Jane, and Pick Your Plum.  These daily deal sites will generally require that you sell your product at a 30-50% discount, and then they will take a percentage of your sales. 

YOU STILL PROFIT before you decide to run a deal.  Research the bulk discount that you can get your supplies at and estimate how much time it would take you to manufacture the product in bulk.  Will it be worth your time? For some products in your shop this will make sense, but not so much for others.  

There are some specific benefits to running a daily deal:
1) information about your product will be emailed to literally thousands of potential customers 
2) Your sales will be MUCH larger than if you tried to run the deal yourself.   I have recently started running a daily deal on my site once a month.  What this means is that I pick a product in my shop and sell it at a BIG discount.  Because my site generates enough traffic, I still get decent sales for my daily deal, but a fraction compared to what I would get running one with a Daily Deal site.  However, the perk is that I don’t have to stress out to make a massive quantity, and I am not sharing the profits.

So that’s all for now.  I have a few other “business tips” ideas up my sleeve that I hope to share with you soon. Please leave any other questions you want to see answered in a future post in the comments section.

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