Once an early-stage business has developed its brand, they often rush into launching search and/or social media ads right away. But these businesses are usually unprepared for the deluge of traffic they’ll earn as a result of running acquisition campaigns. A successful marketing strategy is all about preparation - while acquisition is the first stage of the marketing funnel, there are crucial foundational elements and mechanisms of conversion and retention that must be built out and properly aligned before launching top-funnel campaigns. We refer to this hierarchy as the E-Commerce Pyramid:
Here are the steps you can take to launch ads with the confidence the traffic they generate will flow correctly through your funnel.
Your products, brand and website make up the foundation of your e-commerce strategy. It should go without saying that before you even think about running ads, you’ve locked down an airtight product strategy with solid unit economics and have defined your brand visuals, voice and value props.
With all that in place, it’s time to develop your website into a robust e-commerce engine, optimized for conversions with fluid, intuitive UX and consistent branding throughout. All copy and visuals should follow clearly defined brand guidelines. Products featured should be reasonably priced and represented with high-quality photo and video assets. Ideally, your site should also offer written or video content that educates and engages your target audience. You can also repurpose website content for email campaigns and the ads you will ultimately launch.
Email marketing is a crucial mid-funnel strategy for any ecommerce business. But a great email strategy is nothing without a substantial and engaged subscriber base. Put an email capture pop-up in place (we recommend Justuno) on your homepage to incentivize visitors to subscribe to your emails. Make sure your pop-up is on-brand, well-designed, optimized for both desktop and mobile and features compelling copy and a clear CTA. The below is an excellent (and quite hilarious) example:
In order to turn your subscriber list into an effective money-making machine, create a calendar for promotional and content-focused email campaigns. Take advantage of the automation features your email service provider (also known as an ESP - we recommend Klaviyo or MailChimp) offers. Set up different email sequences triggered by various behaviors your subscribers may (or may not) take. When planning your email strategy, keep these best practices in mind and be careful not to fall prey to these misconceptions!
Depending on your goals, budget and target audience, you may want to consider additional mid-funnel channels, like SMS or chatbots.
Social proof goes a long way in securing new customers and keeping existing ones coming back. While social proof will truly come into play after you launch ads and the conversion machine is running, it's important to plan your strategy in advance. Get active on the social media platforms your target audience uses most frequently. Post consistently with on-brand, valuable content to keep users engaged without feeling like you’re forcing products down their throats. When done properly, Instagram stories offer brands an opportunity to engage with audiences in real time.
It's also great to gather information on who is looking at your social pages. Tools like Facebook Audience Insights can help you understand your Facebook audience. This way, you can create ads that better resonate with them.
But social strategy doesn’t end with your own accounts. Influencer marketing complements fundamental awareness drivers like social media advertising and SEM. Most consumer brands should recruit influencers to serve as brand ambassadors, increasing reach by tapping into new audiences. Many factors go into determining which influencers are a good fit for your brand. Follower count is important, but can often be misleading. Use a variety of tools to determine if an influencer’s audience matches your brand’s target demographic.
Whichever influencers you end up partnering with, work out a compensation structure that works with your budget, develop a strategy for the campaigns the influencers will be running, including key product features for the influencer to highlight and implement tracking mechanisms (UTM codes, promo codes, etc.) to measure the performance of those campaigns.
Solid website? Check. Email, content and social strategies in place? Check. You're probably thinking "It's go time! Let's fire up some ads!" Not so fast - there are still a few crucial steps to take before turning on the gas. Whether you want to run search or social ads, you need to make sure your creative assets are pristine and that imagery and copy are consistent with what users will experience on the pages those ads will direct them to. Make sure you've set the proper budget - starting small may seem like a good idea, but it won't get you the traction or data you need. Allocate a substantial budget to your paid acquisition initiatives to ensure you’re reaching enough consumers to gather the data points you’ll need to develop insights and ultimately scale your campaigns.
It's best to have an experienced acquisition specialist handling your paid acquisition strategy. Putting these campaigns in the wrong hands is the fastest way to waste money and tarnish your brand in the marketplace.
When optimizing campaigns, data is key - make sure your acquisition manager is always testing copy and creative variants, doubling down on ads that perform well and dropping those that don't.
Most importantly, don't jump to conclusions - performance-based campaigns can take up to 90 days to optimize. Be patient and give your ads time to reach their full potential before adjusting your strategy.
Think of your marketing strategy like a funnel - if there are holes in the middle of that funnel, you risk losing whatever you put into it before it reaches the bottom. When you launch digital ads, you’re turning on a high-powered spigot of traffic to your website. By establishing strong foundational elements, setting up a dynamic conversion and retention apparatus and leveraging social media for third-party-validation, you’ll retain as much of that traffic as possible.
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Ellie is a Marketing Strategy Consultant at Hawke. When she's not developing growth plans for clients, she can be found balancing coffee in one hand and a dog in the other.