20 Places Ecommerce Marketers Should Spend Their Time If Customers Aren't Buying Right Now
18 min read time
Published on Apr 2, 2020
Written by Lauren Hall
Last week Dave shared some tips for ecommerce marketers about where they could be spending their time if sales were slowing down.
Marketers: if your customers aren't buying right now and you need to shift focus away from demand gen, here are some places you could spend time...— davegerhardt (@davegerhardt) March 25, 2020
To which our Director of Demand Gen promptly said:
But it seemed like this thread really resonated with people (141 people retweeted it and almost 700 liked it), so we’re going to dive in a little deeper anyway (sorry, Ryan).
1. Start a podcast interviewing experts in your industry about what *they* are doing to survive right now.
Podcasts are an incredibly cost-effective way to build your brand. Just ask Dave – he’s started a few.
Find the people in your industry your audience would go nuts over and try to interview them. If they can’t commit to a podcast, ask them to do a Q&A over email. We’ve been doing this here on our blog for the last couple weeks and it’s been working really well.
If you already have a podcast, pivot for a couple episodes. I promise the backlog of episodes you have can wait.
Your listeners will appreciate that you’re trying to give them relevant information that’s super timely.
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week
2. Launch a community for your customers/prospects going through the same stuff right now (Slack group, Facebook group, etc.).
Community is SO important right now. While we’re all at home, we’re craving connection with others more than ever. And some brands out there have come up with some pretty clever ways to make it happen.
Outdoor Voices started a virtual recess to keep their customers and fans active from home.
I’ve even seen this on a smaller scale with some of my favorite local fitness instructors who are creating their own virtual schedules to connect with their students right now.
And I’m sure you’ve seen the pushup challenge going around…
Recess even launched a campaign around sharing creative projects because they know how many people have taken up new hobbies over the last couple weeks.
They’re using it as a way to get people to share their projects and in return, they’ll send their favorites a free case of their drinks!
Use the time at home to engage with the people who already know and love you. If they start sharing, you might be lucky enough to get some new fans that eventually become customers.
3. Go get 100 new reviews for your product. Run a t-shirt campaign for reviews or just ask your best customers if they would (they will).
Start by asking your best customers to leave a review. This is a really easy way to say something like “Hey – just reaching out because you’re one of our top customers and we want to hear what you have to say about your favorite products.” Rather than just saying “Hey – please leave us a review.”
If you call out that you’re only reaching out to them because they’re some of your best customers, they’ll be so much more inclined to follow through because you made them feel special and not like they’re just part of some massive list. You’re asking them because you care what they have to say.
And if that doesn’t get you to 100, then you can move down your customer list and incentivize them with t-shirts, a free gift, free shipping on their next X number of orders, whatever makes the most for your business.
4. Ask your best customers for referrals (hey do you know anyone?) or just ask them to share your content on social.
Just make sure you’re not asking the same customers for reviews and referrals – you don’t want to annoy them.
But the overall messaging can be pretty similar. Play to the fact that they’re one of your best customers and don’t be too formal. Something like “Hey – just reaching out because you’re one of our top customers. So I figured you might have some friends who would love our products as much as you do.” The more personal these feel, the better. So include as much information as you can about their past purchases, etc. You might even get some really valuable responses out of these.
A lot of brands make referral programs feel like work, so nobody uses them. So make this as simple as you possibly can.
Another option is to ask people to share some of your content on social. A relatively low lift? Yes. But people are skeptical about sharing things with their network. They don’t want to be that person. So the more you can make this about them rather than you, the better this will work.
5. Double down on content. This is your time to build an audience if things are slow.
There’s never been a better time to focus on your content. Everyone has a little extra time on their hands right now. We’re not commuting. We’re not going to workout classes. So we’re all spending more time on our phones.
And we’re probably being a little more conservative about what we spend our money on because everything feels so uncertain.
So if things are slowing down a bit, how can you shift focus to creating amazing content? For us, that’s been about doubling down on timely content.
Think about what you can be doing that makes sense for your audience. Kristen LaFrance shared some pretty incredible tips for brands that aren’t necessarily WFH-friendly in this post. That might give you some inspiration.
You could create a video series, start a podcast, a blog or pick up where you left off with something that you had to put on the back burner 6 months ago.
6. Start that newsletter you always wanted to start.
Email is such a good way to be engaging with your customers right now. But if you’re not already sending out emails on a regular basis, newsletters can be a really great way to get started.
It doesn’t have to be weekly. You can start off with a bi-weekly or monthly newsletter to gauge response and get feedback.
After you’ve sent a handful, ask your most engaged contacts what they like about your content, what they’d like to see more of and what they could do without. If you just ask, people are usually happy to tell you how they really feel.
If you want to test the waters before you even send anything, ask people if they’d be interested! Just don’t expect thousands of people to be overwhelmingly excited about something that doesn’t exist yet.
You’ll get a few superfans that want to get everything you put out, but keep in mind that if you do it right, people will want to be a part of it because it’s so good.
7. Reach out to 10 of your best customers and ask them to send you a 30 second iPhone video testimonial (you'll get at least 3 of these & that's the best social proof you could have - real people on video).
Savannah Sanchez talked a lot about this on this episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show.
She starts by asking high value customers and says something along the lines of “Hey – we know you love our brand...any chance you’d want to be involved in our next ad campaign?”
And usually people are thrilled to be part of it. They feel really special and know you value them.
It’s also a really easy ask. Tell them to use their iPhones and in exchange you’ll give them a credit to your site (if you can)! Then they get more product and become even bigger advocates for your brand.
The trick with these isn’t to make them feel too polished. Remember: you’re asking them to use their phones. You want them to feel real.
Savannah also recommends sending a script for them to start off with (of course they can and should edit it however they’d like) along with some examples of similar customer videos as a jumping off point. Otherwise, it can feel daunting.
Send a handful of emails to some of your best customers and BOOM you have customer testimonials. It’s that easy.
8. Write the book you've always wanted to write, and when your budget comes back you'll be ready to publish & promote it.
This one is definitely a big commitment, but before you get overwhelmed, it doesn’t have to be a 500-page book.
Even if it’s only 50 pages, there’s something really powerful about being able to share a physical book with your audience (with an e-book version too, of course).
It could be a coffee table style book with gorgeous photos or a more text-focused book about anything your customers care about.
For example, if you’re a fitness brand, you could be sharing at home workouts with your subscribers and turning that into a book (and video series). You could even do the workouts yourself and share before and after photos. And ask the same of some of your best customers.
To build up excitement around it, you could share some teasers along the way. Or send it to a small list of customers you really trust and ask them if they find it valuable and what else they’d want to see.
If you’re concerned about future budget, you could always write it in a Google doc and share it that way! There are so many ways to make this work. Don’t let the budget factor stop you from adding serious value to your customers.
9. Go figure out social finally. Pick one channel and build an audience there (LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram) focus on creating original content for that platform vs. just reposting stuff.
This is something that gets put on the back burner SO often. We’re just on autopilot and post the same things across every channel (guilty).
But the problem is that content that looks native to each platform performs so much better than when you just copy and paste.
You probably already have a good sense of what your best channel is, so take some time to double down on it and make it amazing.
Because one channel that absolutely kills it and is exactly what your followers are looking for is so much more powerful than a few that are mediocre. Once you master that one, then you can move on to the rest one at a time to figure out what works.
10. Have everyone on the team go through onboarding as if they are a new customer. Take notes. Compare. Improve.
Lucky for us, Val Geisler added to the thread with 10-17 and was cool with us sharing them (Val, we ❤️ you).
It’s no surprise that she started off with improving your onboarding. She has some pretty incredible onboarding teardowns (think Harvest, Calendly and Mixmax). And if you’re not already subscribed to her newsletter, I highly recommend it. You can subscribe here.
But for real...now is the perfect time to revamp your onboarding. And the idea of having everyone on the team go through your onboarding flow to see what they think gives you a chance to make sure you’re not coming across as tone deaf anywhere along the way.
11. Schedule one 1:1 customer interview per day. Spend 30-45 minutes getting to know that customer and what they struggle with. Repeat daily.
Think about how many incredible insights you’d get out of this exercise. And all you have to do is talk to your customers.
If they love your brand, they’re going to be so happy to chat with you and share their point of view.
You’ll both have more empathy for each other and you’ll have copy you can use straight from your customers’ mouths – for email subject lines, your website, social, you name it. (Val touched on this in this episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show.)
When you know what really matters to your customers, marketing to them becomes so much easier because you know exactly what they’re thinking about and what will tip the scale when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
If you talk to 10 of your best customers and they’re not concerned about price for instance, discount codes won’t be valuable to them. So find the things that will.
12. Take those interviews and use them to rewrite your welcome series. Speak to the benefits of your product that address the problems they mentioned they're facing. Tell their stories.
This is another incredible way to reuse that same information your customers have already shared with you.
When someone subscribes to your emails, what can you do (other than offering a discount code) that adds real value?
Share what other customers have been saying about your products. Tell their stories. Share some of your best-sellers.
Create a welcome flow that will really hit home for the newest members of your community. Here are a few good examples.
13. Build out your referral program. Create an entire campaign for your existing customers so they can feel confident promoting. Give them swipe copy, create rewards tiers, the whole works.
Remember to make this really easy for them. Don’t make them jump through too many hoops and make the requirements super clear.
Like this example from Bombas:
Or this one from Equal Parts:
People are more likely to buy if a friend suggests something to them. So what do you have to lose with this one?
14. Check your Google Analytics for your most popular hits on your help docs. Make those docs better.
When was the last time you even looked at these? The answer to that might be scary…
So give them some love and try to infuse them with some personality.
This will probably include things like your FAQ page, shipping info, returns, care and sizing guides, for example. How can you make these pages even more helpful than they already are?
The best help docs are the ones that make you feel like an actual person wrote them. And they know exactly what you’re experiencing, so they know exactly what to say.
Act like you’re talking to a friend. And think about where you might be able to add new formats like video to ease their pain and make their lives as easy as possible.
15. Look at your existing content and find ways to repurpose it. Turn podcast transcripts into video scripts. Blog posts into quotables on social. Long videos into shorter clips for LinkedIn.
As someone who is always trying to think about ways to repurpose content, I absolutely love this one.
How often do you ship something and that’s the last time you ever share it? But how many people missed it the first time? What can you say that’s different this time around that might resonate even more with your audience?
Start with the content that’s worked really well in the past and find new ways to share that. You already know your audience loves it, so it’s a really low lift. You just have to find the next angle rather than sharing the exact same copy, image, etc.
Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel with every piece of content. Especially if you’re trying to share more right now. The only way you’ll stay sane is to sprinkle in some things you’ve already shared. Just try to make it feel fresh.
16. Love on your team. Do virtual lunch dates (buy their lunch), have more 1:1 time.
This is such a powerful way to let your team know that you’re still invested in them even though you’re not seeing them face to face.
Every morning our marketing team kicks off the day with a Zoom meeting to talk about priorities and we’re constantly sharing in the marketing Slack channel so the rest of the company feels up-to-date with everything that’s going on.
Our People Ops team (👋 Rachel and Jen!) has also done a ton to bring everyone together as we navigate remote life.
We have virtual fitness classes, happy hours and team lunch. And there’s even a virtual water cooler that people can pop into throughout the day to chat and say hey.
Go out of your way to make people on your team feel special. It goes a long way.
17. Read more. Take a page from Warren Buffett's playbook (he's kinda successful).
Did you know he spends 80% of his time reading and thinking? 😱 Pretty insane, huh?
We all have that list of books we’ve been meaning to read forever. Take the time you would have otherwise been for your morning and evening commute to invest in yourself.
And if you can’t commit to sitting down to read, listen to audiobooks and podcasts! As you’re making your bed, taking the dog for a walk, folding laundry. Make the time for it.
Side note: I know there’s a lot of debate about whether audiobooks count as ‘reading’ or not. No matter what your stance is, you're still consuming information, so it’s still a super valuable use of time.
18. Take an online course.
While we’re on the subject of learning, a lot of businesses out there are offering serious discounts on premium educational content right now.
Last week I took an SEO course that’s usually $799 for FREE.
For one week try to give up Netflix (after you finish Tiger King of course) and use the time you’d otherwise be spending there to learn about something you’ve always wanted to know more about, but haven’t been able to dedicate time to.
Whether that’s SEO, copywriting or product photography, there’s something out there for you.
So rather than thinking about your time at home as prison, think of it as time to get better at something that would make you better at your job (or just a happier person overall).
19. Grow your email list.
Yes, Privy can help with this (and you can start a 15-day trial for free). But that’s not the only reason I wanted to mention it.
Your email list is a channel you own completely. But you have to actually be capturing emails to be able to market to your prospects and customers.
How many times have you seen something like this?
Ask new visitors to join your email list in exchange for a discount, piece of unique content, or just to get great updates.
Use this time to grow your email list so when people are ready to buy again, you have an even bigger audience you can reach.
20. Grow your text list.
We can help with this one too...and text messages have an insanely high open rate. And you basically get to skip the line because so few brands are using it.
Rather than using text messages to replace email, leverage it as a totally separate channel. Just don’t think of it as a source for flash sales. And use it sparingly.
If you need some inspiration, here are a few brands that are crushing text message marketing right now.
We also have these 3 recipes to make getting started with your text message strategy super simple.
The point is: there's SO much you can be doing right now.
Just because your sales might not be thriving right now doesn’t mean you can’t be doing things that will help your business in the long run.
If you choose just a couple things off this list to run with, you’ll be in a much better position once your customers are feeling more confident in the economy and ready to make purchases again.
Use the lull as the time to prep for the future. When you think of it as an opportunity to improve rather than a terrible time for your business, you’ll be so much more open to implementing changes.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week.
Written by Lauren Hall
Lauren is a Brand Marketing Associate at Privy. She's the brains behind all things content. When she's offline, she's obsessing over her Bernedoodle pup, Monster, and plotting ways to being a full-time Vermonter ASAP.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week.