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Imagine you’re a divorce lawyer. You want clients — but what’s your marketing strategy?
You can’t just go up to couples bickering at restaurants and start passing out business cards — unless you’re prepared for a glass of wine in your face. You need to identify strategies that help those customers quietly seek you out, without shaming them in the process.
As director of marketing for an ecommerce fulfillment company, I find myself in a similar predicament. The United States’ ecommerce market will be worth nearly $500 billion by next year, so, much like the number of married couples in the U.S., there’s no shortage of potential customers for our services. But like the divorce lawyer, we can’t simply cold-call all of the ecommerce companies out there to tell them they need our services. Many of them are managing their own fulfillment operations and will be offended by a company coming in and saying they can do it better. We risk alienating our potential customers by taking a hard-sell approach.
Our approach to marketing is passive on the surface — our customers find their way to us — but nonetheless, very strategic. Here’s how we do it:
Find complementary partners.
A divorce lawyer might work to build referral relationships with other professionals, like marriage counselors. While all parties hope for a successful reconciliation, it’s good to know that you have a qualified professional to support your client with the next step if they need it. We also work to find partners who support small ecommerce businesses. TaxJar, for example, is a company that supports businesses with sales tax compliance across multiple states, and we’ve established a content partnership with them, sharing advice from our industry on their blog and vice versa. This means that our target audience — ecommerce businesses — may stumble across us through browsing their content, whether or not they’re actively looking for a fulfillment service.
Create value for the broader market.
If you’re a divorce lawyer, you might build a website that has resources available to help couples who’ve made the difficult decision to separate, but are hoping to get it done without any legal assistance. You could provide templates for custody-sharing arrangements, for instance. Be helpful, and provide value to the broader market — some of those people may then reach out when they decide they can’t do it alone.
We follow a similar model. One key section of our site is a jumbo list of conferences that would be of interest to ecommerce business owners, including dates, locations, websites and pricing. The list took a lot of research and time to put together, and we don’t have any affiliate relationships with the conference sponsors. Nonetheless, for us, it’s another way to draw ecommerce business owners closer to us. By cultivating research that all ecommerce businesses could find valuable, we’re confident that the ones who might benefit from our solution will gain a little more trust in us, and ideally, they’ll reach out to us when they’re ready.
Create a trail of breadcrumbs.
Many divorce lawyers spend as much as $100,000 each month on PPC keywords, with law-related terms being some of the most expensive and in-demand. They’d be better served by focusing on organically ranking for their target keywords, by building a portfolio of high-quality content and driving backlinks from relevant sources. For example, a mother who lives in Phoenix and is contemplating divorce might Google, “Arizona shared custody laws.” The first result she sees would be one from a law firm, Gary Frank Law — upping the chances that that’s who she’ll reach out to for help. Gary Frank Law didn’t need to spend a dime on PPC for that new lead; he just needed to develop good, relevant content.
For our business, too, content is crucial because it lets us connect with the user’s intentions. We don’t rely solely on targeting people through ads; instead, we want them to find us by inputting a search for exactly what’s on their minds, and then having the right piece of content to meet it. For ecommerce businesses, this might relate to problems with inventory management, supply chain management or how to deal with ecommerce returns, all of which we’ve written about on our own blog. We provide an option to sign up for a newsletter for regular advice that supports ecommerce businesses. All of this means that business owners and managers will begin to come across our site when looking for support with a problem they may be facing, and use our advice to help fix it — whether or not that advice means turning to a solution like ours.
So, like the divorce lawyer, we lay the groundwork for people to come to us at their time of need — by making sure they’re aware of us long before they’re ready to work together. We won’t push anyone to move to an outsourced fulfillment together if they’re happy with the way things are going. But if they do run into trouble that they can’t get past, we want to be there, ready and waiting to jump in and give them the support they need.