Expand your brand: graphic for e-commerce series

How to Build an E-Commerce Brand, Part 5: Expand Your Brand

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This is the fifth and final week of this series, and we’ll be covering how to expand your brand. 

For those of you who’ve made it this far, give yourselves a pat on the back. And for those of you just starting out, make sure that you check out the links to the other parts of the series below.

Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

In our last week together, I’ll be explaining what might arguably be one of the most mysterious elements of building an e-commerce brand: scaling and expansion.

Using one of the three methods I described in parts one to three, you should have established your e-commerce brand already. But the big question always becomes, “What’s next?” 

This is exactly what this article hopes to address.

However, this entry in the series is a little different than what’s come before as it assumes that you’ve started taking the steps defined in parts one through three. 

Even if you haven’t, though, (or if you’re already an e-commerce seller who took the steps without even realizing that’s what you were doing), you should be able to follow along with the content.

How to take your brand to the next level

At this stage in your e-commerce brand, no two brands will look alike. Having said that though, these are the steps I recommend you follow in order to consider which actions you should take to expand your brand beyond its initial concept.

1. Brand-evaluation: are you still on message?

Now that your brand has had time to grow, ask yourself this: is your brand still doing what you set out to do? 

Look at all of the elements of your brand: your audience, products, and platforms. Do they still represent the core concept behind your brand? Are you still addressing the same issues that you originally set out to address?

Of course, it’s okay to change gears a little. 

Sometimes, you discover that your brand has a different audience than the one you set out to attract. Or maybe you’ve found a new pain point that you didn’t know you had in the first place. You might have even discovered a new sales channel that reaches a new, secondary audience that enjoys your product in addition to the first.

Even with changes like these, it’s important that you keep your focus on the reasons you set out to build an e-commerce brand in the first place.

2. Introduce improvements to your brand

Once you’ve done a full review of your brand, start applying improvements. The data you collected during the review of your brand should give you an idea where to start. Most importantly, try to start with the biggest areas where you’re hurting. 

What follows is a list of some examples with solutions. Of course, this is by no means a definitive list.

Your social media accounts aren’t growing.

Social media is difficult for a lot of people. But the best way to work social media is to first recognize the following:

  • Don’t oversell your products. In general, people hate being sold to while on social media. Instead, use social media as an opportunity to engage your followers, not sell them. 
  • Be authentic. Fakeness is easy to spot even through social media. If you’re funny, be funny. But if you’re not funny, share something else that engages.
  • Stay on brand. The content you share should always be relevant to your brand and your message. If you share a funny meme, make sure the meme specifically targets your audience. Or if you post a cool video, make sure it relates back to what you do.
  • Focus on emotions. Consider Facebook’s emoji system: like, love, laugh, surprise, anger, and sadness. If you can tap into the emotion of the latter five emojis — on Facebook or otherwise — you’re winning. And if you aren’t sure whether or not it will affect your audience, consider your own emotions. If you felt one of those emotions when you first saw the content, then it’s likely others will too.
Once you understand these elements, start building your social media message and be sure to stay on brand.

Don’t focus on finding a new audience. Instead, focus on pleasing the one you have. The more you write to the people who already care about your product, the more likely you’ll find more who also care. But if you ignore your initial audience in favor of those who haven’t heard of you yet, you’re likely to lose your core group.

And maintain consistency. Growing a social media account is all about engagement and getting your message out. However, that doesn’t mean you need to spam your accounts. But try to get in at least a few posts each day. 

If a social media platform isn’t working, drop it. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on an audience-building platform that isn’t going anywhere. I love how Facebook functions, but I realize it gets almost no return on investment for my time and effort. Instead, I use Reddit and Instagram to build my audience.

You want to build an email list but don’t know how.

For my money, there’s no better marketing tool than an email list. Once a customer or fan has given you their email address, they are granting you permission to send them new content and market to them. (Note that this permission is not indefinite. You must respect your audience. Don’t spam them or flood their inboxes, and always honor the unsubscribes.)

How to get there?

First, demonstrate your value to your prospective audience. You can do this on social media platforms, share forums, or even in advertisements. I particularly like to offer free content for this reason.

Next, offer even more value for an opt-in. Once your potential customer experiences your brand from your first value-demonstration, politely ask them (via content, pop-ups, etc.) for their email in exchange for additional value. Usually, what you offer back should demonstrate even further value on your part.

Optional: Once they give your email, you might try to convert them with a small ask on the back end. Again, make sure that the value you offer for the dollar amount demonstrates how much you’re willing to give to earn their trust.

If they decline the offer, remember, you still have their email address. So, continue to demonstrate value with your brand and message. Do this, and your audience will continue to open your emails and click your links.

You’re getting bad reviews on your products.

Bad reviews can be tough to deal with, especially on sales platforms like Amazon where one bad product review can drastically affect you.

But before you blame the reviewer or the platform, ask yourself this: was your product an actual representation of your brand and its message? And when you created your product, did you do everything that you possibly could to address your customer’s pain points?

Don’t just on the negativity of the rating. Read what the customer says.

If they couldn’t figure out how to use the product, was that because you didn’t offer easy-to-understand instructions? If the product arrived damaged, did you put the product in solid packaging? And did you offer a way to contact you within the box in case something like that happened?

Yes, reviews help you sell more products. But they also keep you on track. Use them!

Your sales channel does not accurately represent your brand or its message.

If you’re having difficulty with a sales channel, consider this: does the sales channel conflict with your brand and its message? And then flip it around: does your brand conflict with the sales channel’s brand and its message?

Sometimes, it’s easy to answer the first question in the affirmative, but the second one is a tougher question. 

Take Amazon for example. This is their mission statement:

Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online. 

You might be customer-centric, sure, but Amazon’s customers are more than just people who are interested in your product. They’re interested in all sorts of products, even your competitors’.

For that reason, the environment Amazon has created may not always work with your brand or its message.

Moreover, the principles of your company may not align with the sales channel itself.

If you sell a luxury product along the lines of Louis Vuitton or Rolex, then, naturally, a low-cost sales channel like Amazon or eBay will not work with your message. Sometimes, this realization may lead to you exploring new outlets for your brand.

This changeup can be difficult but, in the long run, it may be what’s best for your message.

3. Double down on what’s working

Your brand review isn’t just about finding out what’s wrong with your brand. It’s also about looking at what is working. Those strengths you discover in your review analysis are crucial to your brand’s development, so make sure you double-down on those.

For example, if you’re great at building an audience on Instagram, continue to focus there with lots of great content and plenty of engagement.

Or, if people love one of the products you’ve created and the sales show it, find a way to create another product for those same shoppers.

4. Keep testing! 

Building a successful e-commerce brand isn’t a straight-line journey; it’s cyclical. Keep testing, learning, improving, and expanding.

Once you have data for your brand and you’ve applied improvements to the process, in 30 days reevaluate your brand and business again. Take a step back and observe once more what happens. Ask yourself whether or not the improvements worked and if doubling-down on certain areas was worth the added effort. 

After you get in the habit of repeating this cycle, your brand will continue to grow. Plus, constantly understanding what’s happening within your brand gives you the insight and flexibility to address new issues that might arise.

 

Looking for more information?

Overall, this series has painted the steps to creating a brand with a broad brush. But, my hope is that it’s given you the framework to start learning more on your own so that you, too, can build a successful brand.

If you’d like to learn more about brand building, here are a few great resources I recommend:

  • The Freedom Builder Bootcamp is an online course from us, the folks here at Jungle Scout, that gives you all the information you need to get a brand up and running on Amazon (using the sales channel method). It’s taught by our CEO and 8-figure Amazon seller, Greg Mercer.
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a fantastic book that outlines a lot of the cool ideas that I’ve covered in this series, especially in this particular article. The Lean Method—Build, Measure, Learn—has helped many modern brands turn ideas into billion-dollar brands.
  • Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk is my personal “bible” for audience building. Gary Vaynerchuck is a world-famous audience-building enthusiast with millions of followers. In his book, he explains his method of offering tons of value (throwing “jabs”) before trying to convert your audience into sales (finishing with a “right hook.”)

Of course, feel free to leave a message in the comments. And if you see me on Facebook, be sure to say hello!

Good luck!

 

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