Looking for advice on online advertising in 2015
December 7, 2015 10:17 PM   Subscribe

My company has set up an online store selling high-quality toys and a other imported items from abroad. Now we're looking for advice and other people's experience on how to get customers.

We've had disappointing results trying to draw customers through Facebook ads and AdWords. Does anyone have any advice on other advertising channels that we may have overlooked? I know there are lots of websites devoted to online marketing, but most of them don't seem very useful, so I was hoping for more personal experiences.

(If it makes a difference, our main product line is die-cast toys.)

We're located outside the US, so we're unable to take advantage of Twitter and Pinterest ads.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
You don't need additional advertising channels; you need a marketing plan for the channels you have. When I do this for clients, it tends to include:

-- SEO
-- A Facebook page to build brand community around your customers' shared interest
-- A newsletter sent monthly
-- A give-away contest tied to signing up for this newsletter
-- Promoting this contest through targeted Facebook ads
-- A blog
-- Sponsorship
-- Social media
-- Etc

The exact nature of the plan depends on your company's internal skill set, staff availability and budget.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:14 AM on December 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

DarlingBri has it. I would also add that while you may not be able to use Twiter or Pinterest ads, you can certainly have a company account at each of those site, plus an Instagram. Don't discount these as major marketing channels -- especially Pinterest. There are so many ways to build interest and a community through these channels. You need a good photographer (preferably several), and ways to engage the audience by encouraging them to post their own photos, running contests, etc.

Affiliate marketing and sponsored content is also huge. Find someone who has a large social media following in your customers' area of interest and send them some product to review/play with.
posted by ananci at 1:08 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

To expand on DarlingBri's excellent points - You're not going to get massive amount of customers overnight and it's naive to think there's some magic bullet that's going to get customers flooding through your website. I would even venture to say that for your particular market, which is a bit niche, it will take some time for you to get visibility within your core customer base, so just because you had disappointing results in the past, don't discount those tactics forever.

Where are your customers visiting now? Not just to purchase things, but to get inspiration? Is there a Tumblr account all the diecast hobbyists follow? Are they on Instagram? As ananci points out, you don't need to use the ads to use Twitter and Pinterest to reach your potential customers.

If you think you have great products, showcase them on the channels where your customers are. Communicate your enthusiasm and expertise for the subject matter. Start following other people to figure out who the social influencers are. Learn about content marketing and think about what might work for your audience.

Marketing is not just about Just In Time marketing (ie being there when they are ready to purchase and they google your exact product) but taking mindshare and associating your brand with a general product type or lifestyle. To do that you have to build a relationship with your audience and that takes time, effort and resources.
posted by like_neon at 3:58 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

All good advice. In the meantime, build an Etsy storefront! That's where I would go if I were looking for some unique toys. Do it now, while people are shopping for the season!!
posted by nkknkk at 5:19 AM on December 8, 2015

From my understanding of the products, the OP cannot open an Etsy storefront as these goods do not appear to be vintage or handmade.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:52 AM on December 8, 2015

I do online advertising and marketing, but IANYOAAM... at this stage of your new online presence, you have an awareness problem. One of the reasons people aren't finding you is because they don't know about you.

In addition to everything mentioned upthread, I'd encourage you to look at Adwords Display ads. You didn't mention whether you ran Search or Display, but I'm assuming you ran search because that's what most folks think of when they think of Adwords. Also, with search -- did you include in your list of keywords the names of your most high-profile and well-known competitors?

In the last 10 months or so I've become especially fond of running Display ads and targeting them to a remarketing list of previous site visitors AND a remarketing list of people similar to your previous site visitors. Google derives the "similar" list based on the web surfing habits of the original list. It's a little big brother-ish, but in my experience it's a very effective way to reach an audience which is similar to the site visitors you're already receiving.

PM me if you want to discuss further.
posted by bricksNmortar at 6:25 AM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

For some reason I assumed if they toys were die-cast, they were vintage. My mistake! Cancel the Etsy recommendation.
posted by nkknkk at 6:38 AM on December 8, 2015

What kind of marketing plan did you start with?

Who is your audience? Where are they? What modes of communication are most effective?

How do they find out about similar products? What differentiates your products from similar ones sold by competitors? What differentiates your audience from similar ones?

What were your targets for online advertising (e.g. clickthrough, abandoned sales, completed sales, etc.)? How did your results compare to similar campaigns for other products?

What kind of testing did you do within the campaign? Did you modify your campaign based on testing results? How big were your a/b samples?

One of the other things I'll mention is that the ease of distribution with digital content often gets people to overlook other modes that may be more effective. Do you have a geographic base for your business? What kind of engagement with the local community do you have? Have you looked into other modes, from in-store marketing to direct mail?

What kind of research did you guys do before launching the store? Does any of it need to be updated?

(I do communication consulting for non-profits and used to work in communication for a large non-profit, so a lot of the marketing questions and strategies are the same. Asking yourself some refining questions and concentrating on high-return segmented audiences is often a lot more effective than casting a broad net for people with mild interest, especially in a niche market. So, ferex, I just got a demo from tintup.com not too long ago, and you could make a really cool social media campaign through them, but that's only worth doing if your users are likely to be influenced by a social media campaign more than, e.g. going to gaming shops and doing in-store demos. Limited resources mean prioritizing return on investment, and a lot of digital stuff is better suited to building off of existing audiences rather than building a new audience de novo.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2015

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for all the ideas so far. Just to answer some of the questions - we do have accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. We just don't have a very big audience on any of them yet. We don't have a geographical base, as we're not selling locally at all.

Basically up until now we've mostly tried small-budget Facebook ads targeting people with a variety of related and congruent interests. We've been comparing different interests, different demographics and different geographical areas, so we're learning a bit more about what not to do. (E.g. somehow one of our ads reached only Belgian teenagers despite being aimed at a much wider target. Another one reached mostly Portuguese women.)

We're hoping to appeal to a wider audience than just collectors - somewhere between otaku and hipsters - but that seems to be easier said than done. Perhaps we should try to narrow our target a bit.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:31 PM on December 8, 2015

Just to answer some of the questions - we do have accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. We just don't have a very big audience on any of them yet.

Again, I go back to my original point: what is your strategy for these channels?

This is difficult because you are anonymous but if you want to send me a MeMail I will look at your products and get on the phone to make some suggestions. I know how frustrating it is to get traction, but it's a lot easier with a plan.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:40 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes. Having a plan, a strategy that fits your overall marketing strategy, is the fundamental point. Being able to articulate that will guide pretty much all of your other decisions.

On the one hand, I kind of feel like this is the sort of thing that a reasonably intelligent person could work through on their own if they actually thought about what their process is and why they were making the choices they were. But on the other, I've worked with a lot of really smart people for whom this is a total blind spot. Similar to how graphic designers fit into budgets, marketing can be easy to overlook precisely because a reasonably intelligent person can do it well enough for most applications if they actually think through a strategy, assessing their assumptions and setting out a reasonable plan and budget. But like hiring a designer, hiring someone to help with this generally means that they can do it faster and better because they've developed specialized skills and expertise. You might be well served by paying someone to work with you to develop a strategy if you don't already have one. Otherwise, either your question is too broad to be answered without investing a fair amount of time to discuss the details of what you're doing and whether the results your getting are reasonable given your strategy and investment, or you're not likely going to be asking the right questions to develop a coherent strategy — looking for additional advertising channels may be putting the cart before the horse.

Like Bri, I'm happy to look over some stuff too and just give brief feedback.
posted by klangklangston at 1:29 AM on December 10, 2015

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