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Similar people are attracted to each other – and eCommerce merchants are "similar". They hang out in niche online communities where they discuss and consume advice on how they can grow their brand/store's revenue online. Inside these communities, a lot of discussing, listening, absorbing, and taking action are happening.

Before you "talk the talk" and begin peddling your services/products like a street in Egypt, be forewarned. DON’T DO IT. There is no more certain way to anger your potential clients than to sell yourself out of turn. Rather, you need to focus on selflessly serving these communities with the genuine intent of helping them out.

With that out of the way, let's start.

Strategize – Don’t Spray and Pray

Even before you build a strategy, spend some time coming up with who your customers are. Here are some questions to get you started in building your customer personas:

  1. Are they purely online retailers, or do they have an offline brick and mortar store?
  2. Do they sell in 3rd party marketplaces (such as Amazon or eBay) or do they only sell on their own eCommerce store?
  3. Are your products/services more relevant to one vertical, say fashion, than another?
  4. Are your products/services more relevant to merchants with large catalogs or one with only a few SKUs?
  5. Are your products/services affordable to high-revenue grossers or low ones (or even middle of the road)?
  6. Are your products/services more relevant to one geography over another?

Once you answer these questions, you should have a rough sketch of your customers’ personas. Then think about where you stand a higher chance of finding them. Here are some key questions to answer:

  1. Which social media channels do they adopt? If your customers are small merchants with less than five employees, you will probably find them on Facebook. On the other hand, if your customers are large merchants with over 100 employees, LinkedIn is probably a better bet.
  2. Who do they listen to? List the top 100 influencers for your target industry or vertical. If you are selling to apparel stores, then your list should have a lot of fashion experts. If healthcare stores are your primary target, health experts should dominate your list.
  3. What are they interested in? In order to make your presence felt, you need to create discussions that are valuable to your customers. Do they like to stay aware of trade news? Do they appreciate daily tips on increasing their own businesses? Would they be interested in industry trends that will help them plan inventory?  If they value your relationship because your ear is closer to the ground, you need to take advantage of it.

Armed with this information, you are now ready to reach out to your customers.

Get Selflessly, Shareably Social

Social media marketing is much like baseball. While you are eager to score a home run, don’t stop hitting singles and bunting. Your Facebook page and your Twitter handle are not going to get a million followers overnight unless you have the wicked brilliance of Ellen Degeneres, so be prepared to build your follower base steadily. Here is a way to grow effectively.

  1. Make an editorial calendar and stick to it religiously. The golden rule of social media marketing is 30-60-10. According to this rule, 30% of your content should be your own content, 60% curated content (from other writers and editors), and 10% promotional content. Depending on your patience and feedback from your followers, you may choose to alter this proportion. By following this routine, you will slowly build a fan base that will appreciate your content and also share your messages, subsequently spreading your brand within your target communities.
  2. Make friends with social and business influencers. Mention them, retweet them, like them and favorite them. Ask them to write for your blog or community. Keep them updated (without being intrusive) on how you are progressing. One day they will recognize you as a valuable resource for their followers and hopefully advocate you. This could possibly be your home run!
  3. Don’t lose opportunities for being shared. Whether it is on your website or your blog, give your audience the opportunity to share your thoughts. Position your “like” and “share” buttons strategically, and be deliberate about asking them to share. Simplify the process with tools such as Add This. Be optimized for sharing (also called social media optimization or SMO) by using appropriate tags on your website such as rich snippets and OpenGraph tags.
  4. Create compelling content. The more original and useful your content is, the better likelihood it has of being shared. Conduct some original research that might be useful to your merchants. Ask your current and potential customers about their biggest time sucks and address their most aggravating pain points. Sometimes, be completely creative about it and give them a laugh.


If there is one rule to customer awareness, it is to go where they are.

Clearly outline your target merchants, research the social channels they visit, and interact with them consistently and selflessly. This will build you a customer base, a referral base, and an influencer network/system which will help your customer acquisition efforts in the long run. Invest in original content and creative perspectives. Most importantly, take your small singles, and be proud, while you wait for that home run to come along.

*article ideas stem from Shopify editorial.

By Michael Cristancho

I'm a Digital Commerce and Experience evangelist who enjoys engaging in thought-provoking conversation and mutual exploration. I am a strong believer that learning never ends, and each day brings another opportunity to grow as an individual and professional.