One of the challenges anyone aspiring to run a lean startup is acquiring the ability to pose and answer two questions when faced with a business or technical requirement.
1. Is it really necessary?
2. At what cost?
In my case, I had to achieve three business objectives:
1. Give customers a chance to see myMzone's website and product listings online.
2. Encourage them to click through and come to the listing page.
3. Create the best possible environment where a sale can occur.
I considered the requirements carefully and realised that the answers to the lean startup questions were 'yes' and 'minimal'. Challenging, yes?
Time is money - I agree. For sake of argument, I am only considering the amount of money spent - in pounds, pennies and shillings as 'cost'. But stay with me, it gets better.
What is the best way to attract customers to your website without spending money upfront? By the way, I can already feel the PPC experts cringing in their chairs mumbling that it does not cost anything to display an ad; you only pay when a customer clicks through. I agree with them and encourage readers to try PPC campaigns if you have a budget. Don't get me wrong; I had a budget. Unfortunately, it was £0.
So, what did I do on myMzone? I did 4 things.
1. Set up with a kickAss website (take a look at it, you'll like it ;) ).
2. More importantly, I built the website search engine friendly and made pages optimised for keywords that we wanted to target.
3. Just like all eCommerce websites, we had to face challenges around shallow content. So, to balance that out, I set up a blogging platform and leveraged the London Ambassador program to create an engaging environment for enthusiastic bloggers to submit content to the blog. This really strengthened the content on the domain and improved the domain rank, page rank for pages that we targetted. Additionally, it allowed to use rich content pages of the blog to bring browsers from the internet (landing on a blog post) and then give them an opportunity to click through to become visitors on myMzone increasing chances of them becomes shoppers and myMzone customers.
4. We paid equal attention to primary social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The trick was to play to our strengths - the availability of quality multi-media collateral which had a better uptake from customers on Pinterest (who doesn't love good looking images?). Yes, we played to our core strengths. Additionally, we established a presence on Instagram and Tumblr.Take a look at our social media platforms and feel free to give me your take on how things are run.
By the way, I cannot stress this enough. Blogging and social media platforms are tools that you can use to announce you presence to your customers. Clearly, it increases your reach in the online world; allows you to reach customers in Sweden, Japan, US, Australia and tap into their social circle giving yourself a chance to get the word out there with the ripple effect. SEO and Social media acumen remain the most cost effective means to date but it is up to you to create and maintain a marketing environment within your website to facilitate sales.
To summarise, blog content and social media efforts are responsible for about 54% of myMzone traffic and account for about 70% of the sales. This has given us an opportunity to use the profits for paid marketing. Yes, we are still in the boot-strapping mode but it will not be long before we add paid marketing portfolio to our blogging and social media efforts.
Ravi Jay is one of the co-founders of myMzone.com, a platform where small businesses trading in local markets can sell their wares online. The website brings together hundreds of merchants from local markets in London like Camden Town, Portobello, Brick Lane, Greenwich and is soon listing sellers from other parts of UK. The website offers shoppers a chance to place an order for a listed item, use myMzone services (free) to look an unlisted item from the market or compare products from different merchants. There are segments for daily deals and offers from the markets on the website. You can follow Ravi on Twitter @mymzoneltd