Content marketing is rapidly becoming the e-commerce success method of choice for independent online sellers. Content marketing is:
Entertainment (articles, blog posts, infographics, or videos)
That doesn't directly engage in "salesmanship"
But stimulates interest in your products
And that makes it easy to find and buy them
Concrete examples are things like "car washing tips" on a website that sells car maintenance goods, "surprise her for Valentine's Day" videos posted by jewelry sellers, or "organize your office" blog posts from office supply specialists. The content is not a sales pitch per se—yet it can drive shoppers to buy all the same.
Why Content Marketing Works
Content marketing works well because people increasingly tune direct sales pitches out, while useful information still gets read. When linked skillfully to purchasing opportunities, content marketing is experienced as convenience rather than as pushy marketing.
During the summer months when there are fewer shopping holidays and when shoppers may be less motivated to buy—but at the same time are engaged in all kinds of tasks, projects, and lifestyle choices—content marketing can be a big win when compared to more traditional "sale and shopping cart" forms of marketing.
And for independent sellers in an eBay, Amazon, and Wal-Mart world, content marketing is a secret search traffic weapon. You'll struggle to get your product pages to rank ahead of larger retailers in search results, but because search engines privilege "useful" content over sales content, one or two well-placed blog posts can make a huge difference in the bottom lines of even small-volume and part-time sellers.
Content Marketing 101
Here's how to get started easily and generate content marketing results.
Blog about your products, business, and lifestyle. Start a blog and provide useful information about the kinds of things that can be done with your products. Don't directly promote your products, since your goal is to avoid making a sales pitch (and, as a result, being tuned out). Rather, tell stories, provide how-to steps, make comparisons, and provide other kinds of information that might help someone that already owns your products to make better use of them. Make new posts regularly—at least once a week—and include at least one or two photos in each post.
Create a YouTube channel and make videos. Use your smartphone and make off-the-cuff, fun, friendly videos in the same vein. Don't worry if you don't have a lot of viewers or subscribers at first; you'll quickly learn which sorts of videos excite people and which don't based on the comments and likes that you receive. Keep the videos short, fun, and informative, and make more like those that perform best.
Start a newsletter. On every blog post and in every video description, include a prominent link to sign up for your email newsletter—which you'll start building right away using the blog posts and videos that you create. Though this may sound complicated, low-cost services like MailChimp make it easy to create and send a newsletter. Send at least once or twice a month, and include links to the blog posts and content you've recently created.
Open a discussion forum. Either use a free or low-cost service to create a discussion forum and link to it from your blog, or adopt a high-quality commenting service like Disqus or LiveFyre for your blog posts so that readers can comment and interact with one another and you can respond to them, answer questions, and generate enthusiasm about the topic (which secretly relates to your product line).
Solicit shopper feedback and use it. When you see enthusiastic comments or when you receive enthusiastic comments about your content (which is often really about your expertise in a topic) or about your products, save it. Use this to decorate your blog, your newsletter, and of course, your actual product pages and eBay listings.
Drive all of these back to your store or product listings. Make sure that every piece of content that you produce also leads, in gentle ways, back to your eBay store, product pages, or item listings. Your goal is not to "put the hard sell on" your readers or viewers, but rather to make it convenient for them to buy the products (which you happen to sell) that will enable them to do the things you've talked about in your blog posts or videos.
Put all these pieces together and build them conscientiously for a while, and you create a "virtuous circle" of e-commerce success. Each tactic supports the growth of the others—and all of them together gradually build your brand and search ranking while pushing shoppers to your store, product pages, and listings.