Nowadays everyone is talking about startups raising million dollars, unicorns, etc in Asia, especially in China, India, and most of Southeast Asian countries… But the majority of the Asian economies are related to the small business owners, and they’re neglected. When I first visited Japan for more than ten years ago for a course on “How to work with Japanese companies”, the professor who was also a director of a large tech firm there, asked us (from some countries in Asia): How many percents of businesses/revenue in Japan are SME? all of us had the guess smaller than 70%, but finally the answer is from 95-98% if I remember right.
Sure most of the largest ecommerce startups in Southeast Asia are marketplaces, they’re targeting SME businesses, but most of them also focusing on helping these biz owners on how to do business on their own channels, of course. And you can also find tons of info about online marketing tactics from the Internet, but many of them were written for Western audience with very different knowledge, business environment, customers behaviors, especially marketing channels. Some of my friends and relatives also asked me how to do online marketing for their newly starting online shops. So that’s why I’m writing this blog post.
First thing first, the purpose of online marketing for whoever you’re an owner of a online or brick-and-mortal shop are
- Promote your shop “brand”, make them remember of your shop whenever they wanna buy somethings you’re selling
- Drive more new customers to your shop
- Keep your old customers returning
- Keep in touch and communicate with your customers regularly
- Make the old customers talk about your shop, reffer their friends to become your new customers
- Increase offline and online sales, maximize profit
Now, let’s start!
Use your own social media account
- Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Line, everyone knows. But you will be facing some issues to separate your personal life and your business life. Another problem that these accounts dont have enough features to support your business purpose.
Use your own email Gmail/Yahoo
- Create a group named: My Customers, and schedule to send updates about your products and services weekly or monthly, provide with some small benefits or discount, not to spam them.
Create a Facebook group
- FB group is good in case your product/service has some thing need to be discussed or related to usage experience: computer/mobile devices, cosmetics… You can also organize an event via FB group and send invitation to all members of your group. Read “How to Use Facebook Groups for Business: A Guide for Marketers“
Create a chat app group
- Line group (if you’re in Thailand). Zalo if you’re in Vietnam. And Whatsapp/BBM for Indonesia, Whatsapp for Malaysia, FB Messenger for Philippines and sure for all mentioned countries.
- With these chat group you can update news and promotion about your sevices, create some discussions, get real time feedback from customers. Besides that you can also organize some small meetups or introduce new arrivals.
- Read: “Small Business Chat Rooms: How to Get Your Customers Talking“
Create a Meetup.com group
- (if you’re in Thailand/Singapore and targeting foreigners/English speaking Thais): similar to Line group usage. But in Thailand/Singapore there are lots of foreign tourists and expats so it’s a good channel to target them.
- You can organize permanent events like weekly or monthly to maintain loyal customers and the events are also a source of viral marketing. Read here for more info: How to organize a successful meetup
Start posting on Craiglist
- (if you’re in Thailand and targeting foreigners/English speaking Thais)
- It’s similar to Meetup but more like a classified channel.
Create a store/thread on some popular marketplaces/forums in your country
- Tokopedia, Bukalapak, Bhineka, Lazada, Shopee, Kaskus, OLX
- Lazada, Tarad, Shopee, Weloveshopping, 11street
- Lazada, Shoppe, Tiki, Chotot, 5giay
- 11street, Lazada, Lelong, Shopee
- Lazada, MetroDeal, Shopee, Globe Online Shop
Start using live streaming video
- Facebook Live, Line/Youtube Live. Live streaming now attracting more and more customers due to it’s liveliness, customers can engage and ask shop owners directly and instantly. Read: “6 ways to use Live streaming video for business“
Create a free newsletter with free email marketing providers
- Mailchimp offers a free list with 2000 subscribers, more than enough for a small business. You can create a list, collect and add your customers’ email to the list by different categories, locations, or spending. Then can start to send mail and track if they’re interest, read or click to the link in your email or not.
Create a free blog and start blogging
- Blogspot is easy to start but doesnt have much features in case you wanna upgrade and do more thing when you’re more familiar with online world
- Wix is also easy and they have some paid modules
- WordPress is the best case if your product/service need lot of content, training, education (for ex: cosmetics, beauty, mobile…) You can use it’s as a blog, then upgrage it to be an online store with WoCommerce later. In case you dont need much content, just simply open a store. Remember it’s the most popular blogging in the world with more than 60 million users. Read No.19 for more details
Write guest posts for popular blogs
- Search for related blogs and suggest to write guest posts for them about topics you have knowledge.
Create a Google Business listing
- It’s good when potential customers search for a nearby shop. It’s also good for SEO to improve your website/blog ranking on Google SERP (Search Engine Result Pages)
Always ask your customers to check-in
on their social media network when they’re visiting your shop
- Offer a small discount or gift for customers for liking/checking/sharing in your pages on FB/Instagram/Line etc
Organize an event on Facebook/Line/Meetup groups
Ask for help from friends or customers who are influencers
- They’re already in your social group, ask them to share, promote your online blog/page where it sounds.
Write a small ebook/pdf or guideline
- on the topic related to your products and promote it on your online channels
Promote your shop/blog/socials by email signature.
Open an online store
- OpenCart/Prestashop: free and open source, but you need to know a bit about technical stuff to host and run them. Or need to hire a freelancer to set up and maintain the shop. Recommended if you’re a developer.
- WordPress + WoCommerce: can set up and maintain without technical knowledge, but you might be overwhelmed with lots of features and plugins WordPress can offer. Recommended if you’re an online savvy person
- Shopify the most popular shop platform now for small businesses around the world. They also the only major global provider have official offices in Southeast Asia: Singapore and Indonesia. All you need to launch an online store, including a website, web hosting and payments processing. Easy to use, no tech skills required. Recommended if you don’t know anything about tech and not an experienced online person.
Take photos or videos of your customers with your products and share online (of course with their permissions)
Ask for your customers feedback and share on your online channels as testimonials
- Ask for reviews from your customers on FB fan pages, Google listings. The more reviews your pages have the more visible your pages will be shown on these platform, and the more customers you can reach.
- Organize a small online contest/quiz with some gifts for winners
- Write a guide on how to use your product and share online. For example, if you sell print on demand shoes, a care guide can make them more durable.
- Take a video how to use your product and share on FB/Youtube
- Ask for other related shops to do cross sales or marketing exchange on their online channels
- Sales on group buying sites
- Create sticky sticker with your website name. Then stick sticker to your product wrap/cover when deliver product to your customers.
- Use online survey to understand what your potential customers think: SurveyMonkey, FB group…
- Find a freelance marketer/copywriter to do all the stuffs for you: Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr
Learn how to use Facebook ads
- it’s quite cheap for small business. You can advertise your website/online shop for just $5/day, just give it a try. Read How to advertise on Facebook!
Learn how to do SEO to improve your website search engine ranking
- Use SimilarWeb/BuzzSumo to learn from the most succesful companies in your field
- Use Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io to know what your customers are searching about. Read: “Keywords research for dummies“
- Create another website version for the second and or the third most popular language in your country. Research about the largest expat communities in your countries (for example Japanese in Thailand, or Korean in Vietnam). Or the largest tourist sources coming to your country, which is usually Chinese tourists are the largest group traveling to most Southeast Asian countries. Read my post: “Five marketing approaches to aqquire Chinese Tourists travelling to Southeast Asia“
- In case you have done most of the above tips. And your revenue has been increase dramatically 5-10x, now can consider hire a full-time staff to do online marketing for you. Then you have more time to improve other aspects of your business. Eventually your purpose is boost sales and maximize profit, not purely about online marketing.
Finally, if I missed any thing or you have any other ideas, pleas share on the comment section. I will be updating this post when I have more ideas and info.