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Samovar Featured in “Web Two Point What? (Part One): More Than a URL”

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Monday, 13 April 2009
by Lindsey Goodwin

Social media offer many ways to optimize your Web site’s marketing potential.

You have a Web site with your tea business’s basic information and maybe a shopping cart. You know you’re not making the most of your online presence, but don’t know where to begin expanding.

In part one of this two-part series, Lindsey Goodwin looks at moving beyond the basics and using virtual marketing tactics like online storefronts and social networking to drive sales, brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Beyond basics
Most people by now would agree with the opinion of Jesse Jacobs, founder of Samovar, that having a Web site is “as important as paying rent every month.”

Amy Lawrence, owner of An Afternoon to Remember and upcoming speaker and exhibitor at the World Tea Expo, said her Web site acts as a worldwide, 24-hour advertisement and customer service rep. Since increasing her site’s e-commerce usability through simple additions – like “pay now” buttons for classes and events, clear credit card and shipping policies, and a security symbol – her online sales have skyrocketed. In the first three months after Lawrence’s new site launched, she matched online sales for the previous year.

While the cost to enter online retailing is low, Jacobs warned, you shouldn’t set up an online storefront blindly. He said you must consider hidden costs, such as accounting, storage and marketing, and standardize your processes to ensure customer satisfaction.

An e-commerce site may not be for everyone, but Web technology offers many benefits beyond sales. Bliss Dake, Mighty Leaf’s vice president of e-commerce and operations, said that although e-commerce is gaining popularity every year, other online approaches have additional perks – Twitter is immediate and viral, video and photos are visual, and blogs allow for detail.

Physical to digital
Between printing and mailing, Lawrence used to spend $1,500 each time she sent a newsletter to her customers. Given the cost, she did it infrequently. Now, she emails short “e-zines” biweekly and more in-depth “e-newsletters” four to six times a year at a drastically reduced cost. She said every time she sends out an e-zine, her site traffic increases as much as five-fold and remains high for about a week.

“When I know I need revenue fast, I send out an e-zine and I see results,” she said.

Here are her tips for success:

Use Constant Contact or a similar program.
Update your Web site to reflect your newsletters.
Consider timing and upcoming events.
Include valuable content, such as recipes or coupons.

Lawrence spends about 30 minutes writing each e-zine and two to eight hours a week working with Internet technologies to promote her tea room. Other publications, such as e-books and blogs, increase search engine optimization, or SEO, she added.

Blogging and microblogging
Chris Cason, co-founder of Tavalon, agreed that blogging increases SEO. He has been posting on his tea blog regularly for more than a year. Now, he said, “the blog gets just as much traffic as the site does, and anytime someone goes on the blog, there’s more of a chance they’ll go on the site.”

His advice for successful blogging follows:

Maintain objectivity to build trust.
Focus on information first and sales second.
Write with the voice of the company.
Create stories that encourage a loyal followingCover tea news and topical events.

Dake also uses blogs to increase brand awareness by sending samples to other bloggers. He said they often review the products and increase word-of-mouth publicity.

Twitter is sometimes referred to as “micro-blogging” because it has informal, blog-like content and a 140-character maximum. For each tweet (Twitter message), Jacobs said, he averages less than 10 minutes of writing and more than $500 in revenue.

Cason launched a Twitter campaign in March to reach 10,000 followers (readers) by April 1. Although he failed in the goal, he did generate publicity and reached 1,100 followers – enough to temporarily crash his site when he tweeted a 40 percent off sale.

“The best thing about Twitter is you get to follow who you want,” Cason said, “so you know that everyone who is receiving your tweets wants to know what you have to say. All you have to worry about is telling them what they want to hear.”

Dake recommended Twitter over other social media, video and blogging, explaining that it’s efficient, easy, free and effective for immediate connections with people. At the recent SXSW festival in Austin, TX, he used Twitter for a Tweet Up (get-together) where he gave away Mighty Leaf. He said it generated word-of-mouth publicity that lasted weeks after the event.

Sources gave these tips for using Twitter:

Put content before sales.
Keep posts educational, casual, unique and personable.
Give it a face, but don’t make it overly personal.
Follow Twitterers in related areas.
Tweet often.
Offer valuable content, such as interesting facts, quizzes, links and current happenings.

The potential for viral marketing is high with Twitter, they added, as followers often “re-tweet” posts to their followers, exposing information to hundreds of people at a time in an amplified form of word-of-mouth advertising.

Editor’s note: In Part Two of our series, WTN will address social networking, photography, video, other Internet marketing and web culture. Look for it April 27.

Media Contact:
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 /

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