Caution: My opinion on the marketing strategy below may ruffle some feathers but my clients know me to be both direct and objective, so that’s exactly what you should expect as well considering I’m about to reveal a dirty little secret most “experts” don’t like to discuss.

Here’s the Deal

If you’re not getting results online then odds are your marketing sucks. Your strategy is more than likely too safe, and whatever agency/consultant/freelancer you’re working with probably told you some redacted version of what they should have, in an attempt to ensure they acquired your business.

Now that may not apply to you, but if you’re not seeing quantifiable results (more on this topic in another post) then chances are it does.

You see, there’s forever been a civil war amongst internet marketers and it’s not going away anytime soon. What is this war I’m referring to? The ongoing fight between white hat and black hat marketing strategies. I generally refer to them as “above board” and ethical marketing, versus “below board” and what is usually unethical marketing in my book.

Do both have the potential ability to deliver results? Objectively speaking, yes.
Would I recommend you utilize black hat tactics? For countless reasons, no.
Should you at least be informed of both strategies? Absolutely.

If You’re New

There’s endless content online about one versus the other, but I’m not here to talk about either actually. What I want to share with you is what I consider to be the gray area. The nebulous if you will. The uncertain area that is often times where the big money is actually made by the niche ecommerce experts who don’t care about your opinion and aren’t interested in landing you as a client.

(Important note – There is no marketing strategy that can fix a product that sucks. Unfortunately I feel that needs to be said just to make sure we’re on the same page. )

So here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  1. Black hat marketing = bad
  2. White hat marketing = good
  3. Marketing doesn’t solve your business problems if your products suck
  4. There’s a gray area that some ecommerce experts are using to consistently win

Here’s the best analogy I can use to relate my view on the current state of ecommerce:

It’s like a wild west quick draw shootout in the dark, except some of your competitors have night vision goggles and they don’t care if you bleed out after you get shot.

That might sound a bit exaggerated, and quite grim, but it’s what’s happening. Countless ecommerce experts are out there winning in the margins and so many businesses (especially those without significant brand presence) are struggling to gain traction or see consistent growth. You should already know by know that these people will copy and rip off your ads, funnels, and marketplace listings. In fact, a lot of them will do anything possible to steal your traffic, even if it’s temporary.

I Have Good News

First, it’s not [entirely] your fault. Second, unless you’re entirely out of cash, it’s not too late.

The dirty little secret nobody wants to talk about, is that those operating in the gray area aren’t competing on a level playing field. Remember, they aren’t technically doing anything wrong. Most people are afraid to discuss because they hear or see others criticize and frown upon those utilizing these strategies.

Seriously? Who cares!

It’s often times criticized and frowned upon when big companies open fire on one another in marketing campaigns, but when done legally, strategically, and tastefully, it can be liquid gold.

Why’s this important to you? Well while the big dogs open fire on the fully-funded battlefield that is large scale attention, you’re left in a digital knife fight with a bunch of ecommerce ninjas. I’m just wanting to shine a spotlight on all of it for you so you can decide how you should/want to proceed.

Now you might be wondering how I know all this. Well, I happen to know a number of these ninjas personally, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see (and test) a few “gray area” strategies firsthand. Some are better suited for specific companies, products, and marketplaces than others. Additionally, some things for me are too close to that line of what Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. could decide is against the rules in the near future. So In order to help you, I’m sharing the 3 questions I ask myself when evaluating these gray area marketing strategies. These questions aren’t full-proof, but it should at the very least give you a baseline to work from.  

  1. Is there an objective case to be made that it could be unethical business/marketing?
    • If yes, don’t do it.  
  2. Is the short-term gain likely to be detrimental to your long-term success?
    • If yes, don’t do it.
  3. Is this something that you’re considering out of desperation?
    • If yes, don’t do it.

The Takeaway

There’s a lot of content here without specific examples of these gray area strategies, but that’s intentional. I’m not here to weigh in my judgement on any of these specific strategies being used online. What I want is to make sure you’re informed they exist. Just remember to avoid black hat tactics and to evaluate any gray area strategies objectively. 

Some of these approaches are specific to a marketplace or platform, and additional variables to possibly consider are brand assets and intellectual property. No matter where you stand on the topic, it never hurts to be informed. Just remember that the digital landscape moves very quickly. The one thing I’d advise you never do, is go all-in on one strategy.

If you have any other questions about ecommerce marketing strategies, feel free to contact me on social or through my company CMO Agency and I’d be happy to provide any value where possible. 

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2 Responses to “Dirty” Secret Ecommerce Marketing Strategy Nobody Wants to Tell You

  1. Mark Reynolds Mark Reynolds says:

    This piece is pure clickbait – all attitude, no substance. The kind that gives “marketing” a bad name. Keep it on Buzzfeed.

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