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4 steps to expand your brand with the law of least effort

By Ben Donovan | July 27, 2022
4 steps to expand your brand with the law of least effort

This is a guest post from Ben Donovan, founder of Brand Builder University.

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If you’re an eCommerce business owner looking to grow your sales, you may be wondering where to expand first.

With so many expansion options available to sellers, it can be hard to know where to start.

In this article, we’ll break down the proven expansion pathway we teach our six and seven-figure brand owners inside Brand Builder University so you can set in motion your own route to rapid expansion.

In his highly acclaimed book Atomic Habits, James Clear reflects on what is known as the Law of Least Effort in an attempt to help readers develop healthy habits.

It’s a powerful principle that not only helps build good routines but can also help eCommerce brand owners map out the most effective route to expansion.

Introducing the Law of Least Effort

In short, Clear details the Law of Least Effort as best illustrated in the expansion of agricultural practices across the globe.

Given the significant climate change that takes place when traveling across continents on a north/south plane, transferring similar agricultural practices across such regions provided great challenges to our ancestors.

It was far easier – or required the least amount of effort – to expand on an east/west plane rather than a north/south plane. As such, our biological leaning toward energy conservation led agriculture to expand far more quickly in an east/west trajectory than north/south.

Applying the Law of Least Effort to brand building

How does this all apply to building an eCommerce brand?

Great question!

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get excited about rapid expansion and push out projects in every direction: new products, more platforms, extra brands.

But the reality of rapid expansion is that if not done right, it can bring the whole house down.

In order to develop a sustainable framework for eCommerce expansion, we took the principles of the Law of Least Effort and applied them to brand growth.

Let’s dive into the four step process you can follow to expand successfully and sustainably.

Step One: More Marketing

The temptation for every Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) seller or eCommerce brand owner who sees growth following a product launch is to dive into another product launch.

What worked during the launch will work for expansion, right?

Not always.

The first step every brand owner should take before launching anything brand new is to maximize the marketing opportunities for existing products.

Expanding existing product offerings with additional marketing means there are no new products to research, suppliers to find, or logistics to wrestle with.

You can increase revenue significantly without adding extra complexity and costs to your business and grow much faster.

Which marketing strategies should you utilize? Here are a few of our favorites.

Amazon PPC

Amazon PPC (pay-per-click) allows Amazon sellers to bid on keywords (and competing products) in order to display their product when a customer is browsing the platform.

When a buyer clicks on an ad, the seller is charged a fee. The nature of PPC on Amazon makes it very targeted and one of the most cost-effective ways for Amazon sellers to advertise.

In order to maximize your return on investment, it is highly advised to work hard at developing good products with clear USPs (unique selling propositions) and optimize Amazon listings to achieve the best conversion rate possible.

Sellers can also utilize a wide range of Amazon PPC tools to help optimize campaigns and reduce the time spent managing them.

Google PPC

Google PPC ads are a type of online advertising that allows sellers to place ads on Google. When a buyer clicks on an ad, the seller is charged a fee.

Similar in nature to Amazon PPC, Google ads give sellers an even further reach, yet are still very efficient due to the keyword targeting structure.

Social media marketing

While the landscape has changed significantly over recent years, social eCommerce marketing still presents one of the best opportunities for brand owners looking to market their products.

Over 4.6 billion people around the world now use some form of social media, making it a medium bursting with opportunities to target your ideal customer with a clear call to action.

Search engine optimization

An often underestimated marketing strategy, SEO (search engine optimization) can provide a significant return on investment that continues to compound over time.

At its core, SEO is about producing content that appears in search results on search engines such as Google.

SEO is often an afterthought for eCommerce brand owners because it can take time to see tangible results. But herein lies an opportunity to greatly increase website traffic if brand owners are willing to invest time and finances into high quality content.

Influencer marketing

The rise of influencer marketing has been plain for every social media user to see.

This trend presents significant opportunities for brand owners who understand how to leverage attention by working with influencers to promote their products.

In order to succeed with influencer marketing, it’s important to build meaningful relationships with influencers who have overlapping audiences with your brand. They should also be willing to commit to a long-term strategy of outreach, content creation, and promotional campaigns.

Step Two: More Marketplaces

Through the Law of Least Effort approach, there is a balance to be found.

While starting out by increasing marketing is highly advised, it would be a mistake to try to eke out every last drop of revenue before taking the next step.

Instead, get existing products to 80-90% of maximum potential, then move on to the next step: more marketplaces.

By launching the same product in new marketplaces you are avoiding the financial and time outlay associated with a new product launch:

  • No product research to carry out
  • No new supplier to find
  • No new MOQ (minimum order quantity) to meet
  • No new packaging and ad creative to design
  • No hundred other things a new product launch needs!

To launch in more marketplaces, you can simply add more units to your order yet still access millions of new potential customers.

Which platforms should you expand to? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Global Amazon Marketplaces

Amazon continues to expand aggressively across the globe and launch more marketplaces for sellers to take advantage of.

With its groundbreaking FBA platform, Amazon does much of the heavy lifting for you when launching in new marketplaces. This means turning on new localities is often the easiest route to more revenue.

Shopify

If you’re an Amazon seller generating good revenue on the platform, you should be putting 5-10% of your time, energy and marketing budget into growing your brand’s presence off-Amazon.

Sure, it won’t convert as well initially, and it’s a bit more work to get set up, but if your goal is to eventually sell your business for the maximum price possible, owning channels through which you sell is essential.

Walmart

Often overlooked, Walmart is making steady strides in its pursuit of providing some real competition to Amazon in the third-party marketplace business.

Sellers shouldn’t expect to do significant volumes in comparison to Amazon, but it’s still a worthwhile channel from which to collect some low hanging fruit.

eBay

Despite its fall behind Amazon in recent years, eBay still remains a good platform to pick up some extra revenue from those buyers committed to the platform.

By duplicating existing listings or product pages to eBay, you can create yet another channel to sell on and maximize the revenue of existing SKUs (stock keeping units).

Step Three: More SKUs

Once you’ve realized 80% of the potential of existing SKUs, you’ll be in a much better position to launch new SKUs.

The challenge with launching these new products too soon is it can hamper your cash flow and limit your growth.

As such, by following the process to this stage, you should now have a much better cash flow, enabling you to invest the necessary funds to execute well on a product launch.

Don’t forget though, you’ll want to maximize the opportunities for each new product you launch. Be sure to analyze each opportunity and launch products on a timescale that will grow your business and not strangle it.

Step Four: More Assets

Finally, once you’re in a good flow of regular new product launches and have surplus cash flow to invest in further growth, it’s time to add more assets.

Expanding with additional brands

One option to drive this further expansion is by launching or acquiring new brands.

By diversifying your portfolio of brands, you can potentially create a stronger overall business with increased revenue and greater protection from outside elements.

Expanding with supporting media

If you’d prefer to stay laser-focused on your existing brand, there are other assets you can add to grow your brand.

Media that drives traffic to your brand can come in many forms such as content websites, social media accounts, and newsletters.

These channels don’t need to carry your brand as long as they are attracting the attention of your target audience.

They can then be set up to direct that audience to your brand in a variety of ways while also generating revenue in their own right and adding to the overall value of your brand.

In Conclusion: Expanding Efficiently

By following the principles of the Law of Least Effort, you can grow your brand without jeopardizing its future.

Start at the beginning and maximize low hanging fruit opportunities with more marketing. Then, when you’ve got the momentum and inventory you need, launch into more marketplaces to make the most of your existing product supply chain.

Once your cash flow allows, launch more products to compound on your successes. Finally, launch and acquire more assets to continue to build the value of your brand in the most efficient way possible.


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