What You Can Learn from One Online Retailer’s Social Media Success

by Michelle Salater on May 12, 2010

Continuing with our How Did They Do It? series, where we interview and spotlight companies who are successfully marketing their brands online, this post focuses on the successes of online retailer La Grande Dame.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Wood Hill, co-owner of La Grande Dame, a trendy, contemporary designer plus-sized clothing boutique for plus-sized women with a passion for fashion and a desire for high-end, trendy designer clothing. La Grande Dame provides a unique shopping experience with hands-on owners dedicated to excellent customer service and fit advice.

Below is our interview:

As an online retailer, how has social media and online marketing helped you connect with prospects and regular customers?

Social media has enabled us to have a conversation with our customers rather than just marketing at them. On Facebook, our customers tell us what styles they love, and occasionally, which ones they don’t. They also get to know us on a more personal level, which seems to make them more loyal to our site. While I have no formal data on this, our most active FB fans are also very good customers.

Along with Facebook, LinkedIn has generated great results for your company. What results have you seen and to what do you attribute this?

LinkedIn has allowed us to reach a very specific market that is very important to our success. We reach highly compensated, professional women who turn to us to outfit them for work and play.

We have reached customers on LinkedIn in two ways: First, I have been very strategic about growing my own personal network and making sure that my La Grande Dame updates are visible to that network. I make sure to connect with all of my friends, former colleagues, and vendors. As they see La Grande Dame blog and twitter updates on their LinkedIn pages, they tend to refer their friends to us.

The second way we have used LinkedIn is through their PPC advertising. We are able target women by age and title, helping us to really isolate the women most likely to purchase from us. Our conversion rate on these ads is significantly higher than that of Google Adwords.

Facebook tends to have more direct interactions with the brand, and the conversation is more brand focused. Customers spend more time actually talking about our products—the only downside of Facebook is that it is not as targeted to people who can afford our products, so the conversion rate on Facebook isn’t quite as high.

What online marketing strategies have you tried that haven’t worked. Why do you think this is?

We tried renting a “double opt in” email list. It was a huge flop. The click-through rate was very low, and the recipients that did click through only looked at a page or two on the site. Our ROI on this project was nonexistent. We have not been able to find a list that is targeted enough to make it worth our capital investment. We would need a list of Women, 30-50; Household Income +150K; Plus Sized. And so far that list doesn’t exist.

What marketing platform has brought in the greatest results for your business?

We have had the best ROI, the most loyal customers, and the most qualified traffic from our SEO efforts. Customers that come to us organically are about 10 times more likely to purchase than our PPC traffic. We are using our PPC in very narrow geographic / demographic areas now, due to this revelation.

How does reaching out to bloggers help you build brand awareness?

For the most part, bloggers are honest with their readers and tell them exactly what they think. Therefore, a blogger’s review is more trustworthy than an ad or a paid placement arrangement. Second, it is good for our SEO as it creates high-quality, relevant inbound links to our site. Third, you never know when a blogger is going to be asked to go on TV, write for a mainstream publication, or do a guest post on a larger website. Having bloggers on our team helps us get coverage in other outlets as well.

What is the one mistake you see businesses making on social media?

I hate it when brands only push their marketing message and don’t have a personal side. It’s called “social” media! Have a conversation with your commenters—ask about their weekends, what they wore, etc., and tell them the same things. Many of my customers ask about the progress of my pregnancy because I often tweet about it. It makes them feel like an insider.

How often (on average) each week do you spend making connections on social media in order to grow your business?

I try to spend a little bit of time every day cultivating my social networking connections—I make sure to tweet, blog, and update Facebook at least 5 days a week. Most of those days I am looking for new connections as well. I spend at least 5 hours per week on social networking sites.

About Catherine Wood Hill and La Grande Dame:

La Grande Dame is a trendy, contemporary designer plus sized clothing boutique for plus sized women with a passion for fashion and a desire for high-end, trendy designer clothing. La Grande Dame was founded by dynamic mother-daughter duo, Michelle Wood and Catherine Wood Hill. Catherine and Michelle share a passion for fashion and have spent the last decade scouring stores across the country (and sometimes abroad), searching for stunning clothing and accessories.

If you like this post, you might also like:

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  2. Is Facebook the New Walmart of Social Media?
  3. On the Cutting Edge: Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club’s Online Marketing Success
  4. Are You Turning Away Prospects on Social Media Without Knowing It?
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