Getting Started With Shopify

Ten years ago, the barrier to enter eCommerce was stifling. Building a store and getting your product to market was like an obstacle course. When you did find suitable solutions, they were scant and lacking. Many of the businesses that are still around today had to painstakingly build their empire from scratch.

But in the past five years, ecommerce has flourished. You don’t need to be fluent in HTML, JavaScript, Python, and PHP to get your business off the ground, and you don’t need to rely on a legacy system that’s backed up on floppy disks.

With this new era of ecommerce comes an arsenal of tools at your disposal, and much of the revolution is credited to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, like Shopify.

Shopify takes a unique approach to a cumbersome market, simplifying the experience for business owners, while nurturing a robust ecosystem for developers to build on. Thanks to Shopify’s ability to close some serious — and not-so-serious — gaps, we at Demac Media have been able to position ourselves as an ideal solution for thousands of clients, who serve millions of customers.

We know there’s no universal blueprint for finding clients, so this course won’t try to provide you with one. Instead, we hope to give you an idea of where to get started and provide you with a guide for developing a clear vision of your business.

In four chapters, we’ll give you a blueprint for understanding and qualifying potential clients, how to make the most of in-person events and digital channels, and offer tips on how to identify which Shopify offering will help you close the deal. We’ll also illustrate how we developed our Shopify client base, and share some of the best practices we learned along the way.

Course Overview

1. Understanding Your Client

We’ll lay the groundwork for why it’s important to really get to know a prospective client’s business, and provide you with a practical guide for what to look for and ask during the client acquisition phase. We’ll also go over some of the platform’s value propositions and what differentiates it from the other guys, as well as how these features apply to different client types.

2. In-Person Events

Wondering how to meet clients? We’ll discuss how to find them in their natural habitat, and go over our personal list of must-attend events.

3. Digital Channels

Learn how to leverage digital channels and content marketing in your strategy. Find which methods are best for you, based on your agency’s nature and style.

4. Qualifying Prospects

Put it all together. Develop targeted questions to uncover the needs of each potential client, identify exactly how Shopify can help, and determine how to best position the platform for a smooth selling process.

Chapter 1: Understanding Your Client

Asking the Right Questions

We’ve spent eight years building our agency. We started where most Shopify Partners, including yourself, should start — strategy.

In this chapter, we’ll provide a guide for developing a solid business strategy, and help you answer some questions that are fundamental to any business starting out:

  • Who’s your target client?
  • What’s your agency’s value proposition?
  • What does success look like to you?

Who’s Your Target Client?

Before you can think about finding your clients, you should probably know who those clients are. What defines them? We suggest identifying three to five key characteristics that best describe your potential client.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with key characteristics, you can try using these questions as a guide:

  • Where are they located?
  • What types of products do they often sell?
  • Who are their core customers?
  • How big of a company is your core client?
  • Are they owner-operated, or managed by a higher entity?
  • Are they B2B, B2C, or both?
  • What common problems do they have in their business?
  • What’s the job title of the person you sell to?

At first, you might find that some of your answers are guesswork. Try involving your whole team, as fresh perspectives can be helpful.

What’s Your Agency’s Value Proposition?

To properly sell to potential clients, explore your agency’s unique value. Your agency’s value might lie in any combination of its people, products, or services.

Here are some questions to think about while generating your value proposition:

  • What’s valuable about your agency’s offerings?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors?
  • What makes you unique?

We suggest aiming for between three and five propositions. If you have existing clients, it might be worth asking them what, in their opinion, makes you unique. We find it’s easiest to start with a longer list of qualities that you can narrow down later.

What Does Success Look Like to You?

People are more likely to trust you if you’ve had success. A clear picture of success, and a strong set of success stories, will help you land clients. You want your success stories to speak to your target client, and demonstrate your agency’s unique value proposition.

Our most effective success stories make prospective clients feel like they’re a great fit for our business, while highlighting the value we have to offer them.

The Complexity Scale


To position yourself as truly distinctive and valuable to a prospect, you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of what makes a potential client tick, and how they’ve positioned themselves within their industry.

This is non-negotiable for more reasons than one, but you’ll find one critical argument by looking at consumerism through a wider lens. Only 10 percent of the global market is built on ecommerce. That means that many of today’s business owners likely view ecommerce as just one cog in a much larger machine. By truly understanding the complexity of a prospect’s business, you’re able to provide them a deeply personalized solution that fits their needs, and in turn, sets them up for success on Shopify.

Measuring Client Complexity

At Demac Media, we use our own complexity scale to help gauge prospect customers. The schema we use tends to look like this:

Our complexity scale looks at how complex a client’s business model and operations are, which gives you a better framework than more granular metrics, like sales volume or SKU count. We use this as a basis to help determine the right client solutions.

Probing Questions


This section will give you rough tools to help you better understand the complexity of a client’s business. We’ll cover different criteria that contribute to complexity, and provide you with some of the questions and talking points that can guide your discussions with potential clients.

These topics are good benchmarks when assessing a potential client’s complexity, and at times lend themselves to questions that can help you better position yourself and your services:

  • Sales channels
  • Business-to-business (B2B) vs. business-to-consumer (B2C)
  • Product catalog
  • Logistics
  • Geography
  • Integrations

Let’s review each benchmark, with some questions to help you gauge your prospect clients and their business needs.

Sales Channels

A client’s target market will affect how their business is structured, so before you ask what sales channels they currently use, be sure to ask your prospect whether they’re going after the B2C market, the B2B market, or both.

We’ve found that:

  • Clients who target B2B are typically more complex than clients who target B2C.
  • Clients who target both B2C and B2B markets are more complex than clients who target either a B2B or B2C market.

You’ll also want to understand your client’s selling strategies, and learn about the sales channels they’re currently using to reach customers. Generally speaking, more complex clients tend to sell their products through multiple channels.

Your potential client may be using a combination of channels, including:

  • An online storefront
  • Social media platforms, like Facebook and Pinterest
  • Marketplaces, like Amazon and eBay
  • In-person point of sale

Your client may find that moving to Shopify will help to simplify their business operations, as Shopify has several sales channel integrations built into the platform.

Product Catalog

Inventory management practices and catalog size can vary greatly from client to client.

To understand a prospect client’s existing inventory practices, it’s important that you uncover:

  • How large their catalog is.
  • How often they get new products.
  • How purchases affect their inventory updating process.
  • Who purchases their inventory and what their needs are.

In general, complex clients tend to:

  • Have a high SKU count.
  • Frequently add new products.
  • Have products with long buying cycles.
  • Sell complex products that can be personalized or have several variants.

Logistics

Your client’s primary logistical needs will most likely be related to fulfillment and shipping. Generally speaking, the more complex a client, the more complex their logistical needs will be.

Ask the following shipping and fulfillment questions with your prospect:

  • Do you fulfill from your own warehouse or do you use third-party logistics (3PL) partners?
  • Where do your products come from?
  • What does your procurement workflow look like?
  • On your busiest day of the year, what’s your average volume order?
  • How do you manage inventory?
  • What kind of products do you ship?
    • What size are they?
    • How do they vary?
    • Are they perishable or fragile?
  • Do you use drop-shipping?
  • Which shipping carriers do you use? How do you decide which to use?
  • What are your return policies?
  • How do you manage returns?

Geography

Shopify’s platform reaches customers around the world. Take note of which markets your potential client is selling in, how they’re fulfilling these markets, and how they’re supporting them.

More complex clients tend to sell their products in a wider variety of geographic locations, both online and in-person.

Ask the following questions with your prospect:

  • Which currencies do you need to support?
  • In which languages is your store offered?
  • From how many warehouses do you fulfill orders?
  • How are orders routed to the appropriate warehouse, based on territory rules?

Integrations


Did you know that there are more than 35 categories of third-party integrations? In addition to your potential client’s current ecommerce platform, it’s extremely likely that they are also relying on integrations with at least a small handful of these third-parties to power their business.

Here are the third-party integration needs that we find come up most in the ecommerce space:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Comparison engine feeds
  • Content delivery
  • Content management
  • CRM
  • Customer reviews and forums
  • Customer service software
  • Ecommerce platform
  • Email marketing
  • Financial and accounting
  • ERP and fulfillment
  • Internationalization services
  • Live chat and click-to-call
  • Marketplace management
  • Mobile commerce
  • Online advertising
  • Order management (OMS)
  • Payment security and fraud management
  • Payment systems
  • Personalization
  • Rich media
  • Search engine marketing
  • Security certification
  • Shipping carriers
  • Site search
  • Social media marketing
  • Web analytics
  • Web hosting and infrastructure
  • Web performance monitoring
  • Website testing and optimization
  • Business intelligence and data warehousing
  • Point of sale (POS)
  • Point of service (store associate handheld technology)
  • Digital signage (in-store)
  • Fitting room technology

Knowing what integrations your prospective client currently uses is critical to understand, as this directly impacts the complexity of their business. Be vigilant about uncovering and understanding the many types of third-party integrations they are using.

Big Picture Questions


After you have assessed the complexity of a client’s business, it’s important to focus on the big picture, and ask the overarching questions that define a brand’s image, its niche in the industry, and its role in customers’ lives.

Before moving forward with a client, ensure you can answer the following:

  • How big is your client’s entire business, not just the ecommerce component?
  • What are their growth targets for the business? For ecommerce?
  • Do they have retail locations?
  • Is their business high-margin or low-margin?
  • Do they rely on repeat or one-time customers?
  • What are their differentiators?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What are all of the sources of traffic for their site (e.g. paid, organic, social, referral)?
  • How do they handle customer service?
  • Business history: who started their business, when did they start it, and why?
  • How important is brand or storytelling to their business?

Value Propositions of Shopify


As you start to understand the complexity of your client’s business, it’s important to think about where Shopify fits into the big picture.

At Demac Media, we think the following propositions provide a great starting point for identifying where your prospect will see the most value in Shopify:

  1. Rapid deployment times
  2. Unrestricted design
  3. Mobile commerce
  4. Multichannel capabilities
  5. Apps and the Shopify Partner Ecosystem

Let’s go over each value proposition to help you paint the bigger picture for your prospect client.

Value 1: Rapid Development


Ecommerce is a game of iteration and determining market fit. Quick store launches mean that clients can iterate sooner, and make money faster. Shopify fits the bill for this need: it’s a 100 percent cloud-based SaaS platform that requires no installation in order to launch.

Shopify uses state-of-the-art server technology, and a fully-integrated Fastly CDN to ensure its stores can perform during peak hours, powering up to tens of thousands of orders per minute, per store. Because of all this, we feel confident in telling clients that they won’t have to worry about their store crashing during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If your client currently uses open or closed-source platforms, they may find a SaaS environment limiting. However, they can save a lot of time and money by adopting a platform with lower maintenance costs. Your client’s site will be set up seconds after they sign up, with seamless and automatic upgrades. This means that from day one, you can focus on the design of your client’s store.

Value 2: Unrestricted Design



Shopify is completely agnostic to presentation and front-end technology. No complex page development is required, and design resources are all that’s needed to maintain presentation. Robust APIs, web hooks, and private apps allow clients to develop using any front-end technology.

You’ll also find more than 100 themes in the Shopify Theme Store, many of which are the brainchildren of world-class designers. The Shopify Theme Editor lets you easily customize a client’s theme to fit their brand, and preview any changes.

If your client wants more control over their theme, or wants to build their own, they can — no code is off limits. Shopify gives developers and designers the freedom to build what they need. We use this to instill confidence in clients that they can leverage the Shopify platform to build the kind of beautiful and responsive stores they want and need.

Value 3: Mobile Commerce


Although the mobile market has made ecommerce design more challenging, Shopify makes it easy for your client to thrive, by putting mobile first. We don’t need to tell you that having an online store without mobile responsiveness is a special form of ecommerce masochism.

All themes in the Shopify Theme Store have been tested on both mobile and desktop screen sizes, and offer a secure mobile shopping cart that allows shoppers to feel comfortable, while enjoying a seamless experience.

Store owners can reap the benefits of a mobile experience, too. The Shopify app allows clients to check-in on their store and view analytics, manage inventory, and receive notifications, all from their phone.

If your client is interested in developing an app for their customers, they can check out Shopify’s iOS and Android Buy SDK.

Value 4: Multichannel Capabilities


Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon — most clients find that their customers and sales are spread across multiple social platforms and marketplaces.

Shopify’s JavaScript Buy SDK can turn any of your client’s content sites into storefronts, and robust Channel APIs allow for custom work as needed. If your client has a brick-and-mortar store, they may also be interested in Shopify Point of Sale.

Value 5: Partner Ecosystem


Shopify provides a supportive ecosystem of creative ecommerce professionals and apps.


Shopify’s massive ecosystem of apps, web design and development professionals, agencies, and freelancers provides you with the opportunity to connect merchants with services you may not be able to build in-house.

This puts decisions into the client’s hands, and makes a snug fit for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Shopify Partners

The Shopify Partner Ecosystem is made up of many different creative ecommerce types, including web designers, web developers, app developers, and marketers.

Shopify Partners range from individual freelancers to established agencies, and offer a variety of services to Shopify merchants. To witness their impact first hand, check out the Shopify Forums.

Shopify Apps

There are over 1,800 apps available in the Shopify App Store. Apps make it easy for clients to customize their store design and extend its functionality, and helps ease the pain of migrating most kinds of data.

Tip

Many Shopify Partners see the ecosystem as a key selling point, and one of the platform’s most under-recognized differentiators.

Value Propositions of Shopify Plus


In addition to Shopify, there are also exclusive Shopify Plus features that enterprise clients typically see the most benefit from.

The five value propositions we tend to bring up about Shopify Plus most are:

  1. High-performing and Plus-exclusive APIs
  2. Avalara tax integration
  3. Customized checkout
  4. Internationalization
  5. Merchant Success Managers and Shopify Plus support

Value 1: High-performing and Shopify Plus-exclusive APIs

Your Shopify Plus clients will gain access to dedicated Shopify Plus APIs and increased call limits. Many of these dedicated APIs will help your clients simplify their business operations and customize their online stores.

There are three dedicated APIs that come up most often in preliminary conversations with potential clients: the Gift Card API, the Multipass API, and the Discount API.

Let’s take a closer look:

The Gift Card API: Most of our merchants use gift cards, which they need to track and manage in both their brick-and-mortar store and via their online channel. The Gift Card API can facilitate gift card tracking and inventory syncing to streamline the process. Review the Gift Card API documentation.

The Discount API: We find that clients with large brick-and-mortar businesses rely heavily on discounting and markdowns. These clients almost always have an existing system in place to create and maintain these discounts, making the Discount API a potentially valuable solution. The Discount API allows clients to disable, enable, create, and delete discount codes. This is useful for those who sell on multiple channels, and want to synchronize discount codes between them. For example, this API might help your client synchronize in-store and online codes. Review the Discount API documentation.

The Multipass API: In addition to their online store, many enterprise clients often operate multiple websites, like a blog or forum. The Shopify Plus Multipass API synchronizes logins between a separate website and a Shopify store, and redirects users to the Shopify store, while seamlessly logging them in using the email address provided at the original website. Review the Multipass API documentation.

While speaking with a potential client, you may discover that they have an existing content site. This type of client is likely to view the Multipass API as a valuable asset, so give it some love during the discussion.

Value 2: Avalara Tax Integration


Clients who sell in different regions know the operational pains of calculating taxes. The Shopify Plus Avalara AvaTax integration offers clients real-time tax calculations in all 50 U.S. states, as well as in over 14,000 jurisdictions.

Value 3: Customized Checkout

The Shopify Plus checkout.liquid assets allow for customized checkouts, which can include adding a logo, adding an order summary, and branding the checkout URL.

Value 4: Internationalization

No two customers are the same, and this is amplified when you’re dealing with the cultures and trends of different regions around the globe. Shopify Plus clients can access nine clone stores that allow them to localize their content on international sites.

The result? A stronger brand connection, happier customers, and more profitable brands.

Value 5: Merchant Success Managers and Shopify Plus Support

Shopify Plus merchants benefit from three exclusive support channels: launch managers, merchant success managers, and 24/7 priority support.

  • During launch, a dedicated launch manager will support all launch needs and serve as a technical point of contact for migration and development.
  • When the client is settled in, a dedicated Merchant Success Manager will offer their expertise to help the client navigate the wealth of resources at their disposal. From billing to development, and themes to channels, they’re available for everything a merchant needs.
  • Merchants have access to 24/7 priority support in the form of a direct line to support staff and a wealth of resources available on the platform.

Shopify Plus

Don’t forget that Shopify Plus clients also benefit from all of the Shopify features already discussed in the previous section.

Chapter 2: In-Person Events

Going Where the Clients Are

Armed with an idea of your target client, your value propositions, and stories of success, you’re now ready to start looking for clients. And there’s no better way to build a long-term relationship with a client than with a face-to-face interaction.

We’ve never met a person in a sales capacity who didn’t recognize the value of meeting in-person with a prospective client.

In this chapter, we’ll look at:

  • How to find clients at industry events
  • How to host your own event
  • How to participate in Shopify’s international events

Along the way, we’ll provide some of our best practices, like how we decide whether to sponsor an event.

Conferences and Trade Shows

 There’s no shortage of ecommerce and trade shows to attend. Most of the events we’ve attended have been in North America, but there are some great international ones too. The real challenge is in identifying which events are valuable to attend.

Not all events hold equal value. Some events target specific merchants, and some target different content markets altogether. When deciding whether to attend an event, pay close attention to who’s attending it.

Here’s a list of events where we’ve found success (dates and locations may change year-to-year):

Shopify Hosted Events

 If you’re just getting started in this ecosystem, you should also take a look at the events hosted by Shopify.

Shop Class

The most well-attended Shopify events are part of their Shop Class Series (formerly called Retail Tour). This event brings together Shopify merchants for networking, educational classes, and the ability to sit down with Shopify employees and Shopify Partners. Shopify has a strong physical presence in the international marketplace, which has been good for our agency.

A Day with Shopify

A Day with Shopify is a travelling full-day conference that is dedicated to sharing lessons on how to be a successful Shopify Partner. The events are held in five different countries around the world, and bring together web designers, developers, marketers, and ecommerce professionals of all stripes to learn and share advice.

Shopify Unite

At Unite, Shopify’s annual partner and developer conference, you can network and learn from other businesses that are part of Shopify’s Ecosystem. For us, there’s no better way to learn something new than to spend time with people who have their own success stories to share.

When attending these events, you’ll want to think about how you establish your presence. You’ll need to decide how you want to attend events: as an attendee, speaker, sponsor, or some combination of each. Just being there often isn’t enough to generate new business. We rarely generate new business as regular attendees.

To get the maximum return on your attendance, think in advance about your desired outcome. Your goal should be the driving force in your decision-making.

Decide whether you want to:

  • Build your brand
  • Find new prospects
  • Speed up deals in progress

Sponsorships

 There are lots of industry events to choose from, and sponsoring isn’t cheap. We suggest attending several before you decide if an event is worth sponsoring. Most events take place annually, which might mean you won’t be ready to sponsor an event in your first year.

While attending an event, pay close attention to who’s there with you. Whether you decide to sponsor an event in the future will likely depend on whether its attendees match your target client.

For example, an event targeting new ecommerce entrepreneurs is likely not a good investment if your target client is mid-to-large enterprise business owners.

What to Sponsor

Deciding which events to sponsor will likely come down to what a client is worth to you (their lifetime value), and how much you can afford to spend acquiring them (the cost of acquisition).

If you want to build a large, recognizable brand, you might need to spend money on large-attendance events, even if they don’t have the strongest ROI in terms of client acquisition.

Speaking

The purpose of speaking is to educate first, not sell your services or products. When you position yourself strategically, speaking at an event can be a powerful way to position yourself as a thought leader in the field. This, in turn, can become a great lead generation tool.

It’s important to keep in mind that most people attend these events to learn. The best and most sought-after speakers in the ecommerce industry are great teachers first.

Giving away your knowledge proves to prospective clients that you’re knowledgeable, and can demonstrate clearly that your agency is the right fit for them. In the long term, speaking engagements can also help strengthen your content marketing strategy, and your brand as a whole.

Tip

While attending an event, check out its content tracks. This will help you evaluate the quality of content at the event, which we’ve found to be a strong indicator of whether clients will return in following years.

Hosting Your Own Events

If you can’t find a great industry event to attend, why not host your own? This is one of our favorite activities.

Through hosting, you’re able to cater your outreach to a small, targeted group of people, and build brand awareness. Being a host also gives you a great deal of control over the timing and logistics of an event.

We see this control as a huge benefit. Industry events are often large, and the return on investment isn’t always clear. When we host our own, we can create events that are more timely for ourselves and our clients. We’re also confident that we’ll show great returns.

When you create an event, focus on generating as much value as possible for your attendees. You may want to consider the following:

Complementary partners: Are there complementary partners who can help you sponsor and promote your event? For example, if you’re a design agency, you might ask a development agency or a technology product company to invest in your event with you.

Audience size: How big do you want your audience to be? We suggest aiming for a small, select audience so you can create a high-quality experience, based on their common needs.

Location: Where should you host your event? If you have a great office space, think about hosting it there. It’ll highlight your brand.

Shopify Meetups

 In addition to hosting your own event, you can also partner with Shopify to organize a Shopify Meetup. Shopify Meetups are educational events run by Shopify Partners or Experts that bring together your local Shopify community to share tips, insights, and ideas.

Typically, we see three different kinds of Shopify Meetups:

  • Ecosystem-focused (this includes all Shopify Partners, including designers, developers, marketers, agencies, or freelancers)
  • Merchant-focused
  • A hybrid of merchant and ecosystem

Each style of meetup has a different atmosphere, but the common factor is that everyone involved understands the entrepreneurial spirit. Hosting a Shopify Meetup means you get access to a reimbursement allowance, receive meetup resources, and Shopify social promotion.

If you’re interested in hosting a Shopify Meetup in your region, get in touch with your Partner Manager.

Note

Want to learn more about in-person events? Check out these resources:

Chapter 3: Digital Channels

Exploring the Online Space

While events are a great way to build relationships, they shouldn’t be your only form of exposure. Events can be competitive environments, and may not offer enough time to meet potential clients.

Digital channels offer a space to communicate with prospective clients on a more frequent basis, and Shopify really allows you to take advantage of this.

In this chapter, we’ll take a look at the three major categories of digital marketing that we use at Demac Media:

  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Paid Acquisition

Content Marketing

 We advocate for a solid content strategy as the foundation of a strong digital marketing campaign. Frankly, you won’t be able to fully leverage your digital channels without one.

Part of our content strategy is producing educational materials for potential and current clients. We approach the production of these materials in a similar manner to speaking at a conference: highlighting our expertise and gaining the trust of potential clients.

Here are a few questions to help you assess whether your business is well-suited for this strategy:

  • Thought leadership: Do you have a thought leader in your business that can write on a topic relevant to your clients?
  • Budget, time, and systems: Do you have the budget, time, and systems to consistently create and publish valuable content?
  • Audience: Do you have an existing audience to distribute this content to? Do you know what other channels you can distribute your content through?

Let’s break down each question in a bit more detail.

Thought Leadership

You need to identify someone at your business who can consistently produce valuable content, and ensure that they’re producing the right kind of content.

Educational content can range from technical walkthroughs, to marketing tutorials, to a case study on your blog. The key is to target your ideal client and align your content with your value proposition.

Budget, Time, and Systems

Creating valuable content takes time. To ensure that your content strategy is set up to succeed, you need to put a process in place. There’s no point in investing in content marketing if you don’t invest enough money or time to do it well.

Part of establishing a solid process will be establishing a team. A great team usually includes a content manager, several part-time contributors, an editor, and someone who can take charge of the distribution strategy and measure the effectiveness of your content through lead generation, for example.

Audience

If you’re fortunate enough to have a blog or site that already gets a meaningful amount of traffic, publishing education-first content is a great way to provide your visitors with even more value.

A few commonly used strategies to increase traffic to your site include guest-posting on other blogs, engaging in email marketing campaigns, and paid acquisition, which we’ll touch on next.

Building Your Presence

We see Shopify as possibly the best marketing noise machine to ever hit the ecommerce industry. Shopify has a strong, consistent voice with high engagement on social media. It’s rare for us to go onto our Facebook or Twitter without seeing something posted by Shopify or one of its team members.

One way to build your digital presence is to engage in the conversation that Shopify’s already doing a great job of starting. Want a starting point? Here’s a list of some influential Shopify team members you can interact with today:

Paid Acquisition

If you’ve done the hard work of figuring out who your target client is, and you’re investing in creating valuable content, paying for traffic may be worth the cost. We believe there’s no reason to pay for traffic unless you have valuable content to direct it to.

We recommend having a sales system in place to capitalize on any new leads. Paid acquisition can get pretty pricey when it’s not set up correctly. To make sure you’re prepared, figure out the cost of acquisition, the value of each customer, and your conversion rate.

Note

Want to learn more about digital channels? Check out these resources:

Chapter 4: Qualifying Prospects

Finding the Right Fit

We can’t stress enough that not every client is a fit for Shopify. There’s truly an art to finding the best solution for your potential client. It’s important that Shopify is pitched strategically, instead of pedaled automatically.

This chapter will act as a mini-guide on how to gauge whether Shopify is the right solution for your client’s business needs.

As mentioned earlier, we use the complexity of a client’s business to help determine whether they fit with Shopify. As our clients progress along the complexity spectrum, we find the fit with Shopify can become less clear.

We’ll discuss how you can use complexity to decide whether a client is a fit for Shopify, and then outline a series of questions and discussion points to help you further qualify prospects that you might be unsure about.

At the end of the chapter, we’ll share our approach to navigating the fine line between pre-sale and post-sale discussions.

Previous Platform Experience

To better understand how your client’s store would operate and grow on Shopify, you’ll want to get a good idea of the software your client’s currently using to power their store. This process should include asking in-depth questions to identify any third-party integrations that you may not have discovered already.

Some questions to ask your client might include:

  • How do you ingest products into your site?
  • How do you manage orders?
  • How do you manage integrations?
  • How do you manage product variants?
  • How do you create, update, and manage non product-related content?
  • What types of discounts and promotions do you use, and how often?

While you dive further into your potential client’s business, we encourage you to think about which areas Shopify can support, and where other systems may need to take responsibility. Don’t worry, we’ll still be friends even if you recommend another platform.

Existing Internal Systems

 What internal systems does your client currently have? Are they SaaS or on-premise? It’s important to understand the motives behind your client’s current choices. One area that’s worth further investigation is their preference for SaaS-based vs. non-SaaS-based platforms.

Your client might be using a non SaaS-based platform for a variety of reasons. For example, they might enjoy its customizability, or view it as more secure. In any event, trying to understand a client’s motives helps you position Shopify more clearly.

You should assess who will be affected at your client’s business by changes to their ecommerce platform, and the implications that arise for these teams. In large organizations, this decision might affect the daily operations of an entire IT team, who might dread the thought of all the extra work that comes with adopting a new platform.

Ideally, you’ll be able to position Shopify as technology that will relieve some of the long-term work burden, without sacrificing the benefits of their current system.

Tip

Request for Proposals (RFPs) can be a giant investment for a service business, and some agencies get into serious financial trouble after investing too heavily into them. Look at them as one pillar of your business, and consider that many successful agencies don’t respond to RFPs at all. There’s a great deal of controversy around this practice, and there isn’t necessarily a right answer on how to approach it.

Additional Considerations

 In addition to qualifying clients from a technical perspective, we also have a few additional considerations we like to take into account, such as:
  • What does our client’s team structure look like?
  • How many other channels does our client sell on?
  • What type of seasonality does our client have?

Team Assessment

What do the merchant’s internal team capabilities look like, including its founders? A client’s team can tell you a lot about how they’ll use the Shopify platform on a day-to-day basis.

To get an idea of how their team is structured, try asking your client questions like:

  • How many people are on your team? What are their roles?
  • Will you need to limit some staff members’ access to parts of your Shopify store?
  • Is there a highly experienced employee (e.g. an engineer or developer) on your team who can take advantage of API offerings and the apps available in the Shopify App Store?
  • Do you produce a lot of non-product-specific content?

Additional Sales Channels

Shopify comes with a large number of high-value channel integrations, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Amazon. As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to understand what channels your potential client depends on for sales.

With Shopify’s extensive channel integrations and ecosystem, you’ll likely benefit from positioning Shopify as a platform that will help your prospect reach and grow their customer base.

Merchant Seasonality

Your client will want results during their peak seasons. Understanding seasonality will help you understand your client’s business needs and any launch deadlines they may create.

For example, if a client is only a few months out from their busy season and looking to migrate to a new platform, you’ll have a great opportunity to recommend Shopify over other platforms that aren’t as swift with launch timelines.

Closing the Right Deals

 If you sell your client on Shopify too soon, you may get yourself into trouble by investing too much time and effort into a deal before the contract is signed. Worse, you could sell your client the wrong services because you failed to fully understand their needs.

Finding the right balance for recommendation is the most important service you need to deliver on. Your job as an agency is to deliver the highest possible amount of value to a client, which requires knowing a lot upfront about the client and what they need.

With that said, some clients may not even know what they need. These scenarios will require a significant chunk of your time to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and pain points. In these interactions, your business and Shopify’s value often shine the brightest. Remember: you’re the expert making the recommendation, not the client. So don’t miss the opportunity to leverage your insight!

Recap

We at Demac Media hope you are now equipped with some new perspectives to approach the client discovery process, and now have the tools and knowledge to start building a more refined strategy for approaching clients. Remember to make use of the old adage “show, don’t tell” by offering knowledge to the industry. Speaking engagements, event presentations, and top-notch content marketing can all help differentiate your agency from your competitors, and show that you’re the right fit for prospective clients.

At this point, we also hope you’ve got a better idea of the big picture, as well as the finer points, of how to approach selling Shopify. We’ve reviewed how you can leverage your knowledge, expertise, and detective skills to find prospects who are a perfect fit. Once you’ve weeded out the non-prospects, you can focus 100 percent on your sales strategy, with the confidence that you’re setting up your prospects and your agency for a lasting and successful relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • Develop a strategy first. Ask yourself:
    • Who’s your target client?
    • What’s your agency’s value proposition?
    • What does success look like to you?
  • Not everyone is a good fit for Shopify, so don’t skimp on the prospect qualification process.
  • Evaluate the prospect’s business type, style, current functionality, and complexity. Focus less on granular metrics like sales volume.
  • Have a thorough understanding of the Shopify platform in order to find the best clients.
    • Five of Shopify’s key value propositions: rapid deployment times, unrestricted design, mobile commerce, multichannel capabilities, apps, and the Shopify Partner Ecosystem.
    • Shopify Plus’ extended value: high-performing and Shopify Plus-exclusive APIs, Avalara tax integration, customized checkout, internationalization, merchant success, and Shopify Plus Support.
  • Ask questions. Explore their business. List out their strengths and weaknesses side-by-side with Shopify’s potential solutions.
  • Explore different networking opportunities, like industry conferences and trade shows, hosting your own events, and digital marketing channels.
  • A strong social media presence can help build meaningful relationships with prospective clients, while nurturing current ones.
  • Position yourself as a thought leader in the industry by speaking at events and developing a targeted, educational content marketing plan.

Continue Learning

See some additional Shopify resources to help with your client discovery strategy:

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