Many startup online retailers burn a lot of cash driving sales through advertising on Amazon, Google and Facebook. But long-term success requires attracting loyal customers through quality products and content that wins consumers to your brand.

Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KissFlow

Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KissFlow

E-commerce giant Amazon is applying strong pressure to dictate which brands can sell on Amazon and how they can do it, according to several interviews. For example, when PopSockets CEO David Barnett sought to gain more control over marketing and pricing by selling through Amazon reseller iServe, Amazon quickly changed a policy to prevent the new partnership from happening.

The problem with Amazon’s sales-driven approach is that it’s more about the platform than the sellers who use it. When customers see discounts, deals, and slashed prices, they see blatant sales tactics used to push cheap goods that aren’t designed to last. These discounts might win purchases, but they hurt a brand’s reputation in the long run.

An approach driven solely by sales can cripple a business.

Instead, businesses should rely on techniques such as email marketing, which 74 percent of respondents said resulted in “excellent” or “good” ROI in Econsultancy’s 2018 Email Marketing Industry Census. Personalization can also yield big results, and a test that relied on artificial intelligence for personalized product recommendations created a 10 percent increase in sales.

An illuminating survey from HubSpot found that a mere 3 percent of respondents consider salespeople trustworthy. Clearly, an approach driven solely by sales can cripple a business. To prevent this harm from affecting your own e-commerce organization, build your brand on a strong marketing strategy by following these five steps:


1. Follow the AIDA framework.

“AIDA” stands for “awareness, interest, desire, and action.” The first two are generally considered marketing activities, while the latter two are considered sales activities. Marketing-driven organizations create awareness and inform consumers about how they can solve problems, but they’re less pushy than sales-driven organizations, which incentivize the decision-making process.

2. Learn from the best.

Take notes from big brands like Nike and Apple. Instead of creating a cheap, commoditized shoe, Nike built a brand by focusing on empowering athletes. This tactic inspired Steve Jobs, and the biggest company in the world is never selling but always marketing. Apple’s messaging focuses on the brand and how it solves problems for artists, musicians, and other inspiring figures — it’s never about a good deal.

3. Eschew a transactional business.

Especially when businesses are funded using venture capital, it’s a constant race to grow toplines as fast as possible. The problem is that focusing on sales creates a transactional business that rapidly burns through customers. If there’s a hole in the boat, the solution isn’t to bail water out faster. Plug the hole with a marketing approach, and you’ll stay afloat with far less effort.

4. Don’t rely on paid marketing.

As the primary avenues for paid marketing — Amazon, Facebook, and Google — become increasingly competitive, customer acquisition costs are being driven through the roof. The only winners in this bidding war are the three giants themselves. Venture capitalists call an excessive reliance on paid marketing “growing on crack” because it’s a harmful habit that’s hard to kick. Instead of paid ads, create compelling content that wins over customers.

5. Create loyal customers.

Sustainable growth means winning over loyal customers who will stick around for a long time. Passionate fans are compounding, because they become advocates who help spread the word. To earn this attention, a business must make a promise, keep it, and work hard to maintain it. Those that succeed will enjoy repeat customers for years to come.


There’s no doubt that sales is an important function, but a business model that emphasizes marketing will win in the long run. Follow the above five steps, and you’ll be well on your way to building a more sustainable business.

KissFlow is a SaaS-based, enterprise-level workflow and business process automation platform.