Imagine you sell a rare product and your total target audience is a couple of thousand people around the globe. How would you drive them to your website?
Dominique Frossard, the founder of the JeepCherokeeChief store, runs a manufacturing and distribution company of exterior parts for the Jeep Full Size, a model produced in the
His story is about how a personal passion led to managing a business in three countries and sheds light on his ways of driving free or
Now his company supplies parts to brands that he used to buy from — so let’s look back on how Dominique achieved that.
The Man at the Wheel
Searching a solution to a
During his own Cherokee Jeep restoration, he found out that in contrast to widely sold mechanical parts, exterior parts like parking lights or bumper stripes were not easy to get.
Then Dominique started a project to rebuild the parts and start selling them to other Jeep lovers:
My passion for this type of Jeep came from my father, who one day took a picture of me sitting on the hood of one of these models in 1972. My main job is head of digital experience for a company in Switzerland and as part of it, I wanted to have a real project different from those of the clients, in which I could act as I wanted to develop my business online. The two things together plus the experience of restoration made me start this project.
Now I breathe this project and live my passion — and that is priceless, says Dominique.
From Passion to Business Launch
JeepCherokeeChief Store operation takes place in three countries: Dominique runs the business from Switzerland, where he lives while manufacturing the parts in Asia and storing them in the US. Such a widespread system requires knowledge and strategy, and we are going to discover it.
An impressive thing about web technologies is that I do not see people as we simply use email. I’ve never seen the manufacturing plant, the warehouse, the buyers — nobody at all.
Before contacting the first manufacturer, Dominique decided to study the field of knowledge called plastic injection to know the right terms for the research. This is a good tip for everyone who wants to find a reliable supplier.
The search was not complicated. I only contacted those who offered a contact form or a visible call to action — about
Finding storage and setting up shipping
The first storage was in Switzerland, but since the majority of his target audience is in the United States, Dominique looked for a way to place the product closer to the customer:
My mother tongue was not English, but French, so I took a little time to learn the terms to use for these fulfillment and warehouse storing services.
For foreign entrepreneurs, it is necessary to get an EIN to be able to create an official US address and to rent a warehouse.
A warehouse offers a direct connection to selling solutions like eBay or Ecwid, which allows me to automate the shipping. I just have to manage the stock and regularly send a package of products to the USA.
Dominique mentioned that products going to destinations outside the US & Canada (2%) are shipped directly from Switzerland.
Creating an online store
When it comes to launching a business, everyone wants to make it a reasonably fast process. Creating a custom
I googled Create your online shop and I came across a comparison of existing solutions. At that time I had the choice between Ecwid and Shopify. I chose Ecwid because there are no fees on sales and the prices are lower.
Back then, Ecwid didn’t have the new version of Instant Site, so Dominique wondered how to show the company info (images and text) while he was getting ready with the website.
However, he was happy that the online store was up and running very soon:
It was done in two evenings only, which was good news — I thought I would need more time, but I had an online business right away.
Dominique chose to accept payments with PayPal in Ecwid because it would avoid disputes in case of any issues.
Going to the Highways of eBay
After you launch a brand new online store, the next step is generating traffic. For Dominique, it was quite a challenge: it took some time to gain an audience on social media, PPC ads cost too much, and the bounce rate was higher than he had expected.
Three months after the launch, the idea of eBay occurred to Dominique, mostly because of the experience in his own Jeep restoration — he used to find the necessary parts there before.
During my own restoration in 2011, I started by opening a FB page and I published more than 3,500 images of the restoration process. I also joined a lot of Facebook groups on the same theme, and at this time I realized that others were doing very frequent searches on eBay.
At first, he could not sell on ebay.com, only on eBay.ch, but after 90 days and 10 products sold, Dominique was able to open an account at Ebay.com, which increased his sales by 300%. He shared why eBay was great for a beginner business:
The buyer’s attention is limited to the product they are looking for. Branding and design are not in the focus. A teenager can sell his radio at the same level as the professional business. Optimizing the listing is crucial.
Dominique told us that he didn’t integrate his Ecwid store with eBay because he needed different pricing for the marketplace:
eBay takes 10% off my orders, so I have to adapt.
The Cherokee Jeep Chief store’s assortment counts two products only, so it’s not hard to sync orders. If you have a lot of products in your storefront, consider integrating your Ecwid store with eBay.
Establishing the Marketing Strategy
We also asked Dominique how he promotes his store. His main goal is to improve SEO for his online store, where he gets sales with no fees, in contrast to eBay, from where he gets free traffic but loses 10% from sales.
Dominique explained his specific interest in SEO:
As eBay takes a 10% fee, I have sought to redirect traffic from Google (organic) search on my site and therefore to the Ecwid store, so I have to learn SEO techniques.
Here are the steps he took to improve the SEO for his website:
- Subscription to a professional SEO tool, SEMRUSH.com
- Search for keywords that currently generate traffic to his site and also keywords that drive traffic to his competitors’ sites
- Search the commonly used keywords to target the sale of Jeep products
- Add new keywords representing his site and products
- Based on this list of more than 100 keywords, optimization of each of his pages, by rewriting all the texts of the site to integrate keywords
- Schedule weekly reports
- Create blog posts
- Acquisition of back links.
PPC ads turned inefficient for Dominique. Here’s what he has to say:
I did a couple of campaigns at the beginning before I realized that the cost per click was $
The restoration of Dominique’s personal Jeep helped a lot in gaining an engaged community of social media followers. The Jeep Cherokee Chief store’s social media now count 3,500 FB followers, 3,900 on Instagram, 200 on Twitter, and 200 on Pinterest — all organic.
The content plan breaks down as follows:
I talk about my restoration and I target enthusiasts. I take road trips, shoot photos and finally, I post everything related to the production for enthusiasts as well. I publish only personal content to avoid diversifying and losing my audience.
Dominique mentioned that he created relevant hashtags such as #fsjJeepRestoration, #clearlenscover, #bumperStripes, and also hashtags that Jeep uses, such as #75together, #myJeepStory, and #jeepSwitzerland.
I noticed that jeep.com had created a new tag, #myJeepStory, during their marketing campaign in 2016. When I started to tell Instagram the story of the Jeep road trip with my daughter in the French Alps. I used this hashtag systematically which allowed the Jeep brand to find my publications and contact me to ask for additional information. I didn’t have to ask them — they simply came to me.
This resulted in a publication on Jeep.com:
Pinterest also helps Dominique connect with Jeep lovers:
I also use Pinterest with a board, including a specific Jeep spirit. I pin all images including the spirit of vintage, truck, jeep, cottage, and outdoor activities. This board is directly connected to my Socially Map, which automatically republishes on 3 networks at specific times.
Google Analytics’ UTM parameters allow Dominique to get a better idea of where his users come from and to check the statistics every day. All in all, his social media strategy has brought significant results:
Over time, I have created a multichannel @jeepcherokeechief presence.
Email helps to get feedback from the customers:
After selling my first product, as I knew what other products were also unavailable, I created a survey based on a choice of 5 pieces, which was published on my site. About 200 people participated, which allowed me to have confirmation of the really desirable parts. So I am creating other pieces and I systematically inform my followers of the projects’ progress through my blog and newsletters.
Dominique uses MailChimp to send regular newsletters and has set up automated billing emails.
Click to see the full picture of the company architecture.
Future Plans and the Next Steps
By now, the Jeep Cherokee Chief store has grown to a solid source of parts that other suppliers look up to. Here’s what Dominique has to say:
I think it is quite funny: before, I bought products from US suppliers of spare parts for Jeep, and now it is they who contact me to buy my products in large quantities.
We were curious to learn what further plans such an ambitious and
I am looking to manufacture more and more new products, in order to become autonomous within 5 years.
As a suggestion to all Ecwid entrepreneurs, Dominique mentioned that Ecwid is a good choice for a smooth launch, highlighted the importance of SEO improvements right after opening the store, and summed up the checklist for bringing traffic back to your site at no cost:
- Create your Facebook page (for now the most effective social medium).
- Integrate Ecwid with Facebook.
- Set up the subscription to a newsletter.
- Create a blog.
- Define one or two #hashtags.
- Open an Instagram account and post beautiful images of your products.
- Publish your projects and news on Facebook.
- Go to the networks of others and talk about yourself and your company.
- Make videos of your products and publish them on YouTube.
- Sign up on all forums related to your business.
- Create competitions and lotteries.
If you liked Dominique’s story and feel like you want to share yours too, please drop a line on firstname.lastname@example.org!