Cover Story: Finding the Perfect Balance
Selling Without Selling
As for the integration and conversion process of the two sites, "the primary purpose of the GaiamLife site is to educate; the secondary is to sell," Marshall says. The thought process goes as follows:
- Devise an idea for an article, making sure it makes sense for the Gaiam brand and its customers.
- Write the article, checking internally if there are any products the company sells that relate to it.
- Down the right side of the GaiamLife.com page on which the article appears, display a DVD and, say, a yoga mat for a yoga-related article — both products that link to the Gaiam.com site.
"We don't want to turn this into an infomercial, and we don't want it to be like an advertorial," Marshall is quick to point out. "We've never wanted to cloud or obscure the education process by being over the top with selling."
In addition, Gaiam offers customers a free e-newsletter. As for staffing all that content production, Gaiam employs a small internal team, but most articles are written by commissioned freelancers.
Another way Gaiam has built an online following is through growing social media networks. With active profiles on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, Gaiam attempts to fill the gap with new customers "that we can't get in a more cost-effective manner," Marshall says.
In addition to taking advantage of the surging popularity of Face-book and Twitter, Marshall's keen on Gaiam's YouTube channel. The company posts one or two health and fitness videos weekly. "A lot of them are previews of our DVDs or announcements of our new products," he says. "If, say, we launch a new product for magazine, we may do some sort of joint video with Shape, saying that the new video is coming out. We tease that video and have a link to Gaiam.com, where people can order the video."