I started my first online about 8 years ago.
70 percent of what I’ve sold online has been profitable. The rest has nearly got me into serious debt.
I’ve sold t-shirts, shoes, jewelry, clothing, candles, smartphones and even furniture. Over the last 8 years, I used platforms such as bigcartel, shopify, woocommerce, shopenvy, tictail, squarespace and variations of the stores available on social media sites.
In terms of traffic I’ve used SEO, Adsense, Facebook ads, print ads, pop-up stores, affiliates and even some pop-up events to attract prospects. (My top traffic sources are direct response ads, affiliates/distribution and content marketing to a warm list. Any of these could work for you. What matters most is if you’re good at them.)
I’m sharing this for those who have some kind of ecommerce startup or online store, are driving traffic to the site but for some reason are not doing as well as they should.
The most successful physical products are sold with relevant offers, remarkable stories, good branding and reliable distribution.
1 . Focus on the people who matter most
The trap most businesses in your industry fall into is to try to reach every customer in the market.
There is no business in the world that appeals to everyone. Even when it comes to water, some people like it hot, warm, cold, flat, room temperature or sparkling.
You have to first target your advertising at an audience that will relate with your message the most and desire your product above all the others.
Your product is supposed to call your ideal customer out of the line and deliver exactly what she wants.
Remember that every sale represents a buyer’s trust in you. When someone pays you, they just showed trust in your communication.
The better you understand your market, the easier it will be to convert that trust into sales.
2 . Position yourself in your market
Positioning calls your ideal customer out of the crowd to come to you because she recognizes that you know what she wants.
Someone said “people don’t buy just because you understand them. People buy when they feel understood.”
You want your prospect to think, “this brand gets me. they make products for people like me.”
I know a designer whose positioning caters to women who want clothes that are so glamorous that they don’t require a lot of jewelry to look fabulous.
Her customers may buy their work clothes from someone else but when they want to turn heads, they only come to her.
You could sell soap as a solution for men who work with their hands.
You could also sell the same bar of soap as a solution to women with dry skin.
The bar of soap could probably serve both people but the more specific your positioning is, the easier it’ll be to own a piece of your market.
3. Make your brand image a magnet
Your brand is the personality of the brand.
It’s a combination of the values and emotional connection behind the brand.
Your visual identity, price, packaging, design and the product itself are all things that either make your business obscure or stand out in your market.
Some brands are friendly while others are serious.
Some brands are personal while others are corporate.
You have to decide on what’s authentic to you and build a brand around that.
A few years before I started my business growth and investment firm, I owned a brand marketing firm, I have to add that many of my peers overstate the importance of the visual identity part of a business.
This causes business owners to waste a lot of time, energy and money figuring out colors and packaging when they should be focused on selling.
Work on your brand image but without a marketing and sales system, you don’t have a business.
*4. Design packaging that speaks for you *
A billion dollar food brand started making bottled water and approached an acquaintance of mine to help them stand out in the highly competitive bottled water market.
Their problem was that they knew who they wanted to be in the market but their packaging didn’t reflect that.
It didn’t matter whether they were flat water from Fiji or sparkling water from France. Their packaging made them look like something you’d buy from a convenience store with the extra coins in your wallet.
The consultant had them create new packaging, new bottles and even had them change the stores that were distributing their products.
That brand has become a household name in many markets.
5. Tell stories to sell products
When an investor buys an ecommerce business or a business that sells physical products, they usually work on the messaging(story) and distribution.
Once you have a great product with an remarkable story and distribution, much of the work is done.
Let’s use water as an example.
It’s said that bottled water costs 2000 times as much as tap water.
The industry sells close to $12 billion dollars every year in the United States and is reported to be a $100 billion dollar market globally.
How do you sell something that most people can get for free from the tap?
Here are some examples of how some popular water brands differentiated themselves:
“Two Norwegian entrepreneurs created Voss, a classy, designer-savvy tube of water from the crisp, frigid aquifers of their Nordic homeland. Shielded for hundreds of years from pollutants by thick layers of rock and sand, Voss water is bottled in Southern Norway, “naturally unfiltered” and served both still and sparkling. But its rugged purity is not Voss’ only selling point. The company’s designers painstakingly developed the bottle’s look and feel to reflect a brand that embodies both health and high fashion. Voss first became available mostly in upscale hotels and in health spas in Europe and in the United States but has since seen much wider distribution in gourmet food and retail stores on both continents.” source:gayot.com
“Discovered by a French nobleman during the French Revolution, Evian stems from a source that was thought to hold curative and restorative powers from the start. Evian begins as water that emerges from the Source Cache in France in a mountain tunnel at 52.88 degrees Fahrenheit. The source is fed from the melted snow and rain that filters through glacial sand from the Vinzier Plateau over a period of fifteen years. The glacial sand is surrounded by clay, which protects the water from pollution and gives it its mineral composition and taste. The water is bottled at a nearby bottling plant, which is highly automated and exceptionally hygienic.” source:foxnews.com
I tell chefs to talk about their inspiration for their recipes, what ingredients they use and don’t use, whether they make their cakes from scratch or if they use cake mixes etc. These things seem insignificant to them because most of them create marketing to impress other chefs.
The marketing should be targeted at your customers, not your peers.
Apart from selling products, your advertising should increase word of mouth. If you don’t control the narrative, your competitors will do it for you.
*6. Distribute through unlikely channels *
Which non-competing businesses have access to your ideal customers?
Who else is selling to your ideal customers?
What else do your customers buy that you don’t currently sell?
My brother has a business that sells heavy duty machinery and truck replacement parts. He distributes his products and gets new customers from mechanics, manufacturers, car washes, generator dealers and even oil companies.
Make a list of 30 businesses that your customers buy from and set up a joint venture with them to either distribute your products or flip it around and distribute their products to your customers in exchange for a fee.
7. Getting endorsers
In this age of social media marketing, it’s almost irresponsible not to have influencers who can introduce your brand to their audience.
A very successful protein bar brand has bodybuilder as their evangelists.
A potato chip maker uses celebrities who care about fitness to spread the word.
There are many doctors who make extra income by recommending baby wipes and diapers to new mothers.
The key is to first find people who are an authentic fit to the brand.
Secondly this person has to have an engaged following and goodwill with their audience.
Businesses make the mistake of partnering with celebrities without doing research to find out if the person is a good fit or not.
*8. Offer a sample if you can afford to *
Research shows that it’s easier for a prospect to consider a product once she has felt, tasted or tried it for herself.
You can expect at least 60% of your prospects to try your product and about 30% of them to visit your website and buy it.
9. Add a discount code or coupon in your packaging
When a sample or package arrives with a coupon or discount code, it creates another future sale just by being there.
The higher your discount, the more likely it is for a prospect to redeem it. Consider adding an extra offer in your packaging to create a future sale.
This works best if there’s a deadline or some form or urgency or scarcity.
For example, the customer buys a $70 bag from you and receives a coupon that offers another $25 wallet at a discounted price of $15 if she chooses to redeem the coupon within 7 days.
With a sample size of 100 customers, you get $7000 upfront.
If only 30 of those customers take you up on your coupon, you make an extra $450.
Imagine a bigger sample size of 1000 and 300 respectively. That would mean sales of $70,000 and $4,500.
$74,500 in 7 days isn’t bad.
A NOTE ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS
When it comes to buying behavior, you have three kinds of customers. 1. Fast buyers: This person will buy immediately and actually want to buy more if only you give her what she wants.
- The average buyers: This person will check you out on social media, subscribe to your emails and will buy within a few days or months.
- The slow buyers This person will follow your brand for months or even years before their first transaction. They like to think things through thoroughly before spending money.
Why is this important?
Once you’re conscious of this, you will know what kind of messages and offers to give to these specific types of buyers.
10. Make an offer and make it visible especially in your advertising.
What’s standing between your product and a sale is the presence or absence of an offer.
Visit most ecommerce stores on Shopify, Squarespace, Wix or Amazon and you’ll see what I mean.
Most entrepreneurs only show the product but do not show an offer.
An offer is an incentive to buy your products.
Types of offers include; Refer a friend and receive a free gift, free shipping on orders over $100, Save 205, free sample, 15% discount for veterans, buy 2 get 1 free, every purchase receives a free gift, Money back guarantee or a ‘no questions’ exchange, only pay if you keep the product, buy product and get product from another business, 40% off, Only 50 products left etc
*11. Use direct mail if you know your prospect’s physical address *
Physical mail still converts if you know what you’re doing.
A specific offer to a specific person will likely get a better response than a generic offer to a mass(cold) audience.
12. Set up a backend sequence to gain an unfair advantage over your competition.
The guy who makes my suits would deliver a couple of pairs of suits and i’d never hear from him again for weeks.
He was happy with just the first sale and he’d spend most of his time trying to get new clients.
I helped him set up a multi-step back-end sales sequence that doubled his business in a month.
All he did was offer products that his clients were likely to buy before, alongside or after they bought his suits.
I taught him how to set up relationships with other vendors who sold socks, shirts, neck ties, suspenders, shoes and even barber shops and other men’s grooming establishments.
Since they are going to buy other products, they might as well get them from him or someone he recommends while he gets a commission on the backend.
The old way of selling online was to send traffic to your website and after the sale you would go out and try to get more customers.
Very soon, entrepreneurs started offering an up-sell, a cross-sell or down-sell after the first transaction and profits started to take off.
To gain an “unfair advantage” over your competitors, copy this.
Find complementary products and services that give more value to your customers after the first transaction.
*13. Reactivate past customers with a loyalty deadline offer *
A person who has bought from you in the past is more valuable than a cold prospect.
Money is a form of trust so each purchase is proof of trust. Memorize that statement.
You can double your sales and profits this month by simply reactivating past customers.
Send an offer that has a deadline specifically to your past customers.
This offer may be for a new product, affiliate offering, a service or even the same product they bought in the past but at a discount.
You can say ‘Hi, i’ve decided to reward my past customers by offering a discount for X product. It’s only available to loyal people like you. The offer ends in 5 days so go ahead and get it now. Thank you.”
*14. Corporations don’t sign checks. The people who run them do *
Entrepreneurs that target B2B or Enterprise clients make the mistake of advertising like they are talking to a corporation. They forget that it’s a human who will see and approve the sale.
Create communication that speaks to the hearts and heads of the people who run the organizations you’re targeting.
“Dissolve” their doubts by answering as many objections as you can in your communication.
Even if you did this every other month, you could generate more profits than you would if you didn’t.
15. Four ways to grow an online store faster
First, increase your customer base.
Second, increase the transaction size per customer by getting them to buy more products or by increasing your prices.
Third, get more repeat customers and reactivate old ones to keep buying.
Fourth, get more referrals by intentionally setting up a system to ask for them.
16. Get the same traffic that is going to your competitors
There are online tools like SimilarWeb that can show you where your competitors are getting their traffic from.
If you find out that your competitor is getting most of their traffic from a specific blog, website or publication, you can advertise on the same platform.
Be careful to do your research before picking a platform to advertise on.
If you’re selling to graphic designers, a blog that’s focused on graphic design will most likely give you access to your ideal customers over a blog that generally focuses on design.
*17. Create contests, giveaways and sweepstakes either online or offline *
There’s a culinary brand on Instagram that my family has probably given a thousand dollars and tons of referrals in a very short period of time.
We got introduced to them when they offered a free box of baked goods to anyone who commented on a specific post.
We won and that started a profitable relationship for both of us.
If you can’t give away your own product, you can offer movie tickets, electronics, free services and other types of contests.
Contests and giveaways work great if you have a physical location as well.
Contests and giveaways can do the following:
Increase awareness of your new brand or products;
Attract new customers;
Grow your email newsletter subscription list; Drive customers to your website or into your store; Get valuable data from existing and prospective customers; Increase social media followers; Get rid of excess inventory as gifts or prizes etc.
Remember ONE thing
All we do in business is find the right customers, attract them and convert them into happy, paying customers.
Know what your product is. Know what your market wants. Know which traffic channels are working and optimize them. Set up a back-end sales sequence that offers value and makes you money after the first transaction. If you focus on these alone, you will do better than most of the businesses in your market. Invitation
It would take weeks and untold hours to share with you everything you need to know about building a profitable ecommerce campaign.
In this age of information overload, I see entrepreneurs who are stressed and overwhelmed.
They ask, “should I start a blog? What about a podcast? How about SEO? A snapchat filter? And so on and so forth.
Do yourself a favor. Simply your marketing and sales system so you can focus on the parts of your business that you enjoy.
I stopped e-commerce because I’ve found a better way to use my skills but I’m happy to answer any questions.