How to sell products online?
Step 1: Know who you're selling to and where to find them
Step 2: Explain how your product solves a problem they struggle with
Step 3: Move customers through a funnel that continues to sell
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Statista did a study and found out that:
What does that mean for you? It means HECK YES you should sell your products online!
But how? Read through the comprehensive guide to get all the info you need to sell your products online. THEN join the Copy Identity Business FB Group and get daily doses of insight to grow your business and make more money.
Let's start by figuring out who we sell to and how to find them...
Let's start with the basics, AND BEFORE YOU SCROLL DOWN... let me just say that even veteran businesses get this wrong, or don't pay enough attention to it, so even if you think you know who your target market is, it's worth another look.
These are the people who really want or need what you’re offering.
Targeting, or segmenting, these people means you’ll be able to build your store for the right audience, efficiently using your resources to impress and attract your potential customers.
To begin, you’ll want to establish the need for your product or service, focusing on what problem it can solve.
Then refine your target market by identifying who has bought your product already.
This includes target demographics, audience type, and any other attributes associated with your target customer. If your product is brand new, you may want to look to your competitors to gain additional insights.
In all transparency, the toughest part of this process is to avoid making assumptions. This is vital to the quality of your customer targeting, because if your assumption is incorrect – you don’t make money.
For example, if you want to start a handmade soap business, you are probably an expert on your products’ many benefits.
But don’t assume consumers know these things as well as you do. They may not even know such a product exists.
As tempting as it is to fill in the blanks, you should engage with your potential customers and conduct as much research as possible.
As your business grows, you should continue to evaluate and stay up to date with your target market.
Your target market is absolutely dynamic. It’s always evolving and taking new shapes.
For instance, down the road you may want to expand and sell internationally.
Or you might think you are catering specifically to men, when in actuality you are selling to wives and girlfriends who are shopping for their fellas.
Knowing who you’re targeting, and continually refining it, will ensure you’re on the right track.
By the end of this section, you’ll be prepared to answer these key questions:
Let’s get started...
Clearly defining your target audience — whether it’s senior citizens, busy moms or even as specific as millennials in Texas — can help you answer questions and overcome obstacles as you kickstart your online store.
Here are a few business questions you’ll want to address:
Consumers who find your product appealing often share similar characteristics, which will help you fine-tune your messaging throughout the customer journey.
You can craft a customer profile to uncover those shared traits. This includes psychographic data about how the target customer behaves and additional basic information to help you identify your audience.
Start with demographic criteria:
Then add psychographic criteria to go a little deeper and paint a more complete picture of your audience:
Every industry, business and product is different, so these lists are by no means the end-all-be-all — think of them as more of a starting point to evaluate market segment size and opportunity.
Don’t be afraid to make adjustments and include criteria that will add interesting layers to your profiles — the better you know your customer, the better you can sell to them.
Creating a very specific customer segment is more of an art than a science.
As you get started, try to be as specific as possible. For some brands I’ve had the opportunity to work with, we even created profiles for our target audience, for example:
Our target audience is Jessica, a 24-year-old mom with a full-time job who spends her free time chauffeuring her kids to soccer practice, and going to wine tastings with friends. She makes an average of $65,000 a year and spends more money on her family than herself. She is most active on Instagram and frequently engages with parent-related content.
By starting with a detailed customer profile, you’ll be able to make educated decisions when it comes to building custom audiences and crafting compelling advertising and marketing campaigns.
New entrepreneurs often worry that they’ll be too specific as they conduct their research, fearing that it will limit their reach.
In reality, identifying a specific target audience helps ensure that you make decisions that are dictated by your customers, which sets you up for long-term success.
Drill down on who your audience truly is and study:
Understanding their age and income is the first step, but drilling down to the core customer problem is what will help set your products — and brand — apart from the competition.
If you do a quick search online, you’ll often find existing resources that can help you pull together information about your industry, the market segment, your competition and your ideal potential customer.
The best part is, someone has already done the work.
In most instances, the information you gather won’t cost you a thing.
However, the downside is that the research you find may not be as focused or useful as you’d like.
Below are a few resources that will add more color to your research and help you get started:
All of this information will help you develop a strong brand identity.
Now take all of what you learned in your research and ask yourself these questions about your competitors:
Depending on how well your competitor is doing, you may not want to go after a similar market segment. But, on the other hand, if their customers are extremely unsatisfied with current offerings, it may be a great opportunity to shake things up and compete head on.
Someone with strong business intuition will identify competitors’ weaknesses, discover overlooked areas of the market, and capitalize on new opportunities to drive online success – with the help of concentrated marketing efforts.
You can learn a lot about your target audience through primary research, which involves gathering data directly from consumers.
Although primary research can be a little more expensive than other methods, it allows you to truly listen to the voice of your customer and get answers to specific questions regarding your business.
Here are some things you can try out:
Now that you have some serious insight into who you are selling to, it’s time to ask yourself a series of questions.
Going through these questions will help you understand if you are ready to sell online or if you need to pivot your marketing focus (and potentially your products) to appeal to a different audience.
At the end of the day, the goal is to perform targeted marketing efforts that put the right message in front of key segments, which is why you’ll want to keep data on your target audience up to date.
Every six to 12 months, conduct additional primary research and refine your customer profile accordingly. This will help you refine your product strategy and brand voice.
As the marketplace shifts and evolves, your target customer may change. Get ahead of the curve, and you’ll always be one step ahead of your competition.
Now that you know how to pin-point who you sell to and where you can search for them, let's talk about how to show your customers that your product solves their problem.
Consistent brand messaging that both reflects a brand’s values and speaks to its audience is essential to creating a brand that customers can connect with on an emotional level – a core ingredient in building brand loyalty.
Here are 5 elements you’ll need if you want to follow in the footsteps of brands that have owned their voice and image, and create a similarly successful brand messaging strategy.
What is a USP?
A USP (or Unique Selling Position) is something that highlights what makes your brand special while illustrating to consumers why they should buy your products instead of your competitors.
Not sure what your USP is? Asking the following questions can help you establish it.
What makes you different? This is an obvious one, I know, but it’s the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out your USP.
Take Subway. The playing field has changed substantially in recent years, but for a long time the brand’s USP was that it was a fresher, healthier alternative to what was offered by the bulk of fast food franchises at the time.
That said, a USP doesn’t have to be feature-based.
Look at Zappos. Their product range isn’t particularly unique (they primarily sell brands that can be purchased elsewhere) but they set themselves apart from the competition with their utterly exceptional level of customer service.
What problem (or problems) does your product solve? Does it help your customers complete something faster, make an element of their life easier, or allow them to carry out critical tasks with greater accuracy?
Why would someone choose to buy your product instead of a competitor’s? Odds are, your competitors have USPs too. Take those into consideration and try to establish why your product is still the better choice.
We already covered target market research. Now let’s take that and go deeper. It’s impossible to develop a successful brand messaging strategy if you don’t know who your messages are aimed at.
This means that before you go any further, you need to know:
If you’re already selling, accessing this information should be pretty easy. Google Analytics provides some pretty detailed demographic data within their “Audience” section, and if you have a Facebook page, you’ll be able to gather data from there, too.
Want more data? Post-purchase surveys can help you create a more complete picture of your target audience (just be sure to keep them short, and consider incentivizing them). SurveyMonkey and KeySurvey both allow you to do this.
If you’re still developing your brand, gathering audience data is understandably going to be a little trickier. You’ll need to get data on your competitors’ audience, instead. You can do this using tools like SimilarWeb and Follow.
Every brand has a story; but a good story, told well, can help customers connect emotionally with a brand. It should also form a core part of your brand messaging strategy.
If you’re not sure what your story is or how to tell it, or you believe your story needs expanding, try asking yourself questions like:
And perhaps most importantly:
Let’s take a look at how other brands tell their stories. Just be sure to keep in mind how the audience you’re targeting will impact the way in which you tell yours.
Here are a few brands with stories that are well worth reading:
Still need help discovering your story and creating a messaging strategy around it? Join our free Business FB group and tag ‘Darian’ and ‘Julio’ with the comment “how do I discover my story?” - and we’ll get with you to help out.
It’s not just great stories that help consumers form emotional connections to brands. Companies striving to do good things resonate with a consumer market that’s becoming increasingly socially-conscious.
And when I say “goals,” I’m talking about how you’re trying to change things.
I’m asking you what you stand for.
I want you to look at the bigger picture.
Take Australian toilet paper brand, Who Gives a Crap. Not only is their toilet paper environmentally-friendly (it’s made without the use of trees), but the company donates 50% of their profits to charities that help build toilets for those in need.
This ties into their core brand message, which is all about demonstrating that they do in fact, give a crap – to the point that they put improving people’s lives above profit.
While you don’t need to go to the extent of donating 50% of your profits to charity, having something you care about beyond making money, and voicing it effectively, can play a huge part in creating a successful brand messaging strategy (and building a successful brand as a whole).
To execute a successful brand messaging strategy, you’ll need to pull all of the above together to create the messages themselves. You’ll also need to create brand messaging guidelines. I can’t emphasize how important this is. It will help you maintain a consistent voice across all channels, including your website and in marketing materials – a fundamental ingredient in creating a brand that customers can connect with, and want to stay loyal to.
Your brand messaging guidelines should include:
Once you’ve created these guidelines, they should be distributed to every member of your team, as well as to any agencies or freelancers you work with, and incorporated appropriately.
Once you've developed your product messaging, you're ready to put it into action. Let's create a journey for your buyers to go through that sells and keeps selling!
Each sales funnel stage has an impact on consumer behavior. By knowing each step, you can use tactics to improve the number of people that go from one step to the next which can have a HUGE impact on the success of your business.
For example, let’s say you double the number of people at 2 steps of your funnel:
That gives you 4X the number of new customers every month.
Defining and managing your sales funnel is one of the most powerful concepts in business.
So let’s dive in.
The sales funnel is each step that someone has to take in order to become your customer.
Let’s look at a brick-and-mortar sales funnel.
If all goes well, they finish the purchase and reach the bottom of the funnel.
This same process plays out for every business in one way or another. Your sales funnel could exist as a:
Any marketing channel can be part of your sales funnel. And your funnel might be spread across several channels.
Your sales funnel illustrates the path prospects take.
Understanding your funnel can help you find the holes in the funnel — the places where prospects drop out and never convert.
If you don’t understand your sales funnel, you can’t optimize it. We’ll go into the specifics of how the funnel works below, but for now, understand that you can influence how visitors move through the funnel and whether they eventually convert.
While there are lots of words used to describe different sales funnel stages, we’re going to go with the four most common terms to explain how each stage works as a consumer goes from a visitor to a prospect to a lead to a buyer.
When a visitor lands on your website through a Google search or social link, he or she is now a prospect. The visitor might check out a few of your blog posts or browse your product listings. At some point, you offer him or her a chance to sign up for your email list.
If the visitor fills out your form, he or she becomes a lead. You can now market to the customer outside of your website, such as via email, phone, or text — or all three.
Leads tend to come back to your website when you contact them with special offers, information about new blog posts, or other intriguing messages.
The sales funnel narrows as visitors move through it. This is partially because you’ll have more prospects at the top of the funnel than buyers at the bottom, but also because your messaging needs to become increasingly targeted.
It’s easy to remember the four sales funnel stages by the acronym AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action. These four stages represent your prospective customer’s mindset.
Each stage requires a different approach from you, the business owner, because you don’t want to send the wrong message at the wrong time. It’s kind of like a waiter asking you what you want for dessert before you’ve even ordered drinks and appetizers.
Let’s look at each stage in the sales funnel in more detail.
This is the moment at which you first catch a potential customer’s attention. It might be a tweet, a Facebook post shared by a friend, a Google search, or something else entirely.
Your prospect becomes aware of your business and what you offer.
When the chemistry is just right, customers sometimes buy immediately. It’s a right-place, right-time scenario. The customer has already done research and knows that you’re offering something desirable and at a reasonable price.
More often, the awareness stage is more of a courtship. You’re trying to woo the prospect into returning to your site and engaging more with your business.
When customers reach the interest stage in the sales funnel, they’re doing research, comparison shopping, and thinking over their options. This is the time to swoop in with incredible content that helps them, but doesn’t sell to them.
If you’re pushing your product or service from the beginning, you’ll turn off prospects and chase them away. The goal here is to establish your expertise, help the consumer make an informed decision, and offer to help them in any way you can.
The decision stage of the sales funnel is when the customer is ready to buy. He or she might be considering two or three options — hopefully, including you.
This is the time to make your best offer. It could be free shipping when most of your competition charges, a discount code, or a bonus product. Whatever the case, make it so irresistible that your lead can’t wait to take advantage of it.
At the very bottom of the sales funnel, the customer acts. He or she purchases your product or service and becomes part of your business’s ecosystem.
Just because a customer reaches the bottom of the funnel, however, doesn’t mean your work is done. Action is for the customer and the business owner. You want to do your best to turn one purchase into 10, 10 into 100, and so on.
In other words, you’re focusing on customer retention. Express gratitude for the purchase, invite your customer to reach out with feedback, and make yourself available for support, questions, and connection.
Imagine that you sell vintage signs. You know your target audience hangs out on Facebook a lot and that your target customers are females between 25 and 65 years of age.
You run a fantastic Facebook Ad that drives traffic to a landing page. On the page, you ask your prospect to sign up for your email list in exchange for a lead magnet. Pretty simple, right?
Now your leads have become prospects. WOO! They’re moving through the funnel.
Over the next few weeks, you send out content to educate your subscribers about vintage signs, to share design inspiration, and to help them figure out how to hang these signs.
At the end of your email blitz, you offer a 10 percent coupon off each customer’s entire first order. Bang! You’re selling vintage signs like crazy. Everyone wants what you’re selling.
Next, you add those same customers to a new email list. You start the process over again, but with different content. Give them ideas for gallery walls, advise them about how to care for their signs, and suggest signs as gifts. You’re asking them to come back for more.
There you have it. The customer journey:
You’re stoked now, right? You want to create a sales funnel — and fast. Don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as it might seem.
The more you know about your audience, the more effective your sales funnel becomes. You’re not marketing to everybody. You’re marketing to people who are a good fit for what you sell.
Watch your Google Analytics account or website analytics to determine what your potential customers are doing on your website. These user behavior reports help you monitor site activity and figure out how people engage with your site.
Where do they click? When do they scroll? How much time do they spend on a particular page? All of these data points will help you refine your buyer personas.
The only way your sales funnel works is if you can lure people into it. This means putting your content in front of your target audience.
Take the organic route and post tons of content across all of your platforms. Diversify with infographics, videos, and other types of content.
If you’re willing to spend more cash, run a few ads. The ideal place to run those ads depends on where your target audience hangs out.
Your ad or other content needs to take your prospects somewhere. Ideally, you want to direct them to a landing page with a can’t-miss offer.
Since these people are still low in the sales funnel, focus on capturing leads instead of pushing the sale.
A landing page should steer the visitor toward the next step.
You need a bold call to action that tells them exactly what to do, whether it’s downloading a free e-book or watching an instructional video.
Market to your leads through email by providing amazing content.
Build up to the sale by educating your market. What do they want to learn? What obstacles and objections do you need to overcome to convince them to buy?
At the end of each email, make an incredible offer. That’s the piece of content that will inspire your leads to act.
Don’t forget about your existing customers. Instead, continue reaching out to them. Thank them for their purchases, offer additional coupon codes, and involve them in your social media sphere.
Your sales funnel might need tweaks as your business grows, you learn more about your customers, and you diversify your products over time. That’s okay.
A great way to measure the success of your sales funnel is to track your conversion rates.
How many people, for instance, sign up for your email list after clicking through on a Facebook Ad?
Pay careful attention to each stage of the sales funnel:
Knowing the answers to these questions will tell you where you need to tweak your sales funnel.
Here’s the truth: Your prospective customers have lots of options. You want them to choose your products or services, but you can’t force it. Instead, you have to market efficiently.
Without a tight, optimized sales funnel, you’re just guessing about what your prospects want. If you’re wrong, you lose the sale.
You can optimize your sales funnel in many ways. The most important places to put your focus are on the areas where consumers move to the next point in the funnel.
We talked about Facebook Ads. Don’t run just one ad. Run 10 or 20. They might be very similar, but direct them to different buyer personas and use Facebook’s targeting features to make sure those ads appear in front of your target audience.
A/B test your landing pages. It takes time, but you’ll reach more people and convert prospects more reliably.
You can also A/B test your email campaigns. Change up your language, imagery, offers, and layouts to figure out what your audience responds to.
The best way to optimize your sales funnel, though, is to pay attention to the results.
Start with the top of the funnel. You’re creating content, whether paid or organic, to get eyeballs on your brand and to encourage people to click on your CTA. If one piece of content doesn’t work, try something else.
Move on to your landing page. Make sure the offer and CTA mimic the content in your blog post or Facebook Ad, or whatever other asset you used to drive traffic there. Test your headline, body copy, images, and CTA to find out what works best.
When you ask people in the Action stage to buy from you, A/B test your offer. Does free shipping work better than a 5 percent discount? These little things can make a huge difference in your revenue.
And finally, track your customer retention rate. Do people come back and buy from you a second, fifth, and twentieth time? Do they refer their friends?
Your goal is to keep your brand top-of-mind. If you never disappoint your audience, they won’t have a reason to look elsewhere.
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