Have you ever walked into a bar, restaurant, or other small business and saw money framed and mounted on the wall like a trophy or work of fine art?
For many businesses that first sale, first dollar earned is a monument, marking the transition to a real revenue-generating concern. Unfortunately, brand new online retailers sometimes open to something like the sound of crickets chirping.
Here are 17 ways to make your first online sale even before Google or Bing have bothered to notice you:
1. Tell Family & Friends
Imitate the Avon ladies, Tupperware queens, and Pampered Chefs of multi-level marketing and tell all of your family and friends about your new ecommerce store. Encourage them to share a link or two on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Remember, you're not just asking them to make a purchase, you're asking them to share your online store with their network - which can be extremely valuable.
2. Use Google Adwords
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, at its core, is the act of buying site traffic. Although PPC marketing can be nuanced, it's a pretty sure fired way to get site visitors and, thereby, sales. Every new Shopify store owner receives a $100 Google AdWords Credit upon signing up. Use your AdWords credit to drive targeted traffic to your online store. Finding the right audience across millions of websites can be difficult and when you're paying per click, the costs can add up. Be sure to learn some Google AdWords best practices before ramping up your spend too much.
3. Give Stuff Away
Giving products away may not seem like a smart way to sell something, but there are two clever ways to turn giveaways into real sales.
- You can gain hundreds, even thousands of email subscribers by hosting a product giveaway before or after your online store opens. Ask visitors to register to enter the contest and give bonus entries for sharing the contest on social media networks or forwarding it to friends. Once the site launches, or when the contest ends, send a promotional email offering a discount.
- Search google for the influencers in your industry. Say you're selling a cool new gadget, find the reporters, blogs, and magazines that may be interested in your product and send them a free sample with a short description of what your product and online store is all about. Big businesses have been doing this for ages, and it works if done correctly. Just don't expect a huge response from this tactic, even if you only get 1 article as a result, the campaign should be considered a success.
4. Make an Infographic
Informational graphics, better known as infographics, visually display data in a way that makes it easy to understand. This form of data communication has become very popular recently — as an example check out our Build-a-Business infographic published right here on the Shopify blog.
Have a designer create an infographic relevant to the products your store carries. For example, if you sell hiking boots you could publish an infographic about the miles of open, public trails that might show how the number of miles of trails has changed over time or in comparison to other regions. Killer Infographics is a great design firm that only does infographics - they're a great place to start. The inforgraphic could then be released on a paid news service like iReach, or a free design "show-and-tell" platform like dribbble. Dozens of publications could republish the graphic Each one linking back to the store.
5. Submit to Product Feeds
Sites like The Find, Nextag, Shopzilla, and Google Merchant, aggregate product information and prices so that consumers can find and, let's be frank, compare prices more readily. Adding a feed to one of these sites and sometimes paying a small fee could send a parade of new customers to your online store, helping to secure an initial sale.
6. Embrace Video
When the marketers at Seattle-based Replyboard launched their service, which screens Craigslist replies, they released four videos showing ReplayBoard pranksters responding to Craigslist ads. One video features a man randomly taking a shower at a seller's home. It's pretty hilarious.
While it might not be a great idea to "punk" potential customers, video can be a very powerful way to promote a new business, and in the case of an ecommerce business, garner sales. You can also consider adding ecommerce product videos to your online store to better display some of your more popular products.
7. Put Stuff on eBay
Online retailers should be comfortable selling via any number of channels, including eBay or similar auction sites. Don't be afraid to put a few products up. Include a coupon for 10 percent off a purchase from your online store. This way, it's possible to make a first sale and a second.
8. Ask Vendors for Some Love
Distributors and manufacturers will often help new retailers by including the startup in dealer listings or mentioning the new retailer on social media sites. Don't be afraid to ask them for some assistance while you're building your business.
9. Get Interviewed
Merchants are frequently experts in a particular industry. If you sell handmade shirts and you're knowledgeable in men's fashion, why not approach media outlets about providing them with expert comment on fashion. Reporters are often on the hunt for industry experts, and you'll often get the opportunity to mention the company you own or represent.
To help get this sort of relationship going, consider using Help a Reporter Out (HARO), and check out our Guide to Getting PR.
10. Make an Awesome Blog
Content marketing is the technique of attracting site visitors (read potential customers) by providing good quality content, like how-to blog posts. There are a few key ingredients to improve your ecommerce store's blog and make it something worth sharing: Offer good and relevant content, make sure it's visually appealing, show your products in action, keep it short and snappy, and show them behind the scenes.
11. Use Amazon Product Ads
Amazon lets online retailers place ads right in the context of an Amazon product detail page. Since the people who see your ad are already on Amazon.com looking to make a purchase, the conversion rate on these ads can be much higher than traditional PPC.
12. Hand Out Business Cards
Every online store owners should have business cards. Get some cards made, make sure they're stylish and reflect your store design. Remember, your store URL should be front and center. At Shopify we get all our cards made by MOO - they do extremely high quality work for a good price. Since I'm referring you, if you use the link above, you'll get 10% off your first order. Once you have your cards, hand them out to everyone!
13. Rev Up Social Media
You've read a million blog articles about social media marketing for a reason - it works. Make sure you have a strong presence on all the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Start conversations about your industry, and also inject yourself into conversations already happening, and you'll quickly grow to become an influencer and a thought leader. It's amazing how much traffic you can drive through social media. If you keep growing your social presence it won't be long until your following start to convert to customers.
14. Create a Coupon Code
Everyone loves a deal. You may be surprised how many people shop by typing "____coupon code" into Google. Create a coupon code for your online store then head over to a site like RetailMeNot or RedFlagDeals and post your deal. Write something like, "Woah, I just found this awesome coupon for yourstore.com!"
15. Consider an Affiliate Program
With an affiliate program you can pay people to share and promote your products. Essentially, you sign up with a service like Commission Junction or ShareASale and then you'll pay the "affiliate" a certain commission on each sale they bring you. These sites can be expensive and time consuming so they're not for everyone, but for certain products it's worth a shot.
16. Facebook Advertising
Facebook advertising can be a great way to access a very targeted audience. Lets say you sell jewelry, with Facebook Advertising you can target people who have "jewelry" or "watches" or "bracelets" with custom banners that have a message specifically to their interests. Similar to Google AdWords, advertising on Facebook is PPC.