Lately, quite a few friends have approached me asking for advice on how to launch their first online store. This isn’t unusual, every now and then I’m brought in to lend my thoughts. And being someone who happens to know a little something about online marketing, and more importantly has a passion for marketing, I’m always happy to exchange ideas. But lately, I seem to be talking to more people that usual.
So, I thought that it might helpful to outline some simple steps to starting your first online store. But before I get into what you should do, let me talk about what you don’t have to do:
ONLINE MARKETING MYTHS
- I need an online store
- In that online store, I need a lot of products
- And I need a lot of money to advertise my products
- I’m more successful if I sell more products per transaction
- If my store is set up correctly, I’ll start making sales right away
HOW TO START YOUR FIRST ONLINE STORE – PHASE 1
The fact of the matter is that you really don’t need an online store to sell your products online. In fact, if you are just starting out, I recommend that you don’t have an online store.
Right now you may be asking yourself, “well, how do customers buy my products?”.
Let me answer that question by discussing focus.
The biggest problem of any new online store is focus. More specifically, lack of focus. Too often, we try to be everything to everyone. We think that they more products we offer, the more attractive our online store will be and the more sales we will make. And alas, we are wrong. Why? Because consumers are easily confused, and more easily distracted. If you have 100 items in your store, you have just given each customer 100 opportunities not to click the Buy Now button.
Your first online store shouldn’t be an online store. It should be a single webpage, selling a single product. Why? Because you don’t need anything more than that. Your only goal is to get the customer to make a purchase. Every additional product you offer in your online store is another distraction to your customers. Considering the cost (monetary and otherwise) of acquiring a customer, you cannot afford to lose any sales. Remember, once you have their contact information, you can always go back and remarket other products to your customers. So don’t offer the customer 30 different products, or 20 different options, or 100 different upsell offers. JUST MAKE THE SALE.
Focusing on a single product also allows you to more easily fine tune your marketing, and sales conversion. You’ll be surprise at the time and energy it takes to market a single product, and be grateful that you don’t have to do this an additional 99 times.
SELECTING A PRODUCT TO SELL ONLINE
Assuming that you’ve drank the koolaid, how do you select that one product that you want to sell? Here are some guidelines and criteria that you’ll want to consider when selecting your first product to sell online.
- Your product should have at least a 300% gross profit margin. If you buy or make the product for $1, you should sell it for $3. You need this buffer to accommodate online marketing costs, transaction fees, affiliate commissions, fraud, etc.
- Your product should retail for somewhere between $25 and $150. If you price your product for less thatn $25, you’ll lose the attention of affiliate marketers. Price your product more than $150 and you’ll lose a majority of online shoppers in your target market.
- Your product should be somewhat unique. The Internet has made it VERY easy for customers to comparison shop for price. Competition kills. Unique products are easier to market and sell.
- Your product should speak to a target market that buys other similar products. Remember, you’re not going to sell a single product forever. Just in the beginning. So pick a product that appeals to an audience who will buy other products.
- There should be a demand for your product – somewhere. You don’t need a huge demand for your product – that will come in time. But you do need some demand. As a rule, smaller target markets are easier to penetrate. You don’t have to select a product that appeals to all pet owners. Dog owners represents a large enough market for your first online venture.
- Some of the easiest and best products to sell online are digital products (software, music, online instruction, etc.). I like digital products because they are cheap to replicate, and easy to distribute. If someone “steals” your digital product through a charge back, you really haven’t lost much.
- Whenever possible, choose a product that requires updating (and sell it as a monthly or annual subscription). What would you rather do – sell a single product to a single customer, or sell that same product to the same consumer every year. The latter sounds a lot better to me – and is possible when you sell subscription products.
The formula for your first online store is simple: Choose one product, build a simple webpage for that product with a straight forward online checkout process, market the heck out of it, and only after you’ve perfected that process go back and upsell other products to your customers.