How to Sell Products Online: Proven Framework to Get Your First Buyers

Has the customer search experience put you in a sour mood? Don’t despair. Many first-time entrepreneurs find this stage of business a hair-raising challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a list of the most effective potential customer generation channels that will put you on the right track to learning how to sell products online.

Introducing: Concentric Circle Marketing

The idea of concentric circle marketing is that you map out your potential customers in concentric circles, starting at the center with the people that are closest to you – family, friends, colleagues, or fans, and then radiate outward.

Often, winning the first client is a struggle because you don’t have much of a track record and without establishing trust first, your leads might not feel comfortable taking the risk. This approach is designed to help you garner the strong connections you already have to land your first sale.

As a budding entrepreneur, you have to learn to be shameless and call in favors from people who truly want you to succeed. Once you explore this option, it’s time to move out to the periphery. Here are all the circles that make up this marketing model:

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Circle 1: Personal network. All the people that you know very well fall into this circle. You have the best odds of getting your first client by talking to your personal connections first. Even if they’re not interested in buying your product, they’ll still try to help in any way they can.

Circle 2: Followers and personal audience. These are the people that have expressed their interest in you or your business idea by following your blog, your social media channels or otherwise engaging with you online (or offline). Since they already value what you have to offer and actively follow your work, they have all the characteristics of your best prospects.

Circle 3: Your personal network’s audience. The chances are, you have friends with a strong social following. Getting them to promote your product is one of the easiest ways of accessing large, engaged online audiences. However, keep in mind that your product must be the right fit for the audience.

If your friend is a fashion nut and you want to target the fintech industry, there isn’t much value in getting the shout-out. Getting a mention on Facebook or Tweet can be just as valuable as writing a guest post, giving an interview or appearing in a friend’s vlog, as long as the audience will find your offer valuable.

Circle 4: Cold traffic. These are the people that land on your site randomly or come from advertising, reviews, or social media. They might have some interest in your offer but are unlikely to buy from you right away. It’s important to give these cold leads an opportunity to get to know your brand a little better.

The best way to engage them is by offering free high-value content, such as an ebook, guide or video series, or enticing them to sign up for your weekly newsletter or email course. World’s top marketers swear by content-led lead nurturing campaigns, so it’s a strategy worth exploring.

Once these strangers warm up to your brand a little and start appreciating your work, they’ll move to Circle 2 and become a target audience for your product.     

Channels to use

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Facebook

As a social powerhouse, Facebook is one of the easiest channels to leverage for lead generation. There are two routes to making it work for your business. To launch your brand on Facebook, you can use your personal profile or create your brand’s Facebook page. Whether you choose to do both or start with one option only, there are different rules and techniques that apply to each.

Handling your personal Facebook profile. The most important thing to remember when using a personal social media account for business purposes is not to overdo it. Sure, your friends and family will be happy to hear about your product, but make sure you break up the promotional posts with regular updates. The self-promotion tactics are pretty simple when you’re targeting the closest circle of your connections – lead with a story, run special promotions, and share milestones or press mentions. It’s more than possible to get your first client by aligning your message to your audience, so make sure you choose a friendly tone and keep it simple.

Running your business’s Facebook Page. Business Facebook Pages exist because Facebook is trying to ensure that brands only target the people who liked their page, in such way giving the businesses their permission to advertise to them. That’s why keeping promotional posts to a bare minimum on your personal account is so important. However, keep in mind that having the permission to market to your followers is not the same thing as spamming the life out of them.

To make the most out of your business page, create a balanced weekly schedule, posting no more than three times a day. To garner more engagement, vary up the types of content you’re sharing by including inspirational quotes and images, videos, fun polls or surveys, industry trends and news, interviews with inspirational people, and so on. See what your audience is responding to and adapt the strategy. Friends and family will likely share your page and invite their friends to like it, enhancing your chances of landing the first client on Facebook.

Youtube

Youtube is one of the most powerful search engines existing online. Finding a way to tap into this source of traffic could be the only marketing trick you need to ignite your business. Don’t worry if you’re a little lost of where to start; there’s only a limited number of content categories that do well on Youtube and don’t require full-on video-editing skills or a serious creative commitment. Needless to say, your product videos must be unique and high-quality, but the format you choose will depend largely on your strengths and the type of your product. How-to videos, interviews, instructional videos that solve problems and product reviews are some of the hottest formats right now.

Once the creative work is done, get down to the nitty-gritty and ensure you add links to your product or category webpage within your bio and video descriptions as well as optimize video titles to contain the most popular longtail keywords. This way, your videos will show up in relevant Google searches, too.

Twitter

Twitter is a powerful medium for growing businesses to tune into the customers’ voice and perceptions. For new businesses, following the real-time conversations is not as important as joining the conversations where they can prove their value and maybe attract someone’s attention. The first step to nailing it is to identify the keywords that are relevant to your business and search for conversations surrounding them. You’re looking for people with problems that you can solve.

You should also make an effort to be part of the conversations concerning your industry news, innovations, events, and so on – this is one of the easiest ways to get noticed. Showcasing your expertise without asking for anything in return might just be the perfect strategy to winning the first client.

Instagram

Instagram is the biggest visual social platform, with more than 700 million active users. If used correctly, Instagram can also become the visual extension of your brand. The two central elements to nailing your Instagram performance is posting exciting, high-quality images and knowing your hashtags. Don’t make the mistake of posting loads of product images with white background – those are boring and soulless. They say nothing about your brand, just scream “buy me”. Find a way to incorporate your products in the pictures to both highlight their best features and give your followers something interesting to look at.

Using hashtags to tap into a niche audience is always a better idea than just littering your image descriptions with broad, generic hashtags. First, explore what Instagram communities exist that could be interested in your product, and then work to grab those people’s attention. For instance, if you’re trying to promote a dog grooming product, instead of relying on #dog and #pug to generate interest, you could go for a popular hashtag like #pugsofinstagram. Also, aiming for 5-10 hashtags per picture should do the job.

Quora

Quora is a well established question-and-answer type of community platform that allows its users to create fully fleshed-out profiles providing detailed information about themselves and their company. Many have turned this platform into a lead machine simply by playing by the rules. To harvest the potential of Quora, you must answer other users’ questions in a precise and valuable manner. Identify the topics that play to your strengths and join the conversation. No one will bat an eye if you drop a link to your product or website within your answer if it makes sense and the answer itself is accurate, informative and provides a unique perspective.

Choosing topics that have incomplete answers will give you an opportunity to shine – craft your response in a professional, personal manner, pack it with links to resources (including your own), and go into as much detail as possible to demonstrate your expertise. Building presence on Quora takes time, and the whole process should be regarded as an organic lead generation exercise. Don’t force it, be real and be helpful.

Reddit

Like Quora, Reddit is an information sharing platform backed by a strong and loyal community that really hates being sold to. Take your time to get in with the Reddit community and strive to forge genuine relationships with peers and potential customers. At no point should you try the hard selling angle – it will always backfire. Find the right “subreddits” that apply to your industry and start contributing content that will help people solve problems, provide unique insights or simply entertain.

Always check if there’s been recent activity within the thread to ensure people are still following it and read the subreddit’s rules and policies before posting anything. Some communities won’t hesitate to ban you for sharing promotional content. Reddit is just like talking to a bunch of your friends, but online. Think before you say/post anything – is it genuine? Am I providing value? Will people want to hear it? Focus on building a reputation, and the rest will follow.

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Ads

If you’re thinking about throwing some money into advertising, then you should first consider two channels – Facebook and Google. Both have their own pros and cons, so you need to dig deeper to determine where to start. However, with the possibility to target your ads by gender, age, and interest, Facebook provides online businesses an unprecedented opportunity to do direct targeting. There are four types of Facebook Ads:

  • Marketplace ads. The standard ad type that is featured on the left side of the platform.
  • Page posts ads. Known as native advertising, these posts look like any regular status post and appear in a user’s newsfeed.
  • Sponsored stories. These ads have the referral appeal because they only show up in a user’s newsfeed if their friend engaged with the brand recently.
  • Promoted posts. This ad option helps brands to reach a higher percentage of their fan base and works as a regular status post.

Google has its own advertising network called AdWords. The huge advantage that comes with using Google AdWords is that your brand can appear on the first page of a Google search query in just a few minutes after signing up. Setting up Google ads is rather simple, but you must pay attention to the components that make up these ads and have a massive influence on their performance: the headline, the description, and the display/destination URL. Choosing smart keywords can be the make-or-break element of your AdWords campaigns, so make sure you get the basics right before investing any money in advertising.

Forums 

To unlock the true value of online forums, you must think of your business as a brand. This will help you to resist the enormous temptation to spam everyone and anyone you can reach, including online communities on various forums or discussion groups. Don’t damage your brand before it even had a chance to flourish.

As concentrated groups of people with clearly expressed interests, forums can hold a huge value for entrepreneurs who manage to tame them. Start with a simple Google search (“[your industry] + forum” or “[your industry] + message board”) to pinpoint relevant forums and sign up to become a member. Like Reddit or Quora communities, these people take their online space seriously, so spend time exploring the different topics to understand how things work there.

Tapping into a passionate community that’s already interested in the type of product you sell can be a great advantage. Not only do you have the chance to form relationships with potential customers, but you also get to be in your own element, discussing topics that are part of your expertise. Try to be as unbiased as you can when providing honest advice and guidance and make sure you listen more than you talk.

Thank you for reading!
Justas Markus

Founder/CEO GetFoundXL and a blogger at Entrepreneur.com, Observer.com, Influencive.com and others. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.

Load comments
  • threepointplay

    This is worth sharing. To those who have online businesses, this blog is so informative. Thank you for sharing tips here!

  • Akvile

    What if you don’t have a personal network to share the products with? How can I increase that?

  • threepointplay

    You’ve mentioned ads in this post. I was wondering whether you’d know where I could find some guides on how to set up a succesfull ad? I tried playing around with some fb ads but I couldn’t get any sales.

  • Ingrida Bajoraitytė

    This was a very first time I’ve heard about Concentric Circle Marketing, really useful! Thanks

  • Juste Semetaite

    Great content here! I’ve got one question, though. How do I promote my products without looking too “spammy”? I mean, if I just posted product pictures on my Instagram, I’m pretty sure I’d lose the interest of my followers!