A few of my friends recently told me they are planning to start an online store to sell antiques to people in the U.S. and worldwide. Obviously, I was happy for them, but they had one very pertinent unanswered question: “How are we going to attract customers?”
I realized that one reason most e-commerce startups never succeed is that they fail to do what is necessary to achieve the first 100 sales for their business.
If they knew the hacks that could help them gain early traction and push sales for their business, they could easily grow their business over a short period of time.
What is traction?
According to TractionBook.com, ”Traction is growth.” This is what traction looks like:
Let’s assume ‘Y’ is the number of sales and ‘X’ is the amount of time it will take for the sales to happen. The more you sell in less time, the more your graph will resemble a hockey stick. This, my friends, is precisely what traction is.
Some necessary initial steps:
Before we discuss the hacks that can get you those early customers and the first 100 sales for your online business, here are some basic initial steps that you should follow.
No matter what your niche, it’s important for you to know your customers, understand who they are and know what their interests and habits are. This is what persona research does. It allows you to ask questions of your potential customers and design the customer base that is perfect for your business.
One major reason why persona research is essential to the success of any business is that when you understand your customers better and create marketing, support and product strategies that are in sync with what they need, it will naturally help you succeed faster. Otherwise, you will be shooting arrows in the dark, hoping that something will click.
This, once again, applies to every business, and it is essential for a new business that is struggling to create its name in an established niche.
A startup needs to provide something unique to customers so that they will remember it and become repeat buyers. Even better, customers should be willing to recommend this business to others in their circles.
Now, let’s say you have an online store and you offer the best quality product for the customers’ money. Although your product is nice, it’s not extraordinary.
In this case, like in any other, you have to go the extra mile by providing the value (in terms of service) that delights your customer and turns him/her into a brand advocate for your business.
Sophie & Trey, a clothing brand in Florida, uses the live chat option as a way to educate consumers about their products, which helps consumers make informed decisions about their purchases.
Set goals after goals:
One of the lessons I learned from successful business owners is to set goals after goals. This will not only help you move forward, but it will also enable you to stay focused on and passionate about your ultimate dream.
In our case, the goal is to get the first 100 sales. However, once that goal is reached, the next goals should be to achieve 500 sales and increase the number of repetitive customers. Once those goals are reached, more should be set.
Also, make sure each goal has a deadline so that you can measure the success or failure ratio of your efforts and make changes accordingly.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to discuss the major ideas that will help you achieve your initial goal: the first 100 sales for your e-commerce business.
Idea 1: Send email to pre-Launch list
Like every other startup today, you probably tried to create some pre-launch buzz that resulted in a few people subscribing to your mailing list, and you are planning to add more so that you can launch an email marketing campaign after a few months. Stop right there!
Your first subscribers are the early adopters who see promise in your business. If you can offer some ‘list only discount’ to the people who subscribed to you in the pre-launch stage, you will not only be able to sell your products, but you will also get word-of-mouth publicity, which is priceless.
Pro Tip: If your e-commerce startup is in the pre-launch stage, plan a killer strategy that can bring in more and more subscribers for your email list.
Idea 2: Sell it on Amazon
Steve Power, Chief Revenue Officer of BigCommerce, wrote a detailed article on Huffington Post about why Amazon is bad for small businesses. I’m not saying his reasons were trash, but as a new business, what you need more than anything to stay above the surface is money. Like it or not, Amazon is capable of providing that.
Yes, you do get little to no credit, and you are spending time promoting Amazon instead of your own brand. But, there is a way around it. Through outstanding customer service, you can get customers to visit your site the next time he/she is looking for your product.
As a small business, you can provide the personalized customer service that Amazon does not, which will prompt customers to go directly to you instead of Amazon.
If you don’t know how to sell on Amazon, here is a quick guide for you. Follow these steps and you will be able to get quite a few sales from there.
Pro Tip: Sell on Amazon to build the initial brand value for your business and to redirect customers to your website.
Idea 3: Friends and family
I’m not here to teach you the basics of starting a business, but most startups in search of a perfect solution ignore (or forget) the most basic ideas that work regardless of your niche. If you have just opened an e-commerce store, I bet that your family and friends are going to be the first people to purchase items from you.
Do not ignore them. In fact, get their feedback about the problems they are facing with your product. Was their experience good? Will they share a word or two about your company with others in their circles? If things go well, this one idea will help you get a decent amount of initial sales and word-of-mouth publicity.
Pro Tip: If you have friends in the blogging or media/PR industry with large fan followings, offer them a free product in exchange for a review on their website/channel. This will not only give you brand authority, but it will also bring you sales.
Idea 4: Organize a contest or plan a giveaway
I know you are thinking that you’ve tried this one before and it never really worked.
As a new business, the idea of creating a contest can help you get your name into the market. If you plan it right, you can turn those first-time visitors into long-term customers by offering them quality products, high-end client service and maybe even personalized deals that they are not expecting.
I love ViralSweep. It is one of the tools that will not only help you get some new customers and subscribers, but it will also allow your visitors to spread the word, which can be very crucial for a startup.
Pro Tip: Do not offer the usual giveaways, like an iPhone or iPad. Be creative and provide something that encourages visitors to buy from you. Growth hacks, like the one adopted by Dropbox, can make you big.
Idea 5: Meetups and local events
If you think this idea is old school and does not work in the digital era, think again. I’ve tried this one for my consulting business, and I can tell you from experience that at the initial level, this should be a ‘must do’ item on your checklist.
Local meetups, conferences and trade shows are the best way to let your audience know you have a business and that you can help them in some capacity.
If you get a chance to speak at a conference, do it. It will establish you as an expert within your domain, and it will also open more doors for business growth.
If you are in Florida, here is a list of trade shows you can prepare for.
Pro Tip: Always keep some business cards in your pocket and exchange them with other people. The exchange of business cards alone can result in some new potential customers for your website.
Idea 6: Guest blogging
The core idea is to get your name out to varied audiences within the niche and establish yourself as an expert. Potential buyers are smart. They don’t just go to a website and convert because of the content they see on the site. They need a little more than that (i.e., reviews and third party recommendations) to convert into paying customers.
Guest blogging from any third party helps build your authority within your chosen niche, while potential buyers who see you writing as an expert on different blogs tend to trust you more and convert into paying customers without hesitation.
If you are going to write a guest post on authority blogs within your niche, you will be able to convert some of your potential customers into paying ones and move closer to your goals. If you are wondering how you are going to get the guest post opportunity, here is a quick guide to help you get started.
Pro Tip: When writing emails, try to be direct and to the point. Here is a blog post that will tell you how to write an email to give you the best chance of getting a positive response.
There are countless e-commerce stores for customers to choose from, which is why it’s always difficult to start a new e-commerce store and hit the first 100 sales. These ideas will help you get the first 100 sales for your business. At the same time, they will help you build the authority and brand name within your niche that will help you sell more, retain customers and attract new ones in larger numbers to solidify the long-term health of your company.