How To Sell Products Online
Selling your own products online is not as difficult as many people think it will be. In fact, it has never been easier and the choices available for how to do it have been the driving force behind the growth of the ecommerce industry. Every website that sells any kind of product includes several basic building blocks. We'll go over those items in this article and also explain some additional options or techniques, such as selling drop shipped products, that can make the average ecommerce website better.
The first thing to consider is the product(s) being sold. Almost anything can be successfully sold online, if all the parts of the sales process are done correctly. We've seen first hand everything from simple $2 bead bracelets to $4,000 electric generators sell online. The trick is to make sure you consider all of the following before you begin to build your website.
- What are your costs to make or buy the product? Be sure to consider all costs including your own time. Even if you have to walk to the corner store to buy a small part to make the product that is still a cost to you. That time prevents you from doing something else, so put a reasonable value on it and include it in the cost of the product.
- Who is the product for? Make a list of all the demographic groups of people who might want to buy the product. Then number each demographic in order of most likely to want or need the product. This will help you figure out your market priorities. Whoever is #1 in the list is your primary market and all your initial decisions should be based on catering to that market. Don't throw the list away though because you'll eventually want to target the second, third, and fourth markets too. The biggest mistake alot of businesses make is trying to appeal to every market segment the same way. You can sell more to a wider variety of people if you identify and target each group individually.
- How should the product be marketed? Almost every demographic responds differently to any marketing message. You can't just make a website that says, "Here's my product." and expect anybody to buy it. You have to cater the message your website says both visually and literally to the market you are targeting. Take time to research what other companies do to target the same market you want to target. Everything from the colors used in the site design to the specific wording that describes the product can have a big effect on who buys and who doesn't.
Once you understand your product costs, who your market is, and what the market will expect to see you are ready to start thinking about how you're going to go about selling your products online. There are many options available that you may not have considered. A website of your own may not be the most cost effective choice. Consider all of the following before making a decision. Then once you do, revisit these options again in a year to see if any would have been a better choice or maybe consider adding in another option to whatever you're doing to target a different market segment.
- Your own website - Selling your products on your own branded website has many benefits. You control the total message. With your own branded website, a good part of that message tells the customer you are a serious business. You have put your money where your mouth is and have invested alot to sell the product. The investment will involve both time and money. Even if you are going to build the website yourself it will cost you a minimum of $100 per month on average for the website with ecommerce components and the ability to accept credit card payments.
- Partner with other existing websites - A very cost effective and largely overlooked option is to find websites that already cater to your target market and offer them the opportunity to sell your product to their visitors for you. You could offer the site owner a commission percentage or a bulk/wholesale discount for them to buy the product from you and resell themselves. This keeps your costs lower, but also reduces the amount you could make on each sale. You also don't control the message.
- Use eBay, Amazon, or other collective sales hub websites - With this option you have very little start up cost to get your product in front of an already established large group of steady shoppers. The downside is the market isn't always very targeted. Your presence within a site like that makes you a tiny fish in a vast ocean of other retailers. Results can vary substantially.
The next part involves what type and level of advertising you're going to want to do and need to do. Regardless of the type of presence you choose to sell your products online, you will need to advertise on some level to get the most out of that presence. Knowing your market, knowing where they spend their time, and what they do in that time is a key part in spending your advertising efforts wisely. Don't just advertise anywhere and everywhere. Focus you're efforts where they'll get the most bang for your buck.
- Online Advertising - Pay Per Click Advertising is the most common online advertising. However, there's alot of ways to do it incorrectly that can make it very expensive with little benefits. We have an extensive article available about it here and highly recommend that you read it before starting any PPC campaign. Another option is to on other sites that your target market frequents. It also helps to make your website using good SEO techniques so that the search engines give you lots of free links in their results for keyword searches your target market would use looking for the products you're selling.
- Offline Advertising - This is the one area of opportunity where most people don't take full advantage of what they have available. Put your website address on everything. EVERYTHING! Put it on your car. If your product is something you deliver or install then invest in small plastic yard signs you can stick in the ground and leave after your done the delivery or installation. Include it on your business checks. Get business cards and leave one everywhere you go. Sponsor local organizations or events. Join as many local business or community groups as possible and interact with other participants. Run ads on local radio stations.
- Word Of Mouth - If your product is good and you provide excellent service then people will want to tell their friends about it. Make it easy for them to do so. Include referral options on your website. Offering referral incentives can be very effective. Include easy information and directions on your site about how people can link to your site. Offer link trades with other sites that offer products that complement your own.
At this point in the process you now know all your costs to be able to sell your products online. Now you can determine what your selling price will be. This is probably the most important step because if your price is too high then your target market may not be able to afford it. If it is priced too low then you may not be able to make enough of a profit to stay in business for very long. Here are a few things you should consider when trying to find your best selling price.
- Check The Competition - Use search engines to find all the other websites that sell the same or similar product you want to sell online. Your price should be comparable. However, don't be afraid to price your product higher if yours is of better quality or if you are going to be providing an add-on service that will make the overall purchase a better value. For example, a longer warranty or a more flexible return policy can justify a higher price from the customer's point of view.
- Establish A Minimum Price - Total up all of your expenses. That includes everything it costs you to provide and sell 1 product. Production or purchasing, website, transaction fees, advertising, utilities, shipping, etc. You now have the minimum sale price for you to break even. If it's higher than you expected or than the market will bear then you'll need to either find a way to reduce your costs or take the risk of selling your products at a loss until your sales volume is high enough to eliminate the loss. That is not uncommon. Many of your expenses will be at a fixed cost. The more you sell, the less each expense will consume out of the sales price.
- Establish A Maximum Price - If your total expenses turn out to be significantly less than the going market rate for the product then consider yourself lucky. However, don't take too much advantage of it. By that we mean don't be greedy and set your pricing as high as your competition or be aggressive and go significantly lower than them either. You don't know what your competition's minimum price is. If you undercut them by too much you might trigger them to do a dramatic price cut that you have no chance of ever matching. You could be priced out of the market before you ever really get started. A good maximum price target to shoot for is your minimum price + 30% - 40%. That allows you alot of wiggle room should anything necessitate a price change.
- Find A Happy Medium - Here's a marketing trick you can use to your advantage if you find that your minimum price is alot lower than the going rate. Set a regular price on the product that is the same or even slightly more than the competition. That price should be visible on the site. Then give it a listed sale price that is 10% - 15% lower than the competition. You'll still make a healthy profit and the customer will feel like they got a really great deal.
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Now that you have everything figured out for how you can sell your own products online, you should start to think about how you can further monetize your website or other online presence. Odds are you can think of at least a few additional complimentary products that the market you're already targeting would find useful. You don't have to make those products to be able to make some additional cash by selling them, either directly or indirectly, to your customers. Here are some available options.
- Drop Shipping - Open an account with a notable drop shipping source supplier. Drop shipping works like this. You locate a supplier who offers the complimentary product. They provide you with all the details about the product and images depicting the product. The supplier sells the product to you on an individual basis at a wholesale price. You then offer the product for sale on your own website at a higher price. When somebody buys the product from you then you go to the drop shipper and buy it from them at the wholesale price. You pocket the difference and the drop shipping supplier sends the product directly to the customer. The result is risk free profit for you since you do not need to keep any inventory of the product on hand and don't have to deal with shipping it. Here's a free trial offer for an account with one of the biggest drop shipping sources.
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- Affiliate Programs - Many companies offer an affiliate program that allows you to earn commissions from any sales the company receives from affiliate links you put on your website. The company provides you with the linking code that includes specific tracking information that tells them when a sale came from your website.
- Google Adsense - Google sells ad space on their search engine results pages. They also sell ad space where the ads appear on other websites. The name of that service is called Adsense. It works the same way most affiliate programs work. You get the code from the Google Adsense program and add it to your site. Google then determines on its own what ads will appear on the area you designate based on the content included on the page where the code was placed. You are then paid a variable amount each time anyone clicks on the ad. You have limited control over the content of the ads. If your page content if very specialized then it will only trigger a very narrow range of ads that relate to the content. A good page containing well written content of a specialized nature will easily get lots of free search engine traffic. That equals easy money for you whenever any of that free search engine traffic clicks on those links related to the content that brought them there.