The Beginner’s Guide to Planning an Online Sales Strategy

You know as we get ready to jump into another Holiday season, I marvel at where technology has brought in the last 10 years. I’m just old enough to remember when people were actually afraid to take money out of ATM machines and scared to death to buy anything online.

Now we don’t even blink, however very few small businesses are taking advantage of the money that could be made online. Many go to sites like Amazon, EBay and Etsy to establish the e-commerce arm of their business, but they don’t really plan for it. They typically just take whatever comes their way.

While these sites are a great starting point the end goal should be to move that traffic to your site and eventually your list. Yes your list. If you don’t know what I am talking about read my post on list building.

If you haven’t tried to sell your products or services online or just don’t know where to start here’s a few things you should adhere to when planning your online sales strategy.

Know Your Audience
Your online audience could be a small but profitable segment of your current customer base. Tailor your message and specific products/services to them.

Start With the People You Know
The people you’ve already done business with can be a great way to launch a product or service online. Even if they don’t buy it themselves ask them to spread the word to their friends and colleagues.

This is essentially an unsolicited endorsement for you, because they are putting their name out there with yours.

Test Your Market
Is there truly a viable audience for what you have to offer? Can you sell directly to them? What’s your USP?

One way you can find out, before you make a large financial commitment, is by creating a free sample, white paper or a trial membership to build up a list first, to see if you can build a list. Use PPC or Facebook ads to generate traffic to your free offer and see if they bite. If you can build a list, you have an audience you can sell to.

Run The Numbers
Great products, great messaging and great service lead to conversions and sales. You want to strive for targeted measured, campaigns to help increase your conversion rate.

In order to do that you’ll need to be able to track and monitor what is going on in each step of your campaign. For example, you may have a high number of people signing-up for your email list and clicking thru to your sales page but they never buy.

That’s an indication that there may be something wrong with just your sales page and not the entire campaign. Keep what’s working and find out where the bottleneck is in your sales process.

Diversify Your Marketing Channels
You’ll need to diversify your marketing channels – to build traffic, establish your credibility, grow your list and just keep things fresh.Each and every marketing channel you have online should in some way lead traffic back to your site.

Make sure you are providing content to those channels on a consistent basis. You can also monetize your following or email list, if you have high engagement from your followers and subscribers, by partnering with those who want to get their attention.

Bloggers do this all the time either through sponsored partnerships/events or by selling ads in their newsletters to their subscribers. Be careful if you choose to go this route, because you don’t want your audience to feel like you’ve “sold them out” and now their going to be hit with ads and sales pitches in your social media feeds or newsletters.

That can almost guaranty high number of people will stop following you and an increase in your “unsubscribe” rates.

Nurture Leads
Once you start getting a healthy dose of traffic to your site you’ll want to sustain that momentum. You want to continue to provide content with high value to lead them to the next part of your sales process. How long it takes to get from one part of the sales process to the next varies from business to business.

If your messaging is on target, you should be able to predict how long the entire sales process will take over time, which can help you project sales in the future.

Ask for the Sale
If you’ve been nurturing leads for quite some time, by providing them with content – it may be time to ask for the sale. How you lead your prospect to a sale could be via email or a landing page, but in either case you should pay close attention to your sales copy regardless of whether it is in print or a video.

Take this opportunity to be crystal clear about what you are offering and what would be the next logical step for them to take. Ideally the next step would be actually purchasing what you have to offer. Online sales have notoriously high abandon shopping cart rates, but it’s par for the course.

Make a special effort to monitor your sales once you “open your cart”. It’s critical that the your shopping cart and payment process is as clear and runs as smooth as possible.

Provide Outstanding Customer Service
Many SMBs think that once they’ve closed the sale they’re done, but you still have to deliver what you’ve promised and make sure that you have support for your customers along the way. Customer service may be the difference between a steady flow of referrals and testimonials from happy customers and a successful online business for you.

So there you have it. There are quite a few moving parts to an online sales strategy, but if you take the time to think each step through you should be able to automate a large chunk of it and spend most of your time monitoring your sales process and tracking your customer’s experience. A good experience for them is a successful business for you.

Question: Have you ever considered selling your product or service online, but you weren’t sure how?

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