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Printful Resolution Series: How to make your first sale

By Julia Gifford - Reading time: 6 minutes

Once you’ve got your store set up, your design thought out, and are armed with conviction and optimism, you set out to make your first sale. Be sure to note that the money won’t just start rolling in as soon as you publish your store. Your first sales will be a result of hard work and persistence (a very important word when starting an online store!).

There are a few ways you can boost your store’s first sales, while neither Google nor the world know you exists. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Utilizing your own network
  2. Understanding your users and where to find them
  3. Guest posting and sharing your story
  4. Competitions, giveaways, deals

Pro tip: Start building up your email list now, even if you feel like it’s too early! Email drives the most traffic online, and will be one of your most powerful sales tools down the road.

Step 1: Utilize your existing network

Friends and family will be your initial springboard. The people who support you unconditionally and genuinely want to see you succeed.

You should keep in mind that overdoing it with your personal network can be more of a hindrance than a help. Make sure to keep it in check and not spam your friends and family.

Post to your personal social network accounts

Use your own social networks to spread the news! Your connections will be interested to see what you’ve been up to.

What you stand to gain:

  • you get feedback
  • if they like it, they might order for themselves
  • you can gently ask for a share, to say that it would be appreciated if they could pass on the good word

Send out a mass email to your friends and family outlining how they can help

Send out a branded email to those in your address book that are interested in you. The content would be similar to your social media posts, but here you have more freedom to explain the meaning of your new store, where the idea came from and what it means for you.

You can let them know that shares would be appreciated. You can prompt them to follow your social media accounts to get a steady stream of news regarding your new product/line/brand/store. Even more importantly, you can encourage them to sign up to your newsletter if they’re interested in hearing future news about your new brand.

This will give you your first building blocks for your email list, which will become one of your most powerful sales tools.

Step 2: Figure out who your users are, and where they hang out

Before you can sell a product to a person, you have to figure out what kind of person you’re selling to. Who is the kind of person who would want to buy your product? All too often online store owners try to target “everyone”, because they think so highly of their product that everyone should be interested in it. But in reality, by targeting everyone, you end up doing such a shallow job that you end up targeting no one.

There are two main strategies to use to try to uncover who your target audience is. One is to ask around, interview people and ask them if they’d be interested in your product. Another strategy is to imagine buyer personas who you think would be interested in your product.

Some steps that you can do right now to uncover your target audience:

  • Learn from your competition Who are they selling to? You can be stealthy and follow their followers on social media accounts
  • Ask your network what they think and learn which friends are more interested in your products than others. Ask them if they would buy your product, and why
  • Keep it small The smaller the audience, the easier it will be to target them. Always think how you could make the target market even smaller

Here’s a guide to creating buyer personas made by Shopify.

Forums

The internet is a vast place and there’s a specific niche forum out there for practically any group. Once you know who you’re targeting, you have to search for where they hang out online. Whether it’s a popular forum like Reddit, or if they enjoy reading particular blog posts and such, then you know where to approach them. Even the most obscure niche will have their space, all it takes is a little searching.

Some forums to start with:

  • Reddit – the front page of the internet. Search here first for relevant subreddits about your niche. When in doubt, the subreddit r/entrepreneur is a pretty good place to start, and r/shutupandtakemymoney is also an accepted place to share links with cool stuff you’re selling
  • Hacker News – Y Combinator – a forum for tech topics
  • T-shirt forums – where people from all over the world talk about everything related to t-shirt production
  • Printful Insiders Facebook Group– a great place to start to get support and help

Things you can and should be doing on forums:

  • getting involved in conversations about topics that are relevant to your product
  • sharing your experience
  • asking questions to more experienced people in the niche

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that there are also non-technical demographic groups. In that case, your target audience may not have their own spot online, and you might want to consider offline marketing options. In addition, you might want to rethink if an online store is for you.

Influencers – outreach, blog posts

Another way to get the word out about your product is by accessing already existing audiences. Say there’s a blogger that writes about your niche that has several thousand social media followers. That would be a person who you’d want to get involved with to consider a possible collaboration. Some ways to interact with an influencer just as you’re getting started:

  • Interview them. Create a blog post
  • Write a blog post mentioning others in your industry with more followers. Tweet to them that you featured them, and then they might retweet your post
  • When you have a rapport with them, ask for a review of your product.

Ideally, you want to get in front of that influencer’s audience. You can find a few influencers in your industry and niche, and start talking to all of them. Some may be more receptive than others, and you will encounter a great deal of rejection. But don’t let that dishearten you, get up and keep going! Persistence is key.

Step 3: Share your story

Talk about guerila marketing

Talk about guerilla marketing

Once you’ve figured out who you’re targeting and where to find them, you can start telling them your story.

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to sell your brand. By creating a human connection, your potential buyers will be more inclined to buy from you.

Think about what you’re making and why you’re making it. Then think about the medium that you could use to convey that message. Is that a shared blog post? Is it posting a longer post on a relevant Reddit thread? Is it posting a video on youtube and sharing it? Is it posting to an existing blog? A wonderful example is the story behind the Life is Good brand. Though Business Insider possibly won’t pick you up right away, be sure to explore other, more accessible platforms to share your story.

One powerful method is to find an online (or physical!) publication that has a larger readership that your network, and write an article about your story for them to post. For example, mindbodygreen often publishes personal success stories on their page, and The Daily Muse publish, in addition to other formats, opinion pieces on work, millenials, carreers, personal fulfillment, and more. This is called guest posting. Check out this Ultimate Guide to Guest Posting for more info on how to make that happen.

Step 4: Competitions, giveaways, deals

Competitions & giveaways

One of the easiest ways to generate quick social media buzz about your product (and even increased traffic to your store), is by hosting a competition or giveaway. Offer up a sample of your product in return for a form of engagement – be it liking your page, sharing your post, etc.

Competitions can range from asking your followers to share your post, to comment something, to suggest a name for an upcoming product, anything you want.

Make the most of the competition and giveaway by collecting the emails of the people who enter (for example, by using a popup box on your store to announce the giveaway and to collect entries). Send a coupon with a discount to those who didn’t win the giveaway to stimulate even more sales.

Deals

When you’ve built up traffic to your store, you’d benefit from running a few deals. For example highlighting a particularly cool product by putting it on sale. This is when that email list comes in particularly handy, since you’re letting people who have already said they’re interested in your product and brand know that one of the products that they very well might be interested is on sale. One of the most effective forms of marketing is email marketing, so make sure to take advantage of it as often as possible.

Pro tip: We’ve noticed that a particularly successful way to product buys is to offer a discount code right that the beginning of entering your store. That way your visitors begin browsing your products already with the knowledge that any purchase would be discounted.

Prepare for the fight

This is only the beginning. The process will require persistence, constantly educating yourself about the latest trends, tools and opportunities to grow. Once you get that first sale, you’ll feel the thrill of ecommerce. Use that energy to propel yourself forward and to keep developing your store.

Additional resources:

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