Getting a new site off the ground is hard, but it’s even harder before you make your first sale.
Up until that point, it’s really a nerve-wracking guessing game. Until that first sale happens, you never know if you were wrong in choosing your niche. You second-guess yourself, you get demoralized, you might even start to change parts of your site in the hopes of attracting someone in a desperate plea for attention.
That’s why I’m stepping in. I’m going to give you a bunch of ideas and techniques for making your first sale, so at least you have proof of concept. If nothing else, you’ll be able to gauge the potential success of your site based on how readily you’re able to convert these ideas into reality.
Ever been to a Sam’s Club or Costco on a Saturday afternoon? These big box grocery stores love to offer free samples of food and other products. You know why? There’s no guilt with trying a free sample, and who knows; maybe you’ll like what you taste. You’re already in a buying mood, so maybe you’ll decide that you liked the product enough to buy one. The store makes money selling a product you wouldn’t have bought otherwise.
The way to do this with an online business is to first make a list of influencers in your industry. This list will be important for later steps as well, so it’s always a good idea to take the time to make one. Send out free trials or samples to influencers when your site launches, and solicit their opinions, testimonials or blog posts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some positive press. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a sale or two as well.
A lot of affiliate networks have an imbalance. They have tens or hundreds of publishers for every advertiser. This natural; far fewer people are able to create a product to sell than are able to sell it.
By becoming an advertiser, you gain the ability to pay a network to market for you. You get advertising across the Internet on a variety of sites, large and small. In exchange, you pay. It’s not an ideal system for a new business running on a tight margin, but it’s great for mid-sized businesses with a budget trying to launch a new startup.
Just make sure the network you join is legit. There are a lot of networks out there that prey upon new businesses with high fees and bad traffic.
Press releases used to be used throughout the web for basically any purpose. Webmasters would send out press releases whenever they published a new blog post, for crying out loud. This dramatically devalued the press release and very quickly made it a bad technique for SEO.
However, even though it’s not good for SEO, press releases are still great for product launches. Send out a good press release to a variety of news agencies to spread the word about your new product. You’ll gain some traffic and some links, both of which are pretty valuable.
Contests are great for launching a new site, because they can very quickly build hype. I recommend using a social app like Gleam that allows a variety of entries into the contest. I’ve seen giveaways with one single prize and up to a dozen different ways to win, including following a Twitter account, following a Facebook page, retweeting or sharing a post, opting in to an email list, visiting a website and more.
The beauty of this sort of entry list is that users can pick and choose which methods they want to use to enter your contest. Every method has associated entry counts, like tickets for a raffle. One user might only want to follow your Twitter, and in exchange will earn two entries. Another user might go down the list and do everything, thus earning a dozen or more entries. You can even gate certain entry methods behind other methods.
All of this helps build hype, grow a mailing list, expand a social following and spread awareness of your new product, simultaneously.
Yes, I know, you can’t just go out and make something go viral. However, you can do a lot to maximize the chances of going viral, namely by creating great compelling content and sharing it the right way.
A viral video, or a series of viral videos, can be a great lead-up to a product launch. For example, when the Dollar Shave Club was just starting out, they gained a lot of traction through viral videos that practically dripped machismo out of the viewer’s computer screen. They were all about confidence and clarity in describing their product, their process, and the benefits. You can also examine Old Spice for viral videos that take the “macho” ideal and push it well beyond reasonable territory and into surrealism.
If those don’t fit your brand, you can find something that does. Viral videos can be melancholy and compellingly emotional just as easily as they can be comedic.
Facebook ads are one of the best ways to get access to an immediate audience who are probably interested in your product and your business. You can start with whatever social following you already have, and expand it by using a custom lookalike audience. With this, plus a little extra playing around with targeting, you can double or triple your audience in just a few days.
Combine this with your giveaway to double your social media growth potential. Advertise your product, and advertise your giveaway to people who have seen and viewed ads for your product but haven’t converted yet. You can develop this audience with another custom audience and the Facebook tracking pixel.
Sure, Facebook ads tend to cost money, and that’s the same problem you have with affiliate advertising. The difference is that Facebook tends to be a lot cheaper, and if you’re good with targeting, you can get even more interested traffic.
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