There is a lot more to selling stuff online than promotion on social media. I often have business owners emailing me in a tizzy because they can’t seem to crack the code about how to build an online platform or selling services and products online.
- Is it SEO?
- Is it the sales copy?
- Is it the amount of traffic they have coming to the site?
- Is it Facebook ads?
While all of those things are important, there is still more to selling online. Unfortunately, there is a misconception about how to build an online platform that all you have to do is write a clever blog post or social media message and the money will start rolling in.
Not quite. I’ve been working online in my own business and helping other online-business owners for quite a few years and I’ve noticed a pattern in what makes people successful when trying to sell their offerings online. You must provide tremendous value even before the sale, you must build a community and you must have a sales funnel in place.
1. Provide value even before the sale
Do you want to know why so many online businesses have blogs, freebies if you join their newsletter, videos, webinars and all kinds of free content? It’s because people online are expecting businesses to give a ton of value for free. They want to know you before they buy from you.
Take Periscope for example. It’s a new platform where you can stream live broadcasts to your Twitter followers. Smart marketers have already jumped on this like white on rice. The really good marketers have used it as a platform to share content for free and engage with their audience in a whole new way.
In fact, it’s often not until the broadcaster has given immense value to their audience that they even get into a sales pitch. Sometimes it’s a soft pitch like “Join my newsletter for more free content” and sometimes it’s a hard pitch where they talk about an offering they have available.
The point is, successful online businesses are consistent when it comes to giving away value for free online. Some may think “But if I give it away no one will pay for it when they can get it for free!” It turns out the exact opposite is true. The more value you put out into the world the more value you see in return. Besides, there’s no way you can divulge all of your knowledge or product in a broadcast or a blog post even if you tried.
2. Consistently build an online platform
The reality is you need to build an online platform in addition to everything mentioned earlier in this article. You need a community. You need fans. You need your tribe.
These are the people who buy from you, not some stranger who stumbled upon your website after searching for something on Google. Don’t get me wrong—you can turn that browser into a customer—you’ll just have to go through the process of giving a ton of value and making them a part of your community, faster.
Here are the multiple ways you can build an online platform where people feel like they are getting value, while being a part of a community:
- Start an email list where you send them stuff besides promotions.
- Start a free Facebook group and invite your followers to join. I’ve done this and have over 125 people so far who are the first to know whenever there is a new offering.
- Host free webinars to grow your list and grow your community.
- Offer some sort of exclusivity when people join your email list. Do they get a freebie? Do they get discounts?
- Start broadcasting on a service like Periscope. It allows you to interact with your audience live. I’ve used this platform for the last couple of weeks and have already increased my email list and sold seats to an online workshop about how to get more press.
- Focus on getting some exposure. Where can you get your work syndicated? Where can you be featured? What other media outlets can you provide value to?
- How can you humanize your business? What’s your angle? What’s your story? People connect on an emotional level, and often times it’s emotions that drive sales.
While building an online platform takes time, it’s well worth the effort. This not only allows you to create raving fans who will buy your offerings online, you’ll also find yourself being able to monetize in different ways.
3. Have a clear sales funnel in place
This is a missing piece of the puzzle of how to build an online platform for many business owners who come to me (complaining about not making any money). After some poking and prodding, I realize that they have no sales funnel in place. They have no map or system for moving leads through the sales process. Not only that, they typically have no idea what a sales funnel even is.
It is very unlikely that someone will purchase from your website just because you have a “Buy Now” sign posted on it. You must ask yourself some of the following questions:
- What are the different stages of my sales funnel?
- What happens after they get their free value?
- How do people move from a cold lead to a warm lead? How do I turn them into a hot lead? What needs to happen in order for them to go from a hot lead to closing a sale?
- What am I selling? When do I sell it to a prospect?
- What is the follow-up system? How do I maintain contact with these people?
- Is there an upsell? What does that look like?
- What systems do I have in place to deliver all of this?
- What do I do after a new client or customer purchases an offering? How is it delivered? How do I stay in contact?
It’s fair to say that often business owners don’t think about these details (if they even think about how to build an online platform at all). In fact, I would venture to say that many business owners avoid these questions completely because the mere thought of sales makes them nervous. The reality is if you’re not making sales, you’re not making money.
By implementing the three steps mentioned above, you’ll increase your chances of making sales online. At the end of the day this is a process of what Chris Ducker calls “P2P” or “Person to Person” sales. It may sound ironic given all the technology at our fingertips, but P2P is the most effective way of making sales online.