How to Start a Successful Online Store (Hint: Nail Your Niche)
“How do I make my first sale online” is a common question, but it’s the wrong question.
Whether you’ve spent thousands developing your own products or are dropshipping other people’s products, your first sale and continued success of your online store depends on one key factor: whether or not you can become relevant in your niche.
Therefore a much better question to ask would be: “what steps do I need to take to become relevant in my niche and make my first 100 sales within X amount of time.”
Niche? What Niche?
Since Amazon covers most niches (and is usually the cheapest and fastest option) most new online stores find success by offering something unique that’s not found on Amazon or by offering an experience that resonates better with their target market.
For example, if you were a fashionista selling boho chic clothing, your personal fashion sense, ability so spot new trends and skill in creating outfits and curating trendy products will be something that shoppers can’t find on Amazon (or anywhere else) and is the main thing you should capitalize on.
The other benefit of targeting your online store at a specific niche (ideally one that your are passionate about) is that getting your business of the ground will come more naturally and with less stress.
1. Start with friends and family
This is no time to be shy. Let everyone without your sphere of influence know that you’ve opened your virtual doors and would like to hear their feedback. Nobody likes to be guilted into buying something (think MLM), but everybody likes to give advice. Use this little hack to use to strike up conversation with people you know. Chances are there are some people in your sphere who are willing and able to help contribute to your goals, even if they’re not ready to buy.
Remember, it’s not about using your friends’ wallets to buy your stuff, but rather, to leverage their experience, networks and connections to help grow your business and become relevant in your niche.
2. Leverage your contacts
Lots of people want to see you succeed, from the person who designed and updates your website to the people who supply your inventory. Keep them abreast of what’s going on with your business and ask for their help.
Also, chances are the people you hang out with most are likely interested in similar things as you are, so this is another great reason to pick a niche you like since it lets you leverage it offline naturally.
3. Launch an email and social campaign
You have more email contacts than you know! Same for your FB friends and Linked-in contacts. Launching acampaign to target them specifically is another great way to get your store’s name outSites like MailChimp make it easy to send personalized messages to a large number of people at the same time and to easily manage your mailing list. Send a friendly initial message announcing your store and teasing readers with a few items you’re selling, then follow up once or twice a few days later.
4. Sell on marketplaces like eBay and Etsy
Yes, we know you just spent a lot of time developing your own website and sales platform. However, setting up an eBay and/or Etsy store can help get your products noticed in your niche and entice people to visit your website to see your entire inventory. Selling on both sites is relatively inexpensive. Also eBay and Etsy have excellent SEO and your products are much more likely to show up in Google through site than on yours.
5. Make good use of social media and Reddit
To start, set up a dedicated Facebook page for your business and make sure that you have amazing pictures (even if they’re taken with your phone) at least 10 status updates to begin with. Next, invite all of your personal friends to “like” that page. Keep the tone light (never pushy) unless you sell something that’s very limited and you can make an honest mention of (“only five left”) and that you’d rather sell them to your friends before anyone else. Make sure to share your business posts on your personal Facebook page.
Reddit can also be useful to new online marketers. This is a place to interact with potential customers, not give them the hard sell. Start here by hitting the most relevant subreddits in your niche and provide interesting and unique perspectives, such as why you started your online shop and what specific needs you are addressing. The goal is to create a network e and get people to start talking about your products and looking at your website
Whatever you decide to do, remember that you can’t be everything for everybody, and the best way to stand out is to become really good at something and promote the heck out of it. People love to buy from passionate companies and passionate people, and we feel this is one of the biggest opportunities for today’s new online store owners.