There is no point running a company that doesn’t sell anything. Selling is an important aspect of any startup. So the important question is, how do you sell?
Well if you have an established product, you could rely on methods like advertising to sell what you got. But if your product is new, then your best bet to generate sales is to go thru a product launch. Today I want to tell you how I do my product launches and generate sales.
Assumptions: You already have a blog or some such platform where you interact with your community.
- Create a product concept: come up with a concept for your product. It could be some software, online training, e-book or anything that you care about.
- Start writing about this concept in your blog: Lets say you want to sell a software related to real-estate financial modeling. So start writing about it. Explain what goes in to the model, how one should design it, how to do x,y and z etc. Structure your posts like a series and release useful, concise information on this. Don’t yet sell your product or even mention it in the posts.
- At the end of series, propose the product: During the end of series, casually mention that you are working a product that would remove most of this grudge work and simplify / awesomify your reader’s work. Ask if your readers would be up for it?
- Invite readers to join your product’s mailing list: This is important! Don’t just leave your product proposal without action. Ask your readers to give you their email address and name if they are interested in such a product. I use aweber to handle stuff like this. I like aweber’s simplicity and kickass email list capabilities. You can use it or some other program to build your prospect list.
- [Optional] Conduct a poll: This is not necessary. But you can conduct a short poll and invite your prospects / readers to tell you more about the product. Ideally, include questions on these things in the poll,
- What do you want in the product
- How much are you willing to pay
I use google docs – forms for stuff like this. It is free and super awesome.
- Develop the product: If you have done good job at step 2, then you should have enough material, ideas for your product. Just consolidate them nicely in to a software / ebook / online course etc.
- [Optional] Do some beta testing: Invite a few prospects to test your product. This is not necessary, but you can do it.
- Design a sales page: Ok, this is a big scary step. But don’t worry. You got to begin somewhere. At the least, your sales page should,
- Explain what your product is all about.
- Give some reasons why it should be purchased (dont give lame reasons, mention reasons that would make your customer a hero)
- Provide clear options to purchase your product
- Answer a few frequently asked questions (and link to a detailed FAQ)
- Tell them who you are (include a small photo and brief bio)
- Provide some testimonials
- Mention clearly about money-back guarantee and other terms
- Get ready to accept money: If you do not already have a merchant account, you should get one. I use PayPal and I recommend it. You can try others like Google Checkout or Clickbank too. If you are going to sell online goods (ebooks, software or online courses) consider using E-Junkie shopping cart service. They are dead cheap and provide seriously good service.
- Get some partners: As a startup, you should have positive and healthy relationship with people in your niche. If you have a blog, this is easy to do. Just write some kickass content and often send your readers to other’s sites in your niche by doing a “daily links” post. Slowly email them and develop your relationship by either helping them or giving them suggestions or exposing them new business opportunities. Then, at the time of your product launch, just email them and tell them that you have a new product coming up and you would love to have their support. Ask them to promote your product their blog readers and newsletter subscribers. Offer them commission (this is called as affiliate program). You can manage such things easily using a shopping cart program like e-junkie.
- Announce the product launch date: Email your prospects, affiliates and tell them that your product will be ready on a given date. Make a blog post if possible.
- Double check everything: This is important! Make sure you checked everything twice. Things like payment buttons or sales page browser compatibility can always go wrong. So double check and if possible have a few others test them too.
- Launch your product with a compelling offer: Finally launch your product by making your sales page public. Email your prospects about it. Write a blog post about it. Tweet about it. Tell your facebook fans about it. Write to your affiliates and ask them to promote your product. If possible, include a few ads to your product on your blog’s home page.
- About the compelling offer: Make sure your product is priced in such a way that it provides excellent value for money. Include a few free bonuses, offer money-back guarantee. Make sure your product itself is designed to help your customers kick ass.
- Optional: Either include a time discount (buy before end of month to get 25% off) or trail offer (first month free) or limited time offer (closes next Friday). This creates a sense of urgency and helps in converting faster.
- Remind your prospects: After a few days, remind your prospects about your product. Include facts like how many people bought it, what they think about it etc. to create trust and get new customers. But, don’t be too pushy.
- Get the feedback: Now, you will obviously get some feedback from these paying customers. Use that to modify / upgrade your product or design a new product. Go back to step 1.
I have used the above approach to launch many products (Formula E-Book in Feb 2009, Project Management Templates in Oct 2009, Excel School in Feb 2010, Excel School 2 in June 2010). While I made several mistakes and continue to make them, it seems like the approach has been working well for me.
What approaches do you use when launching your products online?
Go ahead and comment. Tell me what approaches / ideas you use to launch your products online?
PS: The links to e-junkie, paypal and aweber are affiliate links. That means, when you sign up with the above link, I make a small commission. However, keep in mind that these are stellar products and I would have recommended them anyway.