Today, we’re taking a hard look at the mistakes people make when trying to sell online. We chat with hundreds of sellers every week where we see what works — and what doesn’t. If you read this list and find yourself making one of the mistakes, I’ve added some ideas about how to fix it.
Like anything, selling online has a major learning curve and you only learn by doing. If you find yourself making more than a few of these mistakes, it means that things can only get better from here!
So, let’s get started.
Here are the 11 mistakes people make when trying to sell a product online:
1. They expect to make money by simply listing a product
Selling online takes more than listing a product for sale on your store. Surprisingly, many people still believe that by publishing a product for sale means that the customers will come.
It may seem tempting to throw a product up for sale, share it on social media, and expect your followers to buy your item, but it takes a lot more work than that.
Instead, focus on cultivating your audience by adding value to their lives. You can do this by creating valuable, free opt-ins, sharing other people’s work on social media, and developing an online marketing plan that makes sense for your business.
With a strategy in place, it’s a lot easier to start monetizing your blog instead of throwing it into the wind and hoping it will stick. If you need help getting started, here’s how to start monetizing your blog.
2. They don’t know who they’re selling to
Building a community is key for selling online, but if you don’t know who to serve with what you know, you aren’t able to create products and services that improve people’s lives.
First, you want to figure out what it is that you offer and who you can help most with what you know. There are many ways to narrow your focus, but for the sake of simplicity, there are two ways to define a target market: through demographics and psychographics.
Demographics include age, gender, income, occupation, and education level. Psychographics are a bit different and help you define your ideal audience by personality, values, hobbies, lifestyles, and behavior.
A mix of both demographic and psychographic qualities can work well, or you can choose one or the other.
Then, you’ll want to write down your ideal target market somewhere you can refer to easily. This gives you a filter when writing product copy, descriptions, blog posts, and social media.
3. They’re promoting more than adding value
Is there anything worse than someone who constantly talks about themselves? Eventually, we learn to tune out those people, because they aren’t adding value to the conversation.
The same goes for selling and sharing online.
When all people do is share their product for sale without attempting to add value or educate their followers, they’re not influencing them to buy. In fact, this type of strategy may turn off potential customers.
Try flipping your strategy and sharing relevant, valuable, and helpful content with your target audience, then asking for the sale later.
An 80% ratio of sharing content to 20% promoting and selling is a good rule of thumb.
4. They force customers off their site to pay for their product
If you want to create a yuck customer experience, force your customer off your site to pay for your product.
Luckily, there’s a better way to go about this. A clean, clutter-free buying experience not only impresses a potential buyer, but it also encourages them to buy.
With less steps in the checkout and a clear, simple process, they are more willing to reach for their wallet.
Selz offers an overlay which means that you can take payment right on your existing website or blog — even if you offer payment through PayPal.
Not only is it sleek, but your buyers have a better experience which means more sales for you.
Even if potential buyers ditch the checkout process at any point, we help you automatically recover sales with our abandoned cart emails. It’s a win-win for everyone.
5. They’re trying to sell to a nonexistent audience
This ties back into #2: if you don’t know who your ideal audience is, then you likely don’t have one (yet!). Trying to sell to a nonexistent audience is not only a waste of time, but it doesn’t work.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t create one!
Instead, figure out who your ideal audience is. Then, find out where they hang out online and in-person… then, go there!
Consider exploring Twitter feeds, Instagram hashtags, Facebook groups, and other blogs that might have the same audience as you. You can see people interacting in real-time, see the questions they have, the struggles, and the things they love.
This will help you determine how your business and products fit into their lives. It can also help you write product copy, blog posts, and email marketing campaigns.
6. They aren’t building their email list
One of the biggest mistakes of online selling is not creating an email list early enough.
If you have a blog, a website, or any product online, you must be collecting email addresses. Read this post to understand the basics of email marketing.
Even if you do in-person workshops, tradeshows, or meetups, collecting email addresses is the first step in building an engaged audience.
One of the easiest ways to start building your list is through an opt-in offer or lead magnet. A lead magnet is a free product that you exchange for an email address.
Many email marketing tools are free, so there’s no excuse not to sign up for an account. Selz integrates with Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor for free, so with every free download or sale, your customer’s email address is added to your email list.
7. They don’t prioritize customer service
A huge mistake people make when first starting out with online selling is providing lackluster customer service.
Yes, you are providing a product or service online, but that doesn’t mean customer service should go out the door. If anything, it should be a top priority to help you stand out online
If you’re selling digital products, you’ll need to know how to troubleshoot download errors, and resetting download links.
Educating yourself on different file types, browsers, and compatibility is one of the ways to provide superb customer support. Your customers are relying on you to help them resolve any issues, so knowing how the digital aspect of it works is key.
Knowing how some of the more technical aspects work is simply part of your role as someone selling products online and your customers will thank you for it.
8. They aren’t doing any marketing
As a business owner, marketing is now a major part of your job description. Regardless of what you sell, you must learn how to gather and direct your community to where you’re selling your products.
With Selz, we provide you with the marketing tools necessary for selling online like discounts and coupons, analytics, and social media sharing.
You also can embed widgets and buy it now buttons onto your existing website, blog posts, and sidebars which is one of the most effective ways to monetize an already existing audience.
If you want to learn more about how to effectively market your online business, check out this quick video:
9. They give up if they don’t see immediate results
Selling online is not for the faint of heart.
Arguably, it can be a bit harder to influence your audience to buy from you online because you aren’t there in person with them.
Instead, you have to educate them through content, whether that’s on your blog, in email campaigns, and social media before you can expect them to buy from you.
If you simply list an item and expect to sell your products like crazy, you’ll end up disappointed.
Instead, create a strategy that works for you and keep it up. Most people give up right away because they expect the cash to roll in, but for the majority of people, this simply isn’t the case.
Keep working at it and eventually, things will fall into place as you continue to learn. The important thing to remember is to follow a strategy, find what works, and repeat it.
10. They don’t explain the product in their description
When selling online, you must be extremely clear in what you’re offering and who you’re offering it for. Without a product description, your online product is essentially worth nothing because buyers don’t know what they’re getting.
One of the best ways to express the value of your product is through a video or a thorough written description.
Always include how your product transforms the life of the customer.
- Do you provide more simplicity, ease, or peace?
- Does your product teach people how to be more self-reliant?
- Or do you want to sell eBooks on how to nourish your body from the inside out?
Whatever it is, clearly define what your product does, who it does it for, and what the buyer can expect. Never underestimate the power of testimonials, too.
11. They don’t create a consistent brand experience
When people are getting started with selling online, it can be tempting to throw together a scrappy image of the product, add a short description, and share the product on Twitter.
This is not something that impresses potential buyers.
Instead, creating a consistent brand experience should be at the beginning of your journey to selling online.
- What is it about your business that stands out?
- What is your USP (unique selling point) and core message?
- What type of feeling do you want people to experience with your business and products?
Even if you’ve never made a sale in your life, taking time to establish your brand experience is a smart way to influence your buyers because consistency breeds trust.
If you have no idea how you impact others, consider reaching out to friends and family to find out.
You’ll also want to determine your business’s design & colors. Once you figure that out, you can incorporate your message and design into everything you do, including your ecommerce store, and you are that much closer to creating a consistent branding experience.