Online Marketing: Selling your stuff online

In order to make money, you need to sell something. This is the reality of capitalism. No one gives you money for free! Whether you’re selling your time, energy, knowledge, skills, or the products of those things, you’re exchanging something of value for cold hard cash. And selling requires marketing. So if you want to sell something online, you’ll need to do some online marketing.

Online marketing has three different main pieces to it: sales funnels, sales pages and sales conversations.

What is a sales funnel?

Sales funnels. Lead magnets. Opt-ins. Sometimes, the language of online marketing seems complicated. What the heck is a sales funnel anyway? And why do I need one?

A sales funnel is a series of steps that leads your potential customer from introduction to raving fan. By raving fan, I mean happy, paying, customer. Many experts will give you specific must-haves for your sales funnel, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s a gradual guiding from introduction to paying client.

How does a sales funnel work?

Generally speaking, a sales funnel begins with a free gift, then goes to low-cost paid options, and finally through to the big-ticket item. So as your customer goes through the funnel, she’s slowly led to knowing, liking, and then trusting you enough to buy in to what you have to offer.

She starts with a free gift, getting to know who you are and what value you offer. Then you break the ice, by offering more value, but this time with a small (very small!) cost involved.  Those that buy in to that offer, you push more value towards them, with increased costs.

How many times you do this will depend on your particular market and sales funnel. Finally, you have qualified your customer and then you offer your premium package.

Where does all this take place?

Online, this usually happens in your customer’s email inbox. Occasionally, it will happen in a private membership group, or potentially on a public Facebook page or website. In person, you can see a sales funnel walked out in a free workshop or seminar.

Sales funnels start with a gift.

Let’s start with the gateway to your sales funnel: the free gift. When you first begin the funnel, you start with strangers to your business and your products. To “hook” them, you offer them a free gift of some kind. This free gift, online, is known as a “lead magnet” or “opt-in gift” or “freemium”. In exchange for the gift, you ask for an email address.

Now your stranger is a “lead”. They’ve expressed an interest in what you have to offer. They liked the description of your gift, and, as long as they remain on your email list, they are open to learning more about you. The lead magnet lets you show your audience who you are and what your business offers.

What kind of free gift?

There are lots of things you can offer for your opt-in. The key to a successful opt-in gift is to offer something that answers the basic, main question your target market has.

For example, my target audience are those who are looking for a way to work from home. One of my lead magnet is a short ebook on the various ways to work from home. I have answered the basic question “how do you work from home?”. My answer is a list of ways to do just that.

Examples of lead magnets include things like checklists, quizzes, or worksheets. Another option is writing a short (10 pages or less) ebook to read.

Printable products make great opt-ins too. People love digital printable things, such as motivational posters, coloring sheets, planner pages or worksheets.

What’s next?

Done right, your opt-in will naturally lead to the follow-up question. This will keep your leads opening your emails and paying attention to your marketing. They’re going to be looking for the solutions you offer to the rest of the questions they have.

What’s a trip-wire product?

In your sales funnel, the next step then is to get them to open their wallets. Also known as a “trip wire” product, this icebreaker offer gives more value to the reader, but then asks for a small fee. Usually, an icebreaker product will cost less than $50, the first time.

The price of your tripwire offer depends on the specifics of your sales funnel, and the purchase price of your final product. It will also depend on how many steps there are in your sales funnel.

In addition, will you be offering intermediate products? Then your tripwire product needs to be even lower — under $20.

A note about pricing:

For psychological reasons, you want to price all your products, packages and service offerings with odd numbers. Rather than $20, tell them it’s $19, or $17. Instead of $50, use $47. Studies have shown that people respond more positively to prices ending in “9” or “7” than they do to prices ending in other numbers. As consumers, we’re weird.

What goes in the middle of the sales funnel?

You may have a series of intermediate products in your sales funnel. As you lead your customers through the ladder, you offer larger and higher-priced (and higher value) products and services.

Maybe you offer more in-depth e-courses, though a service such as Teachable. Similarly, you could offer a group challenge with a private Facebook group attached. Other options could be well written ebooks with accompanying workbooks, or a month-long email course with videos.

Whatever your format or product, your price point will be in the $100-$500 range, depending on the cost of your main offering.

Where does a sales funnel end?

Sales funnels always lead to the high end main offer. If you’re a coach, this is your one-on-one coaching program. If you’re a professional service provider (graphic designer, accountant, web developer, etc), this is your all-in package. And if you are a product creator, this is your custom-designed, personalized option.

With your main offer, however, you can price it as much as you can justify the value for to your customers.

Sales funnels are for proving your value.

A sales funnel is all about increasing the value for your clients. So the price increases won’t mean a thing if your client understands how much value you are giving them. If you do your sales funnel right, they will see even your highest-priced product as being excellent value for the money.

As you move your customers down your sales funnel, you are increasing your exposure to them. You give them more opportunity to get to know you, grow to love your stuff, and trust that you will solve their problem.

But don’t complicate your funnel. Too many steps in your funnel and your audience will become tired. Then they’ll stop seeing value and start seeing dollar signs. And then they may see you as just trying to make money off them, rather than help them.

Sales funnels create customers.

Sales funnels are useful tools to turn new readers into lifelong fans. As a result, they help you gain more and better quality customers. And ultimately, they do what they are designed to do: sell your stuff. Do it wrong, and you’ll turn off your audience. But do it right, and your business becomes almost effortless.

What is a sales page?

Sales pages are, in my opinion, a necessary evil. You have to create a sales page in order to sell online. But more often than not, sales pages are long, boring blocks of text, that make you hunt for the info or the button to buy. However, a well-written sales page can mean the difference between hearing crickets, or having a sold-out launch.

What makes a good sales page?

There are nine main elements to a sales page. Similar to a sales funnel, these sections lead the reader from merely interested to pulling-out-their-wallet ready to buy. Make your sales page clear, concise and easy to read, and watch your profits grow.

1. Headline it.

The first section of your sales page needs to do three things: name, capture, and describe.

You need to creatively name your product, so that your audience will remember it.

You need to capture their attention so they want to learn more about your product.

And you need to describe your product so that your reader will understand briefly what your product is about.

2. Value it.

The second section of your sales page is where you present the value of your product.

Start with a story that describes the problem your potential customer is having. Show that you know exactly what they are feeling and that you understand the problem thoroughly. Then give your solution.

Use bullet points to help point out the value in short and sweet statement. Give case studies or results to underscore just how your product will help them. Here’s where using screenshots of results, or examples from previous customers may be useful.

3. Describe it.

Third, your sales page needs to share just what exactly you are selling.

If it’s an ebook, share the table of contents. If it’s a digital course, list lesson names or modules. If it’s a program of some kind, write out exactly what’s included, from phone calls to private group access to workbooks.

In this section, you’ll also want to inform your audience of any bonuses you’re including with your product. This could be downloadable resources, direct email access to you, membership in private groups with other students, webinars or live calls, or maybe discount codes to other products you offer. Attach a price to each of the bonuses to increase the perceived value of your product.

4. Prove it.

Every sales page needs some kind of proof of results. After all, you’re making a lot of promises!

Include reviews or testimonials of your product on your sales page. If the product is brand new, consider a beta test in exchange for a review.  But don’t use a fake testimonial — you’ll destroy your credibility if you’re ever found out. And you will be found out!

5. Back it up.

So why should your customers buy from you?

You need to back up your product with your own personal expertise. Tell your audience who you are and why you created your product. Make them aware of your own past experience, your own story of the problem you had before you solved it, and the benefits you now have.

Give yourself a title that displays you as the one-and-only (not necessarily the best, however). You want to have the position of being unique. That will allow your audience to have complete confidence in you.

6. Answer the FAQ.

Take the opportunity to answer the questions before they come up. 

Get practical here. Take care of the logistical concerns, such as how long the material is available for use after purchase.

This section is also helpful in preventing the objections to purchase that many come up. You can answer those before they even get asked.

7. Guarantee Policy

This section is tempting to skip, but it’s vital to your sales page. Giving a money-back guarantee seems risky for an online product, doesn’t it?

Someone could purchase your product, use it, get everything out of it, and then ask for the refund, essentially getting your product for free. However, having a no-refund policy will make your customers uncomfortable — possibly uncomfortable enough to opt out of purchasing.

You need to back up your product’s value by showing how much you trust your customers, and your product. Stats show that while some customers may try to cheat you, the majority won’t. And you can prevent some loss, by limiting your guarantee.

8. Price it.

The main part of your sales page needs to be the price.

You have to let your customers know up front what that cost it. Attach it to value, as no one buys unless they value what they are buying more than the money it costs.

You can use a postscript to give one more reason to buy. Make your postscript a personal note to your reader.  Connect with them emotionally while giving a concrete number, and you’ll make it easy for them to buy.

There is no hard and fast rule to pricing your product. It will depend on the format of the product, its competition in the marketplace, your level of experience and expertise, and what perception of value you want to give your audience.

Ecourses cost more than ebooks, and 1-on-1 personal service should be pricier than a group program. A less comprehensive product should cost less than a customized solution.

And make sure you don’t underprice your product. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean your audience will perceive it as good value. Sometimes cheap means low quality.

9. Button it.

The last thing you need to do is actually give a way to buy. Don’t write this amazing sales page and then fail to ask for the sale.

Make a button (or several buttons) to buy your product. Ask your reader to purchase it.

It’s called a call-to-action, and it’s necessary to your success.

Tell your audience what you want them to do. Make it obvious. And make it easy.

Oh, and test it to make sure it works!

Your Sales Page sells your product.

Sometimes we’re tempted to make a sales page fancy. But really, it has just one purpose. A sales page sells a product. There’s no need to try to be cute about it.

State it flat out what your product is, what it does, what it’s worth and ask people to buy it. And don’t forget the price!

What is a sales conversation?

Did you know that good salesmanship is about conversation? Selling directly to a customer is a skill that has gotten a very bad reputation. From door-to-door salesmen to used car dealers to telemarketers, most of us associate these in-person sales situations with sleaziness, scams and high-pressure con artists.

But every online business owner needs to know how to sell to their customers. When you know how to sell to a direct contact, all other parts of your sales process will improve. It all starts with a conversation.

Six simple steps to selling directly to a customer

There are just six steps to being a good salesperson.

The key to keeping the sleaze out of your sales is your motivation and focus. If your motivation is on getting your target to give you their money, then your sales technique will be viewed suspiciously. That motivation keeps your focus on getting the sale.

Instead, focus on the customer’s needs and wants.

Most of us got into business with the primary motivation of helping others and changing the world. Our secondary priority is to make money doing so.

When you go into your sales conversation, keep your motivation about helping that person, however you can. Your focus will be on them, not on your own pockets.

First, good salespeople control the conversation.

Obviously, direct contact with customers will involve a conversation. A good salesperson controls that conversation. This kind of control isn’t manipulative, but leadership. You come from a position of confidence in what your business is, how you help people, and that you can help your customer.

How do you control the conversation?

Control the conversation with your potential customer by asking the majority of the questions.

Start with questions that connect with your customer.

Ask them about their family, their occupation, their hobbies or what inspires and motivates them. Find common ground with them.

In online marketing, experts emphasis that your customers must know, like and trust you before they will buy from you. In person sales is no different. Your customer must feel like they know you and that you know them. They have to like you. And then they have to feel like you are trustworthy before they will open their wallets.

Second, good sales people ask the right questions.

It’s not enough to just ask your customer questions. You need to ask the right questions.

The first kinds of questions will be about getting to know your customer.

In this process, listen for clues about what they need and want. Pay attention to your client’s hints about their motivation, their frustration and their desired solution.

Not only will your active listening improve how much they like you, because they will feel listened to, but you’ll gain valuable information to help you close your sale.

Other kinds of questions could be to ask their opinions on topics.

Do steer away from the top two polarizing topics though: religion and politics.  You may inadvertently offend your potential customer.

The next kinds of questions you need to ask should be more specific to your area of expertise.

If you sell fitness coaching services, then you should be asking about their health and wellness. So steer your conversation to working out or asking for their opinion on a chain of gyms. If you are a graphic designer, you may ask about when or where they had business cards printed.

But what if they came to you with a specific question related to your service or product?

Sometimes our customers come to us with a direct question about something we sell. That’s actually fantastic, because now you know they know you. So your job is simply to take control of the conversation by getting to know them.

First, answer their question directly. Then ask a related question.

If a client came and asked you if a course you sold on Pinterest, for example,  included a workbook, you answer yes or no, then ask them how often they use Pinterest.

If they wanted to know when your upcoming diet challenge started, you would give them the date, then ask if they had ever done a challenge before.

Asking the right questions steers the conversation towards the close.

Third, good sales people lead to the ask.

What in the world is the ask? The “ask” in sales-talk, is when you actually ask your customer to purchase whatever it is you are selling them. In online marketing, we call this the “call to action”.

Your conversation with your customer will lead towards that moment, step by step. As you are asking your customer questions, getting to know them and what they need or want, you are guiding them to your solution.

First, you’ve asked them questions about themselves. Then you’ve asked them about the general topic that you are an expert in. Now you start to ask them about their emotional state related to your product.

Connecting their emotions to your solution is important when it comes time to ask for the sale. We buy emotionally, then justify logically. You need to give them the logic they want but more importantly, give them the emotional connection they need in order to buy.

Emotional connection happens through stories. 

You can help them connect emotionally by sharing your own emotional connection to your solution. This is where finding common ground is important.

When I did network marketing, and I was talking to my potential customers, I often was able to connect emotionally with them by talking about my children. Most of my potential customers are and were moms. As a mom myself, it’s easy to share my own frustrations, desires and solutions.

Telling my clients my own story of once being where they are helped them to like and trust me. It also helped them connect with my solution, even though I was only just presenting it. This warming up process leads customers to the final ask, when you ask them to buy in.

Fourth, good salespeople overcome objections before they’re raised.

Before you can ask for the sale, you have to overcome your customer’s objections first.

This should come naturally in sharing your own story. What were your objections to your own solution?

Objections are simply the questions that need to be answered before your client can buy in. So what are your most frequently asked questions?

Every salesperson should know the most common objections and the answers to them before ever getting into a sales conversation with a potential customer.

If you don’t know what objections might come up, rehearse with friends and family, or get into a group of peers and ask around. Think through the problem you solve and how you solve it. Then you can figure out what kinds of questions might be asked by someone who has never heard of your product before.

Answer the question before it’s asked.

Because you’re in control of the conversation, you can bring up the answers before the question is asked. If a frequently asked question is going to be how long your ecourse takes to complete, you answer that question while you are presenting your ecourse to your customer as the solution to their problem.

Maybe a common objection might be about risking the money. This is especially true if you are selling a premium service at top dollar. Prevent that doubt from even rising to the surface by mentioning your satisfaction guarantee as a mere assumed fact. It sounds like this:

“Of course, my coaching classes are always backed by my satisfaction guarantee. If you aren’t happy, and I can’t fix it, I’m more than happy to refund your money. I’m not here to just get your money, but my genuine desire is to help my clients achieve their goals.”

Fifth, good salespeople assume the sale.

Most inexperienced business owners choke at this step. While we’re confident in our product or service, sometimes it can be hard to imagine that people would actually want to buy from us. We wait for them to throw their money at us. But sales don’t work that way. In order to sell, you need to ask people to buy.

The most confident and easy way to get people to buy is to assume that you’ve answered all their questions, and that of course your product or service is the perfect solution for them. Why wouldn’t they want to buy it? So you assume that they do, and you start the process of taking care of the logistics.

Customers who don’t want to buy will tell you so.

Ultimately, before someone pulls out their credit card or checkbook, they have to know, like and trust you enough to buy. If they aren’t completely comfortable and in agreement with you that your solution is the obvious choice, they will tell you that.

As you are assuming the sale and moving on to the logistical part of arranging payment and delivery, your client will bring up any remaining questions they have.

Sixth, good salespeople ask for the money.

How do you assume the sale is going to happen? You ask for the money to show up.

In retail, you’ve taken your customer to the checkout counter, and you begin to ring up their choices on your cash register. Online, you send the contract and invoice.

You ask for the right spelling of their name on their credit card.

In person, you may pull out the enrollment form, and start filling it out for them. Or you start writing out their order form.

No sale is complete without the money. While your focus and motivation is about helping your client — that’s why we started our businesses in the first place — we also need to help ourselves. Selling is about giving your customer value for their dollar.

It’s not a sale, however, without the currency. So ask for the money.

Good salespeople help customers see the value.

No one buys something unless they think that what they are buying is worth more to them than the money they give for it.

Good salespeople help their customers see the value in what they are buying. You build your customer’s knowledge and trust in you, help them connect emotionally with your solution to their problem, and answer their questions before they ask them. Then you assume that they want your solution, and help them with the practical side of buying it.

There’s no manipulation involved, just a good conversation.

Good salespeople know the art of conversation. Conversation is the key skill of good salesmanship, whether face-to-face, via instant messenger, email or on the phone. It all starts with a conversation.

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Does online marketing scare you? Here's the basics of sales funnels, sales pages and sales conversations that get you from scared to selling easily.

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