Guest Post by Kevin Payne
If there’s one goal shared by every business regardless of size and industry, it’s generating online sales. Without it, your business is headed for disaster.
With the marketplace now fiercer than ever, finding a way to increase sales online can seem to be a daunting task. The good news is that it isn’t. In fact, I’ve put together here a list of 25 different tactics to increase your online sales that you can start doing today.
1. Create an buyer persona
In order to generate online sales, you need to first have a crystal clear idea of who your selling to. Your buyer persona is like a compass. You may have a brilliantly designed marketing campaign ready, but if it doesn’t resonate with your buyer persona, all your efforts will just go to waste.
Hubspot defines a buyer persona as
“a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
Simply put, it is the image of someone who has all the values, behaviors and characteristics that you consider to be the perfect customer for your business.
When creating your business’ buyer persona, don’t make the same mistake a lot of marketers make by focusing on demographic information like age, gender, marital status, education level, ethnicity, and household income. To create a clear and effective buyer persona to generate online sales, you need to also factor in his or her behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Here’s a free tool that you can use to create an effective buyer persona for your business.
2. Formulate your buyer’s journey
Now that you have a clear understanding of who your selling to, you need to now find a way to get them to your website. For that, you’ll need to come up with a buyer’s journey for your business.
Think of the buyer’s journey like a roadmap that guides your ideal customers through a process that converts them into buyers of your product or service. It’s made up of three stages:
- Awareness Stage: your buyer is experiencing a specific problem. He or she then does research to gain more understanding about this particular problem.
- Consideration Stage: your buyer has a clearer understanding about the problem, and is now looking for ways to solve it.
- Decision Stage: your buyer looked at all the possible options available, and is now deciding on which one to use to solve the problem.
The graphic below shows a clearer picture on what happens in a buyer’s journey.
When creating your buyer’s journey to help you generate online sales for your business, always start with the end in mind. That is, getting your buyers to choose your product or service instead of your competitors. Ask yourself the following:
- What problem or need does my product or service solve? (Awareness stage)
- How does my product or service help solve the problem? (Consideration stage)
- Why should my buyers choose my product or service? (Decision stage)
3. Fuel your sales funnel with content marketing
Your company’s online sales funnel is what will help transform visitor to your website or social media account into a customer who, in turn, will make his or her way through the buyer’s journey.
Although it’s called a sales funnel, marketing is the fuel that propels a potential customer going in the right direction through your sales funnel.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard a lot of different strategies and techniques that will help drive potential customers through your sales funnel. There’s email marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, and a whole lot more.
That said, it’s important to make sure that carefully plan your sales funnel to make sure that you give your buyers enough fuel to move through it so that they will buy your product or service.
Here are several examples of how you can use inbound marketing to increase your online sales.
Of course, your business may be different from mine so it may look different. But this will give you an idea on how you can fuel your sales funnel using content marketing.
4. Create an opt-in offer that your buyers can’t resist
Another tactic you can use to generate online sales is to create an opt-in offer that your buyers just can’t say “no.”
Opt-in offers are essentially gifts that you give to your buyers in exchange for their email address. This can be anything from a downloadable checklist or ebook to something as fancy as access to a 4-part training course. In most cases, a well-crafted opt-in offer can help get many of your buyers off the fence and decide to buy the product or service you’re offering.
And if they don’t, all is not lost. Since they have now freely given you their email address to add to your list, you can now begin to develop a relationship with your customers by regularly appearing in their inbox, delivering more and more useful content. Eventually, they will come back and complete the purchase.
Before you launch your opt-in offer, it’s always a good idea to do an A/B split test to test which opt-in offer will yield the best results. A/B split testing will also help you choose how to present your opt-in offer so that it gets the most attention and positive responses.
5. Send behavior-based automated emails
As I mentioned earlier, one of the integral parts about creating a buyers persona is getting insights on your ideal customer’s behavior. We all have unique personalities and ways in which we make decisions on which products or services to buy. Sending out emails based on your buyer persona’s behavior can help you connect with them further and get them to make that decision to buy from your business.
Some of the commonly used behavior-based automated emails companies send out are:
- Welcome email series
- Free trial/Freemium email series
- Customer onboarding email series
- Weekly newsletter emails
- Birthday greetings
- Email drip campaigns after accessing an opt-in offer
6. Answer objections and questions in your FAQ or product information page
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to generating online sales is assuming that their customers already know everything about their product or service. The truth is that the only information majority of your customers know about your product or service is what you tell them.
Answering questions and objections of your buyers is essential if you want to generate online sales for your business. A study published by AdWeek found that 81% of shoppers research online about a product or a service first before making a purchase. If they don’t get the answers they’re looking for, it can cause them not to complete their purchase.
Make it a point to take time and consider every single question your buyer can possibly think or ask about you or your product or service. Give them all the answers by adding these details in the product information page of your site or in your site’s FAQ page. If your site doesn’t have one yet, you can check out this article on how to properly create a FAQ page.
Also, make sure that you provide your buyers with a customer support where they can speak with someone and get answers to their questions. Not only would this help quickly resolve any objections that may arise about your product or service, but it would also play a key role in your buyers making repeat purchases.
According to ZenDesk, 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more from a business after experiencing good customer service.
7. Establish trust and credibility in your website
Building trust and credibility with your buyers doesn’t happen overnight, especially with buyers today being hypersensitive with claims that looks and sounds too good to be true. The good news is that once you do get them to trust your business, they will not only be willing to buy your product or business, but it will also be harder for other businesses to take them away from you.
The best way to establish trust and credibility with your buyers is by using copy on your website that’s honest, straightforward, and open. Here’s some ways you can do this:
- Use simple words and short sentences in your website copy
- Proofread and edit your copy before you publish them
- Host live Q&As or webinars
- Quickly address any concerns or questions buyers ask
- Have a customer service number that they can call and speak to a live person
8. Invest in high-quality images
Visiting a website that’s outdated, slow in loading and filled with crappy images is one of my pet peeves. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.
As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In the world of online business, the kind of images you use says a lot about the quality standards of your business and what you offer.
You don’t have to break the bank to get high quality images. There are a lot of places now where you can get them cheap. I use Canva and Fiverr for the images I use here on my website. Here are some of the sites I regularly visit to get free, but really good quality, stock images:
9. Create a sense of urgency
Believe it or not, many buyers respond positively to incentives when you are able to create a sense of urgency. That’s because people naturally want to belong. When you offer a product or service for only a short period of time, it gives them the feeling that they’ll be left out if they don’t make the purchase. Also, setting a time limit on product and service offers compels your customers to make a decision more quickly.
This is a technique used by Marie Forleo with her B-School program
In both cases, you only have a short window of opportunity to enroll in these courses. After the doors close, you’ll need to wait for a whole year to try again.
10. Reduce friction in your checkout process
According to WordStream, 81% of people will abandon their online shopping cart right before they make a purchase. That’s why if you want to generate online sales, you need to reduce as much friction as possible throughout the checkout process to ensure that they complete the purchase.
Here are some suggestions:
- Include trust logos on your checkout form: 61% of buyers say that they don’t complete the purchase because trust logos like VeriSign Secured is not present anywhere on the site and checkout form.
- Offer guest checkout options: 14% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts because the site requires them to first sign up for an account to complete their purchase.
- Limit the number of clicks required to complete the purchase: This is one of the reasons why Amazon is one of the top players when it comes to online sales. Their patented one-click payment option allows their users to make a purchase without having to go through several pages to complete an order.
11. Use customer testimonials
Word of mouth still remains as the best form of advertising. Including testimonials on your website from your satisfied customers is a great way to leverage this to generate online sales.
I love it when I see headshots that go along with the testimonials that are posted on a business’ home page or landing page. It adds a human element to your website copy, and it makes it more convincing.
Of course, not all testimonials are created equally. To gather and create credible testimonials to include on your home page and sales pages, it’s important to make asking for testimonials a part of your business process. One way to do this is by sending out an email to your customers a few days after they’ve recently bought your product or service.
12. Add trust signals to your website
Sadly, not all professional looking sites are legitimate, and buyers are quickly becoming aware of that. Adding trust signals to your website, such as accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, membership to your local chamber of commerce, and the VeriSign Secured logo, will make your buyers feel more at ease doing business with you.
13. Offer fewer choices
Have you ever found yourself staring at across an aisle in your grocery deciding on which brand or type of pasta to get? I have, and in more than one occasion, I ended up deciding not to get any pasta at all.
Well, the same thing happens to your site offers so many different products or services.
Lots of businesses believe that the more products and services they offer, the better their chances of generating online sales. In reality, offering so many options to your buyers can make indecisive. More often than not, this will result the buyer completely abandoning the shopping cart altogether.
On the other hand, when you offer a few options to your customers, you make the decision-making process so much easier for them. Having fewer options means that you’ll be able to further enhance them and make them even better over time. Providing fewer options will eventually help establish your business to become a leader in your niche.
In my company, I offer only one service – inbound marketing consulting to tech startups and ecommerce companies. By specializing in offering this service, I’m not only able to refine my skills and eventually, be able to position myself as a recognized and respected expert in this field.
14. Give a money back guarantee
Fear is one of the biggest hindrances for people to buy a product or service. They’re afraid that they’ll be investing in something that they eventually discover is not a good fit for them.
Offering a money back guarantee to your buyers helps ease the fear in several ways. First, it puts your buyer at ease to know that they have a window to try out your product or service and get their money back if they decide it’s not a good fit for them.
Second, it speaks of your confidence about the product or services you’re offering. By putting a money back guarantee in your sales page, you’re essentially telling your buyer that you’re confident about the quality of the product or service you’re offering.
Lastly, it helps build trust and credibility with your audience. The money back guarantee tells them that you’re not after their money. Rather, you’re offering a solution that you believe will help them.
15. Generate online sales by offering more payment options
Even though credit cards are commonplace, not everyone’s keen on using it, especially when shopping online. Offering more payment options, including newer payment options like ApplePay and Google Wallet as well as old-fashioned ones like cash on delivery, makes buyers more at ease to complete their purchase and hand you over their money.
16. Use Ad Extensions
Need some help with your Google AdWords strategy, consider investing in using ad extensions.
Not only will your ads appear much bigger on search engine pages, but they also allow you to highlight certain sections of your site to be clickable right on the search page like product categories, your site’s FAQ page, and your Contact page.
17. Make your value proposition immediately obvious
Your value proposition goes beyond to why your product or service is better than those offered by your competitors. Rather, it should tell your customers what makes your company unique and how will buying from you will be beneficial to them.
This was the case with TOMS shoes. While their shoes weren’t special, the company’s value proposition was.
Throughout their entire website and marketing, TOMS shoes delivered the message that they were more than just another shoe company. They’re also a company that’s committed to making a difference by making a promise that for every pair of shoes they sold, they will donate a pair to a child living in an underdeveloped country.
18. Optimize your website for mobile
According to Pew Research, 95% of Americans now own a cellphone. Of these, 62% have used their smartphone to buy something online. That said, it’s important to make sure that your website is just as easy to navigate using a smartphone or tablet as on a laptop or desktop.
A good way to do this is to make sure that you use a responsive theme for your website. These themes are designed so that it quickly adjusts the site depending on the device used to view it. That way it will be easier for your buyers to navigate around your site. Make sure also that all the links and call-to-action buttons are the right size so that it’s easy for your buyers to tap on them and submit their information when they’re making a purchase.
19. Implement Tiered Pricing
Tiered pricing is another way to generate online sales for your business, especially if you have a Software as a Service (SaaS) business.
This technique works on the principle that buyers want to get the most value for what they pay for. The key here is to offer a product or service that will serve as a decoy in order to push your buyers to choose the product or service that you want them to get.
The Dropbox Business Pricing is a good example.
Dropbox offers three plans for Dropbox Business: Standard, Advanced and Enterprise. The Enterprise plan can quickly deter a lot of potential buyers because they’ll need to contact them to get a pricing, which means that it won’t come cheap. The Standard option, on the other hand, offers a very limited space. The Advanced option gives buyers the same amount of space as the Enterprise plan, and since they don’t need to contact Dropbox to get the price, this will be the most reasonable option.
20. Give as much as you can for free
Many businesses may find this counterintuitive. How can you generate online sales if you keep giving things away for free?
For starters, people love getting free stuff. In fact, lots of people will often come and visit a site and be willing to refer others when they know that they can get something for free. This means more organic traffic for your site. The more traffic, the better your rankings, the more visibility your site gets, and the easier for buyers to find you.
Second, giving products or services for free gives your buyers the opportunity to try them out without any obligations on their part. This allows them to make a better decision to upgrade to the paid version.
The key here is balance. Your free products or service should be robust enough to allow your buyers to experience the benefit of what you’re offering. At the same time, it should be limited in that they’ll be prompted to get the paid version in order to enjoy the full features.
21. Generate online sales by making the voice of your customer heard
This next tactic to generate online sales aligns the copy of your homepage and ads to resonate with the needs, wants, challenges and pain points of your buyer persona by using the exact words they use to describe it. Doing this allows you to connect with your buyers better it makes them feel that you understand exactly their pains. And because of that, they’re more willing to try out the product or service you’re offering.
22. Connect with your prospects on social media
Social media has now become an integral part of any online marketing strategy. Not only is it because this is where you can easily find your ideal customers, but social media gives you the opportunity to connect and engage with them on a personal level. Along with being able to market your product and services to them, you’ll also be able to ask them questions about their challenges and desires so that you can, in turn come up with a product or service that will help solve their problems.
Connecting with your prospects by using social selling gives you the opportunity to resolve any issues or concerns your customers may have about your business or your products or services.
23. Be consistent
Most people when they hear about staying consistent, they immediately think about churning out blog posts, webinars and product launches on a regular basis. That’s only part of it.
Being consistent extends to the tone, look and feel of your entire website. You cannot have one one page looking very professional and polished, and another site looking like crap. The links and description about your product or service offers should also be consistent. If you send out an email offering a free kit to your subscribers and then say in the landing page that you’ll be charging them for shipping and handling, your customers will feel deceived and you end up not only losing a sale, but risk these customers giving out negative feedback about you and your business.
24. Target lookalike audience on Facebook
Lookalike audiences are those users on Facebook that share similar characteristics and behaviors to your buyer persona. This will help you further expand the reach of your Facebook ads so that you can drive them to your website and increase the chances to generate online sales.
25. Find your best conversion paths
If you’ve tried different ways to generate online sales, but aren’t still seeing the results you expect, it could be that it has nothing to do with the content that you’re putting out. Rather, it could be that you’ve spread your efforts too thin.
Taking time to review your site’s analytics will help you resolve this. There are two things for you to look for. The first are the sources where you’re getting the most traffic. The second is where you’re getting the least amount of traffic. Knowing these will help you allocate your effort and resources by getting rid of those that are providing the least amount of traffic so that you can focus on those that are providing you with the most traffic.
Generating online sales is critical to the survival of any business. Of course, that doesn’t mean that success will happen overnight. It will take time. However, if you keep at it and remain consistent, you’ll eventually start seeing the results that will start taking your startup to the next level.