How to Sell Your Products Online
This holiday season, we’re expanding our #ShopLocalKC database to include locally owned ecommerce businesses. Have you added yours yet? Do it now. Then keep reading to learn best practices from experienced online merchants:
You have a product and now you need to sell to the masses. Selling your product or service online is one of the ways you can increase your sales and grow your business. Which platform should you use? How do you take good photos of your products? How do you reach your customers online? I recently attended an expert panel answering all of these questions.
During Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City, the Mid-Continent and Kansas City Public Libraries, along with KC BizCare, hosted a panel of entrepreneurs to talk all things ecommerce, aptly named “E-Commerce Tips and Tricks.”
The panel of rockstar entrepreneurs included:
Kimberly Beer: A consultant for artists who coaches content marketing.
Joseph Maxwell: Does development and marketing for Swift Otter and hosts an ecommerce meetup at Johnson County Library the second Thursday of the month.
Johanna Miller of Potion Yarns: Johanna built her hand-dyed yarn ecommerce business to profitable in less than seven months (read her story).
Malonda Hutson: Malonda is the co-owner of Decaf Tees Screen Printing.
Let’s dive in! How do you start selling products online?
How to start your online business
First, decide which platform you want to use. There are many options to choose from, so when researching you must think about which platform suits you and your industry best. Different services include Etsy for handmade goods, Fine Art America for art, Cafepress for custom printed items and Zen Folio for photography, just to name a few. “Research, research, research. Take the time to figure out which platform will work for you,” advises Morgan Perry of Mid-Continent Public Library.
Malonda uses Etsy because of the ease of use, while Johanna prefers Shopify because she can embed it on her own website and domain. While one platform is not better than the other, it truly depends on what you as the business owner want. Johanna likes Shopify because she believes it sets her apart as a long-lasting business owner and not a one-off sensation.
After you research platforms, don’t drag your feet. Joseph has a word of strong advice for entrepreneurs, “Just get started. Once you have the research just do it.”
How to take great product photos
Having good photos of your products online is an integral part of ecommerce, but don’t get hung up on perfection. It is completely acceptable to use your smartphone for photos. If your product is fabric based like a t-shirt, try to capture the texture by using different lighting and angles. It is often hard to photograph color details, so Johanna uses texture words like “buttery, bouncy, smooth” to describe her hand-dyed yarns in her product descriptions.
Kim advises to take lifestyle photos showing how the product is used in real life and hire a professional product photographer once you have the funds to do so.
How to determine your price and write creative descriptions
One of the biggest mistakes merchants make when selling products is not charging enough money. Determine what your time is worth and don’t forget to figure in the time it takes to make your product. Your time is worth money and you need to make a sustainable income.
Once you price your products accordingly, you need to write a product description. This is where a little bit of creativity comes in handy. “You have to do better at your product descriptions than everyone else,” says Kim. “Smaller ecommerce companies can beat out big companies by being more passionate in their product descriptions. Use your story.”
Stumped on what to include in your product descriptions? Joseph advises collecting frequently asked questions from your customers and include it in your descriptions. Try to think like your customer and what other names they may call your product.
How to market to your target audience
Start asking and researching your target market. Your local public library has free reports on local and national demographics. Talk to a librarian at any Mid Continent or Kansas City Public Library. Your customer may not be the same as your audience. The sooner you understand how your customer and target audience thinks and acts, the sooner you’ll be able to market to them more effectively.
When marketing your products, customers want to hear more about your story rather than product descriptions. This is how small businesses compete with big businesses online. Essentially, customers are buying you. Brush up on your marketing skills (or learn a new skill) by taking a marketing class (filter subject by “marketing/sales”) or connect with marketing professionals at the next Social Media Club of Kansas City event.
One more word of advice for entrepreneurs
When the panel was asked if they could give one more piece of advice to Kansas City’s entrepreneurs, wanna-preneurs, makers and doers, the panel responded with these golden nuggets of knowledge:
Malonda: “Engage with your customers and reply to their questions.”
Johanna: “Grow your business in increments. Be consistent and focus on small victories along the way. As business owners we tend to isolate ourselves. Connect with other entrepreneurs and stay connected with people.”
Kim: “Work on your business, not in your business. If you can, hire a business coach or get a mentor through SCORE. When you get stuck you’ll have someone who can give you workable solutions.”
Joseph: “Trust your customers. Take care of your customers.”
Morgan: “Use lynda.com and access thousands of how to videos and tutorials. Learn the basics of marketing, how to take product photos, use PhotoShop, build a website. . . All free with your library card.”
How to get your free Personalized Action Plan
Whether you’re starting a business, growing one or just have an idea sketched on a napkin that you’d like to test out, we are ready to connect you with the next steps and next resources to take your business to the next level. Just fill out a few questions and we’ll tell you the next steps to grow your business.