Making your first few sales online is fun, but consistent income is what you’ll need to build a full-time business around your website or blog.
It took me about 18 months to build my online business (now called Insanely Useful Media) up to a point where I could support myself from it. Over those 18 months, I learned a number of essential lessons that led to earning a consistent income, versus just occasional and unpredictable sales.
I’m going to share 7 of those lessons with you here today.
I’d also love to hear which lessons you’ve learned about earning money online in the comments after this post.
- Different Traffic Sources Yield Radically Different Results
This one might sound obvious, but it’s easy to find yourself chasing big traffic numbers instead of focusing on the quality of the traffic you attract. Lots of traffic might sound impressive, but it doesn’t automatically lead to earning income online.
Think about where the people who could really benefit from what you’re offering hang out and work on ways to get in front of that audience. Chase quality instead of quantity.
- You Can’t Make a Sale Without an Offer
This is another one that seems obvious, but still took me a while to figure out. You can’t make a sale unless you have something for sale. The corollary to this one is that you’ll learn more from your first product launch than you will from six months of planning and learning about product launches.
Don’t wait too long to develop and offer your first product or service. The only way you can get good at making sales is through practice. Start small and learn from the experience. You don’t need thousands of visitors to make a decent income online, as long as you paid attention to point #1 above.
- A Clear Guarantee is Essential
The easiest sale to make is one with a clear and compelling guarantee. A guarantee removes all the risk of buying and puts you on the hook to deliver your promised benefits. A clear and compelling guarantee makes it easy for your customer to make a decision.
Here’s a formula for an incredibly compelling guarantee: “achieve [insert benefit] in [insert time frame] or [insert guarantee].”
Give it a try for your next project. I use this formula for Traffic School and am convinced it accounts for a big part of the success of that program. Thanks to Karol Gajda and Clay Collins for helping me develop the guarantee.
- Customers Buy Benefits, Not Features
Your potential customers want something. They want to achieve or experience something. Your job is to tell them exactly what they will achieve or experience by purchasing your product or service.
Features are important because they describe how your product or service will be delivered, but features are secondary to benefits. Always lead with benefits and don’t make your visitors work to figure out what they are. You have to learn to be obvious and clear about describing benefits to earn money through a website or blog.
- You Have to Give People a Reason to Buy
When a visitor comes across your product or service offer online, the default behavior is simply to leave your page without deciding either “yes” or “no.”
To make sales, you have to give people a reason to decide, right now, whether they should really consider your offer.
This reason to buy can take many forms, but typically it will involve limited time offers, special bonuses, or some kind of legitimate (not manufactured) scarcity. Scarcity works because it causes more of your visitors to make a decision now, instead of delaying their decision (which really means forgetting about your offer).
- It’s Never Too Soon to Develop Your Marketing Plan
It’s a terrible shame when someone puts weeks or months of effort into developing a product or service and doesn’t think about the marketing strategy until days before launch. The sooner you start planning your marketing strategy, the more sales you’ll make.
It’s far more effective to spend less effort on your product (usually by reducing scope) and more time on marketing.
I learned this the hard way, first by doing almost no marketing on products, then by saving a week at the end of the product development cycle to dedicate to marketing. Now, I start developing my marketing plan before I develop the product. Developing your marketing strategy very early on can usually help you create a much better product as well.
- Study the Masters and Old-School Techniques
You can learn an incredible amount of valuable sales and marketing strategies simply by studying successful companies.
Keep a “swipe file” of marketing materials from several successful online companies and talented marketers. Whenever one of them launches a new product or service, copy all of their marketing materials (screenshots, downloads, etc.) and save it so you can spend time studying what they did and why it may or may not have worked.
You can borrow from the frameworks of others and use what you liked and what makes the most sense for your project.
Not much has really changed about sales and marketing during the last 50+ years. You can also learn almost all of what you need to know to sell online by studying what has worked over the past 5+ decades from classic marketing books.
The only differences are the tools and technologies that are used. The fundamentals of marketing are the same because human psychology hasn’t changed much.
What about you? What lessons have you learned about earning money online? Which of these are new to you? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
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