There’s an art and a science to increasing your online sales. But what countless marketers and founders get wrong, is forgetting that at the end of the day, your customers are buying into a relationship with you—they’re not just purchasing your product or service and moving on.
Did you know that a whopping 81% of shoppers in the U.S. report doing a considerable amount of online research before making a big purchase?
Unless you’ve created something truly unique to the world, the reality of being in business today is that your product or service is more than likely just one of several different options your potential customers are considering to help solve their pain points.
Maybe you have a few features that competitors don’t, but does that alone give your prospects enough justification to overcome switching costs from their current solution? Chances are, it probably doesn’t.
You need more. You must give your prospects a compelling reason to choose you.
That makes it more important than ever to reach beyond just the traditional marketing tacticsthat have worked well for you in the past, and to focus on building meaningful relationships with your audience—before expecting them to become customers.
In that vein, here are four counterintuitive marketing strategies I’ve used to increase my online sales.
1. Research your customer’s pain points (and actually talk to them).
“But, Ryan that’s not a marketing strategy!”
Humor me for a moment…
When I was preparing to launch my most recent online course, the first thing I did was sit down and map out the journey my customers would need to go on, in order to get to the point where purchasing my course is the most obvious, easiest solution to the challenge at hand.
For example, before I began promoting my course on validating a business idea, I emailed, called and met with a few dozen of my most engaged subscribers over the course of a full month to get their feedback on what they’d be looking for in a course on this subject.
We picked apart their past failures with validating ideas, looked at the obstacles that stop most people from even getting started and analyzed what would’ve helped them be more successful in building their side hustle from the ground up.
The consensus: Almost everyone wanted a simple, step-by-step plan of action for going from initial idea to first paying customers in a reasonable amount of time.
Here’s where this early research and outreach became a marketing strategy…
The act of getting this small group of a few dozen subscribers involved in the production of my course at the very beginning turned out to be one of the highest return marketing efforts for my course. Not only were they involved in the decision-making process of what would be covered in the course content, but they felt even more connected to me.
Especially since I was personally helping them make progress towards their validation goal in the meantime while the course content was in production. Then on the backend, I was able to use their progress as case study material to build more social proof for the course.
Because I made a commitment to making sure my course would address the biggest challenges these subscribers were facing, over 75% of this early feedback group ended up converting into customers during the presale for the course.
2. Build trust with your audience.
Before I could hope for my subscribers to buy my course, I needed them to trust in the system I was pitching.
How do I do that?
After chatting with my early feedback group, they wanted to see me put my money where my mouth is and first prove that this validation process would actually work.
So, I hosted a publicly documented 30 day challenge to validate a business idea on my blog. I asked my readers to tell me what kind of business I should build, posted weekly updates about what was working (including what wasn’t) and shared the real metrics for traffic, email subscribers and sales.
This soon-to-be 23,000 word documentation of validating an idea in real-time became one of my most read, shared and commented on blog posts of all-time. It even ranks near the top of organic search results on topics related to validating a business idea.
No amount of marketing tactics in the world could have gotten my readers to trust me enough to buy a course that makes lofty promises if I’m not showing them that I take my own advice and get real results from it.
On top of just the trust-building, the validation challenge provided a massive amount of free value for my readers that followed along and put the strategies into practice in real-time with me.
3. Establish partnerships with related brands and influencers.
Which brands, bloggers, influencers or otherwise are reaching a similar customer base?
For the launch of my validation course, I forged a partnership with CloudDevs. Not only do they reach a larger audience of aspiring entrepreneurs, but they have an engaged following of people with startup experience, young professionals and creatives that eventually want to ditch their day jobs.
Most importantly, their audience not only consumes content about building a business, but they actually execute on what they’re learning—my demographic exactly. Whether they’ve experienced painful failures or had moderate success in the past, what’s important about the people I wanted to market my course to, is that they have a track record of taking action.
Partnerships can afford you a lot of unpredictably exciting opportunities, including:
- Promotional exposure to your partner’s email list, social following, existing customers
- Brand association, endorsement & trust transference from someone more established
- Multiplying the size of your marketing budget
- Bringing on complementary expertise, skill sets and assistance from their team
- Opportunities to forge more partnerships with other related brands or influencers
Once you have a notable partner on board to help promote the launch of your upcoming product, it becomes that much easier to sign other big name partners.
It’s a snowball effect.
For my validation course, getting CloudDevs as a partner opened up doors for me to interview bestselling authors Pat Flynn, Chris Guillebeau, Nir Eyal and more to include as bonus content in the course—which in turn gave me additional exposure to their audience.
When reaching out to potential partners, always consider what’s in it for them. If you can incentivize your partners financially by making them an affiliate of your product, that’s the best way to get their full buy-in.
If that’s not an option, lean on your ability to give them exposure to a new audience they’d want to get in front of, and examine other ways you can use your core competencies to provide value to their business.
Marketing is about more than tactics—it’s about connection.
No matter how great your product or service is, if you’re unable to build a real, lasting relationship with the people in your community, you’ll have an incredibly difficult time converting your audience into paying customers.
Do these three things to start building those connections before you launch:
- Talk to your audience, learn about their pain points & build your product with them
- Build trust by showing them you follow your own advice and use your own product
- Establish partnerships with brands and influencers who will help you grow
Once they become paying customers, over-delivering on your promises and give so much value that they’ll want to continue coming back for more.
If you can create meaningful, value-driven relationships with your audience, you’ll have a loyal group of people to continue growing with for the years to come.