You’ve made the monumental decision to take your homemade hobby to the next level. You’re ready to sell on a larger scale, but still haven’t grown your business to the point where you can afford to lease or purchase a commercial space. You’re going to continue to be based from home, but how are you going to reach the masses from your suburban kitchen or craft room? Here are some tips for selling your product without a storefront.
Getting the Word Out
You can’t sell anything if people never hear about it so getting the word out is very important. You can leverage several forms of social media to accomplish this. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the vehicles for your product information to travel around the world. You can offer free samples, special discount coupons and conduct social media campaigns to build brand awareness and increase traffic to your website so they can order online. Social media is all about connecting with potential customers so avoid buying followers or artificially padding your numbers. It’s tough to recover from any type of fake advertising or marketing campaign if found out, so it’s best to take the time to build an authentic following for your brand.
Since you lack having a physical store, don’t belong to the city Chamber of Commerce or have any benefits from being a merchant in your community, it’s a great idea to personally get out and meet your public. Sign up and show up with your product for as many local events as possible. Trade shows, farmers markets, street fairs and other events like parades and festivals bring the community out into the streets. You may have to pay vendor fees to participate in some of these activities, but it should pay off in terms of sales in the future and the direct marketing will get people to remember you.
Make sure you are prepared by having business cards, brochures or flyers, in addition to having your product to sample and sell at these events. You may even be approached by someone who wants to sell your product. Have an idea of pricing structures and production capability should this happen to you.
Have a good looking and functional website built for your brand. This can be a costly proposition, but a necessary investment in the future of your company. Make sure your site is attractive, eye-catching and above all, user-friendly. You want to make it simple and pleasant for people to order your product and to have all information in a clear and easy to understand format.
Features like mobile-friendly search capability, fillable online forms submissions, FAQ’s and a blog about your company/product encourage your customers to stay on the site clicking around. When they linger on the site, they’re more likely to purchase more and that equals higher sales amounts.
Use available analytics to get a snapshot of who your ideal customer is, their buying habits and other statistics. Be sure to capture their email address using forms for newsletters, free quotes or samples. This information will help you to make adjustments and successfully market to your customers with things like email specials or loyalty programs ensuring more repeat orders .
If you’re still small and don’t have the available capital to build a website, look into online stores such as Etsy, Ebay and Zazzle which allow you to sell your products on their sites for a percentage or monthly fee.
Fill your orders promptly. Make sure you are able to meet demand in a reasonable timeframe and post that timeframe on your order form. Notify your customer immediately if your product becomes back-ordered and again when you ship. This can be an automated email that is set up as part of your shipping system. You can also provide a tracking number for your order. This is all geared towards reducing inquiries on your website and complaints about delays in receiving the shipment. Setting up a good process in the beginning will avoid many snags and problems later on.
Deliver a Quality Product
Keep your product consistent and adhere to all food handling and quality standards where applicable. Don’t skimp on ingredients or materials. If the quality of your product goes down, you will lose customers. You want loyal return customers, and they will expect the same quality product whether it’s their 2nd order or their 32nd.
Make It Easy to Order
From the website order process to receiving the package at their front door, you want the customer journey to be as painless as possible. Make sure you can accept credit cards and give another payment option such as PayPal for those who don’t use credit.
It’s a great advantage if you can offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount and/or special promotions that offer it on certain days. Customers appreciate this feature and will likely order more product if they are getting free shipping. Therefore, you get a higher ticket sale and make more profit even though you’re paying for shipping. If possible, build shipping into the price and have every order shipped for free. This encourages the customer to order in larger quantities. Customers are often willing to pay a higher price for a quality product if they are getting free shipping.
Create Loyal Customers
You create a loyal customer base by doing all of the things mentioned above, but there are other things that you can do that will help you grow your business, have return business, and have your customers recommend you to others. Loyalty programs are a great way to do this. Punch cards, coupons and events are other ways to accomplish return orders. The perception is that members are getting something of more value than the run of the mill customers get. This makes them more likely to participate in loyalty programs and to recommend your product to others.
While last on this list, this is by no means a lesser priority. Customer satisfaction is the key to a successful business. As with any company or product, there will be problems. Since your customer cannot come back to your store to return your product, you need to provide them an avenue for resolution of their complaints.
If you offer a warranty or guarantee on your website, you must honor it without fail. Never ignore a complaint or dispute. Always return e-mails, calls and letters promptly. Give refunds, apologize. Give free product, do whatever is needed to satisfy an unhappy customer. The sad truth is that some people will never be happy no matter what you try to do, but thankfully, those people are few in number. The majority of people believe they have a valid complaint and if you respect that and do your best to resolve the issue promptly and fairly, you can create a customer for life.