As an online merchant, making your first sale is as symbolic as it is necessary.
Completing the first sale sounds straightforward enough, yet the optimism and reassurance it brings can make it the biggest turning point in the life of your business.
However, don’t let the simple concept of a first sale mislead you. Obtaining that first customer can sometimes be a long, arduous battle.
To make the battle easier to win, below are 24 sure-fire ways to make your first e-commerce sale without spending a ton.
1. Send Free Samples to Influencers
The internet is packed with influential bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and vloggers from a wide range of industries and niches. You just need to find the right ones.
Many of them have large followings on social media and loyal audiences on their websites.
Sending a free sample of your product to influencers within your industry or related to it in some way gives you an opportunity to let them know you appreciate their work with a small gift. Hopefully, you will get a mention on one of their sites or platforms.
This can result in a spike in traffic and social media followers, but you’ll also have a seal of approval from industry experts.
A useful resource regarding influencers is Neil Patel’s definitive guide to influencer targeting, which tells you everything you need to know about getting your brand under relevant, important noses.
2. Start Blogging
If you aren’t already running a blog associated with your store or product, then you’re missing out on the limitless potential of content marketing.
By producing free, valuable content, you create trust in your brand and keep people informed. Blogging also gives you content to share on social media and helps you rank in search engines.
To get started, think of all the starting-point queries people have about your products and industry. Use your blog to answer these questions as individual articles.
For example, visitors to the Shopify blog might be interested in learning about e-commerce and drop shipping. So, they created content that ranks for terms like “how to sell online” and “how to drop ship.”
Additionally, you can use your blog to offer tips, tutorials, and resources related to your products and the lifestyle around your products.
If you can create epic content on a regular basis, you’ll begin to see the power of content marketing via social media shares, search engines, and so forth. All of this is covered in our guide to content marketing.
3. Build an Email List
Building up an email list is absolutely essential to make your first sale — and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
According to DMA, email has an average ROI of $42 per $1 spent — not too shabby. Building your email list, however, costs very little.
Having a list of emails from previous and potential customers means you can get your information, products, and content into their personal mailboxes. In contrast, updates made to your Facebook page and Twitter handle will almost never reach your entire following, due to time zone differences and social media algorithms.
Start building your email list by including an email subscription form on your website.
Here’s a clever way to convince visitors to sign up for your list. Instead of simply saying “Join our Newsletter,” offer an incentive or some type of value for signing up. Skinny Teatox offers the chance to win a free product every week, so they showcase that offering to encourage people to join.
If you need some more advice on how to get started, here’s a perfect beginner’s guide to email marketing.
4. Sponsor an (In-Person or Virtual) Event
Sponsoring an event can work wonders — if you use the right approach.
First, ensure you select the right event to sponsor. Search for events where attendees are likely to be interested in your product, and then find out how many consumers will be in attendance.
Then start sorting them by cost.
Avoid sending a convoy of marketers to sset up a table and hand out flyers. If there are potential customers attending, you’ll need to be more creative to build relationships.
Demonstrate some of your most interesting products to tell your story, get people talking, and provide on-the-spot rewards like coupons and free stickers in return for email list subscriptions and social media follows.
Here are some tips from Inc to help you maximize your return when sponsoring an event.
5. Interview Industry Influencers
Remember the importance of content marketing I mentioned earlier? Well, interviewing an industry influencer is a prime way to create epic content.
Interviews work because they are win-win situations. The interviewee gets more exposure, while the interviewer gets their hands on some hot content for their publication, which in this case, is your blog.
Make the most of the interview by asking relevant questions about their lives and careers, but also the industry as a whole. This will ensure fans of the influencer get a taste of their personality, while others will value their expert advice.
Here’s an example by metricool, where they interviewed me about my background and industry trends.
6. Pull a PR Stunt
If you want that first sale fast, pulling a PR stunt could do the trick.
Much like viral videos, a PR stunt has the potential to propel your brand into fame. If executed well, you’ll be swapping conventional time-consuming brand marketing with instant publicity, gaining you loyal followers and customers in the process.
A PR stunt consists of doing something unusual, outrageous, hilarious, or remarkable enough to be worthy of media attention.
As a result, your store could benefit from tons of links from authority news sources, which is great for both traffic in the short term and SEO in the long term.
No company pulls a better PR stunt than Virgin. Their founder, Richard Branson, has dressed up as a wedding bride, jumped off a casino roof, posed as a Zulu warrior, driven a tank down Fifth Avenue in NYC, and flown a balloon around the world, among many other newsworthy things.
To get your creative juices flowing, take a look at Entrepreneur’s list of top 19 successful marketing stunts. They’ve covered everything from outrageous tattoos to left-handed burgers. Remember, a good PR stunt doesn’t require tons of cash or a big brand to pull it off. It just requires creativity.
7. Experiment with Google Ads
Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is Google’s hugely popular pay-per-click advertising network that allows online retailers to place advertisements on nearly every Google search results page, YouTube video, and partner websites.
Who wouldn’t want to rank in the top three of a search query that drives sales? Here’s what shows up when you type “Samsung TV” into Google. Note that the first results are paid ads from Samsung.