When mentoring start-ups, we are sometimes asked to help people who just want to sell one product. But selling a product and building a business are not the same thing. You need to ask yourself “am I interested only in selling a single product or do I want to build a business with longevity?”

If your target customers are consumers, you need to take into account that most direct to consumer marketing programs take at least six months to build interest from scratch. So if you have one product you want to sell, then one option is to set up an eBay store. Another option is to find existing high-traffic online sites that target the same customers as you and offer them commission on sale in exchange for promoting to their existing members.

If your plan is to build a business, starting with one product, then your next steps could include online marketing, alliances and markets:

  1. Think about what you really want to help people do – what’s your promise to people who buy from you? What can you offer your customers next? Then make a list of all the content around your business promise and proposed product list that your potential customers would find useful. This will inform your content plan and the key words you use on your website, particularly in blogs.
  2. Set up your online presence:
    1. a mobile responsive website with a sales portal, the ability to capture names and emails for your newsletter, and a blog page;
    2. a Facebook page and (ideally) Instagram, to reach as many people as possible and encourage them to visit your website.
  3. Start posting useful information so that people check out your website and opt into your newsletter list. You can have one day in the week when you promote your product(s) on social media via something about how they are helpful, but remember it’s not about you – it’s about your target customers.
  4. Who else might share your customers but don’t sell your products now? Talk to them about what you’re trying to establish to see if any might promote your product to their lists.
  5. Your starting product may also lend itself to selling at local markets. Many markets have restrictions on local content, so check the rules, as well as the demographic of the market, before you apply.

Once you’ve started, then you can also think about promotional media opportunities and other alliances. The important thing is momentum: get started, then keep going.

First published in Business Life, Vol 1 No 3, April 2016

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