Q&A: How Can I Market My Products or Services Online?

Q&A: How Can I Market My Products or Services Online?



About a week ago I received a question from a software developer who wishes to know how he can market his products for online sale. I have written in the past about promoting products online but I realized I could go a bit more in-depth regarding certain aspects of online marketing.

In this particular scenario, we have a developer who has created several applications for desktop for different purposes ranging from Folder Lock, Video Uploader, Email Marketing Tools, Retail Management and Twitter Bot. It is a varied bunch but the basic process of marketing them is the same. Preparing a marketing plan, even in the simplest form, which is in sorts what I will be showing in this article, is what will lead all new venture to success. A lack of plan will result in a absence of direction, purpose and will end up in diluted efforts. Read carefully, dear marketing apprentice…

What is your product or service?

First the product or service must be defined. What is it you are selling and how would you describe it? This will be the key to introducing your product to potential clients, a presentation card of sorts. Does the product have a name? What are its main features and characteristics? Be honest and be as clear as possible in your definitions.

To whom is it targeted?

Once you have your products/services well defined, it is crucial to know to whom they will be targeted. Ask yourself who will be most interested in buying and using your product. Answering “Everyone” is not good enough; in reality only a tiny percentage of products can be marketed to everybody. Such products are usually extremely generic, things like some foods, the most basic furniture (tables, chairs, etc.) and other broad consumption items. So scratch that answer if you wrote it on your list as there is (almost) no such thing in the marketing world as a product for “everyone”.

Ask yourself these questions and note down your answers. The most precise your answers will be and the clearer your target audience will be:

  1. What age group is most likely to buy your product/service?
  2. Is your product targeted at men, women or both?
  3. Is your product for home use or professional use?
  4. If your product is for professional use, which sphere of the business world was it made for?
  5. For home use: Who can afford your product (low class, middle class, high class)?
  6. For professional use: What size of businesses will most profit from your product (small, medium or large business)?
  7. Will your product appeal more to a certain ethnic group, language or country?

The list goes on but answering these few simple questions will help you to uncover your target market. By now, you know what your product is, what it does and to whom it will be sold.

How does your product or service differ from the competition?

Before knocking on doors and starting to sell your product or service, you must make sure you will be ready to answer the following question: How does your product differ from the competition? Assuming you did a market study prior to creating your product, you will have an answer to that question. In the case of the software developer scenario, the software will most likely fulfil a need which is not currently being taken care of by the competition. If there is no product quite like yours, you will have the edge in your market.

What to do however when you are launching yourself in a competitive market and similar products already exist? You must define what makes you different. Is your product’s quality better than your concurrent? Is it more affordable? Or is your customer service the cutting edge? Are you providing an existing product in a brand new format or flavour never seen before?

Whether you are selling services or merchandise, I guarantee your prospects WILL ask you why they should go with you rather than your competitors and you must give them a good reason. If you are copying a pre-existing concept and not putting efforts into defining what makes you unique, you might make some money for a while but do not count on long-term prosperity.

Having a website and selling online

Having a website is crucial when you want to sell a product online. A website is a presentation card for your product, a platform on which you can show all its properties and highlight its advantages. It also allows you to display testimonials and pictures. With a well-built website and good SEO integration, potential clients will be able to find you in search engines and get to know your products without any effort on your part. It is an ad working 24/7.

If like our software developer you are selling virtual products available through download, having an online store on your website is not going to be too hard to setup and may be the most efficient way to distribute your product. The process to purchase could be as simple as: Go to store > View gallery of products with prices > Click on Buy > Enter client information > Pay with Paypal > Be taken to download page.

If you use a CMS like WordPress it is relatively easy to integrate a simple cart feature which will allow you to manage your sales.

If the item you are selling is a physical product, selling from your website is also possible however you will need to take into consideration shipping/delivery costs. Depending on the country you reside in and the company you want to use to ship your products, you will get different fares and deals. My advice is to investigate the available options before integrating anything to your e-commerce. In Canada, popular shipping options include but are not limited to CanadaPost, Purolator and UPS.

If building an ecommerce is not something that interests you, eBay, Amazon and other third party sites are valid alternatives.

Spreading the word and knocking on the right doors

When your product, sales pitch, marketing plan and website are all ready, it is time to actually get ready to sell. Spread the word about your product by contacting all your friends, clients and business partners. Send an email blast, either through a newsletter or a simple but well-structure email, and let everyone know about your new venture. The more people know about you, the better.

Being active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can also bring in more clientèle. You can use your professional social media presence to boost your business, engage with your clients, share news related to your products and post special promotions for your fans and followers. Loyal supporters like to be rewarded and occasional rebates may increase sales if you play your cards well.

Finally, the time will come when you must reach to your target market directly. If you are dealing with businesses for instance, a few well-placed phone calls and emails could spark interest in the higher echelons of companies which you think could benefit from using your product or service. It is extremely important however to keep in mind that businesses receive countless emails daily and unless your email is personalized, well-structured and relevant, it will quickly end up in the trash. Scheduling face to face meeting with strategic prospects and business partners is a bold but efficient way to spread the word and get results.

There are many places where you, the entrepreneur, could go from here. You could book a space in an event relevant to your field and present your product there. You could use old marketing tricks and go from door to door if you believe this technique will bare results. Using radio and TV is also a possibility although it is more costly and the audience is usually so mixed it is a hit or miss, especially if your product appeals to one precise demographic. The key to success resides in knowing your target market as well as their interests; if you know where your clients spend time, what they read and where they shop, you will know to be at the right time and the right place to introduce your product.

My last words of advice as a young entrepreneur myself are as follows: Be authentic, be smart, be honest and be a hard-worker; success will knock to your door.

About the author

Tina Mailhot-Roberge is a graphic designer, illustrator and co-founder of Veodesign. She holds a BFA in Design from Concordia University, Montréal. She loves to help people and wirte about arts, design, web and technology. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.