How to sell products online without a website

One of the questions we often get asked by people setting up in business is Do I need a website?  Given we build websites, it is tempting to always answer yes, of course you do, but actually that wouldn’t be true…

A website is a big investment in terms of time and/or money.  That investment can often be better directed if you are a brand new business – better directed at testing your market.  And, to be honest, you can go a long way without a website if you are looking to sell a product (services are very different).

To sell products you need to build an audience of people who might be interested in your offer and you need a mechanism for people to purchase.  Social media is a brilliant way to begin to grow an audience.  We recommend choosing one or two platforms initially (see our article on how to choose which platform here) and dedicating a significant amount of time to both post on those platforms and engage with others.  In fact, engaging with others in groups where your ideal client makes up the members is one of the best ways to grow your own audience.  They get to like what you say, like you and like your business page.  Concentrate on giving value not selling products (we suggest no more than 1 in 5 posts should be salesy).  It is SOCIAL media not a billboard.

In addition to social media we highly recommend growing an email list.  This is more difficult to do, but means you are not at the complete mercy of the likes of Zuckerberg and any changes he (and others) may make to the platforms.  The initial aim of an email list initially is to get people to open the emails so make them interesting and enticing…

Then you need a means of selling and collecting monies.  You can just accept orders by email and PayPal but this is not particularly efficient and many potential customers will be put off by this as it is not that business like.  A better alternative is to use some kind of a marketplace like Etsy, Folksy, Not on the High Street, Ebay or even Amazon.  They can be expensive and/or difficult to navigate, but they are significantly cheaper than a website whilst your volumes are low.  Do not rely upon them to sell your products for you – there is too much competition – any additional sales should be regarded as a bonus. Your audience that you are building on social media and email list will provide your customers (this also when you have your own website – people won’t magically just find you).

One thing we do recommend though is buying the domain name.  This is very cheap and you don’t need to do anything with it until you want a website, but it stops someone else from taking it…

And when you are convinced that your business is viable, your fees from these marketplaces are significant, then look at getting your own website.  And when you do, please come and talk to us

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