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Selling Online: 5 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

sell-products-onlineThere’s real value in admitting your mistakes. When you know what went wrong, you know how to fix it. I’ve been doing digital marketing for small businesses for several years now, and along the way I’ve learned quite a bit. Digital marketing changes so quickly that there was always something new to learn (and unfortunately new mistakes to make). But from these mistakes I’ve been able to improve my skills considerably. I wanted to share some of those hard-earned lessons from my career. Hopefully some of the small business owners and entrepreneurs out there can learn from my experience. While this article won’t cover the basics (i.e. choosing an online payment system, making sure your site is secure, understanding the regulations and rules of selling online etc.) I wanted to give a realistic idea of what to expect once your website is up and running.

1. Testing Never Ends

It’s easy to find an email template or weekly social media schedule and stick with it. But the truth is, there’s always an opportunity to improve your marketing, and increase your return on investment. There’s more money out there for your business- But how do you find it? Testing, testing, testing. In the past, there have been times where I’ve been complacent in my work. Usually I’m feeling overwhelmed, which leads me to settling. Thinking that my current efforts are “good enough”. Remember, in digital marketing, good enough is never good enough.

2. Sweat the Small Stuff

In the beginning I was genuinely shocked about what elements of our site was affecting our conversion rate and what proved to be stumbling blocks for customers. I used to think all I had to do was pay attention to my conversion funnel when it comes to optimization. But quickly I learned that even the most seemingly insignificant factor could have a big impact. While that might feel overwhelming, think of it this way- Every element of your site presents an opportunity to improve user experience and earn your company more revenue!

3. You Have to be Available

Your relationship with the client doesn’t end when they receive their order. Customers will have questions, and you need to be ready to answer them. This can be done through on-site live chat (I use Zopim), a dedicated social media account (Twitter tends to be best for customers service) or both. The more available you can be, the more likely you are to seal the deal with that customer. Helping customers with an issue, as well as regularly following up with them after the transaction is completed also gives you an opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell your products or services, leading to even more sales.

4. Would You Buy from You?

As hard as it may be, take an objective look at your website. Then take a look at 2 or 3 of your competitors. Which website would you use? Don’t sugar coat it. And If you find yourself unable to disconnect from your site and look at it through a different set of eyes, services like will give you unbiased feedback on your website. A fresh perspective can give you an idea of what you may be overlooking.

5. Provide Content… and Lots of It

When you shop online, you sometimes need a little bit of a push to convince yourself to make a purchase. That’s where great content can come in. But as a site owner, you need to take it a step further than a well-written and informative product description (although that is a crucial element in persuading site visitors). 64% of website visitors are more likely to buy a product after watching a video. Having reviews on site can boost your conversion rate by 20%. Think about how much more revenue that could be for you! While having high quality pictures of your products is essential, a video review would give you a huge advantage over your competition. And real, honest reviews would further persuade visitors.


While there’s a seemingly endless number of tips that I could give when it comes to selling online, The most important lesson is to always be thinking critically. Every part of your website offers an opportunity to improve your business model.


authorship_imagePatrick Coyne does digital marketing for, and loves to talk about content marketing, social media and SEO. Chat with him on Twitter and Google+