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A Guide To Selling And Promoting Digital Products Online

Tom Howlett

by Tom Howlett on 1st July 2013

Sell digital products onlineJust over a year ago, I created a post on ways to sell and promote your products online. This largely focused on physical products and ecommerce stores, so I wanted to create an equivalent version specifically for digital products.

I have tried to keep the strategies open to cover most digital products that people want to sell, however some points may not be relevant to all product types. To help you see if this guide applies to you, here are some examples of the types of digital products that you may be interested in promoting/selling online:

  • Graphics
  • Photography
  • Artwork
  • eBooks
  • Resources (e.g. design resources)
  • Website themes
  • Music
  • Online courses/tutorials
  • Website memberships
  • Software

As an overview, a digital product in this sense is something of value that can be purchased and delivered to the recipient online for the intended use.

How Selling And Promoting Digital Products Is Different

The process of selling and promoting digital products is quite a bit different to how you would sell and promote physical products from an ecommerce website.

Ultimately you have a different audience to traditional products which are typically sold via an ecommerce site, capturing those in the buying process.

Digital product purchases on the other hand tend to be more of a personal purchase, targeting an audience with particular interests. They might therefore be willing to make a purchase having discovered the product, without initially seeking to make a purchase. Price is generally less of an issue for digital products as they generally cost much less to create and therefore can be sold for less.

The way in which they are sold also can be quite different. With a physical product purchase, you typically visit an ecommerce style site. A digital product on the other hand, especially if it is a one-off item may have a dedicated page/website that does not generally resemble an ecommerce style site. Sometimes these types of products will also be sold via a specific platform (the iTunes store for example).

There is also a fundamental difference in the way each type of product is packaged to be sold online. With physical products, you will often base the purchase on the product itself; packaging rarely will affect this type of purchase. Digital products in some cases seem to be driven more by design initially. How you package the product up can have a considerable effect on initial interest and therefore can result in more purchases. You see this quite often with digital purchases when they include lots of “added bonuses” to try and encourage a purchase.

How To Find Your Audience

We have established that to sell a digital product online, you will want to think carefully about the types of audiences that are likely to be interested. Your marketing efforts will need to capture their attention, with a high likelihood that they were previously unaware that your product existed.

Here are some ways in which you can find your audience and promote your product.

Social Networks

Social networks remain a great way to create a presence, to interact, share and build a community – a community that you will eventually be able to market to. The obvious platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Google+, however there are many others that are related to specific industries to help you reach a more targeted audience.

The important thing here is to ensure that you spend the time necessary to build the profile, follow others, interact and give people a reason to follow you. If you use the platform purely to market your product, you are unlikely to see much traction from this.

Facebook Advertising

What makes Facebook advertising interesting is the ability to target specific audiences. You can create a user profile for someone who you believe will be interested in your offering and closely target those people. This highly targeted advertising can be really useful for finding the right audience and your ads can be tailored for the product.

Pay Per Click Advertising

With Pay per Click advertising, you generally have to be willing to invest a bit of money initially to receive good quality visitors. However with a well optimised launch campaign, you can still find potential customers. By conducting your keyword research carefully, there may be a few gems that are relevant to your offering and don’t cost much per click.

Display advertising may also be an option. If you are looking to spread the word about your product, then a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) approach can work well as this is more of a branding exercise rather than paying for each click.

Advertising on Industry Websites

A great way to promote your product is to advertise your offering on industry relevant sites. There are a number of ways of doing this, from utilising contextual targeting on the Google display network to using an ad platform such as BuySellAds. You typically pay on an impression basis on the sites of your choice, if that site attracts visitors who are likely to be interested in your offering, it may be worth looking into.

You may also utilise this type of advertising more for branding purposes, to capture visitors and to try and get them to subscribe to future updates or follow you via social media. This has other benefits, such as creating an audience you can promote to in the future.

Approaching Relevant Blogs

Blogs are always on the lookout for new things to talk about. If your product is highly relevant to their audience, they may be interested in featuring it in a post.

Alternatively, send them a free copy of the product and they may well review it on their website.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is another useful way to reach a relevant audience. Generally you will not be able to secure an opportunity to directly promote your product (certainly not on higher quality sites), however this can be used to promote yourself within the industry.

A standard guest blog post will offer something of value to the blog visitors and a link back will be secured within the author bio. This is where people may click to find out more about you. Set your website up well and they will be able to discover more about you while noticing that you have a product for sale.

Creating Industry Websites (Communities)

This is a much longer route to promotion, but can really pay off, particularly if you regularly create digital products for sale.

The idea is to create a website that exudes value, a place that convinces visitors to like/subscribe/follow so that they do not miss out on the sheer value that could come their way. With this you have to put in the effort to create value as well. Slowly build a community and then you will find yourself in a position to be able to promote a product you are selling every once in a while.

An example would be a design resources website, one that regularly puts together a number of free resources for designers. This is a valuable platform for a designer and will help them discover new resources. From time to time, the website may create a bundle of premium resources, to which they have the built up community to promote this to.

Finding Opinion Formers

Opinion formers (or opinion leaders as they are sometimes referred) are “people whose opinions, attitudes and activities influence others” (Source). Getting these people to use/like your product is a great way to spread the word and getting others to use it. Market to these people and you could be promoting your product to potentially thousands.

Online, these types of people are likely to be found on the various social platforms, they may also run their own website/blog. Form a relationship with these people and you then have a potential contact to help promote your products.

Some useful tools for finding opinon formers:

Enabling Social Sharing

Enable social sharing on your own website. This allows people to easily share your site/resource/product if they like what they see.

It is also recommended that you highlight the platforms where you have a social media presence; this can help you grow your followers.

Gaining Reviews

Reviews are a useful method to help obtain trust and can help persuade visitors to purchase. There are a number of ways of gaining reviews, some have been listed below:

  • Approach users who have already purchased
  • Give away the product for free in return for a review
  • Use external reviews created by other websites
  • Create a presence for people to leave reviews on external review sites

Affiliate Marketing

A relatively easy method of promotion is to create an affiliate programme, to give affiliates commission for each referral that resulted in a purchase.

Managing Your Products And Online Presence

It is all very well having a solid strategy for promotion. To get the most value from all the visits you are getting, you need to ensure that your online presence is optimised to prime people to make a purchase or at least keep you on their radar.

Having a website

There are occasions where you want to direct traffic to a specific platform in order for people to then purchase your product; however there is little excuse not to have a website to give you a place where you have full control of the content.

Here are some tips to help you get the most value from the website:

  • Let users know who you are, what makes you tick and why you do what you do. This personal touch allows them to connect with a brand and also helps build trust.
  • Think about the value you create and make sure this value is portrayed throughout the site.
  • Consider whether you want to create a site of value and then integrate the promotion of the product into the pages or have a site dedicated to that particular product.
  • On the product pages, make sure you outline exactly what someone will get when purchasing the product and the benefits.
  • Highlight social media profiles, subscription options or anything else that allows a visitor to get updates from the site.
  • If visitors are able to purchase the product directly from the website, make sure to highlight that it is safe for them to enter their personal details.

Landing pages

A landing page is the first page your visitors will see when visiting the website. This page is hugely important in helping to retain the visitor and is responsible for guiding that visit to conversion.

Consideration should be given to where visitors will land on the back of your promotion strategy. It might be that you create a tailored landing page for those who discover the site through Twitter and send Facebook visitors to a different page entirely. Decide how likely these groups of visitors (visitors from different sites) are to purchase, or whether they are more likely to make a purchase having followed the site for a few months.

Pre-launch promotion

Pre-launch promotion aims to create hype around a product prior to it being available. The product landing page can then aim to create a buzz about the product, highlighting the benefits and maybe including a few reviews. You can then include subscription options so that users can be notified when the product is available, a powerful method of promotion for new and established websites.

Product previews

People are naturally sceptical creatures and sometimes need a little convincing before they decide to purchase.

It is therefore a good idea to allow users to preview a product so that they can verify that they are getting what they believe they should.

Snippets

Similar to product previews, you could release a slimmed down version of your product for free – if an eBook, this could be the entire first chapter/section. If an online course, maybe they could take the first level for free to demonstrate the value they are getting.

Freebies

Giving away lots of value for free is a good way of gaining trust before you unleash any paid product. This goes back to the earlier example of creating sites that focus on helping people discover free resources to then pave the way to promote paid products.

This can be easily integrated into your main site, whereby you regularly give your visitors lots of value for free.

Selling vs. Free

Although this post is focused on promoting digital products for sale, you may want to consider whether offering the product for free may be a better strategy in the long run. Such as we do with the Koozai whitepapers.

Giving away something of high value for free is a great way to gain trust, give people an idea of the type of material you create and also help create a connection for future announcements. Offer the product for free if people give their email, or even like you on Facebook and you have a means to converse with them in the future.

Playing with pricing

Simply thinking of a price you would like to sell your product for and hoping for the best is unlikely to yield the best results. By having a pricing strategy, you are much more likely to sell more products.

There is a good roundup of pricing strategies here.

The Importance Of Creating Your Brand And Trust

Some of the most successful online products have a brand behind them, whether that is a business brand or a personal brand.

So why is this important? Brands (if managed correctly) should emulate trust by becoming an authority within the industry. This equally applies to businesses, websites and individuals and ideally within a business or website, there will be an individual who can stand out as an authority.

Many benefits come with this, for example the likelihood of increased followers/ subscribers and being an authority also helps increase the number of mentions online if a site were to mention you as a source of information or recommend a piece of content you have created.

Delivering The Product

Before you go off and promote your product, consideration should be given to how you will accept payment and deliver the product to the end user. There are a number of tools that help with this, some of which are listed below (focusing on generic digital products). If you know of any others, please let us know in the comments.

Case Study Example

It is difficult to come up with an example to cover everything in terms of available digital products, I just wanted to add an example that I feel encapsulates a lot of what has been mentioned within this post.

Designmodo

Designmodo Screenshot

Designmodo is a web design and development blog that I follow. They offer a lot of value in the form of useful posts, tutorials and freebies and integrate paid products well into the site without creating obstructions.

They also have over 150,000 subscribers and followers and have introduced an affiliate scheme to encourage others to share their products. They maintain the balance of elements well and creating value is at the core of their business.

Just spending five minutes on their website is one of the best ways I have found to gain inspiration for how to sell digital products and I cannot recommend it enough.

Image Credit

Online Payment from Big Stock

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett

If you’re looking for information on Link Building then read Tom Howlett’s posts. Tom has a specialist insight into link building strategies designed to improve website’s visibility and ranking. He will help you become a master in finding new link sources.

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5 Comments

  • ryan newby 1st July 2013

    Great read, won’t mind more advanced detail though, but a good all round guide to help you get started on selling and promoting your digital products online.

    Reply to this comment

  • Riza 2nd July 2013

    Nice guide, Tom. I must say, you wrote a very comprehensive article about how to successfully sell and promote digital products. I mean, I shall assume you’ve tested these tips, okay?

    I personally think social media platforms are more for digital products than physical ones. I believe that because social media platforms are easy paths for the buy and sell cycle online. So I totally agree with you mentioning it.

    Riza, Kingged.com contributor

    Reply to this comment

    • Tom Howlett

      Tom Howlett 2nd July 2013

      Thanks for the comment Riza.

      I agree, because there are less barriers to purchasing a digital product and due to the almost instant nature of receiving the product – social is therefore more likely to be the only path in the conversion process. Whereas a physical product may have a longer path to conversion with social only being a contributing factor.

      Reply to this comment

  • Marc Murphy 21st September 2013

    This is a pretty comprehensive guide! Having a website is always an option but most product creators are primarily product creators… not Internet marketers. Getting traffic is always the killer problem for any creator who makes their own website. At the very least, it entails creating constant content or spending lots on ads.

    You could successfully argue that they have to master marketing and promotion to succeed, but I think casting a wide distribution net is a great way to get your product in front of a lot of people. That is, put your product in as many stores as you can. If you just use Amazon it’ll get lost in the crowd.

    For anyone selling ebooks, here are my promotion tips (they apply to pretty much any digital product sold online): http://www.clickbitz.com/blog/50-tips-on-how-to-promote-your-book/

    Reply to this comment

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