How To Get Your First Sale on Shopify in 30 Days or Less
Mahmud Ahmed, Founder/CEO, New York
1 August 2019
A complete guide to creating a compelling offer, advertising it, and getting repeat business.
A couple of years ago, I had a buddy who stumbled across the concept of e-commerce. Like most of us, he fell in love right away. I’ll never forget his excitement when he started building his business. From being able to quit his job, to finally being wealthy, this was the opportunity he’d been looking for his entire life.
It took him a few weeks to get everything up and running, but once he did, he had to face a harsh reality nobody likes to talk about: Just because you drive traffic to your website, doesn’t mean you’ll ever get a sale.
At the beginning of Jason’s (my friend’s) journey, he thought that he could just find a cool product on AliExpress, promote it with Facebook ads, and he’d start getting sales right away. I know it sounds ridiculous, but after working with new e-commerce owners over the years, I can assure you that 98% of new e-commerce entrepreneurs have this mindset, mainly because all the gurus out there make it look “easy”. Of course, they do this because they want you to buy their online course, and nobody would if they told the truth of how hard it is.
Jason struggled for a solid five months, in which he
- Spent hundreds of dollars on Facebook ads (without ever getting a sale),
- Tweeted three times a day, promoting his products (and making $0),
- Blogged like a madman, hoping he’d bring traffic onto his website with SEO (which did happen, but none of them turned into sales).
After trying these and every other method he could think of, Jason threw in the towel. He realized he had two options:
- Give up, cut his losses, and never try this again, or
- Find somebody who’s done this before, learn from them, and figure out what he was doing wrong.
After conversing with Jason, I can assure you that he wanted to take option #1, as he was so fed up with e-commerce that he never wanted to think about it again. At the same time, Jason has a huge ego, and although that usually harms him, it now worked to his advantage, as he couldn’t fathom the embarrassment of failing.
So after realizing he had no other options, he swallowed his pride and ended up:
Hiring an E-Commerce Consultant
I can’t remember where he found this consultant, but I do remember that the guy came with a lot of credentials and charged a pretty high rate. This was way over Jason’s head, but credit cards can be a lifesaver.
After throwing down the initial $3K investment, he was automatically redirected to a new landing page, where he had to book a call time that worked best for him (i.e. the “kickoff call”).
I think this ended up a week after he joined, as I remember him complaining about the wait, but the day finally came. He dialed his conference call, and 27 minutes later:
His Life Changed Forever
Of course, I wasn’t on the call, but I was fortunate enough to hear the aftermath over lunch the next day. Although he mentioned a lot of things, the biggest “aha” moment for him (and me) was when he learned that the biggest mistake that every entrepreneur makes is simply going for too much, right away.
In today’s world, everybody is scared of scams, but on top of that, everybody needs a reason to buy. This is hard for new entrepreneurs to swallow; having a cool product at a decent price doesn’t mean people will buy from you. Especially if they can go to a trusted source (i.e. Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, etc.) and get the same product for the same price.
He rambled on after that but then mentioned how the guy showed him how to get around this. Start with an “irresistible offer” up front, then get larger sales on the back end.
If he started with an irresistible offer right away, then people had a reason to buy. On top of that, since his irresistible offer was very low priced, they weren’t too afraid of a scam, which mitigated most of the risks and would help him get a lot of sales up front. He’d have more opportunities to sell them on future products, as he’d already started the relationship.
Jason revamped his marketing setup. It took a bit to do so, but we set up a Facebook ad, which generated over 100 sales in the first week:
Although this store isn’t open anymore, as he got sick of dealing with licenses (was selling official Chicago Cubs gear), he was making around $20K/month at its height.
I’ll show you how to do the same, starting with:
Step #1 — Finding Your Irresistible Offer
(to Start Things Off)
The most important part of this process is simply creating an irresistible offer that gets people to take action right away. Otherwise, prospects have no reason to buy from you. That’s why over 50% of Shopify stores never get a sale today.
There are a few ways to do this, but the main two are:
- Deep discount (i.e. 70% off) or
- Free plus shipping and handling
Option #1 — Deep discount
Everybody likes a deal, so deep discounts bring people in the door. Nonetheless, it’s not the best method because if you’re giving this large a discount, it’s very hard to remain profitable. Fewer people are going to look at a breakeven offer, which is usually 25%–40% off.
I’ve seen a few people try to get around this by increasing their original price and recouping profits that way, but people aren’t stupid. This method “works,” but it’s not the best option, which is why I usually advise:
Option #2 — Free plus shipping and handling
If you’ve ever watched a TV commercial or seen a Facebook ad, you’ve come across this type of offer.
It helps to understand why this works, as most people look at me crazy when I tell them to give away a free product. In the simplest terms, free is the most powerful language in sales; everybody loves free.
This term is getting a little diluted nowadays, when everybody and their dog is trying to give away:
- FREE ebooks
- FREE webinars
- FREE coaching sessions
Nonetheless, used correctly, it can be the most powerful sales tool there is.
Whenever these companies give away “free items,” they’re generally not completely free. They bake all the costs into the “shipping and handling” charge.
Do this because nobody has any idea what “shipping and handling” cost. There’s a general consensus that anything under $10 is acceptable. As long as you keep that in mind, you can use it to your advantage.
For starters, you want to find a product that costs you less than $5. That’s because you always want your shipping and handling charge to be twice the cost of your product, as that’ll generally cover everything. Since we have to make sure S&H is under $10, the product must be $5 or less.
It also helps to make sure you’re giving away something that’s somewhat valuable — or at least appears valuable. If you try to give away stickers for “Free plus $3.95 S&H,” you’re not going to get a lot of sales.
If you do a little digging, you can always find a good deal. My friend went to Alibaba and found a product he could buy in bulk, so he could get a quantity discount and resell for profit afterwards.
He was running a Chicago Cubs store, where he wanted to sell non-licensed shirts (that he made on Printful), so he knew he needed to find something Cubs fans would jump at. He ended up with a “W” flag that cost him $3 per flag.
I’m not a huge Cubs fan or anything, but apparently, these flags are a big deal, so he knew it would be a hit. After researching his competition, he noticed they were selling these same flags for $19.95 (or more). So he offered this “free” flag for “Free plus $9.95 S&H.”
He knew that’d not only cover the cost of his flag, but also the cost of his Facebook ads. He would not only start a relationship with many new customers but make a dollar or two with each transaction as well.
Step #2 — Creating an Ad That Sells This “Free Item”
Like most things in business, everything always looks easy up front but ends up harder to execute. This step is no different.
Technically, you could just put up a boring ad that “sells” this free item. You’d remain profitable. However, when you’re playing with thin margins like this, every penny counts. I advise putting in a little extra effort to actually “sell” this item.
Don’t worry, I’m not saying you have to be a slimebag car salesman who’s pushing a product down people’s throats. That doesn’t work anymore.
Most entrepreneurs don’t realize that people buy with emotion, then justify with logic, so if you want people flocking in right away, you need to arouse their emotions first and let them justify the purchase afterwards (i.e. “it’s free, so why not?”).
I’ve always found that explainer videos work best (though I create them, so I have a biased opinion). With these, you’re able to show benefits in an emotional way.
Going back to our Cubs “W” flag example, we’d obviously be targeting Cubs fans who don’t have a W flag. We’d want to create a quick message/video that shows them what they’re missing out on.
The first and most important part is creating a script that connects with this market. A general outline would be something like:
- Dave went to a Cubs game the other night, and even though he went by himself, he felt at home right away.
- Sitting in the bleachers, he instantly mingled with Cubs fans, talking about the history we’ve been through or better yet, the playoff push ahead.
- Dave felt extremely comfortable after being there for more than three hours, but
- A funny thing happened at the end of the game when the Cubs won. As “Go Cubs Go” started playing,
- Everybody whipped out their “W” flag to cheer along, except for Dave, who stood there empty-handed.
- He almost looked like a fair-weather fan.
- After that, Dave knew he couldn’t go back to a game without one, as he was a diehard fan his entire career.
- He needed to show it, so he got one after that.
- He enjoys going to every game today.
- We’re on a mission to make sure nobody else goes through this embarrassment.
- If you’re interested, we’re giving away free flags today.
- Click the link below to get yours.
As you can see, although there’d be a little more time and effort in an actual script, this shows everything you need to know. Your message is to show the reader why they need your free item.
After creating this message, the next step would be turning it into a video, then promoting it to your audience (i.e. Chicago Cubs fans). Here’s what a video ad would look like:
Step #3 — Create a “One-Time Offer”
Our initial offer’s goal is to get people in the door, not necessarily make money. That’ll happen later, but there is a little “hack” you can use to skyrocket your upfront profit.
That’s with a “one-time offer,” in which you offer them something they can only get “right now.” That’s really all you need, but for a few “advanced” tips, remember:
- Make sure it complements the first item. For example, if you’re giving away free cufflinks, consider a tie next.
- Always make sure it’s under $40.
- Make sure the offer’s good enough to convince them to convert right away, but not too aggressive (20% works fine).
From there, you’d simply put this offer somewhere that new buyers (i.e. people who took advantage of the special offer) will notice that they can get this offer now and only have XX amount of time to do so.
This usually works best with software like ClickFunnels, as it allows you to place the one-time offer after people have checked out, which creates a subliminal message of:
“Okay, your order is complete, but if you’re interested…
“You can get this item for 20% off. It’s something we always do for new customers, but you have to decide now because once you leave this page…
“It’s gone forever.”
This works for obvious reasons, like how it gets people to take action right away (they have to say yes or no to get the item they’ve already purchased). The best time to offer this is right after somebody has purchased, as they’re currently a “hot buyer” and more apt to buy again.
Shopify doesn’t have this same setup, so you can’t use that exact process, but you can get creative and find another form, such as using the Upsell plugin:
The last thing I like to mention is the math behind this. You’re going to be looking at a 10% conversion ratio (people who take the one-time-offer). That doesn’t look like a lot up front, but when you consider everything, it’s a huge moneymaker that’ll grow your bottom line.
Let’s look at the difference after 100 sales.
For our first example, we’ll assume you’re not doing any upsells. Your business math would look something like:
- Gross revenue ($9.95 x 100) — $995
- Cost of goods sold ($3 per flag) — $300
- Gross revenue = $695
- Advertising ($2.14 per customer) — $214
- Shipping ($1 per customer) — $100
- Total expenses — $314
- Total profit — $381
Even if you just did this, it’d still work great, especially since you’re not going for a lot of sales yet but trying to build a list of people you can sell to later on.
That’s fine, but I like to maximize my profits, and that’s why I’d go with option #2, which looks like this:
Adding on Upsells (assuming product costs $20, you’re offering for $30)
- Number of customers (10%) — 10
- Additional revenue ($30 x 10) — $300
- Additional costs ($20 x 10) — $200
- Additional profit — $100
- Total profit (initial sale plus upsells) — $481
Even though you’re not doing any extra work, you’re automatically adding an extra $100 to your bottom line. Since you’ve already acquired the customer for cheap, as they jumped on your irresistible offer, you can give another discount while remaining profitable.
Step #4 — The Ongoing Sales
All the work so far is for one thing only: to build a list of customers we can continuously market to.
These customers have received a product from you, so they know you’re a real company and are more apt to buy from you again. They’re also on your email list.
That accomplished, it’s time for the most profitable part of the journey: ongoing marketing. There’s never a set standard you have to follow, but the best way is sending out certain deals, three times a week.
Because they’re on your email list, it’s free marketing, so you can afford to give away discounts. Moreover, as your deals will be daily, people will keep an eye out for your emails. That way they don’t miss something they want.
From there, you can do whatever you want. My friend did this:
- Mondays — 20% off certain clothing item (jerseys, t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc.)
- Wednesday — 20% off new item (released that day)
- Friday — 20% off certain player accessory (i.e. all Javy Baez items)
Of course, a little planning is involved, as you want to make sure the deals don’t overlap, but this is a very profitable setup that’ll benefit you for years to come.
Even though new e-commerce entrepreneurs make a lot of mistakes, the common thread is going for the sale right away. Nobody is comfortable buying from a company they don’t know, so you’re already at a disadvantage.
It’s your responsibility to start with a low-risk item, such as a free-plus-shipping offer. This not only gets your foot in the door but lets you sell to them later on (when the big bucks happen). Done correctly, it can be a profitable venture right away as well (via upsells).
Here’s a diagram of how this process looks:
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