What To Sell Online

shoppingcart.jpg“Ray, what do I sell online? How do I decide?”

This is a question I am asked often, and my answer to this question question_markis in two parts. First is an answer appropriate if you’re already selling something online and the second part is the answer for those who haven’t yet decided what product or service you’re going to sell.

Let’s start with the first situation. You’re already selling something — a product or service –online. If you want to re-energize your business you simple find a new product line or service to offer your existing customers. Survey those existing customers and ask them what their needs are. You can use a service like the Ask Database to take this survey. Ask Database is a very simple way to survey your customers and it also offers some sophisticated data analysis tools. Another option is SurveyMonkey, which is not as sophisticated but is easier for beginners to use.

So when you’re surveying your present customers, what exactly do you ask them? You might want to start with something simple. First determine what your category is. If you have an existing business that sells dog training materials for instance you might do a simple survey where you ask your customers, what’s your biggest problem when it comes to dog training? I didn’t invent this method — I have to give credit to Alex Mandossian, who teaches this in his Teleseminar Secrets course.

Now… what if you’re not already selling something online and you’re trying to determine what your product or service is going to be? The answer is remarkably similar. In this case you also want to do a survey, but this time you’re going to survey yourself, your colleagues, friends and associates.

What are you looking for? You’re looking for things that you’re both good at and passionate about. If you can find that combination, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you should be marketing. Here’s the exercise…

Sit down with two clean sheets of paper and ask yourself this question.: “What am I good at?”

Make a list. Your list might include things like

  • Teaching
  • Writing
  • Graphic design
  • Ideas
  • Connecting with people
  • Etc.

Don’t make any judgments about which of these things might be marketable. That will come later. For now, just write down a long list of things you’re good at – even the little things, like organizing your daily tasks, keeping your home or office in order, or even playing video game!

On the second sheet of paper, answer this question: “What am I passionate about?”

This list may surprise you. You may have written down that you’re good at keeping your checkbook up to date – but now you may write down that you hate accounting! Don’t worry about it. Just keep writing.

Make this second list as long as you can… then compare the two and see if there are any items that show up on both lists. You want to pay attention because these may be potential areas where you want to focus your efforts.

Now I want you to ask your colleagues, friends and associates a similar question. Ask them to tell you what you’re good at. Don’t prejudice their answers; just get their initial first impressions of what they think you’re good at. Then compile those answers and again go back to your other lists. The things that show up on all the lists will give you some big clues of what you want to focus on and what you want to sell online as a product or service.

I believe that focusing on an area that you’re both good at and passionate about is the best answer. There are those who recommend focusing on where there’s a market need. Those who hold this opinion would say that your personal preference doesn’t matter.

While it’s true that you must be careful not to make the entire decision based only on your feelings, I don’t think it’s wise to disregard them either. Do you want to be stuck with a successful business that you hate?

My opinion is that if you want to stick with your business, to remain excited about it, and if you want the joy as well as the money — focus on something you’re good at and that you’re passionate about.

What do you think? I invite your comments below…

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • Cheryl Antier

    Hey Ray,

    For the most part, I have to agree with you – because if you don’t love what you’re doing, there’s going to come a point when you lose your enthusiasm and your passion for it, and you’re going to hate every minute of what you’re doing. And then it gets really hard to keep making money because you have to literally force yourself to do the work you need to do.

    One thing I think isn’t discussed enough though – especially for people who are starting online businesses – is creating their exit strategy.

    Now I know that may seem a little weird when you’re starting out to think about planning how you’re going to leave your business, but it’s also important.

    Here’s why: When you’re looking at those lists Ray told you to make, ask yourself another question: What happens if you succeed as far as your wildest dreams take you? (I don’t say beyond your wildest dreams, because I believe in being realistic.) But when you’re looking at what you’re good at, and doing what you love – at least think about what you’re going to do (when) you succeed. Do you want to sell your business? Keep it until you retire? Give it to your kids?

    No matter what your choice is – start planning from the beginning for what you’re going to do when you succeed and you’re ready to quit. If you do something where you “are” your business, then you need to start listing and documenting your processes and systems – so that when you’re ready to quit – or even if you just want to be able to duplicate what you’re doing and start another business – or grow the first business – if you “are” the business, then everything depends on you.

    And that means you really don’t have a business, you have a job.

    On the other hand, documenting everything, and putting systems in place – right from the beginning – means that you can outsource, you can hire other people – or you could sell the business – when you’re ready. (It also means that you’ve got a “real” business and not just a nice little hobby.)

    Another way having an exit strategy and documenting your processes from the beginning is so important is that it helps you to automate your business – which, as we all know, is one of the real secrets of building a lifestyle business.

    That’s my two cents worth anyway!

  • Alex Cohen

    Yes, when looking for your first product, it’s good to start from your own experience and talents. It adds passion to the equation.

    I started a business in 2007, encountered a major problem, and found a solution. Now, besides the business itself (a professional service), I have a product (my solution) I’ll be selling to others in my niche.


  • Are You Average?

    You may think and say that you are an average person. But, let’s be honest here. You’re not the average person.

    The fact that you are here reading this blog shows that you are not the average person.
    You have:

    – More initiative
    – Think on a grander scale
    – Have less fear of change
    – Think outside the box
    – Etc.

    This all makes it difficult for us to tap into just what it is that the average person wants.

    Marketers with a list should ask their list what they want.

    Marketers without a list have to be careful about not choosing too specialized/small of a niche.

    I suggest starting with a niche that has a proven record of wide appeal and active buyers.

    Evaluate your niche keywords for;
    – number of monthly searches
    – how many sites contain those keywords
    – how many advertisers compete on Adwords for them
    – what’s the Adwords bid price for them

    You have to be realistic in selecting your first niches to get into.

  • I think it takes more than conventional marketing research approaches in identifying what to sell online.

    The dynamics change once we try to sell something over the Internet. Therefore, we need alternate tactics and strategies to get ahead in this competitive market. Merely conducting market research, looking at our personal likes / dislikes, and asking for opinions would work well offline.

    New internet marketers need some additional online marketing knowledge and skills, on top of market research and interest, just to reach their target customers.

    I’ve taken an interest on this post, and have written a lengthy review on it on my blog What Sells Online!.

    Truly, selling a product online does take more than just setting up a website, and putting up our inventory list online.


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