Welcome back to the second article in our six-part series on the journey from First Sale to Full Freedom.
(We covered this model extensively back in the first installment of this series, so if you need a refresher, click here.)
In our last article, we:
- Talked about this process in detail
- Examined each of the five main phases from a high level
- Showed you how you can put your progress in context, no matter where you are along the path
As a reminder, here’s a graphic to show you what the journey looks like from start to finish:
In this article, we’re going to go deep on Phase 1 – Making Your First Sale.
We’ll start off by examining the typical business profile of a brand in this phase of their evolution.
We’ll then move on to talk about:
- What your Core Focus should be at this point
- The Key Levers you should dial in on and the critical Mindset Principles you can focus on to achieve success as quickly as possible
- The Biggest Pitfalls you need to avoid and Powerful Success Strategies you can use to navigate around the obstacles you’ll encounter during this part of your journey
By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how your brand can move from the start of this phase (not yet having made a sale) to the end (making your first sale).
Let’s get started!
Is This You?
If you’re just starting, you have:
- Zero revenue
- Zero profit
- Zero customers
- Zero (or very limited) brand awareness
But you won’t be at zero for long. Your journey is just getting started.
Aspect #1 – Core Focus
At this stage of your journey, there are only two things you need to worry about:
Getting started and making your first sale.
Making the decision to take the leap into the world of ecommerce is a big first step…
If you never get started, it doesn’t make a difference.
It might take several attempts before you find a product/angle/position that resonates with people – but that’s okay. Iteration is the name of the game in this phase.
And when you find the right fit with your market, your brand will be able to collect glowing customer reviews just like Loox customer Kiki LaRue:
Aspect #2 – Key Levers & Critical Mindset Principles
It’s not enough to just be clear on what you should prioritize. To ensure that you stay on track, you need actionable tools and reliable metrics you can use to keep making progress.
With that in mind, there are three Key Levers you should use to ensure you make progress – and three Critical Mindset Principles to help you get the most out of each.
Now, let’s focus on each in more detail.
Lever #1 – Focus Hours Worked
There’s a lot of foundational work you need to do before you can get moving. You need to identify a niche to sell to, figure out what product you can provide them with, determine how to reach them, and so on.
But if you’re not careful, it’s entirely possible for your research phase to stretch out for weeks, months, or years longer than it needs to.
The secret to avoiding the delays caused by inaction? Momentum.
When you can consistently make progress on the things that matter on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, reaching your goals is all but guaranteed.
Critical Mindset Principle: Quality over Quantity
When it comes to spending time on your business, remember that quality beats quantity. Two focused hours beat eight unfocused ones – every single time.
Keep pushing to complete the highest impact work you can find every time you sit down to work.
Before long, you’ll start to see massive results from your focus.
Lever #2 – Prospects Reached
Until real potential buyers are aware that your product exists, you can’t know for sure if it stands up to scrutiny.
Once your product is ready, make it your goal to reach as many potential purchasers as you can.
By doing this, you’ll be able to make your first sale, and even start building one of the most valuable assets any brand can possess:
An engaged audience.
Critical Mindset Principle: Your Audience is an Asset.
An engaged audience is an asset that your brand will be able to leverage over and over again as you grow. That’s worth paying attention to, even at this early stage.
Soon, your customers love your business as much as custom pet portrait brand West & Willow’s do:
Lever #3 – Conversion Opportunities
Reach is good – action is better.
As you grow, the kind of “action” you care about could be any of the following:
- Clicking on your ad
- Engaging with your social media post
- Adding your product to their basket
At small sample sizes, this metric doesn’t matter too much. But once you’ve got decent traffic, you can begin testing different variables to see what makes prospects engage.
The most common things to test are layouts, headlines, and CTAs: each of these can have a serious impact once you find something that works.
If you’re getting plenty of reach, but failing to make any conversions, keep experimenting. If nothing’s working – and you have the data to prove it – don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board.
Critical Mindset Principle: Get in the Game.
Your ultimate goal is to make a sale – one to start with, then many more to follow.
If your reach is decent, but you’re failing to score any conversion opportunities, don’t be afraid to experiment with your approach.
Aspect #3 – Biggest Pitfalls & Powerful Success Strategies
No two entrepreneurial journeys are exactly the same.
But as different as your story may be, there are a few pitfalls that you – just like most other ecommerce brands – will encounter along the way.
To help you navigate these obstacles, we’ll now:
- Profile them in detail (so you know what to watch out for), and
- Give you some high-value strategies you follow to stay on track for success
Here’s what’s up next:
Pitfall #1 – Information Overwhelm
When you’re just setting out on your entrepreneurial journey, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Limitless access to anything we could ever want to know is an asset…
But the pressure to consume it all is a liability.
Here’s the reality:
- You can’t learn everything there is to know.
- You possess more potential than you will ever be able to realize.
But luckily, you don’t need to know everything to achieve your goals – you just need to know the right things.
Learning everything you’ll ever need to know before you get started is impossible… because without deep experience in your space, you’ll lack the context to tell what knowledge will move the needle.
The best way to avoid this pitfall is to put yourself in a position to learn what matters.
Success Strategy: Go Where Your Customers Are.
You can’t achieve product-market fit without first understanding your market.
Join their communities: Discord, Reddit, Slack, Facebook, wherever they gather. Engage with them. Learn from them.
Do this with an open mind. Try not to hold preconceptions of how things “should” be. Simply engage and see what you can learn from them.
Before you know it, you’ll possess the insight you need to tell what truly matters to your customer…
And be well on your way to conquering Phase 1 of your journey.
Pitfall #2 – Procrastination
It affects college students, working professionals, and fledgling brand owners alike. If you’re not careful, chronic procrastination can derail your business dreams entirely.
There are many factors that can cause you to procrastinate. However, there are just four fundamental forces you need to get a grip on to stop this obstacle stalling your progress.
These four factors make up The Motivation Equation:
To explain the above:
- Expectancy = How confident you are that you can achieve your goal.
- Value = How much you care about achieving your goal.
- Impulsiveness = How likely you are to get distracted while working towards your goal.
- Delay = How long it will take to achieve your goal.
By increasing Expectancy and Value – and by decreasing Impulsiveness and Delay – you can effortlessly increase your motivation to do anything.
Success Strategy: Manage Your Motivation.
To avoid procrastinating on your goals, take whatever you’re struggling to do and complete the following steps:
- Spend some time figuring out your “why” (increase Value).
- If you’re not confident that you can achieve success, break your goal down into smaller steps (increase Expectancy).
- When it’s time to work, set your environment up to minimize distractions (decrease Impulsiveness).
- Break your work down into bite-size chunks (decrease Delay).
Pitfall #3 – Perfectionism
No matter how long you spend on developing your product, polishing your positioning and crafting beautiful marketing hooks, there is no substitute for genuine market feedback.
The longer you spend on polishing a “bad” product (bad because it’s not what your customers want), the more time and energy you waste. .
Perfectionism is a dangerous trap. The best way to escape it is to focus on low-touch validation.
Success Strategy: Low-Touch Validation.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to validate demand for a given product before you spend any real money on it.
There are a lot of different ways to do this. Some potential strategies include:
- Taking preorders for your product before purchasing or manufacturing it (Kickstarter-style).
- Create a prototype/V1 of your product and demo this to prospective customers to get their feedback.
- Create landing pages and run advertising to get a feel for conversions (mark products as “out of stock” or capture email addresses if your product isn’t available yet).
John is passionate about helping brands build better relationships with the people they serve. He's also a content marketer with Loox.