Make Your First Sale and Then Some!
The Ultimate Guide to That Elusive First Conversion

Oh hello dropshipping entrepreneur, welcome to the club!

You’ve done the legwork and set up your first store.

Now to sit back and let the sales roll in …right?

Well, not quite. First, you need to get your marketing game on. Because without customers, that shiny store of yours is little more than a pretty ornament. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t stress! Marketing is a many-pronged approach to creating sales, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.

To recap, dropshipping is a way of running an online store that means you don’t have to carry your own inventory. Instead, orders are directly sent through to your supplier and fulfilled from there. The good thing is that with very small set up costs, you can focus most of your budget (even if it’s small) on marketing efforts. And if you have no cash left at all, there are plenty of options for you – though they may take a little more time to bear fruits.

But first… the basics.

Before we get into the various marketing channels at your disposal, let’s have a quick pow wow on what you need to consider first of all: your brand and audience.

Online stores come in all shapes and sizes, selling a seemingly innumerable variety of different products. But whatever your niche may be, your brand needs to be consistent and believable. That is, it needs to be a brand, rather than just a random collection of things in a store. (And that brand may well be a Generalist Store, but that also comes with a certain look and feel to it.)

So first of all, think about a few attributes that describe your brand and how you want it to talk to your customers. You probably already thought about this when you built your website, so it’s really just a case of getting it on paper. For example, a store selling toys for dogs might define its brand as ‘fun, warm and light-hearted, with a cheeky side to it – just like your favorite furry friend’, which would in turn inform its tone of voice and how website copy and ads are phrased.

Second, think about your audience. What kind of age group are they and are they a particular gender? What interests do they have and what platforms might they be found on?

The clearer you can be on your brand and audience, the more accurately you’ll actually be able to target people in your marketing – and create leads. Leads are strangers turned potential customers: people that have shown an interest in your brand and may in time be converted to actual customers (a process called lead conversion).

How do people find my store?

When it comes to generating traffic to your store, there are generally three avenues: direct, organic and paid, which should eventually each factor into your marketing strategy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Direct traffic is when people type your business’ URL directly into the address bar of their browser. According to a recent study of over 60,000 Shopify stores, direct traffic was the second most common traffic channel (24.3%) and made up for a huge 75% of all sales. And what kind of people lead to direct traffic? – Return customers. Which is definitely something to keep in mind when you’re designing the customer experience on your website and beyond.

Organic traffic is when people come to your site following interesting links or content that aren’t paid for. In other words, organic traffic is free traffic. This includes email marketing, blogs and social media accounts. Organic traffic also builds your search engine ranking, but it does take a bit of time and work, and won’t show immediate results.

Finally, paid traffic is any traffic resulting from clicking on a paid ad, be it on Google, Instagram, Facebook or other sources. It’s interesting to note that in the research, Facebook ads resulted in the highest traffic out of all paid options, but all paid sources together still generated fewer sales than organic traffic.

While it’s good to know how effective organic marketing and remarketing to existing customers is, paid ads are nevertheless a powerful tool when first starting out and nobody knows your brand. So if you have a bit of spare cash, it’s definitely worth investing in a few ads. Which channels you want to utilize will depend on your brand and budget, but we’ll illustrate each and show you the ropes.

Your options and how to use them

Channel Budget Audience Timeframe for success Top Tip Downside
Blog/Content Creation $0*
  • 23 - 40+
  • Millennials
  • Gen X
  • Long-term
  • 4-12 months (depends on quality and frequency of content)
Quality and consistency are key! Create a content plan and commit to posting once a month/ fortnight to start out. When that feels manageable, up the frequency, but be sure to keep things relevant to your audience. You may not see any of your efforts convert to any results for some time. It’s a long-term game.
Email marketing $0*
  • Broad reach
  • Millennials
  • Immediate
  • Need to build up a mailing list first, which can take some time
Social channels and newsletter sign-ups on your blog/website are key to building a mailing list. Your emails may be marked as spam and never get viewed. Also there’s a risk of people unsubscribing if you overuse this channel.
Social media content $0*
  • Broad reach
  • Millennials
  • Gen Z
  • Long-term.
  • 1-12 months to build up a decent following
Post regularly to create a following – once a day for posts and several times daily for stories. Focus on quality, engaging content that’s relevant to your intended audience. A lot of time and effort required to build up a following and maintain it.
Influencer marketing $25+
  • 16 - 40
  • Gen Z
  • Millennials
  • Immediate
  • Stories: Results within 24 hours
  • Can take time to find influencers to work with
Focus on working with nano-influencers (<10,000 followers), as they have the highest engagement from followers, plus the cheapest rates. It’s not a fool-proof strategy. The right people may never see the post/ story, or followers might disregard it as advertising entirely. You may need to do a few collaborations before you see any positive results.
Social Media Giveaways $10+
  • 18+
  • Millennials
  • Mid-term
  • 1-4 weeks
Create a following before attempting this strategy (100 minimum). When promoting the give-away, ask people to like, follow and share to be in with a chance to win. Giveaways can increase followers, but they may not actually be interested in the brand and soon unfollow again. Also there has been a rising problem with scammers creating fake accounts targeting giveaway participants.
Google ads $10- $50/  day
  • Broad reach
  • Mid-term
  • 2-4 months
Start with a small budget and check in with how ads are performing daily. If needed, make tweaks and monitor how this affects performance. With hundreds of settings to customize, Google Ads is complex to set up even for experienced users. Plus campaigns can potentially take a long time to be successful.
Facebook ads $1- $5 / day minimum
  • 25-44
  • Millennials
  • Short-term
  • Minimum 7 days
Use ‘Core Audiences’ for attracting new customers and ‘Custom Audiences’ for re-engaging with previous ones. The competitive nature of Facebook Ads means you might not get very far on a small budget in a competitive niche.
Instagram ads $1- $5 / day minimum
  • 18-34
  • Gen Z
  • Late Millennials
  • Short-term
  • Minimum 2-3 days
Use motion to engage users – videos or scroll-through carousels perform best in ads. Instagram’s emphasis on visual content and imagery means that there is little room for text and copy in your ads.
TikTok ads $20- $50 / day minimum
  • 10-24
  • Gen Z
  • Gen Alpha
  • Short-term
  • 1-10 days
Use an emotional message in your ad to engage users. Real and relatable content performs best here. With this younger demographic, people may not all have credit cards, so conversion can be worse than on other channels with older audiences.

*Disclaimer: This is assuming you’re creating your own content and not taking into consideration potential costs for creating visual materials such as graphics, photography or video. If you want to do it all yourself, there are plenty of free DIY services that can help you keep the costs to 0. If you’d like to find out more or chat about your options, feel free to reach out to our customer support who can point you in the right direction.

Focus on Facebook

As you can see from our overview, there are plenty of lucrative options to choose from when configuring your Marketing strategy, each with their individual perks and drawbacks. What we want to focus on for the next part of this guide are Facebook ads. Most people will want to be making their first sales in the first 1-3 weeks, so capitalizing on this short-term option is a really good idea. Plus, Facebook is flexible in that they let you keep your spending low while starting out and increase it as needed. When it comes to your overall strategy, we recommend combining this with a longer-term option such as content creation and/or building social accounts.

Since the technical steps of ad creation are much-easier digested when shown rather than described, we’ve turned this part into a handy video for you. Take a look!

Create your first Facebook Ad

Top 3 Expert Tips For Making Your First Sale

1. DO test different ad creatives and audience segments

If you’ve watched our video guide above, you’ll know that it pays to test your ads across different types of interests and audience segments. But don’t stop there! Slightly tweak your ad creative in terms of design and copy and see which version performs best. Be sure to have an angle for each version, e.g. short and snappy; copy with emojis; longer storytelling copy etc., rather than just making random changes. You’ll soon land on the winning version that brings you the most conversions.

2. DON’T get stuck on a product that’s not converting

Your ads can be brilliant and varied, but if your product is a dud then you won’t be making any sales regardless of what you do. If things are looking fruitless after a week or two of trying out ads, have the confidence to reconsider your product and try something else. The flexibility of being able to do this is part of the beauty of dropshipping.

3. DO support any paid ads with plenty of quality organic content

If you do feel like you’ve landed on a winning product that is starting to show some good sales, be sure to create plenty of supporting content on your social channels and blog. This can be used to link back to your store and may also provide an anchor for future ad campaigns – like drawing people in with useful articles and videos.

Simon Slade is a dropshipping expert with over 15 years’ experience under his belt

What If Nothing Works?

The best-laid plans… Sometimes you have the slickest marketing strategy in the world, but you’re still not making any sales. We want to be straight with you here – this does happen. And the problem likely isn’t your marketing approach, but one of the steps that came before it. This could be to do with a usability issue on your website or a bug that’s stopping people from completing the checkout process.

It’s invaluable to look at your analytics here to figure out where people are dropping off. Are people adding things to their cart, but not checking out? There might be an issue with the checkout flow. Are people arriving on the homepage but leaving straight away? Maybe the homepage design needs to be tweaked with more obvious CTAs. More often than not the problem lies in the product itself. Maybe something that you thought was going to be a winner just isn’t hitting home.

If any of these are true for you, don’t give up! Yes, it’s discouraging when things don’t work out on the first go, but this is very normal. In an ideal world your first store and product would be raking in the cash, but the reality is that most businesses need a few tries and tweaks before things work out as planned. The key here is to dust yourself off and try again. Every time something doesn’t work out, you learn something new. Dropshipping millionaires like Ethan Dobbins know the importance of being able to let go of the challenges and just start again. He straight-up failed his first store and he’s tried other products that haven’t worked out since. But in the end he persevered and is reaping the rewards now.

If you need to go back to the drawing board and reconsider your product offering, consider checking out the SaleHoo Directory demo – you can browse our 8000+ suppliers and 1.6 million products for inspiration without having to commit to anything.

Wrapping it Up

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of your business strategy. It doesn’t matter how swanky your store is, if nobody is visiting or buying, you won’t be making money. So we hope we’ve inspired you to come up with a plan for how you’re going to tackle making those sales and start today. Whether it be on Facebook, Google, TikTok or by creating a following on socials. Don’t waste valuable time where you could be earning and learning. 🤓 Whatever you’re planning on doing next, we wish you all the best of luck!