Get your first 50 customers for your online marketplace

  • 02-02-2016

Dear friends

During the past 2 weeks I have realized that many people asked me to post about Growth for different scenarios of a classifieds site or online marketplace. From traffic, user acquisition, email list etc.. Today we are going to talk about how to get your first 50 merchants also known as the "sweety" word CUSTOMERS.

When running an online marketplace or classifieds site you must know how your business will work. Many newbies asked me what if they get money from buyers instead of sellers, and I definitely don't recommend when you are starting your project.

Saying that we can focus on merchants (sellers) to get money from. Let's start, as always I really like to work or develop my post with an example, in this case we are going to virtually get our 50 customers (merchants) of our Carpet Stores

I assume all initial steps are already done, name, domain, setting up an plan with us here... etc.


1.- The 10 opportunity

First of all, you want to know who are the players in this market. Where they are from, what their business is, which kind of carpets they sell (new brand or second hand) etc... I recommend the use google spreadsheets to create a list of 100, with all necessary information you need:

Contact them and approach them. They already are into the carpet market and they know probably more than you can know at this point. Offer them a great deal, for those who are not online yet, could be easy. For merchants that are already selling online probably you must focus on bringing more sales opportunities with your platform, more visitors, more customers etc...

It is important to forget money right now. You must focus on develop a great relationship between you as a marketplace and the seller. You have to know everything from them.

You have the first 10 customers

2.- Offline presence

Yes offline presence can sound weird when we are talking about an online business. But you know what? There are plenty opportunities out there:

  • Trade fairs: National and international, you can attend them just as visitor and then develop an offline strategy to get merchants. People who are exhibitors on trade fairs normally are willing to make deals, listen and negotiate for new business.
  • Traditional marketplaces: This is one of my favorites. You need to find which marketplace is dedicated to carpets and you will have 100 merchants to pitch. The idea here is to pitch something like: "I will increase your revenues just selling online, no efforts and while you are sleeping". They are also easy to reach and negotiate but with lower budget than trade fairs exhibitors.
  • Shop to Shop: This seems more a salesforce strategy but could be useful if you determine where to go. This way is more difficult and could cost you money and time.
  • Cold Calls: Also difficult, you have to think about the 80-20 rule here. You will need to call a lot of people to get 20% of your business, but you could find some interesting leads and reach the 80%.

Remember to get as much emails as you can on those strategies, later we will use them to create a powerful email list.

If you do a great work here you could get your first 50 customers just using this method, but let me explain some more ways and we would say you will find 25 merchants for your site.

3.- Autopromotion

I hate 3rd party promotion in a site when I am visiting that site. Many people asked me if adding banners is worth when starting a new classifieds site. I always reply the same. Yes it is worth if you could promote your own content not 3rd party business.

It is worth to promote your own content in your homepage. The first impression for your visitors is your homepage. And you need to tell visitors all the "services" you can offer on your site in just a quick check.

Probably using just the content space you could not tell them all you can offer. But if you allow banners promoting your new blog, your new membership plans for merchants or a discount for merchants if you follow few steps, you will find a great conversion rate. 

Instead of using banners to promote 3rd party business and get little revenue via PPC or something related use it to promote your own services in your platform.

This method is organic you can expect 5-10 customers.

4.- Free resources

I already talked about this strategy in previous posts. The Free Resources: Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba. 

Basically here you have the most powerful and big marketplaces worldwide and most people are using those site not only to buy/sell items also for market research. They are well categorized and in few clicks you will get a list of top 100 carpets vendors. Use filters to accurate queries and use the vendors you want for your site.

The approach must be soft. Don't spam them. Most of them offer support or sales email contact them and you will see the results. 

Using this technique you can get 10-15 merchants ready to sell on your site.

Those are 4 strong strategies to follow in order to get the best results and your first 50 or maybe 100 customers. But there are a lot more that we will let you know in the next posts.

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