Selling your work on a digital marketplace is a really great way to make money and gives you much more freedom than just freelancing.
It can be tempting to rush in, submit your item to a digital marketplace and wait for the money to roll in. But this is where a lot of sellers go wrong. We are going to have a look at the vital steps you have to take before submitting your item to a digital marketplace. As well as the vital marketing strategies that will help you achieve your first 100 sales.
In this article we use our own marketplace, SellTheme, as an example. SellTheme accepts PHP Scripts & Code, App Source Code, Themes, Plugins and Graphics. So feel free to upload your work, after you have read this guide 😉 .
We created this guide to help you make sure your products live up to their full potential. A lot of items submitted on SellTheme are fantastic, but don’t get any sales or get rejected purely because no time has been spent optimizing them for sale online.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the tools you need to confidently market your digital products, whether you’re selling scripts, themes, plugins, app templates or graphics, we’ve got you covered.
Part 1: Pre-Promotional Period
Before you dive into marketing your new product, it’s important to do some research and lay a solid foundation for your marketing efforts. Without having a solid plan in place, your marketing tactics will likely be a lot of effort for little return.
In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to do in this pre-promotional period to set yourself up for success.
There are 3 types of analyses you should conduct:
1. Competitive analysis
Take a look at what your competitors are offering on the marketplace. Who are they targeting? Which products are popular and why? Create a shortlist of your top competitors and study their techniques.
This isn’t an opportunity to copy someone else’s product, but to see what works well and how you can build on that success. Offer something your competition doesn’t and aim to be the best in your space.
2. Industry analysis
Next, look at your industry as a whole to discover hot topics and products. You can do this by looking at the latest industry news on authority blogs and media outlets, as well as keeping up to date with what industry leaders are talking about. This is your opportunity to find new growth opportunities to get ahead of future trends in the market.
3. Customer analysis
Finally, a customer analysis allows you to think like a consumer. Having your buyer persona mapped out will help with this step. What are consumers currently struggling with? What products are they searching for? Talk to consumers in social media groups and your current network to gain insights into what you can offer that’s both needed and sought after.
Part 2: Successfully Submitting Your Work to a Digital Marketplace
Step 1 – Fine-tune your item
You have spent a lot of time building your item and know exactly how it works. But if somebody has just purchased your item, it can be difficult to understand. Everything has to work out of the box, so here are a few tips to get your product ready for sale:
- Make sure your product is easy to install.
- Make sure any source code is well commented.
- Build easy to use demo content to get the user started.
- Make sure all your files are well organized.
- Do a lot of testing to make sure everything works.
- Alter you product if required.
Step 2 – Create amazing looking images for your item’s listing
Unless your product is extremely unique, it will not be the only one out there. Be sure it looks good so it stands out from the crowd. The first thing your potential buyers will see when browsing the marketplace are your item’s preview image and icon image.
Take time designing these images and have a look at other successful items on the marketplace for inspiration. If you’re not a very good designer, hire one! It will be well worth your money. If your preview image looks messy, potential buyers will think your product is messy and will choose an alternative.
The preview image on SellTheme is 1600px by 800px. Potential buyers will see this image while browsing item listing pages. The image is then resized to a smaller format when shown on listing pages. This image is also shown on your items page as one of the first images. Here are a few tips to create a great preview image:
- Make sure your preview image is 1600px wide and 800px in height.
- Don’t use a lot of text. Preview images are resized so a lot of text can be difficult to read. Start with the title of your product and list just a few features.
- If your product looks good, include a screenshot of the product in action, especially when selling themes or graphics.
- Use product mockups. Nothing is sexier than seeing your item live in action on the latest iPhone or high-end monitor. These types of images perform much better than just using screenshots.
The icon image is 400px by 400px in size and is like the preview image displayed on item listing pages and on your items page. The icon image is not as prominent as the preview image, but you should take your time to create a good looking icon. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you icon image is 400px wide and 400px in height.
- If you use text, just use the name of your item.
- If your item has a logo, use it in your icon. If not, create one.
- Have a look at Google Play or the Apple App Store for inspiration.
- Don’t just use a screenshot as your item’s icon image.
Step 3 – Create a demo site
A demo site is a website where a working copy of your item can be used live. It gives a great presentation on how your item works. A live demo URL is not mandatory when submitting all items, but several types of items may be rejected if you don’t have one. This is because it can be crucial for potential buyers to get an idea of the look and feel of the item.
- If your item is a PHP script, theme or plugin build a demo site specifically for that item.
- Your demo site will be running in an iFrame on SellTheme, so make sure your demo runs without problems in an iFrame. Test it!
- Use a fast hosting provider. If your hosting provider is slow, potential buyers will think your item is slow. Nobody buys items that are slow!
- Stay away from free hosting. Hosting is not expensive these days.
- If your item is an App Source Code, submit your app to the app store or Google Play and use a link to your app in the app store. Don’t link directly to APK files.
Step 4 – Write descriptions
Now it is time to write some good copy! There are two types of descriptions for your item: the short and full description. If you’re struggling to write a good description, hire a professional to do the job.
Short item description
A lot of authors tend to forget the importance of the short item description. Your short item description is used in your item page’s meta description. This means this is probably the first text users will see in Google search results.
Here are a few tips for writing your short item description:
- Your short item description can be 130 characters maximum.
- Keep in mind your short item description is what a potential buyer will see while browsing through Google’s search results.
- Use keywords in your short item description that potential customers will search for in search engines.
The full description contains a detailed description of your item. It shouldn’t have any spelling mistakes, so write it in Word first and do a spell check!
Your full description should contain the following:
- A description of your item (we recommend at least 300 characters long)
- A listing of the features of your item
- A listing of requirements for your item
Tips when writing your full description:
- Don’t just copy paste a description from somewhere else.
- Make sure no styles are included in your text if you paste your description from Word. If your description style differs from the rest of you item page it will look unprofessional.
- Don’t use images in your full description. SellTheme does still support images in item descriptions but this will be removed in the future. If you want to include screens of your item, include them in your screenshots section (we will cover screenshots later).
Step 5 – Create a product video (additional)
A product video is not required, but can have a great impact on sales, especially if it is difficult for you to create a live demo. For example, an App Source code can only show a live demo by having a user download the demo app from the app store and install it on their phone. This is a lot of hassle. Having a demo video shows the product in action and gives the potential buyer a much better understanding how the app works. It’s much better than using screenshots and more user-friendly than a demo app that has to be installed.
A few tips when creating a product video:
- Your product video should be a maximum of 90 seconds long. If your video is longer, people will lose interest. Don’t have a 10 minute long video showing how to install your item, for example.
- Don’t use heavy music. A simple uplifting tune in the background humming along is great, but don’t start adding techno music, for example. It’s not a rave party, it’s a product presentation!
- If you don’t have the skills to create a video, have a look on the web for tutorials on how to build an explainer video, there are enough resources available.
- If you have the money, hire somebody to create the video for you. Creating an explainer video requires skill if you want to do it right. Sometimes it better to hire a professional who will take care of everything.
Step 6 – Create screenshots
Screenshots are very important for selling your product because people like to see exactly what they’re buying.
- Upload 3 to 9 screenshots. More than 9 screenshots is overkill.
- Don’t just use full-screen screenshots. Showing a messy desktop picture with your product in a window is not very professional. Crop your screenshot so it just shows your product.
- Use professional looking test data when taking screenshots. This will give a much better presentation of your item.
- Use .png or .jpg file extensions.
Once you have your screenshots, put them all in one folder and create a zip file to upload.
Step 7 – Write the item’s documentation
If you have been working on an item for months and you know it inside out, it can be easy to think your item doesn’t need any documentation because it explains itself. But if somebody uses your item for the first time, it can be challenging to figure out how everything works.
Always include documentation. Items without any documentation will be rejected on SellTheme.
Here’s what you should include:
- Instructions on how to install/setup your item.
- Instructions on how to use your item. Go through all the features your item has and explain how it works.
- Information on how to get additional support for your item.
- Information about the author of the item. That’s you!
Take your time writing your documentation and make sure you include everything. Good documentation means you’ll spend less time on customer support and receive higher review scores. It’s well worth your time.
Once your documentation has been written, put it in the folder with your item’s content and create a .zip file. This is the main download file for your item.
Step 8 – Fill in your user profile
Don’t forget to completely fill in your user profile. If potential customers see a profile that has a default avatar without any content, it doesn’t look very trustworthy. Take your time to fill in all profile fields and upload some great pictures to make your profile look professional. You will be surprised how much influence this can have. Your profile is your online shop, so make it look good!
Step 9 – The final step – Upload your item
If you have completed all of the previous steps, your item is now ready to be uploaded.
Here is a checklist:
- Main item file (.zip)(with documentation included)
- Preview image (1600×800)(.png or .jpg)
- Icon image (400×400)(.png or .jpg)
- Item description text
- Demo site URL
- Youtube Video URL
- Screenshots file (.zip)
Time to head over to SellTheme and upload your work!
After you have uploaded your item, It will take 1-2 business days until your item has been reviewed.
Keep in mind your item can be rejected. It happens a lot and it happens to the best of us! If your item gets rejected because something is missing or needs adjustments (soft-rejection), don’t give up! Get ready to make adjustments and upload your item again.
In some cases items are marked as not suitable for sale (hard rejection). This means your product does not have what it takes to be sold online. Either there are already too many identical products on the marketplace or your item does not have premium value, meaning there are free alternatives on the market that are better than your paid product.
Your item has been approved – What’s next?
Congratulations! You made it through this guide and your item is now online! Enjoy the moment!
Now your item is newly listed on the SellTheme marketplace you can start making sales. If you really want to make some serious money, you will have to promote your item.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the best marketing strategies to get your first 100 sales!
Part 3: Promotional Period
Now you’ve done your homework and know your audience and understand what they want, let’s dive into some marketing strategies that will get your product in front of the right people. Whether you’ve created a plug-in, script, theme or template, these marketing techniques will help you reach your first 100 sales.
The first step of any marketing strategy should be organic promotion. Optimizing your sales page for search engines is integral so your products appear in searches. The more time you invest in SEO, the better your products will rank on major search engines such as Google and Bing.
Here are the areas you need to focus on to improve your organic promotion:
- Adding links to high-quality external sources
- Strategic keyword research and placement
- Submission to directories (the more places you can get your business listed, the better)
Since you are listing your products on a dedicated marketplace, you should focus on optimizing your product descriptions, titles, pictures and other factors of your sales page. If you’re struggling to get this right, head back to part one of the guide, which goes through this in detail.
Paid Google Ads
A lot of creators are overwhelmed by the idea of setting up a paid advertising campaign with Google. The truth is that yes, without doing your research it is easy for budgets to spiral on ads without any real return. However, when used strategically, Google ads can bring in a solid stream of customers ready to buy what you’re selling.
Here are some tips to get started with Google ads:
- Research keywords and target those with a high search volume but low competition for the best results.
- Include the type of product you’re selling and the time you’ve published it. For example, “blogging theme 2019” or “social media templates summer 2019”.
- Begin with a small budget and focus on conversion rate. If your spend is high but conversion is low, it’s a sign you need to make changes to your sales page to optimize return.
There are dedicated marketplaces which allow you to purchase banner ads across a variety of websites. However, this type of widespread marketing can be expensive with little return. If you want to invest in banner ads, it’s best to find high-quality, relevant websites that allow banner advertisements. This will give you a much more targeted audience.
Here are some tips to maximize your return:
- Purchase space on a website above the fold and close to the main content of a page for best results.
- Include your logo or brand name to build awareness.
- Include a clear call to action to encourage people to click. For example, “buy now”, “click to get your theme”, “find out more now”.
There are influencers and authority blogs you can pay to review your products. Generally, the more traffic a website gets, the more expensive a sponsored post will be. Also, bear in mind it is now a legal requirement to tell readers that the post has been sponsored, so people will be aware you’ve paid for the review.
Even so, there are some advantages of sponsored posts:
- You’ll get permanent backlinks from authoritative, large websites which improve your own SEO.
- The website owners usually share your product across social media channels for added exposure.
- You don’t have to spend time writing the post yourself.
WPKube is an authority website that accepts sponsored reviews. Make sure to find a niche website that fits with your target audience. It’s better to find a website with a smaller following that targets your ideal buyers than a huge website with little relation to your products.
Many online creators believe that guest blogging doesn’t give any real value anymore. However, when done correctly, it can offer a steady stream of traffic to your product page.
Here are some tips for getting started with guest blogging:
- Tell the story of how your product and brand got started.
- Talk about the benefits of using your product and the results it can achieve.
- Do a round-up post of tools and resources including your product.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Making it a valuable marketing platform for digital products. People love video tutorials and walk-throughs when buying digital products. So creating a video series is a powerful marketing tool to increase sales.
When creating a video, keep the following in mind:
- Provide a transcript and closed captions. This makes the video more accessible to everyone and Google uses captions to catalog the relevancy of videos.
- Use relevant tags to make it easy for people to find your video.
- If you have several videos for your product, turn them into a playlist for easy viewing.
- Always link to your product page in the description below your video.
Here are some tips to make the most of social channels:
- Offer as much value as possible across your social media channels. For example, if you offer website templates, give your followers tips and advice on optimizing their website and customizing their theme.
- Fill out your profiles completely. Add links to your sales page, high-quality banners and icons, and all relevant business information. This will help your social media pages get found in searches.
- Keep advertising your products to a minimum. Generally, 80% of your social content should be valuable, free content and 20% should be direct advertisements of your paid products.
Instagram is the top photo-based social media site, making it perfect for graphic designers. If you sell graphics or templates, showcasing them on Instagram is a great way to boost traffic to your sales page.
Top tips for using Instagram to drive traffic to your products:
- Set up a catalog through Facebook to enable shoppable posts.
- Share pictures of mock-ups, not just screenshots.
- Use styled photographs to showcase your graphics.
- Keep a color theme so your feed is consistent and professional.
- Focus on stories for increased engagement.
Twitter is extremely popular among web developers and designers. It’s a great platform to establish yourself as an expert in your niche and increase brand awareness.
Top tips for using Twitter to drive traffic to your products:
- Give value to followers so they enjoy following and engaging with you.
- Promote the work of others in your industry to build connections.
- Comment and retweet to engage with your community.
- Show off your most recent designs and ask for feedback.
Facebook is the platform that allows followers to connect with the person behind the brand and gives them a glimpse behind the scenes of your business. No one wants to be constantly sold to when scrolling through their Facebook feed. What they do want is fun, interesting content from brands they know like and trust.
Top tips for using Facebook to drive traffic to your products:
- Fill out your profile in full – Google and other search engines will scrape the information to make sure it matches across platforms. This will then improve your trust with search engines.
- Don’t focus on selling. Instead, share valuable tips, articles and resources your followers will love.
- Engage with followers by creating polls, asking questions, running competitions and asking for feedback.
- Start a group around your brand and product to increase engagement and awareness.
LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It allows like-minded people to connect and network. Your focus on this platform should be building connections with valuable contacts to expand your business circle. Since this is a platform for business owners, it’s the perfect platform for building awareness of your digital products.
Tips for using LinkedIn to drive traffic to your products:
- Fill out your profile in full. Include an eye-catching title, professional headshot and a detailed description that describes your business and the products you offer.
- Get previous clients and business connections to endorse you to build trust.
- Research and find connections that fit your niche. Don’t just connect with anyone – make valuable connections that will help build brand awareness.
- Find companies you’d like to work with and contacts you can reach out to directly. Offer these people value without pitching straight away. Remember, the point is to build connections, not make quick sales.
- When posting, focus on bringing valuable business information and resources. This is a much more professional environment than Facebook, so treat it like an office rather than a social gathering.
Contrary to popular belief, pinterest is not actually a social media platform. It is actually a visual search engine. 250 million people use Pinterest every month and are actively searching for products and inspiration. This makes it the perfect platform for digital products. Your customers are already searching on this platform, so it’s a great place to advertise your products.
Tips for using Pinterest to drive traffic to your products:
- Create high-quality pins that showcase your pins. Use professional mock-ups if possible to show your products in action.
- Add your website, logo or business name to each pin to build awareness.
- Add keywords to your pin descriptions to help increase organic SEO.
- Pin your pins in related groups to expand your reach.
- Join tailwind tribes in your niche to expand your reach even further.
Blogging to Build Authority
Maintaining a blog is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. Plus, it gives you consistent, valuable content to share on your social channels. However, where many creators go wrong is churning out a lot of basic content without putting much thought into the value it’s offering.
Here are some expert tips to make sure your blog is a marketing asset:
- Focus on creating long-form (3000+ words) pillar content. This means the content won’t go out of date and is relevant and valuable months or even years after it’s written.
- Add internal links to other blog posts and pages on your website to increase your SEO.
- Add external links to valuable, authoritative websites to improve your SEO even more. Make sure these websites compliment your products without being competition.
- Sprinkle in keywords throughout your posts but don’t keyword stuff. Google will rate your website as spammy and stop it ranking on the first search page.
- Make sure all your meta-data is complete to help your pages rank on searches. This includes picture descriptions, alt text, meta-descriptions and titles.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “there’s money in the list”. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to email marketing. Although social media is a great platform for marketing, your social media profiles could be shut down without notice tomorrow – and you’d instantly lose all your followers! Your email list is yours to own so these subscribers equal cash flow for your products.
Here are some of our top tips when building an email list:
- Offer a free, relevant gift to encourage people to join your list. For example, a discount on their first purchase or a small free gift when they make their first purchase with you.
- Create a consistent schedule for emailing your list and stick to it. If you email too often or very inconsistently, you’ll lose subscribers fast.
- Don’t just promote your product – give as much free value as you can to build trust with subscribers. No one wants to be sold to constantly.
Working with Influencers
Nothing beats social proof when it comes to marketing. People want recommendations and turn to influencers to find the best products and services. If your budget allows, getting an influencer to review and share your product is a surefire way to boost sales.
Here are some points to keep in mind when finding an influencer:
- Don’t focus on followers. Just because someone has a million followers doesn’t mean they are a good investment. Instead, focus on their engagement and type of follower they have. You want someone who fits your product niche and has high engagement with their followers. Good micro-influencers can have as few as 1000 followers and still be a great investment.
- Offer your paid product for free for them to review if you don’t have a budget to pay for their time. Many influencers will work with you in exchange for a free product.
- Build a relationship with your chosen influencer before reaching out about a marketing proposal. Follow them on all social channels, comment and engage and get familiar with their business.
There are a number of freelancers out there in the WordPress sphere in particular who make great influencers to work with:
- Daniel Pataki
- Kevin Muldoon
- Tom Ewer
- Joe Fylan
- Nick Schäferhoff
- Shaun Quarton
- Josh Pollock
- Brenda Stokes Barron
Join Groups and Communities
Groups and communities are king of social media. This is where true engagement happens and you get the chance to connect with potential customers. The best part is there are hundreds of niche groups across LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ so you’ll easily find a group full of potential customers.
In these groups and communities, you can ask for feedback on your app, theme or other digital product and even offer free promotional codes to try it out. They are also a great place to bounce new ideas off others, discuss features, bug fixes and updates, as well as cross-promote and make new business connections.
Here are a couple of top tips for making the most of groups:
- Take the time to build relationships in groups. Don’t just jump in and start promoting – it’s a sure fire way to put people off your brand and products.
- Earn trust and expert status by offering advice and free value whenever you can. People appreciate people who make an effort to join in without expecting a return.
Part 4: Post-Promotional Period
Now you have a fully realized marketing strategy, the final stage is to prepare for the post-promotional period. Many developers and creatives let their products gather dust after their initial promotional period. But this misses out on a huge opportunity to grow and develop.
Here are a few steps you should take after your promotional period has ended:
Update your existing work
Once the sales start to come in and you begin getting feedback, an important step is to update your product and sales page to keep it optimized and up to date. If you get comments that your theme is difficult to implement, you need to address this and do what you can to improve the customer experience.
This is a step often missed by creators – but you can stay ahead of the game by consistently coming back to your product page and making improvements.
Listen to feedback
No one likes getting negative feedback, but the truth is this the best feedback you can get. It helps you grow and improve. Encourage your buyers to review your products and get as much detailed feedback as possible.
Although it can be difficult to read negative comments about your product, distance yourself from the comments and be brutal. The more feedback you can act on, the more sales you’ll make in the future and the more loyal customers you’ll get.
Offer Excellent Customer support
Ongoing customer support is an integral part of the marketing process. You need to respond promptly to all messages and solve any problems your customers have quickly. Bad customer service leads to negative reviews fast and nothing will stall sales like negative reviews.
If you’re struggling to write customer support emails, there are some great templates available here for you to use.
Now you have finished this guide, it’s time to get to work to start selling your work. Once you are you ready you can upload your work on SellTheme.