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Build an e-commerce business without an email list

Can you build an e-commerce business without an email list?  Is it possible to successfully sell products online without a following on social media? What if you don’t have an existing customer list–can you do e-commerce without one of those?  

The answers to these very compelling questions are…


Yes, yes and YES!

Alison Prince, online business, ecommerce, no email list, using influencers, social media


How do I know?

Because I’ve done it. Not just once. But multiple times.   

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. One of the things that has been the most frustrating over the last year, as I’ve taught people about how to build their own sustainable e-commerce businesses, is hearing all the reasons why it worked for me, and why it won’t work for them.

Argh! It makes me nuts!

It usually goes along the lines of “Alison—of course you’re successful at selling products because you have a HUGE following. But I don’t, so there’s no way I can do it.”

Can we pause so that I can sigh a few times?  

It’s true that if I wanted to sell a product online today, I would have an email list, a following on social media, and a customer base that I could market to. But you know what? I didn’t always have that—and I was still able to build an e-commerce business without an email list or a social media page. I had to grow them just like anyone else has to.  (And what’s more, some of my biggest sales have happened without them!)

So you know what I did?  I decided that I was going to prove very wrong the people who have been—yet again—saying it can’t be done.  Here’s how:

  1. I picked a product (no, I’m not going to tell you, because it doesn’t matter)
  2. Sold it without using my email list
  3. I didn’t put any posts on my social media channels about it
  4. Finally, I didn’t even tell my existing customers about it

And…I sold over $63,000 in less than three days. And yeah, I’m going to tell you that you can do it too.

  1. Create a good offer

Think about what you’d want as your customer. Odds are, it’s not a 5% off coupon. It’s free shipping, or a BOGO offer or a free item with purchase.  Give them a REASON to shop with you. If you want to do a discount, that’s fine—but make it good and don’t make it fake (aka tell people that they’re getting 90% off when we all know it’s not true.)

  1.  Take good product photos

If you read through my blog, you’re going to see a lot of stuff about photos, because dang it—they make or break product sales!  If you don’t have a studio, that’s cool. Just use the natural light streaming in your windows. Add an interesting background or stage the item so your customers can see they could use it. Would you like to buy a sweater that’s wrinkly? No? Then make sure the one you’re selling is steamed to make it look new and fresh and beautiful–the kind of sweater you can’t wait to snuggle into on a cold day.  

And again—if you’re not a professional photographer, that’s okay. Make it one of the first things that you start hiring out as you get going. (Check out my blog all about it.)  

  1.  Work with an influencer

Influencers are ideal for selling products when you don’t have a social media following or an email list. Why? Because they have their own followers who trust them and their opinions.

Now—here’s the thing: if you don’t follow the first two steps, it’s pretty dang unlikely that you’ll get the attention of influencers.  No shortcuts.

  1.  Make your offer good for a limited time only

It may sound counterintuitive, but I’m all sorts of serious. Having a limited-time offer (I don’t do more than 3 days) cuts decision-making time for your customers. If they want it and know they can’t come back to get it a week or a month from now, they’ll push that buy button.  It’s better for you and you know what? It’s better for them too. No putting off decisions or missing opportunities.

  1.  Launch around a holiday…any holiday

Is it awesome to have a product rolling out during the Christmas shopping season? Of course. But it’s silly to wait for months for that to roll around when you can opt for other holidays. Whether big (Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July) or small (National Ice Cream Day anyone?) there is always something you can be celebrating. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll come up with all sorts of great options.  

  1.  Let the influencer choose

Do you know who the authority on what will sell will be? The influencer you’re working with. I suggest giving them a gift card to your site and allowing them to choose what will work best if you have multiple options. They’ll get a feel for your brand, be able to tell people what ELSE you have available and be more likely to partner with you in the future.

  1. Answer questions

Just like the influencer knows what will sell best to his or her followers, you’re the one who knows your product the best. Be willing to hop into the feed to answer questions about your product and positively engage with followers. Just remember to be respectful!

  1.  Bonus!!!

One of the things that has been huge with the influencers I’ve worked with is just following up with a thank you gift. Do something that’s meaningful to them, whether it’s a basket of pampering products, a gift card to their favorite restaurant or even a gift for their spouse and kids.  

Seriously, this is the EXACT process I followed to sell over $63,000 of a single product in just a few days. It’s the same one my daughters followed when they built their business. So why on earth do you think it won’t work for you?

Selling online, no email list, no social media following, getting started in e-commerce, Alison Prince

Let me say it again:  You can absolutely build an e-commerce business without an email list, big social media following OR existing customer base.

Oh, by the way, I’ve put all 8 of these handy tips into a .pdf for you so that you can stick it on your bulletin board as a reminder of how to rock the e-commerce world. Just click right here, and it will be delivered to you via Facebook Messenger.

(Psst!  Would you like to get an even deeper dive into the world of e-commerce? Check out my Master Class to learn more!)

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