How to Sell Digital Products in 2024

Here are 4 tools to help you sell digital products online

By now, you should have decided what you want to help people with and what problem you’re going to help them solve. Once you know how to find or how to create digital products, you need to know how to sell digital products online. As previously discussed in the other modules, there are many benefits to selling digital products, and anyone can have a digital product idea. The big challenge is finding your target market among millions of other websites and online stores. This makes marketing your product crucial because you’re competing with free content online.

Laptops and desktop computers all loading a new website showing how to sell digital products

1. Website

While you can sell digital products or services without a website (e.g. using social media), I recommend having the home of your online business on a platform you control. If it’s on Facebook or Amazon, they could potentially go out of business, or ban you for some infringement, and then you have to start from scratch on another platform and hope your old customers find you. It happens to people every single day.

A website also has the benefit of giving you options – because you don’t yet know where your business will take you in the future. Your site can start out simple, and then grow with your business.

Two Choices for How to Sell Digital Products Online

  1. Self-hosted (using a builder like WordPress). You will need to host your site using a hosting company like Bluehost or SiteGround, which will start from $3/month for your first year.
  2. Hosted websites are easier to use and require fewer skills, but have little flexibility. Squarespace starts at $12/month, while Wix offers a free option. I show you how to create your own site in the next module, Build Your Website.

Third-Party Platforms to Help Sell Online

A brief mention for the off-the-shelf online store because I covered multiple ecommerce platforms in the previous module, How to Create Digital Products.

From selling music and digital art to online courses to coaching and consulting (as well as physical products), there is an app for any product you can create. You can integrate one of many ecommerce platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce into your website, using one of their free or paid themes. That way, you don’t have to build out your entire site on your own and can quickly create an online store.

When I say quickly, your online store can be up and running in less than an hour. That way, you still own your site and your traffic, rather than selling on online marketplaces like Etsy. (In exchange for exposure, some marketplaces can take up to 50% commission for every sale.)

A hand holding a collection of images showing online shopping carts

2. Marketing Digital Products

Email Marketing

This is an important tool for selling digital products and growing an online business – and it’s initially free. You can’t do this with your own personal email account, like Gmail. You need a marketing tool like ConvertKit (this is the one I use and prefer), Awebber or MailChimp (both of which I have used in the past and are good). Most of these companies offer a free account for your first subscribers.

How Do You Get People To Sign Up For Your Email List?

Remember the goal of setting up a website: to sell profitable digital products. The best way to do this is by creating a ‘lead magnet’. This is something of value that someone visiting your site can download for free, in exchange for giving you their name and email address. This could be a PDF guide, a cheat sheet, an eBook, a newsletter or a video tutorial that they can download. (Most email marketing services are able to fulfil that process for you.)

Your lead magnet will be on the same subject as the product(s) you want to sell and should leave the consumer wanting more. You can even use part of what you’re selling as your magnet – so, if it’s an eBook, the first chapter can be your lead magnet. The aim is that the information you’re giving away for free is useful, high quality and valuable… valuable enough that your consumer thinks they might – now or later – take the next step and buy from you. It’s all about building that trust.

And the reason this is so powerful is that when you later create a new product, you won’t have to find new eyeballs for your website – you’ll already have a list of satisfied customers who know and trust you and have bought from you before.

Woman using a physical magnet to attract and pull in miniature cut-outs of people

Using Your Lead Magnet

You can create, in advance, a sequence of automated emails that are sent after someone has downloaded your lead magnet. So, they might initially receive an email thanking them for downloading. Then, perhaps every few days, another email offers up more useful content. You want your potential customer to get to know you, trust you, see the value in your content… and, finally, become an actual paying customer.

Your final email in the sequence will have a call-to-action to buy your product or a third-party product that you recommend and get a commission from. By then, you have hopefully built enough trust, authority, and hunger for your knowledge, that you can make an easy sale.

Where Do You Put It?

You want people to sign up for your lead magnet, so you want to feature it somewhere prominently on your website. Generally, that means on the home page, in the header or the footer (which show up on every page). That’s where people go to see what headings they might click on.

The bottom of blog posts is a great place because anyone who has got to the end of your post is clearly engaged with your content. Equally, they may not make it to the end, so an alternative is in the middle of your posts. And finally, there’s the ‘exit popup’. Many website owners report that this has the highest click-through rate. When your reader moves their mouse to the top of their search engine’s navigation buttons to leave your site or go to another, a box appears asking, before they go, if they’d like to receive your lead magnet.

Start Your Own Affiliate Program

One of the benefits of creating your very own product is that you can also choose to start an affiliate program for it. That way, you can earn from other people doing the hard work and selling your product for you.

How to Begin

Do your research on industry forums and social media to find established and trusted influencers in your industry – you probably follow some of them already. Offer them a commission for each sale they make. You can offer different percentages for different affiliates, depending on the size of their audience. If someone has a large following, you can give them a higher commission rate.

Collect Pre-Orders

A great way to get early sales is by giving a discounted “early bird” price. If you’re releasing a new digital product, you can offer a discount for the first X number of buyers or a limited time. Then, release the product at full price afterwards.

Offer a Money-Back Guarantee

This will seem counter-intuitive at first, because people could download your product and then ask for the money back, while still using it. In effect, they’ll get it for free. However, bear in mind that your digital product can’t be seen or inspected by your customers like you can a physical product in a physical store. This is the reason it has been proven that a money-back guarantee boosts digital sales significantly. This gives your customers the confidence to buy your product, knowing they can get their money back if they don’t like it once they do get to inspect it after download.

It also shows that you believe in your product and a fair deal, instilling further confidence in you and your offering.

Social media icons displayed on sticks in a row next to each other

3. Social Media Platforms

You don’t have to be on social media. Your own website is enough. However, there are many benefits to using social media platforms. You definitely don’t have to be on ALL of them. In fact, it’s better to focus on one (or maybe two) at a time in order to grow quickly.

How do you choose?

  1. Pick the one (or two) the majority of your target market uses (you’ll need to do some market research to find out).
  2. Look at what content you’re good at or enjoy creating.

Bear in mind that you can – for a price – automate your posts across different platforms with scheduling tools like SocialBee ($19/month) or SocialPilot ($26/month). As a free option, because Meta owns Facebook and Instagram, they make it easy to share across both. This allows you to batch process your week’s posts – that is, write them all on a Sunday afternoon and then schedule and automate when and where they go out.

Hands holding an imaginary cell phone which is replaced by the words 'web traffic'

4. Organic vs Paid Traffic

There are two ways to drive traffic to your own online store or digital product: Organic and Paid. You don’t have to pay for traffic to be successful. Equally, paying for traffic doesn’t guarantee success.

Organic is free – think social media, email or influencer marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

For paid, we’re talking about online ads, social media ads and sponsored or boosted posts. You’ll need to sign up for these platforms and be verified to post ads.

Organic Strategy

  1. Consistently create content that is so darned good that people can’t get enough and are compelled to share it with others.
  2. Post everything you create across all your channels – your website and all your social media.
  3. Add links in ALL your content. If you write a blog post that mentions a subject you’ve previously written about, add a link to it. The goal is that people disappear down a rabbit hole of your content, going from one article to the next.
  4. Don’t be shy about promoting your digital products within all that valuable content you create. Not all the time, as that can undermine trust – nobody wants to feel constantly sold to, but if it’s relevant, let people know where they can learn more. And, if appropriate, add a link.
  5. It’s exactly the same with your lead magnet. If the subject is relevant, don’t feel shy about mentioning your free PDF/video/training. And add a link.
  6. Use social media to find a new audience. A retweet, a follow or a like from someone else could put your content or name in front of fresh eyeballs. Make sure it’s obvious where they can click to find out more.

Paid Strategy

First of all, why pay money for something you can get organically for free?

The answer is growth.

Using the tools for paid ads, you can target a specific audience by age, location, interests, and who they follow, your scattergun approach becomes much more focused. Talking directly to your target audience increases your hit rate, which means you can grow your following much faster… which means you can grow your revenue much faster.

That’s the theory, though there are no guarantees.

  1. Work out the cost of your product before deciding whether – or how much – to pay for ads, so that you know what your return on investment will be. Obviously, you want to pay for the ads and still make money. Start with the smallest amount you can to test. If it works, you can increase your investment.
  2. Define your target audience. This takes a little practice, so don’t expect to get it 100% right on your first go – you can tweak it each time.
  3. Run your ads/posts for a minimum of 7 days. You’ll find that your specific audience is more active online on certain days. You want to see which days.
  4. Split test! Run different copy at the same time to see which ad/post performs best. Your target market will respond more positively to certain images, wording and videos.
  5. Back your winners – and on your next ad/post, split test again with different versions to refine what works even further.
  6. Make notes on what works and what doesn’t so you can build a template for all future ads/posts. Soon, you’ll know whether to use video or text, what to write, which images get better results, etc.
Wooden blocks displaying the letters FAQ

FAQs

What are digital products?

Digital products are non-physical products or intangible goods that exist in a digital format. These digital assets include ebooks, stock photos, music, digital art, online courses, and computer software or apps. They’re typically delivered to customers via download or email and offer businesses a way to provide value without needing physical inventory. If you have specialized knowledge, it has value. And anyone can have a digital product idea.

Why sell digital products instead of physical products?

Digital downloads have many advantages over selling physical products. There is no need to hold physical inventory, there are no shipping costs, and once you have created one, you can start selling it – and resell it repeatedly, which can often be automated to generate passive income. As a result, while startup costs can be low, high profit margins are the norm in the digital world.

What are the best profitable digital products to sell online?

– Digital content – either your own or other people’s
– Online courses
– eBooks
– Digital membership sites (monthly or yearly subscription)
– Music, digital artwork (or digital art can be conventional art converted into a digital format) and entertainment
– Stock photography, images and video tutorials
– Graphic design templates
– Digital services
– Printable digital products, like T-shirts and mugs
– Mobile apps
– Digital tools

Without the need to hold inventory or the overheads associated with selling physical products, all types of digital assets can be profitable online business ideas.

How do I create digital product ideas for an existing business?

While generating ideas for your digital products, the key is not to be too critical. Some of the best ideas can come from another idea that seemed ridiculous at the time. Here are some questions I asked myself when I was coming up with digital product ideas.

Can you teach your potential customers how to use your products? For example, if you sell journals, you could offer a course teaching people how to journal.
– Are there things you can help your potential customers with that are related to your industry? If you sell bicycles, you could teach your customers how to get in shape.
– What values have you built your business on? For example, if you sell T-shirts made from recyclable materials, you could create an online course teaching your customers how to do more for the environment.
– In what ways could you create a community for your customers? If you sell dog food, you could create a membership site for dog owners offering training tips etc.
– What are your strengths? If you’re really great at making videos, you could teach other people how to set up a YouTube channel or go viral on TikTok.

No matter your industry, you have unique strengths and knowledge that will be valuable to your customers once you know how to sell the most profitable digital products.

How do I know if my idea will work?

You need to validate your idea before committing to it. The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time or money without knowing if your idea has a good chance of success.
Here are some ways to validate your idea as you figure out how to sell digital products: 

Keyword research. Use a keyword research tool, such as Ahrefs or Surfer, to see how many people are searching for your idea or industry. This will give you an idea of the potential size of your market.
Industry search. Search your industry on Google Trends, by looking for subjects that are growing in interest. This means that your potential target market should be growing.
Community forums. Forums dedicated to hobbies and communities in your industry can help you learn more about what people want and need in your chosen subject area.
Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups dedicated to every niche and subject imaginable, making them a great place to learn what your potential customers care about. 
Product reviews. Read the reviews for your competitors’ products to get an idea of success. These could come from the reviews on product pages but also reviews on blogs and other websites.
Start small and iterate. Sometimes, the easiest way to validate an idea is to experiment with a smaller/simpler version of it. By getting something out into the world as soon as possible, you can put your idea to the test, get some feedback and then start improving it.

Click on another of the 4 modules in the Butterfly System to learn more…