Archive for the 'Internet & Social Media Marketing' Category

Has Your Website Designer Disappeared?

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A strange phenomena has been spreading like a virus over the past few years. In the past four months alone, three of my clients have told me that their website designer or virtual assistant has “disappeared.” No return phone calls, unanswered emails. Gone, gone, gone.

Kidnapping? Hardly. When the economy gets tough or the revenue numbers don’t ad up, many website designers and virtual assistants (small business owners themselves) simply go out of business. Some get full-time jobs in corporations, some just shut their doors. And of course, personal and family problems can cause an owner to go out of business. Perhaps they’ve changed their business model and have shifted away from doing the work they used to do for you — they haven’t gone out of business, just changed their focus.

This is a huge problem for small business owners, who rely upon their website designer or virtual assistant to maintain and upgrade their websites for them. There’s not much you can do if your website designer or VA goes out of business. But you can protect yourself and prepare yourself to move to a new website designer. You need to have access to all your files before your website designer disappears.

Use this checklist to get control of your website for the future:

  1. Login information for the hosting company.
  2. FTP login information, if appropriate.
  3. WordPress login information, if appropriate.
  4. A list of WordPress plugins that are in use, and their purpose.
  5. Email address login information for each email account (you may have more than one email address for your domain, such as office@domain.com or mary@domain.com or info@domain.com).
  6. Other login information to auxiliary software embedded or connected to your site, like: membership software, forum software, learning management systems, merchant accounts, eCommerce systems, email marketing system, video hosting or file hosting services, etc.
  7. Logins for Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and/or Facebook Ads, if you use any of these services.
  8. A copy of all your website coding, graphic, audio, video and animation files, including the original, editable source files for all your graphics.
  9. Written confirmation that you own the content of the website and have the right to transfer it, edit it, submit it to United States Copyright Office, sell it, etc.

For security purposes, if your website designer truly disappears and you can’t reach them, change ALL login IDs and passwords on your accounts. In addition, if you have given your website designer your credit card information, you may wish to cancel the card and have a new number re-issued.

Whether you think your website designer or VA has a sound business or you think they’re struggling and might disappear, I recommend you get the above items from them website today so that you have full control of your website — and your internet marketing — for the future.

8 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Website Planning
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The Value of Double Opt-ins

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When creating an email mailing list, there is a feature you should consider using: the double opt-in.

A double opt-in works like this:

  • First, a person who wants to be on your mailing list either fills out a form on your website or gives you their email address in some other way. That’s the “first opt-in.”
  • Second, the mailing list system sends a confirmation email to them, asking them to click a link to confirm their email address and that they really DO want to subscribe to your mailing list. That’s the second or “double opt-in.”

These are my thoughts on double opt-in:

Pros

  1. In the end analysis, it’s a good thing.
  2. If you want to be GDPR-compliant, double opt-ins ensure that the person who signed up for your mailing list actually wants to hear from you. This prevents (or, at least, reduces) the number of fake sign-ups from harvested lists via form bots. Some mail providers like MailChimp, are requiring double opt-in for EU-based subscribers as a way of complying with GDPR. By using double opt-in, you’re ensuring you have the subscriber’s consent, and that’s the rule in GDPR that you need to pay attention to. Note: I have not seen any wording in the GDPR regulations that specifically requires the use of double opt-in technology, and Infusionsoft says the same thing. What GDPR does say, however, is that you must have the consent of the subscriber to capture and store their personal dates (name, email address, etc) and communicate with them using it, and that they should be easily able to manage and/or delete their information from your system.
  3. Double opt-in doesn’t stop spammers and bots from signing up to your mailing via your website, but it prevents them from getting on your “white list” of subscribers you mail to on a regular basis. Spammers and bots rarely click the confirm link.
  4. By using the double opt-in feature from your email service provider, your email will be sent from a “proven clean” mail address, which will decrease the number times your business gets marked as a spammer by other email service providers.
  5. You can see who has not confirmed yet, and you can email them again to ask them if they want to confirm and continue receiving information from you.
  6. Most people now understand the double opt-in concept and look in their Inbox for the confirmation email they’ll receive. (Not everyone knows to look in their spam or junk folder, so you remind them about that as they are subscribing.)
  7. By having your mailing list in the same database as your shopping cart, you have a huge benefit of sales and leads data that you wouldn’t have if they were in two separate systems. You also have the benefit of upselling to previous customers, thereby increasing your revenue.

Cons

  1. It ads a second layer of technology that might fail. It’s possible that the subscriber will not receive the double opt-in email. Check with your email service provider about how many times you can sent the double opt-in email, or that it will go to their junk/spam folder and they’ll miss it.
  2. Some people will subscribe but not click the confirm link in the opt-in email. It’s the risk of doing business online. (Just like some people move to a new house but don’t tell you their forwarding address and all your marketing brochures get sent back to you.)
  3. Some email service providers, like MailChimp, are setting up single opt-in by default. Their reason is this: “61% of people start but do not finish the double opt-in process.” On my own list, it’s much lower, around 23% don’t complete the opt-in process. Of those who don’t, half will open future emails. The other half we delete. (Our system flags a good portion of those who do not confirm as spam bot signups, so it’s likely that they’re not real people anyway.)
  4. Some email service providers will not allow you to email someone who has not double opted-in. Check with your email service provider for their rules.

Our test results

Last month, we set up two subscription forms on our website. Each page gets about the same amount of traffic, but one form requires a double opt-in confirmation before the subscriber can receive the free item we offered. The other form did not require double opt-in: it asked for it, but didn’t require it in order for them to get their freebie.

Here’s what we discovered:

  • We tracked the number of people who submitted the sign-up form for the two free offers.
  • We then tracked the number of people who ultimately confirmed their subscription (68%).
  • Regardless of whether they were required to confirm or not required, there was virtually no difference in the percent of people who confirmed.
  • But the percent of people who consumed the free offer (in this case, a free ebook and a free video tutorial) was lower among those who were required to double opt-in. They never saw the link to consume the free offer because they never confirmed their email address — the step that was required before we would send them their freebie link.
  • However, of those who did not confirm, 51% did open and read subsequent email newsletters. Even though they did not confirm, they were still active and engaged.
  • Opt-out rates were the same, regardless of confirmation status.
  • Requiring double opt-ins gives us the benefits above, but doesn’t stop us from mailing to those who don’t confirm (if we want to).
  • Our new rule: If someone doesn’t confirm, and doesn’t open or click on subsequent emails, they are deleted after a month. Why mail to someone who isn’t interested in what I’m writing about?

Don’t focus on what you’ll lose

Some people focus on what they’ll lose if they ask people to confirm an opt-in. Focus on what you’ll gain: a clean list of motivated subscribers that won’t bounce or be marked as spam, and who have proven they’re interested by clicking on your double opt-in confirmation link.

And remember:

  • Your list size does not determine your loveability or your business success.
  • Your list size does not tell you if you are a good person, or if you are worthy of the best things in life.
  • People who don’t opt-in or who unsubscribe are not rejecting you personally; they’re probably just getting too much email and want to cut back.
  • People who DO optin are saying, “Yes, I like what you have to say and would like more of it.”
  • Many business owners have excellent revenue numbers with lists under 3,000 people, especially if these are your perfect target audience.
  • What counts is the relationship you have with your subscribers, and what strategic marketing you do with your list.  🙂

3 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Managing Your Website Redesign Project – 22 Point Checklist

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I know many of you are thinking it’s time to redesign your website, but you don’t know where to start or how to manage the project. Let me share my experience with you in hopes that it will make your website redesign process smooth and efficient.

After 11 months of hard planning and implementation, multiple website graphics and layout choices, and lots of coding (1,200 pages!), we launched the new-and-improved version of the Passion For Business website several years ago.

Then we did it again last year for The Success Alliance website, moving to a simpler, cleaner design that’s mobile-friendly. And we’ll have to do it again next year for a newer version of the Passion For Business website (even though we just redesigned it three years ago). Technology and people’s tastes in websites change, and you have to move with the times or be left behind.

We learned a lot along the way about managing website redesign projects and making sure they matched our business and marketing goals.

Let me share that wisdom with you, in the hopes it will help make your own website redesign project run smoothly.

The checklist below is written for you; you may be delegating pieces of this work to graphic designers, website designers, copywriters, SEO experts, or your administrative assistant. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them during each step in this checklist:

  1. First, know that this is going to be a long process, so find that extra bit of patience. It will pay off big time, trust me. There will be any number of times that you want to cut corners or give up an important feature that’s a pain to implement on your site. Stop. Breathe. Start again.
  2. Make sure you DO need and want to redesign your website. Not sure? Take this self-quiz: Is It Time To Redesign My Site?
  3. Write everything down – don’t trust your memory on something this important. Keep your ideas and your To Do list in a Project Plan file so everything is at your fingertips in one central location. Keep all correspondence with subcontractors who are working on your site.
  4. Start the redesign process by asking the big questions: What are the goals of my business? What role(s) will my website have in reaching those goals? Who will visit my website and what do they need/want to find there? What is my business brand and image? Is it time to give my brand a facelift?
  5. Decide what content you need on the site, then organize that content into logical “buckets” so that it’s easy to design the menu/navigation structure, and easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Make a list of each individual page and file that needs to be on the site. Not sure what’s important to your audience? Look at your Google Analytics and find the popular pages…and put the access to them in an easy-to-find spot on your new site.
  6. Decide which extra features you need on your site: will you have a newsletter sign-up box, a free offer, sidebar advertisements, a blog, video files, audio files, social media, etc.?
  7. Design the graphical page layout to include your logo and business colors, making sure there is enough room on the page for sidebar advertisements, sign-up boxes, etc. This is the time when a good website designer can make this process easy.
  8. Remember, the reputation of your business relies on professionalism and a professional look — this isn’t the time to cut corners with do-it-yourself graphic work, logos, navigation, or website page layout. A good website designer can target your website graphics and layout to your audience, and can make it user-friendly. A poor website design will have people walking away from your site instead of sticking around. Read this blog post on How to Choose a Website Designer if you need more tips. If you can’t find a website designer who is also a graphic artist, figure out a way for these two people to talk together about the design and the project plan.
  9. While your website designer is working on some preliminary designs, it’s time for you to edit and/or write your website text. Take a look at all your existing pages: Does the text talk to the audience and helping them solve a problem or reach a goal? Is your marketing message clear? Has your business focus changed and now your website needs new copy? If you’re not good at copy writing, consider hiring a copywriter to help you with the text updates.
  10. While you’re busy writing, don’t forget SEO work to increase your rankings on search engines. Choose your keywords and make sure those keywords are in your text. Note: there’s more to SEO than putting your keywords in your text, but choosing and adding your keywords is the first step.
  11. Once you choose the website design that works best for your audience, your brand and your business goals, now it’s time to start coding. You have several options when coding your website: your website designer can code it for you, or you can use a platform like WordPress. Even if you use WordPress, there’s still a HUGE amount of coding to do, so if you are not deeply familiar with CSS or PHP, hire someone to do the coding for you. Typically you can find a website designer who does both the graphic design and the coding, or who works as a team with other professionals to get your site done. If you want to do it yourself, consider one of the DIY website creation sites like Wix, Weebly or SquareSpace.
  12. DO NOT code directly to your existing domain, overwriting your existing files. Create a “testing” folder to put new files in. Even whiz-kids can make mistakes, so create a duplicate site for testing before you make your new site live to the public. It lets you build and test new pages as needed and will save you oodles of grief later.
  13. Make sure you code the SEO in the behind-the-scenes coding (tags) to help with your search engine rankings. Choose a website designer who has a lot of experience with SEO so that you can be assured this work is done correctly. Remember, there is more to SEO than the text and code on your website, but you must do these two things correctly FIRST before other SEO work can be done.
  14. Once the site is done with the initial coding, TEST the website in all the standard browsers to make sure it’s compatible: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Test it in several versions of these browsers as well; not everyone is using the current version of browser software. If you’re not sure which browsers your current website visitors are using, you can find this information in your Google Analytics statistics. (It’s under the Audience/Technology area of Google Analytics.)
  15. Test to see how your site looks on both PCs and Macs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. (This is a good time to get your friends involved so you can see your new site on their browsers and machines.) Test on smart phones, tablets and laptops, including all mobile browsers. Make sure your new site works on ALL hardware platforms and screen sizes.
  16. After you do the testing, you’ll probably find that your site looks great in some browsers/hardware and awful in others. This requires additional coding to test the browser version or screen size/resolution the visitor is using and write code to make the site look the same in all browsers. Now you know why you pay a website designer to do this work! 🙂
  17. Test all links. Okay, now you’ve got your final website design. It looks great in all browsers and hardware, and the text and graphics are extraordinary. Now is the time to test all links (both the links in the menu/navigation and the links in the text). Make sure all links open to the appropriate page, file and/or external websites. Patience, my friend, do this slowly and properly. If you have bad links on your site, you’ll lose visitors and Google doesn’t like a site with a lot of bad links.
  18. Now test all forms. Sign up for your own newsletter, your own free offer, contact form, or any other form you have on your site, and make sure each form does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Sick of testing yet???  🙂
  19. Use 301 Redirects. If you have renamed any of your website pages, add 301 Redirects to your site so that those old links now forward to the new page URL.
  20. Now you’re ready to go live. But wait! I’m only going to say this once (loudly): BACK UP YOUR EXISTING WEBSITE and BLOG. Trust me. If you overwrite files and something blows up, you’ll be happy that you can easily put yourself back to the old site while you fix the problem.
  21. Take a deep breath, and upload your new website design to your hosting.
  22. Once it’s live, test again. All of it. Seriously.

Finally, go ahead and tell your audience your site is live, invite feedback, and tell them if they find a problem with the site to please let you know about it. It’s great to have a lot of people checking out your new site to make sure there are no mistakes.

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Have a huge party to celebrate!  🙂

 

(If I’ve missed any steps, please leave a comment and tell me about YOUR website project experience!)

16 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Website Planning
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12 Must-Have Items to Put in Your Welcome Email

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Think of a new customer or a new person to your email list as a guest in your home.

How will you make them feel welcomed and appreciated?

Your first email to them, your “Welcome” email, can begin that relationship, and turn a one-way conversation into a two-way conversation between your business and your customer. Make it count.

People have become accustomed to building personal relationships with a business via email. They reject companies and service providers where they don’t feel they’re being honored, heard or respected.

Send the first email out automatically, within a few minutes after a person subscribes and opts-in to your email list. It can be one email, or a series of emails, triggered by a person joining your list.

What a Welcome email will do for you and your business

A well-crafted Welcome email – whether it’s confirming a person’s subscription, offering immediate access to your free content, or a receipt for a purchase – can build trust and a rapport with your audience. It sets the tone of future communication, starts a conversation, helps reinforce your brand and message, and acknowledges how important your audience is to you.

Consider it your calling card; it’s your one opportunity to knock their socks off with meaningful content that solves their problems or answers their questions. You want them to open future emails from you.

Be warm, professional, helpful – and human.

Some tips on what you should put in your first email

  1. Welcome them to your community. Remind them how they got on your list – did they sign up for a free offer, did they make a purchase from your online store, or did they hear you speak or teach somewhere?
  2. Thank them. Acknowledge that you’re grateful they chose your content, or for their purchase.
  3. Talk to them about what they’ve signed up for. What kind of content can they expect? If they bought something from you, let them know how to access that item or when they can expect to get it. If they signed up for an event, remind them of the date and time. Help them figure out how to get started quickly.
  4. Let the content match the relationship. If your Welcome email is to a new customer, craft it as a thank-you for their purchase. If your Welcome email is to a new subscriber who is not a customer yet, focus the email on what resources you have for them (especially free resources/content, to help build the relationship).
  5. Assure them that you understand what their challenges and dreams are. They signed up to your list, but they still want to know that you understand their situation and that you can provide solutions. Provide content that outlines some common problems or questions they have, along with tips and techniques to move forward.
  6. Give them more than they expected. Offer links to important and helpful content on your website, or links to audio files, documents or webinar and video content.
  7. Tell them how often they can expect your emails. You should be sending email newsletters at least once a month, but once a week is better. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  8. Provide them with links to your social media accounts as another way to connect.
  9. Answer frequently asked questions. Are there questions that pop up all the time which a list of FAQs could answer quickly?
  10. Continue the conversation. If you promised something in return for their signing up, make sure they got it. Follow up with a survey asking them what they think about your product or service. Remember: Even if it’s free, they’re still a customer. They’re consuming your content.
  11. Ask them to take action. To keep email subscribers engaged, ask them to take action: click a link, complete a survey, respond to a question, share a comment, sign up for a video tutorial.
  12. Tell them how to unsubscribe. It’s important that you give clear instructions on how to get off your list. Most automated emails have a link at the bottom to unsubscribe, but assure them in the Welcome email that they can exit anytime they want.

One email… or two?

There’s a lot of information you could include in your Welcome email. But you don’t want to overwhelm your new prospect or customer with too much information in one email. When you’re crafting your Welcome email, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I overloading them?

If yes, consider just putting the welcome, thank-you, and what you can expect topics in the first email, and use a second email for additional information.

Sometimes the shortest, simplest emails get the best response.

Doubling down with a double opt-in

Sometimes asking people to confirm their email address – known as a “double opt-in” – will be your first electronic correspondence with a customer. By asking people to double opt-in, you’re ensuring a quality list of real email addresses.

The double opt-in is meant to get people to click on a link to confirm their email address. Some people don’t do this right away – or they don’t do this at all – so you might have to send a reminder. You can also check the list of people who signed up but didn’t confirm their subscription to check for obvious misspellings in their email addresses.

If you are finding that people don’t click the confirmation link, the first question to ask is: Are they receiving the email in the first place? Check your bounced email list to make sure they are receiving and opening the confirmation email. If necessary, send a reminder.

I’d love to hear from you

Are you sending out Welcome emails? Do you add anything to them aside from the 10 items listed above? Do you send them automatically or manually? Share your story, comments and questions in the Comments area below. 🙂

21 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

The Problem with Niches

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finding your nicheMy client Mary called me and cried, “I need to find my niche!”

She had been told over and over again that she needed to find a narrow niche for her Life Coaching business so that she could be more noticeable among the pack of Life Coaches who market themselves to business professionals and managers.

But she had also been told that using words like “meaning” and “purpose” to describe what clients were looking for was over-used; all life coaches were using those terms and they had lost their power when it came to writing marketing text.

To find your niche, you need a tailor-made approach.

Here is my reply to Mary in regards to identifying her niche and writing her marketing text towards that niche:

Finding The Right Words

Remember, WITHIN the coaching industry, words like “soul,” “meaning,” and “fulfillment” are used constantly and we’re used to them and don’t think they’re special.

But, OUTSIDE the coaching industry, people are just awakening to these words. They love these words. And people ARE looking for meaning and fulfillment in their lives. (Just because you are used to seeing those words everyday doesn’t automatically make them powerless or boring.)

So you may be tired of hearing catch-words in YOUR industry, but that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t still searching for those very same ideas.

If you want to know if people are interested in these words, go to the Google Keyword Tool  and type them in. You’ll see for yourself how popular they really are.

As a life coach, saying you don’t want to market yourself using the words “fulfillment” and “meaning,” is like saying you’re a dentist, but you don’t want to have the niche of “filling cavities” because every dentist does that.

Sometimes your niche isn’t just what topics you talk about with clients; sometimes your niche is the combination of what topics you talk about AND the people/groups you talk to.

Finding The Right Niche

The whole purpose of choosing a niche is so you can find a central place that potential clients congregate — so that you can get in front of them to introduce your business via your marketing techniques. You can find “professionals” or “mid-level managers” or “upper level executives” in specific industry associations, magazines, websites, newspapers, peer groups, etc.

But say you want your niche to be “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coaching.” There is no industry association for Hyper Ambitious people…how will you locate them?

Do you really want to be known as the “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach?” (Do people really type in “hyper ambitious stress coach” into Google when they’re looking for help?) It implies that you work with only people who are hyper-ambitious, and only stressed ones at that. There are plenty of “non-hyper-ambitious” professionals who are want to achieve great things and be successful (and are stressed), they just don’t go overboard into “hyper” behaviors that create unbalance.

One caveat: labeling yourself the “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach” is great for PR. The news media loves a specialist. But clients may not be looking for a Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach; they’re just looking for help with stress, over-scheduling, high demands, etc. So unless you’re going to get all your prospective clients via news media interviews, you might want to re-think that narrow niche.

Choosing a niche is not an exercise in finding a place where you have no competition. It’s okay if you have competition in your niche: it shows there’s a thriving market there.

Differentiation vs. Niche

If you’re simply looking to differentiate yourself from your competition, then that’s not done by choosing a niche market. Differentiation and Niche are two separate marketing steps. You can differentiate (brand) yourself based on:

  • your personality
  • your processes
  • your techniques
  • your classes and products
  • your background
  • your experience
  • your skill set & knowledge
  • your availability
  • your fees
  • your style

Differentiation asks, “Why would they buy from ME versus my competition?”

Niche asks, “Where will I find THEM so I can introduce myself?”

This entry in Wikipedia may help:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niche_market

I’m not saying, “Don’t go in that niche direction.” What I am saying is this: if you define your niche too narrowly, you’ll have a hard time getting in front of them with your marketing techniques. And along the way, you might not be following your own purpose or meeting your goals.

So, how do you define your own niche? I’d love to hear about your target audience and how you help them!

11 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
Tags: , ,

Redesign Your Marketing Model

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If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably already have a marketing model that is working for you. Or, at least it used to work for you

There are seven different areas in your business where rethinking and reinvention are possible: Marketing is a great area for innovation and change!

Have things changed in your business and marketing?

  1. Your audience isn’t reacting to your marketing techniques the way they used to.
  2. You are bored with your marketing techniques, so you’re not doing them as consistently as you once did, and the quality of your marketing is suffering.
  3. You’ve become complacent because business is going great, and stopped paying attention to “big picture” strategic marketing planning.
  4. Your marketing techniques are stale, outdated.
  5. You’re totally freaked out by the amount of work you have to do, so some things just get put on the back burner, like marketing (and remembering to eat).

Time to shake things up!

Last time I counted, there are over 100 offline and online marketing techniques you can use. There’s one for everyone. Why not try a new marketing technique you haven’t tried yet but have always been curious about?

If you’re feeling the innovation itch, why not combine two techniques into something original and noteworthy?

For instance, could you combine a free, funny bumper sticker giveaway with a contest?

What about combining a free webinar with a SEO using a strong article or blog post, to increase sign-ups and boost your mailing list?

Pick a new technique or combine two! Jazz it up!

Here’s the trick.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do 20 new marketing techniques at once. Choose one, learn all about it, try it out, track your results, and master that technique. Then do it again with the next new one.

Having an annual marketing plan will help. You could schedule a new marketing technique each quarter, based on your goals and what you’re promoting that quarter.

Maybe it’s time to delegate?

One big reason why seasoned business owners don’t do the level of marketing that they should do is that they simply run out of time and energy. Just because you’re the business owner doesn’t mean you have to be the head of each department.

I know, I know: you’ve heard that you should delegate a million times. Hey, just do it! (Do I have to pester you?) Consider finding someone who can implement some (or all) of your marketing techniques for you, so you can focus on your core competencies, the unique gifts you bring to the world.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Where do you feel you need to shake up your marketing model?

8 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing, Rethinking Your Business
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