Archive for the 'Internet & Social Media Marketing' Category

Nurturing the Not-Ready Customer Through the Buying Cycle

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Wouldn’t you love it if you could close every sale with a new customer in 30 minutes or less?

But that rarely happens. A sales cycle can last up to six months, depending on how much research the potential customer has done before he or she comes to you.

Before customers are ready to sign on the dotted line, they first must go through a well-researched route to purchasing products and services, called the Buying Cycle. You need to nurture these potential clients and help them along this route to ultimately choosing the solution you’re offering them.

Studies show that 79% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. They’re somewhere else within the buying cycle. They may not be aware of the scope of their problem, and may simply be in the early stages of researching a possible solution.

Even if they’re not ready to buy, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for you as a business owner. If you continue to educate them and nurture those leads – wherever they are in the buying cycle – you’ll be at the top of their minds when they’re ready to buy.

The Buying Cycle

The typical buying cycle goes from having an awareness that there is a problem, to evaluating the possible solutions, choosing one solution, and then implementing it. It ends with a long-term, meaningful relationship with a customer.

Here’s a detailed explanation of the buying cycle — what actually is happening in your prospective customer’s world:

  1. Acknowledge there’s a problem they need to solve. Something is broken – either a physical product, like their washing machine, or a process in their business – and they need to fix it.
  2. Make a decision to fix this problem. They have to decide if they want to tackle this problem now or wait.
  3. Determine exactly what results they want. What’s their end goal? What outcome or results do they want after purchasing and implementing a solution?
  4. Gather basic information. They’re searching for companies that can help them, and often doing this research online. Perhaps they’re asking friends or other business owners who’ve had similar problems about their chosen solution.
  5. Identify possible solutions or vendors that will give the result or results that they want.
  6. Compare those solutions or vendors.
  7. Select a vendor/product.
  8. Negotiate the deal.
  9. Make a purchase decision. This can mean either signing a contract or making a direct purchase.
  10. Implement the solution. Your relationship doesn’t end with the purchase. Now you have to help them use your product or service wisely to get full results.
  11. Forge an ongoing relationship. This allows for repeat business from the same customer and ensures ongoing customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.

Recognizing where your customer is in this buying cycle is key.

When a customer first makes contact with you, have a set of questions ready which determine where he or she is.

  • “Tell me about your situation?”
  • “Have you looked at other solutions?”

Their answers to these questions can show you whether they’re still early in the buying cycle, or if they’re close to making a decision.

Pick Marketing Techniques Based on Buying Cycle

Choose different marketing techniques for each phase of the buying cycle.

For instance:

  • A well-designed website can help customers early on in the buying cycle by allowing them to gather information.
  • A free whitepaper outlining possible solutions and comparing them helps mid-way through the buying cycle.
  • An email campaign helps prospective customers through the pre-purchase process, and later forges an ongoing, repeat-buying relationship near the end of the buying cycle.

Supplying content for each stage tells your customer, “We’re ready when you are.”

If they’re early in the buying cycle, back off and let them explore, but be available to answer questions. If they want to discuss possibly buying from you, be available for a phone or in-person meeting, and have marketing material ready to help them make a choice from among your offerings.

By being aware of the different stages in the buying process, and thinking about what questions your customer are asking at each stage of the cycle, you can provide a prospective customer with the appropriate marketing technique at the right time.

8 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

Lurker Alert: The Art of Audience, Student and Mastermind Group Engagement

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Who are those people who attend your mastermind group or class but never talk (or who friend you on Facebook or Twitter, but never respond)? And how do you get them talking?

Back in the mid-90s when I first went online via CompuServe (remember those days??), we noticed that for every 10 people looking at the message forum, one person was interacting and the other 9 were logging on and reading the message threads, but never interacting. Back then, we called them “lurkers” — people who didn’t participate actively in discussions, and this 10:1 lurker ratio was commonplace back then.

Fast forward 25 years, and we find that Lurker Ratio of 10:1 still exists – in online message forums, in my classes and webinars, in mastermind groups, and any other place where groups of people congregate offline and online.

In some places, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social media forums, the lurker ratio is closer to 100:1 — for every 1 person who participates, there are 100 people just reading and absorbing the conversation.

Why?

There are a number of reasons why people don’t comment on Facebook or blogs:

  • too busy
  • nothing to add
  • feeling shy
  • hard to use your technology

That’s why they use the “Like” button on social media: if they don’t want to leave a comment but want to let you know that they’re interested, they click it.

Jakob Nielsen calls it Participation Inequality. I see it most often with “virtual” groups of people who meet online or through video conference meetings.

Want to learn how to start a mastermind group? Click here to get my free video tutorial on how to start a mastermind group of your own.

But here is what I think is most important:

We all have something to add to a conversation — our feelings, our experiences, our knowledge, our questions. What comes from within counts for a lot with me. I love when people leave comments on my blog, interact in my classes, or join the discussion in a mastermind group meeting.

And let’s face it: the whole point of a mastermind group is to brainstorm together, right? Conversation brings immense value.

In your business, you want to build connections and relationships with your customers and your entire audience. Being aware of the lurker ratio when you’re using social media for marketing — as well as in your classes, groups and online message forums — will help you gauge the quality of your connections and relationships.

For all types of classes and mastermind groups, here are some guidelines:

  1. In live, in-person classes and mastermind groups, the lurker ratio is much better. There’s something about being face-to-face in a sharing environment (especially with a good teacher or mastermind group Facilitator) that brings people out of their shells and encourages them to participate. In my live classes and groups, I’d say that for every 100 people who attend, 30 will be lurkers. 10:7 isn’t a bad ratio!
  2. The larger the group, the larger the lurker ratio. Social psychologists call this the social loafing phenomenon.
  3. The longer the event, class or program, the lower the lurker ratio. Sometimes it takes while to get people warmed up. They might not begin to participate actively in the discussions until they get a feel for the others in the meeting.
  4. If you want high participation in your classes and mastermind groups, you have to build in interaction into your plan. Don’t wing it: plan it. Design discussion-starter questions that get the group talking within the first five minutes of every meeting.
  5. Pay attention to those who don’t ask questions or make comments. Call on them by name, or say, “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t commented yet.”
  6. If your class or mastermind group includes an online message forum, set some rules. For instance, in some of my classes I’ve set this rule: each week all students must post one new message and reply to two messages that someone else has posted.

For social media engagement:

  1. Studies show that you get 65% more engagement if you post before noon, as compared to afternoons and evenings. My experience confirms this with my audience: they’re much more active in the morning on social media. Test it to see if it’s true with your audience, too.
  2. Don’t just post thoughts, ask questions, too. Instead of simply saying, “Hard work yields results,” consider adding a question to that statement, like, “Do you find this to be true for yourself?” Invite responses and comments.
  3. Comment on other people’s posts. It’s a two-way street. If all you do is post your own articles and thoughts, but never respond to someone else’s blog posts and Facebook posts, why should they communicate with you? It’s all about building relationships.
  4. Engagement isn’t just commenting. Make sure you put links in your blog posts to other posts that are related. When someone reads a blog post and clicks on a link, that’s engagement, too.
  5. Respond back. When someone responds to your blog post or social media post, respond back and acknowledge it. They need to know you heard them.
  6. Let them see you. Too many small business owners hide behind their content. They post links to articles on Facebook and Twitter, but they never share any of their own story. I don’t mean those “I used to live in a box but now I live in a mansion” stories…I mean everyday stories about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re reading or watching, and even what you’re eating. Give them a window into your personal life. Yes, you can keep most of your personal life as private as you like — but telling them you made Chickpea Burgers for lunch isn’t an invasion of privacy, it just plain fun! 🙂

If your lurker ratio is still 100:1, take heart — it means that for every one person who responds to your post, 100 are reading what you write!

These are just a few of the tips to get people to join the discussion. I’m sure you have your favorite ways of getting your audience involved, yes? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!

47 comments for now



Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group

SEO Checklist for Small Business Owners

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It’s easy to forget the the simplest SEO tasks when you’re busy. Search engines can drive a huge amount of traffic to your site, but only if you’re consistent about doing the SEO work.

Here’s a simple checklist reminder for the next time you post on your blog or add a new page to your site. This list doesn’t include overarching SEO techniques for your entire website, but focuses on the everyday tasks when adding new content to a site which is already optimized for SEO.

  • Choose keywords appropriate to the page; don’t simply replicate the website keywords on every page. Ask yourself, “What does my visitor want from this page or blog post?”
  • Title tag
  • Description tag
  • Alt tag for images
  • Image file names
  • Social sharing fields (title, snippet, image)
  • Using your keywords in the headings and sub-headings
  • Keyword in page URL (aka “slug”) (and domain name, if possible)
  • Keywords in text: don’t stuff them in, but having them near each other (“proximity”) helps; put them closer to the top of the page.
  • Links to internal pages
  • Links to external pages (make sure it’s a reputable site)
  • If you’re using WordPress, choose one of the SEO plugins, like Yoast, to make it easier. It gives you easy-to-complete fields for data entry on the tags and snippets, and reminds you if your SEO isn’t strong for that page.
  • If you have a Category or Round Up page that shows popular posts on a specific topic, add the new post/page to that directory for your website.

You can check where you currently rank for your keywords in Google Analytics. It’s the Queries report: Acquisition>Search Console>Queries

Want details? Check out my blog post Getting Your Website Seen on Search Engines.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning

We Won’t Eat What We Don’t Understand

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Aly and I had lunch with my Mom and Dad at a trendy fusion restaurant with a highly creative menu. While we were happily trying Turkey Wraps with Butternut Squash inside, what did my Dad have? A steak sandwich and a Coke.

“Dad,” I said, “Why not try something new?”

My Mom chimed in:

“Because we won’t eat what we don’t understand.”

I cracked up laughing because it seemed such a preposterous and over-the-top statement, especially since Aly was sitting next to me trying quinoa for the first time.

But on the way home I got to thinking: maybe she’s right!

Aly had asked the waitress: What Is Quinoa? She gave him a full description of what it was, how it was cooked and how it would taste.

She took the mystery out of this new item and made Aly feel safe in trying it.

It’s not just men —  it’s all of us — who won’t try something new unless they feel safe about it

When you’re explaining to your customers the service or product you’re offering, you must help them to understand everything that’s involved with it:

  • what it does
  • what it doesn’t do
  • who it’s for and who it’s not for
  • who are you and why should they listen to you
  • what it costs
  • how much time they’ll have to invest
  • what to do if they don’t find it valuable
  • what outcomes to expect
  • how to buy it
  • what will happen after they buy it

Some love the risks, others are more cautious

There are two types of buyers:

Some buyers are risk-takers and love to have the newest, latest thing regardless of whether there might be some glitches. They want to be the first to have an item, a new experience, be the beta tester for a program. Often these are the customers who already know you and trust you, so in their minds, the risk isn’t actually too high. But they still won’t buy if they don’t understand a feature, a benefit, or if the price seems too high for the benefits they’ll get. You need to help them see that the price is equal (or less than) the benefits.

Next are those customers who don’t want to be “bleeding edge” — but they do want to get in on a great service or product that will help them. They have to think about it, weigh it in their minds. They can take days and weeks to decide, so you have to keep your offer in front of them, and answer any questions they have. They might call you, or email you, or put a question in your blog post comments. They might text you ,or communicate via social media. Your job is to be present on whatever channel they use to communicate, and answer their questions thoroughly so that they understand the offer completely.

Because customers won’t buy what they don’t understand. So that’s the focus of your marketing.

So the next time you’re at a restaurant and you see “chicken dancing in a white wine reduction” — ask them whether they mean a glaze or marinade, or whether they mean a gravy!

Do you have a story about a time you walked away from an offer you didn’t understand? What comes up for you when you try to put together your words around your service or product? Please share your stories, questions and comments on my blog…I’d love to hear from you.

16 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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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.  🙂

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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