Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Nurturing the Not-Ready Customer Through the Buying Cycle

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We’d all love it if we could close every deal or 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 in the buying cycle. They may not even be aware of the scope of their problem, and may simply be in the early stages of researching a possible solution.

But just because they’re not ready to buy doesn’t mean there isn’t 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 and implementing it. And it ends, hopefully, with a long-term, meaningful relationship with a customer.

A more detailed explanation of the buying cycle:

  1. Acknowledging 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. Making a decision to fix this problem. They can’t do it themselves, so they need outside help.
  3. Determining exactly what results they want. What’s their end goal? What outcome or results do they want after purchasing and implementing a solution?
  4. Gathering 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 solutions.
  5. Identifying possible solutions or vendors that will give the result or results that they want.
  6. Comparing those solutions or vendors.
  7. Selecting a vendor/product.
  8. Negotiating the deal.
  9. Making a purchase decision. This can mean either signing a contract or making a direct purchase.
  10. Implementing 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. Forging 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 that help determine where he or she is. “Tell me about your situation?” “Have you looked at other solutions?” Their answers to these questions can help determine 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.

Having 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.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

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.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Step Into Your Leadership Potential

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Whatever your business model, whatever your industry, your clients are crying out for your leadership. They want you to bring a community of like-minded people together to share creative ideas and solutions. They want to hear what you have to say on the subjects which are most important to them.

They don’t want to be brainwashed or bamboozled. But there are a lot of gurus out there who are talking loudly and urging people to believe that there is only one way to get the life you want: their way. You and I know there are many paths, many creative ideas, many elegant solutions to help people create the life and business of their dreams.

But if you don’t get out there and share your knowledge, wisdom and humanity with your clients, they have no choice but to listen to people who say, “There’s only one way.”

In the film, The American President, there is an incredible soliloquy on leadership:

“People want leadership. And in the absence of genuine leadership, they will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it, they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

What your clients want is to connect with you and your ideas.

They need to hear your voice and your unique ideas. Social media is a great way to do that. By blogging, by having conversations on Facebook and Twitter, by posting your videos on YouTube and your audio podcasts on iTunes, you share what you believe in with others who want your leadership on these topics.

Networking, giving speeches, teaching classes, and writing books are other great ways to spread the word. Design a webinar or run a mastermind group. Be creative.

Be the leader they seek.

If you believe strongly in something, don’t wait for someone else to step up and share their thought leadership. YOU are a thought leader, too. If it’s important, get out there and talk about it.

  • If there are rules that need to be broken — break them.
  • If there are better ways of doing things — show us.
  • If there are injustices in the world — fix them.
  • If there are things you’re passionate about — talk about them with your community.

And if there isn’t a community yet, create one.

As Seth Godin says, “You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is: They’re waiting — we’re waiting — for you to show us where to go next.”

So go out there in any way that appeals to you, find others who think and feel like you do, and create a community. Step into your leadership role. We’re waiting for you. And we want to follow you.

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Category: Marketing
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On Being YOU in Business

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A few years ago, a client (let’s call him George) asked me whether his marketing is “professional enough.” He was worried that his text was “too personal” and didn’t make his company look like a large company.

George is a very funny, likable, insightful person. His email newsletter is extraordinarily humorous and real. He’s always telling stories about himself and his nutty family in his articles, then relates those stories to the point of the article. George exposes who he really is to his customers and prospects, and they love him for it.

People are so numb to all the marketing that’s coming to them. Let’s face it, we ignore a lot of email and offers that come our way. When I asked George what his open rate was on this email newsletter (“open rate” means the number of people who actually open his email as a percentage of the total number he sent), he said his open rate was 75%!! Wow!!! In this day and age when 20% open rate is considered industry average, 75% blows me away.

You really want to form a personal connection with your customers and prospects. It’s crucially important for you to be you, whether you’re crazy or serious, spiritual or pragmatic. Let people know who you are and what you’re all about. Don’t try to hide behind a corporate exterior. Professional, yes, but not distant, remote or unapproachable. If there is more than one person in your business, it’s okay to say “we,” but don’t say “we” if it’s only you. (Why hide that you’re a one-person business? It’s a tremendous asset to be a one-person business!)

I’m so tired of faceless companies and I bet you are, too. I’m not saying that you should expose all your personal problems and foibles which might detract from your message, but exposing your personality really helps to build relationships. It’s a little scary to let people know who you really are, but it’s also honest and full of integrity.

Me? I’m a lot of things, some of which you already know, and some that might be a surprise:

  • I love being self employed. I’m an evangelist about it.
  • I adore being in nature and hate crowded, polluted places. The photo above is my husband and I one autumn, at the top of a mountain we hiked. We’ve hiked all over the place, from Cornwall, England to Yosemite National Park, and will continue to enjoy nature until the last breath leaves our bodies. :).
  • We bought a house in the country so that we could be in nature always. It’s heaven. Okay, the deer eating my flowers isn’t heaven, but the rest of it is.
  • I have a distinctive laugh that people seem to enjoy. Which is cool, because I love to laugh! My sister and I have the exact same laugh, and when we get together the energy escalates through the roof.
  • My family is loving, warm, supportive and totally insane. I couldn’t live without them.
  • My spirituality is simple: I believe we all are here for a reason, we all have gifts to give, and it’s our responsibility as humans (and souls) to give these gifts to the world.
  • I get angry at people who are being mean to others. Or are lying to others.
  • I love to share what I know, and when I learn something new, I love to tell others about it. This is sometimes annoying to my family who really don’t care about business plans or internet marketing. Spoil sports.

What about you? Who are you and what’s unique about you? What are you going to share with your customers?

So go ahead, be YOU!

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Category: Marketing
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Hand-Milked by Amish Farmers

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A few years ago in the grocery store, I had an epiphany of the effectiveness of marketing message and marketing differentiation.

My husband loves cheese — specifically cheddar cheese. He swoons over the decision about which cheese to purchase. He’ll stand in front of the display of cheeses in the market for ages and ages, reading each and every label, like he was choosing the next Nobel Prize winner.

I laughed so hard, my stomach hurt, when he rationalized his latest cheese-buying decision:

“Look. Right here on the label is says ‘Hand milked by Amish farmers.’ It must be great cheese.”

‘Nuff said.

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Category: Marketing
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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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