Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part III

My last two posts, part one and part two, focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics that were covered included free online press release distribution best practices and social marketing secrets for stronger visibility.

My last two posts, part one and part two, focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics that were covered included free online press release distribution best practices and social marketing secrets for stronger visibility.

This final post in the series will share some powerful, yet easy, ideas to help build your list and boost website performance.

Enjoy!

Question: What can I do to start building a list of qualified leads?
Answer: Creating free content is a great way to give something and get something in return. You’re offering free, powerful editorial content. And, in return, you’re asking for an email address from the reader. Creating this type of content isn’t just good for acquisition efforts, it’s also good for branding and establishing you as an expert within your niche. You can then leverage your free content to build your list (prospect database). Your list is your key to future sales. Growing and cultivating your list through editorial is a proven business model from top online publishers. It’s a great way to bond with … and cross-sell to … your readers. And this helps create a loyal following. And, from there, the sky is the limit!

Question: What are some tips to boost sales and eCommerce performance?
Answer: No matter what you’re selling, whether it’s products or a service (i.e. copywriting, freelancing, consulting) you should always have a variety of price points for customers at every level. Offering front-end products and back-end products gives you room to bring in a customer at a low level and up-sell them. As far as eComm ideas:

  • Make Sure Your SSL Seal is Prominent. This is a sign that the site is encrypted … that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most eCommerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe, etc.. It’s a good practice to display the vendors’ logo on your order page, as well as make sure in the browser window the “https” or image of a lock is present. This is a clear and comforting sign to consumers that they can order online with confidence.
  • Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Order Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5 percent to 10 percent. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees such as telesales or order entry personnel.
  • Offer Free Shipping. Many eTailers already factor shipping into their published price, so when there’s a big, flashing banner next to the item saying “free shipping” it gives consumers that extra little push to move forward with the transaction. It boils down to basic psychology. Everyone likes to feel like they’re getting something for free.
  • Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or next to select items that says “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item.” Also, have some glowing customer testimonials next to the product. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. To see a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product is a validation and comforting feeling. In addition to helping the conversion, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.
  • Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. After doing some keyword research on actual search behavior for your product, refine your meta description, meta keywords and title tag of your product pages. This will help consumers find your product in the organic listing of search engine results.
  • Have a Special Coupon Code Banner on Your Home Page. Something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234.” This makes consumers feel good about the purchase. In addition, encourage viral activity by having a “forward to friend” text link that opens an Outlook email window with the coupon or coupon code. Make sure to have some great promotional copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family, and colleagues.”
  • Consider Payment Plans. For your higher ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. If an item is $200, you might want to offer a flex pay of “6 easy payments of $33.33” that is conveniently auto-billed to their credit card. Just be diligent when calculating your payment prices, as well as creating your return/refund policy for these items. The general rule is that your actual production costs/hard costs should be covered in the first one to three payments.

Best Online Marketing Practices for a ‘Bionic’ Business: Part II

My last post focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics covered were free online press release distribution best practices, as well as some social marketing secrets for stronger visibility. Today’s post will continue with some more great tips to excel at social marketing. Happy reading!

[Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series of three blog posts.]

My last post focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics covered were free online press release distribution best practices, as well as some social marketing secrets for stronger visibility.

Today’s post will continue with some more great tips to excel at social marketing. Happy reading!

Question: Which social marketing platform is better, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook?

Answer: I have personally found that Facebook and LinkedIn convert better. And by that I mean the friends and followers interact more and take action by website traffic, ezine sign up or becoming a client/customer.

Facebook and LinkedIn have more character limitations (420 or so characters per post) as well as a variety of features so you can say more, bond more and sell more to your audience.

Twitter has very strict character limitations (140 characters) making it difficult to have more than a superficial relationship with your followers. With Twitter, you run the risk of getting more unqualified, irrelevant followers just looking for a reciprocal follow. Test them all to see what’s right for you.

Question: What can I do in Twitter to help increase my presence?

Answer: Keep your Tweets useful, relevant and entertaining. This helps popularity and follower engagement. Tweet often, such as several times per day. Generally, the best time to tweet is 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET. To find out when is the best time for you and when your followers are online, there’s some great free tools such as: http://www.whentotweet.com, http://tweetwhen.com, or http://timely.is/#/. Select and use an eye-catching profile image so your tweets grab attention and stand out from all the other ‘Timeline’ background noise. Reply to people if they RT or mention you. This shows gratitude and helps with bonding and frequency of future RTs and mentions. Use hashtags (#) with targeted keywords, to help visibility in search results. Make sure you have a keyword rich and relevant Twitter bio so the ‘right’ people can find and follow you as well as you can show up in their ‘Who To Follow’ search results. Text is limited, so pick your descriptive keywords carefully in your Twitter bio. More free Twitter tools are at http://justtweetit.com/twitter-tools/.

Question: What are the success secrets to social marketing?

Answer: Social marketing is all about interaction with your community of like-minded individuals so for the best results, try to be:

  • Aware—Know each social media community’s law of the land.
  • Active—Don’t just go in a few times and hit members with your marketing message. Get involved. Participate in discussions.
  • Relevant—Make sure you’re posting in areas of the site that are relevant to the topic you’re discussing.
  • Genuine—Let the conversations flow organically. Contribute real, thought-provoking comments that members will find interesting.
  • Useful—Make sure you’re adding value to the site in some way.
  • Subtle—Back-links should be relevant to the post (such as a great article that you want to share with members—then enclose the link so they can read for themselves). Use links sparingly.
  • Balanced—Mix up your messages. Don’t just go into a site and start spamming away with your marketing messages. Go in. Hang out for a few weeks. Get to really know the members and the site.
  • Informative—Be aware of what’s happening in your area of interest. Be able to have intelligent discussions about different news, events, and publications under your subject matter.
  • Personable—Develop relationships with the community on both a “friend” and an expert level for your area of specialty.
  • Respectful—Sending unwanted and unsolicited email to people in your network (through the email address posted on their profile page) is spam, plain and simple. Don’t exploit community members’ personal information.

Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part I

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man. The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people. Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues.

[Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of three blog posts.]

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man.

The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people.

Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues. Little useful nuggets of information and best Internet marketing practices—all to help make your business ‘bionic’—that is—better, stronger, faster.

Today’s best practices focus on online press releases and social media marketing. Enjoy!

Question: When it comes to online press releases, I know that PRWeb.com has been the defacto standard. However, I just came across another one that appears to offer a very well-rounded option called: www.prleap.com. Have you heard of them? What do you use/recommend?

Answer: I try to use ‘free’ online press distribution services whenever possible. PRLeap used to be free, now they charge a nominal fee. They do, however, get good listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if you don’t have a budget for press distribution and you’re looking for top notch free sites, check out www.i-newswire.com, www.prlog.org, and www.free-press-release.com. I use these all the time. Another great paid press release distribution service is, PRWeb.com. They provided added distribution to traditional media outlets, publication and periodical websites. Online PR is great tactic to increase your website’s visibility for SEO and traffic generation.

Question: What are some tips for getting the best results with online PR?

Answer: With online PR, the most important things are creating a newsworthy release which is keyword dense. It should also contain useful information for your target audience as well as media and bloggers. Releases that do well with pick up are usually about a company milestone, contrarian viewpoint, trend or forecast, important statistical data, launch of something (product, book, website) and similar information. The headline and sub-headline should have your top 5 keywords. In addition, your keywords should be sprinkled throughout the body of the release. There should always be a link to the longer version, which should be housed on your website in a ‘Press Room’ or ‘News’ section. And of course, there should be an ‘About’ portion of the release containing information or bio on the focus of the release. Having a call to action in the bio section is another great way to drive readers back to your site. For instance, having a ‘For more information or to sign up for our free enewsletter, click here now’.

Question: Can social marketing efforts be measured?

Answer: Yes, they sure can. Even better, the tools are all free and based off of good old fashioned direct response and public relations metrics—the 3 O’s-outputs, outcomes and objectives.

The tools are all free and based off of the 3 O’s:

  • Outputs measure effectiveness and efficiency. For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic and ezine sign ups the days following social media efforts.
  • Outcomes measure behavioral changes. For example, for this metric, I’d look at customer feedback… emails, phone calls, or website comments following social marketing efforts, and ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on posted articles. Relevant Google Alert results.
  • Objectives measures business objectives and sales. For example: The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial that may be linked to your social marketing efforts.

For each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance.

Question: Do I need to market my social media accounts? Won’t people find me with the right keywords.

Answer: Not really. You DO need to market your social media accounts. Sure the right keywords in your account profile and bio page will help, but think of your social marketing efforts as an extension of your brand and implement ‘social marketing branding’. Remember to include your social media account profile name, link, or icon in most everything you do:

  • Email auto signature
  • Ezine issues
  • RSS Feeds
  • Website home page
  • Business cards
  • PowerPoint Presentation cover page, footers and end slide
  • Press releases
  • Cross-market on other social sites

Is Blogging the Online Dinosaur?

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead. I beg to differ. 

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead.

When I asked what made her make such a profound blanket statement, she responded that with the increasing popularity of social marketing, as well as the inundation of free ezines (or free e-magazines), blogs have become the online dinosaur.

I beg to differ.

You see, each platform has its own communication style; thereby, attracting different types of readers:

  • Blogging is a more raw experience for the reader. Informal undertones which are unedited and uncut. Giving the inside scoop.
  • E-newsletters or similar still contain valuable information, but the content is more polished and editorial in nature.
  • Social marketing is typically a combination of short, pithy posts that are fun, friendly, or business-related. Sound bites that grab attention and allow followers see the writer as both guru and virtual friend.

When it comes to marketing, I never like to put all my eggs into one basket. I don’t totally use social marketing as my platform of choice. Nor do I totally rely on email marketing or blogging as a prime driver for sales or leads.

What I like to do is diversify my online marketing mix—similar to when you diversify your retirement portfolio—and deploy several means of organic and paid Web marketing strategies based on target audience, budget and business objective.

In addition, I like to use tactics that complement one another.

Know The Flow: Understanding “Push” vs. “Pull” Marketing
Blogging, social marketing posts, and free ezines/e-magazines (email marketing) are all conduits; that is, ways to communicate with readers albeit subscribers, friends, followers, or fans.

The initial goals of each are virtually the same: To provide information in exchange for a readers’ interest (bonding) and interaction. The information can be editorial, marketing or random thoughts. And the interaction can be in the form of a free subscription (email address), website visit, retweet, ‘Like’ or sale (cross-selling, affiliate or third-party ads).

With blogging and social marketing, you’re deploying “pull” marketing—you’re pulling people to your “home-base hub” whether it’s your blog, profile page or wall with “content nuggets.”

Once live, that content has become part of the Web and is now subject to search engine spiders and similar tactics that will help your nuggets get increased exposure in organic search results pages; thereby, pulling like-minded visitors from your “nugget” to your “hub” with more of that great useful, valuable, and actionable information such as SEO, SEM, article marketing, or what I call SONAR marketing.

Now, since these readers are seeking you out and visiting your “hub,” you don’t have a direct line of contact with them. In other words, you don’t have their direct email address and have permission to correspond with the user personally.

… Which leads to ‘push’ marketing.
E-newsletters and e-magazines are correspondence being “pushed” out to your audience. Since the direct message itself is going through an email service provider and then to a specific individual, it is not widely available on the Web for all to see (including search engine spiders) and will not show up on organic search engines results pages.

You already have the recipients’ email address, so the main purpose of your effort is typically bonding or cross-selling (via newsletter ads and solo emails in your sales funnel).

So you see, as long as there’s different ways to reach people and different ways people prefer to be reached, blogging isn’t dead. For some marketers, it may be on pause; but for smart marketers, it’s still part of the big plan.

I think, nowadays, marketers need to test all online platforms to see which one is right for their business, audience, and objectives.

Don’t rule anything out. Learn how to be strategically creative to satisfy YOUR specific goals and communication flow.

7 Customer Survey Tips, or How to Know Your Customer For Increased Leads & Profits

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC). For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. 

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC).

Knowing who your customers are—not just on a superficial level, but also on a deeper level—is fundamental for business longevity. It can help your business with most any targeted marketing efforts such as social media marketing (communities with like-minded interests), direct mail and email list selection, copywriting, media buying, affiliate marketing and more. It can also help with bottom-line goals such as bonding, lead generation and sales.

For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. Ideally, you want to survey at least two times per year, especially after large attrition or list growth.

The profile sheet is important, as it’s a quick reference of your “Joe and Jane” customers, as well as your ideal ‘target’ lead. After all, your prospecting efforts should be a reflection of your current customer base.

But surprisingly enough, not every business knows how to effectively implement and data-mine its online surveys and the respective results.

Here are some quick tips to get the best performance from your customer surveys for business growth and retention:

1. Keep surveys easy and short. The ideal length should be no longer than 10 to 20 questions and questions should be easy to answer. That means thinking of typical questions and having pre-populated multiple choice answers that only need a mouse click.

2. Go 360. Questions should cover demographics, geographics and psychographics. Also, for potential joint venture or advertising opportunities, it’s smart to also ask some competitor and purchase-behavioral type questions.

3. Segmentation is key. Send at least two separate emails to your list. One survey to paying customers and one survey to non-paying customers (leads). It will help later to have these two segments separated when you review response results. If one segment is less responsive than another, you can isolate future “bonding” strategies.

4. Offer incentives. I like to offer free, immediate and easily accessible gifts for survey participation after completion of a survey. Once users submit their last response they are redirected to a download page to free reports or similar. People are taking time out of their schedule and should be “rewarded” accordingly.

5. Be creative with the email subject line. I’ve found that response is greater if the focus of the subject line is more on the reward, rather than the goal. Readers respond better to the mention of freebies and gifts (the “what’s in it for me”), than asking for survey completion. Survey subject lines are viewed as clinical and boring, thus glared over in the inbox.

6. Embrace online tools. Use an easy, cost-effective online survey, such as SurveyMonkey.com. There’s different options and price points, varying on need and robustness. But ideally, you’d want to be able to collect emails and tie responses down to the user (email) level.

7. Allow feedback. Always have an “other” field for open comments. People like to either vent or add praise, so don’t limit them with only having all multiple choice. I tend to make this option the last question.

If you’ve set up your survey correctly where you can drill down responses to the user (email) level, you can then created “buckets” (categories) of common themes. For example, buckets could be based on RFM (recency, frequency or monetary) or on other categories such as interests.

You can then use this information for database marketing efforts and send more personalized messages to your list by group (or “bucket”). This targeted marketing approach has been proven to increase open, click, response and conversion rates by more than double!

Not surveying your list is really doing a disservice. You are not really getting to know your customers; thereby, aren’t offering your best editorial or promotional messages, or creating the best products.

If you’re truly looking for better retention, more customer engagement, and increased sales or leads, then make the time to survey your list.

If you’ve never done this before, then you’re truly leaving money on the table, my friend.