If You Build It, Will They Come?

In B-to-B marketing, decision makers (and influencers) are always gathering information about products before they take the next step in the sales cycle. So how do you make sure they have access to, and get, what they need and want? Many corporate websites are chock full of product information—but often located in disparate locations. For a cold prospect, landing on the website home page makes information gathering a daunting, time consuming task.

In B-to-B marketing, decision makers (and influencers) are always gathering information about products before they take the next step in the sales cycle. So how do you make sure they have access to, and get, what they need and want?

Many corporate websites are chock full of product information—but often located in disparate locations. For a cold prospect, landing on the website home page makes information gathering a daunting, time consuming task.

Instead, build a resource center, and organize it such that your target can find and consume it quickly and easily. If you’re targeting key verticals, then organize your site by vertical industry. Then, within each vertical, organize your whitepapers, case studies, product spec sheets, etc.

Use your outbound marketing efforts to drive targets to that microsite. To determine who is visiting and downloading information, “lock” your pages and require visitors to register before they can access the information. Yes, you will get a few “Mickey Mouse” registrants, but those who are most serious are happy to share who they are—if you don’t ask that pesky “how soon are you looking to purchase?” question. Of course we’ve all figured out that you’ll be calling us first if we answer “within 1 month!”

Be sure to have a plan in place to get a list of who has been visiting your Resource Center every day—and a plan as to how to follow up with these leads. There is NOTHING more annoying than getting a phone call that says “You downloaded a white paper last month and I’m calling to see if you want more information.” My response is “I download lots of whitepapers—I can’t even remember which whitepaper you’re talking about, so no, I’m not interested.”

A better follow up plan is to have a real reason to follow up—an invitation to a webinar where a professional user of the product is talking about his/her experience with the product. Or an invitation to a breakfast briefing where some C-level is going to talk about how his/her business was transformed (and the product was part of the solution).

Business leaders are always seeking ideas and ways to make their business more productive. But if you make them do all the work to find out how, or where, they may show up the first time, but they will not come back. Ever.

A LinkedIn Profile Call to Action

LinkedIn profile pages contain areas where a call to action should be placed, such as the publications and summary sections. Are you linking out to landing pages that generate leads? Let’s make sure you are using calls to action to the fullest—to generate more response from prospects. Here are some tips on the best spots to place effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

LinkedIn profile pages contain areas where a call to action should be placed, such as the publications and summary sections. Are you linking out to landing pages that generate leads? Let’s make sure you are using calls to action to the fullest—to generate more response from prospects. Here are some tips on the best spots to place effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

Where to Place a LinkedIn Call to Action
You can make a call to action anywhere in your LinkedIn profile. Literally. But there are areas that will get more response than others. The publication section and multimedia (sub-section) of my profile summary generates most of my leads. Your main choices are:

  • Publications
  • Projects
  • Summary
  • Multimedia (video, images, presentations) sub-sections
  • Activity and Volunteering/Causes

Publications: Not Just for Authors
Yes, if you have a book, paper or any kind of written document, this section is ripe for a call to action. Content marketers: This section is for you.

However, you don’t need to be an author to take advantage of the publications section. You can drive traffic to any kind of landing page or product page. There are no restrictions on what a “publication” can be.

All you need is a crisp, clear call to action using text. I also use text symbols to catch the eye.

But what landing page do you need to send prospects to? For example, I have books and written publications for sale on my website AND available free. I use the publication section of my profile to link to my book at Amazon (to drive sales) … but I also link to my free Chapter 1 download page that generates more lucrative business leads.

I also send prospects to landing pages with lead generation offers and sales pages for my most popular LinkedIn sales training and coaching products. The publications section is a flexible space to make your LinkedIn profile call to action.

Your Turn
Do you give away free trials, eBooks or “free tastes” of a product or service in exchange for a name and email address? Do you have lead generation landing pages for free publications or tutorials? How about product pages?

The publications section allows you to create a call to action right in a big, bold hyperlink (Title) along with a short description of what can be expected at the other side of the link.

How to Do it in 7 Quick Steps
To add a publication with call to action:

  1. Click on Edit Profile and look in the right hand column. You’ll see a “Recommended for You” section featuring a handful of optional sections, including Publications. Click it.
  2. Use the “Name” field for your LinkedIn profile call to action. Use symbols to call attention to your call to action. You may also use capital letters.
  3. Select Occupation (your most relevant job position).
  4. Select Date (the current date is fine or add the date your publication was published).
  5. Publication URL: Place the URL of your landing page here!
  6. Author: Select yourself.
  7. Description: Use this space to place more specific trigger words—words that speak to exactly what your target prospect wants more than anything else. Entice them to click!

Examples of calls to action from my profile include: “free online training … make your blog sell for you” and “how to make social media sell for you.”

Always Use ‘Trigger Words’
Always use good copywriting tactics. This part is critical to success. Trigger words encourage prospects to take action—drive them to your best content marketing landing pages. Use phrases like:

  • Get all the details
  • Call me, email me
  • Discover fresh tips
  • See examples here
  • Start here (this one is very powerful believe it or not!)

Remember: You can make a call to action anywhere in your LinkedIn profile. However, there will be spots that get better response.

Do you have good, pithy, action-oriented video content? Do they make calls to action using, for example, YouTube annotations embedded in video? Us the Multimedia sub-section of you or your sales team’s profile. Get on the stick. Make your LinkedIn profile call to action today. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

7 Steps to a Better B-to-B Landing Page

Despite years of practice with digital campaigns, B-to-B marketers still have trouble getting their landing pages to work as hard as they could. I am not sure why, since there’s nothing more important to capturing the responses from outbound messages and kicking off a relationship with prospects. You could say the landing page is where your campaign pays off. But I am still seeing obvious errors

Despite years of practice with digital campaigns, B-to-B marketers still have trouble getting their landing pages to work as hard as they could. I am not sure why, since there’s nothing more important to capturing the responses from outbound messages and kicking off a relationship with prospects. You could say the landing page is where your campaign pays off. But I am still seeing obvious errors. So herewith I offer a seven-point checklist of landing page best practices. And I invite readers to add some of their own recommendations.

1. Connect the landing page directly to the outbound message. When respondents click through to the landing page, they should experience a seamless flow from one to the other. The outbound message—whether a SEM ad, an email, a direct mail piece or even a print ad—should act like the teaser, to motivate the recipient to click or type in the landing page URL. The role of the landing page is to close on the deal, the same way a salesperson asks for the order. So the two formats should act as one, working together to move the prospect along. If they are disjointed—whether through design or copy inconsistency—the momentum is lost.

2. Create a fresh landing page for each variable in your campaign. OK, I know this means work. But the effort that goes into the outbound message should be equaled or exceeded when crafting the response vehicle. If you are doing an A/B test on your creative or your offer, you need two landing pages. Plan for it.

3. Mobile-enable your landing page. No excuses. The dramatic rise in tablet and smartphone use cannot be ignored. As any direct marketer will tell you: Don’t get in the way. If you put up any obstacles, your response rate will inevitably be lower. A landing page that is engineered for ease of use on mobile devices is no longer a nice to have; it’s a must.

4. Prepopulate the form where possible. If your outbound message includes digital information about the respondents, don’t make them retype their data.

5. Ask for the minimal amount of information you need to take the next step in the relationship. The more elements you require, the lower your response rate. So ask yourself, “How will asking for this piece of information change the way I deal with the inquiry?” If the answer is, “It won’t,” then hold that query for a later stage in the relationship.

6. Develop a culture of constant testing. Any responsive vehicle benefits from continuous improvement. Your landing page is the perfect place to test copy, offer, layout and other variables like the number of data elements you ask for. Do it, don’t duck it.

7. Follow landing page design best practices. Hubspot offers some excellent tips in this area. Remember that the purpose of a landing page is to drive an action. So everything you do-the copy, the offer, the layout, the graphics-must focus on that end.

I welcome your ideas on how to improve landing page results.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.

Help! I’m Being Stalked by a Bathtub!

As a marketing agency, we’re always recommending different media channels to our clients depending on the product, the target audience demographics, marketing goals, etc. And, like many of you, I thought online retargeting was a clever way of “helping” to remind browsers that since they had been interested in a product/service at one point, they might still be interested in making a purchase from that site, so a little tap on the shoulder seemed like a clever way to stay top of mind. Until it happened to me.

As a marketing agency, we’re always recommending different media channels to our clients depending on the product, the target audience demographics, marketing goals, etc. And, like many of you, I thought online retargeting was a clever way of “helping” to remind browsers that since they had been interested in a product/service at one point, they might still be interested in making a purchase from that site, so a little tap on the shoulder seemed like a clever way to stay top of mind. Until it happened to me.

Retargeting, for those of you who may not know, involves having an advertiser drop a cookie into the consumer’s browser which enables the advertiser to follow that consumer around and display an ad for the advertiser after they’ve left the original site.

The logic is sound, the process is relatively simple, and it seems to make good marketing sense. Before it happened to me, I equated it to shoe shopping. I visit a store and see a pair of shoes I like. I try them on, but since I haven’t really looked in a lot of other shoe stores yet, I decide to put off the purchase until I’ve looked at all my options. But in the back of my head a little voice keeps whispering, “Those black patent kitten heels were perfect—even if they were $100 more than you wanted to spend.” I may or may not go back to that first store to get them but I do think about those shoes for quite a while—and with my luck, I return to the store only to find they are now sold out in my size.

But if I was shopping online and the shoes I liked were at Retailer A, I’m now seeing ads for those shoes no matter where I cruise on the Internet. Yep. Those black patents are now stalking me. Not whispering, but shouting out to “come back!”

However, I must confess that my recent stalking incident was not about shoes at all, but about bathtubs.

My husband and I are remodeling a bathroom, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time searching for the perfect bathtub online. Yesterday I actually placed an expensive bathtub in my shopping cart and proceeded to check out, but at the 11th hour started thinking that maybe my contractor could purchase the same tub for a better price. So I abandoned my cart. And in the process, it seems, launched obsessive tracking behavior that could only be rivaled by a professional stalker.

No matter what site I visited while researching client-related work, bathtubs kept appearing. Some were in the upper right hand corner of the page, so as I scrolled down the page they would disappear from view. Whew!

Others seemed to travel down the page with me … tumbling tub over tub with prices flashing, offers blazing and the lure of a long, hot soak compelling me to glance … nay linger … on the designer tub dangling within the reach of a mouse click.

But since I had no intention of completing the purchase transaction without the nod from my contractor, the ads seemed to get more annoying than helpful as the day went on. At one point, a colleague was looking over my shoulder while we were reviewing some online research. After looking at the page for about five minutes, she pointed to the tub ad and commented, “That tub reminds me—did you finish remodeling your bathroom yet?”

Intellectually I understand why retargeting is so valuable. Statistics show that 95 percent of users leave a site without making a transaction, and the ones retargeted are 70 percent more likely to complete a purchase, so it makes perfect sense to retarget.

However the default setting for most retargeting platforms is 30-90 days, so if you’re planning to include retargeting in your marketing mix, think carefully about cookie duration and ad fatigue. Because right now, my fatigue is only off-set by the dream of a long, hot soak in my new tub—cookie-free.

Marketing: It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. The guy poses a simple question to the kids, like “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?” The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. “I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis. Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. If you’ve been living under a rock and missed them, the guy poses a simple question to the kids like, “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?”

The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis.

Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I always laugh out loud at these spots because it reminds me of so many of the focus groups I’ve witnessed over the years, and the commercial’s message, “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” could be the lesson for many marketers these days.

There are plenty of large, complex brands out there that require lots of intricate strategies and tactics against many different audiences. But many smaller brands have yet to heed the old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) message that we learned in marketing class many moons ago.

I recently received a direct mail package that directed me to a URL to download a whitepaper. Since I was interested in the topic, I visited the URL. But when I arrived, I couldn’t find any mention of the whitepaper, even though I scoured the home page.

Yesterday I clicked on a link in an email to download another whitepaper and it took me to a dedicated registration page that asked four or five simple questions before I could download. So far, so good.

But after completing the form, I ended up on another, differently designed page, asking for most of the same information before I could complete the download. Huh?

Last week I got a phone call from a sales rep telling me he was following up on the package he sent me. When I told him I had no memory of receiving it, he mumbled something that sounded like “damn marketing people” and then said he’d have to call me back. Wha—?

As AT&T states, “It’s not complicated”—so why are so many marketing efforts such a chocolate mess?

Here are the 2 marketing rules I always try to live by:

  • Make It Easy: Think about your target and what you want them to do. Then make it easy for them to do it. That includes forms (I once challenged an insurance client on the # of questions required on an app for a quote and was able to reduce it from 26 to 6).
  • Demand Quality: Always proof (don’t get me started) and impose a rigid QC process. For example, test blast your emails and check all the links before you launch the program to your customer/prospect base. If I get one more email addressed to “Dear (Client)” or “Dear Marc,” I’m going to scream.

If you make sure you incorporate those principles into your marketing workflow, you might be surprised at the difference it can make.

And as my Dad used to say “Just use the ol’ noggin’…”

Landing Pages: This Worked, That Didn’t

Nothing derails an email conversion faster than the wrong landing page. Good emails tell a story to the recipient. It may be the story of a sale, how things work or what’s going on. Whatever the story, it needs to flow continuously from beginning to end. Any break introduces distractions that can divert the participant from the preferred action. Today we are reviewing emails and their landing pages from two companies that offer home improvement items for this edition of “This Worked, That Didn’t.”

Nothing derails an email conversion faster than the wrong landing page. Good emails tell a story to the recipient. It may be the story of a sale, how things work or what’s going on. Whatever the story, it needs to flow continuously from beginning to end. Any break introduces distractions that can divert the participant from the preferred action.

Every component of an email has a simple purpose: Move the person reading it to the next step. The purpose of the subject is to motivate the recipient to open the email. Once opened, the content should be a continuation of the subject and provide information for the next step.

Today we are reviewing emails from two companies that offer home improvement items for this edition of “This Worked, That Didn’t.” The emails—found in the Email Campaign Archive—are similar in content and creative, but very different in execution. The challengers are Build.com and Rejuvenation.

Both emails have a do-it-yourself subject line. Build.com uses “Make Your Outdoors a Masterpiece” and Rejuvenation has “Update a Hardworking Bath with Lighting, Hardware, and Accessories.” Recipients gearing up for home improvement projects would find the subjects appealing.

The Rejuvenation email (Image 1) has a photo of the beautiful bathroom. The copy at the top of the photo reads: “Hardworking Spaces: Bathroom Simple, warm, practical – a rustic bath will stand the test of time.” A button under the copy has a link to “Shop Bathroom.”

Clicking on the link takes the potential buyer to a landing page (Image 2) that continues the story started in the email. The same image is featured in the email and on the landing page. The headline on the landing page, “Time-Tested Bathroom,” is consistent with the copy from the email. The copy following the headline says:

For a bathroom that stands the test of time, consider borrowing design ideas from that other hardworking space: the kitchen. An apron-front sink and butcher-block counters stand up to just about anything, and will only get better with age. Burnished metals with a timeworn patina suit this understated aesthetic perfectly. Try a pair of Kent wall brackets in Antique Copper and beaded mirrors in Bronze finish for warmth and sparkle.

Featured products continue the story immediately following the copy. This is an excellent example of using an email to move people from their inbox to the shopping cart.

The build.com email starts out well too. It has a photo (Image 3) of an exquisite house with a sunset backdrop and beautiful lighting. The copy tweaks the subject line into “Make Your Outdoors an Oasis.” The button at the bottom of the image reads, “Get Started,” creating an expectation of additional information on how to get this look. There is another link at the lower left corner that is barely visible. It reads, “Sea Gull Outdoor Lighting.” One expects that the link will take you directly to the lighting used at this house.

The beautifully crafted email takes a surprising turn when you click on the Get Started link. Instead of information on how to create the look or the products used, the landing page is the company’s outdoor department (Image 4). The first thing you see is a lawnmower. Scroll about halfway down a very long page and you’ll find information on how to light up your night. Before you get there, you pass a video on grilling and the segment on indoor living outdoors. Only the most dedicated email recipients will search the page for the information they’re seeking.

The Sea Gull Outdoor Lighting link is also disappointing. Instead of going to the product page, the potential customer is taken to the outdoor department. Getting to the featured item requires choosing from thirteen outdoor lighting links or doing a site search. There is nothing easy about finding the items featured in the email. A search of “Sea Gull Outdoor Light” yields 2,606 products. Good luck finding the ones featured in the email.

The winner of the landing page challenge is Rejuvenation. To insure that your emails are always on the winning side:

  • Make links take people to the page they expect to see. If you don’t have an appropriate page, either build one or change the email message.
  • Keep the path from first click to checkout as short as possible. The longer the path, the more likely people will leave.
  • Tell a continuous story. Continuity keeps people moving forward. A good story answers questions at the right time and removes all resistance to completing the final call to action.

Are You Buying ‘Smart Media?’

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Sadly, with most online advertising experiences, the lagging partner is typically the business owner by no real fault of his or her own … it’s simply from sheer lack of industry knowledge and media savoir-faire.

I’ve been buying online ad space for more than a decade. Here are my personal powerful and money saving tips to buying smart media. These are “must ask” questions that will help you get the most bang for your buck:

1. Competitive analysis—Find out what the typical industry rate is for that particular ad spot and placement in your niche. For instance, if you’re interested in running a 300×250 banner ad, do some research. Call some ad networks and find out what that ad unit costs on the home page and ‘”run of site” within your target niche. What ad units typically get the best clickthrough rates (also known as CTR)? Read some online e-zines or blogs and get an idea on average metrics so you have a benchmark to measure your campaign against.

2. Ad targeting—Find out if the publisher allows day parting (running ad during specific time periods). This can save you money on ad rates, especially using the CPM (cost per thousand) pricing model.

3. Dedicated email—Find out the size of the list you’re thinking of renting, the frequency the list goes out, and the average unit sale (AUS) per subscriber. Ask the publisher who’s mailing for you if there will there be a lift note (an introduction or implied endorsement). Lift notes help “warm up” the list (subscribers) and boost conversions.

4. Out clause—Ask your account executive if the media agreement has an out clause or termination right. This is important as if your campaign is not working, you don’t want to have to ride it out and waste money. You want the ability to end it and cut your losses. Also find out if you can pause your ad during a slow traffic times (i.e. summer, holidays) as not to waste impressions (CPM).

5. Reporting—Ask your account executive if you will be given daily/weekly reporting OR access to the online ad serving system. This will allow you real-time access to clickthrough rates and more to evaluate if creative (banner and landing page) is striking a chord with the target audience.

6. Seasonality—Each industry and niche has its highs and lows. But, generally speaking, it’s typical to see drops in website traffic during summer (June to Aug.) and around certain U.S. holidays. Research your industry and use consumer purchase behavior to your advantage. For instance, in some industries, the days around Thanksgiving are slower than usual. If you’re running a campaign that falls on this timeframe, ask about getting lower rates or pausing your ad during the slowdown. DoubleClick and ClickZ are great sources of information and often release quarterly consumer Web reports on buying patterns and traffic.

7. Exclusivity—Similar to economies of scale (where the more that’s produced, the cheaper the unit price), if your banner ad is sharing space with other advertisers for less “solo” time, you should be paying less. It’s important to ask whether your ad will get 100 percent of the rotations or sharing ad exposure. And if sharing, find out what percentage of exposure you are ultimately getting during your ad run. This is known as being “fixed ad placement” or “shared ad placement.” If you’re told you have shared placement, this is a great bartering tool to get a more competitive rate.

8. Site targeting—You’ve heard in real estate it’s always about location, location, location, right? Well, online real estate is no different. Find out if your ad will be run of site (ROS), run of channel (ROC) or on specific high-traffic pages. Typically, the further you drill down, the more you pay. It’s known as “site targeting.” Similarly, the higher you go up, the less you pay. ROS is the highest (most broad) level, so it’s usually the cheapest ad location. Next is usually ROC, whose ads appear on certain channels or sections of a website. Then there are also specific pages or demographic targeting. Your goals and budget will determine which placement is best for your needs.

9. Remnant space—Often the forgotten about query, remember to ask if remnant space is available. Remnant ads are those ad units that the publisher or ad network is having a difficult time selling for whatever reason. They can also be last-minute specials or units that are now available due to another deal falling through. With more popular, high-traffic websites, you can save a fortune buying remnant media. Just pay close attention to the terms and conditions in the insertion order, as with most special deals, there are usually restrictions and little leeway.

All of these factors will help determine the value of your ad space and, ultimately, the cost you’re willing to pay to access that audience. Good luck!

Boost Your Website Sales: 8 Simple E-commerce Tips That Really Work

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert? This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert?

This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

Here are a few things you could do to boost online sales and gain loyal customers. These can be applied and refined for most any business, industry or niche:

1. Make Sure Your SSL Seal And Other Consumer-Trust Logos Are Prominent. SSL or secure socket layer is a sign that the site is encrypted … that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most e-commerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe and others. It’s a good practice to display the vendor’s 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. Other logos that are in plain view and are anchors on each page of your website can also instill confidence with potential buyers. Some may require membership or purchase, when applicable, and may include Better Business Bureau (“BBB”), PayPal Verified, Authorize.net Verified Merchant and virus protection software (i.e. “McAfee Secure”). Also, if you accept credit cards and have a money back guarantee, there’s nothing more powerful than strong, eye-catching graphic image icons, such as “100% Money Back Guarantee” or “We Accept All Major Credit Cards” (than have images of Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover).

2. Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Response Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5 percent to 10 percent if they order online versus by phone, fax or mail. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees, such as telesales or order entry personnel. These Web-only specials can be highlighted on your homepage via a banner ad, as well as on your product pages near qualified items.

3. Offer Free Shipping. Many e-tailers already factor all or a portion of shipping into the retail price of an item as part of their COGS (cost of goods sold). If you are truly offering free shipping, already factored shipping into the product’s cost, or are simply having a limited time free shipping special—if you’re offering it, mention it—big and bold on your home page. Free shipping offers have a huge psychological affect on consumers when they’re comparing competitor’s products and websites. In addition to product quality and value, offering free shipping can make all the difference regarding the final purchase decision.

4. Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or indicate next to select items “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item.” Also, have some glowing customer testimonials or reviews next to the product itself for potential prospects to see. Sites like Amazon, Babies”R”Us and others are pros at this strategy as well as using ratings and ‘Likes’ to convey a product’s popularity. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. as well as see that it’s popular with the masses. Seeing a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product provides validation and a feeling of comfort to a consumer. In addition to helping the conversion rate, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.

5. Advertise Products in Google Shopping (formerly Google Product Search, and before that, Froogle). http://www.google.com/shopping is a free product information platform from Google where you can post a single item or submit a data feed. Your products will appear in Google Product search and may also appear in Google.com search results, depending on keywords used. This is simple and easy way to increase your product’s visibility and market share.

6. Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. Sounds obvious, but many folks overlook their catalog and product pages. 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.

7. Have a Special Coupon Code “Call Out” On Your Home Page. This is a best practice with online fashion retailers who typically have a banner ad or interstitial ad on their homepage stating something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234.” But this concept can be applied to virtually any industry. This is another great way to offer a special discount for your online customers that makes them feel good about the purchase. You can also encourage viral activity by having “forward to friend” or “share” create viral marketing. Make sure to have some great intro copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family and colleagues.”

8. Consider Payment Plans. For higher-ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. HSN.com and QVC.com have mastered this. If an item is, let’s say, $200, you might want to offer a flex pay option 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.

It’s all about being strategically creative and taking the consumer’s point of view into account regarding e-comm strategies. Remember to keep testing methods that help improve sales and drive prospects to your storefront.

Make note of when you implement new tactics and then after a month of being live. Compare sales results year-over-year to see if your efforts had made an improvement. I’m confident that you will see a positive difference in your online conversion rates.

Email Marketing to Acquire High Quality Facebook Fans

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

Encouraging people who subscribe to your emails to join your social networks is a best practice because it significantly improves the quality of your fan base. The process is more challenging than it used to be because Facebook eliminated the option for custom landing pages. It can still be done, but there are a few issues with the experience. The email from Belk Department Stores (the first picture in the media player at right) provides a good example.

There are several components that make this a good email for motivating people to cross channels. They are the same items that make all emails more successful at generating a response.

  • The email includes a specific call to action with a reward for connecting via Facebook.
  • There are multiple opportunities to click and connect via Facebook and other channels.
  • The primary promotion is the focus while secondary options are available.
  • The offer is time sensitive.
  • There are clickable links for shopping categories.
  • A web link is available if the email images aren’t available.
  • Unsubscribe, preferences, and privacy links offer control to the recipient.
  • Alternate text for images to encourage people to download images or visit webpage

Three days after sending this email, 16,708 new fans have joined Belk’s network and 34,465 coupons were claimed. How could this be if “liking” the brand is required to claim the coupon? Remember the issues mentioned earlier?

The ability to gate the coupon disappeared when Facebook eliminated custom landing pages. It is technically impossible to require someone to like the page before receiving the coupon. This means that the coupon is available to anyone who visits the page and explains why more coupons were claimed than fans acquired.

If an email increases fans and sales, it is successful even when the two aren’t codependent. The loss of the custom landing page requires good communication on how to access the coupon. Clicking the link in the email takes the recipient to Belk’s Facebook timeline. Scrolling down is required to see the offer. Obviously people are finding it because thousands have claimed the coupon. The unanswered question is how many more would have been claimed if the offer were more obvious?

What if the Belk Rewards tab was temporarily replaced with a 20 percent off offer so it appeared above the fold?

The functionality of the Belk coupon promotion is provided by Facebook. When someone clicks “Get Offer” an email is sent with the offer code. Whether you choose to use Facebook’s advertising products or do it yourself, here are some tips for making it successful:

  • Follow the best practices used in the example email.
  • Tell people how to claim to coupon in the email.
  • Put information about the promotion above the fold so people see it when they land on the page.
  • Include the expiration date on the Facebook post to increase the sense of urgency.
  • Test different strategies and measure everything.

Measuring the results for fan acquisition is a challenge because there is limited data available. Email metrics are much easier to acquire. If you have good benchmarks you can gather enough information to gain insight to the results from fans and Facebook activity.

There is a tendency in social media to acquire quantity over quality. When the focus is the number of fans instead of the relationship, the return is minimal. The best strategy is to encourage top customers to cross channels and join your networks. They will share your information with friends and family. This introduces your company to the people most likely to support your business.