From “The ESCAPE Plan – 6 Steps to Leaving the Job You Hate by Creating a Business You Love“, by Meredith Eisenberg & Jasper Blake
ahhh….. the good old days.
Opening a business was as simple as setting up a folding table in your local park. You had a shoebox to collect money and sold the lemonade that your Mom helped you make. If you were particularly on the ball (or had parents who worked in local government) you might have spent $10 for a permit to sell lemonade in the park. Otherwise, the mechanics of running a lemonade stand are pretty basic.
Fast forward to 2020, you now run (or are starting) a virtual business with clients from all over the world. Just like a lemonade stand, you need basic infrastructure—but the mechanics are slightly different when your business is primarily online.
Of course, you can do anything more easily if you have the right tools for the job. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck in a sort of analysis paralysis when it comes to choosing the right tools for their business. Don’t let that happen to you. Read this post and get the answers you need to choose a system that will work for you.
What Do I Really Need?
Of course, it is really impossible to answer this question without knowing specifics about your business. But, generally, you need:
The other reason you need an email service is that the email services have agreements with the major Internet Service Providers to let their emails into your inbox. If you try to send emails directly from your email box, not only are you going to have to manage the unsubscribe process manually, there is a big chance that your message will end up in your client’s (or potential client’s) spam folder.
What Do I Look for in an Email or Autoresponder Service?
There are two types of email services—stand-alone or connected to a shopping cart or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of an all-in-one system v.s. a standalone system later.
First, let’s focus on the features you want to make sure you have in any email service you choose.
Now, that we know a little about the email communication side of things; let’s look at the e-commerce or shopping cart side.
How Do I Collect Money Online?
(What does a shopping cart actually do?)
From a customer perspective, buying online is a pretty straight forward venture. You go to a site, fill out a form, give your credit card number, once your credit card is accepted, you get a receipt and you can download your order (or your order is mailed to your home). The buying process actually is a three part process involving your shopping cart program (i.e. Infusionsoft or ThriveCart), a payment gateway (i.e. authorize.net), and your merchant account.
How Do You Choose Which Services to Use For Your
This depends on what you are selling and where you are in your business. There are four different types of e-commerce solutions. In this book, we’ll cover three of them. The fourth is a shopping cart for a company that has hundreds of products.
A complete back-end system includes an email component, an e-commerce component and a customer relationship manager component.
Here’s how this looks in the different stages of your business:
1. The Virtual Lemonade Stand
When you are first starting out, it is likely that you’ll start with an email service that is free for the first few hundred (or even few thousand) subscribers, and paired with a simple payment app like PayPal or Stripe.
Using PayPal on your website is very easy. You create a ‘buy now’ button in PayPal. After filling in information on the name of the product, the price, whether or not taxes are included, PayPal gives you the code to paste into the html section of your website.
PayPal also talks to a number of autoresponder services (including AWeber, MailChimp, Active Campaign). Go to the help menu of your autoresponder service and look up ‘PayPal integration’ to see if yours is one of them. If it is, your buyers will automatically be added to your email list when they purchase.
OK, you are probably saying, that sounds dead easy, why would I want to use anything BUT PayPal? Here are the disadvantages:
AWeber and MailChimp both have integrations with PayPal so that buyers end up in your email database. If your email doesn’t integrate with PayPal you can create an opt-in form for your thank you page so customers can add themselves to the list of purchasers.
Also, LeadPages (which I’ll talk about later) has paypal and email integration and could be a nice option if you are just starting out.
2. Moving Up to a Co-working Space
Eventually, if your lemonade stand is successful, you’ll want to move into a space with more amenities. Maybe you’ll go join a co-working space or rent a cubicle in a shared office space.
It is time for your own shopping cart. Our favorite shopping cart is ThriveCart. For a small lifetime fee (and no ongoing fees) ThriveCart provides a good balance of cost vs. features.
(If you buy ThriveCart through our affiliate link, we will gift you with a free “get unstuck” session to help you get your first product set up.
3. It’s Time For Your Own Office Building
Congratulations! Your business has grown and now you are on your way. You have more work than you can handle and you need a system that can help you take care of your customers so that nothing (or no-one) falls through the cracks.
At the top of the scale, are all-in-one programs that include a CRM (customer relationship management) function as well as email and e-commerce.
Until recently, powerful CRMs were only available to large companies. Now, more and more e-commerce/email systems are including a CRM component in their systems.
The advantage is that you can track, manage and automate because *everything* is in one place. Historically, the big disadvantage of the complete all-in-one system has been the price. Although, if you add the cost of all the components of a ‘cobbled together’ system, you may find that it is less expensive to move to something that includes everything you need.
We live in an age of customization. Providing highly personalized service and communication helps your clients know, like and trust you. They read your emails and feel like you are reading their mind.
This magic is possible through constantly collecting data about your customers and using it to tailor every communication your customer gets from you based on their needs. You can use your CRM to determine which customers are engaging with you so that you can offer them special deals.
Infusionsoft, Ontrapor. Kajabi, Clickfunnels and Kartra are true all-in-one systems that track your customer’s purchase clicks, social media engagement, web page visits and more — and then automatically tailor your marketing to match their actions.
Now That I Know the Basics, How Do I Choose?
We’ve covered the basics of email, shopping carts, and customer relationship management systems … now on to the good part— how do you choose the right system for you?
One of the reasons people get stuck is that they think that they are ‘marrying’ their choice of systems, rather than choosing a system to use for now (while it makes the most sense for their business). In fact, you’ll likely migrate through two or three different systems if your business is successful.
Just like moving to a new office space, there are costs involved, (lost time, lost customers, set up time). Moving when you need more features or more automation is always the right thing to do.
You should choose the system that will work for where you want to be in six months to a year. You should have some room to grow into the system, but it doesn’t make sense to invest hundreds of dollars a month on an ‘all-in-one’ system when you don’t have your first client yet. There will be plenty of time to do that later. One thing to remember though, you will lose customers in the move. Many list providers require everyone to confirm that they still want to be on your list. It can be disheartening to lose a third of your list when you change, but this is completely normal.
Plus, it has the added bonus of helping you get rid of people who no longer really still want to be on your mailing list. Think of it as pre-moving house cleaning.
Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way… here are five steps to choosing your ideal back end system.
Five Steps to Choosing Your Back End System
Know your current business systems. By spending time thinking about what your current processes are you’ll get a better idea of what you need the system to do. I guarantee you DO have processes and systems (even if they’re not written down).
And… that’s it! Now, that you have your shiny new system in place—go out there and make some money.
Tips and Inspiration:
Andrew Gunn – Keep It Simple
“The internet can be very overwhelming at first—and I have gone through this myself several times over the last 12 months. You can get a day here or a day there where you can get completely overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the thing that the internet is. It can be quite scary, because for a lot of people it can be quite technical, especially if you don’t know how to use a computer—how do I set up an opt-in page—how do you set up an autoresponder? When I was reading about all these things I did panic.
I thought that there is so much that you think that you need to know. But essentially, when it gets right down to it, there is a really really simple basic model—and if you keep reminding yourself of that simple basic model of:
Sound too daunting to do this alone? Join our Solo Biz Hacker Collective or similar type mastermind group and get some good beginning support at a reasonable price. Lean on the club to get the basics and spend the money later on for coaching when you are ready for the more advanced strategies and tactics of your business.
What does email have to do with website traffic anyway?
They seem like two separate parts of the funnel. You blog on your website to get people to your email list - from there you use email to get them back to your site to push the buy button on your sales page. Once you have people on the list - they don't need to go back to the blog... or do they?
Email is a Powerful Driver of Web Traffic
Actually, email can be a powerful driver of traffic to your website. Email is second only to organic search in driving traffic to your website. In fact, according to this research, 51% of people discover new websites through email marketing. But, beyond helping your community discover new resources, there are some definite advantages to having your community visit your website regularly.
Adding Value, Building Trust...
A typical sales funnel starts with content and ends with a sale. A good funnel is not that linear - customers are moving back and forth between your offers and content. Customers buy from people they know, like and trust. Providing consistent value to your community through your blog is an excellent way to build that trust. You can also use your content to help segment your audience. Finally, sending your audience to content is training them to click your links and take action (even if that action is not always buying something new from you.
Crowdsource Your SEO
Other than just sending traffic to your site, encouraging your list to visit your content also helps your SEO in two important ways:
Creating Your Boomerang
The easiest way to create your email - website traffic boomerang is to start sending messages with content links to your audience. I've included some sample sequences for you to download in the box below.
Here are three times to use these sequences to send content:
Do you let your subscribers know when you’ve posted something new? Use simple two-email sequence to use to send traffic to your most important new blog posts and other content.
An easy way to get traffic to a website is to offer a free download for your current subscribers. You can do that as part of a blog post - or also just by using an existing opt-in and giving the download page link in the email (your people don’t need to resubscribe - they are already on your list. If you use Active Campaign or another autoresponder that supports tagging, you can add a tag when your subscriber clicks the link to the resource to further segment them.
Using emails with links to posts or resources about different topics is a great way to both get a feel for what your list is interested in while at the same time segmenting your list so that you can send your subscribers offers that are targeted straight to them. Here are templates to use with current members, new subscribers and people who haven’t opened one of your emails in a while.
In this video Meredith shows you how to discover specific segments of your audience using the segmenting tricks available in Active Campaign. Clever stuff! And very useful.
In this video Meredith shows you how to use the conditional waiting time settings in your automated sequences to encourage readers to click a link or reply to the email. Essentially it means offering some kind of reward for doing so.
A useful way to segment an audience is by creating conditional content – ie. content specific to a particular group on your email list – often associated with particular tags. eg. People with TAG 1 see content A; people with TAG 2 see content B etc. Meredith Eisenberg of https://SoloBizHacker.com shows you how to create conditional content in Active Campaign.
Meredith shows you how to use goals in Active Campaign to take people out of an email sales sequence once they have purchased the product. There’s nothing more annoying to a customer than keep getting emails trying to sell them the product they have just purchased – it makes it really feel that you are not paying them any attention!
Recently, I asked a few of my mentors what would be their first step if their business dried up and they had to start again from scratch.
They ALL said that step one would be to start building their email list. That’s because no matter how the rules change in social media – your email list belongs to you. Even though there are many new ways to get in touch with customers including text messages, Facebook chat bots, etc. Email is still going to bring your sales over time.
It is never too soon to start building your list. Any work you put in now will be paid back many fold in the future.
That’s why I’ve developed this checklist so you can be sure you have all the right pieces in place.
Here’s what you need to get started:
An Enticing Lead Magnet
This could be an ebook, video, app, e-course or anything else that has the following characteristics:
A Compelling Opt In or Lead Page
Even though your lead magnet is free, people aren’t going to knock down your door to claim it unless you build its value. That’s why you need to create a lead page that persuades people to fill in your opt-in form.
Keep these tips in mind:
We really like Thrive Themes for lead pages.
A Reputable Autoresponder
Nowdays, it is fairly easy to find an autoresponder that will work for you without spending much money at first. Our two recommendations are Mailerlite (which is has everything you need to get started and is free up to 1,000 subscribers) and Active Campaign (which has more features than Mailerlite and is a good next step).
An Initial Autoresponder Sequence
Generally, this multipart sequence should promote your tripwire product. A tripwire is a very valuable yet inexpensive product. Keep these tips in mind:
A Commitment to Maintaining Your List
It does you no good to go through all these steps if you don’t intend to email
your list regularly. So, commit to emailing them on at least a weekly basis, and you’ll see your list profits grow!