Are you ready to hang out your shingle as an online business owner?
One of the first things you need to put in place is a mechanism for selling your service or product. Here’s a “shopping list” of what you need to get started (or to uplevel).
Your Sales Funnel
Entire books have been written about sales funnels, but here’s how a funnel traditionally works:
Your sales funnel begins with your free offers—your blog, social media updates, YouTube videos, etc. These are the things that anyone online can access at zero cost and will help people find you, get to know you.
Following that, are your free items that require an opt-in. The cost of access isn’t money, but rather an email address. These include checklists, worksheets, video training, small reports, resource guides, etc.
Below that in your funnel are low-cost items. Depending on your market, low cost might be $7 or it might be $70. Only you can determine what your “entry-level” rate is.
Next are your mid-range products, followed by those top-end, elite coaching offers, or for products, it is what Ryan Deiss calls the Profit Maximizer – eg. the $800 coffee maker sold in Starbucks.
Ideally, your sales funnel will work in conjunction with your social media, your blog, and your email autoresponders to move people from the entry level to the top products over a period of time. If you find that people opt-in for your free offer, buy your low-cost items, but don’t purchase your higher-end products consistently, you have what’s called a leaky funnel. It simply means that buyers are “escaping” your funnel at some point. Identify where your trouble spots are, and you’ll be closer to your earning potential.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with sales funnels is overthinking the funnel. When your list is small there just aren’t enough people in the funnel to justify something really complicated.
When you are just starting out, you can start with a simple funnel – that looks a bit like this
Awareness (Traffic) -> Freebie (simple lead magnet or video) -> Phone Call -> Service.
It is much easier to get one or two people to buy a service at a higher price than to sell 100 ebooks to a list of 50 people. Keep your funnel as simple as possible for as long as you can.
Your Turn: Take a minute to draw out your funnel – what do you still need to put in place to have it working for you automatically?
Upsells and Downsells – What else you got?
When a visitor lands in your cart, your relationship with her has reached a new level. If she buys, you’re in the perfect position to offer more in terms of an upsell, cross-sell, or one-time-offer.
You’ll see this in action whenever you buy from places like Amazon or Wal-Mart. Before you click the “buy” button, you’ll often see a row of items with the heading, “Customer who bought this item also bought…”
This encourages buyers to explore other, related items, and ultimately increases the average sale amount. If you have another product ready, adding an upsell or downsell is a great way to quickly add profit to each sale. A good example is when buying a camera – do you need a camera bag with that? A tripod maybe?
Our favorite shopping cart, ThriveCart has a robust system for adding upsells, downsells and even a quick “bump” offer.
But what if a customer lands in your cart and doesn’t buy? Perhaps she decided the cost was too high, or that she’s not quite ready for this product – or more likely, wants to check out the competition first. That’s the perfect opportunity to offer a downsell—a lower-priced item in the same category. Your downsell might be a “lite” version of the item she almost bought, or a self-study course rather than live training, or even an ebook instead of an on-site workshop.
The point with a downsell is to turn a “no” into a sale, even if the sale is of your lowest priced product. It’s much easier to sell to a customer than to sell to a visitor, so if your downsell converts, it’s a powerful tool.
Consider all of your products, and where it makes sense, add a downsell. Then track your cart abandonment rates and see if they improve. ThriveCart also lets you easily track cart abandonment and send prospects a series of emails through Active Campaign (or your favorite autoresponder).
The cart you choose and the method of product delivery can mean the difference between making a sale and not. While a PayPal button is really all it takes to collect payment online, it might not be enough to instill confidence in your audience.
If your ideal client is older or is used to doing business offline, she might not be comfortable with just PayPal as an option. Consider upgrading to a cart that offers credit card payments as well, so she’ll feel better about security.
ThriveCart lets you easily customize your cart color scheme for that professional, confidence, inspiring shopping experience (with more template options on the way.
Product delivery is best when handled automatically – not only for you, but for your clients as well. Imagine if you make a purchase at 8pm on a Friday evening and have to wait until Monday morning for the product to be scheduled for delivery because the seller is offline for the weekend. You won’t be thrilled with the experience, and neither will your buyers, so be sure whichever cart you choose has the capability to deliver products automatically, within minutes of purchase.
Your cart should also handle refunds, coupons, bundles and other ecommerce components with ease. Sophisticated buyers have come to expect this of the merchants they buy from, and if you don’t offer such things, you’ll very likely be passed over in favor of someone who does.
Take a look at your shopping cart setup. Does it need updating? Is it still serving you and your clients well? How could you make it better?
From the moment of purchase onward (and really, even before!) your clients and customers deserve the best support you can offer them. It begins with product delivery, which we’ve already covered, continues with follow-up and encouragement, your help desk, product updates and more.
Begin by incorporating a series of emails that encourage clients to both use the products they’ve purchased, but also participate in any groups or other live training available to them.
You can offer encouragement to your buyers whether your program runs live or is a self-study plan. Simply set up your emails in an autoresponder to go out on a regular schedule, and your clients and customers will be much more likely to not only complete your program, but to purchase others from you as well.
We email clients once they’ve purchased, but then follow up with weekly emails highlighting some of the course material. We also have an interactive membership site using Access Ally which allows customers to complete homework and get feedback from us.
Your help desk is an important part of your customer support system as well. By providing fast, courteous help, you’ll build a loyal fan base that will happily sing your praises and refer new clients to you as well.
Whether you maintain your help desk via email or with a dedicated app such as Zendesk or Help Scout, take the time to set up a FAQ page. This will help your buyers find the answers they need without you having to spend time responding to easily answered queries. For those questions that do require an answer from your team, canned responses can easily take care of 80% or more of the tickets you receive. Not only that, but you can (and should) craft your responses to gently nudge your readers more deeply into your funnel.
Those are the three main parts of the sales system. What do you need to add in order to see more sales?
Sometimes I feel like my relationship with Active Campaign is a bit like an after-school special where the heroine goes looking for an exciting new love interest only to find that the boy next store is the one she wanted all along.
I am always looking for the next, best, great tool. I have App Sumo permanently bookmarked on my browser. I am constantly looking for new tools, and better ways of doing things…
Yet, I have been an Active Campaign user for the past five years (yes, I think I was an early adopter) and I haven’t even been tempted by the ease of ClickFunnels or the ability to transfer campaigns that ConvertKit has. Active Campaign has always just worked for us.
I’ve been an Active Campaign consultant for the past 3 years and the company treats its consultants well. We have made our investment back every year that we’ve been part of the program (that was not the case with us and Infusionsoft).
Recently, we got an inquiry from an agency that helps larger nonprofits with their marketing to help create some sequences to truly automate some business processes with Active Campaign. So, I had a chance to jump under the hood and see what’s new.
I was impressed. Last year, I helped out with some major internet marketing launches using Infusionsoft. Many of the things we really struggled to do well in Infusionsoft turn out to be easy in Active Campaign.
Want to learn more about Active Campaign see if it is a good fit for your business? I would love to chat with you and help you find the right solutions for your coaching business. E-mail and me we’ll get it set up – meredith [at] solobizhacker.com.
Want more traffic to your blog posts? Write better headlines… It’s time to get creative and come up with fresh twists on your ideas that stand out and get noticed amidst all the “noise” online.
You could sit around for hours, painfully attempting to brainstorm and wrack your brain for ideas… or you could get smart, save time and hack your way to attention-grabbing headlines.
Remember: A hack is a clever and ingenious way to solve a problem or overcome a challenge.
Usually a “hack” allows you to do something quicker, and with less energy or brain power, while arriving at a desired (and even better) end result.
So, with the tools below you can easily “hack” your way to more creatively fresh headlines and save your brain!
BlogAbout Title Idea Generator
BlogAbout offers several ways to generate ideas for titles and even a feature to save your favorite ideas into a notebook. Simple and fun with a very nice layout.
Portent Title Maker
This one is a blast to play with. In addition to headline ideas it explains each piece of the headline it suggests so you understand it learn more about great headlines in the process. Set a timer before you go to this site or you may be there a while…
HubSpot Blog Topic Generator
Enter three subjects and get back a week worth of blogging ideas. Comes up with some very interesting titles and is great for business bloggers.
Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer Tool
Will your headline connect with your audience on an intellectual, empathetic, or spiritual level?
Test it out with this tool and see what comes up. Then change a few words and see what difference it makes.
Tweak Your Biz Title Generator
Want a LOT of ideas? Just put a word into this spinner, tell it if your word is a noun or verb, and hit the green button. You’ll get an avalanche of ideas!
Take any idea you’ve got and turn it into an amazingly magnetic headline with this tool. Swap words in and out, and watch as the excitement, emotion and empowerment scores update so you can measure your variations against each other to choose the best.
The “Get Ideas” Tool
Hidden inside the HookLine Dynamic tool, the little “Get Ideas” button will help you brainstorm some of the most curiosity-driven and magnetic headlines you’ve ever seen. It’s based on the psychology and format behind today’s biggest viral posts, and applies those principles for your audience and subjects.
One of the questions I get asked the very most – is some version of “what is the best (fill in the blank) to use…?
What email system to use? What shopping cart are you using? What should I use to create an opt in page? What about a blogpost?
And… really… there is no right answer for everyone. I can’t tell you what is right for you right here in this blog post – what I can do is tell you what we personally use to run our business. The tools I use might be a good fit for you too.
Business & Product Names, Logos & Taglines
Need a name for a business or product – or maybe a tagline? They can even do you a logo – check out Squadhelp.com
Tools we use to run our website
This site is hosted with HostGator. HostGator has been a bit more of a bare bones experience. Something like MomWebs provides more white glove level support – but for just a little more per month. Our domains are registered with GoDaddy and HostGator.
We host our site on WordPress. Although many of our clients have had great luck with Wix or SquareSpace, I’ve just always used WordPress. It has an almost infinite functionality through plugins and integrates with everything under the sun. AND there is a giant universe of freelancers and/or virtual assistants who can help you build and manage a WordPress site.
We use ThriveThemes. Over the past year or so, ThriveThemes has seriously upped their game for ease of use and the ability to create nice landing and sales pages. The yearly membership gets you access to all of their themes plus other goodies like a countdown timer, a quiz funnel, etc.
One of my favorite part of ThriveThemes is Thrive Architect which is a drag and drop creation tool and ThriveLeads. ThriveLeads is one of the most advanced opt in systems. It does cool things like let you show different calls to action depending on whether someone is already a subscriber or not. (It is also one of the least expensive systems – you can get Thrive Leads on its own for just $67 (but buying the entire Thrive membership is a great deal since you get access to everything… including WordPress themes.
Explainer videos, normally in animated form, have become very popular over the last couple of years, especially when it comes to explaining the benefits and/or features of digital products, especially apps. If explainer videos are what you need then there is software out there that will let you create them yourself – we have used a couple of different ones in the past – but they take a fair bit of learning and a lot of work. Better to let someone do them for you – its worth the expense, honestly. We recommend Zaxaa, who have done all the explainer videos for LinkedSelling, so we know their work. Check out their website here.
We tried just about every email marketing autoresponder system out there a few years ago, and decided that Active Campaign provided the very best value for the money. In addition to simply sending emails, Active Campaign has a CRM component and allows you to create advanced sequences and funnels with great integration with payment, accounting and other systems.
We also have a video tutorial series for Active Campaign that will get you off to a flying start if you choose it for your autoresponder, for only $17.
For people who are just starting out, I’ve been recommending Mail Chimp which now includes tagging and automation in their free basic plan for up to 500 subscribers. I’ve also heard really good things about MailerLite which includes advanced automations and drag and drop landing pages – and is free up to 1000 subscribers and only $10 a month up to 2500.
Shopping Cart – How I Collect Money
At the end of the day, you need to collect money in order to have a business. And, having a way to do that virtually is going to save you a LOT of time and money. Most people start out with a simple paypal button – but once you get more than a few people paying you, you are going to want something that easily connects to your email list and referral program.
My highest recommendation for a shopping cart system goes to ThriveCart. (No relation to Thrive Themes). We’ve been using it here at Magical Marketing Machine for the past few years and no other shopping cart is as feature-filled or easy to use. It easily integrates with Active Campaign and many membership platforms, it has an affiliate program, coupons, upsells, cart abandonment tagging. Plus, the pages were designed for maximum conversion. It handles state tax and VAT really well.
Even better, while most shopping carts charge you a fee *on top* of the fee your merchant account charges – ThriveCart does not.
I have been really excited about the cart for a long time – but I had no idea how to recommend it to you because (like gmail) it has been in limited beta forever. They’ve opened the private beta back up again to friend of their customers. You can now buy a lifetime membership for a fraction of the cost of other big shopping carts ( which charge $97+ a month). Check that out here. (If you decide to buy – I’ll help you get your email autoresponder connected and first product set up.)
Finally, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had ramping up my coaching program is getting a booking system that worked well with multiple calendars. I finally found something that worked really well – Book Like A Boss.
Not only can you easily book appointments, Book LIke a Boss hooks up to Zoom and creates meetings for all of your appointments. You can also hook it up to paypal to allow people to pay for sessions when booking.
Need some help deciding what are best tools for your business? Schedule a Clarity Call with me by clicking the following link – Schedule
If you want something quick and easy – and only costs $3 forever – try pick.co
Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of testing on the Time Traders Club site. We are rolling out something that you will REALLY like. In order to make sure everything was working we needed to sign up again and again.
I have a dozen email addresses but I needed to keep testing. That’s when I discovered a cool tip from Gmail.
You can create additional e-mail addresses by adding a + sign. So, messages sent to email@example.com go to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can set filters on these messages to label them, send them to another e-mail or just direct them to Trash.
Databases (like e-mail sign up forms) count each + variation as a different address. You will never run out of addresses again.
Are you a service provider who is involved in multiple teams? Does each team have it’s own project management app? Me too. And, it used to drive me crazy because I was spending all day in multiple Asana workspaces, Trello, TeamworkPM, Basecamp, etc.
For a while, I tried transferring my tasks to my own personal to do list. The issue I had with that was that I would do the task, check it off on MY list, and then forget to check it off on the team list. My clients would be confused because I left the task open, when it was obviously done.
Then I tried using TaskClone which lets you create tasks in Evernote by creating text boxes and have them magically appear in your task manager. The issue again was that checking off the task in Evernote – did not check the task off in Asana, Trello, etc.
Finally, I’ve found something that works well for me and I want to share it with you. Taco.app is a free app that lets you import all of your tasks from all of your different task managers in to one place. Before you panic at the potential task tsunami, know that you can set filters to show only tasks assigned to you, only tasks due today, etc.
Taco.app also allows you to add a widget with your current calendar so you can see your schedule AND your tasks in one place.
For people who are easily distracted (like me), there is a feature where you can collapse the BIG task list and drag the task you are working on to the center of the screen.
Taco is free. It has been very useful to me – try it out here.
If you share links to other people’s websites as part of your overall content plan, you need to check out Start a Fire. Start a Fire allows you to bring the traffic back to your site by creating a little pop up box with recommended content from your blog.
No affiliate commissions here – the service is brand new and is free to use. It hooks up with Buffer and Hootsuite to automatically create links that will add your badge and related content to the pages you recommend.