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Please don’t ask me which autoresponder to use

I want to rant a bit here. I have been to six networking events in the past month and when I tell people about Solo Biz Hacker and that we help people use marketing automation to build online businesses… I get asked the question…

So… Meredith, what autoresponder should I choose?

And, although I want to be helpful and recommend Active Campaign (of course – I’m a certified partner) – I know in my heart of hearts they are asking the wrong question to start out. I hate to say this (since I LOVE playing with email services) – but here’s the truth of the matter…

If you have an audience, the email service you choose really doesn’t matter.

There are many many services out there and, frankly, 85% of them will meet your needs. As long as the service allows you to segment your list, and it delivers your email, you are golden (honest!). If you outgrow what you start with – you can always move up. Do not let this stop you from getting started. (The majority of people I know with great ideas who never launch get stuck in this early tech-deciding phase. Just remember – content and consistency are what drive success. Most tools will work.

But what if I don’t have an audience?

The important thing to understand with autoresponders is that they are an opt-in technology. This means that the person you are emailing has to have agreed (opted in), to receive your emails. If they haven’t then it is spam. And nobody likes a spammer, right?

If you don’t have an audience then you need to build one – ie. get people to opt in, usually by offering something in return (see below). However, you can still email people personally – one-on-one – even if they haven’t opted in to receive them – that’s “personal” email. There are services that will allow you to mass email people (cold email), that makes it appear to be a personal email – just don’t use your regular email to do it!

That is a way to get started if you have no other connection with a prospective client or customer. But your aim should be to get people to opt-in to a legitimate service as soon as possible – and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, IF you have something they really want. That is why messaging the right person is key. Sending messages to people who are not interested in your product or services is not only a waste of your time, but it is also going to harm your reputation, especially with your autoresponder company as your lousy results are going to impact theirs – and that they cannot allow! The more time you put into finding the right prospects to message the better your results will be.

So – Here’s what you SHOULD really be asking?

Before you start worrying about which autoresponder to use to send your messages, you need to know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who is your audience? Before you start emailing, you need to know who you are targeting. Why would they want to work with you? (Many times, a great audience is people who are like you before you learned how to do x, y or z)
  2. What problem are you solving for your audience? If you don’t know this you should NOT be sending emails to anyone. Go do your market research. If you need help with this check out Read Your Customers Mind – our course on painless market research (even if you hate talking to people).
  3. How often are they thinking about that problem? (This will determine how often you email your community. If you help businesses make money with marketing, you can email just about every day. If you have a business that is less urgent (i.e. making balloon animals), emailing more often can get annoying.
  4. What can you offer (for free) to get them on their way to a solution? (You don’t need to solve the problem – but you absolutely need to provide enough value for free that prospects want more from you). This is where a prospective customer turns from a cold prospect (ie. they don’t know you or what you are offering), to a warm prospect (where they like what you have to say enough to offer their email address in exchange for something you are offering them (usually information that they are looking for). That doesn’t mean they are ready to buy from you, but by giving up their email address they are implicitly open to moving the relationship forward. This is your opportunity to build ‘know, like & trust’ with them to the point where they are open to purchasing your product or service. This is where your true marketing begins.

    “People do business with people they know, like & trust”.
    Peter Drucker

  5. What is a success for me – and how will I know if I achieve it? The difference between the pros and the amateurs is that pros will do the same thing again and again making small tweaks based on feedback (from split testing, surveys, etc.). Take time to send a few different versions of messages – and tweak to see which one works best. Messages that work for one audience might be off-putting to a different audience. That is why it is so important to know your audience.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to start building your list. The key to building a healthy list is consistent action. Day after day taking small steps to make your list grow. You can get these steps for free on the Solo Biz Bites Email Challenge Podcast available on Anchor or your favorite podcast client.

It is not just email

Remember, the advice above does not just apply to email. For sure, email is the best way to reach a prospective customer because it is almost guaranteed that the prospect will see it in their inbox (Note: deliverability is an important factor in choosing an autoresponder – and is why all good one’s are very concerned how you get your list, how many unsubscribes you get and how many people open your emails). But your email inbox is the one place everyone goes, every day – if not several times a day. If you want to get your message across then email is by far the best method for doing so.

However, the same principles apply to any technology you use to try to connect and build a relationship with prospective customers, whether it is messaging someone through LinkedIn or Facebook Messenger, DMing someone on Twitter etc etc. It is about building relationships – building that all important ‘know, like & trust’ – over time and with the right people – ie. people who have a problem to which you have the solution.

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How To Create a Website Traffic Boomerang with Email

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.

Click here to download my email sequences to use content to segment your audience

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:

  • Social Sharing  There is a strong link between social media shares and Google rankings. The more a page or post is shared, the more traffic the page will get, and the more the page will appear in search results.  The people who are most likely to share your posts?  Your loyal subscribers.  Be sure to let your list know when you've published something new. 
  • Reduce Your Bounce Rate   One of the criteria the Google algorithm uses to rank your site is its bounce rate (ie how long do people stay on the page).  Sending your loyal subscribers to read a long blog post (vs sending them to a quick decision lead page) will only help increase the amount of time people spend on your site and decrease your bounce rate.

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:

  • New Subscribers One of the first messages my new list members receive is a simple message offering articles and resources on different topics.  I use Active Campaign to segment the list member into a group based on what they chose.
  • Disengaged Members  Every six months or so, I delete non-active subscribers from my main list.  Before, I do that, I send a few emails with content links to see if I can re-engage them.  I also segment them into a new interest group based on what they chose.
  • Adding Value All the Time - You should always be adding value and helping subscribers, regularly sending them to information (as opposed to just offers) helps you to do that.

Email Sequences for Driving Traffic Back to Your Site

01 Free 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.

02 Download

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.

03 Use Your Content to Survey and Segment

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. 

Want to learn more about how to get traffic to your website?  Check out what other experts have to say right here.

Funnel Challenge: The WHOLE Enchildada

Are you looking for a funnel that goes “all the way“. For the next two weeks, we are giving away “done for you” funnels from marketplan.io. These are not just static .pdfs but full planned out and interactive funnels using MarketPlan.io (I did a video about how all that works – you can check that out here). MarketPlan allow you to create funnels – and then hand them off to your team to set up 🙂

So without further ado… here’s some information about the Value Ladder Funnel.

The Value Ladder Funnel consists of 4 products, starting with a free product (opt-in) and proceeding with paid products ordered from cheapest to most expensive. Products 3 and 4 are upsells in the main funnel. So, the email return-path for each of those products lead into their own sales funnel starting with that product.

Let’s break it down…

The Opt-In Page

An opt-in page is where you offer something of value (usually a digital product) for free in exchange for the visitor’s contact information. Typically, an opt-in page will ask the visitors for a first name and email address but you can require other information in your form such as: last name, phone number and so on. Just keep in mind that the longer the form is, the less likely visitors are to convert.

The Lead Magnet Delivery Email

The opt-in page asks for an email address so that the free digital product (lead magnet) can be delivered. This is a very simple email containing a link to the lead magnet and few words to tell the recipient what the email is about.

The reason for delivering the lead magnet via email instead of on the very next page of the funnel is because the second page of the funnel in this plan will present the next product in our value ladder in the form of a sales page.

The Sales Page

The sales page will present our second product. In this case, it will be the very first product we charge money for. The purpose of this low-cost product (also known as a trip-wire) is to get the visitor make a financial transaction. However… that will not happen on this page directly. The purpose of a sales page is to present the product information only. The buttons on the sales page will bring the visitor to the order page where the transaction is made.

The Order Page

The order page is where the money starts changing hands. It’s normally a very simple page consisting of the form fields needed to collect payment information (and shipping information, if necessary). It’s best if you can add some trust indicators here like: a company support contact information, testimonials, guarantee reminders and so on.

The Upsell Pages

Upsell pages give you an opportunity to sell the next 2 products in your value ladder. One product is offered on each page and the customer can now add a product with the click of just one button, without needing to re-enter any payment information. Often, upsell pages contain very limited time offers (some even expire upon saying no to that offer and include a timer). These offers are also known as one-time-offers or OTOs.

The Order Confirmation Page

The order confirmation page content is usually dynamically generated to show the purchase details at the end of the funnel, like an order receipt. This marks the end of the main funnel but there is still opportunity to sell the upsell products through an email return-path.

The Email Return Paths

If your contacts did not purchase every product in the value ladder, you may wish to try again through email. The only issue is that you cannot link your contacts to the upsell pages in your main funnel because they will need to re-enter their credit card info in order to make any purchases (they left the main funnel and their cart has been closed). At the very least, you will need a new order page. It makes sense to use a new sales page in front of that too. Basically, your email return-path will be running traffic from your list into an entirely new funnel. This will happen twice (products 3 and 4) in this Value Ladder Funnel.

Planning Is Everything

As you can see, there are many moving parts in this marketing strategy. It would be very easy to overlook something if you did not plan carefully… but don’t worry.

You can get the official interactive and completely customizable plan right here.


Webinars: Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Did your webinar not make as many sales as you expected? Putting on a webinar is hard work… from promoting the webinar, to creating your sales page, and then all of the tech involved in actually presenting your topic.

It can feel a bit soul-crushing, when you go through ALL that effort and not make as many sales as you expected to make… or any sales at all…

Why You Don’t Make Sales On Your Webinar

When you put effort into a webinar and you don’t make sales, you begin to think that there was something wrong with your presentation — or even worse with the product you’ve worked so hard to create. I’ve known clients to give up on webinars because of lack of success.

“The good news is – the reason you are not selling on your webinar – is usually not because of the webinar itself.”

Three Ways People Leave Money on the Table with Webinars

People leave money on the table with webinars in three main ways. If you can plug these holes in your funnel – you are likely to see your webinar revenue go up.

  1. Not testing the technology – Even though webinar technology is better now that it has ever been before – technical snafus still happen. And, people are less patient than ever. Take a bit of time (especially when using a new system) to make sure that the registration/webinar attendance system works well so you don’t lose people who try to log in and can’t.
  2. Not sending an email the day of the webinar – Marketing is a numbers game. The *one* thing that determines your success more than anything else is the number of people who attend the webinar. You can increase that number dramatically by sending emails both to people registered for the webinar AND people who still haven’t registered, a few hours before the event. People are busy and appreciate the reminder 🙂
  3. Have a follow up campaign – The biggest mistake I see rookie marketers making is ending their sales campaign with the webinar. Possibly they will send out a replay – but that is the end of the sequence. Seasoned marketers know that most of the sales are going to come from the follow up. The biggest day for sales is the last day of the promotion. Pick an “end date” (usually 3 to 7 days after the webinar), create some urgency, and then keep sending those emails.

Need to to know which emails to write? We’ve made that easy for you… Click here to get starter copy for 5 emails that will easily double your webinar sales.

Why Knowing Your Numbers Will Set You Free

When it comes to your business knowing your numbers is what is going to give you control over your business. It can show where to concentrate your efforts (ie. where the money is), and it can show you where not to waste those efforts.

Knowing your numbers is at the heart of any sales training. And sales is the heart of any business.

If you need to make 4 sales per week and your closing rate is 20%, then you know you need to talk to 20 people to make those 4 sales. That’s 4 people a day. There’s your goal – and your plan is based on how to get those 4 phone calls a day. All businesses come down to that principle in the end.

 You might do better one week than another – you might work to improve your close rate – but at least you will have a target to aim for.

So getting those phone calls is where the funnel comes in – and a funnel is everything about the numbers – because it is about getting people who don’t know you to a sale.  As the diagram above illustrates, only 3% of prospects are ready to but right now, and only another 7% are open to the possibility. That’s 1 in 10. The rest need careful nurturing over time.

There are 4 stages to the funnel – Awareness > Capture > Nurture > Sale

Awareness – very often in an online business that means Facebook ads (but can include content marketing, social media,  messaging campaigns, etc)

.

Capture – is the freebie you get them to sign up for in exchange for their email address. This is where the marketing truly begins.

Nurture – the email drip campaign that educates and nurtures people towards >

The Sale – either via a phone call or ecommerce click

Using the 80/20 rule you can estimate how many calls you can generate in our analogy above – so –

1000 people see your Facebook Ad (Awareness)

20% sign up = 200 (Capture)

20% are nurtured towards a sale = 
40 people buy the VIP Day

20% who come to the VIP Day go on to by the Annual Coaching Program = 8

Knowing these numbers gives you the power and direction.

  It is no longer guesswork. It becomes predictable. You know that if you pay $XX in Facebooks ads you will get 1000 views = 200 signup = 40 VIP sales = 8 Program sales.

This is a good benchmark – but in order to know what YOUR numbers are you need to actually run some promotions to find out. Do you get more than 20% – do you get less? What income is generated when compared to the costs of getting those sales?

Test it – track the results – see what can be improved to get better results next time. See what doesn’t work and that you can drop.

 You don’t start off with this knowledge. It is only through trying things out that you find out what works and what doesn’t. But when you find out those numbrs you re golden, because then you know that if you spend $XX you will get $XXX in return. It is predictable.

Facebook ads are a good analogy. You don’t just throw a lot of money at an ad you think is going to work. You try 4 different ads, test them all with a little money, see which one delivers, and only then do you put the big money into the winning ad.

It is exactly the same with your funnel and your sales process.

The ultimate goal in any business is to have a predictable income, and you can only do that by knowing your numbers.

  Why do so many people abandon their business and go back to a job? Predictability. With a wage you know how much is coming in – each and every week. But you can do that in your business as well – eventually.

Of course, circumstances change. What worked last year might not work this year. But if you are tracking your numbers you will see precisely where there is a problem – sometimes even down to a particular email.  Knowing there is a problem allows you to take action to fix it before any lasting damage is done, and improv the process towards predictability.

If your goal is to make $100K then how many customers is that – per year – per month – per week? Where are those customers going to come from? How much does it cost to acquire a customer? What is the average lifetime value of that customer?

Knowledge is power. Knowing your numbers puts you in control of your business. You won’t know when you start out, but going into each promotion with numbers in mind will allow you to build on each new funnel you try,  building on what works, discarding what doesn’t. Knowing where you are in terms of the goal you are trying to reach.

Knowing your numbers will set you free!

The Only 3 Ways to Grow Your Business

New Year’s is a bit like Christmas for Entrepreneurs.  The old year is ending and a new year is starting full of possibilities.  It is easy to set “all the goals” for your business.   When I get into “kid in the candy store” planning mode…  I like to rewatch this video from Jay Abraham about the only three ways you can grow your business.

In the video, Jay Abraham outlines the following three keys levers for business growth.  They are the key to the funnels we build for our clients in Active Campaign.

Increase the number of clients, convert more new prospects into paying customers.

This is where most people focus their efforts though lead magnets, Facebook ads, and webinars.  Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive part of the sales funnel and the riskiest.  Yes, you need to be bringing people into your funnel, but you are leaving money on the table by not paying attention to the other two growth levers.

Increase the average transaction, get each client to buy more at each purchase.

Upsells can significantly increase your bottom line.  Instead of just offering a class, you can offer extras ranging from checklists and trackers to bonus time with you.  You can also increase your profits by strategically raising your prices.

We’ve helped several clients to increase their product launch profits both by adding purchases earlier in the funnel with inexpensive paid webinars and at the end of the funnel with strategic upsells.

Increase the frequency that the average client buys from you, get each customer to buy from you more often.

One of the easiest ways to make money in your business is to offer your customers additional opportunities to buy.  For example, we had a client who sold olive oil.  We added an email sequence that was sent to customers 2 months after their purchase (about when most people re-order) offering a discount on a new bottle.  This sequence was very successful in increasing sales.

Would you like to see how this could work in your business?  Contact us to schedule a brainstorming session today.

Targeting EVERYONE and Reaching Nobody.

Lately, I’ve been talking to community members, potential clients and others who are firmly in the “the more eyeballs the merrier camp”.  The idea is that if you can get your message in front of as many people as possible then someone is bound to purchase.  This used to be true – especially when the number of media outlets were limited and it was impossible to really target down your audience too much.

At that point, advertising was REALLY expensive… because we were paying for many. many eyeballs we didn’t need to attract.

I remember running a radio ad campaign to recruit people to join a local government business growth program.  Because the local TV station covered three states, we ended up paying for thousands of people to see our ads who never would be opening a business through our program.   It was nearly impossible for small businesses to compete because they couldn’t afford to get in front of enough people to make enough sales to grow.

Social media has changed all of that. You can now target the smallest possible slice of ideal clients for you.  Small businesses (and even solopreneurs) can 100% compete with large companies, they just need to be very clear on who that ideal client is.

And, in my experience, this is the part that people tend to skip.  It is very tempting to jump straight into setting up that lead magnet and running those ads.  The problem is that untargeted ads are expensive and ineffective.

You really need to create a Buyer Persona.  I could go on and on about how having a clear sense of who your ideal customer is will help your business.  But, I won’t.  Sharon Woodcock did a great job of doing that in a great post on the 8 Reasons Why You Need  A Buyer Persona.

8 Reasons You Need A Buyer Persona

1. Determine motivators: goals, fears, desires, values, and needs
2. Know what their needs are at each stage of the customer journey
3. Create an effective marketing strategy that feels authentic to you
4. Get better and more qualified leads, who are a great fit for you
5. Communicate in language that connects, resonates and converts
6. Differentiate yourself from your competitors, and stand out in a crowded market
7. Create products and services that fulfill your ideal audience’s needs
8. Create content and stories that align with the customer journey(Check out her post for how to get started on diving into your dream clients)

Have you created your ideal buyer persona?  Who are they?  Share them in our Solo Biz Hacker Facebook group 🙂

 

 

Crowdsourced Coaching: How Do I Choose A Niche?

Q: How do you narrow down and target your ideal client when you love people and can see yourself serving in a lot of niches within your industry?  (Holly – ESL Teacher)

From Wally Barr

Niche should be selected based on need and value. It will allow you to realize maximum results. Your service provides a value. That value is different to different people. Where is the most value (monetary) located? A lawyer or a physician that is not getting clients because of a language barrier will out a higher value on your service. The value of a lost client is higher to them. This is just an example. These high-value clients can also be niched with services. For the physician example, writing instructions or follow up care would be much needed. To expand this idea, a class instructing the staff in basic language needs would be a niche.

From Meg Manke, Culture & Leadership Strategist, Senior Partner at Rose Group International

The real challenge is to know what kind of work you like best. What energizes you? Keep a short journal for 20 business days. At the end of each day write down how you feel; it should be a quick entry. “I am exhausted”, “I feel accomplished”, “I kicked ass today!”. Along with that entry jot down with which group you worked. Once the 20 days are up- go back and tally up distress days and eustress days and which group brings on which feelings more often. So, what’s the result? 

At the end of the day, you are most successful at what you love and nothing says “I love it” or “I hate it” like your feelings at 5 pm. 
Have any other advice for Holly?  Leave it for her in the comments to this post!

The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast

I just found the coolest podcasting tool … it is ? love at first sight.

I had a podcast a few years back… we went to number one on New and Notable for iTunes… it was fun – but a TON of work…

Besides lining up guests, making sure they had a good mic set up, promoting the podcast, etc. – there was all the set up (getting your feed to work, recording your episode, posting it to iTunes, Pocket Cast, etc. )

It was a TON of work – and eventually, even though we were getting 1000 downloads a week – we decided it wasn’t worth it to continue. 

And, when we decided to cancel our podcast hosting service which was costing us a lot of money, they didn’t have a way to give us the feed, so the podcast ended up being taken off of iTunes.

Recently tho, I found a free smartphone app called anchor.fm which completely simplifies the process.

 It takes about 15 minutes to set up your show… they take care of setting up all your feeds to iTunes, etc.

Once you are all set up, you just record by talking into your phone (the sound quality is awesome). Push done – you can add a background track and publish. The podcast magically goes where it needs to.

You can even interview guests through the app, have people leave messages, etc.

And… it is all free. Such a timesaver.

I’m using it for a quick 4 day per week podcast with a 2-minute business tip – here’s a link if you want to see what that looks like – https://anchor.fm/meredith-eisenberg

Let me know if you decide to do a podcast – I would love to listen 🙂