Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The cornerstone of your Marketing RoadMap – A solid Positioning Strategy

A positioning strategy is the position you occupy in the minds of your prospects and customers.

As a start-up, you have the awesome power to define that position from scratch. For an existing business you need to know your current position before you can plan how to change it.

First some background…

Thirteen months ago I started an internet marketing company.

My expertise and experience were in IT, mechanical engineering (BS from Kettering University), technology consulting, small business management (which I learned at the first business I acquired), and then a bit of business brokerage.

So starting an internet marketing business seemed like the best way to leverage all of those experiences, right? Right?

In fact it was…

First, I had to understand what would make my business and team unique.

Why would someone hire a computer-geek, mechanical engineer, entrepreneurial-junky to generate leads online instead of maybe someone with actual experience marketing?

In those words it actually sounds somewhat ridiculous. (Now that we’ve repeatedly proven our team can outperform anyone we’ve come across in internet marketing for service businesses, I’m finally fessing up.)

Here are the steps I took to position ourselves uniquely in the market as a start-up going up against multi-million dollar teams with more years of experience than I had years breathing.

  1. Study your competition – Know what they do, why they do it, and how they communicate.
  2. Study yourself – What does my team have that no one else does? What problems can we truly solve?
  3. Study your target market – If possible, survey them. What is important to them? What annoys them? What one thing would most help them?

Now take all of that information and formulate your Positioning Strategy. Your Positioning Strategy is the BIG PICTURE of what people will think of when they think of you.

It’s the stake you drive into the sand that separates you from everyone else. 

If you don’t know what makes you unique, your customer’s don’t know either.

Know Your Competition

Our competition fell into 2 primary segments… Web Developers and Ad Agencies.

By reading through their websites, reviewing their marketing, and talking with their customers, it was quite obvious that they both positioned themselves basically the same way.

They focused on:

  • Advertising Awards
  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Cleverness of phrases and headlines
  • Branding
  • Decades of Experience in the above
  • Measuring success objectively by the client’s appreciation of the design

It was obvious we could not possibly beat them at their own game. Instead, we defined our Position in the marketplace as:

  • Results Driven
  • Analytical (we use the scientific method not popular opinion)
  • Systems focused
  • Constantly testing to learn what works. (We openly admit we don’t have all the answers while pointing out that  no one does.)
  • Direct-Response
  • More experience where it mattered (in the industry and with a new marketing medium)
  • Success measured objectively by the number of increased leads

As engineers, we could present a completely new skillset that was perfectly aligned with the internet marketing world. For the first time in history, we can test and optimize ALMOST EVERYTHING. Headlines, pictures, offers, videos, buttons, and calls-to-action can all be tested.

None of our current competitors knew the power of testing, or they simply weren’t communicating that they did, so we positioned ourselves against them to highlight our unique skillset. 

Hence our (thoroughly tested) business name, Optimized-Marketing.com.

Know Thyself

Yeah. We’re geeks and we know it.

  • Engineer– This has numerous advantages in the world of internet marketing. We understand how to setup scientifically sound split-tests  for Google Ads, landing pages, and other online marketing.
    • We are trained to build systems to solve problems. The problem is you need more leads and the solution we built is Traffic, Conversion, and Follow-up. Notice I didn’t say it’s about websites or SEO or Social Media. All of those things can change… But the system to leverage all of them may only need slight adjustments to keep up.
    • We love numbers. Of course, you can’t measure absolutely everything, but we can measure a whole lot more than most marketers will ever tell you.
    • We focus on the outcome. Ever watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory? Engineers dislike fluffy, opinionated people. Until you show us the results, we don’t believe anything you say. That obsession with results, in the form of generating leads, makes us quite unique.
  • GM’s in the industry – I’m one of you! Amanda and I can identify with our target customer’s struggles because we’ve both been General Managers in the water treatment industry. Identifying with their struggles goes a long way in building trust.
  • Technology consultant – Experience doesn’t matter when the technology is brand new. Every time a new marketing medium like Adwords, Facebook, or YouTube comes out, we’re all back to square one. So, even though I had less marketing experience, I had a lot more experience using technology to improve businesses. Which is EXACTLY what we do.
  • Obsession with motorcycles – A lot of our target market, small business owners, are men with an appreciation for cars and motorcycles. I’m about 10 steps beyond fascination to full out obsession so I often use that connection to become more memorable. On a regular basis I hear things like, “Oh yeah, you’re the motorcycle guy.”

You have to keep in mind that, in a small business, building your “brand” is as much about your corporate positioning strategy as it is about how people perceive you personally.

Know Your Target Customer

Let me reveal one of the most under-utilized secrets in marketing.

If you actively do this, you are one in a hundred businesses… Maybe one in a thousand.

If you want to know your target customer, <drum roll pleasesimply ask them what’s important to them!

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ask your customers AND prospects what’s important to them, including the prospects who don’t buy. Don’t forget to ask the ones who don’t even take the time to contact you why they didn’t contact you.
  2. Track ALL customer complaints to Fix, Review, and Follow-up with them. Only about 1 in 8 customers who have an issue will complain about it so treat those complaints like gold. There are few better ways to learn how you can make it easier for customers to do business with you.
  3. Use surveys to ask the same question the same way. In other words, hearing 10 customers say similar things 10 different ways is not the same as their quantitative response to the question on a 1-5 scale.

How did we learn about our target customer?

I joined the trade organization of our target market to get access to our target customers’ emails and, instead of sending out an email saying “buy from me,” I sent out a survey.

The survey was a free tool for businesses within the industry to benchmark their marketing plans against other businesses within the same industry. All for free. Whether they were interested in our help or not, it was a great value to the market.

That’s how I got my first 4 clients.

My first few emails never even told them what I did or how I could help. I simply asked them where they needed help and then built a business around those needs.

Eliminate Competition

The net result of a strong positioning strategy is that you become so unique, you literally don’t have any more competition. No one can compete with you because you don’t offer the same products or services as anyone else.

So, what is your Positioning Strategy ? If you don’t have one yet, when are you making the time (open your calendar and schedule it now) to create one?

To better positioning yourself for success, Bryan

Optimize your Small Business Website for SEO, SEM, and Google Places in 4 Easy Steps

As a small business owner or marketer, keeping up with all the changes in online marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, and social media can be a daunting task. However if you focus on the most important parts, and hire an expert for the rest, it’s actually pretty straight-forward. Be wary of anyone who says we don’t know how SEO works or it’s just too complicated to explain.

Firstly, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is also referred to as Organic or Free search.   These organic search results show up in the center of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). In the graphic on the right, the SEO results are highlighted in blue.

The Paid ads (or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) results) are generally the top 3 on the SERP and the ads along the right-hand side of Google. In the example to the right, the Paid Ads are highlighted in red.

The third type of result is a Google Places listing which is Google’s own version of an online Yellow Pages directory. Those results are highlighted in yellow.

SEO is important to a small business for a few reasons:

  1. You don’t have to pay per click. Once you’ve optimized your site and got to the top of the search results, you can get a thousand clicks per day and you don’t have to pay a penny extra.
  2. Studies show only about 25% of people click on Paid Ads. Those numbers are even more skewed when you take into account the searchers level of education. Individuals with a Phd only click on paid ads 1-2% of the time so keep that in mind if your target market is highly educated.

For this article we’re going to focus primarily on local SEO. That means instead of someone typing in “plumbers” they’ll be searching for “plumbers in Pittsburgh.” In the screenshot above, I searched for “plumbers in pittsburgh.”

Google and other search engines are getting much better at determining the location of the web searcher and therefore assume that for a search like “plumber” you are looking for someone local and so will tailor the search results to provide you with local information. Nonetheless, the results page is still going to be much different with and without the city. Currently, about 20% of searches on Google are locally focused and that trend has been increasing over the last few years.

So here’s the 4-step process to search engine optimizing your small business’ website:

  1. Get in as many online directories as possible. This includes Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellowpages.com, Manta.com and others. The more directories you are in, the better off you’ll be. Notice in the screenshot above that both organic results (highlighted in blue) are actually for online directories eLocalPlumbers.com and SuperPages.com. Make sure that each online directory has your correct website address! This is crucial to optimizing your website for search engines. Also, make sure that you take full advantage of the “Description” section of each directory listing focusing on the keyword terms that people looking for your product or service are most likely to use. For instance our plumber wouldn’t say, “Providing plumbing services in and around Pittsburgh for homes and businesses.” Instead he would say, “Bonded and Insured expert residential and commercial plumbers providing plumbing repairs, plumbing service, emergency plumbing, new home plumbing, hot water heater installation, and fixture replacement.” See how I used keywords throughout the description that someone might be searching for?
  2. Have other people link to your page. – Are you running radio or TV ads also? Have those TV and Radio stations put a link on their website to yours. Every link to your page from another page (with a few exceptions like Twitter) is seen by Google as a vote that your page is useful. The more “votes” you have the better Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will treat your site and the higher it will be listed.
  3. Focus your page titles and web page text locally. If you’re a plumber in Pittsburgh, make sure all of your pages list out the cities you serve. Generally this can be done inconspicuously in the footer of a page. Just make sure the text is visible. It’s against Google’s policies to have “hidden text” that is, for instance, white text with a white background so the visitor can’t see it. If you are buying a “pre-made” website for your industry make sure that you have the ability to add information for your local market. Also weave the names of cities into the copy on your site. A great way to do that is with a list of testimonials that include the city and state of each person providing the testimonial.
  4. Fill-in the blanks with a strong SEM campaign. Since 20% of online searches are locally focused, that means that 80% are not. So don’t ignore those 80%. Target them with SEM which is also called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search. Notice in the screenshot above that without scrolling down the searcher will see 2 organic results, 2 Google Places results and 9 paid results! In other words, SEM is a significant part of your online marketing plan. One of the great benefits of SEM is that you can get tons of information on what terms are most popular in your local area and then use that information to better optimize your site in step #3 and your descriptions in step #1. My recommendation for this is to work with experts like my team.

In reality, to be a guru at online marketing is a lot more complicated than just 4 steps. However, like hiring a lawyer, accountant, or IT specialist, it’s beneficial to understand the basics even though you will most likely want to work with an expert in small business online lead generation.

Now that you understand these 4 points, you can work on optimizing your own web presence very quickly and cheaply with a few of the suggestions above. At the very least, you now know the right questions to ask and what answers to listen for when soliciting the help of an online marketing expert.

If you’re a small business owner or leader and have any questions, feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly. This is a crucial area of your marketing plan where you are losing leads daily so don’t wait to address it!

To your Search Engine Optimization and Marketing success, Bryan

Small Business Marketing – Lead Generators and Implementation

So far I’ve addressed the structure for your Marketing System, your company’s Vision, Mission, and Culture, and how to develop a Strategy and Clarity in your marketing plan. Finally, we get to look at actually generating leads. When you think marketing, this is what pops into your head. Yellow page ads, trade shows, direct mail campaigns, e-mail marketing, Google Adwords, websites, magazine ads, Television, and newspaper ads are a few that come to mind.

At this point, we’re not going to discuss how to create great copy, structure strong offers, or even track the response. At this point in your Marketing System you need to simply outline your Lead Generators according to each revenue stream along with all of the steps for implementation. So how do we do this? There are basically 3 steps.

  1. Write down all of your current marketing programs.
  2. Track which revenue streams each program markets.
  3. Outline all of the steps to effectively implement each marketing piece.

At this point you should already have 3-5 primary revenue streams for your business. Keep in mind, when I say Revenue Streams, that does not mean 3-5 products or services. Each stream can have dozens of products or services, think of a stream more like an area of expertise. Most strong businesses can’t effectively become experts in more than 3-5 areas.

Obviously some of your marketing will overlap revenue streams such as a Yellow Pages ad (though these are dying or already dead for a lot of businesses), Trade Show, or Google Adwords. Your website and direct online marketing, such as Google Adwords, that leads people to your website should have a specific page to address each revenue stream (area of expertise).

So to get an idea of what the Lead Sources and Implementation stage looks like, here’s a quick example. For this example I’ll assume I’m a flooring company who resells and installs flooring.

  1. Revenue Stream #1 – Residential Flooring
    1. Direct Mail Postcards
      1. Goal – Get consumer to come to our showroom.
      2. Budget – $1500
      3. Timeline – Will be mailed first week of May with a follow-up post card 2 weeks later.
      4. Pricing/Offer – Free upgrade to premium option with post card for the next 30 days.
      5. Sales Training – Sales Leader will introduce at next week’s team meeting to all sales, office, and service personnel
      6. 4.5 Points of Copy –
        1. Problem – Worn out, unattractive, hard-to-maintain flooring.
        2. Solution – Newer options that are easier to keep clean and look much better.
        3. Why us – Best Reputation <Testimonials>, Best Prices <guaranteed>, Professional installers
        4. Why now – It’s our slow time of the year so we can afford to upgrade your flooring choice for free.
        5. Risk Free – Stop in or have one of our flooring experts visit your home for a risk-free assessment and quote.
      7. Tracking – Offer is only available on this card
    2. Radio Ad
      1. Goal – Get consumer to visit our showroom
      2. Budget – $300/week
      3. Timeline – 30 :30 second spots per week thru April, May, and June.
      4. Pricing/Offer – Half price carpet padding
      5. Sales Training – Marketing leader will introduce to team at 3/31 Team Meeting.
      6. 4.5 Points of Copy –
        1. Problem – Worn out, unattractive, hard-to-maintain flooring.
        2. Solution – Newer options that are easier to keep clean and look much better.
        3. Why us – Best Reputation <Testimonials>, Best Prices <guaranteed>, Professional installers
        4. Why now – N/A (not enough time to address in 30 seconds)
        5. Risk Free – Stop in or have one of our flooring experts visit your home for a risk-free assessment and quote.
      7. Tracking – Offer only available through radio. Have flooring experts ask people if they listen to 103.7.

And you would continue to do the same thing for each Revenue Stream and Lead Source while keeping your Target Customer, USP, and Positioning Strategy in mind for each step of implementation. In your manual, you’ll want to keep a copy of the Direct Mail Postcard and script of the radio commercial. Preferably your manual will also be digital so you can store an MP3 of your actual radio ad along with a print-ready PDF of your postcard so you can tweak and reuse. Your manual will also include the results of your ad. Those results will include the # of leads, # of sales, and total $ amount of those sales. You’ll compare those numbers to your total cost of the lead source to determine what you paid to buy each customer along with the $ in sales/$ in marketing. The most important number to determine the effectiveness of that lead source and whether you’ll invest in this marketing again is the dollars of revenue generated per dollar in marketing spent. I generally keep all of this information in a single spreadsheet aggregated for the year called my Marketing Analysis spreadsheet that looks something like this:

Lead Source       Date Ran     Cost     # of Leads     # of Sales     $ in Sales     Cost per Lead     Cost per Sale     $ in Sales per $ in Marketing

Direct Mail PC    5/5/11        $750          7                       3                 $9,237             $107                      $250                               $12.32

To learn more about theses numbers and the math involved reference my previous blog on Scientific Advertising. Since you’ve never done this before, getting your marketing manual up-to-speed will take some time and effort. However it’s worth its weight in gold and it’s a commitment to work ON your business that will make your life easier and more profitable down the road. Once your manual is together, maintaining it with habitual rigor will be a lot easier. Make it habit to reference your manual before doing any marketing and then updating it afterward.

Another major benefit is that you can train someone else to take over your marketing with ease. Whether that person is a team member, ad agency, or even a new owner because you decided to sell your business, providing a Marketing System Manual will be the most valuable item you can pass along to them and they know it. As a business broker I can testify that small businesses who have created manuals, systems, and processes like these throughout their business will ALWAYS fetch a higher price than a similar business without these in place.

To your marketing success, Bryan

Small Business Marketing – Strategy/Clarity

My last marketing blog discussed the importance of your company vision, mission, and culture on both your marketing and overall business. Now you need to separate your business according to your 3-5 primary revenue streams. More streams then that and you’re probably diluting yourself and not effectively controlling each. Reference Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins and Winning by Jack Welch for more reasons to keep focused on a few key revenue streams.

Separating revenue streams is relatively straight-forward, however developing your Strategy and Clarity for each stream is a bit more work. The reason for separating and developing a unique strategy for each is that, more often then not, each stream has a different type of customer. As quick and obvious proof of that fact, if your business caters to residential, commercial, and industrial clients, you’re well aware that the way you handle, communicate with, bill, and market is different for each one.

For each revenue stream, the Strategy/Clarity stage include 3 things:

  1. Target Customer – Who is your ideal client?
  2. Unique Selling Proposition – What separates you from all competition so you no longer can compete on price?
  3. Positioning Strategy – What position do you currently occupy in the consumer’s mind? How do they view your business?

Of the 3, defining your Target Customer is the easiest. To do this, go through your database, pick out your top 10, 20, or 40 best, most profitable clients, and figure out what they have in common. Even better yet, pay them (in goods and services or even cold hard cash) to answer a detailed survey to give you an excellent picture of who they are, what they do, and where else they spend their money. Once you have this information do 3 things:

  1. If a non-competitive business regularly pops up as a place where your top customers spend their money, approach that business owner and try to setup a partnership.
  2. Develop a simply, yet crystal clear “picture” of your perfect client similar to Trader Joe’s, “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.
  3. Empathize with and put yourself in that target person’s shoes before developing any marketing. Talk to him directly.

Once you have that picture of your target customer, gather information from all of your competitors via their websites, public marketing, and a mystery shopping service like teleXpertise. Gather all of that information and determine where the hole is… In other words, what do your perfect customer’s want that none of your competitors are offering? By now you see where this is going; this will be your Unique Selling Proposition. Simply put, your USP makes you so unique that you no longer have any businesses who can compete with you on price. You can often do this by offering additional services, warranties, products, guarantees, or features with your package that your competitors can’t match.

The final step is your Positioning Strategy and this one is the most challenging as we’re literally trying to read people’s minds. Right off the bat, you need to separate these (in addition to revenue stream) into people who are currently customers and people who are not. An existing customer should have a better picture of who you are and what you do and so have a more defined position in her mind than someone who has never purchased from you. In your customer survey of your top 10-40 customers, you need to ask questions about why they decided to work with your business and how they learned about it. Ask what they tell friends and family about your business. That’s the true picture of how they perceive you… Not by what they tell you, but by what they tell others. As for finding out what non-customers think about you, you have to ask them. That includes prospects and complete strangers you meet. When you meet someone new and they ask what you do for a living, once you tell them your business name, ask them what they’ve heard about it. Most people aren’t going to tell you anything negative so keep that in mind. To find the negative, search Twitter, Yelp, Ripoffreport.com, and Google for your business. Within the constraints of a small business marketing time and budget, we don’t really have the ability to get beyond those few pieces. However, if you’re interested in learning more about positioning check out Jack Trout and Al Ries’ book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Now that you have an idea of what position you occupy in the minds of others, do 2 things:

  1. Determine if your Position Matches the needs of your target customer and your USP. In other words, if people see you as the low-cost solution and your USP is to be the best service provider, there’s a disconnect. Your options are to either revise your USP to match the position of your business (which is the far simpler and easier option and what I recommend) or start re-positioning yourself (which is complicated, costly, and takes a lot of time).
  2. Consider the position you occupy in your customer and potential customer’s mind when developing any new marketing. In other words, you know everything about your business and all of your competitors and you need to forget all of that. It’s called “the curse of knowledge” and you have it.

Here’s the bottom line… As a small business owner or leader, you don’t have a $100 million marketing budget or even a $1 million marketing budget so you need to make every dollar count. To get the most out of your marketing dollars, you first need to track everything, beyond that if you know and talk directly to your target customer, from the position you occupy in her mind, with a Unique Selling Proposition that will be important to her, you’ll be far ahead of your competitors.

To your Targeting, USP, and Positioning success, Bryan

Every small business needs a Marketing System… And how to create one

Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited and Sam Carpenter in Work the System both talk about developing effective systems, processes, and scripts in your business to help create a consistent front for your customers and also to develop a business that works without you. Brad Sugars wrote an entire book dedicated to systems called, Instant Systems, because he believes so strongly in their value.

The front line system in your business is your system for generating leads through your marketing. You can argue this is your most important system since, without marketing there’s no way to get customers, however without a strong sales system, service system, or finance/accounting system you won’t have a business for very long even if you do have prospects contacting you. My definition of marketing is anything that gets a potential customer to contact you. Whether that’s by phone, walk-in, email, web-form, or even a direct online order. Once they contact you, it’s up to your sales system to take it from there because now they’re in your sales process.

My marketing system goes into the Marketing Manual… The big picture concept of the Marketing Manual is a resource to reference for all marketing you’ve ever tried along with results. It’s a resource for creative along with your entire marketing plan. Say what? You don’t have a marketing plan? Then let’s get to work.

Just like every aspect of your business, your Marketing Manual has to start with your company vision and mission.  The Marketing Manual Flowchart outlines the major pieces in your marketing manual to provide a quick, graphical guide.

  1. Vision/Mission/Culture – If your marketing doesn’t fit in-line with these, then don’t do it. Simple as that.
  2. Revenue Streams – What product lines or services does your company offer to generate revenue? My chart only has 5 revenue streams because, for most businesses, that’s all you can reasonably handle and become excellent at. It’s much better to have 5 strong revenue streams than 10 half-way streams.
  3. Strategy/Clarity – Before you write a sentence of copy, you need to know who your marketing is meant to talk to (target customer); what specifically is going to set you apart from everyone else (Unique Selling Proposition); and what position, if any, your business holds in the mind of the consumer (positioning strategy). Notice I didn’t say what position you want or what position you think you have; you need to know what position you actually occupy. Once you have a position it’s EXTREMELY difficult to change that position so it’s generally best to work with what you have.
  4. Lead-Generators – This is where most small business owners start. They hear the word marketing and think of where they can run ads or what they can do to generate leads. Don’t make that mistake. Start at the beginning and work your way down. Otherwise, when you get to this point, there’s no real way to know if your marketing is actually working.
  5. Implementation – Each lead source has several pieces to it including what it will cost, how long it will run, special offers, training of the sales staff, copy, and most importantly a method of tracking. If you’re in a small business and are thinking of doing some marketing that you can’t track, then don’t do it. Sure it might make you feel good to see your name on a billboard or hear yourself on the radio. But if you can’t actually track its performance, then pass on that marketing piece. Donations and charity work would be an exception since you’re not doing it to generate leads but just to be a good member of your community.

Instead of making this blog exceedingly long, I decided to break this concept up into a few pieces. Your homework for this week is to start thinking about your company’s vision and mission. If you already have those, define your top 3-5 revenue streams and start thinking about the Strategy/Clarity stage. I’ll give you more tips on how to create a Vision, Mission and Culture and then identify your Target Customer, Unique Selling Proposition, and Positioning Strategy in the next few blogs.

Keep in mind that when your Marketing Manual is finished, you can pass it off to someone else to take the reins, they can pick up where you left off, and keep growing the business.

To your marketing success, Bryan

How to create the PERFECT website for a Service Business

Make everything about the consumer.

This blog is primarily targeted at service based businesses, however this can certainly work for niche Internet products as well. Once you get to the level of large e-commerce sites the rules for a PERFECT website will be a bit different. Even though quite a few would still apply.

Most importantly, your website needs a goal. The goal can be to sell a product through an immediate online transaction or get the customer to contact you via a web form or phone number. A secondary goal for all websites should be to collect the visitor’s email address to stay in touch and build a relationship. For some websites capturing that email may even be the primary goal.

Your website needs to address the 4.5 Points of Marketing.

  1. Is this your Problem? Did you know this problem also results in these other problems? This isn’t your problem? You’re on the wrong website, then. This can be relatively short and sweet. Don’t assume your customers know exactly what their problem might be.
  2. Here’s the perfect Solution! It will make your life easier, save you money, and make your love life better and here’s why. Most websites sorta start here. They often focus on a product instead of the actual solution (i.e. benefit).
  3. We’re the best company for providing the perfect solution. We’ve been around forever, have a unique business model, are experts at this solution, have a history of top-level support, you can get in touch with us 24 hours per day, and here are a BUNCH of testimonials from happy customers.
  4. Now is the time to ask us to provide the solution to your problem. If you wait any longer your competitors will take more market share, your wife will be frustrated, your kids will rebel, and your dog will pee on the carpet. Do you really want to wait for all that to happen before doing what you already know is the best option?
  5. Make the offer Risk-Free. Look, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain so take a minute and shoot us an email and we’ll get you on track to eternal happiness and bliss. If after talking with us you don’t agree that we can do that for you, no hard feelings.

Your website shouldn’t be more than 2 menus deep. If it’s more then that your customer is working too hard and you can’t lead them where you want them to go.

Your website should be cross-linked. In other words, on every page where you reference a widget, the viewer should be able to click on the word widget and be taken to the full product page.

For further explanation on any of those points, please reference my blog, Internet Marketing for Small Business – Your Website.

So now that you understand the rules of the game, what exactly does a website like that look like? Firstly the content of your website should be written in the vernacular of your target audience. You MUST talk like they talk. As they sit there at their laptop reading your words, in their head it should sound as if they are talking to themselves. I call this Conversational Marketing.

Highlight the important bits for skimmers. Whether it’s bold, underlining, ALL CAPS, or different colors, make the important points jump out.

Include a call-to-action and way for them to contact you on every page.

Capture their email address in exchange for some of your expertise and then build a relationship with an auto-responder email campaign. For instance, if you’re a plumber, you might say, “Input your email for a free report on the top 7 ways to get the best rates from your plumber”. Once they have that you can send them one email every other day for the next 2 weeks explaining why you’re business is the perfect one to solve their problems.

Make it personal. Sign off on every page as if you were writing a personal letter to the person reading. As a small business owner you can do that even though large organizations cannot. Use that to your advantage.

Constantly update your content. In the internet world, inactive=dead. Since I didn’t have time to write a new blog about my business on a regular basis I simply monitored industry news and then would post links to the articles. That links page drove more traffic then any other page on my site besides my landing page.

Utilize videos to engage your visitors. Whether from testimonials or your sales pitch, adding videos and text allows your readers to choose their preferred method of communication.

Provide great content and too many details. When people see a TV commercial or a magazine ad about a product that interests them what do they do next? They visit the company’s website. Why do they do that instead of just calling or going to the business? Because they want more information… So give it to them. In person you, of course, can ramble on and say too much… On a website, however, you cannot. Give the features, benefits, specs, warranties, side-by-side comparison with competitors and anything else they might ask. Of course no one is going to read all of it. You just need it there because each person is going to read some of it and, quite frankly, you don’t know which part they’re going to read.

So if you put all of this together what do you get? Here are a few examples from some top internet marketers:

Bullseye Marketing – This business is selling a service that requires a custom quote so their goal is to get you to contact them. Notice how they start with the problem and then engage you by making you click Next to get to the solution. Granted, their interface can use some improvement.

Perry Marshall’s Personal Coaching – I’ve been following Perry’s stuff for years and he’s one of the top guys out there at turning visitors to money.

Eating for Energy – Good example of a website with the goal of simply getting your email address and nothing else.

Front Sight Offer – I highly recommend signing up for his Free Gun reports via email just to get an idea of what building a relationship via an auto-pilot is all about. Even if you don’t want anything to do with a firearm, you can learn a lot from his email marketing. Just keep in mind he is talking to “gun nuts.”

Target Focus Training – This site does a great job of hitting the 4.5 points of marketing. Notice how they start with the problem? Did you know the problem was that bad?

Wait a second… I’ve never even heard of any of those companies, how do you know they have good websites? Because they can make money and sell a service without ever talking with or interacting directly with a single customer (with the exception of Bullseye Marketing since their web page is just about selling the appointment). Can you say that about your service business?

Here’s the bottom line. If you’re a huge international organization with $10-$100 million to spend on your web presence with the goal of increased “branding”, then copy from the mainstream websites of Fortune 500 companies. If instead you’re a small business who needs to market your business online to generate immediate and measurable income,if you follow even half of these suggestions you’ll be way ahead of your competition.

If you disagree, leave some feedback and we’ll hash it out.

Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of marketing, your website is the end game. It’s a lead-generator. You can only gauge it’s success if it matches your entire marketing plan. Everything from your Vision as a company, the USP for this revenue stream, target market, branding and positioning goal, budget, ROI, method of testing and measurement must all be established so when your website is finished, you’ll know if it is working or not. In other words, it needs to fit properly into your Marketing Manual.

To your website creation success, Bryan

Conversational Marketing – Set your Small Business apart from your Competition!

Imagine for a moment that your business has to sell its product or services without ever interacting directly with the prospect…

No phone calls.

No visits to the showroom.

No personal emails.

Would your business survive? More importantly, if you constrained your sales process to that requirement, how might your marketing be different? Think about it for a minute… Would any of your marketing in its current form still be effective?

Online marketers have to sell to a prospect without ever seeing, talking to, or even interacting with that potential customer; in my opinion, they’re the best marketers out there. Now, what if you do have the opportunity to sit down with your prospects? If you can master the elements that great online marketers use AND you have the benefit of dealing with someone one-on-one, your sales process is going to be way ahead of your competition.

With that in mind, I’ve noticed Internet marketers, more than anyone else, use a technique I’ve dubbed “Conversational Marketing.” In essence, you write your marketing piece as if you were sitting down right next to the person talking. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an email, a direct mail piece, or creating a website, conversational marketing strikes a deeper cord with your audience.

So first off, why is conversational marketing better than “normal” marketing?

  1. It’s easier to read
  2. It encourages people to keep reading
  3. It’s designed to lead someone to a desired result Step-by-Step
  4. It builds trust and rapport
  5. It’s actually easier to write and create

So how do we start using Conversational Marketing in everything our customers will ever see? Let’s assume you’re working on a business website… The simplest way  to use Conversational Marketing is to take your current face-to-face sales pitch and put it in writing. That’s it. Whatever closes the highest percentage of deals needs to be in writing on your website and ideally in a video as well. Keep in mind, that if you really do need a face-to-face meeting to provide a custom solution to your customer, then the sales pitch on your website is going to be your best pitch for them contacting you NOT your sales pitch for them actually purchasing a solution. That will still have to be face-to-face.

Probably the most important aspect of effective Conversational Marketing is defining your target customer. In other words, what is the customer sitting on the other end of the computer, direct mail piece, yellow page ad, TV, Radio, Newspaper or other medium like? You need a picture of your buyer in your head. For instance, Trader Joe’s defines their target customer as an “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.” Did you get a picture of that in your head? Does each revenue stream in your business have such a crisp picture of your target customer? To take this one step further, your goal is to be able to write in a way that it sounds to the reader like he’s talking to himself. Does that make sense?

Consider the following common marketing examples and tell me which sounds more like the way you talk?

Act now!” OR “Make the commitment now and get this problem off of your plate.

But wait, there’s more.” OR “By now I hope you can see that we’ve offered some great deals for you. However, there are a few more things we’d like to share.

We have the best deals in town.” OR “You already know other people offer a “similar” service. For instance, Joe’s will charge you X which doesn’t even include A,B, or C.

Our customer service is excellent.” OR “Here’s an idea of what some of our customers think of our service. <insert testimonials>

Are you starting to get the picture? The “common” marketing words are so hackneyed that we all instantly recognize them and immediately close-off. We know each phrase translates to – someone is trying to sell me something. And we don’t want anyone to sell us anything. We want to CHOOSE the best option for ourselves.

At this point you’re saying… That’s fine and good, BUT I don’t have room for all of that on a direct-mail postcard, 30 second radio ad, 60 second TV spot, Yellow Page ad, or any other form or marketing besides a direct mail letter or my website.

That’s exactly right! So unless any of those forms of media provide enough information to sell someone on the idea of contacting you, then you should probably be using that media to point them toward your website where you can address all of these things. Obviously you will still provide your phone number and address in case they are ready to take the next step.

Beyond that, if you make a conscious effort to start marketing conversationally, you’ll be amazed at what you can fit inside any of the standard marketing mediums. One of my marketing teachers told me that when putting together a headline for any marketing copy he used to take his top 3-4 headlines and ask his friends at the bar which one was good. If they told him they really liked them or they were very good he threw them away. After all, everyone is going to say that. Instead, when they said, “Is that really true?”, he knew he had a winner. That’s a great way to institute conversational marketing into your shorter marketing mediums.

Finally, this is all about a one-on-one relationship. Earlier I stated that your best website takes your face-to-face sales pitch and puts it into words and video. A crucial point in being personal is to include a salutation with your name and title. The bottom of your web page, and every other type of marketing where it can fit, should have a salutation just like a personal letter. Remember, people buy from people, NOT from businesses. The obvious exception would be TV/video since you are addressing them directly and personally.

You’re starting to see this “personal relationship” idea reach big companies with Google marketing videos usually telling you which Google employee in which department is talking with you. Tom Anderson, founder of Myspace, also made sure he was the first friend for all new accounts. Smaller companies like Batchbook.com and 37Signals.com are even better at introducing you to the people helping you when you need help. The biggest challenge for large companies is that they have 100 people in customer service, product development, R&D, and marketing so they can’t be personal. Their weakness at not being personal should be your advantage. DON’T EMULATE FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES BY MAKING IMPERSONAL MARKETING OR AN IMPERSONAL WEBSITE. Make your website extremely personal so you can set yourself apart. Don’t be afraid to use your status as a small business to your advantage! Obviously if you have a lot of turnover, then you need to think through how you’ll do this effectively.  Also, don’t ever sign off as, or put, “owner” on your business card. If you ever want your business to run without you, training your customers to expect to hear from the owner is a step in the wrong direction.

To your Conversational Marketing success, Bryan

P.S. In my next few blogs I’ll be going more in depth on using this type of marketing on websites and other online medium including providing example websites.

Use Google Adwords to know your competitions’ every move!

In the last 2 weeks, my number 1 competitor has been doing more marketing than in the previous 9 months. Ironically, I don’t own a Television, don’t subscribe to the local paper, don’t listen to local radio, haven’t received anything in the mail from his company and none of our prospects have asked about that competitor. So how do I know he’s doing marketing in my area? Google Adwords told me so. As a matter of fact, Google Adwords can be used to track local industry trends, competition, market interest and even key terms (i.e. the words people on the street are using to describe your business or product offering). And the best part is, it can cost you little to no money and you don’t even need a great website to gather this information.

Widen your gaze to see all the benefits of Google Adwords

Here’s the concept. In previous blogs I’ve talked about the free tool at Wordtracker.com to help you determine which keywords are most popular on the internet. The problem with this tool for small businesses is that it’s a global tool. Meaning that it’s tracking keywords all over the world not just in your territory and so what might be a popular phrase or keyword around the world might not be in your area. More importantly, just because, on a global basis, your competition’s franchise is real popular, that doesn’t mean they are in your area. Or how about if your competition is a local restaurant that won’t even register on the tool at Wordtracker.com because only people (i.e. your potential customers) in your local area search for that business name?

Let’s look at a few examples. Keep in mind that this blog assumes you know how to set up a Google Adwords account, create a campaign for a targeted geographic area, and buy negative, broad-match, phrase-match, and term-match keywords. If all of that is foreign to you, check out my blog on Online Ads. Also review some of Google’s resources.

  1. Local Industry Trends – Everyone has competition. And sometimes your direct and indirect competition might not be who you think. For instance, if you own an upscale restaurant who is your competition? You might say your direct competition would be the other upscale restaurants in town, however you would be missing out on a large part of your competition. Call it “indirect”, but any place where someone might spend discretionary income would be competing with you. After all people don’t go to your restaurant because they’re hungry. They can cook for themselves or eat fast food. They go to an upscale restaurant for a social experience. If you’re an accountant, you might consider other accountants in town as your direct competition however accounting software and people who do their own taxes are also your competition. For the water treatment industry, everyone else who sells water softeners and drinking water systems would be your competition however all the soap companies who sell people on the idea that more soaps and lotions are all they need to solve their problems are also competition. You get the point. With Google Adwords, in addition to buying your competitors’ business name as a keyword, you also need to buy all of the keywords that describe your indirect competition. You’ll catch the trends as to what’s popular in your area almost immediately and then be able to use that information in your marketing to better TALK directly to your prospects in the words they are using.
  2. Competition – As I mentioned above, my top competitor just started marketing (through a direct sales telemarketing approach that’s very hard to track) in my area in the last month. How do I know this? I bought the keywords for his business name for the geographic territory that I serve about 10 months ago and in the last month more people searched for his business name than the other 9 months combined. The logic is quite simple. People are only going to search for things they’ve heard of so, one way or another, they’ve heard of his business and are doing some background checks via Google.
  3. Market Interest – As you can tell, all 4 of these benefits are tightly related and so this one just builds on the last 2. Quite simply, if you’re tracking your direct and indirect competition as described in steps 1 and 2, you can gauge total market interest by simply monitoring the fluctuation in the number of searches for each term. If more people are searching for “Tax Software” than last month or last year, you better have a page on your website that directly addresses why your accounting firm is better and more cost-effective than off-the-shelf software.
  4. Key Terms – The internet is an unparalleled testing ground for marketers. You can test creative, copy, calls to action, offers, coupons and just about anything else that can potentially improve your marketing. Now, with the help of Google Adwords, you can track common phrases. Last week my ad agency sent me creative on a newspaper insert we are working on. This ad agency works with dozens of franchises similar to mine around the US and part of the wording on the ad included the term “Water Analysis”. I’d been buying that keyword phrase along with a common synonym, “Water Test”, for months so I logged into my Google Adwords account to see, in my area, which was more popular. Turns out people search for “Water Test” or “Water Testing” 11 times more often than “Water Analysis”. Analysis just isn’t a word people use. So we updated the marketing to reflect the phrase that is already on prospects’ minds. The goal being that, as they’re sorting through their newspaper, they’ll be more likely to notice the term “Water Test” as they’ve already given that phrase a position in their mind. Make sense?

Now that you’re tracking all of this information, what do you do with it? You respond to their problems and let people know why your solution is the best to solve their problems. In marketing we can break up any individual marketing creative into 3 basic pieces:

  1. The Target Audience – This is the MOST important piece. You can be running a buy 1 get 1 free deal on Harley’s but if you’re doing so in People or Home and Garden magazine your marketing isn’t going to perform as well as if you put it in American Motorcyclist.
  2. The Copy – This is what you say and how you say it. Whether it’s written words or video or an audio recording.
  3. The Offer – or Call to Action. This is what you use to try to make the prospect “Act Now.”

With the Google Adwords system I describe above, we can improve each item to maximize our conversion rate.

  1. Target Audience – We are only marketing to people who search for the keywords related to your business or competition. It doesn’t get much better then that.
  2. Copy – With information on local industry trends, competition, and key terms, your website can directly talk to your prospects in their own words. More importantly, you can create individual mini-sites to address each competitor or trend that might be taking business away from you. Again, you can specifically target and respond to the EXACT problem that you can solve for the prospect.
  3. Offer – The possibilities are, of course, endless. If you can pinpoint your competition and why people are choosing them over you, you can easily structure a risk-free offer to get them to choose you. For the restaurant you can describe how the quality of food, waitstaff, atmosphere etc. far exceeds anything else in town. With testimonials and specific examples of the painstaking processes you use to hire chefs and maintain the utmost food quality. Put yourself head-to-head with your competition and show how you’re better. Now that you know exactly who your direct and indirect competition are, you can really get into the minds of your prospects.

This is a huge topic to cover in a blog. The ways you can leverage the information Google Adwords can provide for you are nearly endless. It’s a marketer’s dream-come-true. The best (or worst part if you sell Google Adwords services) is that it’s not complicated, would take a few hours to setup, and maybe an hour or 2 per month to maintain to garner all of the important information you can use.

Granted, as easy as it is to track, I’ve never heard another Google Adwords guru describe this power for small businesses. They all focus on online businesses so if you’re looking for more ideas on small business marketing in today’s  marketplace be sure to follow my Facebook Fan Page or sign-up for my email list in the upper right.

To your Google Adwords marketing success, Bryan

P.S. If you don’t even have a website you can still use everything I described. Just place your bids so low that your ad will show up on page 4 and never be read. If you’re looking to bring a new product to market or start a new business, this is a great way to determine current market interest.

Direct Response vs. Institutional Marketing – Which is your small business trying?

Marketing in a basic sense is broken down into 2 main categories: Institutional Marketing and Direct Response Marketing.

What I am personally fanatical about tracking is the results to direct response marketing. By that I simply mean that if I send out a post card, create a website, or insert a piece in a newspaper, I want to know exactly how much revenue those marketing pieces generated for me. As a small business (i.e. you don’t have $100 million dollar ad budgets) this is the ONLY type of marketing you should be focused on.

Major corporations, however, invest in very sophisticated very expensive institutional marketing programs. By that I simply mean that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to create a recognizable name, character, and/or slogan. More importantly, that advertising has created a position in people’s minds ideally relating the name, character, or slogan to their brand unlike any of their competitors are able to do. Once you have that position you never want to give it up because changing an already established position can create confusion in the prospects mind and it gives room for a competitor to take over that position. Along these precise lines, I recommend a great book written by Al Ries and Jack Trout called Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Ries and Trout give example after example of businesses like Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Michelob, Miller, Avis and others who did and did not understand their positioning and how that affected their long-term profits. Some have messed it up horribly.

Camel cigarettes had deep enough pockets and understood the power of institutional marketing, branding, and positioning so well that more 5 year-olds in the previous generation could identify Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse. Obviously 5 year-olds can’t buy cigarettes so why do they want 5 year-olds to know Joe Camel? Because in a decade when teenagers start getting exposed to smoking by peers, whether they consciously understand it or not, Joe Camel has made a position in their mind that’s not easily forgotten. If you have a small business, you can’t possibly afford to do this. You need to pay your bills and make payroll this week, you don’t have a decade to build a position.

There are, however, 2 main “small-business” exceptions to the rule that small-businesses shouldn’t engage in institutional marketing. Both of these industries can successfully invest in a combination of institutional and direct-response marketing.

  1. Banks – In your lifetime, you are more likely to get divorced than change banks. For some reason, banks have customer retention rates somewhere in the high 90% range. My mother told me that when she moved across the country, married my father, and they started a family, the ladies at the bank were some of the first people who she would show her babies too. That sounds rather strange to me, but it makes sense. Any good marketing is about developing relationships and any bank worth it’s salt is going to train their tellers to do just that. If their good at it, it’s just natural that their customers would know all about their “favorite teller” and vice-versa. After all, it’s a very intimate relationship as that teller knows quite a bit about you that your best friends and family will never know. So how can banks invest in institutional marketing? I would suggest in the same way that Joe Camel did. Target children. If you know that you’ll have a 90% plus retention rate, it’s a race to see who can get that first checking account setup for the first job, right? Well what if you deposited $5 in an account for each middle school or high school student who came to the bank with an A on their report card? It may take a decade or longer before that pays off, but you’re almost guaranteed to keep that child as a customer as they need a car loan, house loan, student loans etc. etc. etc. At least you’re more likely to get those accounts from that child than you are to attend their 50 year anniversary.
  2. Franchises – Obviously this is one of the benefits of a great franchise. Yes, of course, their are franchises that are downright terrible and the name isn’t worth a whole lot. However their are others that have been established for so long and have invested so much money in marketing over decades that their name is extremely valuable. This week I was speaking with a colleague who owns a franchise that’s one of the top 300 most recognizable names in marketing and has no competitor recognition in the top 1000 names. Their tag line has been known and marketed for decades. The business is a Culligan water dealership and the tag line is obviously “Hey Culligan Man.” Prior to his current business, he owned an independent pizza joint. In addition to loathing the late hours required at a pizza shop, he said it’s nearly impossible to make money when you’re competing with the big name pizza places like Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Domino’s. Even when you have a great product, which he did. All 3 of those pizza franchises have the resources to invest in both institutional and direct-response marketing. Each month without fail, I will get a postcard with the latest specials from each of those 3 pizza franchises. Why? They want me to cut out a coupon and take action right now to buy their pizza. Obviously they also invest a lot in commercials, websites, radio ads, sponsorships and other items that don’t generate a “direct-response” for them, however, it does help them create a position in their prospect’s mind so that when she starts thinking of pizza, they pop into her head.

So if you have a small business, what should you do? The answers is very simple, invest all of your marketing budget in direct-response advertising. If you decided to go the route of being an independent franchisee, you’ll obviously benefit from the institutional marketing your franchisor does on your behalf. However if you have any control over your own marketing dollars, you better make sure that every dollar that you spend in marketing is coming back with friends. In other words, with the use of micro-sites, web analytics, coupons, call-tracking phone numbers, and plain-old asking people (though you do always have to be skeptical of their answers) you should do your best to determine exactly which marketing investments bring money to your business.

In my business I’ve tested radio, direct-mail, newspaper, websites, Google Adwords, yellow pages, local sponsorships, home shows, and just about everything else. Over 2 years I’ve tracked the results of each item and today can, with very high certainty, know approximately how many dollars of revenue I’ll bring in for my best marketing projects. For my business, newspaper (which was literally the last thing I decided to test because I thought it was dying) has out performed everything else even though there are still some profits to be made with home shows and direct mail if done properly.

So what does that mean to me? I’m going to put as much of my marketing budget into newspaper marketing as possible as often as possible until it stops working. Do you know what marketing projects can produce those results for your business? If you stop investing in institutional marketing and start investing in direct-response marketing, you will.

To your direct response marketing success, Bryan

P.S. If you’re looking for a great book on the subject and some more details on what numbers you should track with your marketing, check out my blog about Claude C. Hopkin’s book Scientific Advertising.

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Commitment

In my Internet Marketing for Small Business series of blogs we reviewed the 3 pieces of your small business’ online presence:

  1. Traffic
  2. Website
  3. Commitment

We then discussed the 3 primary ways to get Traffic (Search Engines, Online Ads/Google Adwords, Viral Marketing) and of course reviewed videos explaining some basics of Viral Marketing, Search Engine Optimization and optimizing your Google Adwords campaigns. We most recently looked at some great tips for your website in my last blog.

The final piece to the puzzle and the item we’ll be reviewing today is the Commitment. The commitment is simply the visitors commitment to buy from you or to contact you for more information if you’re not selling any products online. Obviously we’ve been talking about the sales aspect of your website, not how it caters to current customers, so with that in mind, everything you do to your website should be geared towards that goal. Here are a few pointers for achieving that.

  1. Setup your website layout and design according to my last blog.
  2. Use the 4.5 points of marketing to address their questions and concerns.
  3. Offer them something for free in exchange for their email address.

Since the first 2 points were addressed in the last post, we’re solely going to focus on the third.

When buying a product, the primary reason people use the internet is to educate themselves by reading information about the product or service they are interested in. They may also be looking for the best value, but without knowing what makes a product or service valuable they’ll first have to educate themselves on that product or service. This is where you have the opportunity to set yourself apart. If you’re an online retailer, the best reason for someone giving you their email address would be to receive email notifications of special sales and promotions. However, if you’re a service or knowledge-based business, they can have many reasons for dealing with you. A few thoughts your prospect may have to consider would be:

  1. Your level of expertise – Can you fix their problem the right way the first time?
  2. Your history – If your business is less than 5 years old chances are you’re not going to be here in another 5 years.
  3. Your prices – Are they fair and reasonable for the services you deliver?
  4. Your credibility – What do your customers say/think about you?
  5. Your guarantee – If you turn out to not do what you told me, what do I stand to lose?

Now your website can do a great job of addressing most of that, however you need to hold something back. You need to not let the cat out of the bag on your expertise right away. Why? After all, that may be the most important thing to your client and what they NEED to know about you before making a decision. Exactly. Because of that, if setup correctly, your potential client will gladly give you their name and email address in exchange for you sharing some of your expertise with them. Read that sentence again and let it sink in for a minute. That’s your hook. If the rest of your website is setup in such a way to address the other 4 items (and any others you may determine your prospects want to know) then they’ll trust that you are an expert.

This is where you utilize an “opt-in”. An Opt-in is where your visitor opts-into your mailing list or newsletter. Obviously the key to getting someone to decide to sign up for your newsletter is to offer them your expertise for free in return. So once they opt-in, you email them a PDF or direct them to a web page where they can download a PDF providing your expertise. (Mailchimp.com can get you started with this for free.) This would be in the form of an article, whitepaper, special report, expose’, or research paper addressing your expertise. For instance:

  1. For a law firm – “The top 10 cost-saving questions you need to ask before putting down a retainer for a lawyer.”
  2. For an accountant – “The top 10 things your accountant missed on your last tax return.”
  3. For a plumber – “How to know if your plumber is more interested in your pipes or your wallet.”
  4. For a an auto-body shop – “The quickest way to tell if your body-shop repair estimate is accurate or if the body-man has been spending too much time in the paint booth.”
  5. For a photographer – “The 5 things a photographer must do to get the best picture of you – that have nothing to do with the camera!”

You get the idea. The goal is to provide a topic that is relevant and important to your visitors. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Make it generic – Don’t say “top 10 reasons to do business with us”. No one is going to give you their email in exchange for a sales pitch. They’re looking for a “free lunch” by learning from your expertise.
  2. Set it up to paint a picture that only your business fits – This is, of course, the power of this sort of marketing. It allows you to define exactly what the perfect lawyer, cpa, plumber, beauty salon, etc. should look like. Make sure only your business can fit that definition. This is part of the way you can build value to demonstrate that your prices are higher but your overall value is unmatched.
  3. Provide some real expertise – We’re all smart enough to see right through a thinly veiled sales pitch. This is the kind of thing that will help them decide to NOT do business with you.
  4. Make it simple – Lay it out with a list or graphs and make it conversational. Write this copy, as you should with all marketing copy, as if you’re sitting across the table from this person explaining to them exactly what you’re talking about.
  5. Promise not to sell their email – Unless of course you do plan to sell their email. But I don’t really recommend that.

Now some of the great internet marketers have learned that providing a PDF in exchange for an email only gets you so far. Instead they setup automatic email responder campaigns with the help of sites like aweber.com. This basically tells your visitor they’re going to receive some level of your expertise once per week for the next 4 weeks or something along those lines. This keeps you in touch with them constantly and helps you get closer to Jay Conrad Levinson’s claim that it takes 9 communications to make a prospect a customer. This is the reason gathering an email address is so important to begin with. If Levinson’s research is accurate, your chances of gaining a customer because of one visit to your website are pretty slim. However, if they visit your website and then you keep in constant contact with them via email, now the tide has turned in your favor. 😉

To your success in gaining a commitment with your website, Bryan