Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How I learned to LOVE making mistakes and being wrong

At one point in my life I was a 21 year old male and it might be fair to say I was a bit, uh, cocky.

One of the reasons was because I had a blast racing the Formula racecar my college buddies and I built to do 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds and pull over 1 lateral G. (For the non-engineers, that means it took turns faster than a Z06 Corvette.)

It was about that time that a little software program taught me the power of being wrong.

You see, my responsibilities for our Formula SAE racecar as Engine Team Leader were to make sure our car was fast AND reliable. (Learning the reliable part was a humbling experience but a story for another day.)

Kettering University FSAE 2004 Dyno Run

Dyno run of Kettering's 2004 FSAE Car - I'm on the right in the backwards hat holding the laptop.

At the start I knew very little about engine design as my upperclassmen Chris, Tim, and Jason could fully attest. I bombarded them constantly with questions. I also raided our school library to find anything I could about engine operation.

My university made some very sophisticated software available to me to simulate how various changes to the engine would result in more or less power.

Based on the help of my more senior team members, and the books I’d been devouring, I now had enough basic theories about engine design that I could start plugging various design parameters into the software.

You see, the way the software worked was a bit tricky… You couldn’t just say, “Make me the most powerful 600cc engine possible,” and let the software spit out the answers.

You had to actually tell the software exactly which part of the engine to change. So, for instance, you might have to change the size of the exhaust to determine which diameter would result in the best performance. (FYI, bigger is not always better.)

Think of it this way… Right now you’re sitting at your computer. Let’s say it starts working slowly and web pages aren’t loading up real well. Well there’s no software out there that will just “fix” that problem.

It might be your web browser, the website’s servers, your internet connection, a virus, spyware, or another program running in the background and you have to try each one to see which is causing the problem. It might even be several problems at once.

That’s kind of how you design a car engine. You know you want it to go faster, you just have to figure out which areas to tweak to speed it up.

Ok, so I’d put in these various parameters for intake and exhaust design and then the software would test out one configuration and then report back to me how much power and torque that particular configuration would produce.

Over time I’d run hundreds and hundreds of different configurations to find the best combination.

And here’s the thing…

My idea of what should have produced the best combination of performance was often wrong.

Now as our Team Leader, Travis, used to say, “we’re engineers not scientists.” Which meant, we work in the real world not a perfectly controlled lab, so my computer simulations weren’t the final word – they were just the starting point.

To get the full picture, we actually had to get an engine, strap it onto a dynamometer (device used to measure engine power kind of like you use a scale to measure your weight), and build a test rig to test our simulated ideas in the real world.

You know what happened?

The real world taught me once again the beauty of being wrong. The dyno testing showed that some things that worked really well on the computer (like a large intake plenum) had serious limitations (like horrible throttle response) in the real world.

Ultimately the result of being wrong, admitting it, and then quickly moving forward was a phenomenal engine package.

Our primary race was an autocross-style road course for 30 laps that required even power delivery over a large RPM range.

At competition when we were on the dyno testing our car in front of the other teams, a bystander remarked, “that’s not a torque curve, that’s a torque plateau!

That was EXACTLY what we were looking for!

That appreciation for being wrong and getting better because of it, is exactly how my internet marketing business approaches website design.

  1. Strong Base theory with the Marketing RoadMap – Just like I had to know what parameters to put into the engine software, marketing requires an equally strong base on how people think and interact with websites, Google Ads, and search engines.
  2. Testing at every step in the marketing process – On the car engine we tweaked every item air touched from entering the engine till leaving the muffler. In internet marketing, we test and optimize every step from the words your target customer is typing into Google, to the ad we show them, to the page they land on, to the places they click on the landing page, to the contact form that generates the lead. Every place your prospect visits is monitored, tested, and improved.
  3. Real world feedback – The first month that we launch a new website is the absolute worst for performance. Why? Because at that point everything is theory. Some of it can be based on what has worked in the same industry in other parts of the country however no 2 markets are the same so what works in one city very often doesn’t work as well in another one. So we start with our best guess at what will work and then slowly but continuously improve. For your market we learn exactly what is important to website visitors by analyzing search terms, clicks, and online surveys.
  4. Mistake Loving – Maybe I’m not quite as arrogant as I may have been at 21, however we do know our process is the absolute best available. The way we know this is that we openly admit when we make mistakes. When we make a mistake, we analyze WHY our theory was wrong and then we improve your website or advertising the next time around. We even tell you what we learned so you can apply the same lessons into your offline marketing.

Maybe some advertisers, web designers, or internet marketers you’ve chatted with believe they just know what will work to convert your website visitors to customers.

Well don’t be too hard on them.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I used to think I knew what would work too.

Now I know better.

To your mistake-loving success, Bryan

P.S. If your business could use some help improving internet lead-generation and you appreciate our unique approach, contact us at

How much do your customers care about what you think?

In the past week I had a great opportunity to talk to dozens and dozens of small business owners about internet marketing and, in particular, their websites.

One of the most common things I would hear is, “I like this website” or “I don’t like that website.”

When I’d ask a business owner about his own website and whether he was happy with it, the majority of the time the response was, “Yeah, I like it, it looks pretty good.” Or, “I like it but it could use some updating. It looks outdated.”

My question was actually a setup because his opinion about his own website is irrelevant.

That’s kind of harsh for me to say, right?

After he would tell me his opinion on his own or another website I’d ask, “Do your customer’s or prospects care about what you think looks good?”

It was kind of a verbal punch in the nose so I had to repeat the question almost every single time.

In case you think that’s a trick question, let me make it simple.

NO – Your customers don’t give a hoot about your opinion of your own website.

Your opinion or preference or feelings about your website don’t matter a lick to the visitors who come to your site. You know what does matter? Their own opinions. All they care about is themselves and quite frankly, you’re the same way.

The problem is actually worse then that… Your opinion is not only not important, it could be outright harmful to your website’s performance.


Because you know too much and yet you don’t know enough.

You have the “curse of knowledge” so you already know all the jargon and slang and vernacular of your business. When you look at your website you understand exactly what each button and drop-down and description means. To you it makes perfect sense.

Beyond that you may not even be the target consumer. In other words, if you’re a 55-year old married male and your target market is 30-45 year old mothers, no matter how hard you try, you can’t see the world exactly through the eyes of those mothers.

So you know too much about your own product, but don’t know enough about your target customer to put yourself in her shoes.

So how do I know if it’s a good website?

There are only 2 ways to determine a great website.

  1. The conversion rate. Conversion can be defined in a number of ways but is generally local contacts divided by local visitors. In other words if you had 100 visitors and 5 contacted you, then the conversion rate would be 5%.
  2. Test and optimize the site. If you want to improve your conversion rate, you need to setup tests throughout your website to determine exactly what will catch your visitors’ attention and get them to take action.

So the next time someone asks you if you like your website, feel free to say,  “I love it!

Then when they ask you why, be sure to say, “because we have a conversion rate nearly double the industry average.

By-the-way, this is entirely true of all marketing. Unfortunately, testing which TV or Radio ad is resonating better with your target market is hard to do. So test out your marketing concepts and ideas online first, then take them offline.

It will save you a lot of time and money and will absolutely get you better results.

To your success in learning what really matters to your customers, Bryan

P.S. If you need help using your website to learn what motivates your customers, contact us at and we’ll either take over your current site or create a new one for you. Either way, your conversion rate will consistently improve.

How to write strong sales copy for your website

If you don’t currently have a sales pitch, or you’re trying to improve it, here’s a quick outline of how to put one together for your website.

The first thing I do when writing is start with an outline and I highly recommend it. Use an outline (or mind map) to just jot-down all your ideas and thoughts on the subject. It doesn’t have to make sense or flow smoothly. Not everything in your outline will make the final draft and a few things that weren’t in your outline will get added. From there, here are the steps to creating great copy.

Like catching this Yellowstone National Park geyser in action, finding quality sales copy is rare.

  1. Define your target customer. How old are they? What do they wear? Where do the shop? What do they drive? What motivates them? What do they absolutely love? What do they absolutely hate?
  2. Define what would you like the customer to do once hearing/seeing/reading your pitch. What’s the goal? Enter their email… Purchase a product… Contact you…
  3. Utilize the 4.5 Points of Marketing. Problem, Solution, Why us?, Why now?, Risk-Free
  4. Consider possible responses and questions. Don’t create a FAQ… With a FAQ you can’t control the dialogue. Step the reader through the 4.5 points of marketing while addressing all of their questions as they go along.
  5. Offer third-party testimonials and reference third-party resources. Those testimonials can be written or video. Include them along the side of your page so they’re viewable the whole time. Also, be careful when referencing third-party web pages. Generally you’re better to site the resource without a direct-link because you don’t really want someone leaving your web page to check out the resource and then never come back. However, in some instances it does make sense to provide the link; so use common sense.
  6. Pretend you’re sitting next to someone talking to them. Once you have that vision, take your outline and start writing sentences in the Conversational Marketing style as if you’re talking face-to-face.
  7. Highlight key points for the readers who will just skim. Also use numbered and bulleted lists as well as paragraph breaks, graphics, charts, and pictures to highlight important details that you don’t want the reader to miss.
  8. Test and Measure to determine which copy is most effective. In other words, have multiple landing pages and track your analytics to determine which page is achieving your goal from step 2 most often per visitor.
  9. Sign your letter, postcard, website, or marketing piece. People don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people. If you’re a small business use that personal touch to highlight how you’re different and therefore BETTER than dealing with a large faceless corporation.
  10. Include your most important part in the P.S. Whether you’re creating a newspaper ad, direct-mail postcard, writing an email, or direct-mail letter, studies have shown that people read the headline first; then they read the sub-heading; next they check out the pictures; and finally they read the P.S. or whatever is at the bottom of your ad.

Don’t forget to tell the truth! Which one are you more likely to believe and therefore respond to?

Everything must go!” OR “Our purchasing department made a mistake and ordered too much inventory so we need to clear out some stock.” Just don’t be that furniture company down the road that’s been having the “Going out of business! Must liquidate everything!” sale for the past 3 years. That’s not honest or ethical.

While we’re on the topic of ethics, your marketing should always be honest and up front. Don’t bait-and-switch… Don’t stretch the truth… Don’t tell little fibs that no one will ever notice… In the short term people will notice it and be put off… In the long run it’s toxic. It’s like a cancer lead by the marketing (or sales) department that keeps getting worse but that no one notices until it’s too late. It will eventually catch up with you and ultimately it’s never the most profitable way to run a business of any size.

To your success in writing sales copy, Bryan

P.S. My last 2 blogs were a bit long so I figured I’d shorten this one for you. My next blog on your Marketing Manual might exceed my 1,000 word limit, so consider yourself warned.

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 and 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 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 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.

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. ( 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 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

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Your Website

In my last 3 blogs we reviewed the 3 pieces of your small business’ online presence:

Chichen Itza - the 7th Wonder of the World. Is your website this complex?

  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 and Search Engine Optimization for Small Business. We then looked at some of the best tips for optimizing your Google Adwords campaigns in my last blog.

This time around we’re going to take a closer look at your website. From my last 3 blogs you have a lot of great ways to get people to your website, but how do you know your website is any good? Let’s break this into 3 sections:

  1. Goal of your website
  2. Content
  3. Layout
  4. Tracking or Analytics

1. Goal of your website – This is so important to understand as I think most people never even consider this point. For most people they have a website because they’re supposed to have a website and then they leave it at that. That’s not at all true, the goal of your website is to sell something! Since my small business is service-based, my goal is to sell an appointment or, in other words, get the potential customer to contact us. For other businesses the goal is to sell a product directly online. If you fail to sell your product or appointment via your website your secondary goal should be to collect your visitor’s contact information for future marketing. We’ll discuss basic ways to do that in the future.

2. Content – Since your goal is to sell your visitor something, the content of your website should be geared to do just that. How do you accomplish that? You answer all the questions that might prevent them from buying from you. That’s what your content MUST do if your customer is ever going to make a commitment to purchase from you. Here are the basic points you must cover in any marketing to earn a customer. I call these the 4.5 points of successful marketing:

  1. What problem can you fix for me? – Address and detail their problems to demonstrate that you understand their needs.
  2. Is your solution the best? – Explain how your solution to their problem is the best solution available.
  3. Why should I work with your company? – Compare your business to your competition to show how ONLY your business can meet their needs and requirements.
  4. Why do I need your solution now? – Dollarize their potential losses by not having your solution so they understand that every month, week, day or hour that they wait they’re losing money by not working with you.

4.5. What am I risking? – Make the process of either buying from you or contacting you for an appointment as risk-free as possible.

The biggest negative business owners point out to me when addressing these points is that now their competitors can see their whole “sales pitch”. My response to that is firstly, so what? They’re going to find it one way or another anyway. Secondly, if your business and product can’t highlight enough advantages, benefits, and differences to make it IMPOSSIBLE for your competitors to steal your sales pitch then you need to go back to the writing board and come up with better copy and/or a better business plan.

3. Layout – In the online world you basically have 4 types of websites:

  1. Complex – You have graphics and videos and Flash programming and javascript drop-down menus and somewhere amongst the entertainment you may even address some of your customer’s questions or needs.
  2. Simple – You list your business name, phone, address, a short About Us, a Contact Us page and maybe even a bit about your products. These websites do nothing more than provide contact information for people who already want to do business with you. Most visitors, however, don’t care about you until you educate them on how you can make their life better.
  3. Corporate – Every major corporation has one of these. It has all the standard pages for Contact Us, About Us, Investor Relations, Products, Store-Finder, etc. etc. It answers a few questions of the 4.5 points of successful marketing but often is bordering on the too Complex described above.
  4. Long-winded – These are those scrolling 1-page sales pitch websites that you just hate to visit. However the truth is, these are some of the best tracked, best-designed, best-selling websites in existence. Millions upon millions of dollars in internet fortunes have been made through this style of website. These designers have often done their homework and tweaked their website sales-machines to perfection so don’t write these off as unprofessional or ineffective. An unprofessional website is the one that doesn’t generate sales – nothing more.

So how do you optimize your site to generate the best results without getting too far off-track like the site descriptions above?

  1. Make it EASY to contact your business. Their should be a phone number, email, and/or contact us button on every page so that it’s visible at all times.
  2. Never make anything more than 2 menu’s deep (unless you sell millions of products). This is a lesson learned from the “Long-winded” guys. You can’t direct people through the 4.5 points of successful marketing if you have too many clicks. People want their questions answered right away and in a logical progression and if they have to click through more than 2 menus deep to get those answers they’re much more likely to leave.
  3. Relate your pages to each other. I was just searching for car parts for my 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution X on a performance parts website. The website had some awesome Youtube videos of their 10 second Evo with a listing of the parts they sell and used on that car. Only problem was the list of parts didn’t link back to the spot where I can buy the parts. After 30 minutes of navigating around I’m still not sure if the parts I found were the same ones they used on their own car! The point is, don’t make every visitor have to go back to your home page to find what they need. If you reference another product, idea, or reason to do business with you on an individual page, you better have a link to your reference.
  4. Provide testimonials. You can say all you want about your solutions and business however that never has the same effect as third-party testimonials from your customers. If your website doesn’t have those, start gathering them right away. Gathering testimonials is literally as simple as asking for them so be sure to ask!

4. Tracking or Analytics – Since we’re all looking for the simple answer let me give you just that. The most important performance number for your website is your conversion rate. This is the number of customers created divided by the number of visitors. In other words, if you have 100 visitors and 4 bought from you (or scheduled an appointment for a service-based business), your conversion rate would be 4% (4/100). Some benchmarks for conversion rates by industry are available courtesy of where the current internet average conversion rate is 4.3%. It’s also helpful to talk to other people in your specific industry if possible. As a point of comparison, my conversion rate in the 4th quarter of 2009 was 6.5% for my local service-based business. In a future blog we’ll discuss ways to really analyze your Google Analytics stats to determine how to improve your conversion rate.

To your website’s selling success, Bryan

P.S. Here’s another short article about website design by Barry A. Densa at that I think is very appropriate.