Category: Business and Marketing

How to convert website traffic into loyal customers

More often than not when I ask a small business owner what is their goal for their digital marketing efforts the answer is “to drive more traffic to my website.”

The idea is that sales is a numbers game and the more people you are able to get in front of, the more sales you will close. There are a few problems with this idea. First, it cost more to get more people to your website. Second, there is a negative effect on your search engine rankings when those visitors bounce off your website too quickly. Third, you may end up spending too much time responding to unqualified leads.

I would like to suggest that the goal should be to attract qualified buyers and increase sales from loyal customers.

Here are 5 steps to achieve that goal.

1. Understanding the customer’s emotional journey.

The customer’s journey starts when they realize they have a pain point. That pain point causes an emotional response which spurs them into action to remove the pain. You may know and address that pain in your marketing content but are you addressing their emotional response?

People do not make purchase decisions based on what is the best or most rational solution. Purchase decisions are driven by emotions. Can your customers trust you? Will it be enjoyable to work with you? Will you make your customers look good to their peers? These are just a few of the underlying questions your potential customers have when they are evaluating your solutions.

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If your content talks about your products or solutions but do not answer the emotional questions it may be educational, but it is not compelling.

Compelling content is focused on the customer, not you. Compelling content says, “I understand where you are right now and how you are feeling.” Compelling content assures the customer that everything will be ok and that there is a path to solve the problem. Compelling content provides a vision of what life will be like when the problem is solved.

Once you have made an emotional impact on your audience, be sure that they have a way to act on it. Having a “Contact Us” button with an action-oriented color, like orange, can make it easier for people to get in touch with you if they have comments or questions about what they just read.

If they don’t contact you right away, be sure that they don’t forget you. Keep your brand in front of them as they surf the internet looking for alternative answers. Remarketing is an advertising technique that tracks website visitors and then promotes your ads to them even after they leave your website.

2. Capture their attention and then their information.

Once you’ve put in the work to get people to your website, set up paths and capture analytics to learn as much about them as possible. What pages are people visiting? What are they clicking on? Where are they lingering? The more you know about your audience’s behavior the more you will understand their needs and what interests them. This information enables you to make adjustments to your content and the design of your website to better connect with your audience.

When your audience feels like you understand them they will be willing to provide their contact information in exchange for a lead magnet such as a white paper, ebook, checklist or subscription to your newsletter. A great lead magnet will usually solve a problem for your customers and is quick and easy to understand and implement.

3. Know when and how to reach out to your prospect to close the deal.

I have been in sales for a couple of decades. The most important thing I have learned is that timing is everything when it comes to asking for the sale. If you ask too early you can make your prospect feel like you are only trying to get the deal without understanding their needs. If you wait too long you can make your prospect feel like you’re not really interested in having them as a client or that you may be too hard to work with.

Too many websites ask to move forward with the deal too soon. Pop-ups that announce a discounted price appeal to the rational buyer who is focused on saving money, but remember your audience is emotional. The idea of saving money may be what helps close the deal but only if your future customer is emotionally satisfied with the solution you are offering. At the same time, some websites don’t provide a quick and easy way to act when a person is ready to buy.

In my first sales role in the late nineties, we referred to the perfect time to close a deal as white heat. White heat is when the prospect is showing signs of intense excitement. They are ready to move forward. If you let that feeling pass without asking for the sale it is really difficult to capture their attention again.

How can you tell when a prospect is feeling white heat? You learn from behavior cues. If you are speaking with your future customer in-person it is the pitch of their voice or the speed of their words. They will be talking about what the future will look like once they have started working with you or purchased your solution.

Online those behavior cues of white heat show up when your prospect is clicking for more information and spending more time on your website. Marketing automation software solutions such as SharpSpring enable you to set up triggers to track behavior patterns that suggest a person is ready to buy and then automatically sends them the appropriate message or alerts your sales team.

However, your future customer may be looking for more help in making their final decision. Be sure you have a way for them to contact you quickly and easily to get their questions answered.

4. Learn from objections.

The more qualified the leads are that are visiting your website the more legitimate the objections are of those who choose not to buy from you. These are people who you could serve, should serve, but that have decided not to do business with you.

As hard as it is on your ego that someone decided not to work with you it is not something you should just shake off. Take the time to reflect on what happened during their journey. At any point were you more focused on your offering than on their need? Was any part of your solution confusing? Did you ask too much of your prospect too soon? Each lesson you are able to learn from a deal you did not close is an action you can implement to continuously improve your business. Don’t look at a lost deal as a failure but instead as a gift that was given to help you build a better business.

5 . Start, measure, and refine.

The biggest hindrance to growing a small business is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of failure.

What I am suggesting here is that you change your marketing plan to an approach that may be unknown to you and might be a costly failure. I get it.

This is why many small businesses choose to stay focused on the simple plan of providing information about their products and services, appealing to the rational buying decisions, and getting in front of as many people as possible. Their goal is to drive more traffic to their website so that people will make a purchase. But if I have piqued your interest in trying a different approach, rest assured you can start small and learn as you go.

Simply start with a new mindset of how you want to engage with your prospects and customers. Learn more about them and begin to measure how their online behavior aligns with their purchasing decisions. Begin to refine your marketing plan to better serve your customers and solve your prospects problems one step at a time. The reward will is more loyal customers and advocates for your business.

Need help getting started? Let’s talk.

Ignorance is Not Bliss in an Ever-Changing World

Will you have a job next week? Next year?

Will your skill set be valued in the job market in the years to come? If not, do you know what you need to do to keep your skills up-to-date?

Over the past few decades, we have witnessed a large number of innovations that have changed how we live and work. I have been working as a digital marketing consultant for over a decade, a job that was not even dreamed of when I graduated from college. All indications show that my job will be obsolete in the next few years as automated technologies become more sophisticated.

The jobs that help people climb up are at risk as well. I put myself through college by waiting on tables. More and more kiosks are being placed on tables allowing for people to place their orders and pay their bills. This will mean that restaurants, which already run on razor-thin profit margins, will cut costs by hiring fewer servers. 

I met a retired gentleman the other day who still works as a freelance accountant. He told me what once took 5-6 people to do, he now does by himself on a part-time basis thanks to financial software enhancements.

Truck drivers need to be concerned. A self-driving semi-truck made a cross-country trip with minimal human intervention. 

Every day there is a new innovation or enhancement that will change or eliminate the jobs many of us do but most people are not paying attention.

My dad worked for one company his entire career. He was a cable repairman for the phone company and he retired for medical reasons in 1986. In all his years his job did not change much. That was the world I grew up in, a world where I watched my parents and the parents of my friends work for one or two companies without having to drastically change their skill set. Yes, there were job losses due to economic downturns or poor business habits, but the types of jobs that people performed did not go away. 

DangerUncertaintyThose who are paying attention are not doing enough to prepare. A recent study revealed that 65% of respondents agree that jobs industries will suffer because of automation, but they believe they will be fine. Only 3% of respondents were concerned about losing a job to a “robot.”

It is misleading to talk about “robots” taking our jobs because people often envision a humanoid. However, as an example, social media is currently swarming with bots. There are bots that will answer your question and bots that will grow your following, and bots that will promote your agenda, and bots that will engage on posts for you, and so on. All of those “bots” are basically code, it is not a humanoid robot behind a computer.

No matter your job, the skills needed to do it will become devalued in the near future.

Teachers are faced with a growing popularity of online classes.

Managers should be studying how platforms such as Uber are eliminating middle management.

The changes in the workforce are wreaking havoc on our political discourse. Our current political breakdown is rooted in a large segment of Americans feeling left behind, lost, and not recognizing this world that is emerging. People are scared and for good reason. A strong political leader would explain to them that the world is changing and would invest in helping people to enhance their skill set as well as begin studying what other social investments need to be made such as Universal Healthcare that would cover freelancers, students, entrepreneurs, and people who have been displaced.

Instead, we have too many leaders who pander to the dream of returning to a time when the world had fewer disruptions and jobs were safer. Politicians know they are speaking to regular people who have lives to lead and spend their days working longer hours for less pay and then spending time with friends and family. Most people are not reading about AI or Automation, they do not have the time. Unfortunately, it seems as though our politicians are more invested in talking points that will get them elected than in providing insights that will empower their citizens.

There are two main reasons why disruptive innovations will continue to accelerate and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. The first is Capitalism, an economic system that values efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Computers will continue to outperform humans and therefore will be valued over human labor more and more. The other reason is global competition. No matter what the trade agreements are, if other countries are outperforming us technically we will lose.

If we continue to think our jobs are not at risk, if we continue to not hold our political leaders accountable for preparing our workforce for the future, if we continue to spend our time and energy wanting to go back to a more simpler time, if we continue to stay ignorant of how rapidly the world is changing, it may become the downfall of us all.

Influencer Marketing can be more than reach and awareness

Despite all the recent hype around influencer marketing, it is really nothing new. In fact, I ran my first influencer marketing campaign for a large brand in 2006. We did not call it influencer marketing, it was called blogger outreach, but the premise was the same. We developed relationships with bloggers who had a large following and wrote about our niche. My first project was about cars. At the time the goal was to increase awareness. Our efforts were similar to a traditional media pitch and blogs were seen as “new media.”

As the social web evolved so did our outreach campaigns. Today, a content creator no longer needs a blog to be influential. Many influencers are focused on varied platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

What also has evolved the expectations of an influencer campaign. Through well-design campaigns and knowledge of how to use targeted advertising and lead generation tools on social platforms, influencer marketing campaigns can offer so much more than just brand awareness. Many brands have reported impressive results which have led to an increase in the hype about influencer marketing.

With great hype comes great expectations and more and more brands are reaching out to influencers to talk about a product or service and expecting a windfall of sales leads. The results are almost always disappointing. The reason is typically influencer campaigns are often executed without a plan or a strategy. More often then not I see influencers randomly posting about a brand with the hashtag #ad. This randomness makes it not an influencer marketing campaign. It is an ad buy and ads don’t work as well as a true influencer marketing program. 

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A successful influencer marketing program takes just as much planning as any other marketing program to be successful. Through the story-telling capabilities of the influencers that you are working with, an audience is able to experience your brand and develop an affinity for it. Because your brand is being introduced by a trusted influencer you should see an increase in followers on your brand platforms. If your campaign is designed to generate sales you should see a sustained increase in revenue.

Here are 5 steps that you can include in your planning to maximize your influencer marketing program.

1. Know what to expect from the influencers you work with

A common question I have been asked through the years is why would anyone work to become an influencer? That is actually a very important question to ask influencers before you decide to work with them. Their answers will reveal what their priorities are, how committed they are, their strengths, and how authentic they are. By understanding the motivations of the influencer you can create a program that is win-win for your brand and the influencer. You can also weed out the influencers who started because they thought it was a great way to make money. The influencers who are solely money motivated most likely have purchased followers and have no real relationship with their audience as well as little commitment to developing extraordinary content.

Many influencers see themselves as journalists and have found various ways to monetize their efforts. These influencers don’t want to be told what to write about or how to write their story. They know that the following they have built is based on their opinions and perspectives. However, you can provide in-depth, interesting, educational, and exclusive information to help guide the narrative. 

Keep in mind that influencer marketing can be more than just an awareness campaign. The story your influencers share can lead their audience through the sales pipeline from awareness to a sale. But the program must be designed to meet the expectations of the audience as well as your brand. If you are working with an influencer with the goal of introducing your brand to their audience keep in mind your expectation is not simply awareness. Your campaign should be designed for storytelling that leads to people following your brand to continue through the sales process. 

If you are working with an influencer who has an audience that already knows your brand you can develop a campaign with a call to action that can generate leads or a direct sale. But your campaign must be designed with the audience in mind and aligned with your goals.

2. Engage with your influencers during the campaign

One of the biggest missed opportunities is when a brand does not  engage with the influencer’s content when they are writing about them. Engaging with the influencer’s content not only will increase reach it allows the audience to get to know the brand personally throughout the campaign. It also provides the brand with an opportunity to speak out if the campaign goes sideways for any reason.

During one of the influencer campaigns my team managed we increased the reach significantly by actively conversing with the influencers from the brand’s social media accounts and sharing their posts. At one point our influencer left a dessert she purchased on the train and tweeted her disappointment. Through our connections, we were able to have the dessert purchased again and delivered to her hotel room making the brand a hero and winning many fans from her followers.

Influencer marketing is not an ad buy and it is not something a brand needs to set in motion and then be hands-off. The more your brand is involved in the conversation the more you allow your influencer’s audience to get to know you and the more prepared you will be to step in if something goes wrong.

3. Create buzz-worthy experiences

Imagine inviting a well-known photographer to take pictures of your property and you don’t greet them when they arrive, don’t share with them the shots you think are most important, and don’t set up scenes worthy of photographing. At the end of the day, both you and the photographer would be quite disappointed in the experience.

Your influencers are photographers and videographers and story-tellers but you have to set up the scenes for them and guide them through what the most important shots are. This might include a behind-the-scenes tour, an interview with the chef, or free passes to attractions close by. For the most part you should never tell an influencer what to write about or what to post, but you can guide their experience and make sure it is truly buzz-worthy.

When you are working with an influencer that has a gift for photography or videography consider purchasing the rights to their work so that you can use these great assets in future campaigns.

4. Amplify your influencers content with targeted ads

Ideally, the influencers you are working with are creating great content and telling a compelling story. What makes them an influencer is that they have a significant audience and you should be working with them because their audience is relevant to your brand. But the reach of their content does not need to stop there.

By working with your influencer you can set up ads that target specific demographics and interests and have your influencer promote their content on their platform. You can also share the content that your influencer created on your own platform and promote it to a specific audience. The better you target the content to align with the audience’s interest the more the content will resonate and the greater your results will be.

You can also expand on the results that you gained from your influencer marketing campaign by designing an ad campaign that will retarget website visitors that resulted from the campaign. After a person visit your website from the campaign you ad team can continue to deliver follow up advertisements to them. 

If you are working with an influencer who is active on Twitter, during the campaign, while they are talking about your brand, set up an advertisement with an offer and target it to the influencer’s followers so that as they are following the story of your brand they will see an opportunity to act.

Social Media advertising does not require a large budget and the more that as people engage with your ads the more results you will see from your advertising budget.

Step 5. Build long-term relationships with your influencers

Your brand’s relationship with influencers should not only revolve around your campaign. If you are working with influencers who are relevant to your brand your relationship should be ongoing. This means engaging on social media, asking your influencers for their input and ideas on new products and services, making introductions to other brands that would benefit from working them. An ongoing relationship takes evolves from having partners for a marketing campaign to having real brand ambassadors.

A well-designed influencer marketing campaign can provide a higher ROI than almost any other marketing program. Yet, too often influencer marketing programs are launched with little thought and based on weak relationships which leads to a waste of time and money. The more detrimental result of a bad campaign is that stakeholders no longer believe in the value of influencer marketing and will refuse to try again. That is why a small test pilot of such campaigns tend to do more harm than good. When a hotel provides a free stay to an influencer in return for a few posts they will see little return. If you are going to work with influencers it is well worth it to commit to building out a well-designed program that will yield specific results.

Need help building out your campaign or connecting with influencer?

 

Related Articles:

Can we have real relationships with the people we meet online?

5 tools to find your influencers

Travel Influencers: A New PR

It’s Time For a Freelancer (R)evolution

In the 2+ decades I have been working, freelancers have always played an important role in providing expertise or filling in talent gaps for organizations. There are a number of benefits that come with hiring a freelancer including keeping headcount down and reduce payroll to having access to unique expertise with a vast amount of experience.

There are many benefits to being a freelancer as well such as flexibility and taking control of your career path.

However, the downside to both organizations and freelancers is the fact that many hands-woman-legs-laptop.jpgfreelancers work alone. They are responsible for sales and marketing, accounting, project or account management, keeping their skills up to date, and the specific tasks they were hired to do.

My experiences of being a freelancer and managing freelancers sparked an idea of how we can keep all the great things about freelancing while easing the struggles that come from working alone.

Amplified Concepts is a freelancer community where the expertise of individuals are highlighted, a community of freelancers gather, and dedicate teams come together to learn from each other, collaborate, and share resources.

If you would like to know how you can be a part of this (r)evolution, contact me.

Keeping Your Nonprofit Volunteers Inspired

For many nonprofits, volunteers are the lifeblood that animates the mission. Whether it is people who show up to help clean or provide their professional expertise, these volunteers are often critical to meeting the goals of the organization.

Attracting and retaining volunteers takes effort and the most important part of that effort is communication. In my post on Linkedin, Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers through Social Media, I highlight how you can use social media to align with the values of your sought after volunteers, take away any fear and concerns they may have of the unexpected, and reward them with recognition.

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Travel Influencers: A New PR

Getting your hotel property or travel destination featured in a magazine takes a lot of work, relationship building, and story-telling. Is there a way to get a better return with less effort?

Yes. Work with a social media influencer, a person who is passionate about travel and built an audience that not only consumes the information that is posted, but interacts with it and shares it. Travel Influencers are story-tellers who will see the best of what you have to offer through the eyes of what is important to your guest. Many have a reach that rivals traditional magazines.

However, before you work with a travel influencer, may I suggest you read my article in Hotel Executive: The Rising Value of the Travel Influencer. 

The Rising Value of the Travel Influencer.

Can you cause people to act?

Published in 2000, Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point exposed how getting the right people to know about an idea or select teens to make a fashion statement can create a new trend.  Gladwell did a great job outlining some examples, but his idea was far from original.

One of my favorite documentaries, The Century of Self, talks about how appealing to people’s emotions and ego will cause them to make certain purchases and the best way to do that is to partner with people they look up to or relate to.

The question is can you become someone who has an influence on others? I have worked with social media influencers for over a decade and I have learned a thing or two about what makes them influential. Read more on my Linkedin Article: How Do You Become an Influencer

Be an Influencer

Life Without Social Media

I love this time of the year when I  am able to slow down and spend time with friends and family and watch a few of my favorite movies. One of my all-time favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life.
As I watched that movie this year I could not help but think about the lessons the movie offers and how they apply to some of the struggles that I witnessed this past year. By reflecting on the journey and the positive changes that have occurred because of the journey, we can gather our strength and look forward to a positive future.
This year there have been lots of stories about how Social Media channels have been hijacked by various greedy, misguided, nasty, hateful people and how it has been overwhelmed by automated bots. Trying to stay on a positive and authentic course can feel like a losing battle sometimes. But when we reflect on the positive outcomes of that course we are renewed for that battle. With that in mind, I adapted the story of It’s a Wonderful Life with social media as the hero of the story titled, “It’s a Wonderfully Connect Life”  posted on Linkedin.
I hope you enjoy it. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.
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Is Social Media the cause of a decline in human to human authentic engagement?

Lots of stories are being posted about the downfall of society with social media to blame.

It is not the platform that is to blame but how we have decided to use them. In my article, How Social Media Became its Own Worse Enemy – and How to Improve It, I discuss what we might be doing wrong, what the fallout could look like, and how we can get real again.

Time to Upgrade