A Sustainable Plan for Blogging

Bangui_Windfarm_Ilocos_Norte_2007It’s the most common question from small business marketers who want to make good use of the internet. It goes something like:

What can I write about? Where can I find content ideas? Or, How can I blog if I’m in a really boring industry, like insurance for truck drivers, or warehouse fulfillment?

If you feel stuck there in a content-less fog, not wanting to start blogging or writing social media posts because you think your field is uninteresting, you haven’t really thought things through.

For starters, what are you doing slogging away day after day at something you find boring? (I’m not accusing you; just urging deeper examination. I have certainly done my share of employment for organizations that I didn’t highly value. It’s something to work through, for sure.)

But never mind that, suppose you just innocently must admit that there’s not a lot that’s universally fascinating about roadside garbage collection or a tax preparation firm.

And you’d be right. If you look straight at the subject, isolated from everything else, it will indeed appear to be void of interest.

But Oh My Gosh, the truth is that no matter what the subject, possibilities for riffs on it are endless. [Read more…]

Freemiums in Action

Business websites are increasingly using the freemium, the free gift offered on the site’s first page, above the fold.  Visitors can access this ‘premium item’  in exchange for their email address. It’s an excellent strategy for growing your list while providing useful stuff to potential customers. If the freebie is high quality and truly brings satisfaction to the user, your brand has already made a new friend; and new friends will then become customers, if properly cultivated.

Let’s look at a few examples of free offers. These three show not only how varied your gifts may be, but also how creative you can be in the presentation of the offer. If the goal is to enlarge your mailing list, you’ll want to create an offer that is well-positioned to win trust.

Marisa MurgatroydMarisa Murgatroyd runs a full-service web design and internet marketing agency. People seeking those services may land on her homepage. And the first thing they see is not “Marisa Murgatroyd,” not “full-service web design and internet marketing agency,” not “We’re the best agency for all your internet needs!” What they see is the exact thing they are seeking in their deepest gut: “9,450 followers in 12 months!”  No dancing around here; it’s a barefaced bullseye of positioning and copy. There’s a video as well, which is validating but almost superfluous because the message is already abundantly clear.  And the freemium is a “step-by-step plan” showing how you can have the same results.

Take-away: Try creating a front-and-center offer with the right fonts and colors. Ask, What is the very specific thing my potential customer wants when they come to my site? How can I provide the thing they want instantly?

Jay BaerJay Baer is such an intelligent blogger; I always enjoy his writing and respect his viewpoints. He also positions and colors his offer so as to make sure it’s not missed. His gift is remarkable for the way it is configured. Jay writes a daily newsletter he titles One Thing. So you’re signing up to receive these newsletters, and you also get a free ebook (it’s called “21 Quotes That Will Change the Way You Think About Marketing”) that contains quotes from Jay’s latest book. Taken together, the freemium affords benefits on many levels: Jay builds his list, subscribers get useful info, the content spreads Jay’s theories among his market, subscribers read the ebook, and some will decide to purchase the hard copy book.

Take-away: You can have your newsletter as the freemium offer, but think about ways to maximize returns for yourself as well as for your subscribers.

Amy PorterfieldSocial media guru Amy Porterfield has a super-high profile, and she offers a super-generous free download: a four-part video training on using Facebook for business. The giveaway dominates the home page and is almost starkly simple. Notice the labeling of the go button – “Give it to me!”

Take-away: Make your offer a video, audio, infographic, or other non-text medium and you’re already ahead. Somehow, it’s just easier to watch a video than to read. And videos make it easier for you to control how your message is delivered.

Admittedly, these are all marketing-related businesses. I’m collecting samples in other fields and will report to you shortly!

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 Want more details about developing your freemium? Start here.

Landing Pages, Squeeze Pages, Lead Pages: What’s the Difference?

1456136606_0c723a9689_zDo you wonder about the difference between landing pages, squeeze pages, and lead pages?

The internet is a 21st century Wild West, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a lot of confusion over terms and definitions. One of the most flagrant examples is the overlapping meanings of the terms: landing page, lead page, and squeeze page.

Several years back, the landing page concept bubbled to the cyber surface. Close on its heels was the squeeze page. And after a hiatus, the lead page took center stage just a couple years ago.

What does this progression signify and what is the difference, if any, between these different types of web pages?

Like an unexplored continent, the internet very slowly reveals itself, and we are just as slow to understand its ways. Somewhere along the line four or five years ago we understood and began to maximize the use of landing pages, driving traffic to specific inner pages of our website. We began to lure attention not exclusively to the homepage, but to a long tail page from deep inside the site; a page created for the specific purpose of introducing the visitor to a singular opportunity.

So we learned to guide the traffic in this way, wooing while shepherding. We also adopted the landing page as central to website traffic generation, because it appealed to highly specific needs. The more finely targeted your market, the more precisely you can craft your message.

One way to finesse the route to your landing page, we then realized, is to reduce the number of possible distractions. This is from the Sucker-A-Minute School of Marketing, but any successful marketing plan works on all levels, right? So a squeeze page allows only one action, only one exit. Fill in the form or nothing. No menus or links or superfluous stuff; just the single opt in, large and preferably circled in red.

A good while later, the two approaches were synthesized in lead pages. While landing and squeeze pages still make sense for specific situations, we now appreciate that driving traffic to a certain page (like a landing page) and making a single, crystal clear offer once they arrive (like a squeeze page), is the most user-friendly as well as profitable way to use cyberspace.

Again, the diverse forms are still active. When posting your blog updates, you still set up landing pages. You may use squeeze pages for decisive steps in a sales sequence. And you routinely work the internet for branding purposes, producing content that’s attractive to your market and offering it through lead pages that build your list.

Any questions? What do you think? What other ways do we have to make it easy for customers to get to know us and enjoy our interactions?

Business Goals, Keywords, and Your Website

TieksYou already know that your business website should accomplish certain very specific things on the way to meeting your business goals. This post looks at a few examples of how that works.

It’s a rare enterprise that is not concerned with money-making. If the mission of your biz is social, political, educational, or the like then you’re probably a non-profit. We can deal with that in another post. But for now, let’s assume we are all pretty much in it for the bucks.

Unfortunately, many small businesses stop there in their website planning. They are looking for more income, plain and simple. So they direct a site developer to build pages with the aim of making money. However, since all aspects of their business are involved in this same objective, it’s not easy to decide which part of available content is the best hook for a website home page or landing page. [Read more…]

What is Blogging, and Why?

jmoneyyyyyyyContent marketing, the leading thought in marketing today, clearly centers on content creation, which in turn centers on blogging.

The idea is that content – as opposed to ad copy – is what attracts a market. And your content is the stuff of your profession or business; it’s the presentation of who you are and what you know. Moreover, content is thought to be non-promotional; it’s sharing for the benefit of the audience, rather than of your business.

Despite the fact that very few people love to write, and many people don’t like to read, blogging became the core of content creation from the web’s early days. Though it’s still the rule that blogging will most quickly bring valuable site traffic, the task is no more universally popular than it ever was. Unfortunately, I’ve built sites for clients who refuse to include a blog; and other sites where the blog was set up and then simply abandoned. Truth is, most business owners have no intention of blogging.

I see this as a failure to understand what blogging is. As with so many of the internet’s properties, basic instructions are usually bypassed. Suddenly, now the internet requires us to produce blogs, when heretofore we interfaced with the public through ads or a printed brochure, and left it at that.

So here’s a list of what blogging is, which also shows why it’s necessary and how it doesn’t have to be so challenging.

Blogging may be defined as

  1. regular interaction with your audience
  2. a way to attract the attention of potential audiences
  3. the place where you consider the angles of various aspects of your business
  4. the method you use to educate people about your subject/field/organization
  5. the way you express yourself in public
  6. how you prove your passion and expertise
  7. the vehicle for sharing your personality – and perhaps your mission – across the globe
  8. the accumulation of archives as evidence of your endeavors
  9. continual updating of your website, keeping search engines active there
  10. a strategy for keeping your own mind and interest keen, vis-à-vis your subject
  11. the build up of a knowledge base
  12. an instrument for effective thought leadership

We could go on. But the point is that nowhere in the list is the word ‘writing.’ A blog does not necessarily include writing. You can come up with ways to interact, attract, consider, educate, express, prove, share, accumulate, tease Google, stay mentally sharp, collect information, and contribute to your community without writing.

Will you talk, draw, collect, or how else will you cover these blogging necessaries without slaving over a written essay every week? I’d love to know your ideas.

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Figure out the system you’ll use to blog, and you’re already on the way to success. Need help? Info here!

Content is Collateral

Tyler.MeyerIf you’re having trouble understanding why the new standards in marketing require you to blog and post social media updates and pictures and all kinds of stuff about your daily business and life, this blog post may help. Because if you use the internet to market your small business, the first thing you learn is that content is collateral.

It’s almost like currency. Businesses used to market, purchasing attention with cash. Now we garner that attention through publishing. We used to count on advertisers to create clever slogans. There did not need to be a close relationship between your products and the slogans; you only needed the ads to be attractive in themselves. Many a corporation still uses these old methods (for instance, what does Geiko’s gecko have to do with a good insurance deal?)

But the internet introduced a different kind of marketing, one that’s closer to publishing than advertising. Online marketing counts on the value of a brand to be a deep well of useful information for the customer; and on the staff of an organization to share that information regularly. [Read more…]

The Creative Challenge of Inbound Marketing

knitting-irisContent marketing’s requirement that we continuously produce attractive new material is terrifying, to put it simply. How many of us have any experience at all in this kind of productivity? Even college students don’t write as much and as often. Even traditional advertising departments were usually not required to create something new every day.

The emphasis on content production exists because if it’s not relevant and helpful online, it’s a waste of pixels. Content is how we stay top-of-mind. It’s the medium, as much as display ads were the medium of marketing communications previously.

Producing content for your online branding must become part of your business lifestyle. In other words, we have to figure out how to meet the creative challenge of so much ongoing communication with our markets, and to meet it in ways that won’t be stressful. [Read more…]

Smart Tactics for Converting Site Visitors to Leads

giftWhatever you do on behalf of your business online, the actions that convert into leads are the most valuable. Yes, you must have a stream of traffic, but once that’s established you want to focus on conversions.

The trends creep ever closer to a brutally direct approach. Many websites today ask for your opt-in on the home page, above the fold (i.e., it’s the first thing you notice when you land on the site). The visitor remains merely anonymous traffic for as little time as possible; we hurry them right along to sharing their contact info in exchange for a desireable item of some sort.

To me, this in-your-face promotion is not always appropriate. In developing your opt-in, your “freemium,” or what Amy Porterfield is calling your Signature Promotional Giveaway (SPG) always keep in mind the site visitor’s actual experience. If traffic tends to land on your site mostly from affiliate links, that’s quite different from a site that attracts mainly organic traffic based on a keyword. In the former case, an immediate up-sell might be fine; in the latter, you may want to massage the relationship a bit more before suggesting the opt-in.

But once you time, or position your opt-in offer satisfactorily, the big question is a familiar one in content marketing. What will be the substance of your giveaway? Realistically, it needs to be:

  1. a good example of your best work, because you want to wow ’em with this
  2. exceptionally tempting to your market, because you want lots of people to be willing to give their email address in exchange for it
  3. easily replicable, because you want to be able to deliver without excessive cost or hassle.

Conceiving of and creating such a freemium item is no small task. I suggest giving the matter serious thought. Here are some fine types of content:

  • report
  • ebook
  • tips or cheat sheet
  • instructive video or audio
  • newsletter

But really, the content of your freemium can be anything. As the independent grocer on Main Street, you could offer recipes with seasonal ingredients and get a ton of opt-ins. If you’re a graphic artist, your freemium might be a collection of color combinations. If you’re a contractor, maybe you could offer plans for building a garden gazebo. If you’re Hugh MacLeod, you create cartoons and share them.

I enjoyed watching Marcus Sheridan’s May TED talk. He shows examples of business adopting the new world of transparency, which has been a  result of the internet’s real time global communications. It’s a lot harder now, if not impossible, to dupe your market through old-fashioned broadcast marketing.  In lieu of extravagant dog and pony shows, brands are now required to simply, honestly educate about their products and services.

Your freemium is an early, if not the first step in building trust with potential customers. Make it a heartfelt token of your very best.

What opt-in structures have worked well for you? Please share in the comments.

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Small Business Online Branding provides assistance in planning and creating a dynamic freemium.

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