Getting Started with Your Custom Website: 5 Steps

farm8Do you want to have an online presence for your small business? Inbound marketing on the internet starts with your website. When you have an established home base, you can expand from there into every nook and cranny of cyberspace, however your growth plan dictates.

Okay, you say, I’m ready to build a site. What do I do?

Whether you use a DIY tool to build your own site or you work with a site developer, start out on the right foot by clarifying your position in the following areas. [Read more…]

How Permission Marketing Works

jbaker5The major driving force in inbound – or permission – marketing is relationships. We can even over-simplify a little and say that inbound marketing is presenting content that is created to attract a market and interest individuals in establishing a relationship with us.

Traditional outbound communications were like bees irritating us with their stings; inbound methods keep the bees at home, making honey that proves irresistibly attractive.

Advertising is banners that scream across the top of a webpage. Inbound marketing communications are blog posts on that same page, demonstrating the company’s personal understanding of the visitor’s life and interests. Note that while either of these vehicles might be successful in the short term, it’s the inbound approach that creates lifelong customers, precisely because a relationship has been established.

Once you have built a web home base, you turn to building your list. How do you tempt people to subscribe? It’s partly a matter of wooing them with your generosity, your amazing expertise, your entertaining charisma, or some other tool that is natural for you. But, as in any healthy relationship, it’s just not all about you. Winning someone’s heart involves being yourself and also clearly admiring the other for being their self.

It’s a love story. 

If you own a beauty parlor, you may talk about your new products or coloring solutions; but you’ll win clients’ hearts for good when you listen openly to them and offer custom advice. If you’re a lawyer, it’s not your previous triumphs that matter but your ability to convince the client that you understand their particular case. If you run a staffing agency, companies may think your ads are cute, but they’ll actually contract with you when they’re convinced you have the specific solution for their situation.

Just about anyone who has run a small business for some time will agree that the person-to-person connection is where business actually happens.

Developing your opt-in, your “freemium” or “Signature Promotional Giveaway” is an important part of this courtship between you and your market. The item or service is offered on your website for free in exchange for the visitor’s name and email address. You want to create some kind of benefit or download that is widely appealing to your target market. But on the other hand, something that has too wide an appeal will not be individually alluring. So the process is a long and careful journey of discovery as you home in on the kind of giveaway that will speak directly to the individual. It’s about getting to know your ideal customer. It’s about your relationship with them.

It takes a lot of time to develop relationships and to understand your customers deeply. But even more, it takes attention. The difference lies in where you focus. It no longer works to simply focus on selling; in the context of the web’s enormity, it’s necessary to focus on answering real needs and attending to individual voices.

Brands used to succeed by wearing a mask. If a company’s ads resonated they were successful; staff did not share the ongoing responsibility to enchant. Today, the internet won’t let us hide behind advertising. Brand is communicated through content creation and follow through. Leads are attracted and convert because you’ve built a relationship with them and they’ve come to depend on the value you add.

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Could you use some help devising an irresistible opt-in? We can brainstorm and advise you on creation options. Here’s the page!

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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