All Posts by Mike Oitzman

Pile of balanced rocks

The Changing Role of Content – Are you adapting?

The Changing Role of Content Upgrades

The idea of creating a content upgrade is web marketing 101 these days. Every online business needs using some form of content upgrade on their site today.

The classic formula for content upgrades  is the following:

  1. Develop a piece of digital content such as an ebook or whitepaper
  2. Create a landing page or lightbox which requires an email address to download the content
  3. Drive traffic to the landing page
  4. Grab the email address
  5. Nurture your new contact until they convert and purchase your product

This classic formula works, but the problem is that everyone is doing it. The result is that your search traffic and ranking may be lower than you expect.

Cornerstone articles & pages

The key idea here is to modify your strategy to create several cornerstone pages or articles on your site.

"Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission and are extremely well written. " (from the Yoast article)

By setting up cornerstone pages and putting your best content (or linking to your best content from a cornerstone page) you help the search engines to list the page ranking for this specific content on your site. The result should be that your cornerstone page(s) will rank higher than any individual page with an element of the content on the cornerstone page. The cornerstone page functions like the chapter of a book, collecting like-minded content from your site by topic or theme

Create and execute monthly or quarterly themed cornerstone pages

As a result you should modify your content publishing calendar to include the publication of monthly or quarterly "themed" cornerstone pages. The idea isn't to make every page a cornerstone page, as this defeats the purpose. Rather the idea is to continue to create and publish individual blog articles and THEN collect the relevant topics and publish both a cornerstone page and an ebook which summarizes all of the other articles. Drive your traffic to the cornerstone page and offer the ebook content upgrade there, rather than on the individual blog posts.

So the new formula is:

  1. Create and publish blog content
  2. On a less frequent schedule (monthly or quarterly) aggregate relevant content into a digital ebook and publish a cornerstone page.
  3. Drive traffic to the cornerstone pages
  4. Offer quality content upgrades 

Content Upgrades

Content upgrades are still a viable marketing tool. What's changing is the "bait" that you use to capture traffic. This new formula requires higher quality content and a thoughtful content development plan which offers your target audience higher value in the content download.

Content Options

  • Ebooks remains a great digital marketing tool. Ebook can be on any topic and in there are very few rules for the design aspects of an ebook. 
  • Whitepapers have stricter design requirements. A prospect expects a whitepaper to be more neutral and educational. They shouldn't focus on selling your product or service.
  • A webinar or video can also be a content upgrade, especially if your audience is more likely to be drawn to a video response.

Summary

Improving the quality of your content upgrades will have a positive impact on the value of your content to your prospects. Increase the scope and quality of cornerstone pages is a content strategy that should help increase your traffic** to the content upgrade pages and help the search engines optimize how they rank these pages.

**Your results will vary, be sure to carefully benchmark and track the impact of your cornerstone pages.

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Top 5 Reasons your Order Page isn’t Converting

Top 5 Reasons that your order page isn't converting

This post explores the top five reasons that your order page might not be converting to its full potential. Review these five critical elements of a high performing sales pages to ensure that you're doing everything necessary to maximize your close rates.

1. Your page isn't mobile responsive

Today, consumers are using their mobile phones to complete shopping experiences, and the rate is only continuing to grow. In 2017, 34.5% of US online ecommerce sales where completed with a mobile device. Within the next four years, that rate will grow to become greater than 50% of all ecommerce sales. Your order page MUST be mobile responsive.

And while buying on a mobile phone is increasing, nearly 80% of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations.

As a result, having a site and an order page that's not mobile responsive will greatly reduce your opportunity to close a deal.

2. No streamlined check out process

Friction during checkout is one of the easiest ways to lose a potential customer. Your customers have a short attention span. The checkout process on your order page has to be simple and straight forward with a minimal number of clicks.

YES, there is basic information required to complete a sale, and customers expect that, but requiring additional data, asking questions, trying to upsell too hard. will result in a lost sale. The check out process has to be simple and quick.

Once a customer decides to make a purchase, you need to complete that sales ASAP. There will be plenty of time to upsell and establish a deeper relationship in the future (once you delight them with your product or service). But close while the closing is hot!

Here are some things to consider in your check out process:

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    Eliminate unnecessary form fields - only include the minimum number of fields to securely complete the sale.
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    Offer multiple options to pay - only offering a single payment option can quickly kill a sale (if the customer can't or doesn't like the payment options)
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    Put everything on a single page - note that multi-step check out processes make it hard to back up in the process if the customer makes a mistake.
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    Answer Questions - provide all of the detail necessary for the customer to make the purchase. Consider any questions which they might have and answer them proactively. The check out page should be a living document - test and optimize it.
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    Limit upsells -  YES: the checkout process is a key point to attempt an upsell, but don't sell so hard that you drive the customer away. Suggesting other related purchases can increase revenue, but it can also distract the customer.

3. No Guarantee

Online commerce is different that brick and mortar retail in one key aspect: the customer can't touch your product online. Every online buyer is thinking "do I want to get stuck with a product that doesn't meet my needs"?

The easiest way to remove this barrier is to include a guarantee for your product. In fact, it's a requirement for ecommerce, thanks in part to all of the scammers who've destroyed shopper trust. A guarantee helps to provide a level of trust in the selling process and is key to closing the deal. 

There will be returns, but assuming that your product is solid, the bottom line is that that additional business that you'll get by closing with a guarantee should out weigh the cost of returns.

4. No Reviews

Amazon is the king of reviews. There is something deeply important in the power of reviews to sway a potential customer.

Amazon Customer Review example

Some things to remember about including reviews: 

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    Reviews should always be true and honest.
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    Setup work flow to solicit customer reviews post sale. Follow up every sale with a request to submit a review.
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    Include a plug-in that automates the collection of reviews. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to contribute a review.
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    Reward your customer for contributing a review. Offering a discount on a future purchase or a coupon is a nice way to say "thank you" for a review. At a minimum, you should send a thank you email.
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    Don't filter reviews. This follows point 1, customers are swayed by honest feedback, not by 100% positive reviews.
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    Reviews can be the best method to improve your product or service. Setting up a review system provides one of the best ways to track customer sentiment. Reads all reviews, and respond to negative reviews ASAP. Angry customers often have an honest issue that can be resolved when you respond quickly. This can be one of the best ways to turn detractors into champions.

5. No Social Proof

Lastly, social proof is another key closing enhancer. Like reviews, social proof helps a customer feel like they aren't alone in making a decision to do business with you.

Social proof can be in the form of:

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    Customer Logos - This can be a difficult element to get due to restrictions that some companies have in allowing the use of their logos. However, you should make it a practice to always ask your key customers and partners for the use of their logos in your marketing and sales.
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    Key Influencer Quotes - Having key influencers recommend your product can be a key deal closer. However, finding and getting agreement from key influencers will be a tough job.
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    Social Sharing Icons - Always include social sharing icons on your product content.
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    Testimonials - Product testimonials are a key selling device.
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    Trust Seals or Certifications
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The Buyers Journey starts here

The Buyers Journey starts here

Every buyer goes through three distinct stages as they progress from being a prospect to a customer. It doesn’t matter what your product or service is, the concept of the buyers journey can be applied to your solution and it should be an intimate part of your marketing plan.

In this article we’ll look at the buyers journey and how you should be modify your communication to your buyers at each stage of the process.

The three buyer stages are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision
Three stages of buyers journey

Step 1: Awareness

At the awareness stage the buyer becomes aware of a need. For example, if your buyers’ pants develop a hole in them, this would be the start of the buyers awareness that it’s time to buy a new pair of pants. The location of the hole will change the urgency and time frame for getting a replacement. Alternatively, the buyer may desire to have a second pair of pants in a different color, in which case their need is different, although the outcome will be the same.

At the awareness stage, you need to understand both the need and the urgency of your buyer. To be effective you must create marketing messages that connect their need to your solution. This is why this step is called the awareness step. The buyer become aware that they have a need, and they become aware that you have a solution to that need.

Marketing Tip: Brand awareness marketing should help a buyer connect a their need to your brand. Think of it as a shotgun approach to get general exposure for your solution. Ideally you want the customer to quickly find your solution once they identify their need.

Step 2: Consideration

At the consideration stage the buyer is actively gathering information about all of the possible solutions and evaluating the fit of each possible option. At this stage the buyer is shopping around for different solutions. If shopping for a new pair of pants, the buyer may go to the mall and visit all of the different stores, or the buyer may search online.

At the consideration stage, you must separate your solution from any competitive offerings and make it stand apart. Your buyer must already be aware of your solution (the awareness step), so that they are considering it as a possible solution to their problem. Any communication to the buyer during this phase should highlight why your solution is the best solution against any of the alternatives.

Marketing Tip: At the consideration stage, you are educating the buyer about your solution. At this stage, you want to knock down any barriers that might exist in getting the buyer to the decision stage (where they purchase your solution). If the solution is an emotional purchase, they you need to address any emotional roadblocks. If the solution is a technical purchase, then you need to address all of the relevant product/solution data that helps the buyer make an informed choice and “checks all the boxes” for their technical requirements.

Step 3: Decision

The decision is the point at which the buyer decides to part with their cash in exchange for the goods. But it’s not that simple. Many factors can complicate the decision, most important is the cost of the goods and the urgency of the need. The best ammunition to help the buyer through the decision process is a testimonial from a current customer. Amazon perfected this idea with product recommendations. You should use customer testimonials to help the buyer understand that they are making the right choice, and that others have already been satisfied by their decisions.

At the decision stage, you make an offer to the buyer. If your offer fits what the buyer is willing to pay, then deal can be made. The key here is that communication with the buyer will be about the value of the solution and helping them to make the choice of your offer. Therefore you need to know when the buyer has arrived at this point in the process and modify your communication appropriately.

Marketing Tip: Price is always a difficult aspect of the decision process, but ultimately the price of the solution will be a deciding factor. If the need is urgent and you have an effective solution, you can likely make a deal at a higher price. How you communicate the value of the offer to your buyer effectively will determine if they make the purchase choice.

Summary

It’s critical to understand the three basic stages of the buyers journey, and to know when your buyer is transitioning through each of the stages. You will want to communicate differently to the buyer at each of these stages in order to progress them as quickly through the stage as possible and get to a purchase decision.

A well designed landing page or sales funnel can cover all three stages in a single webpage for a solution offered online. This process can take the buyer from the step of awareness all the way through a purchase decision (a “call to action”) at the bottom of the landing page. See our recent article on Designing effective landing pages.

Help your prospects through the buyers journey with FIRE Business Platform, where you get everything you need to market, sell and support your business in a single, integrated solution.

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How to build a powerful landing page for your website

Why have a Landing Page?

Landing pages are a key part of any web-based customer acquisition strategy and every business needs a plan and a method to acquire new customers. This article will help you understand what a landing page is and how you can build a powerful landing page strategy for your business.

Landing pages are also known as sales funnels, marketing funnels or even funnel pages.

What should a landing page do?

An effective landing page will focus on a specific offer and must communicate the following three things to a prospective customer:

  • Who the offer is for.
  • What the offer is.
  • Some method to get the offering. (The opt-in)

The game is to get the customer to opt-in

Landing pages are important because they are where prospects "land" when they click on an web advertisement or a social media post. The fact that a prospect is coming to a landing page means that you've at least got their attention (for the moment).

A landing page offers the customer something of value in exchange for their email address. http://bit.ly/2gUfmJ0

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Creating the offer

Before you can learn how to create an effective landing page, you must start with something of value to offer your prospective customer. Without a valid offer, there's no reason to have a landing page.

Your desired outcome from a prospect visiting your landing page is that they "opt-in" for your offer. Your offer can be anything from a simple how-to guide, a whitepaper or an ebook, all the way up to buying your product or signing up for your service.

Here's some ideas for landing pages offers:

  • A detailed "How-to" guide
  • A money-saving tip
  • A whitepaper which describes a problem and a solution (specifically your solution)
  • An ebook or physical book
  • A free consulting session
  • A product demo
  • A free product sample
  • A free trial period of your product or service
  • A product or service discount coupon
  • Signup for an upcoming webinar or training class
  • Signup for an upcoming conference or meeting
  • Purchase of your product or service

As you can see, your offering can be anything of value to your prospective customer. The offering can be a physical product or service. The offering can also be a digital product or service. It all depends on the nature of your business. In this article, we'll keep the offering generic. In future articles, we'll provide specific examples of landing pages for each of the above types of offerings.

Minimize the distractions

A landing page is not the same thing as the main page on your website. As you outline your website design, your business may or may not require a complex website design. Some types of businesses can operate perfectly well, simply with a series of different landing pages for their various offerings. If you have an extensive set of product offerings, however, you may well need to have a main website page where customers can find and purchase all of your products or services. This is especially true if you expect repeat customers to return to your website over time to buy from you. In this case you might use landing pages for specific product marketing campaigns.

Landing page design is simple:

There should only be two actions for a visitor on a landing page:

  1. Opt-in (i.e. interact with you)
  2. Leave

That's right! An effective landing page is not designed to be a "hallway" with many doors to open or options to choose from. There shouldn't be any other links to other pages on your website. AN EFFECTIVE LANDING PAGE MINIMIZES THE DISTRACTIONS!

The goal of a landing page is have your prospective customer self identify that they meet the criteria for the offer and that they have the problem which the offering fulfills.

IF the individual visiting the landing page doesn't meet the criteria for the offering, you don't want waste your time or the prospects time with any type relationship.

IF, however, the individual visiting the landing page is your ideal customer for the offering, then the goal is to convince them that you have a great offer for them.

The call to action

The call to action (CTA) is a marketing term which means that you want to move the prospect to do something. 

That something could be the purchase of your product or service, but often it's simply providing their email or contact information so that you can start the process of "nurturing" them to become a customer.

The simplest CTA is a button which leads to a form to capture their email.

In building a landing page, you will often include multiple CTA's on your landing page as you attempt to convince the prospect that the offer is valid for them. The next section will cover how to work multiple CTA's into your landing page structure

Landing page structure

Here's a basic landing page structure:

  1. Define who the offer is for (allow a prospect to self identify with the offer OR leave immediately if it's not for them)
  2. First CTA --> Present the first offer ("Sign up for our newsletter")
  3. Define the problem that your offering solves. Define the solution.
  4. Introduce the offer
  5. Second CTA --> Give the prospect a second chance to sign up
  6. Build trust by presenting a testimonial or a customer story. Help the prospect understand that you have an offering or solution that has helped other customers like them.
  7. Reiterate the offer and its value in the customer testimonial.
  8. Third CTA --> Give the prospect a third chance to sign up
  9. Create a sense of urgency, as the prospects attention is beginning to wane if they've made it this far on the landing page. Include a time-bound limit to the offering. Communicate to the prospect that this offering ends on some date, and that they have to act now or lose out the opportunity forever.
  10. Alternatively: enhance the offering with a one-time special upgrade or enhancement which adds additional value if the prospect signs up now.
  11. Final CTA --> Give the prospect one last chance to sign up

Why this landing page structure works

Landing pages, if done properly, should create a sense of urgency in the prospect. The job of a landing page is to first offer something of value and then help the prospect understand that the offering is valuable to them. This is Sales 101. Any prospect who visits the landing page should and will leave the page if they feel that the offering has no value for them. As a small business, you don't have time to waste on prospects who aren't a good fit for your solution. Therefore, an optimal landing page design can be a workhorse for your business to help filter and find prospects who are ideally suited for your offering.

Get help on the copywriting

Every landing page has a simple structure. However, writing the copy for your landing page will take time. If you're uncomfortable with this writing task, you might want to hire a professional copywriter to help with the content. This will be money well spent. The content on your landing page is critical to get right, because you only get once chance to convince a customer that you have something of value for them.

FIRE Business Platform can help

FIRE Business Platform is designed for small business. When you choose FIRE Business Platform for your website, you'll have access to an entire library of proven landing page templates with state-of-the-art designs. You'll still need to write some of the copy for your specific offering, but you'll have a variety of funnel page templates to choose from.

Why Single Point Solutions are not the Future

Single point solutions are not the future

As an entrepreneur, you have an urgency to get your business up and running as fast as possible. Single point solutions are not likely the best answer for your business. Finding the quickest path to revenue generation is key to your survival.

In the rush to get things going, you might be inclined to choose from many single point solutions for one or more of your immediate business needs. It's also likely that you don't have a lot of capital at this point in the game to afford much more than the "freemium" versions of most of the single point business solutions. And of course, the juicy features are always only available in the paid version of the tool.

Let's face it, there are a ton of providers of single-point solutions out there who all want to provide a part of the various technology needs of running your business:

  • Domain registration
  • Website & email hosting
  • Landing pages and sales funnels
  • Contact management
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • List management and email marketing
  • Webinars & online conferences
  • Online scheduling and calendar management
  • Online learning and mastermind group management
  • eCommerce, product catalogs and shopping carts
  • Merchant and payment management

Tools alone are not your friend

The single point solutions will try to sell you on their ability to deliver the best and most important features. 

The single point solutions will try to sell you on the fact that they are cheaper than an all-in-one platform. (NOTE that individually, this may be true, but once you factor in the cost of each tool, plus the investment for integration. This math doesn't work in the favor of point solutions).

The single point solutions will try to sell you on the idea that it's not possible to create a viable all-in-one solution that isn't hugely over complicated and hard to use.

But ask yourself what you really need as an entrepreneur launching a new business?

  1. Do you have time to setup and learn how to use each tool?
  2. Do you have the skills to setup integrations between the various single-point solutions?
  3. Most single point solutions have to differentiate themselves by having the deepest function set. Do you really need all of the extensive functionality or do you really just need the minimum to get your business running and generating revenue?

You don't want to spend your time with integration nightmares

Unless your background is in IT or you're an engineer, who wants to deal with all of the integration issues. True, many of the point solutions setup integrations between their tools and other tools which can use their data, but it only takes one tool in your application tool set to release an new incompatible version and break your business. Now you're left chasing down the problem with multiple support organizations, each of whom point the finger at the other one. Of course you can always pay your nephew to setup and maintain your solution stack, but now you're at the mercy of yet another variable.

Point solutions force you to learn multiple interfaces

Of course every software vendor thinks that they have the best in class solution with a unique set of workflow and processes. When you use multiple vendor solutions, you're forced to (re)learn the user interface each time that you go in to perform some action. And as you add new team members to your organization, you need to go through the various point solutions and setup each user multiple times.

And let's not forget the fact that you follow best practice and maintain unique passwords for each point solution. You need to login into each solution multiple times each day.

Your data will end up all over the place

How many different contact lists do you have today? I'll venture a guess that you have multiple lists of current contacts and potential clients spread across your smart phone, your personal email and various prior business contact lists. How easy is it to combine and de-duplicate those various lists?

Now image a year into the future when your new business is off and growing. How are you going to manage the data across a bunch of different point solutions? Do you want to spend the time to export, merge, dedupe and import all of your sales and customer data?

With a collection of single point solutions, it's up to you to manage the integrations between the tools. It's up to you to check to see if data is correct.

The most efficient architecture for managing data happens when all of your data is stored in a single place and accessible by all of the various applications. 

This prevents data from getting lost or out of sync between applications.

With an integrated platform, all of the data is stored and managed in a single place. That means a single contact record for each customer, along with all of their historical data and purchase history. A platform wins hands down over any collection of point solutions when you look at data quality.

 You'll pay more for a point solution

When it comes to the bottom line, cash flow is key early in the life of a small business or a start up. If you have no cash, using a variety of free (or freemium) point solutions may be your only recourse. In this case, you'll pay with time, in the form of the time and energy that you'll spend learning, setting up and integrating all of the tools. In the end, it may not be everything you need since many single point solutions reserve their premium features for the paid versions.

Diagram of the Fire Business Platform

FIREBusinessPlatform was designed to provide all of the capabilities necessary to run a small business. It is all completely integrated from end to end.

The business automation in FIREBusinessPlatform helps to multiple your effort and gives you back precious time that you use to grow your business and service your customers.