Archive for October, 2010

5-steps-to-turn-visitors-into-paying-customers

Fact: It is easier to grow your business by increasing your conversion rates than by increasing your website traffic.

You want to focus on turning the eyes you have into paying customers rather than procuring more and more eyes.  Your landing page better rock.

What is a landing page?: A landing page is a page on a website that traffic goes to in order to take action.

The purpose of a landing page: To persuade visitors to take action on your offer.

In order to market your business effectively and make as many sales as possible, your landing page better be hot, hot, hot. And it better contain copy that sells.

If you are a business with a marketing budget that includes Google Adwords, banner ads, PPC (pay-per-click) etc., a landing page is incredibly important. Instead of directing traffic from these clicks to your home page, you should be directing them towards a landing page, or basically a sales pitch.

Now, in all fairness, most small businesses don’t have the ad budget to be paying for banner ads that run across CNN and Google. So my best advice is to treat every page of your website as a landing page.

Which means every page of your website needs to sell. It needs to have the copy that drives customers to action.  Your copy needs to show every visitor why they NEED your service/product. If they can’t have what you’re selling, they will suffer.

Next question. How to accomplish this? I’m going to admit it’s not easy. It takes persuasive writing. It takes understanding what your customers are really looking for. It takes a lot of trial and error. But in the end, if you nail that landing page, your conversion rates go up.

And now the part where the actual advice starts rather than me pontificating some more.

Here are 5 steps towards writing a landing page/home page that gets you results:

1. Provide a clear understanding of what you do

When visitors leave your home page, they should know what you do, how you can help them, and why you are better than the rest.

2. Provide a call to action

This means having clear, concise language where you tell your visitor exactly what to do. If we are not talking about a traditional landing page, but instead your home page, a call to action may be inappropriate. But make sure there is a call to action on another page of your website. If your home page does #1 really well, visitors are going to click on other parts of your site. Make sure the page(s) where you explain your services have a clear call to action on them. For me, just titling my services page Hire Me rather than Services is an instant call to action. Additionally, buttons are a great idea. If you can add a paypal button to the bottom of your sales pitch, you will grab a few impulse buyers. Here’s a great example of button usage.

3. Write in a clear and persuasive tone

Don’t fret about being witty or showcasing your personality (that should all be saved for your blog), but focus on writing copy that is easy to digest. I would go so far as to say, run it past an 8-year-old and make sure they understand what you’re saying. And please, not a smart 8-year-old, a really average one.

4. Place your important points in the first three sentences of your page

Don’t waste time with an introduction. Get to it.

5. Make it about your customers, not about you

An example:

I am a social media writer who specializes in blog posts, newsletters, press releases, and website content.

vs.

I help small businesses take their sales to the next level through focused, customized copywriting.

It goes from selling what I do, to selling how I can help you.

My last piece of advice? It’s a work in progress. Play around, test ideas, and while I would say the written word is 75% of an effective landing page, make sure the design works with it too.





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Is Today The Day You Take Action?

is-today-the-day-you-take-actionTake a moment to close your eyes and visualize your to-do list.  Is it long and overwhelming?  If so, today, you’re going to take action.

I am going to let you in on a secret. Almost every email I get requesting my writing services has this line embedded in it: “I’ve been putting this off for months now.”

I have issued a challenge before, and it actually worked out quite well for a few of you. So here I go again. Today I challenge you to pick the one line on your to-do list that you’ve been meaning to work on, and make some progress on it. Here are three steps to follow to ensure your success:

1.) Identify your project

This might be the most difficult part because you probably have many things hanging over your head. Pick the one that gives you that bad feeling in your stomach when you think about it. Or else pick the project that will yield the most positive result for your business when it’s done. This is about improving your business, so keep that in mind while deciding.

2.) Do research

Just because I am issuing a challenge and you want to improve your business that does not mean you should make hasty decisions. Most likely you’ve been putting this off because it’s is going to take some time to complete, and is more complicated than just calling a client back. So if what you want to do involves hiring somebody else to get it done, do your research. If it includes doing something technical you’re not very familiar with, learn it.

3.) Take action

Once you’ve completed all the steps you need to in order to make this happen, make it happen. I’m not really sure what else to say.

So that is my challenge. Those are the steps. I am going to get in on this challenge too. Would you like to know my shameful secret? I don’t have business cards. I own a business, I meet with clients, I promote myself, but I do not have a business card to hand out. Shame on me.

I will be taking my first step toward becoming the proud owner of some really stupendous business cards as soon as I publish this post. I am going to do my research and see if this is something I should do myself or if I should hire a professional. I have to decide what to put on these bad boys, as in my mind, my business card isn’t just about getting in touch with me, but I want it to represent who I am and all I can offer. Not exactly a small order.

Today I begin this momentous journey toward having business cards. What is your journey going to be? Please leave a comment and let me know. Perhaps I can even help you on your way.





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What You Can Accomplish In 30 Minutes

what-you-can-accomplish-in-thirty-minutesI have been very busy lately with a big project. And like any good small business owner, my clients’ needs always come before my own. Which means the hours I used to spend on Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs have shrunk down. Way down. I now give myself thirty minutes to promote my own blog everyday. I honestly feel like I could spend 3 hours a day, and some days I have, but it’s no longer in the cards. So here is what I do to maximize my thirty minutes.

1-4 minutes — Post my newest blog post to Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter I try to take a few minutes to think of a catchy phrase that will get people to click.  There are services you can go to that post everything to one site, such as Postling, (I interviewed the VP of Customers at Postling, read it here) or Ping.fm, but I like doing it myself for some reason.  It’s just part of my routine, and I like my routine.

10 minutes — I have approximately 70 blogs on my Google Reader that relate to social media, and it’s always growing. Reading all these posts is where I could spend the majority of my time, if I had it. There really is no better way to improve social media skills than reading as many other bloggers’ thoughts, advice, and stories as possible. But I do not have that luxury, so I skim the headlines and pick out the top five that I think will really be worth my time to read. They are often from the same bloggers everyday, but I try to mix it up a bit.

10 minutes — I take the time to actually read these posts. Sometimes it frustrates me that I have to spend 1/3 of the time just narrowing them down, but I am very reluctant to remove any blogs from my Google Reader. I think I’m afraid one of the blogs will post the quintessential blogger post and I will miss it and die alone and cold and hungry as a result.

6-9 minutes — Once the blogs are read, I comment on them. I really believe it helps draw traffic to my own blog, and I like that I am being a part of the community.

And that’s it. If I had more time, what would I be doing? Reading more, that’s for sure. Commenting more as well. I’d also be promoting myself more, building an email list, starting a weekly newsletter, building up my Facebook page etc. My project comes to a close in two weeks, and after that I am going to put aside the time everyday to work on the goals I just mentioned.

So what could you accomplish at 30 minutes? Do you have a routine you engage in everyday in order to promote yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.





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5-types-of-blog-posts-that-prove-you're-an-expertI have worked with many companies who are taking the time out of their busy schedules to blog. They all tell me they do it for different reasons. One is for marketing, another for SEO, another because they like to write, and so on. But when I sit down and read these blogs, I understand they all blog for the same reason: because they are an expert in their field.

When you are a small business owner, you know the ins and outs of your business. You are the one and only expert on what you do, and chances are you don’t even know it. Which means when you do write a blog post, and it’s about your industry, you are positioning yourself as an expert. But like I said, most people don’t realize this until I point it out to them. So, in order to spread the awareness among small business owners that you are an expert and you should flaunt it, I am listing several ways to position yourself as an expert:

1. The Instructional Blog

This comes into play when you can teach others a skill you have mastered. For example, a florist would write a post on how to make a perfect rose bouquet, or how to take the thorns off roses using only a spoon and some masking tape (I don’t think that’s possible). In this type of post you are not only positioning yourself as an expert, but teaching your readers as well.

2. The Review Blog

This is all about reviewing products that help out in your business. For example, a lot of professional bloggers review plugins for blogs, or a chef could review culinary tools, an accountant could review the newest edition of some accounting software. Again, you’re using your expertise to add value to your readers’ lives. Win win.

3. The Rant Blog

This is one that needs to be used as sparingly as possible. But if you discover something about your industry that you know is wrong, because you are an expert, feel free to let the world know as well. Would you like an example? Sure thing. If I was reading a well-known blog and they said that blogging is bad for SEO and a waste of time, it would be my prerogative to say this is wrong, and if I’m a ranting type of person, rant about it. I am letting readers know not to trust this person, while letting my own opinions and knowledge shine.

4. The Hunter and Gatherer Blog

I think of this type of blog as a service to your readers. This is a post where you gather and write about all kinds of information that will help your readers. If you are a blog aimed at graphic designers, you may take the time comb the web and find the best examples of flash graphics, or amazing headers, or anything of the like, and post it for others to see. If you are a cook, you may gather the best chocolate cake recipes and post them. Just remember you are giving whatever you are posting your seal of approval, so make sure you really stand behind it.

5. The Advice Blog

I would say the advice blog is what I’m writing right now. This is a blog where you know something about something that other people will (hopefully) find some value in. This is a bit of a combination of the other four types, but it also can have a very generic feel. If you are a healthcare company and you want to share information on how the new healthcare laws are going to hurt or help, then you would write a post on it. If you’re a dentist and you just saw five patients in a row who have never flossed a day in their life (gross), write something reminding every person who visits your blog why they need to be flossing. Use your knowledge to wow them.

There are many, many more types of blogs that position you as an expert. But I think these five are a great way to get small business owners started and to prove to anyone reading who didn’t think they are an expert that they really are.





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The Perfect Blog Sidebar

the-perfect-blog-sidebar

Partial Sidebar View — Get In The Hotsport

We’ve talked a lot about blogging the past two months. And I’m sure we will continue to talk a lot about blogging until the world ends or I stop blogging, whichever comes first (I hope it’s the world ending). So today, instead of talking about the content of the actual posts, I thought we should go over what should appear on the sidebar of your blog.

1.) A search bar — You want your readers to be able to search for their favorite posts. Additionally, a search bar is great for readers who happen onto your blog and want to see if you said anything about their favorite topic. I do this often if I stumble upon a blog I have never been to before but like the first couple posts I read. Did they have a life-changing post on company bios? If so, I want to read it.

2.) Subscription box — Make it easy for readers to subscribe so your post will appear in their email inbox every morning. If they’re willing to do that, they really like you, so don’t make them search for it.

3.) Recent posts — Have your last 5-8 posts lined up and ready for new visitors to read, or old visitors to return to. It also adds a bit of legitimacy to your blog as it reassures visitors that you’ve been busy blogging and they should trust you.

the-perfect-blog-sidebar

Partial Sidebar View — Outspoken Media

4.) Blog archives (by month)— This is another way to eventually add validity. By having your archives on your sidebar you are showing readers how long you’ve been blogging, and making it easy for them to see what you’ve written about.

5.) Categories — Each time you post, you should be adding your post to ONE category. Make sure those are on your sidebar. On my sidebar you’ll see I have 11 (although I should get rid of uncategorized as it’s pretty useless). That way if you ever want to read every blog post whose main attraction was Twitter, all you have to do is click and you’ll find it right away.

6.) Social media icons — If people are reading your blog, and like what they’re reading, they may want to connect on more levels. Make sure they can find your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc as easily as possible. Also make sure there is an RSS feed for anyone who uses Google Reader or the like.

Your sidebar should make it as easy as possible for readers to navigate your blog. It should invite readers to stay longer and read past posts and get to know you. What do you look for in a sidebar? Is your sidebar up to par? Is there anything I forgot in my list?





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