Archive for the ‘Website Marketing’ Tag

Your Website is Not Yours – It’s Your Customer’s

Too many business owners get caught in the trap of making a website something that they like as opposed to researching what type of site will best convert visitors into buying customers.  I commonly hear “I want” this or “I want” that without having answers to how a customer might percieve those things.  I’m not saying the site shouldn’t be an online reflection of your business – it should, and it should be appropriately branded – but, site usability, content displayed and specific features added should be geared towards your client’s likes and dislikes.

The site is a sales tool, and like all sales tools and marketing messages it can be refined and tweaked to better convert customers.  The only way to refine your marketing materials is to step back from being emotionally involved and look at your material from a strictly analytical view.

If your site is not a sales tool but provides a service itself, such as an e-commerce site or membership-based site, then you need to be even more aware of your customer’s wants and needs because with websites, you always have stiff competition that will try and woo your client base with features specifically tailored to them.

Regardless of your site, stay in communication with your customers and solicit feedback from them on their impressions of the site.  Ask them want they like, what they don’t like, what they wish the site had and what they would change about it.  Visit your competitor’s websites to stay on top of new features they add.  Keep track of your website traffic stats to monitor changes in traffic as you tweak your online message.

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Websites – Not Just For Simple Contact Forms Anymore

Contact forms on your website are great.  A customer can fill it out and submit it and presto, you have an email from a new lead.

But are you using the contact form as successfully as possible?

If you are truely marketing your website, you will want to track visitors to see what marketing actions you are taking are yielding the best results.  Are leads coming from your search engine listings, your pay-per-click listings, your magazine ad, the phone book or referrals?

Take some time to determine what you want to track and there is likely a way to do it.  Unique landing pages from pay-per-click ads, unique phone numbers for each of the different marketing campaigns you do, conversion tracking or even a simple multiple choice question of “How did you hear about us” is better than nothing.

Also, how about jazzing a contact form up some or use it as a “Download Literature” form.  Give enough juicy details about a new product offering you have and then tell potential customers to “Click here to download product brochure”.  They click the button and are asked to give a few simple bits of info to download the information such as name, email and phone.

Just a few initial ideas to get you thinking.

Social Networking’s Influence on Your Site’s Traffic – Part 2

Two weeks ago I shared my website stats for all to see and demonstrated how different things I’m doing online impacted my traffic.  Here is an updated look at my blog stats:

Weekly traffic on this blog

Weekly traffic on this blog

I’ve looked at a lot of website stats over the last 10-plus years, and although this is still a new blog at the low end of the traffic spectrum, I have to say “wow” to the quick progress it is making.

If you recall my post from two weeks ago, I discussed how my traffic has been influenced by different factors.  Early gains in traffic came from committing to a regular posting schedule and syndicating the blog via feedburner.com and technorati.com.  Then I created a linkedin.com account to further promote myself and started sharing my blog URL with clients and new leads which continued the positive climb in the stats.  Then big fall-out/bail-out in the stock market dropped my traffic for a week as more attention was taken up by this, but then I increased efforts in promotion by adding regular twitter.com posts promoting my blog and joining and utilizing biznik.com, in particular getting an article posted on biznik.com that generated a lot of interest.

Finally, just this last week, I posted an interview that was well recieved and I had my blog “stumbled” on stumbledupon.com which really spiked my traffic.

I’m not sharing these stats to brag, but to show as proof that social networking and online self promotion works.  Everything I’m doing can be emulated and none of it has cost me anything, except a commitment in time.

StumbleUpon More Traffic For Your Site

After more experimentation with StumbleUpon.com I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the best secret weapons to help quickly boost your site traffic.  And the best part is it is really quite easy to use.

Ok, so what exactly is StumbleUpon.com?

In simplest terms, StumbleUpon delivers up random websites on related topics that you can either give a thumbs up or a thumbs down rating to.  Sites that get more thumbs up ratings are served more frequently to other users of StumbleUpon.  I call it “Pandora.com for websites”.  You can put any site in the StumbleUpon queue by first creating an account with StumbleUpon and then installing their StumbleUpon toolbar (yep, another toolbar) and finally going to the site you want to get “stumbled” and then click the thumbs up icon in your newly installed StumbleUpon toolbar.  If it is the first time StumbleUpon has seen the site, it will ask you to fill out a basic description of the site.  Then it will toss the site into the StumbleUpon waters were it will quickly get alot of visits.

Make sure to track your webstats during the process if you are “stumbling” your own website so you can find out if the results are positive.

Social Networking with Rick Itzkowich – A 3,000 Mile Interview

Rick Itzkowich

Rick Itzkowich

Today’s post is an interview with Rick Itzkowich, the co-founder of Productive Learning & Leisure LLC in La Jolla, California, author of The Xtraordinary Living Blog and creator of Quote Actions.  I first meet Rick on Biznik.com where he has a number of excellent articles posted.  After furthering our communications via Twitter and LinkedIn, I knew Rick had some useful insight on marketing that would be beneficial to my readers.

Brent: You mention on your website quoteactions.com that businesses can lose 50% of their customers in 5 years, which I thought was a pretty humbling statistic. Why does this happen and how does a business keep this from happening?

Rick: Primarily because there is a lack of attention given to the customers. Think about anybody you’ve done business with – how many people have you done business with and never heard from them again?

Brent: Lots of people.

Rick: With service providers, I can count on one hand the companies that do follow up or stays in touch with me, except every now and again when they phone to try and sell me something. For the most part, people just get ignored.

There are certain factors that are out of your control, people move, people die, people no longer have an interest in what you do, so there is going to be an attrition no matter what. But I would say, at least 30% to 40% of lost customers could be retained if more attention was paid to them. And more importantly, if there was a system for people to stay in touch and stay connected. Most small business owners do not have any kind of systematic way to stay in touch with their customers. Those that do, have a few e-zines, a few… I did a survey about 2 years ago, and almost 8 out of 10 didn’t have anything formalized. Of the 20% that did, I would say anyway from 20% to 40% of them were in touch with people once a quarter.

Brent: We try to stay in touch once every month or two, but it’s not always that easy.

Rick: You would be among the top 10% of small businesses. Do you have some type of system that you have put in place?

Brent: We do, but it is admittedly hard to keep in place without slipping.

Rick: Another thing that is good is varying the channels, like if you have…. For instances, have you ever gotten a card on your birthday from Southwest Airlines? Southwest is very good about doing that.

Brent: I haven’t personally, as I don’t have much experience with them but I know a lot of people that really love their service so I wouldn’t be surprised that that is something they do.

Rick: Yeah, it is. It is something that they do and it is part of their system. It’s noticeable – even that you know it is a computer that sent it, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, if you do things like that… for example I get an anniversary card from a company I do business with every year of the date a I first started doing business with them and every year they would send me something. You know it’s all computerized and it’s a system, but so what.

Brent: Yeah, somebody had to think it out and put the time in to do it in advance.

Rick: That’s exactly right.

Brent: Say, if you’re staying in touch with a customer through an e-zine newsletter, do you find that an HTML formatted email or a text based email work better than the other?

Rick: It depends on what you are using it for. If you are just using it for information and it’s short and sweet people prefer plain text. But if you are using it to create an image or using it because the visuals are a big part of it to make it interesting and you want people to spend some time then HTML. The problem is that HTML is much more likely to get flagged by spam then text – so there’s that factor too.

Brent: In your case, which do you tend to use the most?

Rick: Our system can deliver both, so the ones that can only receive it in text get text and the other ones get it via HTML.

Brent: So you give the user the choice?

Rick: Yes, whenever possible.

Brent: Is there a universal marketing plan that you think businesses can adopt? If not, how much would it differ – say business-to-business marketing vs. consumer?

Rick: Well, I think custom always works better than universal, because businesses are really different. The more you can afford to direct your marketing efforts the more it’s going to pay off in the long term. There is a direct relationship between doing that. It is not always going to pay off immediately – it’s not like direct sales where you send something off and immediate know the results – it pays off over time.

I’ll give some examples, this year alone we’ve had 3 people… one of them was a client with us back in 1995 and hadn’t done anything since and 13 years later she came and signed up for a $6,000 course because we’ve stayed in touch with her through e-newsletters. And 2 people that have never done a class, and they’ve been in the database for 10 years – this year also they came and signed up for one of our learning vacations, each spending $6,000. So that’s $18,000 from 3 people because they’ve seen our messages over and over for 10 years. And if you had asked me about those people, I would have said no, they’ll never do anything. You just never know.

Brent: It’s funny, I used a quote I made up the other day on somebody – “Just because there’s silence, doesn’t mean nobody is listening”.

Rick: laughter I love that one.

Brent: laughter I think that’s the same thing in that we give up on people because we don’t hear from them but don’t realize they’re really hearing what we’re saying but we’re just not checking in with them to find out if they really are hearing.

Rick: You know one of the statistics that I also found fascinating is from Chet Holmes who writes in his book “The Ultimate Selling Machine” that according to research he conducted, only 3% of the people are in the market to buy your products or services in any given time. And there’s another 7% that is considering buying what you offer. So if you take those 2 combined that’s 10% of your market that’s ready to buy from you right now. The other 90% is either going to be divided equally into thirds: those that are not interested, those that are neutral –neither interested or disinterested- and those that think that they’re not interested. Which means if you don’t have some kind of a way for you to stay connected to them in-between the times when they’re not in the 3 to 10% ready to buy, you’re missing tremendously.

Brent: What social media platforms available do you see as offering the highest value to businesses looking to promote themselves?

Rick: You know, it depends. I can only speak from experience on that one. It all depends on the business and what they are trying to accomplish. For the solopreneur or the small business person who is doing everything himself, it doesn’t matter what they use as long as they find something that works. For example, I have gotten tremendous results out of Biznik.com. But the primary reason I have gotten tremendous results out of Biznik, I believe, is because of the approach that I take. And it wasn’t until recently that I changed my approach – and with my previous approach on one of the others sites I was using I would be bombing out at Biznik too. This is more because my approach than because of the site. The approach that people need to understand when it comes to social media and networking is that you’ve got to go in from the point of view of farming instead of hunting.

Brent: That’s an interesting way to look at it.

Rick: (Previously) I was going into hunting – I was going into sales mode. It’s all about building relationships.

Brent: Cultivating the soil.

Rick: Yep, and when you start doing that – that takes time but… For instances, look at us. We started from nothing but here we are chatting – I’m helping you out, you’re helping me out. You’re finding out a little about what I do. It’s all working but if I had tried to come right out and sell you something we would never be having this conversion because it would have been a total turnoff.

Brent: Exactly, I’d have tuned you out.

Rick: But, because I’m putting up articles, putting up useful information, I’m offering the quotes, the actions, the way for people to get to know more about me and something hopefully that they will enjoy then now we have the basis for a conversation. So, going to the social media, if you bring that approach, I think any platform that you use, whether it’s LinkedIn.com, Biznik.com or Facebook.com – you’re going to be far more successful (offering valuable information) than if what you do is go in there with a hunting mentality.

Brent: That is a good way of looking at it and it goes into a follow up question – say for example there’s a person who’s a locksmith, someone who’s only called upon in a time of need – there’re not really a day to day service that is provided. It seems that would be a hard business that can be marketed through social networking?

Rick: Well, not really. Here’s an example, if they were to create a blog, solving people’s problems with locks, like giving information that these locks are good for this and these locks are good for that, this is want you can do if your lock gets jammed, or whatever. What they are doing is starting to position themselves as someone who is giving good information as an expert and when the time is right… say the search engines may now be able to rank them higher. Secondly, if people subscribe to them, they already will have built a level of trust. So, they still can do (social media).

Brent: So even though they are serving a local market, it can still help because you mention the search engines can be impacted positively from social media so if somebody needs a locksmith and they happen to go on the internet – even on their mobile phone or whatever – this type of business can still have a payoff for doing social networking.

Rick: Yes, they can still have a payoff, and there may even be some people that subscribe to their blog because maybe they’re interested… the business can gain creditability.

The other thing that’s amazing is the questions that people are asking on LinkedIn and Twitter or some of these places – people are asking all kinds of questions and instead of Google’ing sometimes they’re (using social media sites) and you can actually put it so that if certain search words are typed in or put in you get notified. So somebody who’s scanning on that, say the locksmith, can identify if somebody is asking a question about that and immediately respond. So that is another avenue somebody can start using.

Brent: You’re a strong advocate for having a positive attitude in the things that you do – what I’d call a Zig Zigler attitude – but with all the hectic news that we are bombarded with everyday, what would be your advice on keeping your chin up and your focus strong?

Rick: My suggestion, first and foremost is stop listening to the media. The media will not report anything good. If you can’t quit cold turkey, then just scan the newspaper to find out what’s going on but stop paying attention to it. Other things that you can do is start doing different things than what you are doing. Right now when people become fear based, they go into what I call protection mode. When you’re in protection mode you’re not in growth mode. You need to go into growth mode – learning, changing, trying different things instead of doing the same thing you’ve always done. You’ll experience some success even if they are not monetary in some instances. Thinking of social media, someone links to you – adds you to their personal list – you’re accomplishing certain things and it will give you far more confidence as opposed to just focusing on everything that is not happening.

Brent: Sometimes the negatives can test you and make you up your game.

Rick: That’s exactly right. I’ve gotten some communications, people canceling stuff, nothing was happening and then all the sudden I got an email from somebody who had accepted one of my subscriptions and I went, that’s great and then one of my articles was published and that’s great and all of the sudden everything turned around.

Brent: I’m seeing the same thing in just what I’m doing with social networking and everything and just staying positive instead of worrying about what is going on. You know, making my future instead of waiting for someone else to make it.

Rick: That’s exactly right. And then you have, for instances, Quote Actions – those messages… they come in and if you do the action they have you focus on something positive and give you some perspective and it’s just about feeding your brain with that kind of stuff instead of some of the doom and gloom that’s out there.

Brent: Thanks Rick – I hope all my readers will join us online.

Trends – Your Google Adwords Campaign and RSS

Last month I touched on RSS feeds – what they are and how to use them (See RSS Feeds – How To Guide).  I wanted to expand upon RSS a bit more and how RSS will continue to play a bigger role in your online world. In this instance, I want to talk about how RSS gives you another avenue to promote your business.

If you are currently involved with Google Adwords (PPC, or Pay-Per-Click), you may be familiar with the Google Content Network.  This is where in addition to displaying on Google search result pages, you can have your Adwords display on other websites that are included in the Google network (AdSense).  Now Google Adwords can display within a RSS reader.  Get a feed about a particular RSS piece of information and you may see a related ad displayed near the posting – your results may vary, depending on what RSS feed reader you are using and where you’re getting the feed from.  Love it or hate it for a user’s point of view as it clutters your reader with ads, it is yet another tool to market your business.

It is a fairly new rollout from Google (earlier this year) and they just released some new functionality within the last week, but it is worth keeping in mind for your Adwords campaign.  As RSS feeds become more mainstream, its worth will likely continue to grow.

My prediction is that it will be viable for some but not everyone.  Just like the high impression/low click through rate of the Google Content Network, it will still take testing to determine if this option for Adwords nets you a good return.  But it’s good to have options.

If Content is King, Why Won’t He Change His Clothes

If content is king, why won’t he change his clothes every now and again?  That robe is starting to stink…

No matter how fancy we make your site, your clients and customers are coming to it for the content that you are sharing.  Your content is compelling them to contact you, to spend their money with you, to become your loyal subjects.  Or is it just the same content that has been on the site for the last 4 years?  And is that content something you had pushed off to someone else who already had enough on their plate that day, so they tied some bits of information together to get that web designer off their back?

Your site is your online kingdom.  To keep your customers in your kingdom, you need to keep them excited and interested.

Just how interesting is your website content?  Can you read through it without yawning?  Is it stiff and uninteresting?  If so, why are you letting that content represent you?

How to Read Your Webstats – Part 3 – Duration of Visit

If your site is hosted with NetSource Technologies, another important webstat to look at for insight is the graph of “Visits duration” in your included statistics program.  This graph will tell you how “sticky” your site is – or in other words, how long people are sticking around.  The longer the better of course, as it indicates that visitors have found interest in your service or products and are taking the time to browse longer.

Percentage of time visitors spend on your site.

Percentage of time visitors spend on your site.

The above graph is pretty typical of many websites – most people are hit-and-run site visitors going from site to site, quickly sizing sites up until they find a site that appears to be close to what they are looking for.  At this point they then venture deeper into the site to acquire more information.  If a large portion of your visitors are sticking around for less than 30 seconds, those visitors are definitely not doing business with you – unless they you and are just making a quick visit to get a phone number or street address.

Like all stats, you have to view them with a grain of salt.  It may be tempting to say that you have alot of visitors spending over an hour on your site, but you never know if someone walked away from their computer to answer a phone and then went on to other things leaving your site open and racking up time on your webstats.  If your site can be read twice in less than 15 minutes, then hour plus sessions may not be important, but if you have a huge online store with thousands of intentory items, those hour plus sessions will mean more.  While it is not scientific, in most cases (non high inventory e-commerce sites or social based sites), I look at the 2 to 30 minute visits to gauge site stickiness.

The longer you keep visitors around the more opportunity you have to convert them to a buying customer.