I’ve learned many lessons since I started my first business at the age of 19. But in the last twelve months I’ve learned even more about how to properly setup a marketing system.
For your own business it’s important to understand how the end-to-end big picture works: how you find prospects (potential customers), convert some of those prospects into leads, and finally some of those into paying customers.
Many business owners and entrepreneurs know all about the theory, but in practice know very little about how to tactically execute it in the real world (or in this context, on the web).
And that brings me to today. I now advise all of my clients to focus on building a Sales Engine for their business.
What do I mean by a “Sales Engine” you ask?
A Sales Engine is an efficient system of people, web assets, and software that automatically produces leads and sales for you as the end result.
A sales engine includes all the marketing efforts, software, and assets involved in getting someone to visit your website, educate them, nurture the relationship, qualify them as a lead, and finally to convert into a paying customer.
- Thoughtful website design and copywriting
- Email capture
- Triggered retargeting
- Strategic blogging and SEO
- Content promotion
- Identifying leads & closing sales
The key here is understanding how all of these fit together as parts of a larger system.
Fitting the pieces together so that potential customers can easily flow from one end to the other end where they convert to paying customers is the key piece of the marketing puzzle which usually holds back businesses who are struggling to grow.
As you read the steps below, keep in mind that these are laid out in the order they should be done. For instance, before you start working on getting more traffic, you need to have your website properly setup otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Step #1: Thoughtful web design and copywriting
A well laid out, conversion-focused design will go a long way towards making your vision for having a sales engine of your own a reality. How do you know if you’re on the right path?
Well for one, you can look at examples of successful website sales funnels. Websites like Grasshopper.com and CrazyEgg.com are some of the best I’ve seen.
Those websites are always changing because the teams behind those products are constantly testing out new ideas for how they can convert more and more of their visitors into paying customers.
In general the process you should follow for creating a high-converting website funnel is to first write your copy and then do the design second.
This is because if you design while copywriting or after you’re done with the design, you’ll be trying to fit your messaging into the physical borders of the template rather than fitting your messaging to the needs and questions of potential customers.
In other words, the design is subordinate to the message. Message comes first, helping to shaping the visuals which in turn complement it.
If you want a truly excellent copywriting checklist use this one from expert marketer, Dane Maxwell:
- Instant Clarity Headline
- Declare The Problem
- Present Your Solution (with the top three benefits / features)
- Borrow Credibility
- Social Proof
- Clear Call To Take Action
- Reverse All Risk
- Price Anchoring
- Frequently Asked Questions
If you want the full version of this template, which includes many more useful details and tips than I have room to go into here, enter your email address into the form below and I’ll send you on over to it instantly.
[wufoo username=”petovera” formhash=”m16q62sh1hy8iof” autoresize=”true” height=”260″ header=”show” ssl=”true”]
Step #2: Email capture
Most businesses on the web make the mistake of focusing on the 2% of visitors to their website who are ready to buy today.
But that strategy is misguided. Why?
Out of the remaining 98% of people who arrive on your website, 20% to 40% of them will be ready to buy what you’re offering in the next 12 months (just not today). However, they will quickly forget about you unless you have a way to follow-up with them in order to nurture a relationship and stay top of mind.
According to Marketing Sherpa
- 79% of marketing leads never convert largely due to a lack of nurturing and follow-up.
The example at the end of the previous step shows you a very practical example of how to capture emails within a blog post itself:
- I gave some basic info on the page for free to address a problem
- I offer an incentive to opt-in (via a more in-depth solution to said problem)
- A call to action to sign-up for free to get the incentive
This isn’t ideal since I didn’t create the content but it’s a neat “ninja marketing” kind of trick you can do if you’re looking to build trust by providing value, even if you haven’t created any e-course (like “How to Build a 10,000 Subscriber Email List“) or a free report as an incentive yet.
Below is an example of a nicely designed opt-in box placed off to the right side of the screen from the BufferApp.com blog. However, you’ll notice that the strength of the offer could be greatly improved. Getting “email updates” isn’t so compelling, though the social proof of 10,000+ people who are already subscribed helps.
A third way to do this is to show a “hard-sell” pop-up after a 10-30 seconds of someone arriving on your page.
Some people find this annoying, but I’ve seen stats from friends that it gets great results when your goal is to build an email list. Plus, you can control how often people see it.
Here are two free WordPress plugins that you can use so you don’t have to write code or hire someone to do it yourself:
- WP Super Popup (I use this one and it works great, but some people have complained it doesn’t work for them in the reviews)
- WP Popup
When implementing an email capture to get people onto your list, keep in mind two things:
- You’re doing this because it allows you to follow-up with them later because most people who visit your site each month will NEVER come back again.
- People want solutions to specific problems so your INCENTIVE for people to opt-in should be concrete. Something like “Double Your Leads in 30 Days” is a good example because the title tells visitor clearly what the benefit is to signing-up.
Step #3: Well-planned Auto-responders
An auto-responder is a fancy way of saying you’re going to use email marketing software to automatically “drip” out some content (e.g. a free e-course) over a which will add value and teach the subscriber how to solve a problem.
The idea is that this auto-responder will build trust with people over time by helping them solve a real problem, and throughout or at the end of the email sequence, you can make a direct offer for them to try out your product or service.
My personal recommendation is to create an e-course (that is, 5-7 lessons that teaches subscribers how to do something).
You really need to do your homework upfront if you’re going to get this step right. And you should begin by thinking about this free e-course as a product unto itself.
In other words, in order to receive value (hopefully a sale from some percentage of subscribers), you will first provide an informational product that delivers value (for free) which in turn helps to activate a buyer relationship in the first place.
In order to select the right problem or topic for your auto-responder course, you should speak with people who are in your target market if you don’t have any ideas. Consider reaching out to your network for introductions to people who are in that target market.
I recently did this to create an e-course for real estate agents. I initially thought that they might want to know how to build an email list, but I found that creating course on how to automatically cut their property lead-to-sale time in half was a much better fit.
You can also reach out to your existing customers for advice. However, be careful not to convince them of any ideas you might have. Rather, let them speak openly and listen after you ask them an open-ended question. For instance, you might ask:
- “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” or
- “What are some frustrations you might have with accomplishing X?”
Don’t be shy about getting on the phone or going to meet people in person. The quality of the end result will pay for itself forever into the future assuming the subject of your course is relevant and the content gives real value.
This is why it pays dividends to invest the necessary time upfront to do it right.
If you’re looking for a good example of a well put together e-course, check out my 5-day course for entrepreneurs and small business owners on how to build a 10,000 subscriber email list in 3 months.
Step #4: Triggered Retargeting
Retargeting is one of the newest (and most cost-effective) forms of marketing today. The way it works is when someone comes to your site or arrives on a certain page, a cookie is dropped on the visitor’s browser. This cookie tells ad networks like Google to show your ads to that person while they browse around the web. Because that person is already familiar with your site, they’re more likely to click and hopefully convert at that point.
Today, other than with standard banner ads you can do retargeting in search, on Facebook, and even on YouTube.
AdRoll.com is what I use for marketing Saber Blast (it’s the most cost effective and easy to use option I’ve seen thus far). I recommend it over something like Retargeter.com, whose pricing is shady and not transparent.
The best way to implement the retargeting step isn’t to go out, create some ads and slap the embed code on your website. Those actions are part of it but you should also make sure to:
- Retarget qualified traffic
- Make the ads and landing pages as relevant as possible to actions already taken on your site (or not taken) by the prospect.
Qualified traffic for retargeting can mean only the people who reach a certain step in your website’s sales funnel, or it might mean people who spend more than 30 seconds or more on the site.
You want to make sure you’re going after the people who are the most likely to come back and convert. In addition, it might not be worth it to retarget someone after they’ve taken key actions like entering an email address since that email is now a direct line of communication to follow-up with the prospect.
In addition, you should think of the ads that are shown and the pages they link to like a conversation. In other words, if someone had already gotten to the checkout page, you shouldn’t simply show ads advertising your awesome product. Instead you should show ads that say, “Complete your order today” and it should take then back to the checkout page. This is because it’s safe to assume they already know about the product.
You can structure and experiment with it however you think best, but the key is not to retarget everyone, and for those that you do retarget, make the ads shown as relevant as possible to the actions they already took in your sale funnel.
Step #5: Strategically written blog posts
So at this point, after you’ve taken the time to complete the steps above, you’ve got a solid foundation for capturing and converting visitors… now you just need traffic!
Blogging — or shall I say valuable content creation — is really the catalyst that creates the visitor “flow” for the rest of the sales engine. By offering content that is entertaining, interesting, or valuable you are turning your website into a magnet which will attract people organically.
On one of my favorite examples of a great blog is Neil Patel‘s QuickSprout.com, where he writes high quality blog posts that set a high standard for other content marketers to live up to.
If you’re not sure of how to write a quality blog post that people will want to link to use this following template:
- Choose a Persona – Understand who you are writing for. Are you writing for Tim who is in his 50’s and runs an established dental practice? Or are you writing for Sally, who is in her 30’s and running a bootstrapped startup tech? Different personas will convert differently based on what your ultimately looking to sell to your audience.
- Problem – For your own reference, begin by identifying a problem or question you want to answer for readers.
- Title – What is the end benefit is the reader going to get from reading this. Make it compelling (and preferably include keywords people are already searching for)
- Introduction – Hook the reader with a personal story or anecdote which intrigues him to read more. The introduction might also raise some questions, which will be answered later in the blog post.
- Body – divide your body into sections as I have done in this blog post. Give a clear title to each section so readers who are skimming and scanning can quickly find the information they want. Each section should be titled and populated in a way that gets the reader towards fulfillment of the promised benefit in the title.
- Conclusion – Take a paragraph or two to review the topic and then end with a question. The question is meant to cause comments, which can result in more inbound links, social share, and emails opt-ins.
- Images – When you’re writing your first draft, don’t take time to pause and find images, this can be a distraction. Instead just insert a little note to yourself for later when you’re done with the writing. Images are very important because people usually want immediate gratification and more people will not stick around to read your content from start to finish. If they are moving quickly, scanning over your images will give them some immediate value, and possibly hook them into reading more.
- Research – How well supported is your post by facts from credible third party sources? Can you include any additional numerical data?
- Editing – Don’t rush into the process of trying to create great content. Take your time to review and edit. Read it out loud while imagining one specific person from your target audience sitting in front of you. You’ll find mistakes faster this way.
Finally, when it comes to the word length of your blog posts, you should shoot for around 2,416 words. Why? Based on Google’s most recent “in-depth articles” algorithm update, longer form content will rank higher in search results as shown in the diagram below.
Step #6: Promote your content to maximize (quality) traffic
People often will make the mistake of spending most of their time on creating content and not enough on promoting it. You should spend an equal amount of time or more finding relevant channels to promote your content within, as well as partners who can help you promote it.
I’ve learned that it’s best to think about each blog post you write as a mini-product unto itself. And the end result you want to get back isn’t money (not immediately, that comes later). You want to sell others on promoting it.
Here are the key psychological motivators behind why someone else would want to reshare your content:
- They know you and simply want to help you (charity, not so sustainable)
- They agree with the ideas or like the point of view (better)
- Promoting your stuff makes them look good (this is ideal)
So first, how do you find the people who are most likely to think promoting your stuff will make them look good?
- Use the Twellow directory to find twitter users who want to be found or a better resource might be Tweepz. Look for people who have a somewhat balanced ratio of follows to people who they follow. You want to find and follow people who will also follow you back. If someone doesn’t follow you back, it’s best to unfollow them. You should do this on a daily basis with 200 people at a time, especially when you’re first starting out.
- Have an email outreach template pre-written to let people know you’ve linked to them in a recent blog. If you’re saying something relevant to their audience and your post could make them look good, then there’s a good change they’ll reshare it.
- Find relevant communities on Google Plus, Facebook groups where it’s not taboo to post links to your blog posts, and Reddit.
- Send out an email to your list of blog email subscribers with a short excerpt and a link, asking them to let you know what they think of it. According to Neil Patel, people who are subscribed to your newsletters are 4x more likely to reshare your content than a random visitor on your website.
- Keeping the above point in mind, you should publish a weekly or monthly
- Finally, and of course, put it to your own personal audience on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.
The last two points are the most effective over the long term assuming that you are consistently putting out great content.
Bottom-line: if your content is seen as so incredibly valuable and compelling that it’s a no brainer for other people not to link to it or tweet it out and reshare it on Facebook–they will! But again, you’ve got to be consistent.
Step #7: Identifying and Closing Leads
If you’ve completed the foundational steps (1-4), and you’re consistently doing the executional steps (5 and 6) on a regular basis then you’re going to start seeing leads trickle in.
If you’re selling products online then it will be “easier” to automate this final step because you’re already operating a kind of “vending machine” where you don’t have to be present physically or over the phone for the sale to occur.
For that kind of business you’ll want to focus more of your time on getting the value to your customer as quickly as possible and providing a great experience so they’ll be a repeat purchaser.
For a service business where you might be selling higher ticket items that require some explaining or a proposal to be sent, you should focus on the people who have been most engaged with the content you sent out in your email. The level of engagement is based on:
- How frequently they click the links in your emails
- How frequently they open your emails
- How much time they spend on your website after they’ve clicked a link
- Did they make it all the way through your e-course and was their engagement level consistent?
Using this information you can segment out a sub-list of subscribers to email a request with a time to to setup a call (recommend specific days and times if you use this tactic, you’ll see a higher response rate — this is based on a recent interview I heard on Mixergy with the founder of Elastic).
If you’re looking for a tool that can help you to automatically identify potential leads like this, you might want to check out my email marketing product, Saber Blast.
Once you’ve got an appointment with your lead and it’s time to speak with him or her, you want to make sure you take the time to thoughtfully and transparently qualify the lead.
For this I use something called The Four Gateways, which I learned from another entrepreneur who used it to close deals with Adobe and a number of other highly reputable firms. The gateways are:
- Do you both agree that their need is a fit with what your company offers?
- How do they make the decision (which is a nice way of asking “Are you the only decision maker?”)
- What is their budget and does that fit with what I think is realistic to provide our service?
- When do they want to get started? (If greater than 30 days, reschedule the meeting for a later time)
The key here, which is completely counter intuitive, is to not close the sale and to move forward if you’re not able to both get through each of the four gateways together.
For the full explanation and how to correctly “walk” a prospective client through each gateway, check out the Mixergy.com course on how to close sales.
Stack the bricks in your favor by making sure you’ve got a strong foundation for turning visitors into customers.
Being successful at this means your foundation is designed to educate and nudge a potential customer deeper and deeper into your sales funnel, deliver real value, which in turn leads to an opportunity and hopefully a closed sale. You should also test your foundation on a regular basis to make sure there are no zero multipliers in the system.
What are some strategies that work for you to keep customers coming back after they’ve bought?